What Stops You from Giving Thanks?

Daniel was an upright believer in God who was in a position of power in Babylon.  His adversaries hated him and sought to discredit him.   They tried but could find nothing to hold against him.  So, they got the idea to ask King Darius, over the Medo-Persian Empire, to make a law that no one could pray to any other god but him for a whole month.  The king was pleased, puffed up and overtaken with pride,  so he signed a law making it unlawful, on penalty of death, to worship any god but him.  The men who hated Daniel knew Daniel prayed to the God of Israel three times a day without fail.  They were hoping that he could continue this and then they could catch him and have him put to death.

Daniel 6:10 “When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.”   Daniel knew of their hatred and deceit but he trusted God more.  The story continues and Daniel is called before the king for praying to his God.  The king realized his mistake but could not change the law, since once a law was signed even the king was helpless to change it.  The penalty was being cast into a den with hungry lions.  The king liked Daniel and did not want to see him killed but was powerless.  The unbelieving king did something amazing, “Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” “Then the king went to his palace and spent the night fasting; no diversions were brought to him, and sleep fled from him.  Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to daniel 6 21the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Daniel 6:16,18,19-22 

The lesson for us in this favorite Old Testament story that is that Daniel was committed to God.  He knew his God was more powerful than any earthly king,  and he would not relinquish God’s place of preeminence in his life to anyone, no matter the cost.  Daniel 6:10 said he prayed as was his custom and gave thanks.  Nothing could deter Daniel from prayer and thanksgiving.   Romans 12:12 describes Daniel’s attitude towards prayer. “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

romans 12 12What about you?  What stops you from praying daily?  Our obstacles could not be any bigger than death by lions,  but we let them rob us of our prayer time and take away our opportunities to give thanks and praise Almighty God.  Will you mediate on this today and ask God to reveal to you what is taking preeminence in your life that keeps you from regular prayer?  Confess it to Him and start praying regularly with praise and thanksgiving.

Linda 

Are you in the crowd? Why did Jesus come to you?

There is one other post-resurrection appearance I want to think about as we wait for Pentecost.  Paul recounts to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the appearances between Christ’s purposeful death and resurrection and His ascension back into heaven. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,(Christ died and rose again with purpose foretold in scripture)and that he appeared to Cephas (Peter), then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (Paul is referring to his encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus that happened sometime later.)

eyewitnessesHave you ever wondered about the large gathering of 500 that saw Jesus?  What was His purpose?  In each post-resurrection appearance, Jesus purposefully met with those who needed to see Him most- the grieving Mary, the doubting Thomas, the guilt ridden Peter and the unbelieving disciples.  What could have been His reason for appearing to 500?  Perhaps He wanted those who did not know Him as intimately as the disciples to experience His love and power first hand?  Perhaps He wanted to make known the reality that He was alive and they could carry on.  Perhaps He wanted to comfort, ignite, give hope, ….  Seeing Him again, knowing the reality of His death on the cross, knowing He had been buried and was alive for them to see must have been eyeopening, challenging, fearsome, awesome, unbelievable…..  One can only imagine what it must have been like to see Jesus.

Today as you think about this, try to picture yourself as one of the 500.  We have an advantage as we have His indwelling Holy Spirit within us to convict us and bear witness to our faith.  We do not need to see Him to believe.  Jesus addressed this issue in John 20:29 as He spoke to Thomas.  Jesus said to him, “Have you john 20 29 #2believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”   Faith is a blessing from God.   Thank Him today for your ability to believe even though you were not there with the 500. You can know that He loves, cares for you and is with you always.

Linda

Are you like Thomas? Encounter the Living Jesus today!

The disciples had gathered on Resurrection Sunday evening and Jesus appeared to them coming in even though the doors were shut.  Thomas had not been with them that evening and they eagerly told him all that had happened.   This was his response from john-20-25-ampJohn 20:24-25.  Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”  This is the passage that earned him the nickname of doubting Thomas.  He was emphatic that unless he saw the evidences of Jesus death marks himself he would not believe it to be Jesus. Do you know people that are doubters too?  Do they reject any evidence that Jesus is the Son of God in scripture purely because they can not see Him for themselves?  I’m sure the disciples were totally convinced as to what they had seen but saddened that Thomas would not share in their joy that Christ was alive.

A week passed and they were all gathered in the upper room when Jesus appeared Thomasagain.  John 20:26-29 continues the story,  Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  Jesus knew what Thomas needed and came right to him.  Thomas was amazed and proclaimed Jesus his God.  To him, seeing was believing.  He needed a personal encounter with the living Jesus!   Jesus added this next verse for Thomas, the disciples and all of us.   29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”    

john 20 29Faith is a gift from God and we who believe in Jesus are blessed with the knowledge of Him as our Savior.  However, each one of us who believes encountered the living Christ and came to know Him in a personal, vibrant and  living way.   Even though we do not physically see Him,  we can and do know within our being that Jesus is Alive!  The Holy Spirit indwells us when we believe in Jesus and testifies to us about Him.  Jesus had promised this in John 15:26 ““But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”  Later Paul, explains in Ephesians 1:13-14 how the Holy Spirit works within us, In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Praise God we too can know Him and experience Him in our lives.  We are blessed – Just as Jesus said we would be through our faith in Him!   Have a blessed day as you ponder the wonder of Jesus being alive in your life!

Linda

I have the keys to a home in heaven. Thank you Jesus.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have a place in heaven.  I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my eternal home in heaven because I’m usually so preoccupied with life in the here and now that it seems distant.  However, the older I get the more I have pondered what this home will be like and who will be there with me.  I realize now the urgency for telling others about Jesus and His saving power, so that they will not be left behind.

Today’s scripture comes from John 14.  It is a familiar passage about the home Jesus is preparing for us and gives us great hope.  I like the extra meaning the Amplified version John-14-2gives John 14:1-4 ““Do not let your heart be troubled (afraid, cowardly). Believe[confidently] in God and trust in Him, [have faith, hold on to it, rely on it, keep going and] believe also in Me.In My Father’s house are many dwelling places. If it were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and I will take you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.And [to the place] where I am going, you know the way.”   We are not to be afraid because through faith in Jesus we know that He is preparing our eternal home and that He will come get us when the time is right.  

Another passage in Ephesians reassures us that through faith in Jesus and because of God’s great love for us, we will be seated with Christ.  It is truly by God’s grace, His unmerited favor, that He made such a place for us,  as we did nothing to earn the riches we will receive.  Ephesians 2-4 Rich In MercyEphesians 2:4-7 “ But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

In our eternal home will have a place of honor that is prepared for us by Christ himself, and we will be with Him for eternity.  My finite mind can only try to imagine such provision, but I know I only need to believe in Jesus and His saving work on the cross for it to be mine.

Linda

Suggestion:  Give some thought to heaven today and make a list of at least 5 things you know about it.  Need some help- read Revelation 21 or go back and reread today’s passages.  They are filled with promises about our heavenly home.  Hint- one of my favorites is Revelation 21:4

 

Given by Christ, Righteousness. Thank you Jesus.

christ my righteousnessBecause Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have Christ’s righteousness.  Christ was a man while on earth, pure, holy, without sin, filled with integrity, virtuous in behavior, humble and the list could continue.  Most importantly He was sinless and therefore in right standing with God the Father.  God cannot look upon sin so unless we are pure and holy we cannot be in a relationship with Him.  By saying, “I have Christ’s righteousness” I am proclaiming that I am in right standing with God.  I can know and communicate with Holy God.  Romans 5:19 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 explain how this happened for us through Christ’s work on the cross. Romans 5:19 “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners (that was Adam), so also through the obedience of the one man (Christ) the many will be made righteous.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  Through faith in Christ, I can have His Righteousness and come into a relationship with Almighty God.  Without Christ, we have no way get rid of our sin. We can never do enough good works.  We can never clean ourselves up enough to come before God.  Ephesians 2:8-9 puts it this way,For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  What a precious gift Christ’s righteousness is to me!

How do we process this for Lent?  Recognizing that our position before God is totally dependent upon Jesus and His redeeming work on the cross and resurrection from the dead should give us pause and create in us a sense of gratitude and humility.

Prayer:  Thank you Jesus that through faith in  your work on the cross I am able to come before You in prayer, study Your word with understanding and be indwelt by your Holy Spirit.  Thank you Jesus for your sacrifice on my behalf.  Amen.

Linda

the-willing-spirit-can-do-good-deeds-by-grace-quote-1Suggestion for today: Pray David’s prayer from Psalm 51: 10,12               Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.                                                   Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Sometime today, instead of taking credit for something good you are doing or did – give the praise to God.  Have a willing spirit that desires to please Him. Acknowledge Him with your thoughts- He knows your heart and spirit.

Faith, perseverance and blessing all rolled into 1!

james 1 12James 1:12 is one of my favorite promises of blessings God has for me.  “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” 

There are several truths embedded in this verseGod rewards steadfastness (perseverance, persistence, stubborn allegiance)There will be trials in life, God is always watching to see how we fare during our life trials, Our reward is eternal in nature and Our faith in God shows Him our love for Him.  The Bible has a lot to say about perseverance and how it builds character. James addresses this earlier in this chapter.  James 1:2-4 “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.”  Trying circumstances and people that God brings our way build our character for God and bring joy!    We know that God is omniscient and watches all that we do.  He is there in the nitty-gritty places in life protecting and guiding.  1 Corinthians 10:13 gives us the assurance that His watchful eye is always upon us and He knows what we can bear.  No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”    Our reward is eternal in nature and is received through faith in Jesus.  Colossians 3:23-24 puts it this way Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men,24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”  1 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,”  Lastly, our faith shows our love for GodHebrews 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.”   But Ephesians 5:2 and John 3:16 remind us that God loved us first. Ephesians 5:2 “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  John 3:16 ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

joyce meyer quote 2If you are in the midst of a trial today, take James 1:12 to heart and be assured that Jesus is there with you, God is watching and your stand in faith will bear eternal rewards.

Linda

 

From Sin to Blessing because of Jesus

Paul makes a case for the blessed man in Romans.  He is talking about the blessed state of  a man who has faith.  He is blessed by God because of his faith and trust in Him and the man did or does nothing to earn that blessedness.  It is a gift from God through Jesus.   Paul quotes David’s words from Psalm 32 in Romans 4:6-8.

just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
    and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Romans 4 7 8Our blessedness comes from God and has nothing to do with our ‘works’ as it is all God working in us.  Only God can forgive sin and through Jesus’ shed blood God covers our sins.  He does not count our sins against us!  Now that is blessedness!  The believer is mightily blessed by God through his faith and trust in God.  Jesus’ work on the cross eradicates our sin and presents us whole and blameless before Almighty God.

Thank you Jesus for your work on my behalf!

faith inMay you have a blessed day as you consider your privileged position before God- pure, blameless and saved from eternal destruction through your faith in Jesus the Son.

Linda

A Recipe for Blessings

psalm 40 4Today’s blessing passage comes from Psalm 40.  David leads up to verses 4 and 5 by describing the wonderful things God has done for him and can do for us.  By the time we get to verse 4, we are ready to see how trusting the Lord can and does bring great blessing and to tell others of God’s greatness.

40 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry      In life, David had learned to wait upon the Lord patiently even when it was hard.  He experienced God’s hearing his pleas for help and His rescues personally as he waited 14 years to be king while running and hiding from Saul.  Is God asking you to wait patiently today?                  He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure.             David had been rescued by God from Saul, the Philistines and from his own sinful mistakes multiple times, and he had experienced God’s restoration both physically and spiritually.  Is this your story too?
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
    and put their trust in the Lord.    David praised God for keeping him and giving him a new song of praise to sing, and he is calling others to put their trust in his saving God.  If you could name your new song from God, what would be the title?

Blessed is the man who makes
    the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
    to those who go astray after a lie!   Here David reaches the conclusion that one who trusts in God and not worldly things or advice is and will be truly blessed.  Trusting God leads to wholeness in life.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
    your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
    none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
    yet they are more than can be told.      Lastly, David praises God for His grace, mercy, blessings and acts towards us. Even if we started now and praised all day long we could never tell of all the wonderful things God has done on our behalf.  We are truly blessed by Almighty God and no one or nothing can compare to Him!

The first 5 verses of this Psalm are all about blessings David experienced first hand and so can we.  God listens and desires that we wait patiently for His perfect timing.  God will lift us out of hard circumstances in life and set us upon solid ground if we will place our trust in Him.  He will give us a new song to sing as we walk with Him day by day.  We will be blessed by trusting in Him and not looking elsewhere for our direction and guidance.  God has given and will give us abundant blessings for walking in trust and faith.

today blessingWhat a wonderful recipe for success in life– patience in listening, trusting God to rescue and provide, singing His song, looking to Him for guidance and advice and telling about His goodness.  Will you make this your intent today?   Look for blessings if you do!

Linda

Prepare the Way for the LORD!

Isaiah 40 1Isaiah 40:1,3,4 opens the Messiah and that is where our Advent story begins.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.”  A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.

It had been 400 years since the prophet Malachi had spoken and the people were hungry and eager to hear from God.  Hundreds of years before Isaiah had prophesied that the people would be comforted by the voice of one crying in the wilderness who will proclaim the arrival of the Messiah.  The one spoken of here is John the Baptist.  His mother Elizabeth was Mary’s Aunt and their babies were due months apart.  Zachariah, John’s father, had received visit from the angel Gabriel foretelling the birth of this forerunner of Jesus.  Luke 1:13-17 “But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will luke 1 17bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.   Just as Isaiah had prophesied,  John came and proclaimed a message of repentance and prepared the people for the Lord’s coming.

Isaiah also spoke of leveling the ground in Isaiah 26:7 The path of the righteous is level;
    you, the Upright One, make the way of the righteous smooth.”   Jesus, Messiah, would come and make way for the righteous.  Jesus indeed smoothed the way for mankind to be made righteous through His coming, His death and His resurrection.  All the mountains of sin that stood between God and man were made low through His sacrifice.  Jesus made “every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain” for those of faith to come to God.  He removed the barrier of sin between us and holy God.  Jesus made the way for us to be saved.

John, the herald of Jesus, came to call Israel to repentance and faith.  Let us answer his call today  as we meditate on the beauty, exactness and completeness of God’s Word and the hope we have in Jesus.

Let our Advent journey begin with repentance,

Linda

I AM the Shield

God is our shieldIn Deuteronomy 33:29 the LORD gave 2 names by which God is known- the Glorious Sword and the Shield.  Previously I wrote about the Glorious Sword but today my focus is on God’s name-the Shield.  Blessed are you, Israel!  Who is like you,  a people saved by the Lord?  He is your shield and helper  and your glorious sword.  Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.”  God was the shield for His people in Old Testament times and today He is a shield for all believers.  Through faith in Jesus we can claim God as our Shield and helper.    I looked up the word shield and found several definitions – armor held to ward off blows or missiles, a person or thing that guards, protects or defends and a shape in various forms that protects in tunnels from cave-ins, a heavy metal screen like a heat shield, insulating wire that shields against electrocution, or a protective screen against radiation.  As you look at the verses below-see how God is the perfect shield in all circumstances!

ephesians 6 16Ephesians 6:16 “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”    God is a Shield against Satan’s arrows or missiles.

Psalm 3:3 ” But you, Lord, are a shield around me,  my glory, the One who lifts my head high.  God is the person who shield and defends. 

Psalm 5:12  “Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous;  you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”   

Psalm 28:7  “The Lord is my strength and my shield;  my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.  My heart leaps for joy,  and with my song I praise him.”    

Is God your all around shield that protects you in all circumstances against the world that seeks to destroy your witness and lead you away from Him?  Consider these verses:

Psalm 18:30 “As for God, his way is perfect:  The Lord’s word is flawless;  he shields all who take refuge in him.

Psalm 84:11 “For the Lord God is a sun and shield;  the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold  from those whose walk is blameless.

Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with his feathers,  and under his wings you will find refuge;  his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Psalm 119:114 “You are my refuge and my shield;  I have put my hope in your word.”

Proverbs 30:5 ““Every word of God is flawless;  he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

God's protective careAs a believer, God promises to be the Shield in your life.  American Civil war hero, Stonewall Jackson, claimed God as his shield and was so thankful.  How about you?  Be encouraged today!

Linda