Christ desires maturity. Are you growing?

Colossians 1:28-29 finishes this first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians. He is seeking to explain his earnest motivation for calling them to be the most that they can be in Christ. He wants for them to honor Christ in their lives and seek to grow in faith. “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

How concerned are your church leaders about growth in your church body? How concerned are you about growing your faith? I’m not talking about numbers in your church congregation or hours spent serving but growing in faith. This is a growth that stretches and moves you to be more like Jesus. Are they teaching from the Word and encouraging you to spend time in God’s Word and prayer? Do you hunger after God’s Word and crave to spend time with God in prayer? This was Paul’s passion. He wanted those who came to know Jesus as savior to be mature Christians who would be able to stand steadfast in troubled times, lean on and serve each other in love and be mission minded desiring to bring others to faith. Ephesians 4:13 “This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ”. Christ’s standard is high and calls for us to be mature and wise in our daily walk with Him so as to not to be tempted and fall away. Hebrews 5:14 “Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong”. Being mature aids in one’s perception of the world and enables one to view things from a godly perspective. This allows one to make godly choices and not fall into sin.

Today as you mediate on these verses, test yourself? How much do you see yourself growing? Are you more like Jesus now than you were 1,2,5 years ago? I don’t mean more religious or more involved. I mean more like Jesus in character. James puts it this way in James 1:2-4 our experiences in life should be growing and producing more godly character in us. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” In Romans 5:3-6 Paul says this about character development. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” None of us likes to suffer but in the trials of life we grow and move either closer to Jesus or away. Which is it for you?

My latest book, Strategic Living, is about growing more and more like Jesus, I chose 1 John 2:15-17 from the Message translation as my motivating verses. Let the words speak to your heart today. “Don’t love the world’s ways. Don’t love the world’s goods. Love of the world squeezes out love for the Father. Practically everything that goes on in the world—wanting your own way, wanting everything for yourself, wanting to appear important—has nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates you from him. The world and all its wanting, wanting, wanting is on the way out—but whoever does what God wants is set for eternity.”

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can grow to be more and more like Jesus in character through the power of His Holy Spirit within me. Praise God! He is changing me to be more like Him. See Galatians 5:22-23 for specific examples of ways God the Holy Spirit changes us. “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.” In Him, He has promised we are new creations! 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Linda

3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus did it All!

This week again we have an amazing list of benefits for believers through faith in our risen Lord Jesus. As you mediate on these truths from God’s Word in His letter to the Colossians, let the revelation of who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross sink into your mind. Let it produce in you a greater sense of gratitude and hope.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,

I can know God the Father who is exactly represented by Jesus the Son and who is fully God, Creator and totally Sovereign over all creation. Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I can rely on Sovereign Jesus to hold all things together for me in my life. Colossians 1:16b-17 “all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

I can know Him and the peace of reconciliation in my life. Colossians 1:18-20 “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.  So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,20 and through him God reconciled  everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

I am redeemed and reconciled to Almighty God so I have His hope-filled love for eternity. Colossians 1:21-22 “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

I can proclaim the Good News of love and redemption and hold onto a faith that is strong and unwavering through the power of Christ in me. Colossians 1:23 “But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, redeemed by His blood and a citizen of His heavenly kingdom through faith in Jesus . Colossians 1:24-27 “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory”.

I pray these truths will lead you to fall deeper in love with God and lead you to praise! Here is our praise Psalm for this week:

Psalm 105:1-5 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

Have a blessed day and week to come,

Linda

Second Sunday of Lent 2021=Assurances, Hope and Grace Revealed!

What a powerful week we’ve had this first full week of Lent. Here are the truths uncovered in the first Chapter 1 of Colossians in verses 5-14. What an abundance of assurances in hope, love, joy, grace, wisdom and care from our loving heavenly Father through the work of the Son. Meditate again on these nuggets of truth from God’s Word and treat them as true treasures that will embolden and strengthen you in Christ so you can walk in a manner that is pleasing to Him.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,

I have faith and love that gives me hope that is stored up in heaven for eternity. Colossians 1:5-6a “the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.”

I have a living and vibrant grace-filled faith to share with the world. Colossians 1:6b “Indeed, just as in the whole world the gospel is constantly bearing fruit and spreading [by God’s power], just as it has been doing among you ever since the day you first heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth [becoming thoroughly and deeply acquainted with it].”

I can live a life that grows and matures in God’s love and can have an eternal effect on others. Colossians 1:7-8 “just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.

I can know and understand the things of God with spiritual wisdom which helps me to walk daily in a way that pleases Him. Colossians 1:9-10 “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10 so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

I can receive benefits of faith that lead to greater knowledge of Him, strength, endurance, patience and joy! Colossians 1:11-12 “being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you  to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” 

I am saved out of darkness and brought into the light of Christ fully redeemed and forgiven! Colossians 1:13-14 “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

This Second Sunday of Lent, Let us Praise Him with Psalm 150.

Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds;
    praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound;
    praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
    praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
    praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord!

Linda

Hope-safe and secure, Share it now!

Today’s verse from Colossians is very empowering and brings great assurances for our faith. Colossians 1:5-6a “the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you.” Paul was praying and praising God for the Colossian believers and said that their hope, that they so readily shared with everyone around them, is rooted in Christ. Their hope is stored up, saved for eternity, preserved, untouchable by sin and guaranteed by the Holy Spirit.

This is a truth that we can claim in our lives too. The faith we have in Christ and the love He has for us and us for Him gives us eternal hope! It is a hope that can never be taken away! What a wonderful blessing we have from Him! Thank you Jesus. This truth is also found in Titus 1:2 “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began“. This hope of faith is eternal in nature and comes from a God who does not change or lie. Romans 5:2-5 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. This hope is eternal and God uses it to bring about change in our character for our good and His glory!

As you ponder your faith in Christ and God’s immense love for you, think about 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” You have the hope within you—- be prepared to share it with gentleness to a hurting world.

Linda

Advent Reveals How Persistent Faith Brings Results

Another confirmation from God came from elderly Anna. She was a widow of many years and was undoubtedly allowed to live in one of the rooms at the temple used for various things. She spent her days worshiping, fasting and praying. Anna was called a prophetess which was not as common as her male counterpart, prophet, of which there were many in the Old Testament, like Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah…. However, she was not alone as Miriam, Moses’ sister was called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20, Deborah the mighty leader in Judges 4:4, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14 and Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9.

Here is her encounter with the baby Jesus from Luke 2:36-38. “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”

What does this encounter with baby Jesus show us? God requires us to be diligent and patient, persisting in our faith. Anna took every opportunity to worship and pray. She was open to hear from God about the future. Her message to Mary, Joseph and all of us about this child is one of Hope. She saw in Him one who would rescue her people. We may not be prophets or eloquent preachers but we too have a message of Hope from Jesus to tell others. God’s indwelling Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we belong to Him and have the Words of light, hope and salvation to give in Jesus’ name. Light John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Hope1 Peter 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you Salvation- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Will you persist in faith even when things get hard? Will you lean upon Jesus as your source of eternal light, hope and salvation just as He would want? Patient Anna was rewarded with seeing Jesus and knowing the truth of God revealed to the world. Take encouragement from her today and persist in your faith with diligent prayer and worship. You too will be rewarded by God just as He promises in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Linda

Advent Teaches about Attitude

Mary’s story has so much to teach us I wanted to spend another day looking at the scripture of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary and her response. Here is our scripture passage, Luke 1: 26-38 , in the Amplified translation. 26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly perplexed at what he said, and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin and have no intimacy with any man?” 35 Then the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

Mary was perplexed at the greeting from Gabriel and wondered what God could possibly mean. Isn’t that just like you and me? We are led by God to do something and constantly ask why or why me? What did I do to deserve this? Did I make a mistake or maybe God did by choosing me? All Mary’s questions were answered as the angel explained fully about this child. Gabriel said her conception would be supernatural and that the child would be called the Son of God. Now that is an answer that requires faith to even at attempt to understand it. How much like our own lives and God’s answers to our prayers. We cannot see the forest for the trees, so to speak, when God shows us an answer that seems impossible. I love Mary’s response as God knew that she was a servant at heart. Do you see yourself as a servant of God? Are you willing to do whatever He asks of you? At my age, even knowing the Lord for a long time, I often hesitate. Mary at probably 15, had tremendous faith in God and was willing to serve the Lord without question. What a wonderful heart and attitude she had.

May we not lose the wonder at what God can do in us and through us, and May our hearts be as open and willing as hers.
Linda

Advent, Sunday #2 Preparation for Blessings

The second Sunday of Advent is when the candle of faith or love is lit. Both of these proclaim the blessing to come because of God’s great love for us, by sending Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. This week we will focus on the angel’s appearance to Mary, her reaction, the birth of John to Elizabeth and Zechariah, and their reactions to his birth besides the fact that dad could now talk! Prepare your hearts and minds to reach into scripture and discover new meaning for yourself as you read the scripture with faith. Faith pleases God and through our faith in Jesus He blesses us with His love and peace. He also gives us understand and insights into His Word- so be prepared to be blessed this week.

I will leave you today with this Psalm 92:1-5 and 12-15

A Psalm. A Song for the Sabbath.

92 It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
    and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp,
    to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work;
    at the works of your hands I sing for joy. How great are your works, O Lord!
    Your thoughts are very deep!

The righteous flourish like the palm tree
    and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the Lord;
    they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age;
    they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the Lord is upright;
    he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Have a blessed day!

Linda

Advent Reminds us to Trust Sovereign God Always!

Our story of the coming of John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus, continues as Zechariah listened to the message from the angel Gabriel about his future son Elizabeth would bear and his mind filled with doubt. Unlike Mary who we will see marveled at the words of the angel and accepted the impossible as possible with God. Zechariah seemed to doubt the ability of God to make this birth of a son in his old age possible. He was not asking the how it would work but can it succeed. He wanted assurances in addition to the word of this heavenly being. Gabriel’s response was swift and decisive -silence until John was born.

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.” Luke 1:18-22

How do you respond to God? Do you doubt God’s ability to change a situation, heal a relationship, cure a disease or affliction or to see you though a difficult time? Zechariah knew God, knew the story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their promised child in their old age. He knew the stories of the impossible happenings like Jonah and the big fish, Daniel in the Lion’s den, Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Hezekiah and Gideon’s success against greater enemies, and yet Zechariah doubted the ability of God to give him a son in his old age. He doubted the character of his Sovereign God who was Almighty, Omniscient and the Provider of all things. It is not wrong to ask God for a sign like Gideon (Judges 6:17) and Hezekiah (2Kings20:8) did. It is not wrong to question or react with surprise or even laughter at the thought of an impossible situation like Mary (Luke 1:34) or Abraham (Genesis 18). However, it is wrong to think God is incapable of doing what He is promising. Remember scripture said Zechariah had great faith and walked with God. He did not disbelieve in the existence of God, but in His ability to do as He promised. Zechariah paid for his unbelief with silence. We will see that even this is not wasted effort as God uses Zechariah’s silence to testify and bring glory to Himself.

I am reminded of Hebrews 11:1 and 6 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith pleases God. Faith means trusting God in the most difficult or unlikely situations to work everything for my good and His glory. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Cling to these promises as you strive to see that  “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

As you seek to trust in Sovereign God here are 2 verses that I claim and cling to: Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord;  trust in him and he will do this” and 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.” Hold fast to Sovereign God as He knows what He is doing and will always guide you in the correct way so Trust in Him.

Linda

Advent Teaches us Hope and Joy come with Faithfulness

Our story begins during the reign of King Herod who reigned from 37-4 B.C. He comes into the story later but that gives us the time period in history. Elizabeth and Zechariah are the future parents of John the Baptist who was a fore-runner of Jesus. Elizabeth and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were relatives.

Luke 1: 5-7 “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.”

A couple of things stood out as I read this passage: they were both old and childless and God commended them as righteous and obedient. Since we know in the story Elizabeth becomes the mother of John the Baptist, this being old and childless was an impossible situation. God used the impossible to bring about joy and preparation for Jesus’ arrival. How like God to make the impossible possible. Jesus, speaking of salvation said in Matthew 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” I am reminded of Hebrews 11:6 ” And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Elizabeth and Zechariah were people of faith and were the perfect couple to show the power and might of God in their lives bringing joy to them as parents and servants of God and honor and glory to God. Do you trust God when faced with difficult or impossible situations? Do you believe and seek to please God with your faith in Him?

The second thing I noticed was God’s commendation of them as believers. He called them righteous in His eyes, in right standing with Him, blameless and pure. Their right standing with God came from their faith in Him and obedience to the law. Like Abraham their faith was counted to them as righteousness. Genesis 15:6 “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” They were not sinless but were faithful and sincere about keeping God’s commandments. How sincere are you about walking each day with Jesus? Do you study His Word and seek to know Him better? Would Jesus consider you to have a blameless walk with Him?

Let us take a lesson in Hope from Zechariah and Elizabeth. Faith in God makes all things possible, will please God and bring us joy. Advent means hope and joy though faith in Jesus. Trust God for the impossible and see how He will grow your faith and increase your joy!

Linda

Thankfulness Day 28: Prayerfully walking in Faith Produces RESULTS!

Matthew 21: 20-22 is the setting for today’s promise that will lead us to greater thanks. Jesus was hungry and on the road with his disciples. He went up to a fig tree and it had no figs. Jesus cursed the tree and it immediately withered. This provided a teachable moment for Jesus. When the disciples questioned him, he was able to explain to them the power of faith and answered prayer.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

So is Jesus saying, I can pray for anything in faith and it will be given to me? Not at all! Jesus wants us to know the power of prayer and faith together can, through Him, can accomplish anything. If that is true, why don’t I have all the things I want or desire? I can just pray for them. James gives us the reason this is not possible. “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ” James 4:2-3 God knows our hearts and sees what our real motives are for asking. Yes, faith and prayer can overcome but our heart attitude needs to be right with God and aligned to His purposes. Perhaps, you feel that you asked with the right heart attitude and were praying for God’s will to be done. Don’t lose heart. Remember our timing is not God’s timing and you may still have to wait longer for your prayers to be answered.

I find this encouraging. God knows the desires of my heart and I need only tell Him. I need to trust Him to bring it about if it is in His will, in His time and in His way so that He is glorified and I am uplifted in faith. Faith and prayer can accomplish great things in and through Christ. Pray fervently and have faith trusting God for the answer whether it is yes, no or wait. Walking in faith is difficult but always produces godly results and brings thankfulness.

Linda