Holy Week, Tuesday, Where’s Jesus?

Bible scholars attribute many happenings to the Tuesday of Holy Week.  Jesus was questioned by the religious leaders as to by what authority was He speaking and performing miracles.  Jesus cleverly trapped them with their own questions, and they left him alone. (Matthew 21:23-27)  After that confrontation, Jesus proceeded to teach in parables about the tenants who killed the messengers sent by the master, then about the wedding banquet where those invited refused to come and then strangers were welcomed in their place.  Both of these pointed to the treatment of Jesus, God’s Son, by the religious leaders and Jews of His day.  Jesus also taught about taxes and where we owe our allegiance.  He spoke about marriage in heaven and who He really was. (Matthew 21:28-23:39)  Later in the evening, Jesus ate at the home of Lazarus, Mary and Martha. There Mary anointed Jesus with pure nard, a very expensive perfume, and the disciples were upset at her for using this costly perfume on Jesus. (Matthew 26:6-12)  From morning until night, Jesus used every minute to instruct and build up the faith of His followers as He knew His time was short.

During this day, one of Jesus’ most important teachings was revealed when the Jewish leaders asked Jesus what was the most important commandment in the Law?  Jesus replied: 37 And he said to him, “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. Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

This statement about the right priorities for our lives is so simply stated, and yet is so difficult to live out on a daily basis.  Putting God first in our lives will keep everything else in balance and then loving others with as much love as we love ourselves comes next.  Do you love yourself?  Do you take care with what you put into your body, soul and mind? Jesus tells us that He expects us to love and respect ourselves. Out of that love for God will flow and be poured into those around us.  Think about your priorities today and the fact that Jesus spent time His last week on earth telling us how to align our lives in the most productive way for ourselves and others.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have His Holy Spirit’s indwelling power that enables me to keep my priorities in line with Him. Putting God first then yourself and others is God’s way. Thankfully, He is able to see this work to completion as promised in 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.” He also promised help in Matthew 19:26 “But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Praise God! He wants us to show His love to others and will enable us to do so in His time and His way.

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

Advent Brings Service without Fear

Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit as he delivered prophesies concerning the coming Messiah and his own newly arrived son. Even today, his words bring hope and reassurance in Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. Luke 1:68-75

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness

    for as long as we live.

I love that he begins with the fact that Jesus was coming to redeem his people. Anyone who believes in Jesus belongs to Him and are His family, His people! Ephesians 1:5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Zechariah reminds us that Jesus, Messiah, was prophesied to be from the line of David and would be our Savior. John 7:24 “For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” In verses 71 and 74 Zechariah states that by sending this messiah God will save the people and rescue them from their enemies. He took this to be literally enemies, like Rome, but since he said the rescue enables us to serve God without fear, we can take this to mean all kinds of rescuing. This rescuing is from sin, oppression, and bondage both physically through eternal salvation and spiritually with freedom from the bondage of sin into which we were born. Lastly he reminds us that any freedom we receive from the Savior will be eternal in nature and allow us to serve God, filled by His righteousness and holiness.

What an encouraging message for us today. We can claim the hope and eternal salvation that Jesus offers and know that though Him we can serve God covered in His righteousness. Philippians 1:11 “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” and 1 Peter 1:13 “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.”

Jesus brings hope to the world!

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.

Advent Reminds us to Trust Sovereign God Always!

Our story of the coming of John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus, continues as Zechariah listened to the message from the angel Gabriel about his future son Elizabeth would bear and his mind filled with doubt. Unlike Mary who we will see marveled at the words of the angel and accepted the impossible as possible with God. Zechariah seemed to doubt the ability of God to make this birth of a son in his old age possible. He was not asking the how it would work but can it succeed. He wanted assurances in addition to the word of this heavenly being. Gabriel’s response was swift and decisive -silence until John was born.

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.” Luke 1:18-22

How do you respond to God? Do you doubt God’s ability to change a situation, heal a relationship, cure a disease or affliction or to see you though a difficult time? Zechariah knew God, knew the story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their promised child in their old age. He knew the stories of the impossible happenings like Jonah and the big fish, Daniel in the Lion’s den, Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Hezekiah and Gideon’s success against greater enemies, and yet Zechariah doubted the ability of God to give him a son in his old age. He doubted the character of his Sovereign God who was Almighty, Omniscient and the Provider of all things. It is not wrong to ask God for a sign like Gideon (Judges 6:17) and Hezekiah (2Kings20:8) did. It is not wrong to question or react with surprise or even laughter at the thought of an impossible situation like Mary (Luke 1:34) or Abraham (Genesis 18). However, it is wrong to think God is incapable of doing what He is promising. Remember scripture said Zechariah had great faith and walked with God. He did not disbelieve in the existence of God, but in His ability to do as He promised. Zechariah paid for his unbelief with silence. We will see that even this is not wasted effort as God uses Zechariah’s silence to testify and bring glory to Himself.

I am reminded of Hebrews 11:1 and 6 “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.” Faith pleases God. Faith means trusting God in the most difficult or unlikely situations to work everything for my good and His glory. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Cling to these promises as you strive to see that  “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

As you seek to trust in Sovereign God here are 2 verses that I claim and cling to: Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord;  trust in him and he will do this” and Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Hold fast to Sovereign God as He knows what He is doing and will always guide you in the correct way so Trust in Him.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 26: Hard times, there is Hope

Are you in a hard spot this Thanksgiving Day? The prophet Habakkuk gives us words for difficult circumstances that bring hope and thanksgiving to our lips, no matter what.

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

    He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
    able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19

The situations that are described in verse 17 are about as bad as it could get for an ancient agrarian society. Famine, crop failure, animals dying, no oil for lamps or cooking or wine for pressing and barren fields would mean complete destruction of life as they knew it. What devastating circumstances are you experiencing- loss of job, illness, Covid-19, death of a loved one, aloneness this Thanksgiving? Then Habakkuk’s words of hope and resolve in verse 18 and 19 are meant for you today.

Realign your thinking and focus on the goodness and provision of God. He alone is to be the source of our joy and strength and He is eternal. No devastating circumstances can remove or diminish God’s love for us. We are saved through faith in Jesus and salvation is a permanent state of being. Through God we can have the strength to endure hardships both physical and emotional. By concentrating and relying upon His strength, we can and will endure. My go to verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9 ” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God gives me exactly what I need each day to endure with and in Him.

May we live each day dependent upon God’s Grace and be filled with Thanksgiving in our hearts.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 23: Forgiving, Merciful, Omnipotent God

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.
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.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“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.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 19: God has it covered!

Psalm 91:1-2 are special verses that remind me of who God is, what He can do and my friend Bob. Bob lived at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville and I met him when I was leading a Bible Study using my book Promises for Dynamic Living. He was in his late 90’s at the time and his eyesight was failing, therefore he could not longer read his Bible. Bob possessed an uplifted spirit that brought heart and wisdom to our discussions. He told us that when he was in his 80’s he decided that he needed to memorize scripture and proceeded to put countless verses to memory. With failing eyes, he could still quote verse after verse as he had them locked into his heart and mind. One of his favorites was Psalm 91:1-2. He said that when he flew bombers during WWII he clung to this verse and claimed it. He drew strength from the words of David and applied them to his own life.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.

Are you finding rest in God Almighty? Do you live in the shelter of His presence? When we rest in God, we allow Him to take charge of our thoughts and mind so that we are not worried, stressed or depressed about the world around us. Our confidence is in Sovereign God. When we find shelter in Him, we are surrounded by His love and care. We are protected from the world for all eternity by the power of His might and our faith in Him. These truths are what led David to say that God was his refuge and his safe place in spite of all the turmoil he was facing at the time. That is what my friend Bob knew as he flew those bomber planes.

What about you? Is God your refuge and safe place? Do you trust Him to give you what you need- shelter, refuge, safety? Do you see yourself, like David and Bob, living in the shelter of His shadow? If you do, let your heart and mind sing out with praise for Almighty God today. Thank Him for His love, protection, safe harbor and rest. He alone is God and mighty to be praised!

Linda

Bob passed into glory last year at the age of 99. He is greatly missed at the Veteran’s Home and by me.

Thankfulness Day 18: A Recipe for Renewal

Today’s verses are some of my favorites as they give me a clear picture of who God is, His power and might, and they list some of the reasons for my thankfulness. David’s psalm resounds with praise to God because He is so thankful for what God has done for him.

Psalm 103:1-5 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.

David desires to praise God with all his being because God has forgiven his sins. David had a heart for God but also was chief among sinners. He lied, cheated, committed adultery, stole another man’s wife and then had the man killed. David knew the forgiveness of God from first hand experience. He had also experienced spiritual healing, and seen physical healing. He had seen and felt God’s rescue and protection as he fled from Saul for 14 years even though he was anointed by God to be king of Israel. He had experienced the love and compassion of God and the satisfaction of knowing Him as His God. David had known the renewal only God can bring into his life when he was desperate, alone, forsaken and depressed. Knowing what he knew about God and being fully aware of what God had done for him, his only response was PRAISE!

What about you? What do you know about God? How has He dealt with you? Have you experienced His Grace, His Providence, His Redeeming power, His Love, His Protection, His Joy, ….? Remember, and let these thoughts lead you to join David in praising Almighty God today. He is worthy of all our praises.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 13: Hope in a nutshell of verses

Today’s focus for thankfulness comes from Psalm 46:1-3. In my book, Promises for Dynamic Living, I used these verses on the printed bookmark that accompanied the book. These verses never cease to bring thankfulness, awe and extreme encouragement to my soul.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Why am I always encouraged? Because, God is my refuge and strength. God is with me 24/7, ever-present. God is greater than any circumstance I will ever face, even if it looks like everything is falling apart. Knowing that God has my back allows me to move forward in life without fear. Trusting in God eliminates the threat of fear and fills me with hope, reassurance and peace.

Why am I in awe? Because, who am I that God would love, protect and care for me in all circumstances? Knowing I am loved and cared for by my heavenly Father brings joy to my soul.

Why am I thankful? Because, I have God as my protector and nothing can befall me that will leave me alone and forgotten by God. He is always with me and has this world in His control.

These verses are true cause for encouragement, awe, and thanksgiving. May they lead you towards greater thankfulness for the power and might of our loving God.

Linda