Word for the Year, What’s Yours?

Each year I pray and ask God for a word to guide me. Last year, as we began a new decade I was given the word Hope. I wrote these words on January 1,2020 which turned out to be very prophetic. “HOPE.  That is my answer to, How will I survive in 2020?  I will cling to Him in HOPE knowing with absolute faith that God is faithful, loving and merciful.  He will be gracious to me as I place my HOPE in Him.” Wow! No truer words did I need and live through during 2020. It was a year that I needed extreme Hope to survive!

This year I have been asking God about a new word for 2021. The word that has come to me over and over is JOY. God knows there is a need within me after all that has happened in 2020 to focus on His joy in my life. His joy is not dependent upon the world events, personal relationships or my own drama of life but in Him alone. As I wrote in my new book, Strategic Living, His joy brings benefits to our souls, is eternal and complete. His joy is a byproduct of the Holy Spirit’s work within us, the fruits of the Spirit are listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

The verses I’ve chosen to claim this year are: Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life;  in your presence there is fullness of joy;  at your right hand are  pleasures forevermore.” Jesus is at God’s right hand in heaven and He will guide me and give me complete joy that is eternal. Psalm 71:23 “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you;  my soul also, which you have redeemed.” I am confident God will give me opportunities to proclaim to others His goodness in my life. James 1:2-4 “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.” Learning to live in joy, praising God and thanking Him for the growth He is bringing to my character in and through the trials of life takes a new attitude and mindset that is filled with His Joy!

Prayerfully consider in this New Year what word God would give you to focus and guide your thoughts this year. As the year progresses, you can look for your word in the events of your life, in relationships and in your thoughts. It is amazing the ways God shows you your word throughout the year. I am so thankful for the word Hope and how it reminded and sustained me in 2020. I am looking forward to clinging to the Joy that is before me in Christ. Nehemiah summed it up in Nehemiah 8:10 “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Since I’ve chosen Joy as my word, I will be blogging in January on various verses that focus on the joy we have in Christ. God is leading me to be uplifted and to uplift others in His joy. I am looking forward to it!

Linda

Hello 2021!

The scripture I have chosen to begin a New Year is Habakkuk 3:17-19. It is one I have turned to for hope and inspiration during hard times. I think 2020 would qualify as a hard year, so I wanted to begin this New Year of 2021 with a look back and a look forward with hope and joy in my heart because of who God is and what He has done in my life.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
(This sure sounds like all the calamity of a year in 2020!)
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(This is my resolve for 2021!) 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
(This is what a know by faith.)

What is your resolve for this New Year? What do you know about God through your faith? Where is your hope and joy in this New Year? Is it in Jesus where it can never fail no matter what comes into your life? The prophet Habakkuk really nailed it when he looked around him and saw his world falling apart. And yet, he looked to the Lord as the ever present, never ending source of His joy. He had hope and joy because he knew that God had the situation under His control, He is Sovereign. He knew that his own strength would fail but God could and would lift him up and restore, renew, protect and keep him in His everlasting arms.

Do you have that kind of faith? If not, look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can restore and keep you safe in Him. As Martin Luther proclaimed starting the Reformation, “In Christ Alone”.

May this be a year of restoration for you, me and the world. May many turn to Jesus for their restoration and hope. Happy New Year as we begin 2021 together.

Linda

Advent, A Love Story Unfolding

Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John are all major players in the coming of Christ and are portrayed in Luke. Today we are switching to Matthew to read the story of Joseph who is the betrothed young man to Mary and we will see God’s intervention on his behalf. Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I am captivated by the thoughtfulness and concern Joseph had for his fiancé, Mary. Custom dictated that she would be stoned for adultery, Deuteronomy 22:24-25. In their culture the betrothal was much more binding and could only be broken by divorce, thus Mary was referred to as his wife and he her husband. Joseph knew they were not yet married physically and that he had not yet slept with her. Her being with child meant she had committed adultery in the eyes of the Jewish law. Joseph cared for Mary and did not want to see her disgraced and killed. Scripture says “he considered these things.” His heart must have been heavy and troubled as he thought about these grave circumstances. I’m sure he thought about the Mary he knew and could not understand her ‘betrayal’ with another man. In comes the angel bringing answers to his questions and restoration of his hope, love and devotion for Mary. Isn’t that just like God to send an answer just when we need it most? His timing is perfect and no harm was done to Mary, Joseph and the growing child within her. Their faith was increased and their relationship strengthened as they stepped out together in faith.

God’s reassuring message to Joseph led him from doubt to faith, from fear to trust, and from worry to resolve. Being a good Jew, Joseph would have known about the promised Messiah, about His birth by a virgin and the power of God. Joseph was a man of conviction, courage and faith. Look how he responded to the angel’s message in verse 24 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”. He took Mary as his wife. His response was obedience. Consider these:

Joseph’s faith, courage and conviction speak to me today. As great as those character qualities are in us without obedience they are lost. 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that our faith will bring us to obedience. Joseph’s part in this story shows the great blessings instore for him through obedience. God has no less for us. Let your faith bring you to greater obedience as you seek to walk with Him today.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 30: a recipe for peace

As I end this month long journey of thankfulness, I am more content and satisfied with my present circumstances because of all of the wonderful promises and truths we’ve seen. My final choice this last day of November 2020, which has been a particularly difficult year world over, is Philippians 4:6-7. I like the Amplified translation as it makes it very clear, Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

This promise of not needing to worry about anything is very reassuring. To really believe this, one must believe God exists and is Sovereign over all things in His creation. God is in control and I need to pray specifically about my concerns and needs and leave it to God. Worry or anxiety is human but is not what God wants for us. He wants us trusting in Him, releasing our worries to Him and living with His peace in our hearts. His peace for our mind, body and soul comes from and through Christ Jesus. He promises to guard our hearts and minds and give us a transcending peace. All this comes as we commit ourselves to being thankful in all things and believing in faith that God has things handled.

May the thankful promises of November carry you into December so you can rejoice in the Advent season. The reason for our thankfulness is found in Christ!

Linda

The Process of Transformation -a blessed journey!

Oh! what a promise we have in our Stream of Water reading from the Word this week. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16 holds many truths and encouragements aimed at the believer and assurance of the promise of the mind of Christ.

Paul wanted to encourage the believers in Corinth that godly wisdom comes through knowing Christ and that His Holy Spirit would indwell and teach us the important things we need to know. He was not talking about worldly wisdom but those things that are the deep things of God.

What does this mean for you and me? We can read and study the Bible with confidence knowing the Holy Spirit will teach and reveal to us things we need to know to live godly lives before God. 10 “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.” When we were unbelievers, Paul explains the words of God seemed foolish or not understandable. 14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Now that we are believers the Holy Spirit reveals to us things of God, 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” We can think about God, understand Him more clearly and make decisions based on godly wisdom and behaviors. Will we know everything about God? No, that is not possible as we have finite minds and cannot totally grasp the infinite. But we can be assured that through the power of the Holy Spirit within us we can live, love, work, study, and thrive growing in the knowledge of who God is and that He is real. We can align our hearts and minds with Christ and walk in His power each day. We can learn to emulate Christ and think biblically as we delve into His Word. What a privilege! Thank you Jesus for giving us a mind that can be focused and that can understand and learn about you. We are truly blessed.

Linda

Entire 1 Corinthian passage: 2:6-16

Wisdom from the Spirit

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

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

Rejoicing in the Lord is the BEST ever!

Paul has hit the rewind button in Philippians 3:1-7. He wants us to keep in mind the joy we have in the Lord! He wants us to rejoice and revel in the thoughts we have because of Christ and the state of being we have in Christ. Does that describe you and you thoughts today? Are you rejoicing in spite of opposition or hard circumstances? Paul wanted the Philippian Christians rejoicing in their faith and not putting obligations on each other or placing value/trust in their worldly achievements. Paul recalls his own worldly accomplishments and knows that he could boast but he reminds them that even all those things pale in comparison to what he has in Christ, that he says is cause for rejoicing in the Lord.

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

Paul concludes in verse 7 with his own realization that all our worldly ‘things’ and accomplishments are worthless when compared to what we have in Christ. Nothing compares to life with Him now and in the future, our heavenly home, our salvation, our redemption from eternal punishment for our sins, our growing and changing character that reflects God’s indwelling Holy Spirit….. These are priceless treasures we possess in Christ and are reasons to rejoice in the Lord!

Have a blessed day- rejoicing and giving thanks for what Christ has done and will do within you.

Linda

Joy in Being Like Minded…

The portion of Philippians for today’s blog has caused me to think and then rethink what it means for my life.  Paul starts out with a statement that should cause us to pause and evaluate our life experiences.  I like the New Living Translation as I think it makes it  Philippians 2-2clearer.  Philippians 2:1-2 “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”   It seems Paul is saying if we have experienced Christ in our life through His love and compassion or felt the indwelling Holy Spirit within us then we should be able to work together with other believers having Christ and His gospel ministry as our priority.  Being like minded does not mean uniformity like we are clones of one another.  God made us to be individuals and gave us uniquely different gifts.  We are to use them in working together striving to be joined in Christlike attitude.  When we digress into petty arguments or oppose one another for the sake of opposition then we are not practicing God’s love towards one another and are hindering the spread of the gospel.  Paul is saying that being like minded brings him complete joy or makes him truly happy.   Seeing fellow believers working together in unity makes him glad!    Paul goes on to admonish us to watch our “self” attitudes and motives and humbly look out for others. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Sobering thoughts.

Paul’s words are as applicable today as they were to the believers of ancient Phillipi.  People digress and desire to look out for themselves and their own interests rather than seeking to look out for the interest of others.  Jesus wants us to have godly priorities:  God first then man.  He gave this as a command in Matthew 22:38-39 “Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Take some time today and reexamine your priorities- who are you putting first in your life?  What is motivating you-love of God or love of self? Do, like Paul, find joy in seeing people work together in love and commitment to Christ?

helping othersMy Joy is increased: 

  • I can be like-minded in and through Christ with other believers. (vs 2)
  • I can experience joy as I focus on Christ and not worldly self-interests. (vs 3)
  • I can have a loving and compassionate attitude towards others because of Christ in me. (vs 4)

Do these truths bring you joy?  Hopefully, they will cause you to meditate and pray asking God to infuse you with His Holy Spirit and cause you to walk humbly before Him.  That will surely  bring you joy!!

Linda

Joy in Standing with Christ

Paul knows by experience that the truth of Christ bring opposition.  He is trying to encourage the Philippian believers by stating the facts about their shared work for Jesus. Telling others about salvation, redemption, eternal life, heaven…. are all things in which the believer rejoices.   The unbeliever sees them as a pronouncement of coming destruction and fights against those who proclaim these gospel truths.   In Philippians Philippians 1 271:27-30, Paul says we need to stand up for Christ and walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  This is a life lived fearlessly for Christ knowing He alone is Savior, Redeemer, and Sovereign over all things.

27 “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”

philippians 1 29Paul’s conclusion is that knowing and walking with Christ each day is a privilege entrusted to us by faith and with that comes suffering.  Know it, accept it and then lean on Him.  Remember you can take strength in and from fellow believers as you stand together in the cause of Christ.  Here are a few verses that help with the concept of suffering and why it comes with the job of being a believer.  (I have printed them at the bottom.)  I pray they help you to put in perspective what a privilege we have to suffer with Christ and the bigger purpose He has for us in suffering.  James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:14 and Acts 5:40-41.

My joy is increased:

  • I do not need to be fearful in my daily walk.   Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • I am in this with life with victorious Christ and fellow believers are at my side.
  • Remembering Christ sacrifice for me, it is a privilege to suffer for Him.

Let your joy in serving Christ fill you today.

philippians 1 28Linda

James 1:2-4  “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.”

1 Peter 4:14 “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Acts 5:40-41 “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

 

Assurance and Purpose come from the Risen Jesus – Do you feel it?

Jesus was actively reassuring his followers on Resurrection Sunday.   He appeared to the two men on the Road to Emmaus,  to the women in the garden and Mary,  to Peter and to a gathering of disciples in a closed room.   John records this appearance in John 20:19-22.  I like the Amplified translation as it makes Peacewhat happened clearer. 19 So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side.”  The fact that Jesus appeared to them without opening the door tells us He was a spirit.   Yet, he showed them His hands and side that had been pierced at the cross which tells us He was physically real.  Only Jesus could be both in His resurrection body.  He begins with the common Hebrew greeting- ‘Peace to you’.  This shows Jesus’ love and sensitivity as perhaps they would have expected a harsh word from Jesus for abandoning Him after His arrest.  They received peace and warmth from their Savior not rebuke or criticism.  When the john 20 19disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” 22 And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Their response to Jesus was pure joy!  Then He sent greetings of peace to them and gave them orders to tell others.   He was sending them with power from His Holy Spirit to go and be His representatives, telling others of His death, resurrection, salvation and forgiveness of sins.  Jesus breathed on them power that would sustain them until the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.

romans 10 17What is your response to the risen Savior?  I’m sure the disciples had various reactions like joy that He was alive, curiosity about His wounds, questions about their purpose in life now that He is no longer teaching them day to day?  Jesus answered their questions, shared in their joy and gave them purpose.  It is the same purpose Jesus has for us- tell others the good news of the gospel.  He desires that everyone hear how He saves us from eternal punishment for our sins and forgives us.  Paul reminds us in Romans 10:17   “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  Jesus sent them, and us too, into the world tell otherswhere we live to tell others the good news of Christ.  We have to speak out and speak up for Jesus.

Who will you joyfully tell today?

Linda