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

A Hidden Gem Brings Hope and Assurance

Today’s ‘put on’ scripture is a bit of a surprise. When I read it I could not remember seeing this promise from God about the Holy Spirit here in 2 Corinthians. It is a gem, a hidden treasure to encourage and enlighten you and me!

2 Corinthians 1:20-25 is an infusion of hope and courage from the Apostle Paul.  For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

His first affirmation is that every promise is fulfilled, completed, and made right in Christ. What a blessing to know that everything God has planned will be completed by Christ in His time and in His way. We do not have to doubt. 1 Kings 8:56 puts it this way, “Praise be to the Lord, who has given rest to his people Israel just as he promised. Not one word has failed of all the good promises he gave through his servant Moses.” God keeps His promises. Amen means ‘so be it’. That is another affirmation that God’s will is to be completed just as He said.

Paul continues to reassure us that God makes us able to stand firm in our faith in Christ. David stood firmly rooted in the Lord and said, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” in Psalm 19:14. May David’s words and conviction be ours as we stand firmly for Christ. Paul also reminds us that we are anointed by Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit. The seal He puts upon us shows He owns our hearts, we belong to Him and His Spirit living within is just a heavenly deposit to remind and empower us to live for the Lord. His Holy Spirt is our guarantee that all is Yes in Christ and we have an eternity settled with Him.

May these verse help you to ‘put on’ His love, claim His promises and step out in Spirit led faith today!

Linda

God Has us Covered! Protected Offensively and Defensively with His Armor

In yesterday’s blog, Paul gave us the reasons for putting on God’s armor. (See the blog entitled “Armored Up.” Today we see the purpose for each piece and the benefits of suiting up!

Ephesians 6:13-17 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Each piece of God’s armor is specifically designed to help us withstand the temptations and trial of this world. Satan wants to see us defeated. He knows he cannot take our salvation away as it is held secure in the love of God and sealed by the Holy Spirt. However, he can destroy our witness, cause us to be discouraged or feel defeated and worthless. Paul presents the specifics of God’s armor to encourage and strengthen us, as we seek to walk with Christ day by day. First, Paul reminds us that putting on God’s armor will allow us to stand in the face of evil and hold on to Him no matter what comes our way. Then Paul begins listing each piece that will fortify us. The truth of the gospel, the truth of who God is and His being binds us and gives us strength like no other. Covering our heart is the breastplate, so our inner feelings and soul are protected from harm by His righteousness. When David cries out to God in Psalm 51:10 ” Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”, he is requesting renewal of heart, purification by Christ and resilience. All of these come from the righteousness of God and are ours in his breastplate of righteousness.

The next piece of armor is for our feet, the gospel of peace. The salvation of Christ to the world brings peace wherever it goes, as being in Christ brings unity of purpose. Putting on the shoes of the gospel means being willing to walk with Him and tell others about His love, forgiveness and salvation. Now that Paul has us up and dressed, we need to pick up our outer shield which is faith. The shield goes before us and protects us from the doubts and methods of Satan who seeks to destroy us and our witness.

Lastly, Paul mentions our two offensive weapons that can be used in our battles against Satan. They are the sword of the Spirit and prayer. The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. Jesus rebuked Satan when he was tempted in the wilderness with God’s Word. His Word has power and can be our defense against any attack that Satan launches against us. It is a sword that is discerning and powerful according to Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The sword is amazing as it works to help us defend ourselves. Prayer is also an offensive weapon we can use it both for and against our enemies. Prayer changes things and gives us emotional, physical and spiritual support. We are admonished to ‘pray continually’ and that prayer is effective. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 “Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Prayer is a tool we can use continually- night and day, for and with each other and for our help, hope and defense!

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can suit up with God’s weapons of defense and offense to stand against the powers of this world and Satan. Thank you Jesus for your all covering armor that we can use to protect and defend ourselves and our witness in this world.

Linda

Armored Up!

As Paul ends his letter to the Ephesians, he pens some of the most famous ‘put on’ verses in the Bible. Ephesians 6:10-12 set the stage for the specifics that come later. He tells us to be ready by putting on God’s armor which will help us stand when things get hard, when we are under attack from the evil one, or when we feel weak and unfocused in our faith.

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Before telling us about the specific pieces of armor God provides for those who believe in Him, Paul gives his general reasons for putting it on. 1) From the beginning Paul reminds us that God’s armor works because it is given infused with His mighty power! 2) God’s armor will help us be strong in Him. 3) His armor will help us stand firmly rooted in faith against Satan’s attacks. 4)The forces coming against us are unseen, other worldly, not tangible so we need God’s special armor to be able to stand and fight victoriously.

God realizes that standing firmly against Satan and his minions will take His power within us. We cannot do it alone. He has designed special armor for believers to wear so that we can stand protected in His power. We need to know that God goes before us and also has our backs! “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;  your walls are ever before me.” Isaiah 49:16 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 Both are precious promises God has given to us! So armor up, put it on, cling to it and stand upon His truth in the knowledge that He is with you! Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can stand firmly upheld and armored by Christ. Remember Christ wins!

Linda

Heavenly Promises Guaranteed by the Holy Spirit

I am greatly encouraged by the ‘put on’ passage we have today. How many times have you thought about your heavenly body to come? I know I look forward to no aches and pains, no worry or stress, no concerns about what to eat and the calories the food contains, etc. We don’t want to rush into our heavenly bodies as that would mean we are no longer living on earth, yet we long for the presence of the Lord as we weary of the pressures of life on earth. Our passage is from 2 Corinthians 5:1-8.

 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. For we live by believing and not by seeing. Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

Here are some lessons and truths from this passage- be encouraged as we wait to put on our heavenly bodies: *Once we leave our earthly body we will have a heavenly one (vs1)

*Our heavenly body is made by God (not man made like our present one) (vs1)

*Our new bodies will be free of weariness and clothed by God not a free floating spirit with a body (vs 3)

*The Holy Spirit is our guarantee within us that we will have a heavenly body just as God has promised (vs5)

*We live by faith not by sight (vs7)

*Being here on earth means we are not with the Lord in person yet (8)

*We can live confident that we have a home in heaven with the Lord! (8)

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can live knowing life after death means a new body, a new home in a place with the Lord as guaranteed by the Holy Spirit who dwells within me right now! What glorious promises from our promise-keeping God! Savor this joy today and spend time communing with the Holy Spirit. Thank Him for His confirming guarantee.

Linda

Are you willing to be Used by God?

Earlier during Lent, I wrote on Acts 28:3 (March 4, Entangled with Vipers) which told the story of shipwrecked Paul and how he was bitten by a poisonous snake and lived. Today’s scripture follows that incident on Malta. Acts 28:7-10 “There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. 10 They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.

This story shows the continued protection and providence of God towards Paul and his mission to go to Rome. God had told him he would go to Rome during the storm at sea that rendered them shipwrecked. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. 26 Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” Acts 27:23-26. Paul knew he was to be about God’s work while on his way to Rome. The local official welcomed them and was very hospitable to these strangers and prisoners. When the father of the official became ill, Paul immediately went and laid hands upon him and healed him. This miraculous healing caused others to come to Paul and many others were healed. He had a God given opportunity to witness to the power of Christ in this unexpected place. He was well taken care of and soon set sail for Rome again.

What do we learn from this story? God is sovereign and in control of all circumstances. He allowed the storm and shipwreck to happen thus providing Paul time to show others the power of God though his actions and words. You can be sure that Paul spent time telling others about his Jesus. He knew that Jesus is the only one who has the power to save both spiritually and physically. God’s power is manifested through us so that others will see and hear about Him. Paul was obedient to tell others and heal the sick. What happened as a result was grace to Paul and his fellow prisoners and the good news of Christ being given there on Malta.

Our question today is, in what circumstances do you find yourself? Looking around, how do you see that God could use you to help others physically? Who can you tell about Jesus to give them spiritual food? Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be used by God to reach out to others physically and spiritually. We need to keep our eyes and hearts open to His leading so we can be His hands of helping and healing to our weary world.

Linda

Stretching Out for Jesus

Today’s passage comes from Luke 5 but is also found in Matthew 9. Jesus was speaking in parables to help the disciples and crowds to understand biblical concepts. First, Jesus started with the idea of patching clothes with using new cloth to mend and old garment. They would not match and be out of place. Next, Jesus talked about the custom of putting new wine into new wineskins. The reason you did not want to put new wine into old previously used wineskins was that when the wine fermented it expanded. Old wineskins are not as flexible as they were when new and are already stretched to their limit. New wine in them would cause them to burst as the wine fermented and expanded.

Here are Jesus’ words from Luke 5:36-39: Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. 37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. 38 New wine must be stored in new wineskins. 39 But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.”

What biblical concept was Jesus trying to convey? Why would they need to know about putting on new patches or using new wineskins? The religious leaders of the day were not open to the light of truth Jesus was bringing to the world. They wanted things to stay the ‘same’ and for all things religious to be under their control. They had so perverted the laws and requirements that it had become burdensome for living and had strayed away from the truths of God. They rejected Jesus as they did not want to give up their control over the people. Jesus was trying to tell his disciples that His was a new way, a new wineskin, a new patch, and needed to be presented and used in a new way. The old way was not ‘just fine’ like the religious leaders wanted. Jesus repeatedly said He was a new way. Jesus’ new way would lead them to eternal life and light in Him. John 8:12  “Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” John 17:3  “And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” Jesus wanted them to see a new way that would lead to a new life. As his parable illustrated it could not be done using the old or comfortable ways.

What truth do we learn from this for our lives? Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be new in Him shedding the baggage of my old self and be ready to expand and live productively for Jesus. Is it easy? No, with new ways come stretching and growth, but Jesus promises to be with us and in us all the way. 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.” Don’t be afraid to stretch out for Him, He is always with you!

Linda