Thursday, January 16, 2020

Holy is the Lord

Holy is the Lord

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.
Revelation 4:8b NIV

Visiting countries outside the United States can be an eye-opening experience. Food, transportation, living accommodations and culture stimulate the senses as new and unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells mix with excitement and the rush to see and do it all.

When we were in London, we toured both St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Westminster Abbey. While the architecture and history of those two grand cathedrals saturated my brain with more sights and stories than my mind could comprehend, I felt no connection to my Lord in either of those places. Gift shops and cafes combined with crowds of people and uncontrolled children left me waiting for a moment when I might hear the Lord speak to my heart.

Several days later we spent the night on San Clemente Island in Venice, Italy. The now beautiful and luxurious hotel had originally been built as a monastery. At one end of the hotel stood the monastery chapel built around 1100 A.D. The doors of the chapel stood open for anyone wishing to go inside. One look told me it had not been renovated, but as we stepped across the threshold I felt what I had been looking for in those grand cathedrals of London—the presence of the Lord. As tears flowed, I turned to my husband and remarked, “God did something in this place.”

The floor tiles were coming up, the wall fresco's were all but faded from view, the altar area was in disrepair, but the presence of God could be felt as we whispered our way from room to room. When we found ourselves in the choir area, we sat with our friends and sang praises to our Heavenly Father.

Surely the presence of the Lord was in that place, and I was reminded of how often we are surprised by God in unexpected places and at unexpected times. I remembered that the Ancient of Days is the God of the past, present and future. I remembered that He was holy, is holy and forever will be holy.

I fear we hear too little about God’s holiness in America. I fear we have become enamored with the luxuries of modern living which all too often bring the unholy directly into our living rooms. I shudder as I hear Christians casually using OMG in conversation and on social media, and I remind myself that I must never forget what the angels in heaven continue to proclaim.

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Why Do I Pray?

“Therefore He (Jesus) is able to
save completely those who come
to God through Him, because He
always lives to intercede for them.”
                        Hebrews 7:25 

Does God really hear and answer my prayers? Do my prayers actually change anything? These questions occur to most people at some point in life. Perhaps to answer would take thousands of reams of paper—perhaps not. Perhaps to answer would take more ink than I can purchase or more time than I can devote—perhaps not.

I have come to realize that I pray because of three words. I trust Jesus. Oversimplification? Maybe. But, when I boil all the words down to the real reason that I continue to pray, it is because I trust Jesus.

Hebrews 7:25 says “Therefore He (Jesus) is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”

Jesus always lives to intercede, mediate, negotiate, arbitrate, intervene, plead, represent, appeal, petition, and pray for me to His Father—my Heavenly Father. Wow! Not only does He speak to God on my behalf, but the Scripture tells me that He is “able to save completely” those who come to God through Him. Completely covers life from the beginning to the end—when it is all over, the final result is in and my numbered days have been fulfilled—I know that I am safe with Jesus. I trust Him. 

Throughout God’s Word I find assurance that before I was formed in my mother’s womb, God knew me (Psalm 139:13). Before my lungs filled with air for the first time, God knew the plan for my life. Before I sinned, Jesus had already willingly given His life for mine. Wow! I trust Him.

Does prayer really change things? I have seen a pastor, who walked away from the Lord, return to God in sorrow and complete repentance after his church prayed for fifteen years. I have seen a pastor plead with the lost in his congregation to come to God before it is too late, walk to the back of the church and drop dead, only to be restored as the church fell to its knees in prayer. I have witnessed one hundred men, imprisoned—many of them for life—come forward at an invitation to ask Jesus to change their hearts. I can only imagine the number of prayers from mothers and fathers who begged God to send someone to their child. 

Why do I pray? I trust Jesus. Does God hear and answer my prayers? Absolutely! Do my prayers really change things? Yes. Sometimes prayer changes the situation—but it always changes me.

My prayer today is for those of you who do not know Jesus as your personal Savior. I want you to experience life with the One who is always interceding to the Father for His Children. It is truly the only life worth living. Don’t forget, “Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through Him”. Be blessed today, and don’t forget to look up, and pray!

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Little Did They Know He was the King

“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed
him in a manger, because there was no
room for them in the inn.”
Luke 2:7

My husband and I have three children who now have children of their own. I cannot imagine any of them being born in a barn, laid in a manger, and surrounded by clucking chickens, mooing cows and braying donkeys. Yet God chose that scenario through which to deliver the King of all Creation.

Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph found no room in the inn. Offered the stable instead, they settled in for the night. Lest we forget, God already knew that.
I can imagine the celebration going on inside the inn as the innkeeper hung the no vacancy sign over the door. A full house provided a good night’s income and he must have jumped for joy at the sound of the coins dancing together as he dropped them in his coin box. I can picture a room filled with men laughing, drinking, and telling the tales of their journeys from afar. Yet no tale that they were telling would ever match the one unfolding right under their noses.
Soon the cries of a newborn baby boy would fill the air. Perhaps they heard something as He announced His arrival to the world while Mary swaddled Him tightly. Perhaps they even raised their goblets of wine in jest to toast this child born in the stable. Perhaps they heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing.
I wonder how many times you and I, like those in the inn that night in Bethlehem, miss Him. How often does Jesus whisper I’m here or follow me but we hear nothing, see nothing and know nothing.
Today we have history to remind us, the Bible to instruct us, and the Holy Spirit to indwell us. We know Jesus is Lord of all and King of all Creation. He calls us to live so that others may also know as we share the good news of this baby born in Bethlehem.
Remember, we are without excuse, we are unlike those in the inn, for little did they know He was the King. Merry Christmas, and don't forget to Praise Him!
© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Sing For The Savior Has Come

And suddenly there was with
the angel a multitude of the
Heavenly host praising God,
and saying, Glory to God in
the highest, and on earth
peace, good will toward men.
                 Luke 2:13-14 KJV

Christmas is a time for singing. The Savior has come!
The First Noel the Angel Did Say
Angels We Have Heard on High
Joy to the World! The Lord is Come
O Come, All Ye Faithful
There’s a Song in the Air
Hail, Thou Long-expected Jesus
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Silent Night, Holy Night
Good Christian Men, Rejoice
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Angels, from the Realms of Glory
Away in a Manger
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing 

     Be blessed today by remembering the songs of the Christmas season. They sing of a Savior who is born, Christ the King! Let your heart rejoice as you remember the Redeemer! He came to rescue, ransom and redeem! He is Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords and King of Kings. Today let us sing it in our homes, on our streets, in our churches and around the world. The Savior has come! His name is JESUS!

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Beginning of Christmas

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in
this way, “When his mother Mary had been
betrothed to Joseph, before they came
together she was found to be with child
from the Holy Spirit.”
                                Matthew 1:18 ESV 

     According to the custom of the day, Mary and Joseph were betrothed. A legally binding contract had been signed and could be broken only by death or divorce. Although considered married, physical intimacy during this portion of a relationship was considered adultery, and the penalty for adultery—death!

     The genealogy listed in Matthew 1:1-17 reveals Jesus’ legal claim to the throne of David. Jesus Messiah would be born of a virgin and raised by an earthly father whose heritage included patriarchs, a prostitute (Rahab) and a King (David).

I cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster of this young girl; from the excitement of betrothal to the unbelievable pregnancy without hope that anyone would believe she had committed no sin. The stares, whispers, and judgment of others who did not know the truth would follow her as she walked through the crowds. Yet chosen by God, she faced her future knowing that this child growing inside of her was a gift of love from Yahweh, Jehovah, I AM.

     As I read these words, written centuries ago, I am reminded of how often we look at another’s situation and make a mental judgment without full knowledge of the truth of their circumstances. And I wonder how much pain we cause others with our less than friendly hello and our fake fellowship.

     It is Christmastime! What better gift could we give our Lord than to love one another with the same kind of love bestowed upon us by our Heavenly Father? I can think of no better way to celebrate Christmas than to spread the love of God throughout our homes, our families, our churches and our communities.

     Today would be a good day to lay aside judgment without knowledge and really begin to love the unlovable people in our lives. It is the beginning of Christmas: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 ESV)

©Joyce Powell

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

I Am Resolved

"For I resolved to know nothing 
while I was with you except
 Jesus Christ and him crucified."
 1 Corinthians 2:2

"He must become greater.
 I must become less." 
 John 3:30

"I want to know Christ and 
the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death."
 Philippians 3:10

Monday, November 4, 2019

Consider It Pure Joy

Consider it pure joy, my brothers,
whenever you face trials of many kinds.
James 1:2 NIV 

History recounts that in 47 AD, Emperor Claudius celebrated the 800th anniversary of the founding of the city of Rome. Records indicate that in 49 AD he passed an edict expelling all Jews from Rome, and in 50 AD he adopted Nero as his heir. During this period of constant change and turmoil in the Roman Empire, the first century church faced its own struggle—the merging of Jews and Gentiles.

The Jews believed that Gentile converts to the faith should be circumcised and follow the Mosaic Law. The Gentiles were not anxious to be entangled with all of the rules and regulations of Judaism—especially circumcision. (Acts 15:2-35) Conflict followed and a delegation led by the Apostle Paul was sent to Jerusalem. James, Jesus’ half-brother, was an influential leader in the Jerusalem church and after much discussion the conflict was resolved and a letter which included these words was sent to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria and Cilicia:

“You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.” Acts 15:29 NIV

It was around this time that James wrote to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations…” I find it both interesting and timely that his first instruction to the church was “consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” That is a head scratcher! Joy and trials are not words we generally see in the same sentence. But here they are; written by a man who surely knew much about both.

Why did James say that, and how does that apply to you and me today? He continues by telling the Jewish Christians residing in Gentile communities that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. In James 1:12 we read, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

James did not say if you face trials but rather when you face many kinds of trials. He is not writing to those early Christians to say when bad things happen just put on a smile and pretend to be happy. Instead he is encouraging the church to have a positive attitude in the midst of trials in order to profit or learn from the bad and use it for good. I suppose you could say it is the ancient version of, when life hands you a lemon—make lemonade.

It may seem easy to be a man or woman of faith when life is good and trusting God comes naturally. However, what we do with the trials of life that inevitably come to each of us is the true test of our character.

Little did James know that in a few short years Nero would become emperor of Rome, and the persecution of Christians would rise to a new level. But God knew, and through James He was sending a message to the early church to trust Him in the trials of life, to face those trials with the right attitude and to learn from the immediate in order to persevere through the trials on the horizon.

This message is as timely today as when James wrote it almost two thousand years ago. Trials will come. But we have been given the recipe for making it through the tough times. When life hands you a lemon, through faith in God make lemonade, and consider it pure joy.

© Joyce Powell