Assurance in the New Year, 2023

I know I do not know what the New Year will bring into my life, but I do know the one who knows and faithfully cares for me. Here are some scriptures to encourage you as you look into the New Year: (be sure to read the note to self at the bottom)

God is faithful and His mercies are new each and every morning. Lamentations 3:21-23 “But this I call to mind  and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;  his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning;  great is your faithfulness.” I can cling to God’s character as I traverse this year being assured of His unending love for me and His faithfulness to those who believe in Him.

God cares for me. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” I can depend upon the goodness of God, His protective nature and His care for me.

God a plan for my life that is good. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Whatever this year may hold, I can trust in God’s plans for my life as they are good and filled with hope. My future is secure in Him.

God’s salvation plan is secure because of my faith in Jesus. John 10:28 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22  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.”

God’s promises are true and He is always with me. 2 Peter 1:4 “Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” I know God has given me His promises so I can live rightly for Him without fear. 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.” I do not need to live in fear of them- the world, enemies, bad economic and difficult times, because God is always with me. I can depend upon His faithful character.

May you look to the New Year with hope and anticipation of what God will do in and through your life in 2023! The world is constantly changing and often not in a good way. But we can remain steadfast and plugged into God as He is constant and will not change on us. Hebrews 13:8 is a promise to hold onto, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Praise God we have a faithful, immutable God to lead us in 2023!

Happy New Year!

Linda

Christmas story…continued, Anna

Luke indicated in 2:22-23 that Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus went to the temple to offer a sacrifice for their new born son and for Mary’s purification. Law required that she wait 40 days after giving birth to a son to enter the temple and had to offer a sacrifice for her purification. This was an important event as they were consecrating, dedicating their new born son to God. All firstborn be it animals or people were to be dedicated to the Lord. During this event, they first met Simeon who had been told by the Lord that before he died he would see his Lord and Savior. He trusted God and believed God’s Words that he would indeed see his savior. He knew God to be a promise keeping God.

After their encounter with Simeon and hearing his prophesy, they encountered Anna a prophetess.

Luke 2:36-38  “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Doing the math, she was over 91 years old and since the temple was very large, she lived their daily spending her time worshipping and praying. Being a prophetess, she would have received prophesies from the Lord. Other such women in the Bible were Miriam, Moses’ sister, Deborah the fearless leader during the time of the Judges, Huldah, Hannah and the daughters of Philip. Anna’s encounter with Jesus, Mary and Joseph was brief but revealing as God showed her the one who would redeem the Jews.

What can we learn from Anna and her encounter with Jesus? God knew the exact time in history that His Son would be revealed to the world. He placed Simeon and Anna there at that moment to confirm for us that Jesus was His Son and had a divine purpose. He was not a random child of Jewish parents but God’s Son. He was the one through whom God would redeem all mankind. God chose devoted followers to speak of Jesus’ coming work in the world. They were elders, revered and respected for their lifestyle, devotion to God and their ability to speak prophetic words from God. Their appearance in the life Jesus was confirming for Mary and Joseph and showed how much God loved them. God wanted them to know, along with Anna and Simeon, that Jesus was His Son and they were a part of His story. God graciously included them in His work to save mankind.

How is God including you in His work? Has He given you people to tell of His wonders and grace? I like to think of these as God opportunities or God moments. Has He given you people to serve and help so that they may see Him in and through what you are doing? Has God called you to stand firmly for Him and wait patiently like He did Anna and Simeon? What ever God has for you in the New Year, embrace it, claim His promises, and cling to Jesus daily so that His work may be accomplished through you. You will be blessed. Remember, Obedience brings blessing. 2 John 1:16 “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Make 2023 a year of obedience and love as you seek to walk with Him daily.

Linda

Christmas story…continued, Simeon

Most of us think of the Christmas story being over after the shepherd’s visited the new born king. However, there were several significant events within the first few months and years of Christ’s birth that scripture deems important enough to include. The first occurred just 40 days after Jesus’ birth. As was Jewish custom they went to the temple to offer sacrifices for their first born son, as was required by the Law of Moses. Women were not able to present themselves at the temple until 40 days after giving birth to a son and were then expected to offer a sacrifice for their purification. Bethlehem is near to Jerusalem so they journeyed there for the ceremony.

Luke 2: 22-35  When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

This portion of the story tells of Simeon’s faith and belief that he would indeed see the Messiah before his death. He had waited patiently for years but believed God’s promises to him. This portion of the story was a confirmation, yet again, to Mary and Joseph that their child would be special and do great things. Also, this portion of the story shows us God’s power, Sovereignty and Omniscience. God had the power to come upon Simeon and reveal future events and purposes He had for His Son. It shows God’s Sovereignty over time and people in causing the future to be exactly as He says. Lastly, it shows God Omniscience. He knew what the future would hold, He knew what Jesus was sent to do to redeem Israel and He knew who was involved.

What does this portion of the story have for us? Like Simeon we can trust God to fulfill His promises. The Bible is filled with His promises to us. Claim them for your own. Need and idea or two, see my book Promises for Dynamic Living. It is available from my publisher, Certa Publishing, or from Amazon. It is filled with Promises you can claim in your life. Knowing God’s promises increases your faith and will lead you to trust God more fully. Like Mary and Joseph, we can read what Simeon prophesied about Jesus and see what His future would be. We can compare that to His actual life recorded into the gospels and see the truth of His redemption. We can also see God’ power in the events, His promises kept to Simeon and His Omniscience. Knowing those we can walk trusting God more fully each day. God’s knowledge of the future and sovereignty over events did not stop with Jesus, but is true for us in our time too. God knows the things that will impact our lives and we need to walk daily trusting Him to know the future and fulfill His promise to us.

Linda

A Journey towards Freedom and Joy!

My journey though the Christmas scriptures has brought me to Christmas Eve with a humble and open heart. I know I did not get to the Wise men or aged Anna and Simon yet, but the Mary, Joseph and Jesus did not meet them until after his birth. Anna and Simon were encountered in the temple when Jesus was circumsized after 8 days, as was their custom. The wise men saw the star when Jesus was born and followed it, arriving in Bethlehem about 2 years after his birth. The gifts they brought provided monies for Joseph, Mary and Jesus when they had to flee in the night to Egypt to avoid Herod’s executioners. I’ll continue with their parts in this story next week. However, the journey thus far has given me renewed hope in the Sovereignty of God. He was then and is now in control of all things. God has a plan which is to bring as many people to himself as are willing to come. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” All the details before, during and after the birth of Jesus shout of His sovereign power to bring about the impossible.

This Christmas Eve, meditate on the delivery of all mankind from the power of sin and the freedom revealed in Jesus’ birth. Power over sin- Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.Freedom- 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Lastly, take time to rejoice in the Savior. He is worthy of all our praises and brings joy for you and me. Romans 5:11 “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Have a blessed day remembering how God led us in the journey, delivered His promises and provided unending joy for all mankind through the birth of His Son.

Linda

The 4th Sunday of Advent, Peace to You!

On this 4th Sunday before Christmas, we light the peace candle. The first candle we lit on that First Sunday was the prophecy candle which symbolized the hope the coming Messiah brings to mankind. The second was the Bethlehem candle which reminded us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle symbolized the Shepherd’s joy at the birth of the Messiah. Today we light the Angel candle symbolizing the message given to the angels which was one of “Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men.” The final white center candle will be lit on Christmas Eve which speaks of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ child.

Rejoice today as you worship and sing carols. Ponder the blessings of hope, joy and peace that come to us because of God’s mercy and grace in sending Jesus as our Savior. Here is Psalm 130 which speaks of our cries to God for mercy as we realize our own sin. The answer rests with the Lord and His mercy towards us in sending Jesus.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Thank you Lord for your unfailing mercy and love. Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from every kind of sin. Thank you Lord that You have everything under your control. I will trust in You.

Linda

Could You Write a Magnificat about God’s Blessings to YOU?

Today’s scripture is one of my favorites. It is know as the ‘Magnificat’ and it is Mary’s response to the Lord and His work within her. It is beautiful and shows her servant heart.

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”
Luke 1:46-55

Mary starts with her praise to the Lord for what He has done within her. She seeks to glorify God with her words of praise and to acknowledge the enormous blessings He has brought and will continue to bring into her life through the coming child. Then she begins proclaiming the goodness of the Lord as experienced through the ages by her people. He has done mighty deeds and yet held the proud and arrogant ones accountable from the smallest to the highest among them. God has shown compassion by keeping them fed and has helped them even when underserving Israel had strayed. She is thankful for God’s mercies and His promises to Abraham and his descendants. Mary proclaims her God, the God of Israel, is faithful from generation to generation.

Can you echo Mary’s words in your own life?

What is God doing in your life right now that creates in you an attitude of praise? Are you seeing His work within you as you speak to others, seek to help, or show kindness and gentleness to others? God is at work in you in the small things- look for them. How have you seen God’s mercy in the past? Mercy is not giving you what you really deserve. Has He allowed you to work, serve or be in friendships that really should not have been? But God allowed it and brought you blessings because of it. Has God humbled you and helped you change your arrogant attitude towards someone or something? When has God fed you either spiritually or physically that was unexpected? What promises has God faithfully completed in your life? As you ponder these questions consider your blessings. Think about how God has intervened in your life and the transformation it has brought.

Each of us could write a ‘Magnificat’ of our own. God has blessed us with salvation, eternal life, hope, security, a place in heaven, a character that is to reflect Jesus by His indwelling Holy Spirit. His character gives us generosity, kindness, gentleness, self-control, patience, joy, peace…. Like Mary you and I have answers from God that apply to our lives specifically. There is so much to be thankful and praise God for.. do it today!

Linda

How Do You Prepare for the Unexpected?

Regardless of our age, God is the God of the unexpected. He is constantly surprising me with His provision, His help in times of need, His grace and the way God resolves problems in unexpected ways. The story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is truly one of great surprise. Elizabeth and Zechariah were old and she was beyond child bearing age. She had tried for years to have children but was unable to conceive. She did not let her barrenness grow into bitterness because scripture tells us they were righteous in the sight of God. They held Him and His ways in highest regard and loved serving Him. Zechariah was not prepared for the message the angel came to deliver as we will see tomorrow.

 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.

Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. Luke 1:5-11

What does this small portion of Jesus’ story show us about God? God uses ordinary people like you and me to do His work. In 2 Corinthians 6:7-8 Paul talks about working for God. “We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are not always well received as Paul admits but God has a purpose and work for each one of us. Following God leads to righteous behavior and contentment even in difficult times. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 reminds us of this truth, “Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.”

As you ponder this godly couple today, think about your commitment to God. Are you filled with faith regardless of the circumstances? Are you letting the root of bitterness grow when you don’t seem to get your way? Are you ready for God to surprise you this season? Open your heart to Him as His story, truths and love unfold for us this Christmas.

Linda

Journey into Faith This Advent

As we begin this season of Advent, I am reflecting upon my word for the year; Faith. We will see God’s continual faithfulness to mankind in the Christmas story and realize afresh our need to walk in faithfulness to Him. Each and every part of this story reflects who God is and why He did what He did. Each day I will be highlighting a portion of the story from Mary and Joseph to the angels, the shepherds and finally to the late arriving Magi. All of these tell us more and more about God’s character and assures us again and again that God is one to be trusted and believed. This miraculous story requires faith. Ephesians 2:8 reminds us “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—” Let us not take the faith for granted but encourage it to grow and develop this year as we seek to see through fresh eyes the story of the arrival of God’s precious Son, Jesus.

December 1 has a special place in my heart as I reflect on the precious gift of a daughter that God gave to me to love, cherish and nurture. She was just 3 months old and weighed less than 10 pounds when she arrived from Korea. What a fragile gift of love that was to our family. We got a call that she was arriving just the night before so we quickly booked flights to LAX and barely slept that night. When we arrived, I was hesitant and almost afraid to hold her. I stepped out in faith and embarked on the new adventure God had for me of being a mother. My fears were quickly gone as she immediately claimed my heart and opened new feelings to me. When we arrived back in Oakland, we were greeted by friends and family all ready to rejoice over the arrival of our long awaited daughter. All the while we were waiting for the adoption to progress, I clung to faith that God had a child for me. As we waited Psalm 37:3 is a good description of how you need to walk each day putting one foot in front of another, relying on God’s faithfulness. “Trust in the Lord and do good, dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. “

Walking in faith is a process of growth and sanctification as we grow more and more like Jesus. God gives us the Holy Spirit to indwell us. He confirms, affirms and assures us that our faith is real. Faith is real and alive to the believer. May you refresh your faith this season and may God increase you love for Him as you journey thought the Advent story with me.

Linda

Remembering Blessings today!

November 5 and 6, 2022

Psalm 107: 1-2 and 8-9

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
    His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
    Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
8 “Let them praise the Lord for his great love
    and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
For he satisfies the thirsty
    and fills the hungry with good things.

The psalmist is reflecting on the love, deliverance, redemption and provision of God towards him and also his people. He is remembering the things that God had done for them as a nation and for him individually. Deliverance from Egyptian slavery, guidance in the wilderness for 40 years, leaders to move them along and communicate with them, warrior kings like David who led them to victory both physically and spiritually, prophets who provided words from God…. He knew that they had been touched by the power of God. The God he serves not only redeems but He then fulfills and gives good things. Do you know these things about God? Can you remind yourself of things God has done in your life? It is good to remember who God is and what He has done. Why? Because we are so short minded- we forget. We get busy with our lives and block out God and fail to remember His goodness and provision. Take some time today and the Lord’s day tomorrow to reflect on your life. Count your blessings that God has provided. Look for both physical and spiritual provisions and blessings from God. You will be blessed in remembering!

A truth to claim with thanksgiving: I am helped by God. Here are some verses to help you see how God can and does help you each day. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Psalm 34:17 “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;  he delivers them from all their troubles. John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” Hebrews 13: 5b-6 ” “Never will I leave you;    never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.     What can mere mortals do to me?” Philippians 4:19 ” And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

May you see God’s provision and help as you meditate on these verses with thanksgiving.

Linda

Relying on the Character of God

Today’s favorite verses come from my friend Aifen. She has chosen Isaiah 55: 8-9. So that we get the context around those verses I have included the entire stanza. They are verses that show the power and majesty of our God.

Isaiah 55:6-9 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah first tells his listeners to seek to find God and call upon Him. He implores the listener to do it sooner than later. Don’t wait until you are lost or overcome by the ways of the world. Turn to God and seek His compassion and love. Know assuredly that He will forgive you and provided for you with care. How can we know this is true? Because, God is not like us. He is not entangled with a sin nature that seeks to rebel and serve for self gain. God is not human but Spirit and Truth. God assures us that His thoughts and ways are truly higher than any man could ever have. His are lofty, heavenly and not bound to this earth.

God’s Character

How does this encourage you? I am comforted that God is not like me. He is not bound to earthly ways, thoughts, motivations, competitions, materialism, greed, selfishness, etc. His character is pure, true, holy, kind, loving, compassionate, filled with mercy and love. Each of His character traits are perfect as He is perfect. We cannot fully understand God and His ways as He is so far above us in character and intellect. Yet, we can know is that He is just and faithful. Looking into scripture tells us about God and shows us who He is and what He can and will do. He does not sin and cannot be controlled by anyone or anything. God will pardon sinners abundantly. He is Sovereign and Almighty God.

I know my friend Aifen takes great strength from knowing that she loves and worships the Almighty Creator who is Sovereign over all things, thoughts and ways! Be encouraged as nothing will ever happen in your life that catches God unaware. He knows and can be with you. Deuteronomy 36:3  “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Be of good courage!

As you reread these verses, seek to catch a glimpse of Almighty God and His power.

Linda