Unchangeable, Promise Keeping God

And the journey continues….Ezra. Ezra is a history book about the Jewish people’s amazing return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Due to their evil idolatrous ways and forsaking of the worship of the one true God, they were carted away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. The precious gold bowls and articles of worship were carried away too. Their exile, which was warned about by a multitude of prophets, was accomplished by the Persian army and many of the Jewish citizens were deported to Babylon. All the prophets had foretold their exile and also their return. No date was given in earlier prophesy’s to their return but God promised to bring them back. As the time for exile approached, God sent a message to the people through Jeremiah that they would be exiled for 70 years and then be brought home to Jerusalem. The events in Ezra tell us how God used a pagan king to accomplish this feat and see to His people’s return 70 years after their deportation.

Daniel, one of the exiled Jews, spoke of how God uses all in His world to accomplish His will in his prayer. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel knew that God controlled who was in power and determined the future of His people.

The book of Ezra opens 70 years later. Ezra is a Jewish official, a scribe and a priest in the service of King Cyrus of Persia. The regime has changed and Cyrus had a revelation from God and his heart was moved towards the Jewish people living in his realm. Ezra 1:1-4  “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

There are several amazing things about this occurrence. Their return was foretold by Jeremiah before their exile in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Here is 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” God was very specific on the number of years they would be in exile (70) and that when they returned they would have provisions. Cyrus ordered fellow Jews remaining in Babylon to support them and their efforts to rebuild the temple. He, a pagan king, was used by God in a mighty and miraculous way aid in the return of God’s people. They did return and began rebuilding the city, walls and temple. Ezra stayed, led in the instruction of the people in God’s ways so that they did not sin continue to sin against God. He had to return to Cyrus’ court and Nehemiah was led to go and continue this restoration.

What lessons can we take from this story? Foremost, God keeps His promises. God said they would go, they did. God said they would return, they did. The events were orchestrated by God and not by the Jews who were in exile. God knew the correct time for their return and who was going to be in power. God knew Cyrus would listen to His message and act upon it. One would never have thought that the golden bowls, etc. that were taken as plunder and placed in the Babylonian temple by King Nebuchadnezzar were there for safekeeping. Only God could take away, preserve and then return them to where He wanted them to be. That same God is the God we know today. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is our unchanging all powerful God who watches over all of us. This account gives me hope and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, always and forever. It also assures me that God is Sovereign over nations, those in power and events happening in our world. When things look bleak, I need to always remember that God is indeed in control and walk trusting Him for my safekeeping. I know God keeps His promises!

Be encouraged by God today.

Linda

Fire, Water and Power for All to See

Statue of Elijah on Mt Carmel

And the journey continues….1 Kings. There are many adventures of God’s prophets, Elijah and Elisha, included in 1 Kings. Elijah was a prophet to the nation of Israel when Ahab was king and Jezebel was queen. The nation had been divided into Judah and Israel. Ahab ruled over the northern 10 tribes, Israel, and was an evil king. He worshipped Baal and Asherah and had forsaken the worship of God Almighty. God sent Elijah to confront him and relay the message that it would not rain in the land as a judgement for abandoning Him until God allowed it. Elijah left and God provided for him. He placed him by a brook and fed him with ravens. Later when the brook dried up, God sent him to the Widow at Zaraephath where God promised through Elijah that her oil and flour would not run out until it rained for sharing her food and shelter with Elijah. Finally after 3 years, God sent Elijah to Ahab. Elijah proposed a contest on Mt Carmel between the prophets of Baal and the Lord God of Israel. Ahab accepted. The story is written in 1 Kings 18:16-45.

View from Mt Carmel

What a contest it was! Elijah told the prophets of Baal to build an altar, put wood under and around it and place the sacrificial bull, which had been cut in pieces, upon it. Then the prophets were to call unto their god and ask Baal to consume the wood and sacrifice with fire. Elijah would then do the same and ask the Lord to consume it with fire. Elijah wanted the people to see that God was alive and real where as Baal and Asherah were powerless. So the prophets set up their altar and began to call upon Baal. Nothing happened. Elijah taunted them in verses 27-29 “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention. Then Elijah asked the people to help him prepare the altar with wood and the sacrificed animal parts. However, Elijah also instructed them to dig a trench around the altar and pour water over all of the wood, and animal pieces. It was so much water that it ran down into the trench. He had them repeat this 3 times! Verses 36-39 describes what happened next, “And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 3And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”

I love this story. We see God’s amazing power over the elements, rain and fire. God’s power over other gods, the idols that the people worshiped, Baal and Ashorth. We also saw that God kept his promises, no rain, protection of Elijah, not tolerating evil, and protecting, defending his people. In addition, we see the people’s response to God’s power and might, as they fell down in worship. Shortly after this confrontation on Mt Carmel, Elijah tells Ahab to run home because it is going to rain and for him to hurry. It rained torrentially before King Ahab got back to Jezreel by chariot.

How big is your God? Can He be trusted to defeat all foes? Is He bigger than anything you face? Is He sovereign over all things, circumstances and people in your life? Read this story in full in 1 Kings 16:20-17:24. Marvel anew at the power, provision and planning God shows to Elijah and His mercy and grace towards the wayward people of Israel. He can and does show that same power, mercy and grace toward us through Jesus the Son. We worship and serve Almighty God and there is none more powerful. I am reminded of David’s prayer in Psalm 86:8-10 when I read this story in 1 Kings. “There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come    and worship before you, O Lord,    and shall glorify your name.10 
For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.

May you look and see the power of God today as you walk with Him. May it cause you to fall down in worship before Him. He is the awesome God, mighty to be praised!

Linda

Praise Jesus, He is who He is!

Who do you think Christ is? Paul wanted the Colossian Christians to know without a doubt that Christ is God. Current philosophies of Paul’s day claimed that he was not all God. Paul says and that in Him nothing was lacking, He is the all in all. Colossians 2:9-10 “For in Him all the fullness of Deity (the Godhead) dwells in bodily form [completely expressing the divine essence of God]. 10 And in Him you have been made complete [achieving spiritual stature through Christ], and He is the head over all rule and authority [of every angelic and earthly power].” I like the Amplified text as it adds and explains to us what Paul was talking about specifically. Some were saying Jesus was not all of God and was not divine. Paul wanted to confront their heretical ideas and explain the truth about Christ- who He is.

We have philosophies today that want to discredit and deny the deity of Christ. What can we say to refute them? Paul’s claim is that Jesus, when here on earth, had the fullness of God within him. Hebrews 1:3 gives us a perfect description who Jesus is and what He accomplished, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Jesus often talked of who He was and the power He possessed to grant eternal life. John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” He possessed the glory of God within himself, John 13:31-32 “Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.” Being God himself, Jesus was able to make those who believe in Him complete. They would have complete forgiveness of sins, Acts 2:38, ” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” They would have the Spirit of God dwelling within them, 2 Timothy 1:13-14 “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” They would be one with Christ, Romans 5:1-2 “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.” and John 15:4-5 “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Lastly, Paul wanted the believers to know that Jesus was and is ruler over all, He is sovereign God. I love the Philippians passage where Paul explains who Jesus is and was for all time, Philippians 2:6-11 “

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

May you catch a glimpse of Who Jesus is and was and what He has done for you. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I am one with Him, totally forgiven and have His Holy Spirit dwelling with me. Praise God, Jesus is who He is!

Linda

3rd Sunday of Lent, Jesus did it All!

This week again we have an amazing list of benefits for believers through faith in our risen Lord Jesus. As you mediate on these truths from God’s Word in His letter to the Colossians, let the revelation of who Christ is and what He accomplished on the cross sink into your mind. Let it produce in you a greater sense of gratitude and hope.

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead,

I can know God the Father who is exactly represented by Jesus the Son and who is fully God, Creator and totally Sovereign over all creation. Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

I can rely on Sovereign Jesus to hold all things together for me in my life. Colossians 1:16b-17 “all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

I can know Him and the peace of reconciliation in my life. Colossians 1:18-20 “Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.  So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,20 and through him God reconciled  everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

I am redeemed and reconciled to Almighty God so I have His hope-filled love for eternity. Colossians 1:21-22 “This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.”

I can proclaim the Good News of love and redemption and hold onto a faith that is strong and unwavering through the power of Christ in me. Colossians 1:23 “But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, redeemed by His blood and a citizen of His heavenly kingdom through faith in Jesus . Colossians 1:24-27 “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory”.

I pray these truths will lead you to fall deeper in love with God and lead you to praise! Here is our praise Psalm for this week:

Psalm 105:1-5 Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
    Let the whole world know what he has done.
Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
    Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
Exult in his holy name;
    rejoice, you who worship the Lord.
Search for the Lord and for his strength;
    continually seek him.
Remember the wonders he has performed,
    his miracles, and the rulings he has given,

Have a blessed day and week to come,

Linda

The Glue of our Sovereign God, Do you feel it?

Yesterday as I mediated or ruminated on Colossians 1:15-17 there were several phrases that really stuck in my mind. Colossians 1:16b-17 ” all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This says all things were created by Jesus as He was there at the moment of their creation; He is creator God. All the heavens and the earth were created for Him, to bring Him glory. Our purpose in serving Him is to abide in Him, reflect His character in ours and bring Him glory. Psalm 148: 5-6 puts it this way: Let them praise the name of the Lord!
    For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
    he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

The other phrase that has given me pause is that “and in him all things hold together.What does this mean to you? Do you think of yourself as the one that holds your family or workplace or church or group you belong to together? As a fallible human it is not possible to have that kind of responsibility and see it through to completion. However, Paul was telling the Colossians that Jesus does it all. He can handle all things, complete all things and work all situations for our good and His glory. One of my favorite scriptures that I claim and cling to is 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.” As believers we can trust in our Sovereign God to know how things can and will work together. How what seems to us a mistake can be used by God to refine, teach and grow us to be more like Jesus.

As you think about how Jesus holds all things together here are a few verses proclaiming His Sovereignty in all things. 1 Chronicles 29:12 “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 2 Chronicles 29:6 ” “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,”

Is Jesus the preeminent one in your life? Is He the one you are trusting to hold all things together? Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can rely on Sovereign Jesus to hold all things together for me in my life. I love Isaiah 49: 16 and claim His promise in my life, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.” We are precious to Him and He is holding us in His hands day by day. He goes before us and surrounds us with His perfect will and timing. Trust Him to keep your life glued together as you walk with Him.

Linda

Jesus, There is NONE Before You!

The next section in Chapter 1 of Paul’s letter to the Colossian Christians is title The Supremacy of Christ in my NIV and The Preeminence of Christ in ESV. One of the issues the Colossian church was having was ideas had begun to creep into the church that questioned the authenticity, supremacy and the importance of Christ and His work on the cross. This next section is rich in theology about Christ and gives us truths that are absolute and eternal about Him.

Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Here Paul states that Christ was present, existed before the world was even made, He was with God, is Creator God and He is the glue that holds all things together.

The idea of Jesus as image of the invisible God is also spoken of in Hebrews 1:3 ” He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Christ was also visible to mankind when He dwelt on earth and revealed the invisible Father too. John 14:9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Jesus was also referred to the ‘first born’ son in all creation. Being God’s one and only Son had certain rights just as first born sons had rights in the ancient world. He would be considered preeminent, first and number 1 in the family heirs. John 1:18 adds understanding to this first born concept, “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.”

He is creator God in Genesis 1:26 the triune God is spoken of as us, all 3 parts of the God were involved in creation- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” John 1:1-3 states the place of Christ in the world and his involvement in all creation.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” Jesus also said from his own lips in John 8:58 who He was! “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Paul wanted the Colossians, and us too, to know and understand that dealing with Jesus meant you were dealing with God himself. Jesus was the real deal and was not to be taken lightly or belittled in any way. HE IS GOD! Knowing Jesus, we can know the Father. John 14:7 “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Be encouraged by Paul’s words today. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can know God the Father who is exactly represented by Jesus the Son and who is fully God, Creator and totally Sovereign over all creation. What a Savior we have in Jesus!

Linda

Called? An example of God’s Providential Care at Work!

Paul begins his letter to the Colossian Christians by stating who he is and by what authority he writes to them. He did not know them personally as he was not the one who brought the good news of Christ to them. Epaphras his friend and a man he led to Christ in Ephesus was the one who delivered the good news of Christ and helped them establish a group of believers in that city. Epaphras was concerned about problematic ideas that had entered their thinking so he journeyed to Rome to get advice and encouragement from Paul. Paul wrote this letter for Epaphras to take back to them.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, Colossians 1:1

Do you think of yourself as doing or being in a particular place at a particular time by the will of God? The key idea here is God is Sovereign and all things happen by God’s direction. It is called the Providence of God. There is no luck involved in the coincidences of life as life is designed by our sovereign God. A recent definition I found for the providence of God is this: God has a plan and a purpose for the world and governs history such that everything from the least to the greatest contributes to the achievement of that plan and purpose. God’s providence is the active outworking of God’s Sovereignty in everything. Paul was not in a Roman prison by chance nor did Epaphras journey there by accident. God used both Paul’s imprisonment and Epaphras’ desire to know truth to lead him to find Paul in that prison cell. Paul is stating here that God intended for him to be a witness to the gospel of Christ, met him, led him and was using him to tell others the good news of Jesus. What is happening in your life that you feel God is using you for His purpose? Often times when things happen, we quickly question God, why? At those times, we need to remind ourselves of the providence of God and how as Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” God can and does use all things in our lives for our good and His glory. Our calling is to walk in trust and faith that God has it all in His control.

Paul also includes his co-worker in the cause of Christ, Timothy, in the greeting. Timothy might have traveled to Colossae at some point and was known to some of the believers or perhaps he was helping Paul by scribing the letter. What is known is that Paul and Timothy were a team like father and son working together to spread the gospel. I hope you have friends in the faith that share your love for God and work hand in hand with you to serve Jesus and your local church. John mentions these type of people in 3 John 1:8 “Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.” Supporting each other in ministry brings encouragement and unity to all believers. Say a quick prayer right now and thank God for someone special that works with you to serve Jesus. They are a gift from God to you!

Look for the providence of God in your life this week. Seek Him with faithfulness knowing you are set apart for Him and His work in you. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can trust that all things that happen in my life will be used by God to bring good to me and glory to His name.

Linda

Got a Word, Now look for the Why!

When choosing a Word to guide or focus your year, you need to remember that the word is just a tool of remembrance. The real power is in the Word of God upon which your word is based. For example, I have chosen Joy as my focus word for the year. I will be looking for the joy of the Lord in all things- not just the fun, productive or happy times. How do I know this is true? It is because the Joy I am seeking is based on scripture. As I have looked at my verses more closely, I see different aspects of God’s joy that I can look forward to this year.

Joy in that is based on my salvation and will provide me with sustaining strength to lift me up, even when things don’t look so good! Habakkuk 3:17-19 “Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold  and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord;  I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength;  he makes my feet like the deer’s;  he makes me tread on my high places.”

Joy that is based on the Sovereignty of God as He knows the pathways He has made for my life and I can find His joy as I walk trusting Him. Psalm 16:11 “You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;  at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Joy that will cause me to rejoice in both body and spirit. It will fill me up from the inside out and is based in the graciousness of God for those He has redeemed. Psalm 71:23 “My lips will shout for joy,  when I sing praises to you;  my soul also, which you have redeemed.”

Joy that provides me with eternal strength to face each day. Nehemiah 8:10b “And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Joy that takes everything in stride and produces character within me. James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Take the word you have chosen for the year and search scripture for places it is used. Pray and seek God’s guidance in which verses really speak to you that He would have you apply to your life this year. It is not your word that guides you but the Word of God that uses, applies and motivates your year.

God’s Word has the power to lead, guide, uplift, motivate, give strength, and produce salvation within you as you believe in Him. God’s Word is eternal, sharp, penetrating, breathed by Him so it can produce within our character what God desires for our lives. Let His Word guide you this year as you seek Him.

Linda

Hello 2021!

The scripture I have chosen to begin a New Year is Habakkuk 3:17-19. It is one I have turned to for hope and inspiration during hard times. I think 2020 would qualify as a hard year, so I wanted to begin this New Year of 2021 with a look back and a look forward with hope and joy in my heart because of who God is and what He has done in my life.

Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
(This sure sounds like all the calamity of a year in 2020!)
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.
(This is my resolve for 2021!) 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.
(This is what a know by faith.)

What is your resolve for this New Year? What do you know about God through your faith? Where is your hope and joy in this New Year? Is it in Jesus where it can never fail no matter what comes into your life? The prophet Habakkuk really nailed it when he looked around him and saw his world falling apart. And yet, he looked to the Lord as the ever present, never ending source of His joy. He had hope and joy because he knew that God had the situation under His control, He is Sovereign. He knew that his own strength would fail but God could and would lift him up and restore, renew, protect and keep him in His everlasting arms.

Do you have that kind of faith? If not, look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can restore and keep you safe in Him. As Martin Luther proclaimed starting the Reformation, “In Christ Alone”.

May this be a year of restoration for you, me and the world. May many turn to Jesus for their restoration and hope. Happy New Year as we begin 2021 together.

Linda

Aftermath- a Homeward Journey

The old saying, “It is so good to go but oh so nice to come home”, could be said of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in this last episode of the Christmas Story. God again directed their pathway and protected them from harm. He led them to the place Jesus would call home until His public ministry began some 30 years later. Matthew 2:19-23 “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

As this portion of Jesus’ life concludes we see the hand of Sovereign God protecting the child and his parents yet again from the evil leader who might seek to harm the child. Archelaus was evil and tyrannical like his father Herod. He only remained in power for 10 years but was know as unusually cruel and tyrannical before being deposed. His reign was short and Judea a became a province of Rome thereafter and was ruled by those appointed by the emperor. Again, God spoke and Joseph listened and obeyed his dreams. Going back to Nazareth was probably comfortable as that was where they had lived prior to having to go to Bethlehem for the census several years before. Even though people would have known their history, they were returning as a married couple with a small child. Scripture does not indicate there was any animosity towards them or held beliefs or prejudices. Nazareth was a quiet backwater type of town where obscurity could be achieved and the child protected. Again, this protected location is seen in the prophesies that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. These exact words are not found in the Old Testament but their meaning of one who is despised and rejected is referred to in Psalm 22:6 and Isaiah 53:3. Being referred to as a Nazarene in Jesus’ day was synonymous with one who is despised. Surely, nothing good could come from Nazareth was the assumed idea. No one would look for the ‘king of the Jews’ in such a place and no one did!

What can we take away from this story today? We see that God’s will and plan for the redemption of mankind through His Son could not be thwarted by men. God had a plan for our salvation and nothing could disrupt it. Job 42:2 reminds us of this ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” We also see God’s hand of protection in Mary and Joseph’s story and His guidance to Bethlehem, Egypt and back to quiet Nazareth. So many things could have befallen them on their journey, but God protected and guided them home. He can and does this for us in our lives, too. We may not see it, but as God grows our faith and opens our eyes to His goodness as we come to trust more fully in His plans and ways. It is a life long process of growing in the Lord that matures our faith. I’m confident that this ‘journey’ was one of growth and trust in the Lord for both Mary and Joseph.

As we leave this last installment of the Christmas Story, let us remember with confidence that God’s plan is sure Job 42:2, His ways are not our ways Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” His ways are always right Psalm 71:19 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? and He does things for our good and His glory Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Praise God for His blessings and what He teaches us through His Word. The Advent Season is one to be cherished and loved. We can cling to the Hope, Love and Redemption we see throughout the year. Jesus is the reason for Advent Season! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

Linda