Jesus Desires We Live with Focus

And the journey continues….1 Timothy. This first letter to Paul’s beloved convert Timothy is filled with directions and admonitions for guiding the growing the church in Ephesus. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and on his fourth trip he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus and build up the church there. He wanted him to keep them pointed to Jesus and guide them so they would not be led astray by contemporary beliefs that were plaguing these new believers. Timothy was a wise young man with a lot of responsibilities ahead of him in his ministry. Paul gave guidance on choosing church leaders, prayer, confronting false doctrines, how to care for the widows and elders and warned about those that loved money too much. As I reread this letter, several passages jumped out at me as I saw Paul’s desires for all of us to live focused on Jesus. I pray these verses will be a blessing to you today.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 has basic doctrinal truth about Christ and how God changes and uses us for His glory. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is very clear that Christ came to save sinners. As ‘good’ as Paul was in keeping the laws and considered himself a zealous religious Jew, he was confronted with his own sin by Christ on the Road to Damascus and knew he was definitely a sinner saved by Christ. ((Acts 9) He trusted God to use him as an example for unbelievers so that others could be saved. Isn’t that what every believer desires? They want to be a witness for Christ so that He is seen in their lives and others would desire to follow Him too. May it be so with each of us!

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul reminds us that God desires us to live peaceful, quiet godly lives for Him. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. Here again Paul points out the kind of life God desires for us and that He wants everyone to be saved and to have knowledge of the truth! Jesus is the only way to achieve that reconciliation. We are to pray fervently for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Who will you pray for today?

In 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness and not get caught up in the pursuit of money. These are timeless words for all generations as we seek to live for Christ in a material driven world. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Paul cautions all of us that it is the love of money, making it an idol, goal or making it the stuff of our dreams, that can lead to losing our spiritual focus. Taking your eyes off of Christ leads to confusion, disillusionment and ungodly actions. When we think about it, the love of money is often at the root of our confusion, disillusionment or selfish actions.

May these selected verses help you to see Christ more clearly and know for sure that He desires that all should come to Him, to repentance. He desires that we walk with him in humility keeping our eyes on Him and not on worldly gain. I am reminded of a favorite verse from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
May we walk today focused on Him.

Linda

Choosing to Trust

And the journey continues…Habakkuk. I love this short book written by a prophet that lived in the time of Jeremiah and probably lived to see the Babylonians invade Jerusalem, and the people of God carried off into captivity. Habakkuk records a conversation he had with God. He was filled with questions and doubts about what he was seeing happen in the world around him. (I can relate to that today!) In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks God why is he not doing something about the evil in his country, Judah? God replies that he will as he is sending the Babylonians to punish their evil ways. Judah had fallen big time into worshipping idols and had forsaken the worship of the one true God. In chapter 2, Habakkuk asks, how can you holy God use a wicked nation like Babylon to punish His people? God answers, he will use them but they too will receive punishment for their sins and wicked ways. In the final third chapter, Habakkuk has resolved his worry and doubt and confesses he knows God is merciful and just. He claims God is sovereign over all that happens and has decided he will choose to trust, obey and rejoice in the Lord.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 are some of the most beautiful, profound and uplifting verses in the Bible. I love them and chose verse 18 as my verse for this year, as my word for the year is Joy.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

You can feel Habakkuk’s resolve in verse 17-18 that no matter what is happening, no matter how bad things look, he will choose to rejoice in the Lord. He knows (19) that his strength is in the Lord. He trusts God to make him to soar above it all as he looks to Him for his strength and hope. I am reminded here that it is a choice we make to live looking to the Lord for our strength and joy. Moses made a similar choice in Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ‘I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect,  and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,  upright and just is he.”

May we make the same decision and resolve as Habakkuk to choose God and live joyful and abundant lives in Him. Choose to trust God; He has it covered!

Linda

Showing, Loving and Living Redeemed

And the journey continues… Colossians. This letter was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians whom he had never met. His convert, Epaphras, had traveled to Colossae and started a new church there. When he encountered difficulties in theology, he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. Paul wrote to help ‘set their thinking straight’ so that they would know that Jesus is Lord and there is no other. He praises their faith and growth but instructs them on the supremacy of Christ our Lord who came, died and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.

I love Paul’s prayer that opens the letter. Colossians 1:3-14 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

A couple of questions come to mind as I study this passage that I need to remember as I walk with Jesus daily. Is anyone hearing of my love for Jesus? The Colossian Christians were known for their faith and love. This is what Jesus wants for each of us. In John 13:33-34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Another question- Do you believe in the transforming power of the Good News? The Good News that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Life in Him is abundant and filled with grace, love, mercy… and the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatian 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit transforms our lives as we follow Jesus each day in faith.

Lastly, How do you pray for others? Do you pray for their growth in faith that they will know and love God more and serve Him with eagerness? Do you pray for their patience, endurance and joy? Paul prayed for these things as he wanted the Colossian Christians to thrive and grow in the Lord. He wanted them to live with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in their lives. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I pray that you will show your genuine Christian love for others, pray for your fellow believers, unsaved friends and relatives and live like you believe you are truly rescued from darkness and brought into the light of God’s love. You are redeemed and forgiven dear brother and sister!

Linda

Lessons from Jonah…

And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.

Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.

So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.

Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “ When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.

Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.

Linda

Beautiful Attitudes for Living

And the journey continues….Matthew. The gospel of Matthew is very complete beginning with Jesus’ lineage, the angel appearing to Joseph, the visit of the Wiseman and the escape to Egypt when they were being hunted by Herod and their return and settlement in Nazareth. We see the baptism of Jesus, the calling of the disciples, teaching of those who followed him, Jesus’ trials, death, resurrection and the giving of the great commission by resurrected Jesus before his ascension. Matthew gives a complete account of Jesus’ life and focuses on His kingship. He presents Jesus as Messiah, King, and he specifically wanted the Jews who were continuing to deny that the Lord Jesus was their Messiah to recognize him as their King.

It was difficult to narrow down the wonderful gospel to a favorite part but I do love the beatitudes which are part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. I think why this portion holds so much significance is that I have visited the area where Jesus sat and taught. It is beautiful, tranquil and bucolic.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed means happy but in a spiritual sense bringing great joy and well being that is based in the kingdom of God. Jesus speaks first of those who are poor in spirit. That does not mean they were sad but that they sorrowed over their sins and repented, which will bring blessings. He also speaks of the meek. That does not mean we are to be a door mat and let people walk all over us, but that we are to be humble and open to God’s will and His ways. Those who really love Jesus and seek to be like him living a righteous life before God will be satisfied! Mercy triumphs and purity of heart allows one to see God more clearly in their life. Those who strive for peace and unity in the Spirit are known to be children of God. Those who suffer for Jesus and His kingdom will be repaid as God will reward them.

I am reminded when I read these verses of Jesus’ words in John 15:5 ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in youyou will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” To show these beautiful attitudes in our lives, we need to stay connected to Jesus. Without Him, we can accomplish nothing of eternal.

Linda

Promises From Isaiah Always Give Hope

And the journey continues….. Isaiah. Isaiah is considered a major prophet due to the fact that the book is lengthy with 66 chapters. The first 35 chapters are marked with prophesy after prophesy about the coming judgement due to the Israelites not staying faithful in worship of the one true God. Isaiah uniquely refers to God as the Holy One of Israel. The middle section of Isaiah, chapters 36-39 are an interlude with specifics about Judah’s present day problems with the Assyrians and the growing Babylonian Empire. King Hezekiah prays for guidance as he spread the letter from attacking Sennacherib before the Lord. God answered by saving Judah and later extended the life of Hezekiah by 15 years from an illness that had him at death’s door. The final chapters 40-66 are some of the most beautiful and comforting in the Bible. Isaiah prophesizes about God’s love, protection and restoration for the nation that He alone will provide during their coming exile in Babylon and promises they will return to the land He has given them. When they returned from 70 years of exile from their homeland, they did not stray to the worship of other gods and their man made idols. They worshiped the one true God, the Holy One of Israel.

My favorite verses are found in Chapter 49. Several of the verses in this chapter have given me great encouragement and strength. I want to share them with you. God promises restoration in verse 8-9a “This is what the Lord says:

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
    and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
    and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
Whenever God says, I will, He is making a promise to Israel and to you and me. God keeps His promises always. Here we see and feel God’s love and commitment to those who believe in Him. He will make things happen in His time and in His way. His ultimate way of freedom is in Christ as He freed us from the bondage of sin and restored our relationship with Him.

Isaiah 49:15-16 speaks of God never forgetting me and knowing who I am, and what I need is ever before Him. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.
This is a precious image of the depth of God’s love towards me. I know He goes before me and is always with me. He knows exactly who I am and has me engraved in the palm of His hand.

Isaiah 49: 23 “Kings will be your foster fathers,
    and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
    they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed.
When I see things happening in my life that are beyond my control and frighten me, I can take comfort in knowing- God has this. He will be victorious and trusting in Him will never lead to disappointment.

Isaiah 49: 25 But this is what the Lord says:

“Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
    and plunder retrieved from the fierce;

I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and your children I will save.
God acknowledges that many times things will look overwhelming or bleak in my life, but I need to remember that He will fight for me and that He will save me and those that will come after me. God promises there will always be a remnant of those who believe in Him.

One last favorite from Isaiah 55:11. I claimed this verse when I wrote and published my first book. I cling to God’s promise each time I give out God’s Word whether it is in a book, blog or when speaking. “so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
We can be assured that putting forth God’s Word will not return empty or void. His Word has meaning and eternal value and He guarantees it will not come back empty but will always accomplish that which He desires. I claim and stand on this promise because- God says it and His will cannot be thwarted! Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

I pray that these precious verses of promise speak to you today. May you believe that God loves you, that your faith in Him will not bring disappointment, that you will lean into Him trusting in His protection and supreme ability to fight your battles and that you will continue to speak out for Jesus knowing His words and truth will not return empty.

Linda

Reboot your Basic Doctrines in Titus

And the journey continues….Titus. This letter is short but powerful! Paul wrote this letter to his beloved gentile convert Titus to encourage his ministry in Crete. Titus had worked alongside him in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. After Ephesus Paul sent him to Corinth to work in the church there. Following Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment, he and Titus journeyed to Crete to bring them the gospel message. Paul continued on and left Titus to work there strengthening the brothers and sisters in Christ by teaching and leading them. The last mention of Titus in is 2 Timothy 4:10 where Timothy mentions Titus went to Dalmatia, which is present day Yugoslavia. Paul’s letter is filled with basic doctrines emphasizing who Christ is and the life He desires us to live through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. When I visited Crete in 2016, the people continue to revere Titus, claiming they have his skull which they place prominently in a main church in downtown Heraklion. They credit Titus with the establishment of Christianity on their island.

There are two passages I dearly love in the book of Titus because of their clarity in proclaiming Christ as our Savior and Lord. See if you don’t agree.

Titus 2:11-14 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Paul’s message is clear: salvation for all people, turn from ungodliness, devote ourselves to God, look forward with expectation to Christ’s return, live our lives free from sin and be committed to Him. All this is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit, praise God!

Titus 3:4-7  “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Paul here emphasizes we are saved because of God’s grace and mercy, forgiven, and generously filled with His Holy Spirit through the power of faith in Christ. Christ has made us right before holy God and with that knowledge we can live confident lives assured of our salvation and eternal life with Him.

These basic doctrines are filled with hope and assurance based on God’s mercy and grace to us by sending Jesus to save us and cleanse us from all our sins. What is your response to this marvelous outpouring of love towards you? I am reminded of Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Thank you Jesus.

Linda

Fire, Water and Power for All to See

Statue of Elijah on Mt Carmel

And the journey continues….1 Kings. There are many adventures of God’s prophets, Elijah and Elisha, included in 1 Kings. Elijah was a prophet to the nation of Israel when Ahab was king and Jezebel was queen. The nation had been divided into Judah and Israel. Ahab ruled over the northern 10 tribes, Israel, and was an evil king. He worshipped Baal and Asherah and had forsaken the worship of God Almighty. God sent Elijah to confront him and relay the message that it would not rain in the land as a judgement for abandoning Him until God allowed it. Elijah left and God provided for him. He placed him by a brook and fed him with ravens. Later when the brook dried up, God sent him to the Widow at Zaraephath where God promised through Elijah that her oil and flour would not run out until it rained for sharing her food and shelter with Elijah. Finally after 3 years, God sent Elijah to Ahab. Elijah proposed a contest on Mt Carmel between the prophets of Baal and the Lord God of Israel. Ahab accepted. The story is written in 1 Kings 18:16-45.

View from Mt Carmel

What a contest it was! Elijah told the prophets of Baal to build an altar, put wood under and around it and place the sacrificial bull, which had been cut in pieces, upon it. Then the prophets were to call unto their god and ask Baal to consume the wood and sacrifice with fire. Elijah would then do the same and ask the Lord to consume it with fire. Elijah wanted the people to see that God was alive and real where as Baal and Asherah were powerless. So the prophets set up their altar and began to call upon Baal. Nothing happened. Elijah taunted them in verses 27-29 “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah asked the people to help him prepare the altar with wood and the sacrificed animal parts. However, Elijah also instructed them to dig a trench around the altar and pour water over all of the wood, and animal pieces. It was so much water that it ran down into the trench. He had them repeat this 3 times! Verses 36-39 describes what happened next, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 3And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

I love this story. We see God’s amazing power over the elements, rain and fire. God’s power over other gods, the idols that the people worshiped, Baal and Ashorth. We also saw that God kept his promises, no rain, protection of Elijah, not tolerating evil, and protecting, defending his people. In addition, we see the people’s response to God’s power and might, as they fell down in worship. Shortly after this confrontation on Mt Carmel, Elijah tells Ahab to run home because it is going to rain and for him to hurry. It rained torrentially before King Ahab got back to Jezreel by chariot.

How big is your God? Can He be trusted to defeat all foes? Is He bigger than anything you face? Is He sovereign over all things, circumstances and people in your life? Read this story in full in 1 Kings 16:20-17:24. Marvel anew at the power, provision and planning God shows to Elijah and His mercy and grace towards the wayward people of Israel. He can and does show that same power, mercy and grace toward us through Jesus the Son. We worship and serve Almighty God and there is none more powerful. I am reminded of David’s prayer in Psalm 86:8-10 when I read this story in 1 Kings. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come    and worship before you, O Lord,    and shall glorify your name.10 
For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.

May you look and see the power of God today as you walk with Him. May it cause you to fall down in worship before Him. He is the awesome God, mighty to be praised!

Linda

Philippi, An Encounter with Consequences

And the journey continues…into Acts. Acts is filled with the wonderful adventures of the Apostles learning to walk with Jesus and allowing Jesus to work in and through them to spread the gospel to the world. In Chapter 16 of The Acts of the Apostles Paul tells us how he and Silas met Timothy in Derbe. Paul wanted to take this new believer along with them on their second journey through Asia Minor and Greece. He had an instant affection for this young Greek Hebrew convert. He grew to love him as a son as is evidenced in his writings in 1 and 2 Timothy.

Then Paul has a vision during the night where the Holy Spirit spoke to him and directed them to go into Macedonia with the gospel message. Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy landed in Neapolis and traveled inland to the town of Philippi. They encountered the purple merchant Lydia and fellow Jews by a steam just outside the city. It was the Sabbath and since there was no synagogue in Philippi, they were praying and worship by the river. Paul presented the gospel truth about Jesus the Messiah and she became a believer and welcomed them into her home. I had the privilege of visiting this spot where Paul and Lydia met several years ago. It is peaceful and lovely, and you can just envision them sitting by the stream singing and praising God.

Jail where Paul and Silas were held.

As the chapter continues and Paul and Silas went repeatedly to the river to worship. A slave girl who was possessed by a spirit kept taunting them. “She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 Paul became troubled one day and turned to her and commanded the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus. The slave girl’s owners had been using her divination powers to earn money, and they were very unhappy with these events. So they went to the town magistrate and complained, which resulted in Paul and Silas being beaten, flogged and imprisoned without trial. They were then thrown into jail. Later that evening while imprisoned, they were singing and praising God when there was an earthquake which opened the cell doors. The jailer, fearing their escape on his watch, started to kill himself. Paul called out to him that they were all there. Acts 16:29-34, And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

Forum and ruins of Philippi

Later the next day, the magistrate sent officers to release Paul and told them to leave the city. Paul refused to go until they came and spoke with him. He was righteously outraged at their treatment as they were Roman Citizens and the magistrates desired to coverup the way they had unjustly treated Paul and Silas. They were vindicated and left the city, but not before saying good-bye to Lydia and the other believers. The new believers were encouraged.

I love these dramatic stories for several reasons. 1. It shows how Paul was lead by the Spirit on his journey to where the Holy Spirit knew there were people waiting and eager to hear the gospel message. Do I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to just the right place and just the right time? Are you open to God opportunities to witness? 2. Paul and Silas stood up in faith and saved the young demon possessed girl. They then faced the consequences of their actions. They allowed God to use them and suffered for His name sake. God vindicated them and worked all things for their good and His glory. The jailer and his family came to know Christ, the magistrate and others were witnesses to the power of God, the magistrates were held accountable for their wrong, judgements and the believers were encouraged. How do you react to oppression and suffering? Do you complain and fight or do you pray, praise and sing with thanksgiving? Paul knew he was doing the Lord’s work and that God is sovereign over all government officials. He did not fear the outcome as he knew God was going before him and had his back. He completely trusted God. Where are you on a scale of 1 to10 on trusting God with the details of your life?

Take a few minutes and read this entire Chapter 16 of Acts. Let yourself feel what Paul and Silas must have felt- the joy, trust, and encouragement in faith along with the hatred of others, mistrust, and persecution. After, take a few minutes to pray for those brother and sisters in faith that are persecuted for the sake of Christ throughout the world. Pray for their safely and a boldness to proclaim the gospel, no matter the cost. Bravely ask God to bring you opportunities to witness to the power of Christ in your life.

Linda

A Small Book Bringing Mighty Words for Living Forgiven

And the journey continues….to Micah. The book of Micah was written by the prophet Micah, who lived during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, all kings of Judah. He was a contemporary with the prophets Isaiah and Hosea. This was a time of great idolatry in Israel and Judah. The Lord God was not pleased with their idol worship and Micah’s messages told of the destruction and fall of Samaria and Jerusalem as punishment for their forsaking the worship of God and worshipping other gods. Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 721 B.C. and the Judeans managed to hold off Sennacherib’s attacks with the help of the Lord. Their return to worship of God Almighty under Hezekiah was short lived and Jerusalem fell with the Jews deported to Babylon in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar. In the midst of all the prophesies against Judah and Israel, God gave messages through Micah of hope, restoration and future glory to come through the Messiah.

To begin, I love the beautiful verse in 5:2 where the birth place of the coming Messiah is foretold. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” What hope this pinpointing of the birthplace of their Messiah must have given them. God always promised there would be a remnant, a group of believers who would remain true to their faith in Him, and a Savior to come. They did not know when their redeemer would come but now they knew where he would arrive, in Bethlehem. From the Christmas story, we know this to be true as related in Chapters 1 and 2 of Matthew and Luke.

Micah also makes a case for obedience in faith and action in Chapter 6. He states wholeheartedly what the Lord desires of us. I have always found these verse in 6:6-8 very encouraging and straight to the point of what God wants. “With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God
?”
Micah knew that God looks at the heart and knows if our offerings are sincere, or just attempts to appease Him. Micah speaks plainly about what Almighty God desires of us. We can take his words to heart and examine ourselves looking intently at our motives and actions. This requires me to daily focus on seeking the Lord with an open and sincere heart so I can act justly, walk humbly and show God’s love and kindness to others.

My favorite verses of this little book are found in 7:18-20. They remind me of who God is, His amazing character which is filled with compassion and forgiveness. Micah also highlights a great gift God made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus which was freeing us from the bondage of sin. We are forgiven through Christ. I am assured that those sins are gone, forgotten and will be remembered no more! Praise God! “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over transgression
    for the remnant of his inheritance?
He does not retain his anger forever,
    because he delights in steadfast love.
19 He will again have compassion on us;
    he will tread our iniquities underfoot.
You will cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea.

20 You will show faithfulness to Jacob

    and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our fathers
    from the days of old.”
God in His faithfulness loves and forgives me completely. As Micah said, Who is a God like you? Jesus. There is no other. Paul described Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11 ” Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, I am forgiven. Thank you Jesus!

May you soak in the truth and depth of God’s forgiveness and love. May you seek to do those things that please Him because of the depth of your love for Jesus and gratitude for what He has done for you.

Linda