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

Prayer, Are you using it as a Weapon in Life’s Battles?

Paul has described the armor of God in terms of those pieces worn by Roman soldiers of the time.  The belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the gospel, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit.   All of these are physical weapons in our arsenal for fighting our earthly battles of seen and unseen forces that are against us because of our faith.  They are to be worn in all circumstances so that we are never without protection from God and His Holy Spirit.  The last piece of armor Paul lists is a non-physical weapon that we are to use constantly, prayer.   Ephesians 6:18 describes this weapon,  ” And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

ephesians 6 18Prayers are to be constantly on our lips for other believers.  It is a weapon that is to be used at all times for all occasions.  Paul exhorts us to stay vigilant for attacks upon our faith, trials that test our resolve or ideas that cause us to doubt.  Being alert keeps you or other believers from being taken by surprise by the things of the world that would cause you to stumble.  What kinds of prayers should we be offering for other believers?  Faith that is growing and maturing seeks to be more and more like Jesus so anything that would strengthen the walk, character, resolve, purity, thankfulness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, hope, salvation, purity, pursuit of righteousness….  the list is endless.  All these things we are told in scripture are desirous for the believer.   Here are a few examples:

Leviticus 19:2 “‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.”   We can pray for our own holiness and purity as well as all other believers.

Psalm 25:9  “He guides the humble in what is right  and teaches them his way.”  We can pray for humility in ourselves and others and commitment to walking with Jesus daily.

Colossians 2:6-7 “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”      Pray for each other’s daily walk, grounding in scripture, strength of faith and a life showing great thankfulness.

Galatians 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”   We can pray for the fruits of the Spirit to be evident and developing in our life and other believers.

Pope-Francis-Quote-Let-us-always-pray-for-one-anotherBecause Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I have the privilege of lifting myself and others up in prayer as we face life’s battles.   Take this privilege seriously and make it a habit to pray for yourself and others so that all would be strong in faith and rooted and grounded in Christ.  Satan desires that we stumble and falter as he wants to destroy our witness for Christ.  Jesus reminded the disciples before His death,  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33  Pray that we will all be over-comers and live victoriously in Him.

Linda

Holy Week- Jesus’ Friday was incredibly grueling.  He was tried in various courts in the night and early morning, beaten, brought before Pilate and condemned to be crucified.  He was brought to the cross and crucified then buried in a new borrowed tomb.  “Good Friday”  was good for us but physically hard, painful and demanding all from our savior.   Matthew 26:47-27:66, Mark 14:4-15:47,  Luke 22:47-23:56 and John 18:2-19:32. 

For what and for whom are you praying?

ephesians 3 14 19The next section of Ephesians Chapter 3,  verses 14-21, is a prayer Paul wrote to them.  Today we are focusing on verses 14-19 and I have chosen the New Living Translation for ease in understanding.  His prayer is an excellent model of what to pray for fellow believers.  As you read, listen for Paul’s heartfelt desires for them and their relationship with God.

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. 16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources with he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. 18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Paul makes it clear from the beginning that he is praying to the living God who created heaven and earth, remember they were surrounded by a very pagan society that worshiped man made idols.   Paul knows God is omnipotent and the source of a believer’s strength.  He wants them to grow and develop in faith.  He wants them to realize who God is and the power of His love for them.  Paul feels if they come to know the God of all power and love, they will have lives that are filled and transformed.  Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we have the privilege and obligation to intercede on behalf of other believers.

What about you?  What do you pray for your fellow believers?  Do you pray for their growth and knowledge of God,  and that they will experience the fullness of His love? If you’ve never prayed like that- give it a try.  Choose a friend and pray for their growth in james 5 16faith, their knowledge of God to increase as they study His Word, their prayer life to expand, that they would experience and understand the depth of God’s love for them….. God desires that we lift one another up in prayer.  James 5:16b  ” The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”  Seek to be a clean vessel through your own confession of sins,  then pray earnestly on behalf of other believers.  Remember Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Linda

 

3rd Sunday of Lent, 2020 Need a place to worship? Join us on YouTube

This second week of Lent has given us important action verbs of faith from Ephesians- brought near, united as one Spirit and family,  founded in Christ, privileged in faith and having access to Almighty God.  What a week filled with truths in the midst of panic, fear and doubt due to the Corona-19 virus.   New words have occurred- social distancing and self-quarantining that seek to limit and restrain us.  The truths from Ephesians are free, open and available even in a crisis.  They will transform our lives, assure us in faith and move us forward together in Christ.  Let the truths from Ephesians 2 and 3 seep into your soul and let the Holy Spirit use them to transform your faith.  Let them replace any fears you are feeling.

Truths:

  •  we are brought near to God through the blood of Christ.   Ephesians 2:13
  • we are one in Spirit.   Ephesians 2: 14,18
  • we are united in Christ as He is our foundation and chief cornerstone.  Ephesians 2:19-23
  • we are part of God’s family plan that is filled with His blessings in Christ.  Ephesians 3:6
  • we are privileged to show God’s love and the good news of Jesus to the world.   Ephesians 3:7-11
  • we have access to the Father in prayer.  Ephesians 3:12

Blessings as you worship today- in most places virtually,  as we practice social distancing due to the Corona-19 Virus.  Our church service will be live streamed on YouTube today-you can tune in at 10:30 am PST to hear our worship band and Pastor Aaron Gonzenbach preach from the Word.  You simply type:  wearecrossroads  into Youtube and it should take you there.

Blessings as you seek to live fearlessly for Him,

Linda

 

The Cross = access to God!

Paul concludes this section on the mystery of the gospel and his work among the Ephesians as a teacher and preacher with a revelation about the unique freedom they now have in Christ.  Ephesians 3:12 “Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.”   3 So please don’t lose heart because of my trials here. I am suffering for you, so you should feel honored.”  Paul  wanted them to focus on the position available to them because of their faith in Christ and not to feel sorry for him as he writes to them from prison in Rome.  He felt it was a privilege to suffer in the name of Christ, not a burden.

So what is this unique freedom we now have as believers in Christ?  Paul says we now have the ability to come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.  This is a  unique status given only to believers. Ephesians 3-12Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, we have access to the God the Father in prayer.  We do not need to go to or though anyone to have our requests made known to God.  In the past, the Israelites had to go through their High Priest to present their needs to the Lord.  Now, each person can approach the throne of God in prayer and lay your heart’s desires,  needs,  hopes and dreams before the Lord.  The Lord Jesus is now our High Priest and presents our prayers to the Father. When we struggle for words or thoughts, Jesus intercedes for us and knows exactly what we are thinking or feeling.  Hebrews 8:1b “we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven,”   

Here are a few verses that talk about this unique privilege of prayer:

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

1 John 5:14:  “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

hebrews 4-16 confidencePray with confidence today, God hears your prayers.  Pray to stay in God’s will and He will give you the grace and mercy you need.  God is faithful and keeps His promises.  I love Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  God is 100% faithful and will hear our prayers.   His ways are not our ways, so we need trust Him and not  seek to demand our own way or try to tell God what to do.  I am always amazed at God’s answers to my prayers as He often answers in ways I could never have imagined.  Pray in faith, knowing He absolutely hears you and let God take care of the details!     Thank you Jesus for interceding for me as I approach the Father in prayer. 

Linda

The Privilege of Prayer

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 ephesians 1 16he 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.

prayer for each otherToday 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.

Linda