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

Holy Week, Thursday, Where’s Jesus?

As Jesus’ time on earth draws to a close, His Thursday was filled with love, encouragement, heartbreak and pain.  As Jesus celebrated the Passover supper with His disciples in the Upper Room, Judas was dismissed as he had already decided in his heart to betray Jesus.  Then Jesus spent precious hours teaching, reassuring and praying for His disciples.  Later they went to the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed and gained strength from His Father.  The soldiers came into the garden to arrest Jesus, and he was betrayed by Judas. They led him away to be tried in numerous trials both civilian and religious.  He was beaten, flogged, insulted and denied by Peter.

During all this time, Jesus was focused on doing the will of the Father and completing His mission on earth, the redemption of mankind.  I am touched when I consider His prayer in the Upper Room as recorded in John 17: 20-23 as he was thinking of me and you and not the ordeal he was facing.

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.  (Message)

I was amazed that Jesus took time to pray for His mission, His disciples and All future believers that night in the Upper Room.  He wanted all future believers to be unified in faith so we can tell others that Jesus was and is real and was sent by the Father.  He says that the unity of our faith and oneness with Christ will give evidence to the unbelieving world that God loves us and truly sent His Son to redeem us.  This unity was so important to our Lord and Savior that He interceded for us.  Jesus wants us to be one in Spirit, united, telling others about Him.

What difference does it make that Jesus spend time on the last night before his crucifixion praying for you?  When you are with other believers do you strive for the unity Christ desired or are you seeking to divide and cause unrest in matters of faith with your brothers and sisters in Christ?  Are you about the sharing of your faith with others by showing kindness, love and speaking of the hope you have in Jesus?  Today, think of Jesus and what He desires for all believers.  Strive to walk in unity.  He promises it will show the world that we believe in Him and God’s love.

Prayer:  Father, I am humbled and amazed that Jesus prayed for me on His last night on earth.  He loved me so much and wanted me to be one in faith and unified in spirit with all believers.  Help me to live today with an abiding faith in You so that the people I meet will know that I love You and that You love me. Empower me to show your love to others so that you may be glorified in all I say and do. Amen.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can be unified with other believers in Jesus’ name and share in His love.

Linda

Holy Week, Monday-Where’s Jesus?

Bible Commentaries give two specific events that Jesus was involved in on Monday before His crucifixion of what is now known as Holy Week.  Jesus entered the city humbly and triumphantly on Sunday and then cleansed the temple area of money changers and withered a fig tree.  Both actions seem harsh, but they give a picture of the worldly opposition to God’s kingdom.  From both we get a glimpse of divine justice.  You can read the accounts in Matthew 21 and Mark 11.

Jerusalem at Passover was a bustling city with many thousands of pilgrims arriving to make offerings at the temple.  They needed to purchase animals for sacrifice and change money so they could pay the yearly temple tax.  The exchanges were all being conducted in the outer court of the Gentiles.  Here is Matthew’s account from 21:12-14.

12-14 Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer;
You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.  (Message)

Jesus was then, is now and will be in eternity the Righteous Judge.  He saw the true motives of the people desiring to make money exorbitantly and uprooted and cast them out literally.  He placed a priority on prayer and worship when coming to God’s house.  He got right to the work of His ministry, healing and allowing access to God for everyone.

20120217_make-my-heart-a-house-of-prayer_banner_img

As we near the cross, take heart from this short snippet in Jesus’ last week. Know that He came to save and set right relationships and motives towards God.  What attitudes do you need adjusted by Jesus today?  Do you attend church to make ‘connections’ with people for business or do you come to pray and reflect on your walk with Jesus?  Looking at the heart is what Jesus did then and does now in our lives through the Holy Spirit.  Let Him cleanse your heart today and put you on the right pathway with right motives.  May our hearts be right with God today as suggested in this quote by Charles Wesley “Make My Heart a House of Prayer”.  

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, God is accessible to me through prayer and I can trust in His righteousness. I can claim the truths of Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Thank you Jesus for making yourself accessible through prayer, your unsurpassed peace for my heart, and for your redemptive sacrifice.

Linda

Relationships Are Important to Christ and Important to Us

Paul finished his letter with final heartfelt greetings to specific people in the church at Colossae. Colossians 4:7-15

Tychicus will give you a full report about how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper who serves with me in the Lord’s work. I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you. I am also sending Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, one of your own people. He and Tychicus will tell you everything that’s happening here.

10 Aristarchus, who is in prison with me, sends you his greetings, and so does Mark, Barnabas’s cousin. As you were instructed before, make Mark welcome if he comes your way. 11 Jesus (the one we call Justus) also sends his greetings. These are the only Jewish believers among my co-workers; they are working with me here for the Kingdom of God. And what a comfort they have been!

12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis.

14 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas. 15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.

What can we glean from these verses? First, Paul wanted to reassure the Colossian Christians that he was doing fine and to be encouraged by his words of testimony that will be passed on by Tychicus and Onesimus. When you send cards, emails or calls to friends do you tell them how you are spiritually to encourage them? Do you tell them how God has blessed you, led you, answered prayer, and is revealing Himself to you in new ways? Paul is encouraging us to relate not only our well being physically but spiritually too.

Next, Paul explains fellow workers with him in the cause of Christ that are sending greetings. Isn’t that natural to tell others about people they know and what is happening with them? Here Paul is saying they have been a great comfort to him personally and are growing spiritually more mature in their walk with the Lord. What kind of things do you tell others about mutual friends? Are they uplifting and centered on their kindness or do they tend more towards gossip?

Then, Paul mentions praying Epaphras. Wow! He is known as one who upholds others in consistent prayers. He is genuinely concerned about their growth, witness and steadfastness in Christ. Do you have friends that pray for you and your personal growth? Do you pray for others in this way? If not, why not?

Lastly, Paul remembers Luke, the author and traveler for Acts and the gospel of Luke. Luke and Demas know many of them and wish to greet them again to renew that relationship. Is there someone you’ve served with in ministry that you need to renew the contact? Is there a friend or neighbor you’ve been missing and need to reconnect with? Now is the time.

Paul did not say good-bye but hello from many. He wanted them to know they were loved and cherished by many even there in far away Colossae. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can continue in relationship with fellow believers from now to eternity bringing encouragement and hope as we focus on Christ.

Linda

Thankful prayers result in Peace

As is Paul’s custom, he begins his letter to the Colossian Christians with prayers of thanksgiving.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, Colossian 1:3-4

Is thankfulness your first response when you consider your friends of faith? Are you able to focus on how God is using them in His work and thank God for their presence in your life? In Philippians 4:6, Paul puts it this way, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” As we pray for those people in our lives, God wants us focused on being thankful and then asking Him for direction and guidance in our life. Paul wanted to express his thanks to God for these faithful, grace filled co-workers that lived in Colossae. This group of new believers had a special place in his heart as they showed their faith and love actively to other believers. They were living out Jesus command 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.”

As you begin this Lenten journey, who do you have in your life that you are thankful for? Give Thanks. Who do you serve with at your church or other Christian organizations that you are thankful for their working with you in the cause of Christ? Give Thanks. Who is in the need of prayer? Give Thanks that you can support them in prayer. I cling to the truth in Philippians 4:7. Praying with thankful hearts brings God’s peace and will focus us upon Jesus. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can pray with a thank-filled heart and experience the love of Jesus in my life through and with other believers.

Linda

Lent 2021 Are you ready to begin?

Are you ready to begin your 6 week journey towards the cross? Here are some suggestions by Pope Francis that I found thought provoking and challenging. I’ll begin my blog posts with my journey through Colossians tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, but I thought these ideas might spark your thinking and help you prepare your heart and mind.

Be prepared- pray and think about fasting from one of the above during this Lenten season.

Linda

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linda

Thankfulness Day 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