As I continue this Thanksgiving week looking at reasons for praising God and giving thanks, I came to Psalm 91. It has long been a favorite of mine and is known to be a favorite among soldiers. Why is that you might ask? Are you frightened today about the future or events in your life? Are you struggling and despairing over people or things? Soldiers facing battle struggle with all of these, and yet the words of this psalm sooth and comfort them. May you too find comfort and be able to give thanks to God who is sovereign and All-Sufficient. Psalm 91:1-4
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
My friend Bob who lived at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville, CA used to recite this psalm. He told me he used to put his name in verse 2 as he personalized and claimed God’s truth of love and protection over himself and his bombing crew as they flew missions in WWII. “I, Bob, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I, Bob, trust.” He would do the same with Psalm 23. “The Lord is Bob’s shepherd I will not want…”
Do you find scripture personal? Bob believed in God’s Word and the power of the truths God placed there for our benefit. Can you claim the truth of verses 1 and 2- that God is your refuge and fortress and you can trust in Him in all situations? What about verses 3 and 4? Do you believe that God is greater than any foe or force you will face? Does He faithfully cover you and enfold you in His love and care?
I pray this Thanksgiving, as you reflect on God’s goodness and care, that you can see God’s hand in your life protecting and leading. That you feel his loving arms surrounding you and giving you strength. May God’s faithfulness and love speak to you in a new way this holiday creating in you greater gratitude for God.
“Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.”
In Hebrew the reference is to giving thanks and worshipping God because of His holiness. Have you ever thought about why we should give thanks that God is holy? Holy means pure, blameless, set apart. Only God is without sin and perfect. I like the definition given in my Bible Study Fellowship manual for explaining God’s attribute of holiness to the children; “God is high and lifted up. He is set apart from His creation. Our English word “holy” is from the same root word as “whole.” God is whole – perfect in goodness and righteousness. No one is like God. Even God’s holy angels tremble in reverent worship before Him. God sets apart His children for Himself and commands us to be holy as He is holy. Being holy makes you whole– what God intended you to be.”
Thinking about Holy God creates in me a sense of humility and unworthiness followed by extreme thankfulness. How is it that Holy God cares for me? Repeatedly in scripture we are assured of God’s love and care. Nahum 1:7 is one of my favorite verses “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” God has compassion upon me and seeks to draw me unto Himself. God loves me so much that He sent Jesus to die for my sins so that I can be brought into a relationship with Him. My faith in Jesus restores me and covers me in His righteousness. What a marvelous gift from our Holy God! Because of God’s love and Jesus imputing his righteousness to me, I can seek to live rightly before Him and honor Him in all I say and do. We can be ‘whole’ before Him and that is something to praise, sing and honor God for! Thank you Jesus for giving me a way to be right with God through faith in you.
And the journey continues… James. This New Testament book is Oh so practical in nature. It was written by James, the oldest brother of Jesus. After his conversion, he became a pillar of the Christian church in Jerusalem and was widely known. His opening lines direct this letter to the dispersed Jewish Christians who had been scattered abroad after the death of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). James is referred to many times in the New Testament as Jesus appeared to him personally after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), was known as a pillar in the church (Galatians 2:9), was visited by Paul on various occasions, was Paul’s first choice of whom to tell upon being released from prison, (Acts 12:17), was important in the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15:13, was the brother of Jude (Jude 1:1) and history records that he was martyred in A.D. 62.
His short letter of 5 Chapters is packed with practical knowledge and instruction on how to live out a life committed to Christ that is filled with faith and good works. James was a servant of Christ and desired that those following Jesus serve Him wholeheartedly. It is filled with wisdom on how to treat others, tame the tongue and submit to God. If you desire to learn to think biblically it is a great book to memorize. The truths will permeate your being and infuse godly thinking into your mind. As James would say, it leads to solid faith and good works that show our love for God as we serve Him. Here are a few of my most favorite verses that have transformed my thinking.
James 1:2-4 talks about attitude and the results of trusting all of life’s events to God. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1: 5-6 instructs us to go to the source of all wisdom when we need answers but to do it with faith! “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.“
James 1:17 confirms the immutability of God. He also assures us that God is good in all He gives. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James 1:19-20 instructs us to control our anger. “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
James 2:1 begins his teaching on treating others with impartiality. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He concludes this chapter with words about faith and good works. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14)
James 3 delves into the harm and good that we can do with our tongues! “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (3:6)
James 4:7-8 is one of my favorite promises as it shows us clearly the way to draw near to God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
In his last chapter James talks about the whining rich, the need for patience and the importance of prayer. James 5:15-16 encourages us in our prayer life! “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.“
Which of these nuggets of wisdom do you need today? Are you struggling with trials in your life and need the perspective of joy? Are you concerned that God is perhaps whimsical and will change His mind about your salvation? Are you being confronted with favoritism, gossip or want to know how to get closer to God? Are you struggling with prayer and asking yourself why pray? James is a book that can be read, meditated upon and digested slowly so that the truths contained therein will permeate your life and allow the Holy Spirit to change you from the inside out.
Be encouraged today by the practicality of James and how he makes faith in Christ applicable to our daily walk with Jesus.
And the journey continues….2 Kings, again. I love this book of history as God has so much to teach us within its chapters. Chapter 6 relates the story of what happened to Elisha when the king of Arman came after him. The king was at war with Israel and told his officers where they were going to camp. Elisha was forewarned by God and warned the king of Israel. The king of Aram was enraged and thought he had a traitor in the midst of his army. When the soldier told him it wasn’t them but the prophet Elisha who was relaying even the words spoken in his bedroom to Israel’s king, the king of Aram sent horses and chariots to come and kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant saw the army coming and ran to tell Elisha in fear. Here is Elisha’s response and what happened.
2 Kings 6:15-23. “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”17And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Elisha was aware of God’s protective presence that was unseen by the servant until God opened his eyes. So it is with us. God has given us His angels to protect us even though we are totally unaware. Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” God is always with us and will never leave us nor forsake us! 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.” If you are in a difficult situation, pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to feel and see His protection. Always remember that God is with you 24/7!
The last part of this story shows God’s mercy and compassion. The soldiers were struck with blindness, lead to the foreign city, their eyes opened and then treated with kindness and mercy just as if they were captives. The end result was the king of Aram stopped raiding and attacking Israel and God’s people were protected. James reminds us of this truth in James 2:12-13 that mercy triumphs over judgement. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. This is how we are to treat one another, erring on the side of mercy and allowing God to be glorified through our merciful actions and attitudes.
There is one other incident from 2 Kings that I recall often as I feel it totally applies to our lives today. King Hezekiah was a good king and followed the Lord. He was attacked by Sennecherib the king of Assyria who was threatening to invade Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew their army was not strong enough to repel the attack. Sennecherib sent an envoy with a letter demanding their surrender and in it he mocked the God of Israel. Here is what Hezekiah did. 2 Kings 19:14-19
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”
God replied through the prophet Isaiah and foretold the coming destruction of Assyria. God also sent encouragement to Hezekiah and said the would be saved. 2 Kings 19:32-36 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. 34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”
35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
Why this story resonates so much with me is because Hezekiah was at the ‘end of his rope’ and laid his problem before Almighty God. He knew by faith that God was greater and that no other god was more powerful. God spared the faithful Israelites and the Assyrians left in defeat without a shot being heard. When I feel I’m at the end of my rope, I remember this story and practice laying my burdens before Him. I claim His promise in 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Both of these stories show how amazing our God is and how He will fight for us if we look for His presence, and humble ourselves before Him. May the all seeing God who can victoriously fight any battle be with you today.
And the journey continues….1 Timothy. This first letter to Paul’s beloved convert Timothy is filled with directions and admonitions for guiding the growing the church in Ephesus. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and on his fourth trip he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus and build up the church there. He wanted him to keep them pointed to Jesus and guide them so they would not be led astray by contemporary beliefs that were plaguing these new believers. Timothy was a wise young man with a lot of responsibilities ahead of him in his ministry. Paul gave guidance on choosing church leaders, prayer, confronting false doctrines, how to care for the widows and elders and warned about those that loved money too much. As I reread this letter, several passages jumped out at me as I saw Paul’s desires for all of us to live focused on Jesus. I pray these verses will be a blessing to you today.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 has basic doctrinal truth about Christ and how God changes and uses us for His glory. “5 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is very clear that Christ came to save sinners. As ‘good’ as Paul was in keeping the laws and considered himself a zealous religious Jew, he was confronted with his own sin by Christ on the Road to Damascus and knew he was definitely a sinner saved by Christ. ((Acts 9) He trusted God to use him as an example for unbelievers so that others could be saved. Isn’t that what every believer desires? They want to be a witness for Christ so that He is seen in their lives and others would desire to follow Him too. May it be so with each of us!
In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul reminds us that God desires us to live peaceful, quiet godly lives for Him. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. 2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. 3 This is good and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. 5 For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. 6 He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. Here again Paul points out the kind of life God desires for us and that He wants everyone to be saved and to have knowledge of the truth! Jesus is the only way to achieve that reconciliation. We are to pray fervently for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Who will you pray for today?
In 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness and not get caught up in the pursuit of money. These are timeless words for all generations as we seek to live for Christ in a material driven world. 6 Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. 7 After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. 8 So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content.9 But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Paul cautions all of us that it is the love of money, making it an idol, goal or making it the stuff of our dreams, that can lead to losing our spiritual focus. Taking your eyes off of Christ leads to confusion, disillusionment and ungodly actions. When we think about it, the love of money is often at the root of our confusion, disillusionment or selfish actions.
May these selected verses help you to see Christ more clearly and know for sure that He desires that all should come to Him, to repentance. He desires that we walk with him in humility keeping our eyes on Him and not on worldly gain. I am reminded of a favorite verse from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” May we walk today focused on Him.
And the journey continues… Colossians. This letter was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians whom he had never met. His convert, Epaphras, had traveled to Colossae and started a new church there. When he encountered difficulties in theology, he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. Paul wrote to help ‘set their thinking straight’ so that they would know that Jesus is Lord and there is no other. He praises their faith and growth but instructs them on the supremacy of Christ our Lord who came, died and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.
I love Paul’s prayer that opens the letter. Colossians 1:3-143 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people,5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.7 You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. 8 He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.
A couple of questions come to mind as I study this passage that I need to remember as I walk with Jesus daily. Is anyone hearing of my love for Jesus? The Colossian Christians were known for their faith and love. This is what Jesus wants for each of us. In John 13:33-34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you loveoneanother: just as I have loved you, you also are to loveoneanother. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for oneanother.”
Another question- Do you believe in the transforming power of the Good News? The Good News that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Life in Him is abundant and filled with grace, love, mercy… and the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatian 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit transforms our lives as we follow Jesus each day in faith.
Lastly, How do you pray for others? Do you pray for their growth in faith that they will know and love God more and serve Him with eagerness? Do you pray for their patience, endurance and joy? Paul prayed for these things as he wanted the Colossian Christians to thrive and grow in the Lord. He wanted them to live with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in their lives. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.“
I pray that you will show your genuine Christian love for others, pray for your fellow believers, unsaved friends and relatives and live like you believe you are truly rescued from darkness and brought into the light of God’s love. You are redeemed and forgiven dear brother and sister!
And the journey continues….Titus. This letter is short but powerful! Paul wrote this letter to his beloved gentile convert Titus to encourage his ministry in Crete. Titus had worked alongside him in Ephesus during his third missionary journey. After Ephesus Paul sent him to Corinth to work in the church there. Following Paul’s release from his first Roman imprisonment, he and Titus journeyed to Crete to bring them the gospel message. Paul continued on and left Titus to work there strengthening the brothers and sisters in Christ by teaching and leading them. The last mention of Titus in is 2 Timothy 4:10 where Timothy mentions Titus went to Dalmatia, which is present day Yugoslavia. Paul’s letter is filled with basic doctrines emphasizing who Christ is and the life He desires us to live through the power of His indwelling Holy Spirit. When I visited Crete in 2016, the people continue to revere Titus, claiming they have his skull which they place prominently in a main church in downtown Heraklion. They credit Titus with the establishment of Christianity on their island.
There are two passages I dearly love in the book of Titus because of their clarity in proclaiming Christ as our Savior and Lord. See if you don’t agree.
Titus 2:11-14“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. 12 And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, 13 while we look forward with hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed. 14 He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.” Paul’s message is clear: salvation for all people, turn from ungodliness, devote ourselves to God, look forward with expectation to Christ’s return, live our lives free from sin and be committed to Him. All this is possible only through the power of the Holy Spirit, praise God!
Titus 3:4-7 “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, 5 he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. 6 He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Paul here emphasizes we are saved because of God’s grace and mercy, forgiven, and generously filled with His Holy Spirit through the power of faith in Christ. Christ has made us right before holy God and with that knowledge we can live confident lives assured of our salvation and eternal life with Him.
These basic doctrines are filled with hope and assurance based on God’s mercy and grace to us by sending Jesus to save us and cleanse us from all our sins. What is your response to this marvelous outpouring of love towards you? I am reminded of Romans 5:8 “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Thank you Jesus.
And the journey continues….2 Timothy. Paul wrote this final letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, during his final imprisonment in a Roman dungeon prior to his death. He exhorts Timothy to be strong in the faith, reject worldliness and willingly suffer for the cause of Christ. As Timothy’s mentor, we wanted this young minister to continue wholeheartedly for Christ remembering all that Christ had done for him. There are several key verses that shouted out to me as I reread this letter. I pray they will speak to you today as an encouragement from Paul to stay the course of faith and preserve in the face of adversity for the rewards are great and blessings abound.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Paul was telling Timothy that he knew he had a sincere upbringing in faith but to remember the power of faith that came through the Holy Spirit when he believed in Jesus. Paul had led him to Christ and wanted him to remember his gift of faith and that it is one of boldness, power, love and self-control. It is the same with all of us. We have that same gift of faith in Christ and it is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that gives us power for living. Jesus wants us to live fearlessly for Him.
2 Timothy 2:11-13 scholars believe was part of an early Christian hymn Paul included. It speaks of Paul’s faith in Christ and his belief that suffering with Christ will bring great rewards.
11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself. The part of this that gives me the most hope is that even in my faithlessness God is always faithful. Faithfulness is an integral part of God’s character from which He can never separate himself. Praise God, He is faithful.
Paul also wrote about the hardships Timothy will face following of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” He says evil men and their deeds will always continue to abound but he exhorts Timothy to remember, continue and stand fast holding to God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:14-17″But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In seeking to live a godly life, we too need to remember what we know about God, rely on His faithfulness, delve into scripture so that the Holy Spirit may teach, correct and train us into the men and women Jesus desires us to be in and through Him. The Bible is not just ancient words but the very breath of God given for our growth and benefit. All of it is inspired and through it God seeks to teach us about Himself and how He wants us to act and react in this world we live in. God wants us to do good work and being in His Word will ready us for work in the world. He will equip us with all we need.
Paul has poured himself out to Timothy knowing his remaining time on earth was short. His desires for the continuing faith of this child of God are sincere, heartfelt and instructive. What part of his message do you need today? Are you struggling with fear, faithfulness, and persecution? Or are you in need of teaching, correction and training from God’s Word? Do you not feel equipped to face the ministry to which God has called you? Paul reminded us in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” All promises are Yes in Christ and our faith is established and sealed by Him. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our proof, that God is alive and Jesus lives within us. Rejoice as you face each trial as He is with you, will help you persist in faith, teach, guide and equip you with all you will need! Praise God!
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. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 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, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 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!
When Jesus ascended back into heaven He promised a gift from the Father would come. He did not tell them how long they would wait, but He did say don’t go home. They trusted that the wait would be short enough that they would not want have to return to fishing in Galilee. Scripture gives us some insight into their waiting period which we know was 10 days. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost which was 10 days after Christ’s ascension into heaven. Acts 1:12-14 “Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”
During those days of prayer and fellowship they came to the decision that they needed to chose another apostle to take Judas’ place due to his betrayal of Christ and suicide. Acts 1:15-17 “In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) 16 and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. 17 He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.” Peter quoted a prophecy from Psalms in Acts 1:20 ““For,” said Peter, “it is written in the Book of Psalms: “‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “‘May another take his place of leadership.’ They all felt that Jesus wanted them to have 12 Apostles representing the 12 tribes of Israel. There seemed to be several men that met the criteria of having been with Jesus who had followed Him from baptism to crucifixion. This was a unique time period and in the future, after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they no longer cast lots to chose leaders. With the Holy Spirit as their guide, they did not have to use this manner and here is the last mention of it in the Bible. Acts 1:21-26 “Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus was living among us, 22 beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”23 So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. 24 Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen 25 to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs.” 26 Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”
What do we take away from this scene? The disciples knew what Jesus expected of them, their mission was to tell others about Him and to live and walk with him each day. Knowing that they needed 12 Apostles, they set about identifying those amongst themselves that met the criteria of having been with Jesus. They let God choose which would take up this responsibility when they chose by casting lots. So what does God require of us as we await His return? Is it not the same? We have our mission and purpose to tell others the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. We have lives to live that are to glorify Him in all we say and do. We are to walk with Him each day leaning upon His wisdom, understanding, hope and eternal justice as we seek to live humbly, before Him. AND, don’t we have work to do so that we have the methods, people and places ready and in order to carry out His mission. Waiting is not idle time but it is work time. Spreading the good news is essential and filled with purpose.
So… get up, get busy and be about His work while you wait. Study, learn, memorize, speak out, praise, pray, encourage and support one another in love until He comes again!