Targeted Prayer for Ourselves and Others

This reminds me of my friend Stephanie.

My friend Stephanie is a woman of prayer. She believes in the power of prayer to effect change in her life and lives of her family and friends. She recently was the chairwoman of our Pastoral Search Team and brought prayer into this process continually. Through prayer we were all more closely engaged in the search for a new pastor and linked to each member of the body of believers at our church. It does not surprise me that her favorite portion of scripture is a prayer from Ephesians 3:14-19. The Apostle Paul here is praying for the believers at Ephesus.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Paul knew these things to be true in his own life and ministry and desired that his fellow believers experience the same. Here is what Paul knew:

*God is accessible and he could come before him in prayer (14)

*Believers are all in the family of God under the name of Jesus (15)

*God provides inner strength through His Holy Spirit (16)

*God has vast resources at His command (16)

*Christ lives in our hearts through our faith in Jesus (17)

*God makes us firm in our faith through His abiding love (17)

*We can individually and collectively grasp a portion of how great God is (18)

*We can know through faith God’s unapparelled love, which is more than knowledge

*As believers, we can be filled to overflowing with God’s love, presence and spirit. (19)

Paul knew each of these truths personally. How many do you know? Do you pray for these for other believers you know and experience? The army slogan “Be all that you can be” could be applied here. God wants us to be all and experience all that He has for us. I challenge you to choose one or two of these and pray them for a believing friend so that they may experience God more fully and grow in their faith.

Thanks Stephanie for pointing us to this wonderfully rich passage that puts a priority on prayer and shows us how we are to pray for others while deepening our own experience of faith.

Linda

Happy 4th with A Promise

10412029_10152530989474929_5700011940111580130_n

I thought this promise was appropriate for the week of the Fourth of July.  Enjoy the holiday and cherish your freedoms.  Happy 4th!!

John 8:31-32, 36

“To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’…’So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed,’”

Promise: God promises freedom, truth and discipleship in Christ

Where and when do you feel truly free? As Americans, we pride ourselves on our independence, self-initiative and having freedoms to claim and practice in our daily lives. As we know our freedoms are defined and limited by the society in which we live. Sometimes we agree with these limitations and sometimes we don’t. We struggle each day to survive and maintain our freedoms within our family, neighborhoods and society.

The freedom that God promises is dependent upon Christ not us. We need to believe and accept the true freedom and then live a life dependent upon God. We need to accept the truth that God provides in His Word and the truth of who Jesus is and what He did for us on the cross. We need to accept our place in His family and take up the job of living for Him as His disciple. Working for God’s truth in our world will bring greater freedom than anything we think we can obtain or receive here on Earth. So do as Jesus commands, accept His freedom in faith and be free indeed!

Live free today in Jesus,

Linda

Here is a fun fact I found on the Internet this morning about our flag.  I did not know what the colors represented.

Between 1777 and 1960, the shape and design of the American flag changed several times before arriving at the present form. The 13 alternating red and white stripes represent the 13 original colonies. Talking about colors, red stands for hardiness and valor; white symbolizes purity and innocence; and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. Food for thought- does our nation still represent these colors? If not, what can I do to stand for valor, live purely and persevere for what is right? Pray, pray and pray for our nation and our leaders and lean on Jesus in our own lives.

COME! to Him

Today’s favorite comes from Matthew’s gospel and my friend Lee, chose verse 28. I have added the surrounding verses to give a better picture of our Lord’s meaning and scope.

Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus’ words bring comfort to our hearts and minds as He recognizes our humanness and the difficulties of this world in which we live. Consider the Jews Jesus is addressing when His words were spoken. They were harasses and overburdened by the religious leaders of their day. They had constant rules and regulations which they need to abide by be considered faithful. Most of these were man-made rules that were a great burden to the people and caused them great distress. They were also citizens of an occupied country. Rome was a formidable ruler that demanded much from those they enslaved. They were also living in troubled times and families struggled for existence- food, shelter and peace. Jesus’ words of peace and promised rest were music to their weary ears.

Is it not so with us? Do you long to hear words of comfort from your Savior? Jesus promises He is gentle, loving and by coming to Him He will make your burdens lighter. Belonging to Jesus will not add to your burdens, but will free you spiritually to be able to rise above the earthly worries as you cling to Him. Jesus promises belonging to Him means He will walk beside us and help us carry the burdens we have in life. If need be at times, He will carry us. Resting in Jesus is the safest place to be. In 1 Peter 5:10 Peter spoke these words to believers, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” Jesus’ rest is a rest that restores, strengthens, confirms and helps establish us in faith. Praise God!

Thank you Lee for pointing us to this verse. May we be reminded of Christ’s command, COME! You cannot receive the blessing of rest and restoration unless you come to Him.

Linda

Seeking Renewal? ASK!

As we age it seems harder and harder to keep up with those young ones around us. Whether it is little children or teens, their endurance is only a remembrances to us! Today’s favorite verse, from my friend Sharon, is Isaiah 40:30-31 which gives us encouragement no matter what our age.

Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

In these verses, God’s Word is acknowledging our humanness and reminds us that even the young do not have unlimited strength and endurance. To survive in the world, we must rely upon the Lord. He promises to renew our strength when we feel we cannot go on. We do not need to wait until we are spent to call upon the Lord for additional strength. As we learn in walking with Jesus, it is better to call upon Him before we reach the end of our strength as He promises He will lift us up, cause us to soar and be renewed.

I can see how this verse is a favorite as it stands a reminder of God’s strength in all things and our limited resources. When you combine this with Philippian 4:19 “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” We can be assured that God does not tire, God has unlimited resources and He wants to provide for us. We just need to ask. John 14:13-15 shows us Jesus’ willingness if we ask with the right heart. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

Where do you need God’s help today? Is your need physical, mental, emotional or spiritual? What obstacles are you facing that you are allowing pride to get in your way of asking God for help? Do you see problems ahead and need God’s strength to overcome? God has the resources to help you soar and not grow faint. He can give you the wings of eagles to cause you to soar above and be renewed.

Thanks Sharon for the reminder of God’s strength and constant provision. Call upon Him and be renewed!

Linda

Want the hope of a straight pathway? Look to Jesus

This summer I want to delve into God’s Word and add to a couple of my series. First, I want to continue to explore favorite passages that my friends have found meaningful for confident living with and in Jesus. Second, last summer I did a series where I Wandered through the Bible writing on passages that have been meaningful to me in years of study and living with Jesus. Hence you will see both series continued this summer and I do hope you will allow God’s Word to speak to you in a new and fresh way as my journey continues.

Today I want to highlight a favorite passage of mine and my dear friend Joan Pauls. She went to be with the Lord this March and I thought it fitting to begin this series anew with her passage. Her favorite passage is Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Knowing my friend Joan, I can see why she always got strength and power for living from these 2 short verses. One must TRUST in God with all of your heart and being, forsaking the worldly views or what you think is right and go with God. He knows the true pathway in life and our submission to Him and His will leads us on His path and in His way. God never fails and His ways are right and just. Sticking to worldly views and morals and standards is not enough as they are often in conflict with what God desires for us and gives us in His Word. We must Trust in Him, lean only on Him and His wisdom and submit to His ways. Those actions and thoughts will lead us on the straight path and we will not be deceived or lead astray or as we say take the long road around. God’s way is direct and never crooked. Is it easy? No. Keeping our focus on Jesus, His Word, being steeped in prayer and connected in fellowship will help us in our daily submission to Him.

Joan knew that this was a recipe for great and confident living in Jesus. Those around her knew her heart belonged to Jesus and that she loved Him. May we do likewise and be blessed with the straight pathway He has promised.

Linda

P.S. These verses are also a favorite of my friend Elizabeth and I wrote about her favorites in the blog entitled, About To Give up? Look to God’s Word- He has the Answer you need. She had several verses she leans upon to help her live confidently in Jesus. Look it up, February 15, 2022.

What to Do While Waiting

Jesus had been appearing to them for the last 40 days since his resurrection. He had been teaching and confirming who He was and their mission to continue to tell others about Him after He returned to heaven. They had many questions and voiced a few in Acts 1:6-8. Here was Jesus’ answer, “Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” They wanted details- the how, when and where of His return and the restoration of Israel. Jesus simply reminded them of the power that was coming and their greater purpose in His kingdom here on earth. Jesus wanted patient obedience and focus from them.

How good are you at waiting? I’m not prone to waiting patiently, but when I know something is coming I can endure with a bit more patience. The disciples were commanded by Jesus to wait for the coming Holy Spirit that the Father would send. They were not to leave Jerusalem and go back to fishing. The fact Jesus told them to wait there would have given them hope that it would be only a ‘short’ time before this promised power would arrive. Acts 1:1-5 “In my former book (the gospel of Luke), Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Is that a lesson you need to learn too? We know Jesus is to return and what our job is until he does. Why do we fret over the when and where? Just like the disciples, we need to wait for the right time for speaking out about Him, remain steadfast in faith, constant in prayer and filled with His hope. God’s timing is perfect and He alone knows when Jesus will return. Until then, just like the disciples- we wait. But, God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to tell others about Him. The disciples were waiting for that power- only a few days more until the Holy Spirit arrives on Pentecost. They didn’t know it was only 10 days away so they returned to Jerusalem after the ascension and waited together . Acts 1:14 “They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” This is a perfect example of how we can encourage and support one another as we wait.

If Jesus returned today, would He find you doing what He asked? Are you telling others about Him? Are you praying for others and remaining steadfast in your faith? Are you encouraging and praying with fellow believers? It was a challenge for the disciples and it is a challenge for us. They had just seen and heard Jesus and knew Him to be real and trustworthy. We have the empowerment from the Holy Spirit within us to be faithful and honor His requests, and we too know Him to be trustworthy!

May you seek to do His will while you wait for His return.

Linda

Are you ready to Go? Will you speak up?

Jesus was actively reassuring his followers on Resurrection Sunday. He appeared to the two men on the Road to Emmaus, to the women in the garden and Mary, to Peter and then to a gathering of disciples in a closed room. John records this closed door appearance in John 20:19-22. I like the Amplified translation as it makes what happened very clear.  “So when it was evening on that same day, the first day of the week, though the disciples were [meeting] behind barred doors for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy.” The fact that Jesus appeared to them without opening the door tells us He was a spirit. Yet, he showed them His hands and side that had been pierced at the cross which tells us He was physically real.  Only Jesus could be both in His resurrection body

He begins with the common Hebrew greeting- ‘Peace to you’.  This shows Jesus’ love and sensitivity as perhaps they might have expected a harsh word from Jesus for abandoning Him after His arrest.  They received peace and warmth from their Savior not rebuke or criticism.  When the disciples saw the Lord, they were filled with great joy. 21 Then Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you [as My representatives].” 22 And when He said this, He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  Their response to Jesus was pure joy!  He sent greetings of peace as they were living in fear being behind locked doors. I’m sure they thought that what happened to Jesus at the hands of the religious leaders could happen to them as his disciples. What they needed was peace and Jesus knew that. They also needed a mission or purpose. For 3 years they had followed him, spoke with him, listened and saw the miraculous power of God. What purpose did they have without him? Jesus knew what they needed was direction and purpose so He gave them orders to go out and tell others.   He was sending them with power from His Holy Spirit to go and be His representatives, telling others of His death, resurrection, salvation, love and forgiveness of sins.  Jesus breathed on them power that would sustain them until the coming of the Holy Spirit 50 days later at Pentecost.     

tell others

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

Who will you joyfully tell today?

Linda

On the Road with Jesus, He gives exactly what you need when you need it!

As we celebrated on Easter morning, Jesus did not stay in the tomb but rose from the dead. He has Risen INDEED! 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 believers 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. They told him of 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 filled with 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 the selected ‘put on’ passages. I pray you will bask in the hope of the empty tomb knowing He has Risen, He has Risen Indeed!

Linda

Growing in Him, Planning & Following

Our last ‘put upon’ scripture for this Lenten season is meaningful as it teaches an attitude and practice that God desires of all committed believers. Paul is instructing the Corinthian Christians about the collection of offerings for the suffering Christians in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Christians were under extreme persecution at this time and believers throughout Asia minor were concerned and seeking to aid them in their time of need and distress. Paul was planning to go and take the offerings if he could, if not then he assured them that some other brothers would take their offerings to these suffering Christians.

1 Corinthians 16:1-5 “Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come. And when I arrive, I will send those whom you accredit by letter to carry your gift to Jerusalem. If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.

What lesson was Paul teaching in his request for them to set aside a portion each week for these needy people? I am calling it planned generosity. Many of us can be generous on the spur of the moment, carried by emotion or emotional pleas but this was to be planned. They needed to learn to set aside a portion for God’s use each week. Since many of the people of Macedonia were poor, they needed to plan and set aside a little bit at a time and then amazingly they would have a lot to give. This relies on God’s faithfulness to provide and our faithfulness to be obedient and set monies aside.

I had not thought of planning for generosity, but I’ve done it. When you decide to set aside money to pay for a camp scholarship to be used in the future, when you know there will be a Pastor Appreciation month coming in October or the love gift at Christmas. In the case of the Corinthians, it was giving that was over and above their regular giving and needed to be planned for. Give this some thought. Next time you have a bonus or some unexpected monies, ask God what you should do with it and set it aside. You don’t have to give it right then as perhaps God has something else in mind for those funds. Set it aside as Paul instructs and wait for the project or time God wants you to give it. You will be blessed by the planning and blessed by the listening and following God’s direction.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can depend upon God to direct my giving and allow Him to grow my obedience and faithfulness.

As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, God wants to grow and mold us into who He sees we can be in Him.

Linda

Wholeness Through Jesus

Our scripture today speaks of the death on the cross that put our sins to death and made us alive in Christ. Before Peter concludes with Christ’s suffering in verse 18, he reminds us that in Christ we will suffer for good. 1 Peter 3:15-18

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, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to GodHe was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.

We are to expect suffering but Peter tells us to cherish Christ in our hearts and always be prepared to tell others about Him. As we speak gently to others about Christ, we need to persevere even if other speak ill of us. His admonition is that it is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. We can console ourselves that Christ suffered, and He was without sin. He died for our sins so that we could be make righteous before God. In His death, he put to death sin and made us alive with the Holy Spirit within us. I love Romans 5:8 “ But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Christ knew I was a sinner and died for me anyway, so I could be reconciled to God. What an amazing Savior we have in Christ Jesus.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am purified and made righteous so that I can speak freely of His love and salvation! Thank you Jesus for loving me when I do not deserve it. Thank you Jesus for making me whole and purifying me so I can stand before God the Father covered in your righteousness. Thank you Jesus for you great love for me.

Linda