Advent…Gloriously Completed in Jesus’ Arrival

Merry Christmas! I found this Christmas Blessing while blogging this year and really loved the sentiments it contained. May you know the blessings of Peace that Jesus brings, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” May you see your Hope in Him, 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” May you feel the Sprit of His Love, 1 John 3:23 “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” May you have the Comfort of Faith in Jesus, 2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

All of these gifts complete the circle of our Advent Wreath as we lit the Christ candle on Christmas Eve proclaiming His birth. May you find Love, Comfort, Hope and Peace in Jesus. May you rejoice in the arrival of Jesus and claim the JOY God has for you.

Linda

Advent…Do you please God?

On the night Jesus was born Shepherds heard the news in an amazing way. Luke 2:8-14

 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

I cannot even imagine seeing a host of angels shouting and praising God. The sound must have been deafening but glorious! It is understandable that the shepherds were afraid. These were God’s warriors from heaven’s armies come to earth, visibly, to announce this amazing news. The angel, probably Michael or Gabriel or the leader of the host of angels calmed the shepherds with his words and then quickly told them of the birth of God’s son, the long awaited Messiah. Their message to the shepherds and all of us too, was one of praise to God for sending this messenger of peace for all mankind. This peace on earth is to be bestowed upon those with whom God is pleased. Our question then is how does one please God?

Scripture tells us what pleases God. Here are a few for you to meditate upon today.

Hebrews 11:6 “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 is essential to pleasing God.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?
Living a life based upon His justice, love and kindness with humility pleases God.

Psalm 147:11 “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
Our reverence, awe of Him and our trust upon His love pleases Him.

Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
” Our faithful actions please God.

Jesus said in John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our love for others shows we love Him and our obedience pleases Jesus.

May you be encouraged today as you mediate on the ways you are pleasing God and yet, challenged to do even more.

Linda

Advent…the 4th Sunday, Peace Good Will Towards men

On this 4th Sunday before Christmas, we light the 4th purple candle in the Advent wreath. The first purple candle was lit on the 1st Sunday- 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 was pink symbolizing the Shepherd’s joy at the birth of the Messiah. Today we light the Angel’s 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.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
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.

Linda

Advent…A Time to Show and Tell

Advent is a time when we need to show our faith to others and then tell them about Jesus by our actions. When I was teaching writing, show don’t tell passages were those that showed what the action was by describing what was going on instead of just telling it. The use of descriptive words was imperative to show the reader what you were trying to say. Advent is a time when churches, religious groups and civic organizations look to meet the needs of the poor, hungry, unemployed and hurting people of all ages. The seek to show the love of Christ to others with deeds and not just with words. This year, 2021, has been particularly difficult as we live with the daily effects of the global pandemic. Yes, the conditions have improved over 2020, but there are still a great number of people who are sick, out of work or lonely. I have an 80 year old friend that faithfully works at her church’s food bank sorting and filling bags of food for the hungry. I am amazed by the long lines seen on the news of people waiting in cars to get bags of food. Many of those seeking help have never had to ask before as they had always been self-sufficiently employed.

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One verse in our Christmas story brought this to mind. Luke 1:56 speaks of Mary staying with Elizabeth for about 3 months then going home to Nazareth. “Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.” Scripture said that the angel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was in her sixth month, “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee,” Luke 1:26 Doing the math, it would seem that young Mary who was only just pregnant came to visit Elizabeth when Elizabeth was six months along. Staying with Elizabeth in the last months of her pregnancy before John was born, when Zechariah was not able to talk (Luke 1:20), was probably a great comfort, blessing and help to this aged mother and father to be. We are not told in scripture that Mary was present when John was born, but I would imagine Mary stayed until John was born and then returned home. By helping Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary was also blessed and comforted as she shared this time with them.

In this one verse God shows us how we are to be supportive of each other and stay the distance. My friend could go and help out occasionally at the food bank but she has made it a priority to give of herself 3 days a week. Many I know, prior to Covid, went regularly to nursing homes to share, sing and pray with residents or visit those in hospitals. Another friend had a brother that had a severe accident and the family ministered to him and nursed him back to health after being released from the hospital. Ministering to those in need shows godly character as we give, are compassionate, merciful and kind. It also opens the door for you to speak of your motivation for doing acts of kindness, Jesus.

Even with Covid restrictions, find a way to meet someone’s needs this week. It could be a phone call, text, card or letter to a friend you know is lonely or sick. Maybe you can make cookies or bread to leave on their doorstep. Know that things done serving others out of love pleases God. Jesus told us in John 13:34-35 ““A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Let the world see your love for Jesus through your actions of service towards one another.

Linda

Need Strength? Make God Personal

As I continue this Thanksgiving week looking at reasons for praising God and giving thanks, I came to Psalm 91. It has long been a favorite of mine and is known to be a favorite among soldiers. Why is that you might ask? Are you frightened today about the future or events in your life? Are you struggling and despairing over people or things? Soldiers facing battle struggle with all of these, and yet the words of this psalm sooth and comfort them. May you too find comfort and be able to give thanks to God who is sovereign and All-Sufficient. Psalm 91:1-4

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

My friend Bob who lived at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville, CA used to recite this psalm. He told me he used to put his name in verse 2 as he personalized and claimed God’s truth of love and protection over himself and his bombing crew as they flew missions in WWII. “I, Bob, will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I, Bob, trust.” He would do the same with Psalm 23. “The Lord is Bob’s shepherd I will not want…”

Do you find scripture personal? Bob believed in God’s Word and the power of the truths God placed there for our benefit. Can you claim the truth of verses 1 and 2- that God is your refuge and fortress and you can trust in Him in all situations? What about verses 3 and 4? Do you believe that God is greater than any foe or force you will face? Does He faithfully cover you and enfold you in His love and care?

I pray this Thanksgiving, as you reflect on God’s goodness and care, that you can see God’s hand in your life protecting and leading. That you feel his loving arms surrounding you and giving you strength. May God’s faithfulness and love speak to you in a new way this holiday creating in you greater gratitude for God.

Linda

Thank-filled Hearts Pray

Several years ago I was blogging through the book of Ephesians during Lent. Ephesians 1:15-16 are precious verses that refer to Paul’s thankful attitude about being able to pray for other believers. Let my words increase your thankfulness for the privilege of prayer.

ephesians 1 16

Do you have good friends of faith?  Do you share your joys and struggles in your daily walk with Christ and praises for answered prayers?  Paul had that kind of relationship with the Ephesians when he lived among them, and it shows in his heartfelt message as he sought to encourage them in their faith.  Ephesians 1:15-16.  “Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere, 16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,”  Paul had brought them to faith and was like a proud ‘papa’ over the continued growth of these believers.  He was thankful for their lives of faith and  prayed for them all the time.

A couple of months ago I was struggling with some health issues and a dear sister in Christ sent me a handmade card with the sentiment “I’m praying for you”.  Just receiving her note encouraged me in my walk that day and each day after as I glanced at the card.  Saying you’ll pray for someone is the most precious gift you can give them,  so don’t say it if you don’t intend to actually pray.  Paul was sincere and serious about prayer and he prayed constantly for those new believers in all the cities where he ministered.

Teaching, preaching, witnessing and prayer were all essential parts of Paul’s ministry.  Even if we do not feel like we can be teachers or preachers we can all witness to the joy and power of Christ in our lives.  We can all pray for those who we encounter who do not know Jesus, for our friends and family,  and for specific troubles or circumstances we know people are experiencing.   We can pray for our leaders at church, in our city and in our country.  Prayer changes things and gives us opportunity to communicate with Father God about the people in our lives.  Praying for others takes the focus off ourselves and acknowledges God’s sovereignty over all things.   Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we can go directly to God in prayer.  He is accessible because of our faith in Jesus.

Today spend some time in prayer for those around you that are hurting, despairing, in poor health, need comfort, strength or are walking down a wrong pathway.  Thank God that they are in your life and that you can lift them up in the name of Jesus. Give thanks for the privilege and power of prayer.

Linda

Love Language for Thanking God

What type of language do you use to thank God? Are your words plain and simple, direct and forthright? If you want others to understand how you feel about God and why you feel the need to thank Him, then you should say what is in your heart with emotion and love. In Psalm 145 the psalmist lays out his feelings about God, who He is and why God should receive his (ours too) thanks and praise.

 I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Eternal God and King
Every day I will bless you
    and praise your name forever and ever.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, Unsearchable in His greatness
    and his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
Majestic, Wonderous
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
Awesome deeds, His Greatness
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.
His Goodness and Righteousness

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. His Grace, Mercy, Patience and Love
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.
His Goodness and Mercy

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, All Creation will give thanks to Him!
    and all your saints shall bless you!

What an amazing list of attributes of our God! He is all those and so much more. Let your heart overflow with gratitude and thanks towards Almighty God!

Linda

Thankfulness = the Truth of God’s Love

What attribute of God am I most thankful for? When I pondered this question, the first thing that came to mind was God’s love for me. He loved me so much He sent Jesus, His only Son, to die for my sins so that I could be brought into a relationship with him through faith in Christ. John 3:16 says it so well. ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God wants me to be with Him for eternity and be freed from the power and presence of sin. What an amazing gift we have in His love! Thoughts of God’s love lead me to think about the perfection and purity of His love. In our world we don’t know love that is not motivated by some selfish desire. It is part of our world and our nature no matter how hard we try. God is pure love. His love is not short lived but longsuffering and eternal in nature. His love is steadfast and we can always count on it. Multiple scriptures express the truth that God’s love is steadfast, everlasting, eternal and forever. Here are a few:

1 Chronicles 16:34 “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 136:1-26 repeatedly says, “
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.”

God’s love is steadfast, true, pure and will be with me for eternity. I can rely upon God’s love always as God is faithful.

Today as you consider reasons for your thankfulness, I pray that God’s love will be ever present in your heart and mind. His love is an eternal truth we can always be thankful for in every circumstance.

Praise God!

Linda

Take time to read Psalm 136. Read it aloud and let the truth of God’s love sink into your soul.

Paul’s Persuasion Points to Christ

And the journey continues…Philemon. This short letter from Paul to the slave owning believer Philemon in Colossae is an example of Christian persuasion at its best. Paul’s words seek to remind the believing slave owner, who has been wronged, of how his faith in Christ can and will transform his attitudes and opinions for the common good. It seems Onesimus, the slave, ran away from his master Philemon’s home in Colossae stealing from him in the process. His journey away from Colossae took him to Rome where he encountered Paul. Paul lead him to faith in Jesus and was witness to his transformed character. Onesimus decided that the right thing to do was to return to his master. Under Roman law, this was a crime punishable by death. Seeing the changed heart and his desire to return to ‘fix’ the situation, Paul writes this letter to persuade Philemon to welcome Onesimus back into this home and his service.

Paul’s steps to persuade Philemon start with their common ground. They are both believers and Paul thanks God for Philemon’s faith in Jesus and his willingness to share his faith with others. Paul tells him how he has been blessed and encouraged by the faith of the believers in Colossae. As we learned in Colossians, Paul had never been to Colossae but Epaphras whom he had led to Christ had started a church there. Paul had heard of their growing and vibrant faith. Philemon 1:7 “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. What Christian brother or sister are you grateful for? How has their love for Jesus impacted you? Does their witness and faith encourage you and build up your own faith? If so, make a point of telling them. It will be an encouragement to them and help them see how they are having an impact for Christ in the world.

Next Paul sets before Philemon a challenge of faith. He asks him, because of Jesus’ loves for him, to accept and forgive Onesimus back for several reasons. Paul tells him of his love for Onesimus and how much he has grown to love this young man since leading him to Christ. He tells him how helpful he has been, during his time in prison, and that it is as if Philemon is there helping him through Onesimus. As to the matter of what he stole from Philemon, Paul goes so far as to ask Philemon to charge the debt to him. He says he will pay whatever is owed when he sees Philemon. Lastly, he argues the point that if he should welcome Onesimus back he will get not only his slave returned to his service but a brother in Christ who will be serving him and the savior they share in faith.

As I pondered Paul’s pleas for the life of Onesimus, I was struck by the power of the gospel in our lives. Paul contributes Onesimus’ new attitudes and faith in Christ with his total change of heart and character. The power of Christ in our lives makes us do and say things that are contrary to our old nature. The truth of 2 Corinthians 5:17 is evident in Onesimus’ life. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” He was also reminding Philemon that he too has a new nature that should not be motivated by worldly values. Is there someone or something you need to reevaluate in light of the cross of Christ?

Paul closes this letter with greetings to their common friends and asks Philemon to have a room ready for him when he visits. This is very personal and shows Paul’s willingness to come to him regardless of his decision concerning Onesimus. He is praying that Philemon will be lead by Christ to have compassion, mercy and love towards his slave. PauI’s pleas remind me God’s desire for each of us.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

May we seek to please God and walk humbly with Christ looking to serve him with justice and love towards others.

Linda

Showing, Loving and Living Redeemed

And the journey continues… Colossians. This letter was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians whom he had never met. His convert, Epaphras, had traveled to Colossae and started a new church there. When he encountered difficulties in theology, he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. Paul wrote to help ‘set their thinking straight’ so that they would know that Jesus is Lord and there is no other. He praises their faith and growth but instructs them on the supremacy of Christ our Lord who came, died and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.

I love Paul’s prayer that opens the letter. Colossians 1:3-14 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

A couple of questions come to mind as I study this passage that I need to remember as I walk with Jesus daily. Is anyone hearing of my love for Jesus? The Colossian Christians were known for their faith and love. This is what Jesus wants for each of us. In John 13:33-34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Another question- Do you believe in the transforming power of the Good News? The Good News that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Life in Him is abundant and filled with grace, love, mercy… and the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatian 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit transforms our lives as we follow Jesus each day in faith.

Lastly, How do you pray for others? Do you pray for their growth in faith that they will know and love God more and serve Him with eagerness? Do you pray for their patience, endurance and joy? Paul prayed for these things as he wanted the Colossian Christians to thrive and grow in the Lord. He wanted them to live with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in their lives. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I pray that you will show your genuine Christian love for others, pray for your fellow believers, unsaved friends and relatives and live like you believe you are truly rescued from darkness and brought into the light of God’s love. You are redeemed and forgiven dear brother and sister!

Linda