Holy Week, Thursday, Where’s Jesus?

As Jesus’ time on earth draws to a close, His Thursday was filled with love, encouragement, heartbreak and pain.  As Jesus celebrated the Passover supper with His disciples in the Upper Room, Judas was dismissed as he had already decided in his heart to betray Jesus.  Then Jesus spent precious hours teaching, reassuring and praying for His disciples.  Later they went to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and gained strength from His Father.  The soldiers came into the garden to arrest Jesus, and he was betrayed by Judas. They led him away to be tried in numerous trials both civilian and religious.  He was beaten, flogged, insulted and denied by Peter.

During all this time, Jesus was focused on doing the will of the Father and completing His mission on earth, the redemption of mankind.  I am touched when I consider His prayer in the Upper Room as recorded in John 17: 20-23 as he was thinking of me and you and not the ordeal he was facing.

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.  (Message)

I was amazed that Jesus took time to pray for His mission, His disciples and All future believers that night in the Upper Room.  He wanted all future believers to be unified in faith so we can tell others that Jesus was and is real and was sent by the Father.  He says that the unity of our faith and oneness with Christ will give evidence to the unbelieving world that God loves us and truly sent His Son to redeem us.  This unity was so important to our Lord and Savior that He interceded for us.  Jesus wants us to be one in Spirit, united, telling others about Him.

What difference does it make that Jesus spend time on the last night before his crucifixion praying for you?  When you are with other believers do you strive for the unity Christ desired or are you seeking to divide and cause unrest in matters of faith with your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Are you about the sharing of your faith with others by showing kindness, love and speaking of the hope you have in Jesus?  Today, think of Jesus and what He desires for all believers.  Strive to walk in unity.  He promises it will show the world that we believe in Him and God’s love.

Prayer:  Father, I am humbled and amazed that Jesus prayed for me on His last night on earth.  He loved me so much and wanted me to be one in faith and unified in spirit with all believers.  Help me to live today with an abiding faith in You so that the people I meet will know that I love You and that You love me. Empower me to show your love to others so that you may be glorified in all I say and do. Amen.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be unified with other believers in Jesus’ name and share in His love.

Linda

I Stand Amazed at God’s Mercy, 5th Sunday of Lent

Lent is a time for reflection about our own sinfulness and prayer and thankfulness for God’s mercy. One of my most precious verses is Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. As you meditate on the truths from Colossians we uncovered this week, let your heart turn to Him in thankfulness. We have so much because of God’s mercy and Christ’s willingness to die for us.

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

I can know Christ, be indwelt by His Holy Spirit and have a relationship with Almighty God through the power of Christ Alone! Colossians 2:16-19 “So don’t put up with anyone pressuring you in details of diet, worship services, or holy days. All those things are mere shadows cast before what was to come; the substance is Christ. 18-19 Don’t tolerate people who try to run your life, ordering you to bow and scrape, insisting that you join their obsession with angels and that you seek out visions. They’re a lot of hot air, that’s all they are. They’re completely out of touch with the source of life, Christ, who puts us together in one piece, whose very breath and blood flow through us. He is the Head and we are the body. We can grow up healthy in God only as he nourishes us.”

I am affirmed in Christ and can ask for His guidance and wisdom from His Word. Colossians 2:20-23 “You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, 21 “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? 22 Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. 23 These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”

I can have a new nature with a new mindset as I seek to live for Him each day. Colossians 3:1-2 “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.”

I have a life with Christ that is assured, protected and expectant as I await His return! Colossians 3:3-4 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory”.

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! 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.

I can seek to love others wholeheartedly and impartially. Colossians 3:9-11. “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.”

Here is our Psalm of Praise for this week,

Psalm 103:1-6 Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Have a blessed Sunday that is filled with Praises!

Linda

Claim your Treasures!

Chapter 2 of Colossians starts with Paul showing us his empathy for the believers in Colossae and Laodicea, a nearby town. Epaphras has filled him in on the great needs and struggles of both of these churches. Paul identifies with their struggles and wants them to know he is united to them by love even if they have never met. Colossians 2:1-3 “I want you to know how much I have agonized for you and for the church at Laodicea, and for many other believers who have never met me personally. I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He wants them to understand the wonderful mystery that Christ reveals- redemption, forgiveness and salvation for all who believe. In Christ is life and knowledge that is a treasure for living a guided, indwelt and redeemed life.

What part of this treasure do you possess? Do you know Christ’s great love? Have you experienced the strong ties to other believers as you work, study and encourage one another in your walk with Christ? Do you have a treasure chest filled with good things Christ has given you? All of these are YES in Christ! Here are some of the benefits Paul wanted the Colossian and Laodicean Christians to experience: LOVEJohn 13:34-35 “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.” UNITY- 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 “But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” CONFIDENCE- 2 Corinthians 3:4-5 “Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,” HIDDEN TREASURES of WISDOM and KNOWLEDGEPsalm 51:6 “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,  and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.” Romans 11:33 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!”

Paul wanted the Colossians and Laodiceans to have all these treasures so they could live a life worthy of the calling of Christ and shine for Him in a dark world. Paul wants these things for us too, claim them today. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can claim treasures in Christ that will fill me with His confidence, wisdom and knowledge so I can be united to other believers by His love.

Linda

Amazing, God loves me that much!

Colossians 1:18-20 was about the reconciliation we have through Christ. Paul continues with this topic in Colossians 1:21-22 explaining in more detail the how’s and why’s of this amazing transformation that is available to us. “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” Paul explains our state of being from birth. We are born sinners, separated from God by our sin-filled nature which we act out in words and deeds. It is our natural state of being because of the sin passed on to us from Adam and Eve and held captive in a world ruled by Satan. That may sound harsh but Christ called Satan the devil, the prince of this world and an angel of darkness.

Once we came to know Jesus and believe in His death and resurrection, we were brought into a relationship with God. Our sins were forgiven and we were clean and pure, holy, blameless and able to stand before God. God cannot tolerate sin and where sin is- God is not. However, He loves us and loved us even before we knew Him. Romans 5:8 is a precious verse that is hard to even fathom, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God loved us and wanted to make a way for sinful man to be restored to relationship with Him. The entire Bible is God’s love story to mankind as He seeks to find the lost and redeem us. When you consider all of this truth, it is staggering. It is amazing that God loved me so much that He was willing to send Jesus to suffer and die for me. God wanted me that much. How can I not be thankful that He loves, cares, and wants me to spend eternity with Him.

Ponder this amazing truth today! Because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am redeemed and reconciled to Almighty God so I have His hope-filled love for eternity. Thank you Jesus!

Linda

Be Thankful Someone Shared the Good News with You! Praise God!

How would you describe your church leaders, your pastors or priests? In Colossians 1:7-8 Paul described who was doing what in the Colossian church. “You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.” Paul praised Epaphras for his faithful delivery of the gospel message and how he communicated their love for each other to him. From his prison cell, Paul was able to understand the work the Holy Spirit was doing among them through Epaphras’ genuine and faith-filled words.

What a wonderful example of God’s work among believers. Epaphras was a converted pagan who loved the Lord Jesus and wanted others to share in this love, forgiveness and salvation. He was serving in the cause of Christ as he told others of Jesus and showed them God’s love. It was evident that the Holy Spirit was at work there in Colossae. What about you and where you worship and serve? Is your service done there out of habit or are you serving so you can show Jesus to others? Is your service faithfully done or is it haphazardly executed as time allows? What should be our motivation for serving and telling others about Jesus? Several things come to my mind: so others can experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus, so others will have eternal life in heaven, so the quality of their life here on earth will be abundant and filled with hope and love that only God can give, so that others will come to know God in a greater way, so that others will glorify God in their faith and life. The good news of Christ is indeed good news and transforms the life of each one who embraces and believes. Shouldn’t we want to share this wonderful transforming news with others? Epaphras, Paul, James, Titus, Peter…. and the person who told you about Jesus all shared their love of Jesus. Each one of us comes to faith through the telling of Jesus’ story somehow. Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

As you meditate today on this passage, give praise and thanks for the ones who led you to faith, in my case it was a Sunday School teacher. Give praise and thanks for those who faithfully give out the Word of God each week at your church. By doing so they are helping you to grow and mature in your Christian faith. Epaphras did both of these for the church he planted in Colossae and Paul was eternally grateful for his work in the name of Jesus. Let us give thanks today for those who brought us to faith and those who endeavor to show us areas where we can grow more and more like Jesus as we seek to know Christ and walk with Him daily.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can live a life that grows and matures in God’s love and can have an eternal effect on others.

Linda

Is there a blessing for me?

copyright szefei

The Stream of Water for this week is all of Deuteronomy 33. In this chapter Moses delivers a blessing for each of the tribes of Israel by name. As I read through them, I marveled at the complete knowledge God has of tribe. He knew their past, present and future. He knew where their weaknesses and strengths were. We can take comfort in the fact that God knows all those things about us too. It brought to mind 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.” God has plans for each of us just like He did for the Israelites.

The portion of this passage that is most meaningful to me is verses 26-29. “There is no one like the God of Israel.
    He rides across the heavens to help you,
    across the skies in majestic splendor.
27 The eternal God is your refuge,
    and his everlasting arms are under you.
He drives out the enemy before you;
    he cries out, ‘Destroy them!’
28 So Israel will live in safety,
    prosperous Jacob in security,
in a land of grain and new wine,
    while the heavens drop down dew.
29 How blessed you are, O Israel!
    Who else is like you, a people saved by the Lord?
He is your protecting shield
    and your triumphant sword!
Your enemies will cringe before you,
    and you will stomp on their backs!”

I love His message to me: 26- God is my helper no matter where I am He is with me. 27- God is eternal and always supports and protects me. 28- God has my safety in mind and has new provisions for me. 29- God is my protector, defender and always has my back! These same promises can be found elsewhere in the Bible as God desires us to know that He is for us and wants us to live full, productive lives grounded and protected by in His love.

May the God of Israel show Himself to you today as He comes alongside you to love, protect, defend and support you. Trust Him as Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us “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.” God keeps His promises. Live today like you really believe it!

Linda

For what and for whom are you praying?

ephesians 3 14 19The next section of Ephesians Chapter 3,  verses 14-21, is a prayer Paul wrote to them.  Today we are focusing on verses 14-19 and I have chosen the New Living Translation for ease in understanding.  His prayer is an excellent model of what to pray for fellow believers.  As you read, listen for Paul’s heartfelt desires for them and their relationship with God.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources with he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Paul makes it clear from the beginning that he is praying to the living God who created heaven and earth, remember they were surrounded by a very pagan society that worshiped man made idols.   Paul knows God is omnipotent and the source of a believer’s strength.  He wants them to grow and develop in faith.  He wants them to realize who God is and the power of His love for them.  Paul feels if they come to know the God of all power and love, they will have lives that are filled and transformed.  Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we have the privilege and obligation to intercede on behalf of other believers.

What about you?  What do you pray for your fellow believers?  Do you pray for their growth and knowledge of God,  and that they will experience the fullness of His love? If you’ve never prayed like that- give it a try.  Choose a friend and pray for their growth in james 5 16faith, their knowledge of God to increase as they study His Word, their prayer life to expand, that they would experience and understand the depth of God’s love for them….. God desires that we lift one another up in prayer.  James 5:16b  ” The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  Seek to be a clean vessel through your own confession of sins,  then pray earnestly on behalf of other believers.  Remember Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Linda

 

Beloved,adopted and free in Christ!

Do you think God’s plan for redemption was sudden or made up on the spur of the moment when Adam sinned?   God in his omnipotent wisdom knew we were frail creatures and when we sinned there needed to be a plan to bring us back into communion with Him.  Ephesians  1:4-6, from the Message translation makes this passage easy to understand, “Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.”

Can you imagine that God had us in mind, wanted us to be in His family and to show His love to us even before He created the universe?  I love that Paul says, God took pleasure in planning this.  How much He loves us!  Paul continues in verses 7-10 to explain God’s wonderful plan to redeem us and make us free.  Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely Ephesians-1-7_webfree, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.”

These verses are so encouraging.  God loves us past, present and future.  God wants us to be free and His plan is fulfilled for us in Christ.  Faith in Jesus is the key.

May you be encouraged by God’s love, the redemption plan made perfect in Christ and the hope you now have in Him.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we have all of this through faith in Him.  Thank you Jesus.

Linda

#5 Practicing Devotion to God-Knowing your Identity

As we grow and mature in life we go through a process of learning to know who we are.  We struggle with self-esteem, motivation and self-discovery.  As a Christian, we also go through this as we learn who we are in Christ, and how much we are loved by God.  I personally did not really learn to love and appreciate myself until I got a grasp on how much God loved me,  and how important I am to Him.  This knowledge gave me worth in His eyes and was more powerful in shaping me than anyone or anything.

God tells us who we are to Him in His WordPsalm 139 is filled with His love for us.  Here are a few verses: 1-6, 14-15

Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
pslam 139 14You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it….. 13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.

Isaiah also gives us a picture of God’s love for us in Isaiah 43:1-2, 4,7

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

Isaiah 43 74 Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,

7 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.”

galatians 2 20God loves us beyond measure and we were created for His glory. His love was ultimately shown when He sent Christ to die for our sins and restore us to relationship with Him that was broken by sin.  Galatians 2:20 gives Paul’s testimony of who He is in Christ.  Let it be ours too.  “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

I pray that as you meditate on these verses you will catch of glimpse of how much God loves you and desires a relationship with you.  You are important to Him!  Know that you you-are loved by Godwere loved even before you were created and you are held precious in His eyes.  That is true worth,  to know and understand you are loved by God.  Let your life be governed by His love and let your identity be in and with Christ.

Linda

Got Hope in 2020? Anchor it in God’s Steadfast Love.

Hope-in-Gods-Steadfast-LoveAs we look at hope in scripture we see survival hope, hope in His Word and today I see hope in His steadfast love.  God’s love is an anchor for our soul and His love surrounds us 24/7.  Knowing God loves us- gives us Hope, knowing God is trustworthy and faithful gives us Hope that is secure in that love.  John 3:16 reminds us that God’s love is what motivated Him to come after us, free us and send Jesus to suffer and die to redeem us for all eternity.  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   This love, eternal and sacrificial is ours so that we may have Hope.

In the Psalms David captures this love hope and puts it into words we can cling to:  Psalm 33:18 “But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,”    Psalm 33:22  ” May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,  even as we put our hope in you.”   Psalm 147:11 “The Lord delights in those who fear him,  who put their hope in his unfailing love.”     We see in these verses hope comes from knowing God’s unfailing love because we revere, worship and adore Him.   Hope comes when we put our trust in God, and God is pleased or delighted by our reverence and fear.  We know that God is love, and the proof of His love is His sending Jesus to save us.  “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”1 John 4:10

psalm33 22Meditate on God’s steadfast love today and consider how that love gives you HOPE1 Chronicles 16:34 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;  for his steadfast love endures forever!”    Psalm 13:5 “But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.” Psalm 33:22 “Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone.

Begin 2020 with Hope rooted in God’s Steadfast Love,

Linda