Are you willing to be Used by God?

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

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

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

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

Linda

Herod The Great- Definitely Not so Great

This portion of the Advent story is not very pleasant. It shows how evil, greed and the thirst for absolute power can consume a person. It shows how selfish desires can cause irreparable damage to those around us.  Matthew 2:16-18 tells of Herod’s reaction and subsequent actions when he heard that the Magi had not returned to tell him about the child born ‘king of the Jews’.

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. 17 Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”

Herod was an evil, self-centered, tyrannical dictator who wanted no one else to come between him and his reign. He saw the child, who would be king, as a personal threat to his power and throne. God protected Jesus and his family by sending them to Egypt to escape the reaches of Herod and the Magi God sent home by another route after appearing to them in a dream. There was no excusing or escaping the intentional evil Herod showed by killing all the male babies under 2 in Bethlehem. The anguish and sadness brought upon the people of Bethlehem at his hand is unspeakable. You might ask the age old question, why God? Why did God allow this to happen? My only answer is that, we as believers live in a sin-filled world. We have to cling to the goodness of God and that His purposes are just and bring goodness to us and glory to Him. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him”. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

This action towards the innocents of Bethlehem shows the omniscient power of God to know the future as the prophecy in verse 18 from Jeremiah was given hundreds of years before. God knows the heart of mankind and the evil that our sin natures can cause. We have seen evil in the world century after century and the destruction it brings. We only need to remember the times of Noah, Judges and David in the Old Testament and those who plotted to kill Jesus, Paul, Stephen and Peter. It is by God’s grace that we are saved through faith and can rise above the desires and pressures of this sin-filled world. We can know God’s love, forgiveness and comfort even as the world struggles with sin that effects all the world around us. We can thank God for His eternal protection and salvation. We can know that in Him all is right. Take heart in these verses from Romans 8:37-39 “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Linda

Advent…Praises Flow towards God

Mary’s song of psalms or praise to God is one of the most beautiful in the Bible. It is called the ‘Magnificat’ in Latin which means ‘glorifies’. Mary pours her heart out to God in praise for his care, love and protection for her people throughout generations. She praises God for being chosen to bear His Son the Messiah, the one who will save her people. Read it today with a heart of praise. Luke 1:46-55.

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47     How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.”

Mary’s song of praise exclaims God’s favor or grace towards her 48, God’s holiness and providential care 49, God’s mercy towards Israel 50, God’s sovereignty and might 51-52, God’s care for their basic needs in life 53, God’s help in times of trouble 54, God keeps His promises 55.

Which of these do you praise Him for today? Think about His character and praise Him. Think about His grace towards you and praise Him. Think about His Sovereignty over all things and trust Him to complete His good work in you. From the depths of your soul, praise Him today as you follow Mary’s example of proclamation and praises.

Linda

Advent…gives examples of God’s Grace

Mary and Elizabeth were related in some way and since Mary was young and Elizabeth was old, perhaps she viewed her as an elderly aunt. The angel had mentioned Elizabeth’s miraculous pregnancy when he came to Mary, so going to visit with her would have been a ‘soft’ spot to land, so to speak, while she grappled with her changing life. Elizabeth would have been able to comfort Mary and care for her just as young Mary would have been able to help Elizabeth. Being close in distance was a blessing for both of these godly women, which is evidence of God’s providential care. Read this account from Luke 1:39-45 with ‘grace’ in mind which is God’s unmerited, undeserved, unearned favor or goodness towards us.

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town 40 where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. 41 At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43 Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

What grace or favors from God jumped out at you? The the child within Elizabeth ‘jumped’ or moved in her womb at the sound of Mary’s voice. Somehow the presence of the fetus within Mary was recognized by Elizabeth’s unborn baby. The result was confirmation to Elizabeth and Mary that the child she carried was the long awaited Messiah, their Savior. In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit came upon people for an allotted time, and He did not dwell permanently within the body of the believer as he does today. The Holy Spirit was the cause of Elizabeth’s proclamation acknowledging the deity of Mary’s baby and how precious Mary’s faith and trust was in God. I love that God favored Mary and Elizabeth and gave them confirmation in what would have been a difficult social time for both of them. Elizabeth being an old woman and pregnant and Mary being unwed and pregnant. In addition to this, God also gave Mary the gift of grace in her faith. She fully believed, no doubts, that God was able to do what He said He would do. Her faith is amazing as she never wavered in following through with God’s plan or doubted His ability to complete what He had started. Such complete faith and trust in God is a blessing filled with His grace. I am reminded of 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.” Mary knew what God started He would bring to pass.

When have you experienced God’s favor in your life? Was it during a difficult time? Did it give you encouragement? We live in the age of ‘grace’ as Jesus came, died on the cross and rose from the dead so that we could be forgiven and drawn into a relationship with Him through faith. He has given us His Holy Sprit to indwell us. Living the Christian life takes dependence upon His Holy Spirit each and every day. This age of grace will end when He returns again, and we will be with Him for eternity. Come Lord Jesus, Come again!

Linda

Amazing Reasons for Thanking God

As we continue in this Thanksgiving week, let us turn our thanks completely to God. He is the source of all good things as the psalmist wrote in Psalm 103: 8 10-13.

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

The reasons for thanking God listed here by the psalmist are amazing:

**God is merciful, gracious, abounding in love that never changes. (8)

**God will not deal with us according to what our sinfulness deserves but will treat us with grace and mercy! Thank you Jesus. (10)

**God loves me as a believer in Him with an amazing love. (11)

**God removes my sin out of sight where it cannot be found. (12)

**As a believer in Him, He treats me with compassion as a child of His, as my Father. (13)

Which of these reasons resonate with you today? Are you grateful for your sins being forgiven and totally removed, for His grace and mercy that you do not deserve, for His amazing and boundless love, or that you are a child of your heavenly Father? All of these are amazing and given freely through faith in Jesus the Son. Claim them today and let your praises raise up to Him as a sweet aroma of love and thankfulness.

Linda

A Walk of Faith

And the journey continues….Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was a letter intended for Jewish Christians who were very familiar with the Old Testament. The first century Jewish converts faced many challenges as they sought to establish themselves apart from Judaism and stand firmly with Christ as Messiah. The letter presents Christ as supreme and sufficient in all, and the revealer of God’s grace. It can be a difficult book to understand, and yet holds such beautiful promises that are clear and strengthening. It was at first thought this letter was written by Paul but the authorship is unknown. My favorite chapter is Chapter 11 which focuses on faith in Christ and its benefits.

Hebrews 11:1,6 focuses on faith. ” 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.” I love the simplicity of these verses as they truly ‘hit the nail on the head’ in regard to what faith is and why it is totally necessary. The author’s first example of faith is Enoch. Here was a man of faith that pleased God so much that he was taken directly to heaven! The author then goes into more examples of faith for us to follow and tells us of Noah who built an ark to save his family when he was warned about things he had never seen. In the time of Noah it had never rained, as scripture tells us the mist came up from the ground. (Genesis 2:5-6) He had no concept of rain and floods, yet he built the ark as God commanded by faith thereby saving himself and all his family. Abraham was called to leave his home and go to a place he had never seen. He did and was greatly blessed with descendants and land beyond measure. Sarah who was Abraham’s childless wife conceived a child in her old age and believed God that it would come to pass. The author continues with examples from Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Moses was born Jewish, saved from death by God’s hand through Pharaoh’s daughter from the Nile. He was raised to privilege then called reluctantly after running from events in Egypt. He was in the desert for 40 years before being called to lead the people out of Egypt by God’s command at the age of 80! He trusted God to provide and experienced the plagues and hurried escape after the Passover of the angel of death. God then led them through the Red Sea in victory. The author then points to the walls of Jericho falling when they faithfully followed God’s leading. Rahab’s rescue of the spies and others like Gideon, David and countless events that showed the faithfulness of God to His people. God commended the people for their faith just as He loves and desires our faithfulness. I find great strength and encouragement from reading about the faith of these ‘heroes’. I know they were mortal and weak individuals just like me who overcame, persevered and were victorious through God’s hand in their lives because of their faith. It encourages me to be faithful knowing He will always be faithful to me and rewards those who seek Him.

There are a couple of other portions in Hebrews that I want to mention. Hebrews 4:12-13 speaks of the power of God’s Word and extols the omniscience of our God. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:14-16 speaks of Christ as our high priest and gives such hope to every believer that God will be gracious towards us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 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.”

Hebrews 7:25 points to the sufficiency of Christ to save completely and how He continues to intercede for us even now in heaven. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” That is encouraging and so reassuring!!

Hebrews 10:10 speaks of the total sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Praise God!

Hebrews 10:22-23 are some of my favorite verses as they encourage us to draw near to God and hold onto our faith in Him.  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Lastly, Hebrews 13:8 reminds me that Christ is immutable and a reliable foundation for my faith.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

May the truths of faith penetrate into your heart and soul today and may you know of His rewards of faith personally as you walk trusting Him.

Linda

Dissensions caused by Boasting, Try Boasting in God!

There are people that love to argue. They will take the opposing view to stimulate discussion, rile up their opponents, stir up descent, cause a ruckus or feed their own egos. There is certainly a time and place for healthy debate and exchange of thoughts, but that is not what Paul is speaking of in our Stream of Water passage this week. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 relates to people stirring up trouble in the church through arguments about who is following whom? They were wrongfully trying to take pride in who they were following, claiming one was better than another. Paul rejects this and pleads for unity. He is telling them they have lost the right focus- which is following Christ, their savior.

Do where do you see this in the church today? Are people prone to boasting about their pastor and extoling his virtues? It is one thing to tell others of your godly Pastor and encourage them to listen to his teaching from the Word and another to brag that your Pastor is better than others and has a monopoly on the truth. Paul is saying that all this does is create disunity and division among believers.

A better way? Yes, Paul pleads for unity. Later in 1 Corinthians 1:31 “so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” and 2 Corinthians 10:17 he tells them, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Let us follow that advise and take up the practice of boasting in the Lord. Can you praise Him today for: provision He has provided, protection in a dangerous or precarious situation, hope you received from another brother or sister in Christ or His Word, love you experienced, help you received by His grace and mercy, guidance about a problem or direction or knowledge of Him you received through prayer or study? Let us boast to one another about the Lord and be encouraged in our faith!

Here is my boasting for this week. Last week when our ladies met for bible study, we were sharing prayer requests. One gal asked for prayer for her daughter as she was refinancing her home asked that all go smoothly. I did not realize that interest rates had fallen that much. So that evening after group, I began pursuing this. I learned that mobile homes, which are limited in financing, usually did not quality. God led me to call the man who arranged my loan a year ago when I purchased my home. He said that loans were available if all criteria were met to refinance my home at 1% lower. This week I was approved and am now gathering my papers. Praise God for His provision and intervention in my finances. Thank you Jesus!

Let us share our boasting about God to uplift and encourage one another creating unity for all believers.

Linda

Full text for this week: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

“Masterpieces” by God

ephesians 2 8I love today’s verses in Ephesians 2:8-10.   They bring renewed hope, purpose and clarification from God showing His great love, generosity, planning and sovereignty.  I particularly like the New Living Translation as it brings added clarity to the passage.      “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For ephesians 2 10we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

What hope we have because we believe in Jesus!  We are assured that we don’t have to try and ‘earn’ our way into heaven.  God promises us that there is nothing we can do now or in the future to earn our salvation.  It is purely a gift from our gracious God.  God loves us and we are important to Him.  We are His masterpieces.  He loves us and has prepared good works for us to do in His name.  There are many scriptures that confirm these facts:

John 1:16 “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”   His grace is perfectly complete, giving us all we need.

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”   Salvation is a free gift, not earned.

Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.   Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”   God specifically created each of us.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”   God’s plans are complete and for my good, I can place my hope in them.

James 2:14 “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?   As a believer, genuine faith will cause me to seek to do good works for Jesus.

We can cling to these verses from our loving and gracious God knowing we are here with a purpose by His design.  We can trust His sovereignty in all things.   2 Chronicles 20:6 ““O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”

Have a blessed day as you prayerfully considerGod’s grace towards you, His sovereignty over your life and the good works He has lovingly prepared for you.

Linda

Lenten Sunday #1

As you reflect today and prepare for another week, here are some truths we’ve uncovered so far in Ephesians.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead:

I can be His saint and faithfully, walk in His grace and experiencing His peace. Ephesians 1:1-2

I have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3

I can be encouraged by God’s love, the redemption plan made perfect in Christ and the hope I now have in Him.  Ephesians 1:4-6, 7-10

I now have His Holy Spirit living within me through faith affirming, testifying and guaranteeing my inheritance in Him.   Ephesians 1:13-14

Praise God for His grace and goodness today knowing you are loved and that God Almighty has a plan for you that is perfected in Christ and guaranteed by His Holy Spirit.

Psalm 103 1 5 BlessTheLordLet Psalm 103:1-5 be on your lips today!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and all that is within me,
    bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
    who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
    who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Linda

#9 Practicing Devotion to God- by relying upon His Grace

 What is Grace? It is defined as God’s unmerited favor towards us.   We did nothing and can do nothing to deserve His favor.  It is something that God gives us freely by faith in Jesus from the depth of His love for us.  Scripture teaches us that God’s grace is always sufficient and because God is omnipotent He will never run out of grace.  2Corinthians 12-92 Corinthians 12:9  is one of my go to verses for power, strength and assurance about God’s grace.  Paul recalls the words of Christ to him,  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.”    God graciously gives us what we need in our weakness and brings glory to Himself by showing His power in our lives.   I cling to the sufficiency of His grace.

Ephesians 2:8-10  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”   We are saved by grace_alone_770x280His grace, certainly not by anything we have done or will do.  We cannot be good enough, clean enough or pure enough on our own. Salvation is a gracious gift of God given to us through our faith in Jesus.  He saves us by grace and graciously uses us to do  His good works.  He could do everything himself,  but He graciously allows us to participate for our good and His glory.

Hebrews 4:16 adds one other dimension to His grace towards us.   Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”   Because of our faith in Jesus, our high priest, and His work on the cross, we have access to God and can approach Him in prayer.  When we do, we are assured that we will find grace and mercy in our times of need.  There is never a time that God is not with me and I can always know that He will meet my needs with grace and mercy.  What a blessed hope!

GodsGraceMay you grow to trust in His grace, lean into and depend upon His grace and let His grace give you Hope as you draw near to Him with a heart of love and devotion.

Linda

I pray you have been blessed as  much as I have by going through these 9 practical ways to show our loyalty and devotion to God.  We can practice devotion to God by:  recalling His attributes, remembering His good works towards us, relating to Him in prayer, reading and meditating on His Word, resting in our identity in Christ,  repenting regularly, responding to the world biblically, remembering our Savior and relying upon His grace.  May you remember to incorporate these into your life on a daily basis and receive His blessings!