Growing in Him, Planning & Following

Our last ‘put upon’ scripture for this Lenten season is meaningful as it teaches an attitude and practice that God desires of all committed believers. Paul is instructing the Corinthian Christians about the collection of offerings for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Christians were under extreme persecution at this time and believers throughout Asia minor were concerned and seeking to aid them in their time of need and distress. Paul was planning to go and take the offerings if he could, if not then he assured them that some other brothers would take their offerings to these suffering Christians.

1 Corinthians 16:1-5 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

What lesson was Paul teaching in his request for them to set aside a portion each week for these needy people? I am calling it planned generosity. Many of us can be generous on the spur of the moment, carried by emotion or emotional pleas but this was to be planned. They needed to learn to set aside a portion for God’s use each week. Since many of the people of Macedonia were poor, they needed to plan and set aside a little bit at a time and then amazingly they would have a lot to give. This relies on God’s faithfulness to provide and our faithfulness to be obedient and set monies aside.

I had not thought of planning for generosity, but I’ve done it. When you decide to set aside money to pay for a camp scholarship to be used in the future, when you know there will be a Pastor Appreciation month coming in October or the love gift at Christmas. In the case of the Corinthians, it was giving that was over and above their regular giving and needed to be planned for. Give this some thought. Next time you have a bonus or some unexpected monies, ask God what you should do with it and set it aside. You don’t have to give it right then as perhaps God has something else in mind for those funds. Set it aside as Paul instructs and wait for the project or time God wants you to give it. You will be blessed by the planning and blessed by the listening and following God’s direction.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can depend upon God to direct my giving and allow Him to grow my obedience and faithfulness.

As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, God wants to grow and mold us into who He sees we can be in Him.

Linda

Accountability Before God

What drives your behavior or relationships with others? Do you look for what you can gain from the encounters or do you seek to be a giver and see how you can help others? Our motivations are the subject of Paul’s hard words in Romans 14:10-13. He calls us to look at the why and the substance of our relationships with others.

10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:

“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
    every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

1So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. 13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

Paul reminds all of us that we are accountable to God and will one day stand before Him to give account for our words and actions. The believer will receive rewards for the good they have done for the Lord and the unbeliever will face punishment for their sins. Since believers are in Christ and covered by His blood and righteousness, God does not see the sin yet He does measure our actions and words. We are accountable to Him. Paul then concludes that knowing this fact, we need to examine our words and actions towards others so that they are honoring and edifying. We want to seek to build others up and encourage them in life and faith. We don’t want to put stumbling blocks in their pathway to trip them up, cause them to sin, cause them grief or lead them away from Christ by our actions. This is serious work for the kingdom and we need to examine ourselves daily to keep our motivations, actions and attitudes in alignment with Christ.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can live a life that is yielded and accountable to God that will bring Him glory. There is hope in Christ. We do not need to fear being a stumbling block to others, if we keep focused on Christ and seek His will for our lives.

Linda

Paul, “It was Worth it!” Agree?

The Apostle Paul uses put in a new context in today’s passage. 1 Corinthian 9:12 comes in the midst of a passage where Paul is reasoning that missionaries deserve to be paid or supported for their work. Just as Jewish priests were given food and clothing, so those that serve Christ preaching and teaching deserve to be cared for.

 “If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?

But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.

Paul is saying that they may have the right to support, but they did not insist upon it. They suffered and put up with less so that the gospel of Christ would go forward. He was not bragging, but simply stating the fact that he was compelled to preach the gospel. In verse 16 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. ” His motivation was pure, without complications, as He presented the gospel so that others might know Christ and be redeemed.

What is your motivation for telling others about Christ? Paul was so driven to tell others he could not, not tell them. His desire was for them to know Christ, to be freed from the bondage of sin, to have the eternal assurance of salvation and to have hope for living each day. This was what drove him to tell as many as he could, regardless of the danger or hardships to himself. Do you want others to be free in Christ? Do you want to see them in eternity worshipping and rejoicing with Jesus?

Consider this, Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am compelled to speak of the love of Jesus, to speak of His redeeming power and to speak of the assurance I have of spending eternity with Him. Think about this in the context of John 13:34-35 ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Are you compelled to speak out for Jesus because of your love for Jesus and for those who need to know Him? Are you willing like Paul, to put up with anything so that others can know Him? As Christians we need to be willing to put up with the world’s attitude and rejection, so that someone may come to know Jesus as their Savior. As Paul reasoned, “it is worth it.”

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

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

Christ desires maturity. Are you growing?

Colossians 1:28-29 finishes this first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians. He is seeking to explain his earnest motivation for calling them to be the most that they can be in Christ. He wants for them to honor Christ in their lives and seek to grow in faith. “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

How concerned are your church leaders about growth in your church body? How concerned are you about growing your faith? I’m not talking about numbers in your church congregation or hours spent serving but growing in faith. This is a growth that stretches and moves you to be more like Jesus. Are they teaching from the Word and encouraging you to spend time in God’s Word and prayer? Do you hunger after God’s Word and crave to spend time with God in prayer? This was Paul’s passion. He wanted those who came to know Jesus as savior to be mature Christians who would be able to stand steadfast in troubled times, lean on and serve each other in love and be mission minded desiring to bring others to faith. Ephesians 4:13 “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ”. Christ’s standard is high and calls for us to be mature and wise in our daily walk with Him so as to not to be tempted and fall away. Hebrews 5:14 “Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong”. Being mature aids in one’s perception of the world and enables one to view things from a godly perspective. This allows one to make godly choices and not fall into sin.

Today as you mediate on these verses, test yourself? How much do you see yourself growing? Are you more like Jesus now than you were 1,2,5 years ago? I don’t mean more religious or more involved. I mean more like Jesus in character. James puts it this way in James 1:2-4 our experiences in life should be growing and producing more godly character in us. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In Romans 5:3-6 Paul says this about character development. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” None of us likes to suffer but in the trials of life we grow and move either closer to Jesus or away. Which is it for you?

My latest book, Strategic Living, is about growing more and more like Jesus, I chose 1 John 2:15-17 from the Message translation as my motivating verses. Let the words speak to your heart today. “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can grow to be more and more like Jesus in character through the power of His Holy Spirit within me. Praise God! He is changing me to be more like Him. See Galatians 5:22-23 for specific examples of ways God the Holy Spirit changes us. “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.” In Him, He has promised we are new creations! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Linda

A Pleasing Walk, Can you do it?

Colossians 1:9-10a gives us some insight into the heart of the Apostle Paul. He is being intentional with his prayers for the Colossian Christians as he has something specific in mind. “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him:” It is totally in Paul’s mind and on his heart that the Colossian Christians live lives that are worthy of their calling as servants of Jesus Christ and that their lives would be pleasing to Him. To achieve a life that is worthy and pleasing to God one must have a knowledge of God’s will and an understanding of spiritual things.

How does one achieve such things? Scriptures tell us to seek to know God. Job said in Job 5:8 “As for me, I would seek God,
and to God would I commit my cause,” Psalm 14:2 “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
 to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.” Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
Knowing God and what He desires of us, helps in discerning God’s will for our lives. That means knowing and following His commandments,1 John 5:2 “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.” We also must seek to abide in Him, 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. Paul knew that a walk without Jesus is futile and will accomplish nothing. So he encourages them and us to keep abiding in Jesus, to draw near to Him, to be steeped and guided by prayer, to stay in God’s Word and above all else seek to know Him more each day.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can know and understand the things of God with spiritual wisdom which helps me to walk daily in a way that pleases Him.

Linda

Called? An example of God’s Providential Care at Work!

Paul begins his letter to the Colossian Christians by stating who he is and by what authority he writes to them. He did not know them personally as he was not the one who brought the good news of Christ to them. Epaphras his friend and a man he led to Christ in Ephesus was the one who delivered the good news of Christ and helped them establish a group of believers in that city. Epaphras was concerned about problematic ideas that had entered their thinking so he journeyed to Rome to get advice and encouragement from Paul. Paul wrote this letter for Epaphras to take back to them.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, Colossians 1:1

Do you think of yourself as doing or being in a particular place at a particular time by the will of God? The key idea here is God is Sovereign and all things happen by God’s direction. It is called the Providence of God. There is no luck involved in the coincidences of life as life is designed by our sovereign God. A recent definition I found for the providence of God is this: God has a plan and a purpose for the world and governs history such that everything from the least to the greatest contributes to the achievement of that plan and purpose. God’s providence is the active outworking of God’s Sovereignty in everything. Paul was not in a Roman prison by chance nor did Epaphras journey there by accident. God used both Paul’s imprisonment and Epaphras’ desire to know truth to lead him to find Paul in that prison cell. Paul is stating here that God intended for him to be a witness to the gospel of Christ, met him, led him and was using him to tell others the good news of Jesus. What is happening in your life that you feel God is using you for His purpose? Often times when things happen, we quickly question God, why? At those times, we need to remind ourselves of the providence of God and how as Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God can and does use all things in our lives for our good and His glory. Our calling is to walk in trust and faith that God has it all in His control.

Paul also includes his co-worker in the cause of Christ, Timothy, in the greeting. Timothy might have traveled to Colossae at some point and was known to some of the believers or perhaps he was helping Paul by scribing the letter. What is known is that Paul and Timothy were a team like father and son working together to spread the gospel. I hope you have friends in the faith that share your love for God and work hand in hand with you to serve Jesus and your local church. John mentions these type of people in 3 John 1:8 “Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” Supporting each other in ministry brings encouragement and unity to all believers. Say a quick prayer right now and thank God for someone special that works with you to serve Jesus. They are a gift from God to you!

Look for the providence of God in your life this week. Seek Him with faithfulness knowing you are set apart for Him and His work in you. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can trust that all things that happen in my life will be used by God to bring good to me and glory to His name.

Linda

Lent 2021. Please join me as I journey through Colossians

This year the Lord has led me to the book of Colossians for my meditations and writing. This New Testament Letter is short, only 4 chapters, but is powerfully packed with words of strength that we so desperately need in our daily walk with Christ. The passages will give us assurance of our salvation, the work and person of Jesus Christ and the sovereignty of God. This letter was penned by the Apostle Paul and was believed to have been written during his first imprisonment in Rome. He wrote all of the Prison letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon) during this time.

Where was Colossae? This town was located in Asia Minor in present day Turkey. It was a smaller town on a river and lay on the trade route between the Aegean Sea and the Euphrates River. The neighboring towns of Laodicea and Hierapolis were larger. You might remember the church in Laodicea is mentioned in Revelation. It was the church chastised by Christ as being lukewarm-neither hot nor cold in faith. (See map at the bottom)

Why a letter? When Paul was in Ephesus, he lead a young man named Epaphras to know Christ. Later, Epaphras left Ephesus and went to Colossae. He led several people to the Lord and began a church plant there. Later, the Colossian Christians were struggling and were under theological attack so Epaphras journeyed to Rome to see Paul. Paul, who had never been to Colossae, wrote this encouraging, insightful letter seeking to ‘set their thinking right’ and point them to the one and only Lord Jesus.

I pray that our journey through Colossians will help us to focus on the cross, the sacrifice and the hope we have in Jesus. Also, that the scripture will cause us to pause, think, meditate and pray about our own need to repent and walk daily with Jesus. Here is a key verse in Colossians 2:13 for us to look forward to that shows us what Christ did for us! You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

Thank you for coming with me. I look forward to the lessons and truths that we will uncover in scripture that will enrich our lives and walk with Jesus. Because Christ died on the cross and rose again, I have the ability to repent and be forgiven! Praise God and thank you Jesus!

Linda

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