Life with Christ=No Fear, Faith and God’s Word

And the journey continues….2 Timothy. Paul wrote this final letter to his beloved son in the faith, Timothy, during his final imprisonment in a Roman dungeon prior to his death. He exhorts Timothy to be strong in the faith, reject worldliness and willingly suffer for the cause of Christ. As Timothy’s mentor, we wanted this young minister to continue wholeheartedly for Christ remembering all that Christ had done for him. There are several key verses that shouted out to me as I reread this letter. I pray they will speak to you today as an encouragement from Paul to stay the course of faith and preserve in the face of adversity for the rewards are great and blessings abound.

2 Timothy 1:6-7 “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” Paul was telling Timothy that he knew he had a sincere upbringing in faith but to remember the power of faith that came through the Holy Spirit when he believed in Jesus. Paul had led him to Christ and wanted him to remember his gift of faith and that it is one of boldness, power, love and self-control. It is the same with all of us. We have that same gift of faith in Christ and it is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that gives us power for living. Jesus wants us to live fearlessly for Him.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 scholars believe was part of an early Christian hymn Paul included. It speaks of Paul’s faith in Christ and his belief that suffering with Christ will bring great rewards.

11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
12 if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.
The part of this that gives me the most hope is that even in my faithlessness God is always faithful. Faithfulness is an integral part of God’s character from which He can never separate himself. Praise God, He is faithful.

Paul also wrote about the hardships Timothy will face following of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” He says evil men and their deeds will always continue to abound but he exhorts Timothy to remember, continue and stand fast holding to God’s Word. 2 Timothy 3:14-17″But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” In seeking to live a godly life, we too need to remember what we know about God, rely on His faithfulness, delve into scripture so that the Holy Spirit may teach, correct and train us into the men and women Jesus desires us to be in and through Him. The Bible is not just ancient words but the very breath of God given for our growth and benefit. All of it is inspired and through it God seeks to teach us about Himself and how He wants us to act and react in this world we live in. God wants us to do good work and being in His Word will ready us for work in the world. He will equip us with all we need.

Paul has poured himself out to Timothy knowing his remaining time on earth was short. His desires for the continuing faith of this child of God are sincere, heartfelt and instructive. What part of his message do you need today? Are you struggling with fear, faithfulness, and persecution? Or are you in need of teaching, correction and training from God’s Word? Do you not feel equipped to face the ministry to which God has called you? Paul reminded us in 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 “ For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” All promises are Yes in Christ and our faith is established and sealed by Him. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee, our proof, that God is alive and Jesus lives within us. Rejoice as you face each trial as He is with you, will help you persist in faith, teach, guide and equip you with all you will need! Praise God!

Linda

Walking in the Light

And the journey continues… into 1 John Chapter 1. This letter was written by the Apostle John and shares the same style as the gospel of John. He wants to assure the readers that he has seen Jesus, experienced his life and death, and wants to share Christ with us. Sharing Christ with us will make his joy complete.

The reason I love this chapter is the words of truth John gives us about the light we have in Christ, the contrast of life without Christ which in one in darkness and how to know for certain one has the light of Christ in their life! 1 John 1:5-10 “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”

This passage teaches us these truths:

God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.

Believing in Jesus brings us into the light and allows us to have fellowship with God and be cleansed from our sins.

If we think we are sinless, we are not being truthful.

Getting right with God, being in His light, requires we confess our sins, accept His forgiveness in our lives.

God is always faithful.

If we claim we are without sin, we are calling God a liar and Jesus does not live within us.

I love this passage for it’s straight forwardness about who God is and what He does for me. 1 John 1:9 was one of the first verses I memorized long ago, and God brings it to my mind often as I need to continually repent and depend upon His faithfulness to forgive and cleanse me. May the truths of this passage sink in and cause you to see God through His light, Jesus, and may you know His love and forgiveness in your life anew today. May you also have joy in sharing the good news of Jesus with someone.

Linda

A Sincere Farewell from Paul to us

As Paul ends this letter to the Colossian Christians, he reminded them and us of 3 important things about ministry.

Colossians 4:16-18 “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. 17 And say to Archippus, “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord.” 18 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

Paul wanted them to share his letter that was filled with godly instructions for right living in Christ with others in their area. We too are to stand on the Word of God and share it with those around us. How peppered is your speech with God’s Word? Do you relate happenings, people, goals and desires in the light of God’s Word? Do you read scripture with others or tell them of passages you have read that were meaningful? God’s Word is meant to be shared and checked in on. Paul and Barnabas did this in Acts15:35-36 “But Paul and Barnabas remained in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” They ended up taking other people with them and going separate ways, but their intent was to go and check on others to whom they had shared the gospel. God intends that His Word be a guiding light in our lives and it is to be SHARED!

Paul also wanted Archippus to continue in his good work for the Lord. Paul knew that serving the Lord required faith and perseverance. Thankfully, God promises that He will see to completion the work He has begun in us. We just need to cling faithfully with Him and continue working for Him. Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Are you doubting the work God has called you to do? Pray about it and remain faithful until He leads you out or gives you peace about where you currently are serving. God knows the timing and details so we need to walk in trust day by day looking to His leading.

Lastly, Paul reminds us of who we are in Christ. We are genuine, authentic believers in the risen Lord. We are precious to Him and need to remember each other and uplift one another daily. Paul’s signature made the letter authentic but it was God’s message that was included gave it worth both then and now.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have good work to do for Jesus that includes telling others about Jesus, praying for fellow believers and being the genuine person God created me to be in Christ.

Linda

Pleasing God, A Choice with Power

Paul began this chapter in Colossians talking about the new life, new heart and new nature we have in Christ. All of this is protected by Christ for us. Now Paul speaks of the things we used to do that definitely need to be put aside or better left behind us. Colossians 3:5-8 “So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. He reminds them that that was the way they used to live but are not to live any more. Obedience to Christ and His ways move us to act in a way that will be pleasing to God.

How do we know what pleases God or what God requires? Scripture gives us some wonderful passages that are very specific about what God desires of us. Deuteronomy 10:12-13 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? ” Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness,  and to walk humbly with your God? Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22:37-39 ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Many times Jesus spoke about obedience, loving God, abiding in Him, seeking to be holy as He is holy and loving others. In John 13:34-35 Jesus told his disciples that the world will know us by our love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” As we walk with God, He transforms us more and more into the image of His Son. This ‘sanctification’ process is a life long journey to be more and more like Jesus.

Since we know what God desires of us, why don’t we just do it? I agree with Paul when he wrote in Romans 7:15-16 “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.” Like Paul, I desire to please God but my old nature gets in the way. What to do? Pray, repent, look into His Word, seek His guidance and His will for our lives. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have the power of Christ within guiding me to act in a manner that is pleasing to God for my good and His glory! Praise God for His indwelling power through the Holy Spirit.

Linda

Which do you need today? Grace, Peace, a Reminder of Sainthood or Faithfulness?

Yesterday we began this letter by examining who was writing, Paul, and by what authority, God’s will. Verse 2 continues the opening as Paul identifies who is receiving this letter.

To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. Colossians 1:2

Paul first identifies them as saints. This term is used in scripture repeatedly to name those who believe in Jesus the Son, God the Father and the Holy Spirit. “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:27 Psalm 145:10 “All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,  and all your saints shall bless you! Proverbs 2:7-8 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice  and watching over the way of his saints.” This seems an old fashioned term but when you ponder it, there is glory embedded with the term. We, as saints, reflect His glory to the world; His light in the darkness.

Paul also calls the believers in Colossae faithful. How would someone describe your faith in Christ? Are you faithful to the truths you find in the Bible? Do you read your Bible daily, pray regularly, and worship Him with a repentant and grateful heart? This time of Lent is one when we can take stock of where we are in our walk with Christ. We can question our devotion to Him, our faithfulness, our reliance upon Him and draw strength from His Word and encouragement through His Holy Spirit. It is a special time for reflection to help us grow deeper in love and dependence upon Almighty God.

Lastly, I want to mention the blessings Paul wished to bestow upon the readers. This blessing was not just for those in ancient Colossae but for us too. Grace is God’s unmerited favor and Peace a state of mind and being brought to us from Jesus regardless of our circumstances. What amazing truths these two words convey! Grace– I can trust His grace at all times. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” There is sustaining power in God’s grace! Peace- John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” The peace Jesus gives will bring focus and hope not fear.

Such powerful words- saints, faithful, grace and peace. Let the truth of these soak into your soul today. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I, as a saint, can know and experience God’s grace and peace in my life because of His faithfulness to me.

Linda

Got a Word, Now look for the Why!

When choosing a Word to guide or focus your year, you need to remember that the word is just a tool of remembrance. The real power is in the Word of God upon which your word is based. For example, I have chosen Joy as my focus word for the year. I will be looking for the joy of the Lord in all things- not just the fun, productive or happy times. How do I know this is true? It is because the Joy I am seeking is based on scripture. As I have looked at my verses more closely, I see different aspects of God’s joy that I can look forward to this year.

Joy in that is based on my salvation and will provide me with sustaining strength to lift me up, even when things don’t look so good! Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold  and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord;  I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength;  he makes my feet like the deer’s;  he makes me tread on my high places.”

Joy that is based on the Sovereignty of God as He knows the pathways He has made for my life and I can find His joy as I walk trusting Him. Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;  at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy that will cause me to rejoice in both body and spirit. It will fill me up from the inside out and is based in the graciousness of God for those He has redeemed. Psalm 71:23 “My lips will shout for joy,  when I sing praises to you;  my soul also, which you have redeemed.”

Joy that provides me with eternal strength to face each day. Nehemiah 8:10b “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Joy that takes everything in stride and produces character within me. 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.”

Take the word you have chosen for the year and search scripture for places it is used. Pray and seek God’s guidance in which verses really speak to you that He would have you apply to your life this year. It is not your word that guides you but the Word of God that uses, applies and motivates your year.

God’s Word has the power to lead, guide, uplift, motivate, give strength, and produce salvation within you as you believe in Him. God’s Word is eternal, sharp, penetrating, breathed by Him so it can produce within our character what God desires for our lives. Let His Word guide you this year as you seek Him.

Linda

Reflection: Hope, What a Year!

This last day of 2020 is filled with Hope for the future. Hope that the Pandemic that has plagued the world this year will soon end. Hope that the vaccine will protect us from the Corona Virus. Hope that the economy will recover. Hope that our world will again be open to travel. Hope that our lives will again begin to intertwine with others face to face. Providentially, the Word God gave me for this year was HOPE. I have seen it manifested in my life more and more as the year progressed. The scriptures I claimed this year were Psalm 71:14 “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more”, Psalm 119:147 “I rise before dawn and cry for help;  I hope in your words. and Psalm 39:7 ““And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in you.”

As I began the year, my reasons for choosing Hope were based on the eternal hope I know I have in Jesus. The hope I have that His Word anchors me in both the good times and in those that are difficult. His hope gives me confidence and joy in living each day. As the year continued, I saw the great need for His Hope in my life to ward off the fears of isolation, desperation, confinement, loneliness and boredom. He led me so that I was able to learn and grow in spite of all the confusion and helplessness I was feeling. I learned new ways to connect with others, the value and need I have to be connected and how to function together with others without being physically with them. I am eternally grateful for the Hope I have in Jesus that sustains and leads me. The lessons God taught me about His Hope caused my faith to grow and increased my assurance that His Word is true in every way.

What word will you ask God for in 2021? In 2019 my word was Trust. I saw my need for trust in God grow through the events of that year and the truth of God being Trustworthy. As I look toward 2021, God has been saying to me that my joy is in Him. So this next year I am convinced that JOY is my word for 2021. May God lead you as you reflect upon His Goodness, Patience, Love and Mercy as you end 2020 and look into 2021 with a HOPE that only Jesus can give!

Linda

Advent Shouts of Humility, Protection and Provision, Are you listening?

During my trip to Israel in 2014, I was privileged to visit Bethlehem and the place thought to be the birthplace of Jesus. The stable was actually in a cave and provided protection from the elements for both man and beast. Whether or not it is the actual place is irrelevant as once there you can visualize the actual happenings that night for Mary, Joseph and the new born baby. The events are recorded in Luke 2:6-7. Let the humbleness of the setting and arrival speak to you as you read the scripture. “And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

Here are a few things that jumped out at me: God’s timing is perfect. Mary did not go into labor on the journey to Bethlehem. God protected them as they were not outside with no protection. God provided for them as they had a place to lay Jesus down- in a manger and clothes in which to swaddle the baby. God gave them exactly what they needed at the right time. This speaks to me of God’s providential care. A verse I claim often is Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, ” God took care of Mary, Joseph and Jesus that night and in the days ahead. God will do the same for each of us.

Take some time today and thank God for His perfect timing, His protection and His provision in your life. Trust in Him as He is good and cares for you. God can be your refuge especially in hard times, cling to Him.

Cave setting of Christ’s birth as we sang Silent Night.

Linda

Advent, A Love Story Unfolding

Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, and John are all major players in the coming of Christ and are portrayed in Luke. Today we are switching to Matthew to read the story of Joseph who is the betrothed young man to Mary and we will see God’s intervention on his behalf. Matthew 1:18-25

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,  and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

I am captivated by the thoughtfulness and concern Joseph had for his fiancé, Mary. Custom dictated that she would be stoned for adultery, Deuteronomy 22:24-25. In their culture the betrothal was much more binding and could only be broken by divorce, thus Mary was referred to as his wife and he her husband. Joseph knew they were not yet married physically and that he had not yet slept with her. Her being with child meant she had committed adultery in the eyes of the Jewish law. Joseph cared for Mary and did not want to see her disgraced and killed. Scripture says “he considered these things.” His heart must have been heavy and troubled as he thought about these grave circumstances. I’m sure he thought about the Mary he knew and could not understand her ‘betrayal’ with another man. In comes the angel bringing answers to his questions and restoration of his hope, love and devotion for Mary. Isn’t that just like God to send an answer just when we need it most? His timing is perfect and no harm was done to Mary, Joseph and the growing child within her. Their faith was increased and their relationship strengthened as they stepped out together in faith.

God’s reassuring message to Joseph led him from doubt to faith, from fear to trust, and from worry to resolve. Being a good Jew, Joseph would have known about the promised Messiah, about His birth by a virgin and the power of God. Joseph was a man of conviction, courage and faith. Look how he responded to the angel’s message in verse 24 “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him”. He took Mary as his wife. His response was obedience. Consider these:

Joseph’s faith, courage and conviction speak to me today. As great as those character qualities are in us without obedience they are lost. 1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that our faith will bring us to obedience. Joseph’s part in this story shows the great blessings instore for him through obedience. God has no less for us. Let your faith bring you to greater obedience as you seek to walk with Him today.

Linda

Advent, A Time to Proclaim the Promises of God

Within the Christmas story there are 4 hymns of praise we will encounter. Today’s is Mary’s in Luke 1:46-55 and is known as the Magnificat because the opening word in Latin, when translated, was Magnificat which showed Mary’s desire to magnify God in her life. The other hymns of praise we will soon come to are from Zechariah, the Shepherds and a devout Jew named Simeon. Mary’s is one of the most beautify in scripture and is similar to the song sung in praise by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 when the Lord blessed her in her barrenness with a long awaited son.

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Mary’s desire was to magnify God in her life and rejoice in all He had done for her. She knew that she would be a blessing to others as she became the mother of our Lord, and also what a privilege it was to be chosen by God to carry His Son. What is your attitude towards God and the things He has called you to do? Are you thankful? Do you rejoice at the opportunity like Mary? Her attitude is sobering as it is so selfless and humble. She was not proud or arrogant at having been given this ‘job’ by God but considered it a privilege to serve her Lord.

Mary also knew scripture and the blessing God promised to Israel. Genesis 12:2-3 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God promised repeatedly that all the world would be blessed though the descendants of Abraham. Jesus is that great blessing to the world, and Mary realized the fulfillment of this promise in the child she carried. She knew without a doubt that she was part of God’s plan of blessing for the world. What confidence do you have in the promises of God? Do you claim and cling to certain promises for your life? Here are a few of mine: 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.” A Promise to me that God has plans for my good filled with hope. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” A Promise that God is good and loves me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” A Promise of sufficient grace to face anything in life with Him. 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.” A Promise to always be with me.

God was real to Mary and He is to me. Know His promises and claim them in your life. Be bold and experience the faithfulness and love of God for yourself.

Linda

Need a study of God’s promises? Fill your New Year with promises to stand upon. My devotional book Promises for Dynamic Living gives 70 promises to meditate upon and claim as a believer. It is for personal study or can be used by a group. It is available at CertaPublishing.com or from Amazon.com.