Philippi, An Encounter with Consequences

And the journey continues…into Acts. Acts is filled with the wonderful adventures of the Apostles learning to walk with Jesus and allowing Jesus to work in and through them to spread the gospel to the world. In Chapter 16 of The Acts of the Apostles Paul tells us how he and Silas met Timothy in Derbe. Paul wanted to take this new believer along with them on their second journey through Asia Minor and Greece. He had an instant affection for this young Greek Hebrew convert. He grew to love him as a son as is evidenced in his writings in 1 and 2 Timothy.

Then Paul has a vision during the night where the Holy Spirit spoke to him and directed them to go into Macedonia with the gospel message. Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy landed in Neapolis and traveled inland to the town of Philippi. They encountered the purple merchant Lydia and fellow Jews by a steam just outside the city. It was the Sabbath and since there was no synagogue in Philippi, they were praying and worship by the river. Paul presented the gospel truth about Jesus the Messiah and she became a believer and welcomed them into her home. I had the privilege of visiting this spot where Paul and Lydia met several years ago. It is peaceful and lovely, and you can just envision them sitting by the stream singing and praising God.

Jail where Paul and Silas were held.

As the chapter continues and Paul and Silas went repeatedly to the river to worship. A slave girl who was possessed by a spirit kept taunting them. “She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Acts 16:17 Paul became troubled one day and turned to her and commanded the spirit to leave her in the name of Jesus. The slave girl’s owners had been using her divination powers to earn money, and they were very unhappy with these events. So they went to the town magistrate and complained, which resulted in Paul and Silas being beaten, flogged and imprisoned without trial. They were then thrown into jail. Later that evening while imprisoned, they were singing and praising God when there was an earthquake which opened the cell doors. The jailer, fearing their escape on his watch, started to kill himself. Paul called out to him that they were all there. Acts 16:29-34, And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

Forum and ruins of Philippi

Later the next day, the magistrate sent officers to release Paul and told them to leave the city. Paul refused to go until they came and spoke with him. He was righteously outraged at their treatment as they were Roman Citizens and the magistrates desired to coverup the way they had unjustly treated Paul and Silas. They were vindicated and left the city, but not before saying good-bye to Lydia and the other believers. The new believers were encouraged.

I love these dramatic stories for several reasons. 1. It shows how Paul was lead by the Spirit on his journey to where the Holy Spirit knew there were people waiting and eager to hear the gospel message. Do I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to just the right place and just the right time? Are you open to God opportunities to witness? 2. Paul and Silas stood up in faith and saved the young demon possessed girl. They then faced the consequences of their actions. They allowed God to use them and suffered for His name sake. God vindicated them and worked all things for their good and His glory. The jailer and his family came to know Christ, the magistrate and others were witnesses to the power of God, the magistrates were held accountable for their wrong, judgements and the believers were encouraged. How do you react to oppression and suffering? Do you complain and fight or do you pray, praise and sing with thanksgiving? Paul knew he was doing the Lord’s work and that God is sovereign over all government officials. He did not fear the outcome as he knew God was going before him and had his back. He completely trusted God. Where are you on a scale of 1 to10 on trusting God with the details of your life?

Take a few minutes and read this entire Chapter 16 of Acts. Let yourself feel what Paul and Silas must have felt- the joy, trust, and encouragement in faith along with the hatred of others, mistrust, and persecution. After, take a few minutes to pray for those brother and sisters in faith that are persecuted for the sake of Christ throughout the world. Pray for their safely and a boldness to proclaim the gospel, no matter the cost. Bravely ask God to bring you opportunities to witness to the power of Christ in your life.

Linda

Let Your Suffering lead to Restoration

And the journey continues… into Job. Biblical scholars feel this book was written in the first or second century B.C. but the story contained within the book was probably much older and passed down orally before that time. The unknown author reveals a story with a unique beginning which records God speaking with Satan. The writer could not have known of this conversation unless it was revealed to him by God himself. The book begins with God asking Satan if he had considered his servant Job. Job was a righteous, blameless and upright man who feared and worshiped God. God allowed Satan to test Job’s faith by removing his physical wealth. When this did not cause Job to lose faith, Satan said it was because Job still had his health. God allowed Satan to touch his body removing his good health, but God told Satan that he could not take Job’s life. Job 2:6 This account of Job’s life reveals his true sufferings, the torment of his wife and friends as they told Job to curse God and die. In all this, Job does not waver and persists in faith. He clings to his faith in Almighty God. In the last chapters Job questions God and God responds that He alone is sovereign and a just judge. Job’s final words show what he learned about God through his suffering.

I particularly love Chapter 42 (the last chapter) when after questioning God, Job concludes Job answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.
    Nothing and no one can upset your plans.

You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,
    ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’
I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,
    made small talk about wonders way over my head.
You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.
    Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’
I admit I once lived by rumors of you;
    now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!

I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!
    I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.” The Message Job 42:1-6

There are several important points in these last 6 verses. 1) Job was convinced that God is sovereign and in control of all things. He also now knows that nothing can upset, change or ruin God’s plans! 2) Job now has personal experience and knowledge of God Almighty. No one has to tell him about God- He knows first hand who God is and what He is about.

The book ends with restoration of Job’s wealth and a new family. I have personally experienced God’s restoration in my life. God does not bring us back what we’ve lost, but he restores our body, soul and mind so that we feel totally blessed and satisfied. God’s restoration is complete and fills the voids where we previously experienced loss. I believe it was this restoration that Job received from God.

If you need restoration today, humbly turn to God and acknowledge His sovereign justice, confess your attitude of pride and frustration as you yield to His will for your life. Ask God to fill and restore you in your heart, mind, body and soul. Ask God to reveal himself to you so you can experience Him and know He is real.

Linda

Joy in Standing with Christ

Paul knows by experience that the truth of Christ bring opposition.  He is trying to encourage the Philippian believers by stating the facts about their shared work for Jesus. Telling others about salvation, redemption, eternal life, heaven…. are all things in which the believer rejoices.   The unbeliever sees them as a pronouncement of coming destruction and fights against those who proclaim these gospel truths.   In Philippians Philippians 1 271:27-30, Paul says we need to stand up for Christ and walk in a manner worthy of His calling.  This is a life lived fearlessly for Christ knowing He alone is Savior, Redeemer, and Sovereign over all things.

27 “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.”

philippians 1 29Paul’s conclusion is that knowing and walking with Christ each day is a privilege entrusted to us by faith and with that comes suffering.  Know it, accept it and then lean on Him.  Remember you can take strength in and from fellow believers as you stand together in the cause of Christ.  Here are a few verses that help with the concept of suffering and why it comes with the job of being a believer.  (I have printed them at the bottom.)  I pray they help you to put in perspective what a privilege we have to suffer with Christ and the bigger purpose He has for us in suffering.  James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:14 and Acts 5:40-41.

My joy is increased:

  • I do not need to be fearful in my daily walk.   Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  • I am in this with life with victorious Christ and fellow believers are at my side.
  • Remembering Christ sacrifice for me, it is a privilege to suffer for Him.

Let your joy in serving Christ fill you today.

philippians 1 28Linda

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.”

1 Peter 4:14 “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”

Acts 5:40-41 “and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

 

Godly character, what is that?

Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can have godly character.  What is godly character?  God has many attributes and some are communicable to us through Jesus and some belong solely to God.  For example, only God is incomprehensible, the creator, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent or sovereign.  However, those characteristics of God that He wants us to possess are vast and growing characterwonderful.  He desires that we are like Him in having peace, joy, being forgiving, thankful, honest, friendly, generous, loving and humble to name just a few.  As we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit transforms us in a process called sanctification as we are made more and more like Jesus.

Why does God want to do this for us?  Scripture is clear there are great benefits to this character transformation.  Romans 5:2-4 “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”   Wow! Through faith in Jesus we stand in grace, rejoice in hope and our suffering produces godly character in us!  James 1:2-4 also speaks of the count it all joytrials of life bringing about change in our character for good.  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.”  Life’s trials test our faith and produce character that is steadfast and leads to perfection in Christ.   It is the trials in our life that God uses to hone and shape our character to make us more and more like Jesus as we learn to depend upon Him and place our Hope in Him.  

hopeMay you find joy in your trials and suffering as God works on your character, a character that will bring you hope!

Linda

Suggestion:  Determine to take a different view of the hard things you face today.  Seek to see them as character building. Praise God for the ability to cling to Him with a thankful, joyful and hopeful heart!

Lent- let it begin with my heart, mind and soul

Lent is a time of reflection, fasting, praise, worship and thanksgiving as we walk daily towards the cross.  The number 40 is used in the Bible to signify a time of testing and trial.  During your Lenten journey which is from today, Ash Wednesday, to Good Friday when Jesus died on the cross, we are to think about the price Jesus paid for our sins through His own death.  How we do that can take many forms.  Daily devotions with prayer and scripture, fasting for a meal or even a whole day can bring your focus on Jesus to a greater height.  Or you can choose to let go of something you really like to do, say or eat as a form of penance or identification with Christ’s suffering for you and your Pope Lentsin.  Last year, I found this quote from Pope Francis and it brought a new perspective to fasting during Lent.  It isn’t just denying myself chocolate or alcohol,  it is denying myself in other ways.  I love his suggestions to fast from stress and pressure by being intentionally more prayerful, or letting go of bitterness and focusing on love.

Today as you think about Christ and His suffering and the price He paid for your sins- think about ways you can honor Him in the next 40 days.  Each day at the end of my devotion I will have a suggestion of what you might do that day to honor Christ by doing for others in love as Christ did for you at the cross.   My daily blogs will focus on what we have in Christ because Jesus died on the cross and rose again.  I pray that my blogs and suggestions will help you to gain greater love and appreciation for your Lord and Savior and be prepared in your heart, mind and soul when Good Friday and Easter arrive.

Let the journey begin today in your heart as you set your mind towards the cross.

Linda

Suggestion:  attend an Ash Wednesday service or spend some time reflecting on your own sins.  Take a piece of paper and write them down.  Then take that paper place it before you as you pray and ask God to take those sins away and fill you anew with His love and devotion.  Symbolically placing your sins on the cross of Christ helps us to see that He died for me and my sins. Romans 5:8 “But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

 

Purposed in LOVE

The Messiah next returns to Isaiah 53:8 as Handel continues to show the suffering and rejection of our Savior.  His birth at Christmas is a celebration but it led to a pathway filled with grief and sorrow for our Lord Jesus. I think the Amplified Translation will help us to see this verse more clearly.

Isaiah 53:8 “After oppression and judgment He was taken away;
And as for His generation [His contemporaries], who [among them] concerned himself with the fact
That He was cut off from the land of the living [by His death]
For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke [of death]was due?

Jesus’ persecution by both the religious Jews in several illegal mock trials and then His judgement by Jews and condemnation by the Romans are what is spoken of here as oppression and judgement.  His trial before the Sanhedrin is recorded in Matthew 26:62-67 “Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.  The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God:Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”  64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?” He is worthy of death,” they answered. 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him.”   Later before Pilate they all demanded death for Jesus.  Matthew 27:20-23 “But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. 21 “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.  “Barabbas,” they answered.  22 “What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!”  23 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Verse 8 also states that Jesus would be cut off from the land of the living and sentenced to death for the transgressions of the people not his own.  Paul puts this cutting off plainly Romans 5 6 8in Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  

How can we be encouraged by these words of suffering and death of our Savior?  Jesus came as a babe fully aware of his life and purpose.  Even as young as 12 when he spoke in the temple people were amazed.  Luke 2:46-47  “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”  When Mary and Joseph asked him about it he replied in verse 49 ““Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Jesus knew His purpose and came to earth to do the will of His Father in heaven.  He God loves youcame for us.   Are you motivated by the love of God to give yourself willingly to serve others?  It is Jesus’ example to us given at Christmas for us to ponder and imitate in our own lives.  What better time of year to put this into practice!

Linda

 

Poignant Gratitude This 3rd Sunday of Advent

Today’s scriptures in Isaiah are some of the most poignant and convicting for us as believers.  We see the anguish, pain and separation our Lord Jesus endured for us as wayward, lost and sinful believers.   Ponder these ancient words this 3rd Sunday of Advent.   Isaiah 53:4-6

Isaiah 53-4 Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs redSurely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
    each of us has turned to our own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Consider these related verses in the New Testament.                                                             1 Peter 2:23-25 When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”                  Romans 4:24-25 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”                                                   Hebrews 10:22-23 “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

romans-4-20-25May God’s Word speak to you today so that you can better comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice in coming that Christmas.  Praise Him today for His mercy, love and compassion of us.  Praise Him for His plans for you and me.

Linda

 

For Love’s Sake He Came!

Part 2 of Handel’s Messiah returns to Isaiah for some prophecies of Jesus and what His time on earth will bring to pass.  Isaiah 53:3  “He was despised and rejected by despised and rejectedmankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”  Isaiah 50:6  “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.”   Both of these prophecies were given hundreds of years before Messiah was born.  They tell of the pain and suffering He was to endure both mental and physical.  He was going to be despised, rejected, suffer beatings, insults, mocking and would be spit upon.  During His ministry He was rejected and despised, Mark 8:31 “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”   He would be beaten, insulted, mocked and spit upon.  Matthew 27:26-32 “Then he (Pilate) released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28 They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30 They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31 After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”

What do these prophecies say to us today during the Season of Advent?  Jesus came willingly that Christmas into a world that would reject and hate Him.  He came because He loves us. John 3:16 says it best, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  Because of 1 Corinthians 15 57His LOVE, He came.  Praise Him today for coming and celebrate His victory over sin on our behalf.  “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Corinthians 15:57

Linda