This blessing shows us what having Christ in Christmas does for you and me.
His Spirit brings us peace. John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” His peace dispels all fears, removes our heart troubles and calms us in a chaotic world.
His arrival brings us hope for forgiveness, mercy and redemption. Colossians 1:13-14 “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” 1 Peter 1:3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead“. Ephesians 1:7“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”
He brings warmth into our lives with His love. 1 John 4:7-9 speaks of God’s love for us. “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” God is love and He sent Jesus as proof of that great love. John 3:16-17 “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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.“
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. 2 Hear my cry, O Lord. Pay attention to my prayer.
3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive? 4 But you offer forgiveness, that we might learn to fear you.
5 I am counting on the Lord; yes, I am counting on him. I have put my hope in his word. 6 I long for the Lord more than sentries long for the dawn, yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is unfailing love. His redemption overflows. 8 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.
My friend Cheryl has chosen Romans 12:2 as her favorite verse. This is one of the most well known and quoted verse in the book of Romans for good reason. Here are verses 1-2: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Starting with Therefore, Paul is saying because of all I have said in the previous 11 Chapters this is how God’s wants you to live. Paul has told us in Romans 1:16-17 of the power of the gospel leading to God’s righteousness. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” In Romans 3:22-23 that faith comes through Jesus and no one is righteous on their own “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In Romans 5:1 Paul concludes that we are justified by faith. “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” I particularly love Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In Romans 7 we hear of Paul’s own smuggles with his sin nature but he reaches another conclusion in Romans 8:1 “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, In Chapter 8 Paul tells us we are son’s of the Father (14), coheirs with Christ (17), all things in our lives God can work for good (28), and nothing can separate us from the love of God (37-38). Paul tells us in Romans 10: 9-10 that confession of Jesus as Lord will bring about salvation. “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Given all these facts about God and what He has done for us Paul reaches the conclusion stated in Romans 12:1. Think about God’s mercy towards us and commit yourself to a life of loving Him sacrificially. It will be pleasing to God.
In verse 2, Paul goes on to tell us that we need to let God transform our body and minds so that we will not be led astray and seduced by the world’s motives and standards. When your mind is renewed through faith in Jesus you will be able to discern what is worldly and stay away from it. You will be able to test things against His Word of truth, pray for discernment through the power of the Holy Spirit and call upon the name of Jesus for help. Then you will be able to walk with Jesus doing what is pleasing to God and aligned with His will. Faith in Jesus is the key to this transformation.
Thanks Cheryl for pointing me to this verse. I can see how you use this verse to give you strength to reject world culture and seek alignment with God’s Word. Leaning on God’s mercy, clinging to Jesus and using His Word to lead us in life will lead us to pleasing 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.
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.
And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.
Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”3 But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.
So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”
Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.
Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 7 This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.
Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercyonwhom I have mercy, and I will have compassion onwhom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him allthings were created: things in heavenand on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; allthings have been created through him and for him.”
What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.
Do you have friends, neighbors and loved ones who do not have faith in God or even know of Jesus? How can that cause me to be thankful? Worried and concerned for their eternal fate is more like it. However, Isaiah 55:6-9 holds facts about God Almighty that will create thankfulness in the midst of these troubling thoughts.
Isaiah was writing a message to the future Israelites who would become captives in Babylon. He was imploring them to remember God and return to the Lord as He alone can satisfy. “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters;” Isaiah 55 verse 1. He continues with his call to return in verses 6-9 giving them and us profound hope and thankful hearts.
Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:6-9
Why would these verses cause us to have hope, creating thankfulness in our hearts? 1- verse 7 God promises to freely forgive anyone who turns to Him and forsakes his sinning ways. 2- God promises to have mercy on them by not giving them what they deserve for their sins, but treating them with grace and love. These two things bring us hope for our loved ones and friends that do not know Jesus. We know that God is waiting and promises forgiveness and mercy towards anyone who comes to Him! God will not change His mind and decide their sins were to numerous or egregious. God is unchanging and we can depend upon Him as He is the same “yesterday, today and forever” Hebrews 13:8.
Why include verses 8-9 in this discussion as they are not part of the promise of forgiveness?Verses 8 and 9 explain to us the fact that God does not think or act like us. He is does not harbor hate, grudges, or resentments. We cannot think or act like God as it is not in our nature, but it is in His! This is something to be thankful for too. God is above us and His way of dealing with people and circumstances are not anything like ours. How many times have you seen God answer prayer in amazing, out of the box, ways! I am thankful that He my merciful, omnipotent God and that His ways and thoughts are greater than mine.
Let these promises of mercy and love for the lost fill you with hope as you continue to pray for the salvation of those you know who do not know Jesus as Savior. Let the knowledge of God’s ways being so unlike our own cause you to be thankful for Him and fill you with Hope.
Here are some verses to uplift, encourage and challenge you this 5th Sunday of Lent as our world struggles with the pandemic of Covid-19:
God is Sovereign: Psalm 103:19 “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” 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.” John 10:29 “My Father, who has given (my sheep- believers) to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” Each of these verses shows God’s Sovereign power. He is Creator God and there is none greater. Once we belong to Him, nothing and no one can take us away from Him. God is the determiner of mankind and those things He allows to come into our lives. Like the plagues of the Old Testament, pray, pray, pray for God’s mercy in these days of Covid-19. Humble yourselves and turn back to Him and seek Him and His forgiveness. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:22-23 God promises restoration and forgiveness if: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Here are the truths we found in God’s Word from Ephesians 4:17-5:20this last week. They are rich and bring joy and challenge to the believer as we endeavor to walk with Him each day. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead:
I can be a new creation in Jesus! Ephesians 4:17-24
We are made for righteous actions and thoughts towards ourselves and others which bring joy to God. Ephesians 4:25-32
We can be imitators of Jesus and have lives filled with love. Ephesians 5:1-2
I can choose light and life with Him. Ephesians 5:3-8
His light can be seen in me. Ephesians 5:9-14
How I live my life for Him matters. Ephesians 5:15-20
May you have a Sunday filled with His love and be able to spend time praying and mediating on His Sovereignty and His wonderful truths from Ephesians.
Yesterday, Paul reminded us of our state of sinfulness before knowing Christ in Ephesians 2:1-3. In today’s verses, Paul brings us hope that through the mercy of God we were not left in that horrible state, BUT GOD! We can be totally encouraged by our present and future! Ephesians 2:4-7 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
Wow!!! In His mercy, God intervened and sent Jesus to die for our sins and be raised from the dead. Through His act of love, He offered salvation through faith in Jesus. It was totally God. He alone could save us from our sin, and we did or can do nothing to earn His love. We can’t be good enough or work hard enough to make God love or save us- it is solely through His grace- God’s unmerited favor towards us. Paul tells us God’s plans did not stop with salvation, but He desires to have us dwell with Him in eternity in heavenly places so He can show us His amazing grace and kindness up close and personal. Amazing!
I am so thankful that God intervened. Romans 5:8confirms this truth “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Sinful man would be a hopelessly lost but for God. Does that fact make you thankful? Do you feel loved by God? Can you feel the grace of Jesus in your life? John 1:14, 16 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Through the power of Jesus’ indwelling Holy Spirit, we are filled with His grace each day. Live today like you believe you are filled with His grace and love. Look for His gracious hand of protection and favor as you go through this day. When you see it or feel it, raise your voice in praise to Him! You will be amazed by God’s grace and love.
A portion of scripture I always visit in the New Year is Lamentations 3:21-26 as it is filled with hope for life, living and reminds me of the importance of dependence upon God.
But this I call to mind, (I just need to remember to receive HOPE.) and therefore I have hope:
22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; (God’s love and mercy are his mercies never come to an end; unending.) 23 they are new every morning; (Each day I can begin anew with God.) great is your faithfulness. (I can depend upon His faithfulness.) 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” (My hope is in God alone.)
25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. (The Lord blesses me as I seek Him.)
These verses inspire, refresh, assure, and lead me to God. He alone is the one I can depend upon because I know He is faithful, merciful, keeps His promises and delights when I seek Him. He loves me with an eternal love that is steadfast and true and therefore I can place my hope in Him.
Join me as we begin this New Year by placing your Hope in God and walk expecting good from God as He is good to those who wait upon Him and place their hope in Him.
Let these words of hope and encouragement guide you today. God is faithful and you can depend upon His love and mercy so you can begin each day with new hope.