A Hole in the Roof leads to Blessings

And the journey continues…. into the gospel of Mark. One of the stories I love from the book of Mark is also found in Matthew 9 and Luke 5. Mark 2:1-12 shows a scene where Jesus is preaching to a packed house and some friends bring their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. “When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

There are several things I love about this story. First, the friends moved heaven and earth, so to speak, to get their friend to Jesus. They knew that Jesus had the power to heal him. They went above and beyond to get their friend into the meeting place. They were creative and resourceful by digging through the roof and lowering the man through the hole they had created. It was not an easy task I’m sure. Who do you know that needs Jesus’ healing power? Are you persistent in trying to ‘get’ them somewhere to hear the gospel message? I am reminded of Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Are you like the friends in this story? You know Jesus and what He has to offer. Are you desperately trying to share it with your unsaved friends? God desires that we share the wonderful benefits provided by Jesus, as everyone needs Jesus!

Secondly, the group of religious naysayers took objection at Jesus telling the man ‘his sins are forgiven’. Jesus countered with the words he could just as easily have said ‘take up your mat and walk’. When you think about it, both are things only God can do! Only God can forgive sins and only God can heal a paralyzed man so that he can immediately jump up and walk out carrying his mat! It seems they were offended by Jesus’ words declaring them to be blasphemous. They were upset as forgiveness was God’s to grant, not his. However, they failed to see that He was God and was doing things that only God could do!

Lastly, Mark observed that all were stunned as they watched the events unfold and were amazed. Their amazement led to worship and praise of God. What has been your reaction to God’s hand in your life? Is your response one of praise and thanksgiving?

May you see with fresh eyes today the amazing riches you have in Christ. May you seek with persistence to bring others to Jesus. May you marvel anew at the power of Christ to heal and forgive.

Linda

How To Live that Best Life!

Colossians 3:18-25 is a good housekeeping passage. Paul explains ‘best’ case actions and reactions in relationships. Here is the passage from the Message translation. (The Master is the Lord God, the master is the owner of the household or your employer.)

Wives, understand and support your husbands by submitting to them in ways that honor the Master. 19 Husbands, go all out in love for your wives. Don’t take advantage of them. 20 Children, do what your parents tell you. This delights the Master no end.21 Parents, don’t come down too hard on your children or you’ll crush their spirits. 22-25 Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.

All relationships are to be done keeping Christ in mind. He is the head of the family and all work, actions, deeds and words need to be done to honor Christ. Yesterday’s passage summed it up beautifully in Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Whether you are the wife who is called upon to honor and show respect to her husband, the husband who is called to love his wife as Christ loves the church, the child who is called to obey their parent, the slave or worker who is called to do good work for your employer, all relationships are to be done to the Lord. Our point of view needs to be, we do everything for Christ. Our relationship with Christ guides all our words and deeds, as His ways are for our good and His glory!

This point of view comes into direct opposition to the world view of me first, my way, looking out for number 1-ME. Christ’s way has us put Him first. Earlier in this chapter Colossians 3:1-2, Paul said, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” Keeping this perspective is pleasing to God and leads us act according to Micah 6:8 ” O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy,  and to walk humbly with your God.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am called to live a life that is honoring to Christ by giving my best in all I say and do.

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

Dreams Bring Joy-filled Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda

Philippians 2:19-30

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

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

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

Employer-Employee as seen through the Cross

The overarching verse for this portion came in Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”  Paul applied this principle of Christian Living in Christ to marriage, family relationships and now to master and slaves.   We no longer have slaves and masters but the principle holds true for employers and employees.  Read Ephesians 6:5-9 with that in mind.

Those that work for others:  “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ. Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart. Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free. 

Those that employ workers:  9 Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites. 

ephesians 6 5If you look at these relationships and view them through the lens of faith and empowered living in Christ, we see that we are to be loyal, respectful, obedient and filled with integrity in all we do for our employer.  We are to do our jobs as if we are doing them for the Lord seeking His reward for right living and not worrying about praise and accolades from our bosses.   If we are in a situation where we are the employer, we are to care about our workers, treat them with respect, show no favoritism and refrain from threatening or abusing them in any way.  We are to treat them as equals,  as we are all equal before the Father.

Wouldn’t our workplaces be so very different if everyone adhered to these principles of right living?  However, we cannot control the actions of others and make them treat us by these principles but we can treat others as Christ requires with love, respect and integrityWe can control our own actions and strive to show Christ’s love and Ephesians 6 working-for-Godcare for those around usBecause Christ died on the cross and rose form the dead, we can show God’s love and care whether we are the employer or employee bringing glory to God and blessings upon ourselves.

Linda

The Cross = Parent-Child relationships made whole

We are about to enter one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Ephesians 6 has so much to tell us about Christ and the life He desires that we live in and through His powerful indwelling Holy Spirit.  Remember Ephesians 5:21 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”?   This is the driving verse for the discussion about relationships between a husband and wife and it continues in Ephesians 6 with children and parents, then employee and employer.

eph-6 1Ephesians 6:1-4 deals with parent-child relationships.  “Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise: If you honor your father and mother, “things will go well for you, and you will have a long life on the earth.”  Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.”

The admonition from God to obey and honor our parents was given in the 10 Commandments.  Exodus 20:12 ““Honor your father and mother. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”   Living a life with peace begins in the home.  Rebellion, strife, anger, harsh words and discord can flourish in children both young and old (meaning even you at your age) if not curbed with honor, respect and love.  We are selfish creatures and as such want our own way.  This command to honor and obey our parents has a promised return- a long and full life in the Lord.  Honor and obedience lead to peace and harmony that will lengthen the quality our lives just as disharmony, eph6-4discord and dissent will shorten it.    Paul does not end with the children but goes on to admonish all parents.  He says we are not to provoke, needle, irritate our children intentionally or be unnecessarily angry with them for anger sake.  We are to practice a parenthood that reflects Christ and remember His submission to the Father on our behalf.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we (both parent and child) are able to submit to one another with love and respect.

eph-6-2These are sobering words that call all of us to think about our parent-child relationships.  Are they honoring in God’s eyes?  In these last days of Lent, spend some time mediating on Paul’s words and seek God’s guidance in your relationships.

Linda 

 

 

Being real imitators = Life filled with Love

Paul begins Ephesian Chapter 5:1-2 having arrived at a conclusion as to how believers ephesians 5 1-2in Jesus should act.  “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us  and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”   He exhorts us to imitate GodWhat does that mean to you?   Think of God’s attributes and consider the ones that He desires we have – like being forgiving, loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, thankful, pure, holy, ….  God desires that we follow Christ’s example and imitate Him because He dearly loves us and we are His children.  Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross pleased God as it redeemed all mankind from death and enabled us to come before Him.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be imitators of Jesus and have lives filled with love.

Where do you need to imitate Christ in your life?  With your family, at work or school, on committees or groups you belong to??   Living a life of authentic Christianity is a call to sacrifice, humility and openness before God.  I love Philippians 1:6 because it assures me that I am not in this struggle to live for Christ alone,  “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.”  Philippians 4:19  assures me that He has what I need to live for Him, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”   We can have hope that God Jesus-likewill finish what He started in us when we became believers.  He always completes what He starts!  We can do this because God has the resources for all our needs.  We just need to ask and be willing to serve Him.  Be imitators of Christ today and experience His love in your life.

Linda

Straight talk by Paul (points us to Christ like behavior)

In this last section of Ephesians 4 Paul gets down to serious talk about sins that he has seen or heard of among the believers.  He mentions lying or speaking untruthfully with each other.  Anger that is not righteous but rooted in resentment, hostility or jealousy.  Also some had been thieves prior to becoming believers, and Paul tells them they must work and be useful so they will have things to share with those in need.  He mentions gossip or unwholesome talk, saying things that bring others down instead of building  them up.  He straight out tells them to get rid of bitterness, rage, anger fighting, backbiting, slander, and any and all kinds of malice.   All of these things are undesirable and incompatible with a life given to Christ.

Several verses jumped out at me in this section, Ephesians 4:26, 30 and 32.  26 “Be angry ephesians 4 26and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,”  This verse is frequently said, “don’t go to bed angry”.   Anger that is rooted in sin is filled with resentment, jealousy, bitterness and even hatred.  Paul is saying, anger is a valid emotion but do not let it be for the wrong reasons.  Jesus was angry with the money changers buying and selling in the temple and threw them out (Matthew 21:12).  He was angry with the Pharisees for wanting to trap him and keep a man from being healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:5).  Both of these were cases of righteous anger.  They were not rooted in self but in wrongs done towards God.  When we harbor or coddle our anger, it will fester and grow.  Paul is telling us to not let that happen as the results will be harmful to us and to those around us.

30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”   What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?   As a believer, Jesus’ Holy Spirit lives within us.  When we deliberately sin- steal, lie, cheat, act with wrong motives in anger, harbor bitterness, etc, it grieves the Holy Spirit that is within us.  God hates sin and doing sinful acts gives His Spirit grief, or makes His Spirit sad over our sin.  Paul reminds us that when we received Christ,  we were sealed by God’s Holy Spirit forever.  That is a wonderful privilege and honor,  and we should love Jesus enough to desire to not deliberately sin against Him.

32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  I love this verse as Paul lays it out directly for us as to what kinds of actions should characterize a believer.  These will bring delight to our Savior.  They should be our response to His marvelous forgiveness and grace.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,  we are made for righteous actions and thoughts towards ourselves and others which bring joy to God. 

ephesians 4 32Focus today on right living, good thoughts and actions towards others, putting away all bitterness, jealousy, anger …..  Don’t let  yourself fall into anger over your current circumstances,  but look for the good and seek to see how you can ‘be Jesus’ to each one you speak with today.

Linda

 

Full text in the New Living Translation:

25″ So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own,  guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”

Do you reflect Christ? If so, do others see a difference in you??

ephesians 4 17-24In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul describes to the Ephesians what man is like in mind, body and action without Christ and then contrasts it to their present state of mind, body and actions with Christ in their lives.

Without Christ- verses 17-19Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”    Before they came to know Jesus, their minds were confused about God, they were ignorant of what a life with God could be like, they had hardened their hearts to the things of God and they practiced all kinds of immorality in their lives.”  

With Christverse 20-24  “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true ephesians 4 20righteousness and holiness.”     Knowing Christ has changed them and will change us from the inside out!  The truth of who Jesus is and what He did on the cross transforms our thinking, our hearts and motivates us to speak and act as unto God.  Paul calls it putting off the old nature, the way we did things before faith and putting on a new self.  This new self is rooted and grounded in Jesus and His righteousness and holiness.

Paul challenged the Ephesians to put off the old and put on the new, make being a believer a conscious choice that involves a change of mind, body and actions.  Giving yourself to God wholeheartedly allows the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out and makes you new in Christ. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be a new creation in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way,  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Christ in our lives, hearts and minds brings transformation for our good and His glory.

2 Corinthians 5 17Be that transformed believer today! Reach out to others in love.  Call, text, email, have a Zoom gathering, Face Time or use Google Chat or Duo with someone in these troubled days showing them you care about them and stand with them in the name of Christ.

Linda