Sanctified? Called? What about you?

As a church we have completed reading Deuteronomy and are beginning 1 Corinthians. I am looking forward to our selections as we wade into the streams God has for us in His Word.

1 Corinthians begins with a typical greeting from the writer, the Apostle Paul, to the believers in Corinth. This was a busy city that bustled with commerce of goods, services and ideas. Many of ideas were in direct conflict with the new doctrines presented in the gospel and Paul uses this letter format to instruct, lead and encourage this early church.

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins by reminding them of his commission and call to preach the truth about Jesus. He reminds the believers that they are all sanctified in Jesus and also have a calling. As I meditated upon these facts this week, I thought about my own sanctification and call to faith in Jesus. Do I feel sanctified? The dictionary defines sanctification as being made holy, consecrated and set apart by God. That means that God has set me apart and made me holy through the blood of Jesus. Am I acting like one that is set apart in holiness? Do I take time to realize that God has a plan and a purpose for me as a believer? Through my faith in Jesus, I am to be a light for Him in this world, just as the Corinthians were to be lights of hope and truth in their pagan society. Do I feel called? By virtue of the fact that I profess belief in Jesus, I have made the decision to follow Him- that is my calling. Following Jesus can lead in many different ways and each is unique to us. I am reminded of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God knows just how He will use each one of us. We just need to be open and willing to follow Him wherever and whenever He leads. Are you willing?

Lastly, Paul sincerely wanted the believers to know that he wanted them blessed with grace and peace from God. Do we seek the grace and peace of Jesus towards our fellow believers? Unity of believers was important in Paul’s day and is as essentially important today. We need to stand together for truth, showing grace and peace towards others.

Blessings as we delve into Corinthians together. I have attached some photos of ancient Corinth which was an amazing site to visit.

Linda

Joy in Christ brings Contentment!

The subject of today’s blog is one that is so relevant to 2020. How do you find contentment with all the upheaval of 2020- amidst Covid-19 raging throughout the world, devastating storms, hurricanes, flooding, fires and political turmoil reflecting hatred and animosity within our society? In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul says he has been in all types of situations and has found contentment only in Jesus. What about you? Paul begins this passage by consoling his Philippian friends who had been unable to send money to meet his needs. He says it is okay as God has this.

10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

What had Paul learned about contentment? CHRIST is the source of his contentment and strength. He had found that Christ was his all in all. He knew that Christ’s grace was sufficient in 2 Corinthians 12:9 ” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” He knew about abiding in Christ in John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” He knew about the indwelling Holy Spirit in Ephesians 3:16-17 “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,”. He knew about the glorious might of Jesus in Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy;” What about you? Do you know, like Paul, of Christ’s sustaining and fulfilling power? Take a step back today and look at your world, problems and circumstances. With the grace, abiding, indwelling power of the glorious might of Jesus, can’t you get through anything? He promises His power and grace are sufficient!

Take Joy in being content in Christ today.

Linda

Dreams Bring Joy-filled Thoughts

Today the wild fires in California are burning brightly and smoke covers so much of our beautiful state. Where is joy? The passage in Philippians that I had for reflection today seems odd- how does it relate to me and my world? In this passage in Philippians 2:19-30 (entire text at the bottom) Paul makes the letter personal. He is sending notes to the Philippians about his ‘family’. Specifically Paul mentions Timothy his proven, genuine, caring son in the faith. He also says he desires to see them soon if his situation changes in Rome and he is free to travel again. Paul also talks about Epaphroditus who would be bringing the letter to them. Paul asks them to welcome him openly and realize that he has personally suffered a great deal for the sake of the gospel. Paul had plans for himself (24) and for the future of the ministry. He was looking forward to their work together in the name of Christ. Paul never doubted God had plans and knew the work of Christ would go forward!

What plans do you have for yourself and for you place in ministry? Do you dream and look forward with joy to things you can, or will do? Do you have dreams big things? I think God is calling us to trust in Him, no matter what fires are burning around us, and place our dreams at His feet. God promises us in His Word that He has good plans with purpose and they will not be thwarted.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Do you believe God has good plans and a future for you?

Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” Do you believe anything can stop God’s plans?

Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Do you believe God can follow through on the plans He has established for you?

Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Do you believe the Lord’s purpose is for your good and His glory?

James 4:13-15 “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that. Do you consider what God wants you to do when you make plans or do you leave Him out of the planning?

Paul’s joy was increased when he thought about his ‘family’ of faith and what plans and purposes God had for them in the future. What about you does dreaming about future events and plans in ministry bring you joy and excitement? If yes, then you are in good company and are forward looking with God, expecting joy in the future with Christ.

May your joy be multiplied today as you dream and think about what God has for you to do. Walk in faith- trusting and believing in our All Powerful God!

Linda

Philippians 2:19-30

19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24 And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.

Praying with Heart motivated by Joy

Today I am soaking in the joy Paul felt as he describes his fellow coworkers in the cause of Christ in Philippians 1:7-11.

philippians 1 7“So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.”

Do you love those you work with when serving Christ?  I have felt like Paul and have a special bond with brothers and sisters in faith as we work together for the Lord.  Those friendships are lasting and are firmly rooted in the love of Christ.  Whether you are near or far from them you always hold them dear and can’t wait to be with them again.   Why is that?  I think the shared love and spirit of Christ permeates the friendship and links us for eternity.   We know that time and place may separate us, but we are and will always be together in the Lord.  I can only imagine that this is part of what Paul was expressing to the Philippians.  He then explains how he prays for them.

Philippians 1-9“9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.”    He prays that they will abound in love, continue to grow in the Lord, walk with Him and live a productive life for Christ that will bring glory and honor to the Lord.  What beautiful words with power and conviction.  He loves his co-laborers in the cause of Christ and desires to see them grow and flourish.  Is that what you desire for your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do you pray for their growth, their walk and witness in the world?  These are tangible ways  we can support each other.  Seek God on behalf of your friends and ask Him to grow and develop them for His purposes. 

My joy is greater as I stand with others in the cause of Christ.

My joy increases as I walk with Christ.  As I seek to grow and serve Him, I am uplifted and encouraged by others in faith.

Philippians joyJoy is renewed and kindled as we work, pray, and serve together!  Paul knew that- how about you?  Mediate today on your friendships in the Lord and pray for them with a heart filled with love.

Linda

The Cross = a privilege to show others our Savior

Today’s passage in Ephesians 3:7-11 gives us a glimpse into the true heart of Paul and his motivating character.  Let these words soften your heart towards the hard working saint as you picture his struggle for Christ.

“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.   Paul realizes that God chose him specifically on the Road to Damascus (see Acts 9).  Through His might and power,  he was transformed into one who professed and proclaimed the name and fame of Jesus instead of persecuting Him.

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone  this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.  Paul humbly professes that he feels unworthy of God’s grace and mercy and relishes the privilege of revealing God’s plan of redemption through Christ for all mankind. 

10 God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.   Paul sees that God intends that all believers are shown God’s wisdom and eternal plan through the knowledge and work of Christ.  Then all believers, the church, will share that wisdom and knowledge with others.

ephesians 3 7Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the deadwe are privileged to show God’s love and the good news of Jesus to the world.   Just like Paul, we will be humbled by the magnitude of this privilege when we realize we are God’s chosen messengers to the world.  It is an amazing responsibility.  Paul counted himself favored to be chosen by God to tell others.

What about you?  Do you consider it a privilege to tell others about Jesus?   Are you humbled by the fact that God chose you?  Take a moment today and thank God for choosing you and empowering you with His Holy Spirit so you are able to do all He calls you to do.

Linda

The Privilege of Prayer

Do you have good friends of faith?  Do you share your joys and struggles in your daily walk with Christ and praises for answered prayers?  Paul had that kind of relationship with the Ephesians when he lived among them and it shows in his heartfelt message as ephesians 1 16he sought to encourage them in their faith.  Ephesians 1:15-16.  “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,”  Paul had brought them to faith and was like a proud ‘papa’ over the continued growth of these believers.  He was thankful for their lives of faith and  prayed for them all the time.

A couple of months ago I was struggling with some health issues and a dear sister in Christ sent me a handmade card with the sentiment “I’m praying for you”.  Just receiving her note encouraged me in my walk that day and each day after as I glanced at the card.  Saying you’ll pray for someone is the most precious gift you can give them,  so don’t say it if you don’t intend to actually pray.  Paul was sincere and serious about prayer and he prayed constantly for those new believers in all the cities where he ministered.

Teaching, preaching, witnessing and prayer were all essential parts of Paul’s ministry.  Even if we do not feel like we can be teachers or preachers we can all witness to the joy and power of Christ in our lives.  We can all pray for those who we encounter who do not know Jesus, for our friends and family,  and for specific troubles or circumstances we know people are experiencing.   We can pray for our leaders at church, in our city and in our country.  Prayer changes things and gives us opportunity to communicate with Father God about the people in our lives.  Praying for others takes the focus off ourselves and acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all things.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can go directly to God in prayer.  He is accessible because of our faith in Jesus.

prayer for each otherToday spend some time in prayer for those around you that are hurting, despairing, in poor health, need comfort, strength or are walking down a wrong pathway.  Thank God that they are in your life and that you can lift them up in the name of Jesus.

Linda

Travel with me to Ephesus this Lent

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Ancient forum and roadway where Paul would have walked and preached.

Walk with me during Lent through the book of Ephesians as we meditatively think about all that we have and are in Christ.   Let’s look at the unity of the body of believers growing there as Paul preached and taught for 2 years.  Later John also came to Ephesus and lived among the believers.  We will see the aspects of who we are in Christ, what place the body of believers called the church is to God and finish with the wonderful words about the armor available to us in Christ.  Each day we will see the amazing provisions and position we have because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.

As we begin this Ash Wednesday, let’s look at Ephesians 1:1-2.  Paul introduces himself in the letter, tells who he’s writing to and pronounces a preliminary greeting that is typical of his writing.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Put yourself in Ephesus and become one of the believers who received this letter from the Apostle Paul.  He is addressing you as a saint, a faithful believer and he is sending greetings of grace and peace from God.  Do you think of yourself as a saint?  The New Testament repeatedly refers to believers as ‘saints’.  He also attributes faithfulness to their walk of faith.  How would you describe your daily walk with Jesus?  Are you faithful?  Paul also sends you grace,  which is God’s unmerited favor,  and His peace.  What precious gifts these are.  How will you use or experience God’s favor today?  Will you rest in His peace?   As Ephesians opens we see that because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be His saints and faithfully, walk in His grace and experiencing His peace.  Praise God!

Walk with me towards the cross, contemplating our sinfulness and His blameless character.  Join me in daily meditation and prayer for these coming 40 days of repentance and focus on who God desires us to be because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

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Paul would have stood on the library steps surrounded by enormous stone work, telling of the might and power of Jesus.

Let’s journey towards the cross together.

Linda