Do you reflect Christ? If so, do others see a difference in you??

ephesians 4 17-24In Ephesians 4:17-24 Paul describes to the Ephesians what man is like in mind, body and action without Christ and then contrasts it to their present state of mind, body and actions with Christ in their lives.

Without Christ- verses 17-19Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”    Before they came to know Jesus, their minds were confused about God, they were ignorant of what a life with God could be like, they had hardened their hearts to the things of God and they practiced all kinds of immorality in their lives.”  

With Christverse 20-24  “But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,  which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true ephesians 4 20righteousness and holiness.”     Knowing Christ has changed them and will change us from the inside out!  The truth of who Jesus is and what He did on the cross transforms our thinking, our hearts and motivates us to speak and act as unto God.  Paul calls it putting off the old nature, the way we did things before faith and putting on a new self.  This new self is rooted and grounded in Jesus and His righteousness and holiness.

Paul challenged the Ephesians to put off the old and put on the new, make being a believer a conscious choice that involves a change of mind, body and actions.  Giving yourself to God wholeheartedly allows the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside out and makes you new in Christ. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be a new creation in Jesus!  2 Corinthians 5:17 puts it this way,  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”  Christ in our lives, hearts and minds brings transformation for our good and His glory.

2 Corinthians 5 17Be that transformed believer today! Reach out to others in love.  Call, text, email, have a Zoom gathering, Face Time or use Google Chat or Duo with someone in these troubled days showing them you care about them and stand with them in the name of Christ.

Linda

Cross of Christ = peace and equal access through the Holy Spirit

Paul continues to speak to the Ephesians about their disconnectedness and hostility towards each other, and their great need to see themselves as one in Christ.  wall of hostilityEphesians 2:14 “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.”   He concludes in verse 18, “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”

How often do you see differences in the practices of faith as divisive?  On matters of baptism, dress, communion, music, worship styles, we can and do differ.  On matters of the heart of Ephesians 2-18the gospel- the saving power of Jesus and His death and resurrection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and His transforming power there should be no division.  As Paul says we are united and can approach God or have access to God through His Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.  Jesus has brought us peace and equal access to God the Father. 

ephesians-2-14Let the heart of the gospel guide you as you connect with other Christians and unbelievers,  so that the truth of His Spirit will shine through your life.  Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are one in access to His Spirit and can have His peace.   Praise God for His powerful Holy Spirit that allows us access to God and His peace.

Linda

Connected in Christ = our privilege, His purpose

What was God’s purpose for Jesus after He died on the cross and rose from the dead?  Ephesians 1:20 tells us how and where God placed Jesus, “that (the resurrection power of God)  raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.   The next verses God tells us of Jesus’ ultimate authority21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.”   Lastly in verses 22-23 God tells us why He placed Jesus there, God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.”   

Ephesians 1 22-23 the-body-christIt is important for us to know that Jesus’ work on the cross finished the issue of salvation and forgiveness,  but not His work in the world now and in the future.  God has a plan for all time that He reveals in the Bible.  He refers to all believers here as the church, elsewhere the Bride of Christ.  They are a body of believers that are filled with His Spirit, the Spirit that fills all things.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are connected with Him and to all other believers.  We are all part of His body, the church.  Using the analogy of a body for all believers shows were are connected, able to work together, have many parts and each have a unique job to accomplish for Him.    So… how are you working within His body,  the church, to accomplish what He has set out for you to do for Him?  Are you cooperative with fellow believers?   Do you work for His glory and not your own?   Believers are not perfect, but sinners forgiven, and we need to be filled with His grace, mercy and love as we strive to work with others for the cause of Christ.   Remember Christ said in John 13:34-35 “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

john 13 35Spend some time in prayer today contemplating your place, work and spirit of cooperation within your local church.  Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you where you are doing well and where you need His help to do better.   He is faithful and will show you.

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

Travel with me to Ephesus this Lent

IMG_3519
Ancient forum and roadway where Paul would have walked and preached.

Walk with me during Lent through the book of Ephesians as we meditatively think about all that we have and are in Christ.   Let’s look at the unity of the body of believers growing there as Paul preached and taught for 2 years.  Later John also came to Ephesus and lived among the believers.  We will see the aspects of who we are in Christ, what place the body of believers called the church is to God and finish with the wonderful words about the armor available to us in Christ.  Each day we will see the amazing provisions and position we have because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead.

As we begin this Ash Wednesday, let’s look at Ephesians 1:1-2.  Paul introduces himself in the letter, tells who he’s writing to and pronounces a preliminary greeting that is typical of his writing.

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Put yourself in Ephesus and become one of the believers who received this letter from the Apostle Paul.  He is addressing you as a saint, a faithful believer and he is sending greetings of grace and peace from God.  Do you think of yourself as a saint?  The New Testament repeatedly refers to believers as ‘saints’.  He also attributes faithfulness to their walk of faith.  How would you describe your daily walk with Jesus?  Are you faithful?  Paul also sends you grace,  which is God’s unmerited favor,  and His peace.  What precious gifts these are.  How will you use or experience God’s favor today?  Will you rest in His peace?   As Ephesians opens we see that because Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can be His saints and faithfully, walk in His grace and experiencing His peace.  Praise God!

Walk with me towards the cross, contemplating our sinfulness and His blameless character.  Join me in daily meditation and prayer for these coming 40 days of repentance and focus on who God desires us to be because of Jesus and His sacrifice.

IMG_3522
Paul would have stood on the library steps surrounded by enormous stone work, telling of the might and power of Jesus.

Let’s journey towards the cross together.

Linda

#7 Practicing Devotion to God-By Thinking Biblically

This idea of thinking biblically is something I’ve given quite a bit of thought.  Scripture tells us in Isaiah 55:9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways Isaiah-55-9higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”   God’s way of thinking and doing things are not the same as ours.  We are human and finite and God is omniscient and infinite.  So, we need to learn to think biblically to understand God’s ways better.  How do you go about that?  The process begins by spending time in God’s Word, memorizing His Word, and meditating on His Word  so that your minds thoughts are immersed in His thinking and ways.  Then when you are faced with a situation, you will respond with biblical thoughts more often than with worldly thoughts and actions.  

I have had this happen many times while I was memorizing the book of James.  It is a very practical book with loads of thoughts to direct our actions.  When something would happen, I would immediately recall scripture as my first reaction to a situation.  I realized I was practicing biblical thinking and acting like God would have me act.  It is an amazing feeling when your first reaction is godly and not worldly.  Our thought originate within ourselves and are selfish at heart and of this world.  God’s ways are not like ours and only come from being fully covered in His Word.

Psalm 119:11 confirms this idea, I have stored up your word in my heart,  that I might not sin against you.”  Psalm 119: 98 “Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me.”   Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”  Hebrews 4:12 tells us that God’s Word is powerful and can discern truth.  “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”   Having God’s Word in your heart and on and in your mind causes you to think Biblically and react as God would have to you act.   As you strive to be more and more like Jesus, becoming sanctified in Him, your thoughts and actions need to reflect Jesus more and more.

psalm 119 11Ponder how you can think more like Jesus.  Delve into God’s Word and try to soak it up into your very being.  Endeavor to practice Biblical thinking this week and see if you are not wiser and led into sin less as you look to His Word as your guide.

Linda

#6 Practicing Your Devotion to God-by Repentance

Sin is something we all have to deal with in our lives.  We were born sinners, with a sin nature.  You only need to look at the willfulness of a small child to see they came that  sin separatesway with a rebellious, willful nature built inside.  It was not something they learned.  However, as we grow we learn to sin even more by fulfilling our own desires.  Adam and Eve fulfilled their own desires in the garden of Eden when they willfully sinned against God by eating of the forbidden tree, the tree of good and evil.

Each of us needs to come to the realization that we are sinners and approach God with a sin bridge Jesusrepentant heart asking Him to forgive us through faith in Jesus Christ.   Our faith in Jesus allows us to be cleansed and made whole.  However, we still have that sin nature within us and we need to grow and learn about Jesus, depend upon Him and stay repentant to walk with Him by faith.  Our heart’s desire is to walk with Jesus and grow more and more like him.  Sanctification describes this process in our lives and it is the work of the Holy Spirit within us that enables us to grow stronger in Christ and sin less.

David knew the key to a clean and whole existence with God was to be repentant and humble, confessing his sins to God.  Psalm 32 describes David’s thoughts about this:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,            Repentance brings blessing.
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away                  Being unrepentant can cause
    through my groaning all day long.                                              you physical illness.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,                                               David resolves to repent with
    and I did not cover my iniquity;                                                 an openness to God.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

Psalm 51:1-2, 10    David knew that God alone was able to forgive sin and lays his sins before Him.   He knew he was unworthy of forgiveness but trusted God in his infinite mercy to forgive him.

psalm 51 1Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

He knew God alone could create a new heart within him.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.

What about you?  Do you know the truth and reality of 1 John 1:9 ?  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”   This is a promise we can claim and depend upon.   God is faithful and will keep His promise to forgive all our sins.  All we need to do is confess and have a repentant heart before Him.

Practice repentance daily for a closer walk with Jesus.

Linda

God’s Revelations Through Advent=God’s Abounding Attributes

Advent of 2019 has been very confirming and uplifting to me.  As I wrote about the Christmas story, Messiah’s long awaited arrival on earth, I was filled with wonder and praise for our Almighty God.  Seeing the story anew through the lens of who-is-godGod’s attributes gave me a glimpse into the magnificence and depth of our God.   I saw God’s accessibility, grace, omniscience, as a person, His incomprehensibility, invisibility, holiness, as a preserver, merciful, a promise-keeper, righteous, sovereign, perfect, omnipotent, provider, merciful again, glorious, Savior, faithful, just, wise, Father, guide, love and eternal.

For 25 days we have looked into the character of God and reflected on how His character could impact us.  God desires that we are accessible to Him and to others.  He gives us grace and asks that we show grace to others.  God alone is omniscient, incomprehensible, invisible, personal, preserver of all things, righteous, sovereign, perfect, omnipotent, glorious, Savior, promise keeper and the giver of eternal life.  He calls us to be holy as He is holy and to wear the righteousness of Christ though faith in Him.  Be merciful towards others and lend them helping hands.  God wants us to be faithful to Him and to those around us, just in our dealings with others, a giver of wise council, good father’s and mothers, guide others towards Him and to be open to His leading.  He wants us to keep our word and follow His Word.  God desires that we love Him and love those He has placed in our life as much as we love ourselves.

David reached the following conclusion about God in Psalm 86:10-13.

psalm 86 10No pagan god is like you, O Lord.
    None can do what you do!
All the nations you made
    will come and bow before you, Lord;
    they will praise your holy name.
10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds.
    You alone are God.

more like JesusThank you for joining me this Advent.  May you be blessed as you endeavor to live for Jesus and grow more and more life Him each day.

Linda

Christmas with Eternity in Focus!

Merry-Christmas

Today we celebrate the birth of the Christ.  His birth was foretold by the ancient prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born…”   The place was foretold in Micah 5:3  “But you Bethlehem…”.    He came to earth that day born as a human child, yet one who would lead a sinless life and die to save us from our sins.  We believe that only God’s Son, Jesus, could satisfy Holy God and bring us back into relationship with God.  Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 53:5 “But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”   So where does that leave us?  If we believe He was born miraculously as a man who was both fully human and fully God, and He was able to die to save us from our sins, what more is there for us to believe?   return-of-christHe is coming again1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever.  Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 

As we celebrate Jesus’ birth, we need to remember the story does not end in the manger or at the cross.  The story of the redemption of mankind will end with us living with God for eternity.  Just as His first coming was heralded by angels so will His second coming.  Just as His first coming was miraculous, awesome and breathtaking so will His second coming be worthy of King Jesus when we meet Him in the air.

God eternalWhat do these events say about God?  God is eternalGod exists outside of time.  He is not measured by anything.  We measure time by the movement of the planets and stars, which God created.  God has always been and always will be.  No one is like Him.  We are not eternal because we have a beginning and an end.  Because God is eternal, He can give us eternal life.  David described God in Psalm 90:2 “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, form everlasting to everlasting you are God.”  John wrote in Revelation 4:8 “Holy, holy, holy is he Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.”

With our finite minds, the eternality of God is difficult to grasp.  However, we can be assured that God is who He says He is and will do as He has planned for eternity. Jesus is the one who holds the key to our eternal life. john-4-14 John 4:13-14  Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”   Come to Him this Christmas and be filled with His eternal blessing.  Look  past the manger, past the cross and look forward to His return!

Linda   

 

 

Love, the motivating factor in the story

In our journey this Advent Season we have walked with Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Zachariah, Anna, Simeon, the shepherds, the angels and the Wise Men, from Nazareth to Bethlehem to Egypt and back to Nazareth.  We have seen our Omnipotent, Omniscient, Sovereign God in control and guiding all events.  Today, Christmas Eve, let us look at the prophesy Isaiah gave concerning this Christ Child, Emmanuel-God with us.  Let us marvel at God’s Love for us.  The depth, width and scope of what He would do to show His love so we could be reconciled to Him.   Isaiah 9:6-7 was  written 700 years before Christ’s birth.

Isaiah-9-6 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

God is loveJesus was the full expression of God’s LOVE for usHe loved us before we first loved Him.  His love is complete, eternal, uncompromising, faithful, true and unchanging.  Scripture tells us that God is love.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 1 John 4:8   Here are a few scriptures describing God’s love:

Deuteronomy 33:12 ““Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long,  and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders.”

Psalm 63:3 “Because your love is better than life,  my lips will glorify you.”

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

1 John 4:16 “ And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 

God loved us so much that He sent His beautiful, wonderful Son to accomplish our reconciliation and redemption.  John 3:16  “ 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.”  Thank you God for loving me so much and saving me.

Linda