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

Advent Reminds us to Trust God with our Heart’s Desires

Zechariah was a priest and as such had duties infrequently inside the temple. His division was called to place the incense before the morning sacrifice. The priest who went into the inner part of the temple was determined by lot, like drawing straws. It was not by chance that Zechariah was chosen as God used this time to send an angel to talk with him.

Luke 1: 11-16 “While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God.”

Zechariah was visibly shaken by the appearance of a supernatural being, as anyone of us would be! He feared the being and probably the message as well. He did not know if it was good or bad news but a message delivered by a heavenly being would have caused fear. The first thing the angel does is speak words of calm. The heavenly messenger wanted him unafraid so he could listen with an open heart and mind to his message. There are a number of truths about God and our relationship with Him that are included in this passage. May they open your heart and mind to hear God as well.

  • God knows the desires of our heart just as He did Zechariah and Elizabeth’s desire for a child.
  • It is okay to let God know what are your heart’s desires and then leave it to Him.
  • God’s answers to my prayers will always result in joy and good for me and bring honor to God.
  • God’s answers to my prayers will effect me and those around me.
  • God has a plan and purpose for each one of us, just as He did for John.

Be encouraged today as you ponder the news Zechariah received. The truths reveal how God always sees us through His compassion and love. Because of Jesus we can approach Him and know He hears our prayers. Be assured by the words of Hebrews 4:16 “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.” and James 4:8 “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” and Hebrews 10:22-23 “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” God is faithful and hears all our prayers. God will answer in His way and in His time, just as He did for Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 27: What a deal we got through Jesus!

I was thinking this morning about the designation ‘Black Friday’.  It seems that since the 1950’s the day after Thanksgiving has been called ‘Black Friday’.  It began as a term used to describe the crowds, like the street was black with pedestrians.  It then became a day term retailers used to signify when they began to turn a profit and moved from the ‘red’ into the ‘black’ as the volume of their sales increased.   In the Bible the blackest Friday would be the day of the crucifixion. It was the day when the skies turned black and darkness covered the land. It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.  Luke 23:44-46   The blackness of that Friday is a picture of the sin that Jesus bore on the cross for you and me.  His death on that darkest day brought the greatest profit for us.  John 12:46 puts it in perspective for us as to why that blackest of Friday’s had to happen.  “I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.”

risen

Even on that blackest of Fridays, the people were rushing around preparing for their Sabbath.  Since they could do no work on the Sabbath, they hurried to get Jesus down from the cross,  buried and settled in a borrowed tomb.  Mark 15:42-47 describes these events done in haste.  After the Sabbath was over, several women came back to the tomb to anoint Jesus with spices as his burial had been done in such a hurry they felt they had not been able to treat his body properly on that Friday.  “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”  Mark 16:1  Their walk to the grave site was done in sadness but their return was joyous as they learned of Jesus’ resurrection and his defeat of sin and death.  An angel spoke to them when they got there, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  What joyous news they had to share!

colossians 1 ;21

That blackest Friday brought death and burial to Jesus but brought the greatest profit to you and me.  Colossians 1:21-22 explains where we were on the black Friday and where we are now because of it.  “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him,”    That was the the biggest gain or profit for mankind ever in history.  Christ reconciled us to God so that we can be in communion with Him and have our sin’s forgiven.   We are free to live a life in Christ that is pleasing to God and that is free from the penalty of death brought on by sin.  That Black Friday was the best one in history for you and me.

During these COVID times you may not be venturing out physically but think about that blackest of Friday’s and how much you gained through Christ.  Praise Him and Give thanks for His sacrifice that brings the greatest gains-salvation, eternal life, His indwelling Holy Spirit, heaven, godly character, a relationship with God, resistance to temptation, purpose in life…..- to you and me!

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 20: I can have His peace!

How do you know things will turn out okay in the end? When the world seems to be falling apart around you and circumstances seem overly dark, where is your hope and peace? Jesus knew his disciples finally had faith in Him as the Son of God, but He also knew hard times were coming that would challenge their new faith and cause them to doubt and succumb to worry. He spoke these words in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and His arrest and death were imminent. John 16:33  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peaceIn this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God knows about the pandemic, the economic troubles, our election conflicts, power struggles in our government, sickness, death and our own individual problems. As Jesus pointed out, In this world you will have trouble. That is guaranteed by the nature of our sin-filled world. However, He promises us HOPE and PEACE! Jesus says He is greater than anything we can or will face as He has overcome the world. He will be the victor and we will be with Him in victory by holding fast to our faith and trusting in Him. Jesus said that ‘in me’ you will find the peace you need to sustain you now and in hard times to come.

I find this verse encouraging as it tells me I do not need to worry about the temporal things of life as God is sovereign and He will overcome all. The peace I have in Jesus creates in me a great sense of thankfulness and hope as I face each day and look into the future.

May you know His peace today and give Him thanks and praise!

Linda

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 17: Resurrection Promise

On Day 16, we looked at 7 amazing reasons for faith. Today’s verse looks more specifically at #7- salvation that leads to eternal life in Him. John 11:25-26 is a familiar precious promise from God “Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”” Jesus spoke these words to Martha, the sister of Lazarus who had just died and was recently buried. She was upset that Jesus had not made it Bethany before Lazarus died, for she knew he could have saved him from dying. Jesus’ message to Martha, and you an me, is that belief in Him guarantees resurrection to new life. Belief in Jesus brings a life one can live in Him now and for eternity. His words were meant to encourage, bring hope and challenge Martha’s faith.

His question to Martha, do you believe me?, is the same question He asks each of us. If your answer is YES, then the thought of eternal life with Jesus, living forever with Him should bring you eternal joy. No one likes to think about leaving their life and dying, but Jesus is reassuring each of us that He has it covered. He will be with us, protect and guide us into our next stage of life with Him. If your answer was NO, then may His words bring you to Him today with a repentant and open heart.

May your heart rejoice over this promise. You can be thankful that God is eternal. God is greater than anything you will ever face- even death. God desires that you live without fear of death and know He has a plan for your life. Rejoice in the hope of resurrection and let that joy fill your heart with thanksgiving.

Linda

Thankfulness Day 15: Consider His Peace

The Bible is full of scriptures about peace. God wants us to know His peace, live in peace and experience peace on a daily basis. Today’s verses come from Isaiah 26:3-4. As you read and meditate on the words from Isaiah, may they lead you towards greater thankfulness as you consider His peace.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.
Trust in the Lord forever,
    for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Prayer: Lord, I desire your peace in my life. May my trust in you grow daily so that my mind is steadfastly focused on you. I know you can and will keep me in a state of peace that will cover my mind, body and soul as I trust in you more and more. Lord, you are my rock and refuge. You are eternal and will keep me as your own for eternity. I know Lord that you love me and are a promise keeper. Bring your peace into my life today as I focus upon you and walk trusting in you. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen.

Have a blessed day filled with His peace and a thankful heart.

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

Thankfulness Day 10: A loving, compassionate God awaits all believers

Our thankfulness verse today comes from 2 Chronicles 30:9. Many of the Israelites had abandoned the worship of God and had fallen away from faith. King Hezekiah sent out a decree inviting worshipers to come celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem. His impassioned plea resonates with us today as God makes this same promise and claim to us if we will return to Him. “For if you return to the Lord, your brothers and your children will find compassion with their captors and return to this land. For the Lord your God is gracious and merciful and will not turn away his face from you, if you return to him.”

Our God is compassionate and loving and graciously promises to receive me if I come back to Him. A life without God is one lived in captivity to the world, a bondage He desires to free us from. He is always waiting to receive us in faith. These words echo the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30 ”  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

How do I know God will not reject me if I come back to Him in faith? Jesus repeatedly spoke of rejoicing over those that were lost being found or returned home. In Luke 11:7 Jesus gives the parable of the lost sheep, Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Also in the parable of the woman with the lost coin, Luke 15:9-10 “And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” God is gracious and forgiving and desires us to be in relationship with Him. Remember the truth of John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” God truly loves us so much that He sent Jesus to redeem us through His death on the cross.

What part of 2 Chronicles 30:9 resonates a spirit of thanksgiving with you today? Are you thankful for a loving and compassionate God who desires that none should perish? 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Are you thankful for the freedom from sin He offers in Jesus? John 8:36 “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

There is much to be thankful for because of the loving, compassionate attributes of our heavenly Father. May they seep into your heart and mind today creating true thankfulness towards Him.

Linda