OH My! Titus is a Gem

And the journey continues…. into Titus. The book of Titus is a letter written by Paul to his young convert and coworker for Christ. They had traveled together preaching and teaching and when they came to Crete, Paul left Titus there to carry on the work of sharing the gospel. When I visited Crete recently, they still revere Titus and his work of bringing the gospel to their island.

Titus 2:11-14 “ For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12 training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13 waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The grace of God=Christ who came bringing salvation to all people. Through Christ we can be trained to reject godlessness and sin in our lives. We can wait expectantly for Jesus’ return knowing He has created us through faith to be His people! Thank you Jesus!

Titus 3:3-7 “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” God is so good. He knew us and our sin filled nature and sent Jesus anyway to save us and clean us inside and out. Now we are renewed in Jesus, redeemed and saved to be heirs of His kingdom forever! We serve and amazing Savior and God who truly loves us.

May you know that God loves you and has given you a way, through Christ, to live a life that is pleasing to Him.

May you know that you are redeemed, clean and filled with His Holy Spirit.

May you know that you are co-heirs with Christ and have hope of eternal life with Him.

May you know that Christ will return and bring us to be with Him for eternity!

Have a blessed day filled with this knowledge.

Linda

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

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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.

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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.”    

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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

Alive? Feeling His Peace = Assurance

Jesus appeared to the disciples and others to show them living proof that He was alive.  He did not appear just once but multiple times between His Resurrection and His Ascension when He returned to heaven.  Over the period of 40 days He met in various places to reassure them He was alive, had returned from the dead and that their faith in Him was real and true.   On Resurrection Sunday He met the women in the garden, and the two men walking on the Road to Emmaus.  In today’s passage, Jesus appeared to those disciples gathered in the Upper Room.

After encountering Jesus and breaking bread with Him, Jesus disappeared and the two on the Road to Emmaus quickly went to find the disciples. “They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread. 36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” 40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.” Luke 24:33-43 NIV

What was their immediate concern?  Is Jesus real or are we experiencing hallucinations?  What was Jesus immediate concern?  Jesus wanted them to have and be at peace.  He did not want them anxious or fearful but open and willing to welcome Him into their midst.   What is your reaction when confronted by Jesus?   Do you doubt who Jesus is and question His reaching out to you or do you welcome Him with peace?

Jesus reassured the disciples that He was a real and alive just as He promised.  He proved it to them by calmly showing them His hands and feet- pierced at the cross, and eating food with them.  

How does Jesus make himself known to you?  Does He come to you in prayer, in the helping hands of others or through His Word?   Jesus can and does reveal himself to us if we are open and willing.  In Matthew 7:7 Jesus tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”   Be a seeker today and know the joy of His presence.  Be amazed as you encounter the living Lord Jesus, just as the disciples did in the upper room.  Each encounter with Jesus brings new revelation and understanding of who He is!   Be open to Him and He will reveal Himself to you and grace you with His peace.

Linda

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The disciples encountered Jesus in the upper room, where will you meet Him today?

After Jesus’ Resurrection, The Rest of the Story…

As we celebrated on Easter morning, Jesus did not stay in the tomb but rose from the dead. After his resurrection, he appeared many times to individuals, small groups and to as many as 500 at once. He was alive in their midst as He talked, ate and shared himself with them confirming his life and assuring them of his victory over death. As we move along the road towards his ascension and return to heaven 40 days after his resurrection, we will come face to face with Jesus’ divinity and power over death. Join me on this journey as I look at each of the appearances over the next 40 days.

One of my favorite post-resurrection appearances is the encounter of the two on the Road to Emmaus.  Overcome with grief because of Jesus’ death and disbelief over what the women said about seeing Him alive,  these two followers of Christ were walking along the Emmaus Road discussing all these recent events and reports.  Jesus joined them on their journey without disclosing his identity.  As they walked they were surprised that he did not know about all the events that had just occurred in Jerusalem and told him their hope that Jesus had been the long awaited Messiah.   Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”  Luke 24:25-27

Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there and listened to Jesus explain all about Himself?  A little later in the story when they were sitting down to eat, Jesus gave thanks, broke the bread and began to give it to them.  Right then, their eyes were opened  and they recognized Jesus.  He then disappeared from their presence.  Even though it was late they quickly returned to Jerusalem to tell the disciples about their encounter with the risen Lord Jesus.

Jesus came to these two when they were in grief, despair and confusion, and He cleared up their thinking, encouraged and enlivened them.  Can you remember a time when Jesus came to you in prayer or through the actions or words of another believer to give you hope and encouragement?  Jesus promises that He will be with us wherever we go.  Just like these two, we need to look and recognize His presence with us and the hope that He brings.

I pray that my Lenten Blogs have brought you hope and encouragement these past 6 weeks.  I have been mightily blessed by being with you and in the scriptures each day.  I am still pondering the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice and all the truths gleaned from Colossians. I pray you will bask in the hope of the empty tomb knowing He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!

Linda

Holy Week, Saturday, Where’s Jesus?

Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb by his friend Joseph of Arimathea.  Scripture gives us some hints as to what Jesus was doing between the time of his burial and resurrection.  There is a lot of debate by scholars on the subject, but it is agreed that Jesus was in Hades preaching and teaching.  Ephesians 4:8-10 speaks of Jesus descending and leading captives as he ascended into heaven.  1 Peter 3:18-20 speaks of Jesus preaching to spirits in prison. We can be assured that he was not in the tomb waiting around but doing God’s Work.

Why is scripture basically silent on this period of time?  Probably because it is of little importance to us as believers.  The gospel essence is the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior.  His power over death is so miraculous and life giving that our focus needs to be on our redemption and His victory.  We also know that Jesus was always about His Father’s business.  “Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I , too, am working.”  John 5:17  God always has a purpose and a plan, and Jesus was always doing the Father’s work.  So on this silent day we can ask ourselves, Am I doing what God wants me to do?  Am I using the time God has given me to pray, study, witness and do good things for others?  Quietly think about God today as you prepare for Resurrection Sunday.   Know for sure the truth of Isaiah’s ancient words:    How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”   Isaiah 52:7

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can wait upon Him with assurance and hope knowing my future is secure and all His plans are for my good and His glory!

Blessings as we await His resurrection,

Linda

Holy Week, Tuesday, Where’s Jesus?

Bible scholars attribute many happenings to the Tuesday of Holy Week.  Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders as to by what authority was He speaking and performing miracles.  Jesus cleverly trapped them with their own questions, and they left him alone. (Matthew 21:23-27)  After that confrontation, Jesus proceeded to teach in parables about the tenants who killed the messengers sent by the master, then about the wedding banquet where those invited refused to come and then strangers were welcomed in their place.  Both of these pointed to the treatment of Jesus, God’s Son, by the religious leaders and Jews of His day.  Jesus also taught about taxes and where we owe our allegiance.  He spoke about marriage in heaven and who He really was. (Matthew 21:28-23:39)  Later in the evening, Jesus ate at the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. There Mary anointed Jesus with pure nard, a very expensive perfume, and the disciples were upset at her for using this costly perfume on Jesus. (Matthew 26:6-12)  From morning until night, Jesus used every minute to instruct and build up the faith of His followers as He knew His time was short.

During this day, one of Jesus’ most important teachings was revealed when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what was the most important commandment in the Law?  Jesus replied: 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

This statement about the right priorities for our lives is so simply stated, and yet is so difficult to live out on a daily basis.  Putting God first in our lives will keep everything else in balance and then loving others with as much love as we love ourselves comes next.  Do you love yourself?  Do you take care with what you put into your body, soul and mind? Jesus tells us that He expects us to love and respect ourselves. Out of that love for God will flow and be poured into those around us.  Think about your priorities today and the fact that Jesus spent time His last week on earth telling us how to align our lives in the most productive way for ourselves and others.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have His Holy Spirit’s indwelling power that enables me to keep my priorities in line with Him. Putting God first then yourself and others is God’s way. Thankfully, He is able to see this work to completion as promised in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” He also promised help in Matthew 19:26 “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Praise God! He wants us to show His love to others and will enable us to do so in His time and His way.

Linda

Holy Week, Monday-Where’s Jesus?

Bible Commentaries give two specific events that Jesus was involved in on Monday before His crucifixion of what is now known as Holy Week.  Jesus entered the city humbly and triumphantly on Sunday and then cleansed the temple area of money changers and withered a fig tree.  Both actions seem harsh, but they give a picture of the worldly opposition to God’s kingdom.  From both we get a glimpse of divine justice.  You can read the accounts in Matthew 21 and Mark 11.

Jerusalem at Passover was a bustling city with many thousands of pilgrims arriving to make offerings at the temple.  They needed to purchase animals for sacrifice and change money so they could pay the yearly temple tax.  The exchanges were all being conducted in the outer court of the Gentiles.  Here is Matthew’s account from 21:12-14.

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.  (Message)

Jesus was then, is now and will be in eternity the Righteous Judge.  He saw the true motives of the people desiring to make money exorbitantly and uprooted and cast them out literally.  He placed a priority on prayer and worship when coming to God’s house.  He got right to the work of His ministry, healing and allowing access to God for everyone.

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As we near the cross, take heart from this short snippet in Jesus’ last week. Know that He came to save and set right relationships and motives towards God.  What attitudes do you need adjusted by Jesus today?  Do you attend church to make ‘connections’ with people for business or do you come to pray and reflect on your walk with Jesus?  Looking at the heart is what Jesus did then and does now in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  Let Him cleanse your heart today and put you on the right pathway with right motives.  May our hearts be right with God today as suggested in this quote by Charles Wesley “Make My Heart a House of Prayer”.  

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, God is accessible to me through prayer and I can trust in His righteousness. I can claim the truths of Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thank you Jesus for making yourself accessible through prayer, your unsurpassed peace for my heart, and for your redemptive sacrifice.

Linda

A Sincere Farewell from Paul to us

As Paul ends this letter to the Colossian Christians, he reminded them and us of 3 important things about ministry.

Colossians 4:16-18 “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Paul wanted them to share his letter that was filled with godly instructions for right living in Christ with others in their area. We too are to stand on the Word of God and share it with those around us. How peppered is your speech with God’s Word? Do you relate happenings, people, goals and desires in the light of God’s Word? Do you read scripture with others or tell them of passages you have read that were meaningful? God’s Word is meant to be shared and checked in on. Paul and Barnabas did this in Acts15:35-36 “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” They ended up taking other people with them and going separate ways, but their intent was to go and check on others to whom they had shared the gospel. God intends that His Word be a guiding light in our lives and it is to be SHARED!

Paul also wanted Archippus to continue in his good work for the Lord. Paul knew that serving the Lord required faith and perseverance. Thankfully, God promises that He will see to completion the work He has begun in us. We just need to cling faithfully with Him and continue working for Him. Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Are you doubting the work God has called you to do? Pray about it and remain faithful until He leads you out or gives you peace about where you currently are serving. God knows the timing and details so we need to walk in trust day by day looking to His leading.

Lastly, Paul reminds us of who we are in Christ. We are genuine, authentic believers in the risen Lord. We are precious to Him and need to remember each other and uplift one another daily. Paul’s signature made the letter authentic but it was God’s message that was included gave it worth both then and now.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have good work to do for Jesus that includes telling others about Jesus, praying for fellow believers and being the genuine person God created me to be in Christ.

Linda

Relationships Are Important to Christ and Important to Us

Paul finished his letter with final heartfelt greetings to specific people in the church at Colossae. Colossians 4:7-15

Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!

12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.

What can we glean from these verses? First, Paul wanted to reassure the Colossian Christians that he was doing fine and to be encouraged by his words of testimony that will be passed on by Tychicus and Onesimus. When you send cards, emails or calls to friends do you tell them how you are spiritually to encourage them? Do you tell them how God has blessed you, led you, answered prayer, and is revealing Himself to you in new ways? Paul is encouraging us to relate not only our well being physically but spiritually too.

Next, Paul explains fellow workers with him in the cause of Christ that are sending greetings. Isn’t that natural to tell others about people they know and what is happening with them? Here Paul is saying they have been a great comfort to him personally and are growing spiritually more mature in their walk with the Lord. What kind of things do you tell others about mutual friends? Are they uplifting and centered on their kindness or do they tend more towards gossip?

Then, Paul mentions praying Epaphras. Wow! He is known as one who upholds others in consistent prayers. He is genuinely concerned about their growth, witness and steadfastness in Christ. Do you have friends that pray for you and your personal growth? Do you pray for others in this way? If not, why not?

Lastly, Paul remembers Luke, the author and traveler for Acts and the gospel of Luke. Luke and Demas know many of them and wish to greet them again to renew that relationship. Is there someone you’ve served with in ministry that you need to renew the contact? Is there a friend or neighbor you’ve been missing and need to reconnect with? Now is the time.

Paul did not say good-bye but hello from many. He wanted them to know they were loved and cherished by many even there in far away Colossae. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can continue in relationship with fellow believers from now to eternity bringing encouragement and hope as we focus on Christ.

Linda

Seasoned with Salt and Prayer

As Paul ends this letter to the Colossians he wants to emphasize the importance of prayer and wise behavior towards others. Colossians 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Pray, pray, pray! Pray for yourselves and be sure to include thanksgiving. Remember, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Thanksgiving is the place to start. Prayer and thanksgiving will establish an attitude of gratitude towards God for all He has done, is doing and will do in the future on your behalf. Next, pray for others that are serving the Lord as missionaries both near and far. Who do you know that is working serving others in your community? This includes your pastor and others serving in the church. Pray for their strength their opportunities to witness and tell others about the goodness of Christ and His salvation. Pray that their words would be clear and understood by those who hear the message. Pray that the message would be received and those hearing would come to know Christ. Paul consistently asks believers to pray for his own work for Christ that it might bear much fruit, so also we should pray for our brothers and sister who minister and live in our communities that the whole community might be saved.

Paul then admonishes us to be wise with our words and make the most of those God given opportunities to talk with believers and unbelievers about Christ. Look for those God appointments as I like to call them. When talking with unbelievers, don’t try to argue with them but be salt and light giving them words filled with grace and love. Tell them about your love for Jesus and the difference He has made in your life. I love 1 Peter 3:15 ” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Impetuous Peter had learned that you don’t beat someone over the head with the gospel but present the words of life with gentleness and respect. Being wise with our words shows love and grace towards others.

Take to heart Paul’s words to the Colossians as his God given wisdom is filled with grace and salt towards us too. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am commissioned to pray diligently, speak boldly with softness and proclaim Christ to the unbelieving world.

Linda