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 30: a recipe for peace

As I end this month long journey of thankfulness, I am more content and satisfied with my present circumstances because of all of the wonderful promises and truths we’ve seen. My final choice this last day of November 2020, which has been a particularly difficult year world over, is Philippians 4:6-7. I like the Amplified translation as it makes it very clear, Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God. And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].

This promise of not needing to worry about anything is very reassuring. To really believe this, one must believe God exists and is Sovereign over all things in His creation. God is in control and I need to pray specifically about my concerns and needs and leave it to God. Worry or anxiety is human but is not what God wants for us. He wants us trusting in Him, releasing our worries to Him and living with His peace in our hearts. His peace for our mind, body and soul comes from and through Christ Jesus. He promises to guard our hearts and minds and give us a transcending peace. All this comes as we commit ourselves to being thankful in all things and believing in faith that God has things handled.

May the thankful promises of November carry you into December so you can rejoice in the Advent season. The reason for our thankfulness is found in Christ!

Linda

Thankfulness Day 28: Prayerfully walking in Faith Produces RESULTS!

Matthew 21: 20-22 is the setting for today’s promise that will lead us to greater thanks. Jesus was hungry and on the road with his disciples. He went up to a fig tree and it had no figs. Jesus cursed the tree and it immediately withered. This provided a teachable moment for Jesus. When the disciples questioned him, he was able to explain to them the power of faith and answered prayer.

When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

So is Jesus saying, I can pray for anything in faith and it will be given to me? Not at all! Jesus wants us to know the power of prayer and faith together can, through Him, can accomplish anything. If that is true, why don’t I have all the things I want or desire? I can just pray for them. James gives us the reason this is not possible. “You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. ” James 4:2-3 God knows our hearts and sees what our real motives are for asking. Yes, faith and prayer can overcome but our heart attitude needs to be right with God and aligned to His purposes. Perhaps, you feel that you asked with the right heart attitude and were praying for God’s will to be done. Don’t lose heart. Remember our timing is not God’s timing and you may still have to wait longer for your prayers to be answered.

I find this encouraging. God knows the desires of my heart and I need only tell Him. I need to trust Him to bring it about if it is in His will, in His time and in His way so that He is glorified and I am uplifted in faith. Faith and prayer can accomplish great things in and through Christ. Pray fervently and have faith trusting God for the answer whether it is yes, no or wait. Walking in faith is difficult but always produces godly results and brings thankfulness.

Linda

November, Reasons for Thankfulness, Day 1

This month I will be endeavoring to focus on verses that give us spiritual truths about God that lead us toward a greater sense of thankfulness. It is my prayer that through greater thankfulness we will see how God meets our every need, even or especially during this time of pandemic and social unrest. God has brought to my mind new verses I discovered last year in a study of Jeremiah. Jeremiah 33:2-3 in the Amplified translation “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is His name, Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you [and even show you] great and mighty things, [things which have been confined and hidden], which you do not know and understand and cannot distinguish.’

This is a truth from God’s Word that I can cling to as I seek to live for Him. God promises to reveal things to me from His Word, through my experiences, through prayer and through other believers. He wants me to understand who He is so I can hold onto His promises and truths more tightly. He wants me to trust and rely upon Him to guide me each day. This truth about God and how He desires for me to know Him, creates in me a great sense of Thankfulness. Who am I that the God of the universe would desire to know me? What a privilege it is to know God, even the little bit I know and feel. Through His indwelling Spirit, I can see God more clearly and understand better what He has for me to do as I walk with Him.

May this truth from Jeremiah 33:3 cause you to call upon Him in prayer and open His Word so He can speak to you personally. Let this create in you a spirit of thanksgiving, assurance, hope and love for God as you open your heart to Him.

Linda

God’s got this, claim His JOY!

The passage in Philippians for today is one of my very favorite. I get comfort, assurance and hope from these words given by Paul. However, he leads into this great passage with a problem. Several of the women in the church were causing problems because of their disagreements. Paul calls them to be unified and of one accord. He knows them, knows they are all believers and wants them to recognize the potential danger of their disagreements to the body of Christ. We all need to heed his words and examine our hearts lest we fall into the same trap that Satan uses to divide the body. Philippians 4:2-3 “Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.”

Paul exhorts them to put all disagreements aside and focus on what is important in their spiritual life. Philippians 4:4-6 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” What great advice Paul gives to those arguing women, to the whole church there in Phillipi and to us in the 2020! Focus on what matters in your spiritual life- have JOY! Be reasonable, gentle with everyone! Remember Jesus is going to return! Don’t be overcome with worry about things, people or places- tell God what you need with a thankful heart. Wow! What perfect advice for our day. So many times we get mired down in worry about ‘things’, people- relationships or events. Paul is saying that is worthless worry. Let God know what you need, pray with a thankful heart and claim His JOY in your life. God’s got this so pray and claim His joy!

Joy– Let your joy be real and contagious!

Joy– Be joyfully gentle with everyone in your life!

Joy– Being assured that Jesus will return = JOY!

Joy– pray with thankfulness knowing He cares for you, loves you and will attend to your needs.

Words to live by then and now!

Linda

Joy, Knowing God is Sovereign

In Philippians 1:15-21 Paul expresses the facts of ministry as he sees them.  He sees some preaching the gospel to win souls.  He calls that good will and says their preaching is out of love, desiring that all would be saved and be eternally free in Christ.   He also sees those who preach the gospel out of love of self, for self-gratification, self-gain, and self-glory.  He calls that selfish ambition  and realizes that they can, by their words, stir up trouble for him even as he sits in prison.  However, Paul does not hold their actions against them as he rejoices that the name of Christ is proclaimed and trusts in God’s plan and sovereign control over all circumstances.   Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Paul’s continues reasoning that though the prayers of fellow believers and the power of the Holy Spirit, he knows God will be victorious and his place with Jesus is philippians_1_18assured. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  Paul knew no matter what, he belonged to Jesus!   He knew the support of fellow believers through their powerful prayers and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit were essential to his surviving in his Roman prison.  Either in death or in life,  he would be victorious in and through Christ. 

 How is it that Paul was so assured?   Paul relied upon the character of God and His Word.   He undoubtedly remembered Joseph’s statement of God’s principle in Genesis genesis-50 2050:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”  Or perhaps his own words given by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:28 “ And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  Or Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 29:11-12 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”   Paul was a  student of scripture and knew for a fact the truths about God’s character revealed throughout the Bible.  He had learned to draw upon them for strength, clarity and assurance.   We too need to open His Word and dig deep to replenish our joy, see our hope clearly, and gain strength and assurance. Our Sovereign God is bigger than Covid 19 or any other circumstance we face right now or in the future.  Be assured like Paul that no matter what, you and I will be victorious in Christ!

My joy is increased:

  • I know God is Sovereign and will use all things (people, places, circumstances- yes even the Corona virus) to achieve His will.
  • I know God has my back and has good plans for me as I serve Him, therefore, I will trust in Him.
  • I know that prayer is essential for survival and brings encouragement and resolve to believers.

joy in sovereignty of GodLet your joy be in our Sovereign God today.     Trust in Him!

Linda

Praying with Heart motivated by Joy

Today I am soaking in the joy Paul felt as he describes his fellow coworkers in the cause of Christ in Philippians 1:7-11.

philippians 1 7“So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.”

Do you love those you work with when serving Christ?  I have felt like Paul and have a special bond with brothers and sisters in faith as we work together for the Lord.  Those friendships are lasting and are firmly rooted in the love of Christ.  Whether you are near or far from them you always hold them dear and can’t wait to be with them again.   Why is that?  I think the shared love and spirit of Christ permeates the friendship and links us for eternity.   We know that time and place may separate us, but we are and will always be together in the Lord.  I can only imagine that this is part of what Paul was expressing to the Philippians.  He then explains how he prays for them.

Philippians 1-9“9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. 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.”    He prays that they will abound in love, continue to grow in the Lord, walk with Him and live a productive life for Christ that will bring glory and honor to the Lord.  What beautiful words with power and conviction.  He loves his co-laborers in the cause of Christ and desires to see them grow and flourish.  Is that what you desire for your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Do you pray for their growth, their walk and witness in the world?  These are tangible ways  we can support each other.  Seek God on behalf of your friends and ask Him to grow and develop them for His purposes. 

My joy is greater as I stand with others in the cause of Christ.

My joy increases as I walk with Christ.  As I seek to grow and serve Him, I am uplifted and encouraged by others in faith.

Philippians joyJoy is renewed and kindled as we work, pray, and serve together!  Paul knew that- how about you?  Mediate today on your friendships in the Lord and pray for them with a heart filled with love.

Linda

What byproduct of Joy are you experiencing?

Journey towards joy!  Today’s passage is from Philippians 1:1-6.  Paul and Timothy are greeting the Philippians and thanking them for their love ministry there in Phillipi.  They were thankful for all the good memories they had about them, their service, their love towards each other and for faithfully giving out the gospel message.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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.

philippians 1 4This passage reminds me to pray for my fellow believers as they serve in the cause of Christ.  They are a blessing to me and those around them.  Paul is thankful for these friends and fellow coworkers in Philippi.  He gives thanks for their love for Jesus and diligence in spreading the good news of Christ.   He is prompted to pray a prayer of thanksgiving for them,  and it fills him with joy whenever he does.  Paul states emphatically that he knows God will continue this good work in them, using them, keeping them and moving them forward because it is God’s work in them.  God is doing the work!  All God’s work is good and God will see all things to completion.  God does not give up, change His mind or let us down in any way.  James 1:17 promises, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”.  

Who do you need to pray for today?  Tap into the joy of thankfulness as you pray.

Then mediate on verse 6 and consider God’s promise a source of joy:

  • joy in your salvation– God loves you and has provided a secure future for you.
  • joy in God’s work within you through the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is leading you to be more and more like Jesus.
  • joy in His ability to finish what He has started in you by faith.  God is sovereign and He will not fail.  His victory = joy and hope within us, no matter what the circumstance look like.

philippians 1 6JOY is a byproduct of thankfulness, prayer, salvation and God working within us.  Thank you Lord that I can experience these even in the midst of a pandemic.   God you are good.  Here is a favorite verse of mine- Nahum 1:7 ‘The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,”   Walk with Jesus and He will restore your joy because He is in control and He cares for you in His goodness!

Linda

Praying, you are in great company!

Paul reminds us in Ephesians 1:15-16 that he considered it a privilege to pray for his ephesians 1 15fellow believers.   Do you feel that way too? For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.”  He knew he could go directly to God and was assured that God would hear his prayers!   

As I contemplated God’s accessibility to me through prayer, I reflected some of the people in the Bible that prayed and why they sought an audience with God.  Have you talked with God about similar situations in faith?  If so you are in good company.  Isaac prayed for his wife to conceive a child, Genesis 25:21, Moses and the people prayed for God to remove the serpents because they had greatly sinned Numbers 21:7.  Hannah prayed for a child in 1 Samuel 1:11, Solomon prayed for wisdom in 1 Kings 3:9,  Ezra prayed for protection and safe journey in Ezra 8:21, David prayed when in danger and distress Psalm 55, for grace in Psalm 86, for peace in Psalm 122,  Jeremiah prayed for mercy and direction in Jeremiah 42:2-4, Daniel prayed for mercy in Daniel 9:3 and 17,  Jonah prayed for salvation and mercy in Jonah 2 and 4, Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done Matthew 26:39 and 42,   the disciples prayed for deliverance of Peter in Acts 12:5. and the letters are filled with prayers for salvation, thanksgiving, restoration, for the needs of others, godly behavior, healing and forgiveness.   We have a mighty cloud of witnesses in the Bible that attest to the fact that God will listen to our prayers and will answer.  In all the ones listed above, Jesus is the only one who prayed for God’s will.  He knew that God’s will is perfect and will provide the perfect answer to prayer.

prayer for-strength-faith-fear-power-powerlessness-trusting-amenBe encouraged and keep on praying.  Give you requests to God and He will answer. If you don’t exactly know how to pray?  Ask the Holy Spirit to do it for you.   Romans 8:27 “And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”     God is faithful and will answer in His time and in His way.  This requires faith, trust and patience as we wait upon God for His perfect answer.

Let me encourage you with these final verses:  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find prayer alonegrace to help us in our time of need.”   Hebrews 7:25 “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

Pray continually and be assured that God hears your prayers.

Linda

** Need a fun exercise?  Look up the above prayers and see how God answered each of them in His way in His time.  God is good, all the time.  “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in Him.”  Nahum 1:7

Faith- does it really matter?

faith-mattersAs we all struggle with the racism that has surfaced yet again in America, we need to seriously ask ourselves if faith matters. People are carrying signs that say “Black Lives Matter” which is so true- as all people matter. We are all precious and made in God’s image. The question I am pondering is does ‘faith matter’? If it indeed does, how is it manifesting itself in your life?

As Christians we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and God is working within us.  That should make a difference in the way we see our world and the people, animals and the creation that make up our world.   We should be concerned about our life and the lives of others.  Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; make and female he created them.”  He created all of us and our faith brings God into us.  Our faith in God allows us to work and live for Him.  Many of God’s attributes are for Him alone- only He is Incomprehensible, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Sovereign and Almighty.  However, many of God’s attributes are characteristics that He desires us to emulate.

ephesians-3-17If we want to be more and more like Jesus, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to develop those characteristics within us.  He desires that we are kind, loving faithful, thankful, show goodness, gentleness, joy and experience His peace.  If we are to mature in faith, the actual term is sanctification, the we need to work our our faith and live it.  It does matter – it matters to God and it matters to me.  Jeremiah 9:24 tell us what pleases God, “But let him who boast boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”  Through faith we can know God, and w can act in ways that bring Him glory and us good.

Just like ‘black lives matter’, so faith matters. It matters to you and to me. We need to humble ourselves and be open to God’s leading in our lives. When Solomon was dedicating the temple in Jerusalem, God promised a way to return to Him and save their land should they veer off course. “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14

way-we-liveLet us pray for our nation and humble ourselves seeking to do as Jesus would when dealing with others… Faith in God and Love are the ways to peace.  Faith matters, let the light of Christ shine in and through you today.

Linda