Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Freedom!

Colossians 2:8-15

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that the world likes to create its own philosophies that do not lead to freedom, but instead lead to captivity.  In Colossians 2:8, Paul refers to such teachings as "empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense," (NLT).  I found it interesting that I focused on that verse (even though my original plan was to go further) and later in the day I had an opportunity to speak with a friend about the spiritual freedom they experienced through Christ.  This freedom didn't come because they followed all the rules the right way, this freedom came because they believed that Christ could give them freedom.  There is no freedom like the freedom we experience in Christ!  As we were talking, my friend was sharing some changes that were taking place in their life as a result and it struck me this morning what a perfect example of the amazing work the truth of the Gospel does in us when we believe.  You see, my friend found the ability to do the things that God wants because of the freedom they experienced in Christ.  I will look at this truth a little more later in the week, but today's verses focuses in on that wonderful and incredible message of the Gospel that brings us this freedom; please read Colossians 2:8-15.

When reading these verses in the New Living Translation, it is so clear the amazing work that God has done through Christ.  Just as Paul reminded the church of Colosse in chapter 1, he reminds them again that in Jesus "all the fullness of God" lived in a human body.  Paul also reiterates the union we have in Christ and the authority Christ has over all things.  These are important truths as we continue reading the message of hope we have in Christ.  In verse 11, Paul begins to bring up one of the rules that the church was struggling with: circumcision.  He explained that Christ didn't perform a physical circumcision on anyone who believes; instead, He performed a spiritual circumcision that cut away the sinful nature in us.  Paul was explaining the point of the circumcision and the reality that it is the cutting away of our sinful nature that is what makes the difference.

But Paul didn't end there!  He continued on to explain the process of baptism in Christ; since we have a unity with Christ our sinful selves were buried with Him and we were rose to new life with Him!  This didn't just happen, Paul reminds us that it was because we "trusted in the mighty power of God."  This is an important point that I will bring back in the next couple of days because we need to believe that our freedom comes from God's grace and power over death and it has nothing to do with what we do.  The ability to do what we do comes as a result of the freedom we experience.  Please read Ephesians 2:8-10.  In these verses we see that it is God's grace and not our good works that saves us.  Verse 10 (one of my favorites) sounds very similar to the verses we are reading today: we are created new in Christ so we can do the good things that God planned for us.

Continuing on in these verses we are reminded that before Christ, we were dead in our sins.  It is through the cross that our sins were wiped away.  I love how it is worded in verse14, "He cancelled the record of the charges against us..."  That is completely amazing to me!  Paul then brings back the reality of Christ's authority over everything in verse 15 when we are told, "...He disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities..."  We are free!

Have you experienced freedom from sin through Christ?  Have you praised God today for your freedom?

This post is linked with Winsome Wednesday, Word Filled Wednesday, and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

High Sounding Nonsense

Colossians 2:8-10

Before I dig in this morning, I would like to remind you to pray for the staff, students, and parents of Chardon High School.  I cannot imagine the grief that everyone in that community is feeling right now, and lets just pray that God will comfort them.  Pray for the parents who lost their children in this tragedy and pray for the healing of the students who are still recovering from their wounds in the hospital.  Pray for the students who witnessed this and are probably struggling with their loss of security.  And finally, pray for all the pastors in that community who will certainly be counselling and praying with hurting people through this time.

We live in a world that is full of pain and anger and it can cause struggles with faith.  In fact, it can be hard to understand how a God who is in control and is loving could allow such things to happen in this world.  Let me say right now, even when things don't make sense in our human eyes you can still know that God is in control and He loves us dearly.  There are things that we as humans just cannot understand.  In our struggle to understand such things, false philosophies and teachings emerge.  Paul had a rather strong description against such philosophies; please read Colossians 2:8-10.

Paul calls these "empty philosophies and high sounding nonsense" because the church was facing teachings that were going to lead them astray.  Notice that Paul actually tells them that if they listen and follow such philosophies, they would be captured or taken captive.  It really is being taken captive because anything other than the Gospel of grace through Christ is captivity; God's grace is the only way to freedom.  Notice where Paul says that these false teachings come from - human thought and "spiritual powers of the world."  So, we humans come up with rules that only leave us captive when we are unable to follow such rules perfectly.  We also have an enemy who does not want us to realize the absolute freedom that comes from God's grace.  Always keep to what the Bible says about who God is and what He says He can do.  Always believe who you are in Christ and know that you don't need to add to His undeserved grace.

When the world doesn't make sense, do you still believe in the truth you know about Christ?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Deep Roots

Colossians 2:6-7

A few years ago, my mom flew my family out to Arizona to visit her.  Our family had an incredible time and one of the souvenirs we brought back home with us was a little cactus that was a refrigerator magnet.  It survived the plane ride home, and I watered it faithfully once a month so the whole family could see it grow over the next two years.  When we moved to New York; however, the cactus suffered a different fate.  Somehow in the moving process it got detached from its roots and we watched it shrink and shrivel up over the next couple of days.  There are some references in the Bible about our spiritual roots and the important role they play in our growth.  Please read Colossians 2:6-7.

In Colossians 1, Paul spent time reminding the Colosse church who Jesus is and how our salvation is through Him.  After his explanation he begins the next thought with, "So then..."  He makes it clear with this statement that the first chapter was setting the stage for the next thought, which is to continue following Him.  Continue following Christ.  Once again, Paul was speaking to a church that was facing some cultural influence that was telling the church otherwise.  Paul was reminding them that no matter what the culture told them, keep following Christ.  Paul then gives the church the word picture of roots growing deep into Him.  I love this word picture because I enjoy gardening.  If a plant is not establishing a good root system, the plant will not thrive.  In fact, Paul goes on to say that when our roots grow deep, our faith will grow strong in His truth.

How do we grow our roots in Him?  We grow our roots by spending time in the Bible.  As we read the Bible and take the time to seek what God is saying in the passages we are reading, our roots are growing deep in Him.  The more we read the truth that is in the Bible and believe what God says in the Bible, the more our faith will grow.  We also grow our roots by spending time in prayer.  Spending time in prayer creates an intimacy with God unlike anything else and as we learn to lift our concerns to Him, our trust in Him will grow.  Another very important thing every believer needs to do to grow their roots is to be a part of a church.  Being a part of a body of believers is what grows us even more because this is where we experience the love of Christ through others.  This is where we learn what it means to be a part of the body of Christ.  These are the three most important things to growing our roots in Christ.

We are told in these verses that when we grow our roots in Christ and our faith grows, we will "overflow with thankfulness."  What happens when we overflow with thankfulness?  I believe it protects us from the cultural values that do not fit with God's truth.  Think of a measuring cup that is set under a running faucet and overflowing as the water continues to pour into it.  There is no room for anything else to get into the measuring cup.  When we are brought to the place in our walk with God that we are overflowing with thankfulness, not only does that affect the people around us, but it leaves no room for anything that is not of God.  Don't forget, that when our roots are in Christ, we are being watered by the Living Water. John 7:38 says, "Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.'"  That Living Water is the outflow that changes our culture.

Where are your roots planted?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Blind Injustice

James 5:1-6

This week has been tough - not in a bad things happening kind of way, but in a way where I have felt the Holy Spirit convicting me.  Earlier this week, I wrote about how we should be okay to let of go things and even sacrifice in order to follow Christ uninhibited and I know that God was preparing my heart for what He wanted to say to me last night.  My small group is currently doing Beth Moore's newest Bible study, James: Mercy Triumphs.  It has been an amazing study and I have been growing so much by doing it - I highly recommend it.  The study I was doing last night was based on James 5:1-6; please read through these verses.

I will say that Beth Moore focuses on a specific thing in these verses that is very important; however, God began breaking my heart as I read through these verses.  I have shared with you that the word I am focusing on this year as I read the Bible is justice and so these verses screamed out at me INJUSTICE!  By American standards I am not rich; however, if you have ever traveled to a third world country, you would have a different view of poor and rich.  I want to first say that this message isn't against having wealth - it is about how we gain wealth and the importance it plays in our life.  This particular passage is about gaining wealth through injustice.

At first view it would be easy to dismiss these verse because either you are a boss that gives fair wages to your workers or you are not a boss at all and so it would seem that this isn't about you.  However, I want to consider something else - what do you buy?  Please remember this is my own personal conviction, but I am sharing this with you because I know this isn't something that God is just saying to me.  So many products we have in our homes were made by people around the world that were mistreated and paid unfairly for their work.  In some cases, they were made possible through the sick practice of human trafficking.  We cannot always know what products were made at the expense of injustice; however, in many cases we can find out what products were made by fair and just treatment of the people who worked on them.  So, for someone like me who tries to save money I need to be more careful about how I am saving money.  When I choose not to think about who I am buying a product from, I am choosing to have blind injustice.  Just because I don't know (because I didn't ask) doesn't mean its okay.

Don't you think that it would be better to spend just a little more money on a product that is made by a company who is known to give fair wages to their employees?  Take coffee, for instance.  There are many companies that are known for working with farms that give fair wages to their workers but the cost of the coffee is a little more.  I'm not saying that cheaper coffee is cheap because the workers are treated poorly; I'm just saying that if we know for sure that a certain brand treats their workers fairly, shouldn't we buy that product?  So, paying a little more for my coffee so people in other parts of the world are treated justly is worth me not having a little more money to buy something I probably don't need anyway.  This is a way we can intentionally do something good instead of unintentionally treating people unfairly.

Since I am using coffee as an example, here are two places where you can buy your coffee from:

Poetice International Mwana Coffee

Land of a Thousand Hills

This post is linked with Charlotte at Spiritual Sundays - please visit her blog!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hidden Treasure

Colossians 2:1-5

There is a place near our house that has a ton of fossils.  You can become a member or pay per visit and dig for fossils.  I took my kids there back in August because they also had telescopes set up in the evening to look at solar flares.  At first, the kids were disappointed because they were not finding any fossils.  I think they were expecting the fossils to just come to the surface on their own.  Once they finally found a spot to park and dig around a little, they found a lot more fossils than they expected to find.  We came home with a small treasure, but I think it was more rewarding to have that treasure because we had to look for it.  Spiritually speaking, there is a great treasure waiting to be found as well; please read Colossians 2:1-5.

What do you think the world values today?  What does your culture value?  Is it money, or an important job?  Maybe it is nice clothes or entertainment.  The book of Colossians is a letter written by Paul to the church in Colosse that had Gnosticism banging on its door.  Gnosticism placed high value on knowledge and felt that anything material was evil.  There was a pure and perfect god who was all knowledgeable and beyond our grasp - so much so that he was invisible.    They believed that salvation was attained through a higher knowledge (gnosis), which was surrounded with a belief in mysticism.  This higher knowledge would help the person know the mysteries of the universe.  This knowledge was highly valued.

In these verses, Paul was reminding them that God already revealed the great mystery: Christ.  What is the mystery?  It is one that only the Holy Spirit can fully reveal and it is that Jesus is God.  Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect human life and died on the cross in our place.  He conquered death by rising again.  We are free because of Christ.  Paul writes, "In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (NLT)  Have you ever thought of wisdom and knowledge as treasures?  Yesterday, we read how Paul was able to share his wisdom with the church.  Here we see where the wisdom and knowledge is found!  It is a hidden treasure meant only for those who believe; however, there is a clear map leading right to it.  If we are following Christ we will find the treasure.  I am sure Paul wanted to shout from the roof tops, "Quit looking in the world - the hidden wisdom and knowledge are right in front of you.  Stop looking at the surface and start digging!"

It makes me wonder what would happen in our world if everyone who followed Christ believed that He is our treasure and He holds the key to more hidden treasure?  What if we lived as if Christ were our greatest treasure?  What if we lived as though we valued godly wisdom and knowledge over whatever the world wanted us to believe?  What would happen in our world today?  What happens in our personal lives when we put Christ first?

What do you treasure?

This post is linked with Brag On God Friday.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Christ's Mighty Power

Colossians 1:28-29

I enjoy cooking.  It is good to give my family a home-cooked meal because they taste good and they are better for you.  I like knowing what exactly is in my food that I am eating, which is why I enjoy making things from scratch.  My mother-in-law has been blessing my family with home canned goods since my husband and I were first married.  I'll never forget when I came to visit during a break in college with an engagement ring on my finger and my mother-in-law opened a cupboard full of canned vegetables from her garden and she then explained with tears in her eyes that they were for us after we were married.  I felt so loved and blessed in that moment.  So, it is wonderful to take something from my mother-in-law's garden and provide a nice meal for my family.  The neat thing is knowing that I had help making the meal; because of my mother-in-law's preparations and provision I can make a better meal for my family.  God provides for us in life so we can give back to the people around us and show them love.  Please read Colossians 1:28-29.

The first thing that Paul tells us that God has given them is wisdom.  Everything that Paul shared with everyone they met was made complete with all the wisdom God gave them.  I think this is an important thing to remember; when we are doing God's work we want to do it with God.  We definitely want His wisdom to guide us in doing and saying what is best.  James 1:5 tells us, "If any of you need wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking."  This wisdom isn't something that we keep to ourselves, we share it with the people around us.  Yesterday, as I was listening to the radio a pastor (I wish I knew who it was) was talking about teachers who build up knowledge and then don't share it with others.  He said they were like the Dead Sea because the Jordan River feeds the Dead Sea while the Dead Sea has no outlet.  That is why the Sea has such a high mineral content.  When we build up wisdom and knowledge but then do not use it or share it, we are just like the Dead Sea spiritually.  Paul says that the purpose of teaching through God's wisdom is so that others can become mature followers of Christ.

The next provision Paul writes about is Christ's mighty power that is working in him.  Paul writes how he depends on Christ's power in order to do the work that God called him to.  He wrote that he needed this strength so he could continue to work hard in order to share the wisdom that God had given him.  I don't know about you, but I often find myself depending on the one man show of myself to get through the day and to do what God wants me to do.  That is when I feel drained and burned out.  It is when I rely on Christ to help me through the day that I feel empowered to get the job done.  What wonderful gifts of provision.  Remember, yesterday we looked at how Christ lives in us, so that power is something we can all have.  Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength."  Even the things God puts before us that seems too difficult are possible through Christ.

Are you using the wisdom and strength that God has provided?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday and iFellowship Blog Hop.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sharing His Glory

Colossians 1:25-27

When I was in Zambia, a local pastor prayed over me and shared some things God laid on his heart.  A few days later, we saw each other again and he mentioned that he kept thinking about some of the things that God had laid on his heart.  "What has God called you to do?" he asked me.  Good question!  I have pondered that question for a long time (about a year and a half at this point), and I haven't seen any neon lights pointing me to any particular thing that God wants me to do or be as far as ministry.  As I have thought through that question, I tried to see how I could make things be my calling, but that didn't work either.  I have been learning that my "calling" is to be obedient in the moment.  My calling is to be in the here and now and just do the ministry that God has put in front of me for the day.  Yes, there are times when God gives us a direction that we know that we are to do something that is pretty major (ie, a job change); however, He has a calling for us that we are to be responding to every day.  Please read Colossians 1:25-27.

I want to point out a few things in these verses that caught my attention.  The first thing is to remember that the church in Colosse was struggling with Gnosticism trying to enter in.  Gnosticism was a knowledge based belief. They believed that there was a great mystery that surrounded the great invisible god, who was unknowable.  With that thought in mind, it is interesting how Paul chose to use the very thing that was causing confusion in the Colossian church and turned it back to Christ.  Notice the wording in the NIV, "the mystery that has been kept hidden..."  Paul was starting to remind them that there is no mystery any more about salvation or knowing Christ because Christ is in us!  Christ is in whoever believes in Him and His gift of salvation.

The other thing that I noticed is Paul's strong conviction that God had appointed him to share this message with the church.  Paul didn't know how wide the scope was in God's vision for Paul's calling, He just was doing the job God placed before him right then.  Paul had no idea that God was going to continue using the letters he wrote to the early church for the church to continue reading for thousands of years.  How amazing is that?!  But then he reminded the church (which includes us) that this gives us a hope and assurance that we can share.  I have been looking at how we can change our culture rather than the culture changing us.  Is there anything more powerful than the reality that Christ is in us and we can share Him with the world around us?  First, the plan of salvation is no longer a mystery and second we can share this reality with the world because we have Christ in us!  Are you feeling empowered yet?  From a broad view, our calling is to be obedient to whatever God asks of us each day.  He wants us to love Him first and then love others.  That is our calling every day and we are empowered to do this.

How is God using you today?

This post is linked with Winsome Wednesday and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What Is Lacking

Colossians 1:24-25

Today is Fat Tuesday if you are in New Orleans or in some places where I have lived it is Paczki Day.  It is also known as Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday in some parts of Europe.  This is the day before Ash Wednesday and Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent.  Since many Christians fast during Lent, they have one last fling with the things that will no longer be in their diet for a time.  Perhaps it is to get rid of all the excess food before midnight, or perhaps it is just to have one more chance to enjoy food before fasting.  I just found it interesting as I have been looking at Paul's writing on suffering for the church that this would be on my mind as we are approaching Lent.  Please read Colossians 1:24-25.

The idea of fasting during Lent goes against the consumer and consumption mentality we find in America.  Instead of consuming more, many Christians are encouraged to consume less.  As I was thinking about this, I realized how well that went with the post I wrote yesterday.  Have you thought about what you could let go in order to follow Christ uninhibited?  Maybe you could use this season of Lent to give it a try.  Try to let go of something that may be taking time away from God.  I know that in some churches, people who are participating in some type of fast during Lent are encouraged to use that time to pray and listen to God.  Once again, this isn't necessarily suffering for the sake of the Gospel, but we are learning that when we let go of something that is so dear to us we can actually find more freedom in our walk with God.

Continuing on in these verses from yesterday, I want to look at a little phrase that stuck out at me.  "For I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for His body, the church."  This caught my attention because it was worded very differently in the NIV.  I looked it up in the Greek, and found it to be worded different there, and found that the ESV translated it a little closer to the wording from the Greek.  "I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church..."  It seems confusing, doesn't it?  "What is lacking in Christ's afflictions..."  What does that mean?  Since I am not a Greek scholar, I am not going to even attempt to say I understand this completely.  But, I will say this:  I do not believe that Paul thought that Christ's suffering and sacrifice was not adequate.  Rather, I think that Paul is referring to the fact that we, too are to be willing to sacrifice and even suffer so that others can know about the hope we have in Christ.  Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 16:24-25.

Maybe "what is lacking" is the fact that the church is to be following Christ in everything.  Instead of being focused on our own preferences and comfort in our churches, maybe we should be thinking about what God is calling the church to do.  When we think of it from the perspective of Christ's sufferings, our fast at Lent doesn't seem significant; however, I would disagree.  What we practice is what we become.  When we begin to practice obedience we become obedient.  So, when we practice lacking in something during Lent, we start to become a person who is willing to step away from their comfort as long as our attitude is that of a person who wants to change more like Christ.  So, instead of fasting with dread, practice lacking to become more like Christ.

What would God like you to practice lacking?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Letting Go

Colossians 1:24-25

When my husband was called into ministry, we knew this was a call for both of us.  However, I had no idea at the time what exactly it meant that I would be sacrificing.  The first sacrifice was that I would be moving (again) to go to the church that would be my husband's first ministry position.  Then I realized after moving that I would also be sacrificing my career as a music therapist.  At that time in my life, that was a huge part of who I was.  But the circumstances were such that I wasn't going to find a music therapy job in that area that would pay enough to make it worth while to even work while we had young children.  I didn't know it then, but I would never return to that career (at least so far) and I would eventually let my certification go.  Since that first ministry job for my husband, we have moved a few more times.  I had no idea that I would have to leave dear friends in each place and move further away from extended family with each move.  We've had to let go of many more things as we have followed Christ, and I know that He will ask us to let go of more.  It is never easy to let go of things and often times it even hurts, but God always does an amazing work in us as we allow Him to strip things away.  Please read Colossians 1:24-25.

I know that Paul is writing more about the fact that he is in prison and has had terrible experiences because of preaching the Gospel.  I am in no way trying to make a comparison of my life with the sufferings of Paul; however, I want to look at these verses from a counter-cultural perspective for a moment.  I know some of you who read this post are from other parts of the world and your culture is different from mine, so I would challenge you to think about your own culture and what these verses could mean where you are at.  In America these verses are a little difficult to grasp because we do everything we can to ease suffering.  It is counter cultural to read, "I am glad when I suffer for you in my body..."  But Jesus wasn't about fitting in to the culture, He was defining what it meant to be His follower.  Jesus told us that there would be sacrifices in following Him. He said in Mark 10:29-30, "'Yes,' Jesus replied, 'and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.'"


Basically, Paul knew that his suffering came because of the Good News he was sharing with everyone he met.  I am going to ask a bold question, and keep in mind that I am asking this of myself.  What would happen in our world and our culture if every one of us who believe in Christ were willing to be uncomfortable for Him?  That is a tough question to ask, isn't it?  Am I willing to suffer?  What do I need to let go in order to follow Christ unhindered?  I want to look at this a little more tomorrow because there is more to this, but for today consider what God may be asking you to let go.  But as you think about this, remember Jesus' promise - in the world to come the person who is willing to let go of things to follow Christ will have eternal life.

What do you need to let go?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Standing Firm In Our Hope

Colossians 1:21-23

Sorry about not having a post up yesterday; I have been struggling with headaches for over a week and they finally blew up into a big migraine yesterday.  Not fun.  One good thing that came out of it is that the message of our greatest hope was up as my most recent post for an extra day.  That gave more people an opportunity to read it.  I do want to finish what I started on Thursday because the last verse I am looking at is a powerful reminder for all believers.  Please read Colossians 1:21-23.

Remember the church in Colosse was struggling with other beliefs squeezing their way into the church.  These beliefs were largely based in Gnosticism, which would give newer believers a lot of doubt about what their faith was based on.  Paul was reminding them to stand firm in the hope that they placed their faith on and reminded them that he sacrificed a lot to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.  Our world is no different today; we have a lot of things bombard us that plant a seed of doubt.  In fact, we have an enemy who wants to steal that hope away from us and when we are followers of Christ we become a target.  That is why it is so important to pray through the armor of God found in Galatians 5.  We need to stand firm in the truth of the Gospel and allow that hope to carry us through the day.  I wrote about how I pray through the armor of God in this post.

The Gospel of Hope and Truth is real and we can stand firm knowing that our Creator loves us!  Our God saves us and our God is greater than anything we face.  Keeping holding on to the hope you have in Christ.

Are you standing firm in your faith no matter what the world tells you?

This post is linked with Brag on God Friday and Spiritual Sundays.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Amazing Truth

Colossians 1:20-22

I have always enjoyed reading.  When I was a child, I had my favorites that I could read over and over again.  Books such as Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia, and so many more where on my favorite lists.  I liked the message in the books and I enjoyed the worlds they created, so I never got bored of reading them.  There are certain truths from the Bible that I have known since childhood, but I still get excited over them today.  In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that I love hearing those truths even more now than when I first heard them.  As I have grown in my faith, the more exciting it is to hear the truths because I understand what they mean to me even more.  Please read Colossians 1:20-22 to read the most amazing truth that every person in the world needs to hear.

I just want to point out that verse 20 is talking about the fact that it is through Jesus that we are reconciled to God.  This requires us to be humble in our thoughts because we have to admit there was a reason for reconciliation.  The reality is that there is no one who has lived in this world except Jesus who is perfect.  Everyone has done something they were not supposed to do at some point.  Everyone has disobeyed someone in authority over them, or lied, or hurt someone else.  That is called sin.  There is not a single person (other than Jesus) who can claim they are sinless.  But our Creator and God is perfect, pure, and holy and sin cannot be in His presence.  Because of this sin there is a separation between us and God.  But God didn't want to be separated from us!  Isn't that amazing?

There is also a penalty for sin, which is death.  Not just a physical death, but an eternal death.  God, in His unending love for us, made a way for us to be made right with Him.  He sent Jesus, who never sinned, to come and pay our penalty for us.  Jesus suffered the separation from God and faced death.  But the story doesn't end with Jesus' death because God raised Him from the dead on the third day.  This victory over death is now ours!  We are told in Colossians 1:21-22 that this gift is for all of us and that and we can stand before God holy and blameless.  Does that amaze you?  It does me!  Earlier this week, I looked at how Jesus was "the firstborn of creation" and that "God in all His fullness" was in Him.  Jesus has authority over all things, yet He chose to carry our burden of death to show that He has victory over death and to bring us back to Him.  This is a truth that I love hearing over and over again!  It is amazing and beautiful.  This truth is culture changing.

Do you believe in this amazing truth?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Supremacy of Christ

Colossians 1:15-20

This morning, I woke up to the smell of natural gas.  It had my husband and I confused because the smell was stronger on the main floor, but non-existent in the basement where the furnace and water heater are.  As we were airing out the house, we noticed that one dial on our stove was turned just slightly and was allowing a slow leak of gas.  It struck me how such a little gas created such a smell - the smell was added to give us a warning.  It worked - we were warned!  As soon as I turned the knob on the burner, the leak and threat was gone.  Last week, when I began looking at Colossians I wrote about the fact that the church in Colosse was struggling with Gnosticism.  Gnosticism was a mix of different beliefs and combined into a idea that knowledge was salvation.  Gnosticism brought the debate about whether or not Jesus was God, and some even felt He was evil.  Those who held to Gnostic beliefs felt that God was too pure to create anything material, so He created lesser deities to create the universe and these deities were inherently evil.  You can see how this would cause a lot of confusion in the church of Colosse and this letter was written to help set the record straight.  It was as if Paul was smelling the warning scent that Gnosticism was creating and he was turning the knob off.  So, as we read through these verses, please read it in mind that Paul was refuting the Gnostic belief system.  Please read Colossians 1:15-20.

Yesterday, I looked at the first few verses where Paul highlighted that the universe was created through Jesus.  This was important to establish and remind the Colossian church so that there was no question who Jesus is - He is God and all things were created through Him.  Notice how Paul highlights the fact that He is the visible image of the invisible God; Gnosticism believed that God was so pure that He could only be invisible.  In a sense Paul was turning around their theology.  In Ephesians, Paul explains how the church is a totally new creation of Jews and Gentiles united through Christ who is the head of the church, which we see mentioned in these verses.  Paul reminds the church that God was pleased to have His fullness in Christ and this once again refuted the belief that the lesser deity that created the world was evil.  How could a perfect God be pleased to have His fullness in something evil?  But not only was God pleased to have His fullness in Christ, He reconciled us to Him through Christ and made peace with us through Christ's sacrifice on the cross.

This was culture changing information!  This was going against the common belief in the city of Colosse and in the surrounding areas.  But it makes me wonder where we as the modern church may struggle with the beliefs we are surrounded by in our culture.  Where are we not accepting the full authority of Christ?  Paul knew that Jesus had all authority because Jesus told His disciples this very thing.  Please read Matthew 28:18-20.  This was after Christ's resurrection.  Christ is over all things!  Are we as a church reflecting His authority?  James warns us in James 1:27 where He writes, "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God is caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you."  Wow!  Are we as a church refusing to let the world's corruption to enter in?

How could the culture around us cause corruption in our lives?  How can it cause corruption in the church?  How can accepting Christ's authority keep us from becoming corrupt in our faith?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Firstborn Over All Creation

Colossians 1:15-20

I remember when I found out that I was pregnant with my first child; it was such an amazing moment and my husband and I were so impatient to meet our baby.  Then when he was born, we went home and our life completely changed.  Everything was new to us - sleepless nights, nursing, diapers, and so on.  But there were other things that were new to us as well - overwhelming love for our precious baby, joy in seeing him smile, enjoying the sound of his laughter, and so on.  Every experience with him was brand new to us because he was our firstborn.  We learn in the Bible that Christ is the firstborn of all creation; please read Colossians 1:15-20.

I love how poetic these verses are:  "Christ is the visible image of the invisible God..."  Isn't that a wonderful thought?  Christ brought God's image to us.  He tells us that in John 14:8-10, when the disciples ask Jesus to show them God.  Jesus answered them by saying, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."  So we see that Christ tells us that when we see Him, we are seeing God.  Paul continued on in Colossians so we could understand what that means.  We learn in these verses that Christ is supreme over all things.  We learn that he existed before anything was created.  I love how the NIV puts it, which is worded closer to the Greek, "...the firstborn over all Creation."  As I think about how fresh and new everything was as a new parent, I think of the intimacy of Christ.  What a beautiful way to think about God and Jesus - the firstborn over all creation.

We know that Christ and God are one and that Jesus is God's Word in John 1, but the mystery of Christ also being human is amazing which we also read about in John 1.  We see that before anything was created, God's firstborn was His Word.  Paul continues to write that everything was created through Him - which was His spoken Word.  We are told that through Jesus everything we see and even the things we cannot see were created.  You were created through Christ!  And Christ is over all things - even if all things still do not recognize His authority.  This is just one more reason to praise our amazing Creator.

What does it mean to you that Christ is the "firstborn over all creation?"

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Reason To Be Thankful

Colossians 1:11-14

Last week, I started writing my post with the intention of looking at all of Colossians 1:11-14 but I found myself focusing on endurance and patience.  With those two things being such a broad topic, I ended up using my post to write all about them.  I have shared with you in some earlier posts that my small group is currently going through the James: Mercy Triumphs by Beth Moore.  I also know that I have shown you verses in James that also parallel what Paul said in Colossians; however, I am going to give you one more.  This is one more verse to give you encouragement when you are in a trial.  James 1:12 (NLT) says, "God blesses those who patiently endure trials and temptation.  Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."  What a wonderful word of encouragement!  Today, I want to finish up looking at what I started on Friday.  Please read Colossians 1:11-14.

We see in verses 11 and 12 that Paul also prays that the church be filled with joy and thankfulness.  Verses 12-14 tell us why we should be filled with joy and thankfulness.  First, we are told that we are able to share in the inheritance that God has set aside for His people.  Psalm 16:5 (NLT) says, "Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.  You guard all that is mine."  We know that when we love and follow Christ that our inheritance will be eternity with Him.  The knowledge of that inheritance can bring us great joy and gratefulness; however, Paul tells us more.

We are reminded in verses 13 and 14 that we have been rescued from darkness.  When we are living a sinful life, we are living in darkness.  When we believe in the salvation that comes from Christ, we are filled with His light.  We see that that we are taken out of the darkness and put into His kingdom, which is such an amazing thought to me.  We are told that we receive forgiveness from all of our sins because Christ purchase our freedom.  This was done through His sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.  Jesus was perfect, yet He took our punishment of death and showed that He had absolute victory over death when He was resurrected.  That is a truth that for which we can all be thankful!  As my pastor said yesterday morning - every Christian can wake up each day with a reason to be thankful.  No matter what, you can always cling to the hope we have in Christ and be thankful for the wonderful gift He gave us.

Are you thankful for the gift of freedom and forgiveness you have been given?  Are you thankful for your inheritance?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Little Thought On Prayer and Praise

@Deposit Photos; Balazs
The Bible is full of so many wonderful prayers and praises to God, and I just wanted to look at a couple.  It is good to meditate on scripture, and I like to pray this verse to God in praise:

"Yours oh Lord is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty.  Everything in the heavens and on the earth is Yours oh Lord and this is Your kingdom.  We adore you as the One who is over all things."  1 Chronicles 29:11 (NLT)

It is a good reminder of the greatness of God, and when I pray this I am overcome by the fact that our God allows us to come before Him in prayer.  That is truly amazing!

This is a prayer that I like to pray over my family:

"My you have the power to understand as all God's people should how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete in all the fullness of life and power that comes from God."  Ephesians 3:18-19 (NLT)

Isn't that a powerful prayer to pray over the ones you love?  There are so many more wonderful verses that we can pray into our lives and into the lives of the people around us.  Memorizing these verses make it so much easier to add them into our prayers.

What are some of your favorite scriptures to pray over yourself and loved ones?

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Endurance and Patience

Colossians 1:11-14

In the past, I have joked about not wanting to pray for patience or endurance because who knew what kind of trial that would be put in my path to grow patience and endurance.  I was sure that asking for those things would just send a torrent of trials in order to develop those characteristics in my life.  But that isn't really the way it works, is it?  The reality is that whether or not we pray for those things, trials will come.  This is a world that is broken and hurting which means that hurting people will continue to hurt people and unexpected accidents happen.  Trials come whether or not we pray for endurance, and I now believe that praying for endurance just helps us all the more when the trials come.  Please read Colossians 1:11-14.

Colossians 1:11-12 has a parallel with James 1:2-4 which says (NLT), "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested it gives your endurance a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."  This gives a perspective that is so opposite of how I naturally feel when I am going through something difficult.  But as we read this carefully, we see that we can have joy in the hope of what God is working in us through the difficulty.  Please don't think I am minimizing your difficulty one bit.  Some difficulties are so massive that difficulty isn't even a word that can describe the situation.  The pain can feel so dark and deep that it is beyond even thinking about ever feeling joy again.  But you can pray for the strength to endure through the pain and know that God is with you.  God will give you the endurance you need for that moment.

For those of you who are not finding yourself in the middle of a trial, pray for endurance anyway.  We can pray for the patience and endurance we need just for the day to day stuff that comes our way - this allows us to respond in a loving way to the people around us.  We can pray for the patience and endurance we will need in the future.  We can also pray strength, endurance and patience over those we know who are going through a difficult time.  I can testify that when I have gone through some very difficult times, I later found out how I was being lifted up in prayer by my friends.  I know their prayers for me is what helped me endure through those times.  Paul and Timothy model this for us in this letter.  I also want to point out that Paul was praying patience and endurance over the church as he was sitting in house arrest and having to endure his own difficulties.  When he prays for patience, endurance, joy and thankfulness, he is praying this with a complete understanding of what this means - he was a man who understood suffering.  Remember, his joy was in the hope of a better future - both in what God was working in him and the future of a life with Christ for eternity.

Are you going through a difficult time?  Are you in pain?  Have you prayed for the endurance you need for today?

This post is linked with Brag On God Friday.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wisdom and Understanding

Colossians 1:9-10

I think the greatest witness we have to the world is the way we live our life.  Don't get me wrong, I also believe we are to share our faith with others, but the door swings open when we live out our faith.  I have had friends who have brought Christ to their spouse by living out their faith.  When their spouse saw that they had changed, they wanted to know what happened.  When our lifestyle matches our statement of faith, we truly shine to the people around us.  I have been exploring the idea of how we should be changing the world around us rather than the world changing us, and I want to see how our relationship with God can have an affect on our immediate circle of influence.  Please read Colossians 1:9-10.

Verse 9 is Paul's declaration of how he prays for the Colossian church and it definitely something we could be praying over ourselves and for our local church.  When we pray for knowledge of God's will, we are inviting God to guide us.  When we understand God's will, we understand how He wants us to live.  Paul also prays that they will have spiritual wisdom and understanding.  We are promised that when we ask God for wisdom, we will receive wisdom.  James 1:5-6 says, "If any of you needs wisdom, ask our generous God and He will give it to you.  He will not rebuke you for asking.  But when you ask, be sure your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is unsettled as a wave that is blown and tossed by the wind."  So we can know that God will give us wisdom when we have faith in Him.  In her James: Mercy Triumphs study, Beth Moore writes how wisdom allows us to know the right thing to do and understanding allows us to know why it is the right thing to do.

Verse 10 tells us that both spiritual wisdom and understanding are important factors in living a life that pleases God.  When we understand and know how God wants us to live, we will honor and please God.  Colossians 1:10 tells us that this is producing good fruit.  When we are honoring God in our actions, we are inadvertently pointing to God's glory.  Jesus explains the power of our witness in Matthew 5:14-16 when He tells us that we are the light of the world.  We are to shine out in the way we live so that others will see God working in us.  He concludes in Matthew 5:16 with, "In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father." (NLT)

But we also learn in verse 10 that isn't all that will happen; we will grow and learn to know God even better! To me, that is the best of all!  It amazes me that the Creator of all the universe and the only holy God would want to give me the tools to know Him better.  Once again, I am just blown away by His love!  God wants us to know Him better and as we grow in our relationship with Him our light will shine even brighter in the world.  This will allow others to know Him as well.  How beautiful.

Have you asked God for spiritual wisdom and understanding?  Have you asked God to give you a knowledge of His will?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Fruit of Love

Colossians 1:6-8

For the last couple of days, I have written about the fact that the church in Colosse struggled with the culture affecting the church in negative ways.  The church was struggling with the combination of various thoughts and philosophies mixing in with the truth of God's message of hope.  The mixing of all these beliefs became known as Gnosticism and it caused confusion for the believers in the Colosse church.  I challenged all of you to think of how the culture is affecting the church in your country and immediate community.  Yesterday, I looked at how Paul wrote that the message of the Gospel was bearing fruit around the world and I ended with the thought that instead of the culture affecting the church, the church should be affecting the culture.  For the next few days, I want to explore how it is that the fruit of the Gospel changes the world around us.  Please read Colossians 1:6-8.

Just to get back to where we left off, we see that the "Good News" or the Gospel was (and is) changing lives all around the world just as we have experienced a life change when we believed this message of hope.  That hope is based on the fact that we will one day have a better life with no more sorrow or pain and we will be with our amazing Creator.  That is a hope that helps grow our faith and it is through Jesus that all of this is possible.  When we have faith and believe that our salvation comes through Jesus, we are told in the Bible that we receive the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:2).  In Colossians 1:8 we see that it is through the Holy Spirit that we are given the ability to love others.

I Corinthians 13 is an incredible chapter on what godly love looks like.  Every time I read this chapter I see how I need to change to show more of God's love to the people around me.  This chapter opens with the challenge to all believers that we may do the things that seem good, but if the motive is anything other than love for others, it is of no gain in us.  It is when we allow God's love to work in us to love others that we gain life change.  This chapter tells us that love is patient, kind, it never gives up, it never loses faith, it is always hopeful, and it endures through every circumstance.  I would encourage you to read through this whole chapter because it also lists several things that love is not.  When you think about the list of what love is, you can see that love really does have the power to change the world around us.  When we are showing the fruit of love to the people around us, they will want to know why you can love.  That is an opportunity to share the hope you have in Christ.  And it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that this fruit of love is grown in our lives.

The last few days, I have written how hope helps grow our faith and love; please read what 1 Corinthians 13:13 says about love:  "Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love." (NLT)  The greatest of all is love.  Perhaps this is because the Bible tells us that God is love and it is through His awesome love for us that we can have eternal life (1 John 4:7-9).

How is the Holy Spirit having love manifest itself in your life?  Is your love having an affect on the people you are around?

This post is linked with iFellowhsip Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Word Bearing Fruit

Colossians 1:3-6

I love hearing testimonies from fellow believers on how God changed their lives.  It is always amazing to hear how God touched their hearts and healed them from their past hurts and mistakes and changed them into a person who wants to honor God.  It is encouraging to all of who believe to see that God can work through any situation, but it also gives hope to those who are not yet believers.  This weekend, our pastor spoke about the fact that the hope we receive in Christ is what fuels our faith and love for God and others.  The hope we receive in Christ is hope for a better future, a future where we will be with Him for eternity.  There will be no more sorrow and pain - that is an incredible and beautiful hope we have in Christ!  In Colossians, we are told that this hope we receive from God's Word bears fruit.  Please read Colossians 1:3-6.

Verses 4-5 explain that it is through the hope of our future in Christ that we are able to have faith and love.  That hope for a future with God allows us to believe in the saving power of Christ's sacrifice and resurrection.  We have faith that when God said Jesus paid the penalty for our sins that it is true and we are made right with God.  That hope and faith allows us to see the immense love that God has poured out on us and it in turn changes our hearts so we can love God in return and love the people around us.  The message of the Gospel - which is the message of God's saving grace is what did all of this in our lives.  What a wonderful truth!

But the message of the gospel doesn't just stay with us and end here.  Paul wrote that it was going out to all the world.  This is incredible, because we can still say the same today.  Followers of Christ all around the world are sharing the message of the Gospel with their neighbors, friends, and family.  People are willing to give up their lives as they know it to go to another country to share this Good News.  The beautiful thing about it is that Paul tells us that it is the Gospel that is bearing fruit.  This message is the message of truth and it has the power to change lives.  James wrote about this as well in James 1:21, "So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls."  The power to save our souls!  That is amazing fruit!  Even more amazing is that as we grow in our walk with Christ, we know that God's Word continues to bear fruit in us.  As we are changed by God's love, we will change the world around us.  Instead of the culture affecting us, we could affect the culture.

How has the message of hope through Christ changed you?

This post is linked with On Your Heart Tuesdays.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Colossians

Colossians 1:1-2

I am excited to dig into a new study!  There is always something exciting about starting something new and I am looking forward to learning more by studying the book of Colossians.  I picked this book to study because the sermon series at my church for the next several weeks is on the book of Colossians and I wanted to follow along and continue looking at the book throughout the week.  Those of you who studied through Ephesians with me will probably sense a similar feel with the book as there will be parallel truths expressed in Colossians.  However, there is a different overall theme with this book because the church in Colosse was struggling with their culture entering in the church and mixing God's truth with their philosophy.  Another big difference from Ephesians to Colossians is that Paul probably had never visited this city and therefore he does not have a personal relationship with the people of Colosse.  For today, I just want to start with the first two verses of the book; please read Colossians 1:1-2.

In the first verse, we see that Colossians is written by Paul and he also credits Timothy.  Paul establishes his authority in the first sentence by telling the church that he is an apostle of Jesus.  An apostle was someone who was given the task to preach the gospel, and he reminds the church that this appointment was given to him by God.  Paul was in prison in Rome, and his "prison" was more like a house arrest meaning that he had slightly more freedom such as having visitors and being able to write letters.  Timothy was a younger leader in the church who was mentored by Paul and often served as Paul's representative.  We can guess that Timothy had a close relationship with Paul because he is mentioned in several other letters written by Paul and he also had two letters written by Paul to him.

Verse two tells us very clearly that this letter was written to the believers in the city of Colosse.  As I did a little bit of reading on Colosse, I saw that that it was an inland city located closely to Laodicea.  It was not as big and influential as Laodicea; however, it was located at a trading crossroads.  This resulted in many people coming into the city from all over exposing the citizens to many different philosophies and ideas.  This resulted in a culture that had mixed a lot of belief systems.  This affected the church in Colosse because some of the cultural beliefs were entering into the church belief system.  Paul's letter to the church was to set their belief straight and show them where there were false beliefs within the church.

I think that it is easy for the culture to infiltrate the church.  Each culture around the world has a different impact on the church, and sometimes stepping out of our own culture can redirect what we are doing that doesn't match up with God's truth.  I know going to Zambia showed me some of the cultural norms in America that affected the church.  As we read through Colossians, I want to challenge you to consider what is in your culture that could be affecting the church.  In America, we live in a culture that embraces convenience, materialism, and comfort, but I know that there are some regular readers from other parts in the world.  For those of you who are from another country, what are the cultural norms that can be a struggle for the church?  There are also regional cultural traits that affect the local church as well.  For example, I live in an area where tradition is highly valued and that can have an affect the local church.  As you read through Colossians, please consider the values you grew up with and how that also affects your faith.

What is the culture surrounding your local church?  Is the culture dictating how the church looks?

This post is linked with Sharing His Beauty.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

God's Child

Psalm 139

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 139, and I thought this would be a nice Psalm to look at after finishing up my Only God study.  The first verse of Psalm 139 says, "O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me."  Isn't that thought beautiful?  No one knows us like our Creator; not our spouse, children, or parents.  Only God knows us inside and out and still loves us.  We read throughout this Psalm that God sees us when we travel or stay home and He knows what we are going to say even before the words are formed on our lips.  God is with us and there is no way we could escape Him.  God made us complex and we have His mark of workmanship all over us.  God knew our every moment of life even before we were born.

As you go through your day today, be blessed by the knowledge that you are a precious creation of the One and Only God Almighty and He loves you more than you can comprehend.  You are a child of God.

You are invited to read my post entitled, "A Ride Home," at Seeds of Faith Women.

This post is linked with Spiritual Sundays.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Only God Wrap Up

Deuteronomy 10:12

"And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the LORD your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul."
It really doesn't seem that I have been doing this Only God study for ten weeks because the time went by so fast for me as I was doing this study.  The whole point of this study was to look at what we could declare, "Only God!" in our lives and in the world.  The points that I looked at in this study are:

God is the only God
Only God is our Provider
Only God is Creator
Only God is both God and human
Only God is our Savior
Only God can make us new
Only God is our Healer
Only God is Holy
Only God is Just

Each one of these points could be explored in much greater depth and I would encourage you to do so.  Any time we seek to know God more, we will be blessed.  God is the greatest treasure!  There are so many other points we could declare, "Only God," such as only God is truly wise, only God is all powerful, only God truly loves.  Oh, this list could go on and on!  The point is that God is amazing, awesome, and beyond what we can truly express and our response should be one of incredible respect.  We should also desire to do what pleases Him (which He plants in our hearts) and we should love and serve Him with all that we are.

I hope that if you followed along throughout this study, you have been as blessed as I have!  I believe that the more we know about God, the more we are amazed by His love for us.  Don't let this knowledge of God just stay in your head; ask yourself what God wants you to do with the knowledge He gave you.

This post is linked with Brag On God Friday.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

To Love and Serve God

Luke 10:26-28

As I wrap up my Only God study, all this week I've been looking at what our response should be to our amazing and awesome Creator.  I have been focusing on Deuteronomy 10:12, where we learn that we are to fear God, to do what pleases Him, and to love and serve God with all our heart and soul.  On Tuesday, I looked at the fact that since God is so amazing and is our Creator we should have a respectful fear.  That fear in turn allows us to see that we need a Savior because we have not measured up to God's standards on our own.  Yesterday I explored that it is through the power of Jesus that we are able to what pleases God.  Not only that, but God plants the desire in us to please Him.  Today, I want to look at loving and serving God; please read Luke 10:26-28.

When we come to a realization that we need a Savior and that God made a plan to make us right with Him, we are made aware of His incredible love for us.  We are told in Ephesians 2:10 that once we believe and choose to follow Christ, we are made anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things that God planned for us.  Part of this is the fact that God gives us new desires; desires to please Him.  I absolutely love this because this morning I was reading James 1:14-15 which says, "Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.  These desires give birth to sinful actions.  And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death." (NLT)  Our human desires ultimately lead to death; however, the desires that God plants in our hearts lead to life.  Not only are we given mercy and grace, we are given new desires that continue to lead us to life.

Doesn't that realization make you love God?  God loves us so much that He saves us and gives us the desires to please Him to replace the destructive desires that had taken us down the path to death.  We were following the wrong road map in our sinful selves, but God gave us the map to life.  He saves us and redirects us!  That is so huge to me!  When we understand how great Jesus's love and sacrifice is, we cannot help but love Him.  Ephesians 3:18-19 tells us that we cannot fully comprehend Christ's love for us, but it is possible to understand some of it and experience it.  We are to respond with love.

Going back to Ephesians 2:10, we are told that being created anew means we are able to do the things God planned for us long ago.  Isn't it amazing to think that God made plans for us to do good things for Him long ago?  Look at why we have been saved in Luke 1:74-75.  He rescued us so we can serve Him completely.  Sin was once our master, but we now serve a new master - our wonderful Creator.  Please read Romans 6:12-14.  Instead of moving toward death, we get to point to God and reveal His glory to the world around us.  What an honor it is to serve God!

Do you love and serve God?

This post is linked with Thought Provoking Thursday.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Power To Please God

Philippians 2:12-13

When I was a child, there were different reasons why I obeyed my parents.  The first reason was just because they were my parents and I loved them.  The second reason was out of respect for them.  I understood that as my parents, they had authority over me and it was wise to respect that authority.  Yesterday, I looked at how one of our responses to God should be one of respectful fear as I am focusing on Deuteronomy 10:12 this week.  This fear is out of the knowledge that God is the Creator of everything and can give and take away life.  It is not a fear where we have to be afraid that He is waiting to pounce on us, rather, it is a fear made out of respect for His ultimate authority and power.  This fear should motivate us to desire to please Him over pleasing the world.  Today, I want to look at how we are able to please God.  Please read Philippians 2:12-13.

I want to first mention that the only way we are able to understand how to please God is through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives us the ability to understand what the Bible teaches us and we learn to see what God wants us to be living out.  But, we need to spend time in the Bible for the Holy Spirit to teach us!  Time in prayer allows us to lift our burdens to God and praise Him, but it also gives us an opportunity to hear from Him as well.  Once we begin to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, we understand what needs to change.  The change may mean to stop doing something that does not honor God or He may want us to do something new for Him.  What I can say without doubt is that some of those changes are difficult.

In fact, sometimes it may seem impossible to do what pleases Him.  But the hope we are given in Philippians 2:12-13 is that both the desire to please God and the power to please God is given to us by God.  That is amazing to me!  God didn't just give us high expectations that would seem impossible by human standards just to watch us fumble and fail.  God gave us the power to do what pleases Him.  We learn in Philippians 4:13 that this power is given to by God through Christ Jesus.  We are not in this walk alone.  Be encouraged in the knowledge that when you want to do what is right and please God, that desire was given to you by God.  Be encouraged that you can do what pleases God not by your own power and strength, but you are able to do it through the power and strength of our Creator.

Do you believe that you can live a life that pleases God through Christ?

This post is linked with iFellowship Blog Hop and Word Filled Wednesday.