The Gift of Faith leads to a Journey with God

As I continue to look at my word for the year, faith, I’m seeking to dig deeper into the aspects of what faith really is. Hebrews 11:6 admonishes us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” This verse appears in a chapter where the author is speaking of the great heroes of the faith, those who demonstrated true, lasting faith in God. The Message translation includes verse 5 with 6. “By an act of faith, Enoch skipped death completely. “They looked all over and couldn’t find him because God had taken him.” We know on the basis of reliable testimony that before he was taken “he pleased God.” It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.” Let’s combine this verse with Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” and 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.”

These verses show us that we need to believe that God is real and alive even though we cannot physically see Him. Our faith in His existence is pleasing to God. It means we realize as truth that we can seek know God and that He will reward our faith in Him. This concept of faith is huge. It establishes a foundation for our beliefs, trust, hope and assurances in God. It gives us reason to pursue a relationship with God through Jesus so that we can be the beneficiaries of a walk in life that pleases God. It means we do not need to physically see God to know He is real and to live a life filled with faith. We can know that our faith, belief in Him is going to be pleasing to God.

One other aspect of this faith that we need to consider is Ephesians 2:8-9 “ For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” This to me is one of God’s mysteries. He gives us faith, in Him, freely as a gift. We do not have to earn it or do anything but believe! How amazing this that!! God is gracious and loves us so much He gifts us with faith to believe. Paul expressed this thanks this way in 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” This gift is: grace, His unmerited favor, Jesus, who died to redeem us from our sin-filled state and faith and the ability to believe and put our trust in our unseen God. It is not just one gift but many made possible by Jesus.

Where do you put your faith today? Is it in the unseen, all-knowing Creator God or is it in the things of this world that you can see? If you do not believe, you can in sincerity ask God for the faith to believe and He will give it to you! Faith is a gift, a precious gift, from God. Do you spend time seeking to know God more fully? Do you look into His Word daily for guidance? Do you spend time talking and communing with God in prayer? All of these are an outgrowth of believing in Him. Will you seek Him today in faith? Thereby, pleasing God with your heart-filled actions and attitude.

Linda

Advent…Unbelief or Belief, Your choice

Scripture tells us that Zachariah was a godly man, followed the law and was blameless. He was a man of faith and lived his life devoted to serving God. What happened next surprised me, but when I think of my own faithlessness and doubts it shouldn’t. Zechariah let doubt and unbelief take hold of his thoughts and mind and here is the result. Luke 1:18-22 from The Message translation.

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” 19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

Zachariah heard the message from Gabriel about the son that would be born to he and Elizabeth, and he did not believe God capable of making that happen. He let the fact that he and Elizabeth were old be greater in his mind than the resources and power of God. Gabriel saw and heard his unbelief. Unbelief is sin and sin has consequences before Almighty God. Gabriel did not strike him dead but touched him in a way that Zachariah would know beyond a doubt that God was in control and He is not to be doubted. Later in our story Mary questions Gabriel, but her questions do not come from unbelief or doubt in God’s ability to make it happen like Zachariah. God is okay with questions but not with unbelief. So, Zachariah’s ‘punishment’ would be his inability to speak, since the words of doubt came out of his mouth, until the baby was born. My guess is that immediately Zachariah knew his error in judgement and went from doubt to faith in a heartbeat. Now he had to live with the consequences of his unbelief until the birth of his son.

The crowds were waiting outside the temple for the priest to come out from offering prayers and they immediately knew something had happened to Zachariah. His gesturing showed he could not speak but probably there was a look on his face that revealed his wonder at the encounter with an angelic being as they concluded he had seen a vision from heaven. What outward signs are evident in your countenance that you have been with God after a time of prayer? Does your prayer time give you peace and hope? Do you allow this peace to be expressed towards others?

This real life story of godly Zachariah speaks to my heart as I see my own doubts and fears lived out by him. I am reminded of the scene from Mark 9:23-24 where Jesus helps a mute, demon possessed child brought by his father after the disciples had failed to cure him. He came seeking Jesus’ help and wondered if He could cure him. “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

I am so with the father of this child as I too pray for Jesus to help my unbelief. Prayer changes things and helps us to solidify our faith as God speaks to our hearts and minds and reassures us of who He is. When you find yourself overcome with doubt, be like this father, pray for Jesus to help you overcome your unbelief. He will answer as you seek to know and trust in Him.

Linda

Faith, can you believe without seeing? Take a lesson from Thomas.

john-20-25-amp

The disciples had gathered one evening shortly after Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus appeared to them coming in through the locked doors.  Thomas had not been with them that evening and they eagerly told him all that had happened.   This was his response from John 20:24-25.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This is the passage that earned him the nickname of doubting Thomas.  He was emphatic that unless he saw the evidences of Jesus death marks himself he would not believe it to be Jesus. Do you know people that are doubters too?  Do they reject any evidence that Jesus is the Son of God in scripture purely because they can not see Him for themselves?  I’m sure the disciples were totally convinced as to what they had seen but saddened that Thomas could not share in the joy of Christ being alive because of his unbelief.

Thomas
john 20 29

A week passed and they were all gathered again in the upper room and Jesus appeared. John 20:26-29 continues the story,  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus knew what Thomas needed and came right to him.  Thomas was amazed and proclaimed Jesus his Lord and God.  To him, seeing was believing.  He needed a personal encounter with the living Jesus!   Jesus added this next verse for Thomas, the disciples and all of us.   29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    

ephesians 1 13-14

Faith is a gift from God and we who believe in Jesus are blessed with the knowledge of Him as our Savior.  However, each one of us who believes encountered the living Christ and came to know Him in a personal, vibrant and  living way.   Even though we do not physically see Him,  we can and do know within our being that Jesus is Alive!  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe in Jesus and testifies to us about Him.  Jesus had promised this in John 15:26 ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  Later Paul, explains in Ephesians 1:13-14 how the Holy Spirit works within us, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Praise God we too can know and experience Him in our lives.  We are blessed – Just as Jesus said we would be through our faith in Him!   Have a blessed day as you ponder the wonder of Jesus being alive in your life!

Linda

Advent Teaches us Hope and Joy come with Faithfulness

Our story begins during the reign of King Herod who reigned from 37-4 B.C. He comes into the story later but that gives us the time period in history. Elizabeth and Zechariah are the future parents of John the Baptist who was a fore-runner of Jesus. Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were relatives.

Luke 1: 5-7 “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.”

A couple of things stood out as I read this passage: they were both old and childless and God commended them as righteous and obedient. Since we know in the story Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, this being old and childless was an impossible situation. God used the impossible to bring about joy and preparation for Jesus’ arrival. How like God to make the impossible possible. Jesus, speaking of salvation said in Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I am reminded of Hebrews 11:6 ” And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Elizabeth and Zechariah were people of faith and were the perfect couple to show the power and might of God in their lives bringing joy to them as parents and servants of God and honor and glory to God. Do you trust God when faced with difficult or impossible situations? Do you believe and seek to please God with your faith in Him?

The second thing I noticed was God’s commendation of them as believers. He called them righteous in His eyes, in right standing with Him, blameless and pure. Their right standing with God came from their faith in Him and obedience to the law. Like Abraham their faith was counted to them as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” They were not sinless but were faithful and sincere about keeping God’s commandments. How sincere are you about walking each day with Jesus? Do you study His Word and seek to know Him better? Would Jesus consider you to have a blameless walk with Him?

Let us take a lesson in Hope from Zechariah and Elizabeth. Faith in God makes all things possible, will please God and bring us joy. Advent means hope and joy though faith in Jesus. Trust God for the impossible and see how He will grow your faith and increase your joy!

Linda

Thankfulness Day 17: Resurrection Promise

On Day 16, we looked at 7 amazing reasons for faith. Today’s verse looks more specifically at #7- salvation that leads to eternal life in Him. John 11:25-26 is a familiar precious promise from God “Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”” Jesus spoke these words to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who had just died and was recently buried. She was upset that Jesus had not made it Bethany before Lazarus died, for she knew he could have saved him from dying. Jesus’ message to Martha, and you an me, is that belief in Him guarantees resurrection to new life. Belief in Jesus brings a life one can live in Him now and for eternity. His words were meant to encourage, bring hope and challenge Martha’s faith.

His question to Martha, do you believe me?, is the same question He asks each of us. If your answer is YES, then the thought of eternal life with Jesus, living forever with Him should bring you eternal joy. No one likes to think about leaving their life and dying, but Jesus is reassuring each of us that He has it covered. He will be with us, protect and guide us into our next stage of life with Him. If your answer was NO, then may His words bring you to Him today with a repentant and open heart.

May your heart rejoice over this promise. You can be thankful that God is eternal. God is greater than anything you will ever face- even death. God desires that you live without fear of death and know He has a plan for your life. Rejoice in the hope of resurrection and let that joy fill your heart with thanksgiving.

Linda

Are you a Doubter? Joint Thomas-seeing and believing anew!

The disciples had gathered on Resurrection Sunday evening and Jesus appeared to them coming in even though the doors were shut.  Thomas had not been with them that evening and they eagerly told him all that had happened.   This was his response from john-20-25-ampJohn 20:24-25.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This is the passage that earned him the nickname of doubting Thomas.  He was emphatic that unless he saw the evidences of Jesus death marks himself he would not believe it to be Jesus. Do you know people that are doubters too?  Do they reject any evidence that Jesus is the Son of God in scripture purely because they can not see Him for themselves?  I’m sure the disciples were totally convinced as to what they had seen but saddened that Thomas would not share in the joy of Christ being alive.

A week passed and they were all gathered again in the upper room and Jesus appeared. ThomasJohn 20:26-29 continues the story,  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side.  Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus knew what Thomas needed and came right to him.  Thomas was amazed and proclaimed Jesus his God.  To him, seeing was john 20 29believing.  He needed a personal encounter with the living Jesus!   Jesus added this next verse for Thomas, the disciples and all of us.   29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    

Faith is a gift from God and we who believe in Jesus are blessed with the knowledge of Him as our Savior.  However, each one of us who believes encountered the living Christ and came to know Him in a personal, vibrant and  living way.   Even though we do not physically see Him,  we can and do know within our being that Jesus is Alive!  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe in Jesus and testifies to us about Him.  Jesus had promised this in John 15:26 ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  Later Paul, explains in Ephesians ephesians 1 13-141:13-14 how the Holy Spirit works within us, In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Praise God we too can know Him and experience Him in our lives.  We are blessed – Just as Jesus said we would be through our faith in Him!   Have a blessed day as you ponder the wonder of Jesus being alive in your life!

Linda

No God, No Thanks = useless thinking

What are the effects of not acknowledging God and being thankful?  As I pondered that thought I was led to Romans 1:19-22For what can be known about God is plain Romans-1-20to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”  Paul is explaining that all people know about God because they see His power in nature, and the creation that is all around them.  He says they have no excuse for not knowing there is a God.  Creation is too magnificent to have happened by chance and the power of the wind, rain, sun and seasons are so orderly and precise they could not have been by happen-chance.  Paul continues, 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”    Paul is saying that when people continue to not acknowledge God they become futile, ineffective, useless in their thinking and their hearts turn away from God with dark and foolish thoughts of pride, contempt, greed, and gain. The center of their life’s focus is on them and what they can get or achieve.  

Francis schafferPaul was talking about people who did not believe in God, who refused to believe He exists and how it effects their thinking and future.  However, part of this lesson could be applied to the one who takes credit for all the good things in their life, their success at work, having a great family or home, having money in the bank and being able to take great vacations.  All of those things come to us from God.  He is the source of all wealth and honor and the glory, praise belongs to Him.  I need to call myself up short if I begin to go down that road with that kind of futile thinking as it leads to dishonoring God.

Today as you consider all you have- thank God for those things, for the ability to do the things you do, for your health and family, your job, your home and most especially your faith in Jesus…. Philippians 4:19 is one philip 4 19of my favorite promises and reminds me who the provider of all is. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Linda

Are you like Thomas? Encounter the Living Jesus today!

The disciples had gathered on Resurrection Sunday evening and Jesus appeared to them coming in even though the doors were shut.  Thomas had not been with them that evening and they eagerly told him all that had happened.   This was his response from john-20-25-ampJohn 20:24-25.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This is the passage that earned him the nickname of doubting Thomas.  He was emphatic that unless he saw the evidences of Jesus death marks himself he would not believe it to be Jesus. Do you know people that are doubters too?  Do they reject any evidence that Jesus is the Son of God in scripture purely because they can not see Him for themselves?  I’m sure the disciples were totally convinced as to what they had seen but saddened that Thomas would not share in their joy that Christ was alive.

A week passed and they were all gathered in the upper room when Jesus appeared Thomasagain.  John 20:26-29 continues the story,  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus knew what Thomas needed and came right to him.  Thomas was amazed and proclaimed Jesus his God.  To him, seeing was believing.  He needed a personal encounter with the living Jesus!   Jesus added this next verse for Thomas, the disciples and all of us.   29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    

john 20 29Faith is a gift from God and we who believe in Jesus are blessed with the knowledge of Him as our Savior.  However, each one of us who believes encountered the living Christ and came to know Him in a personal, vibrant and  living way.   Even though we do not physically see Him,  we can and do know within our being that Jesus is Alive!  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe in Jesus and testifies to us about Him.  Jesus had promised this in John 15:26 ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  Later Paul, explains in Ephesians 1:13-14 how the Holy Spirit works within us, In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Praise God we too can know Him and experience Him in our lives.  We are blessed – Just as Jesus said we would be through our faith in Him!   Have a blessed day as you ponder the wonder of Jesus being alive in your life!

Linda

Blessings, what are they?

I have had a very hard week but feel blessed by God.  That started me thinking about blessings and where scripture tells us we are blessed.  What does blessing look like to God?  First, I wanted to start with a definition of blessing.  The dictionary says: a gift of divine favor, good wishes or approval, anything that gives happiness or prevents misfortune.   I can see my week’s events were a blessing as God granted me divine favor and prevented severe misfortune.

Psalm 1 is a great place to start looking at blessings or being blessed.  This psalm describes the way of the believer and the blessings that way brings.

blessed is the manBlessed is the man
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
    planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
    and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The blessed man doesn’t seriously listen to the advice of unbelievers, do the things they do or make fun of godly things.  The blessed man loves God’s Word and thinks about it all the time.  He is deeply rooted by God and shows growth in both his faith and his life.  He prospers in all he does.   The psalmist contrasts this picture of one who loves God with the unbeliever.

The wicked are not so,
    but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked will perish.

Unbelievers are tossed to and fro with the ideas of the world. They are not grounded in God’s Word and faith in Him so they will perish.

As you meditate today, think about your life and ask yourself, Am I like the blessed man?  Do I hunger after God’s Word and think about it a lot?  Am I deeply rooted in God’s Word, and am I standing firm in faith where ever God has me?  If your answers are yes, you are on you way towards blessingsBeing in God’s Word and walking in God’s way gives happiness and guides us away from misfortune.  Even if we go through hard times Jesus is with us. Therefore, by definition we are blessed!

willienelson1Count your blessings today as you strive to walk with Him in His way,

Linda 

A Transformed Heart is a Believing Heart

One of the clearest verses in scripture that tells us what we have to do to be Saved is Romans 10:9-10.  ” If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.”  Once you believe in Jesus within your heart and say it you are saved.  The saying confirms what your heart is telling you that Jesus is the son of God and that He came and died for your sins and was raised from the dead.   In dying He took your sin and mine upon himself as the perfect sacrifice but in rising from the dead He conquered death and buried our sins forever.  Romans 10:9-10 show us that a heart that believes in God is essential to faith.   We have to believe in Jesus with the very core of our matthew22-37being, our heart, for salvation.   Jesus told us about the importance of heart faith in Matthew 22:37  “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  God will accept nothing less that our whole heart, soul and mind.  Loving and knowing God requires it all.  

How about you?  Do you have a sincere heart love for God?  Are you willing to tell others that Jesus is your Savior?  God demands that our love be all consuming.  He is a jealous God and wants all of us.  Exodus 20:5 “You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.”   Are you devoted to God and willing to give all of your heart to Him?  Meditate and about this today.  Consider how much of your heart you are giving to God, remembering He wants it all.

Matthew 22 37Let this be said of me as I seek to give all my heart to Jesus,

Linda