Devotional

Desolation

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Joel 1

From chapter 1, in the book of Joel, we learn something about desolation. One commentator describes it in three different ways – the character of desolation, the reaction to desolation and the picture of coming desolation. Let us review: Locust swarms have devastated the land; famine ensues. Even the bark of the fig trees has been eaten, laying bare the branches (1:4, 7). Their destruction leaves nothing untouched; the loss of grain, wine, oil, fruit, is unprecedented. We are left to wonder which would be worse, the physical hunger or the spiritual wasteland. There is nothing left to sacrifice to God, resulting in spiritual barrenness.

Joel, led by God, recommends official mourning with sackcloth and fasting. He knows their only hope is in God. “Cry out to the Lord” (1:13, 14). The nation is called to repent as they gather before their Holy God! This is the reaction God desires when anyone falls away from Him. His heart is full of mercy and grace! He remains faithful to His covenant of love, in spite of momentary punishment. Joel went on to describe how future apostacy would remove all joy (1:16) just as fires ravage the land (1:19-20). The day of the Lord has come! This “Day of the Lord” is the theme of Joel’s prophecy. He explains it in three ways.

1.Chapter one links historically, with prophecies from Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel:

“Wail for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all

hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them….”(Isaiah 13:6-8a).

“But that day belongs to the Lord, the Lord Almighty – a day of vengeance….the sword will devour ‘til it is satisfied” (Jeremiah 46:10).

Alas for that day! For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near – a day of clouds, a time of doom for

the nations” (Ezekiel 30:2b-3).

We must note that the Day of the Lord will bring much fear and desolation! (Joel 2:11b). Jesus also warned about the Day of the Lord. Luke records His prophecy – wars, earthquakes, famine and pestilence will precede His return (Luke 21).

2.Joel also uses this historic plague as an illustration of the gravity of the ‘day of the Lord’ (Joel 2:1). Isaiah goes on to detail the day of the Lord as “a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger – to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it” (Isaiah 13:9). He goes on to say that God will punish the world for its evil, putting an end to man’s arrogance. Through it all there will be cosmic disturbances as God gives vent to His “burning anger” (Isaiah 13:10-13). It is not a pretty sight! This illustrates the partial fulfillment of prophecy of things yet to come.

3. There is an eschatological “day” coming when the great tribulation will take place followed by the Millennial reign. “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel” (Isaiah 4:2). Joel has been sent to warn God’s people “Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy hill…for the day of the Lord is coming” (Joel 2:1). Ezekiel warned the nation of Israel to become watchmen (Ezekiel :33). This is the holy responsibility of all children of God.

Reflection:

We must realize we have not been chosen by God simply for us to go to heaven, but rather to be used to accomplish God’s purposes here on earth! Lest we get too caught up in watching for the “Day of the Lord“ let us remember Jesus’ words warning that the fields are ripe unto harvest, but the workers are few (John 4:35, Matthew 9:31). Spiritual desolation is all around us! Let us, like Him, be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49).

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Four Locusts

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Joel 1 & 2

The picture is not a pretty one. “A nation has come up against My land…strong and without number…it has laid waste to My vine and ruined My fig tree” (Joel 1:6-7). This is the word of the Lord God Almighty. Why did He not stop this attack? Why would He allow something that grieved Him at His very heart? Worship had ceased – actually all those things necessary for sacrifice had been “cut off”. Priests mourned, and joy had withered away from the hearts of the people (1:9 & 12).

There is an explanation. This is destruction brought about by God Himself. Isn’t it interesting to note that the great heart of our God grieves, as does any parent’s heart when discipline has to be applied? This didn’t happen without warning. The chewing locust had come. Little by little their faith had been whittled away. Now “Rend your heart and not your garments” (2:13) cries the heart of God. Do not bring destruction upon yourselves.

What the chewing locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. Apparently Judah was having trouble reading the results of Israel’s apostasy. You may remember that the nation of Israel was split in two when Solomon died (1 Kings 12). Israel’s leadership had been corrupt for years, so judgment fell on them first. Was it possible that evil was infiltrating from this brother nation into Judah? Now years of disobedience and rebellious leadership threatened the peace of their land, actually God’s land (1:6). They would be held accountable for what they did with that land.

What the swarming locust left the crawling locust attacked. What was left at this point? For one thing the people needed to turn to God with fasting, weeping and mourning over their sins. At this early stage in the history of prophecy, what exactly were those sins? Twice God called the people to consecrate a fast. Had they not been fasting? Had they only been going through the motions? Was consecration required as a testimony to the meaning fasting held? God calls the priests to lament and wail (1:13); all the elders are to come together (1:14), to cry out for mercy from the Lord. Might we assume there was spiritual disease among the leaders? First their hearts must be in tune with God before they were ready for “The Day of the Lord (which is near)” (1:15).

With the consuming locusts waiting for what the crawling locusts had left, God warns of an invading army. That army will destroy everything, with strength such as has never been seen before (2:2). Thick darkness and gloom; flaming fire will leave the land desolate and the people trembling, writhing in fear. Even the earth will quake and the cosmos will grow dark. Chapter 2 describes the terrors of the Day of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be cut off from the house of God (1:16).

Reflection:

Considering the fears rampant in our world today, can we relate to this picture of global distress? Do we grieve?

What do we read about the character of our God in these two chapters that might bring us hope?

Are we brave enough to blow the trumpet in our world today – to sound a warning? (2:1)

by Marilyn Daniel (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Yahweh is God

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Joel Introduction July Devotions – Series on Joel

Joel is one of the minor prophets, who wrote during the days of King Joash. We need a little background: The young king ascended the throne at the age of seven and reigned over Judah (2 Chronicles 24) for nearly 40 years. His reign was marked by the restoration of Solomon’s temple, begun by Jehoiada the priest. Jehoiada played a significant role in the young king’s life, making a covenant “that he and the people and the king would be the Lord’s people” (2 Chronicles 23:16). It is no surprise, therefore, that ”Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him” (2 Kings 12:2). However, once Jehoiada died, Joash was swayed by the homage of officials in his kingdom. Together they abandoned the temple to worship Asherah poles and idols. The spirit of the Lord came upon Zechariah, grandson of Jehoiada, (2 Chronicles 24:20), who then warned the people of their sin against God. How terrible to read that “by order of the King [Joash] they stoned him to death” (:21). One needs to be careful whom we chose as friends; sadly Joash was murdered by the very people he thought he could trust (:25).

It is here that Joel enters the picture. The kingdom was facing severe drought and famine from the invasion of locusts, which Joel recognized was a punishment from the Lord. God sent him as a messenger to the Judeans, summarizing the desolation both physical and spiritual, which He allowed to destroy the land. There are some strong words used in chapter one. God is actually calling the people to Himself (1:14), but first they will weep and wail, mourning for all they had lost (1:8). This event is recorded so that their children would not forget what the wrath of God looks like (1:3). “Surely the joy of mankind has withered away” (1:12).

There is pain in this prophecy. The suffering will be universal – cattle moan! Sheep suffer; is there spiritual symbolism here that God’s sheep [Israelites] will suffer? Joy and gladness have been cut off from the house of God (1:16). Wild animals pant for water. The Lord cries out “Alas!” (1:15). He takes no pleasure in the destruction of His people. The day of the Lord is near, He says. That day is further described throughout Joel’s prophecy. For the moment we must see how it grieves the heart of our Heavenly Father to execute punishment of this magnitude.

There is a lesson to be learned here. God is holding Himself true to His covenant of love. Is His anger an expression of love? When anyone goes down a destructive path, is it loving to let them continue, or should we attempt to help them make changes for the better? Paul instructed the Galatians “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him/her gently” (Galatians 6:1). The key word “restore” interfaces with confrontation of evil.

Joel’s message is to everyone who lives in the land of Judah, first and foremost to the elders, the leaders of the people (1:2). Remember Israel formed the northern kingdom which separated from Judah, made up of Benjamin and Judah. They remained faithful to their God many more years than Israel, but now – Listen up! God snatched the wine from their lips. That which their pleasures centered upon has been taken away. Their drunkenness made God’s land vulnerable to invasion (1:5-6). Therefore God allowed His vines and fig trees to be ruined, laid waste!

The people have forgotten they are stewards of God’s property. Therefore they are not worthy of spiritual privileges. Why should they sacrifice and worship the God their lifestyle has rejected? What is the point of going through the motions?

Reflection:

In order to get their attention God had to do something spectacular, among His people. He asked “Has anything like this ever happened in your days, or in the days of your forefathers?” (1:2). The answer, of course, was ‘No’. This plague was unique in Judah. Would it be fair to ask if God had to repeat this method of getting man’s attention, down through eons of time? What about today? Have we misunderstood the character of God by ignoring His justice, by focusing on Him only as a God of love?

It is hugely important for us to recognize the sacred privileges we have of worshiping the God who is HOLY (1:14). Only when our hearts are right with God, when His purity reigns in our hearts, can we worship Him in spirit and in truth. Therefore Joel is commissioned to “declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly….and cry out to the Lord” (1:14)

Devotional

A Worshipping Man

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Acts 10

Cornelius was a devout man. His devotion to God was highly unusual for a Roman, especially one who had risen in the ranks of the Italian Regiment to the position of centurion. The fact that he believed in the Jewish God indicates he had become a proselyte of Judaism. Not only the man himself, but also his family worshiped God. His faith had impacted some of his servants as well as his military personnel (Acts 10:7). He practised his faith by giving and praying regularly. We might do well to follow his example.

However, in spite of his faithfulness and zeal, something was lacking. God had seen his giving, and heard his prayers. An angel appeared to Cornelius about 3 one afternoon. The angel instructed him to send to Joppa for the man Simon Peter. Without explanation this might have seemed a rather mysterious command. Apparently Cornelius trusted God enough to send for Simon Peter.

Peter’s own experience in preparation for this encounter is a story for another day. Sufficient to say he recognized the call of God and went to Caesarea. Cornelius met him in a spirit of reverence. In fact he fell at Peter’s feet in worship. Immediately Peter raised him to his feet reminding him that he was only a man, just like Cornelius.

Peter knew his Bible. The law given to Moses instructed God’s people to worship only the Lord God, Yahweh. The fullness of this thought required 3 commandments – there was to be no other God, they were not to worship anything animate or inanimate, and even the name of God was to be revered, kept sacred (Exodus 20:3-5). Joshua reinforces this theme in his parting address to Israel: “Do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve then or bow down to them” (Joshua 23:7).

However, tribal customs in some countries call for a show of deep respect for visitors, for teachers, preachers and other noteworthy persons. When I tried to raise an elderly lady to her feet on one occasion, I was rebuked for resisting tribal tradition; she would not budge and I felt guilty.

At this point we need a clear understanding of what worship is, in the eyes of God. Does it preclude a respectful appreciation for other human beings in authority, or positions of leadership? When Jesus talked about worship He said: “God is a spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Worship includes ascribing “to the Lord the glory due His name…..worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness” (1 Chronicles 16:29).

Reflection:

Clearly worship is defined by one’s attitude. It is exercised in a variety of ways, but essentially is an act of our spirit, as it seeks God. Bowing to man might be an act of misplaced veneration, but God recognizes the attitude of the heart, and judges us on that point alone. Taking Cornelius as our Biblical example, we see that God, knowing his heart was truly seeking God, gave him the privilege of knowing Jesus by bringing Peter into his life. Our relationship with God is defined by Jesus Himself, in a verse with which we are all familiar: “I am the way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).

What attitude defines your worship and mine?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Millennial Reign

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Isaiah 24-27

Seldom do we hear sermons on issues of eschatology, yet the millennial reign is a Biblical subject dealt with in both Old and New Testaments. What do we know about this subject? Why is it important?

Perhaps we should begin with Isaiah who clearly prophesied about the judgments of the tribulation period as well as the blessings of the Millennial reign, in chapters 24-27. From these chapters we understand that God’s judgment will fall, laying waste completely to all He created (Isaiah 24:1-3). By disobeying God’s laws the people have severed their covenant relationship with God, bringing a curse upon the whole earth (24:5-6). In that day God will punish even the “powers in the heavens” (24:21), probably a reference to fallen angels who will also be judged (1 Corinthians 6:3).

However, a small remnant of believers will survive (Isaiah 24:6b). In the midst of devastation and desolation they will still rejoice in the majesty of their God! (24:14-16a). Isaiah exalts “my God” (25:1) for His perfect faithfulness, planned long ago. The judgment falling is not a knee-jerk reaction to a rebellious people….God knew the end from the beginning, yet He created man in His own imagine, with the power of choice [volition].

Although Babylon is made a heap of rubble (Isaiah 25:2), strong believers from every nation, even the enemies who ruthlessly pursued God’s people, will honour the Lord (25:3). It is important to note that God, faithful to His promise, rescued all who believe on His name! Isaiah goes on to describe the Millennial reign as one of great blessing, feasting and celebration, as God wipes away the tears from all faces (25:6-8).

In that day God will be celebrated for His salvation – the only God who could be entirely trusted! He is the One who keeps His children in perfect peace (Isaiah 25:9, 26:3-4, 12). The Spirit of the Lord is finally appreciated, as the faithful yearn for Him day and night. He is the desire of their hearts (26:8-9).

Several other prophets refer to the Millennial reign of Christ. Zechariah has a lot to say. Regarding the location we learn that the Lord will dwell in Jerusalem (8:3) where all nations will worship the King (14:16). As Jesus’ feet stand on the Mount of Olives it will be split into two parts (14:4). Isaiah adds – there will be no more war as the nations flow into Jerusalem to worship the Lord (2:2-4). He goes on to tell us that nature will flourish showing the glory and majesty of God, while healing takes place (35:1-10). Amos tells us this will be a time of restoration and rebuilding (9:11-25).

Where is Satan during this 1000 year reign? He is bound, sealed in a pit (Revelation 20:1-10). Powerless! Jesus will reign with an iron sceptre (Psalm 2:9, Revelation 2:27, 12:5, 19:15). Who will reign with Him? Those who were beheaded, who did not accept the mark of the beast during the tribulation period, will come to life and reign with Him (Revelation 10:4). The rest of those who are dead in Christ will come to life after this 1000 year period ends (Revelation 20:1-15).. Then we will enjoy the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us (John 14:3). At some time after this God will create a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-27).

Reflection:

We have no idea of God’s exact time line. We have been encouraged to be watchful and vigilant, waiting the Lord Jesus’ return at any time. The joy of seeing Him will surpass anything we have ever known. Our Saviour! Redeemer! and Friend! Will we perhaps be those who reign with Him? That will not be something to covet, since it does involve tremendous suffering beforehand. This is why we must search the scriptures, as the Bereans did, to see if these things are true. Our anticipation of Jesus’ return may be tested. Are we ready?

by Marilyn daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Badge

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1 Corinthians 13

Many years ago God placed me in a rich community in Toronto, to visit homes where I would normally not have gone inside the door. As the community nurse I dressed in uniform and wore a badge identifying who I was, in order to gain admittance. It was a very great privilege to serve these dear people who found, so often, that all their great wealth could not buy health.

As I pondered this experience I was thinking about the “badge” that will get us into heaven. What does it look like? Well – first of all we will be in uniform, all of us clothed the same. Did you know that? Paul wrote to the Galatians “For all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ!” (Galatians 3:27). Job remembered the days of God’s favour when he “put on righteousness as my clothing” (Job 29:17).

God cares enough for us to give us the breastplate of righteousness to protect our hearts (Ephesians 6:14). Human hearts are so terribly vulnerable; Paul warns believers that we need this armour of God to protect us against the fiery darts of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16). So our clothing is hugely important. Not only are we clothed with righteousness (Romans 13:14) that is a gift from God, but we are also clothed with compassion (Colossians 3:12) and humility (1 Peter 5:5). The belt of truth holds it altogether (Ephesians 6:14).

The Apostle Paul has just instructed the Ephesian Church on how to maintain good family relationships. We are all familiar with the fact children should honour their fathers and mothers, by obedient behaviour. Our attitude is hugely important – not grudgingly, but with a willing spirit, we are to give God His due. This is what our heavenly Father expects when His children meet with Him to worship, and to give of their tithes and offerings. There is to be joy in the offering! Obedience is often demanded of children, but do we forget the following injunction which requires something of our earthly fathers?

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 2:4). The privilege of parenthood is to show children the way…to model for them all that God requires as our heavenly Father. Harsh punishment as well as unreasonable expectations are not acceptable. How often do we see unjust criticism or neglect building walls of resentment?

The badge of honour worn by a loving, Godly father respects the individuality of his children, accepting them as God accepts each of us, His children. How thrilling it is to see their accomplishments increasing under words of praise, as their strengths are valued! Expressions of love mean nothing if not followed up with respect and celebration of the child’s unique gifts. This is not just for little children, but is a recipe for successful relationships with adult children as well. Some fathers think it is their duty to shape their children through a list of do’s and don’ts, without recognizing

how much the badge of genuine appreciation attracts the right spirit.

Reflection:

Do our children see us wearing the badge of Godliness, coloured red by sacrifice? Do we demand repayment for all we have done? Genuine caring never mocks, because it is kind. It is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Every parent must learn to lean on God to ultimately shape the character we are trying, however imperfectly to model, in hopes that our children will resemble God the Father as we ourselves try to emulate His goodness and love. Do we were the badge of Christ-like righteousness?

by Marilyn daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Our Father

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Ephesians 1:5

Who qualifies to address God as ‘My Father’? First of all, the Bible tells us that God has only one begotten Son (John 3:16). He is called that because His birth was generated by the Holy Spirit, making Him the one and only unique God-man (Matthew 1:20). There are however other children of God, who have been adopted into His Holy family. These are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), regenerated from the sinful state which prohibited being part of God’s family. As humans who inherited the sinful nature of Adam, peopleall have been invited by God’s Spirit to join the family by believing and receiving grace and mercy from the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ (Luke 5:32).

Now the Father intentionally brings up His children to be representatives of His character. Scripture lays out what that looks like as we get glimpses of God’s love and wrath, His wisdom and faithfulness, His pure and forgiving heart. The life of Jesus is “the exact representation of God’s being”. There are glimpses of Godliness among those who follow Jesus Christ, but since His life on earth ended, there has been no other about whom it could be said “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).

Yet Jesus taught His disciples to call upon “Our Father who is in heaven” with the confidence that if we ask anything in His [Jesus’] name we will receive it (John 16:24). Now let us be clear….disciples are those who are also intentional about their relationship with the Father. It isn’t just to escape hell fire that people ask Jesus into their hearts. It is with the vision of what a glorious thing it is to be adopted into God’s family, to “belong”, and to serve Him.

Paul knew all about that when he was saved from a life of conscientious objecting to Christ, to becoming a child of God through belief in Jesus, himself. He wrote that God “predestined us to be adopted as His sons, through Jesus Christ, in accordance to His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5). This sounds a bit like the Apostle John who wrote that “to all who received Him [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He [the Father] gave the right to become children of God – children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13). How much do we work towards becoming like Jesus, then, once we claim to be children of God? His life is the template for us in the twenty-first century, is it not?

It is very kind of our Father not to leave us to struggle on our own. We have the example of Jesus , but we also have the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by the Father to teach and to guide (John 14:16, 26). We know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man/woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).

Training takes discipline and so our Father disciplines those He loves, and even punishes us when we sin (Hebrews 12:6). The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). It is the Father’s will that the Prince of Peace rules in our hearts. Therefore we are called to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace!” (Colossians 3:15). What a message for today!

Reflection:

I am so thankful to know God as my heavenly Father. He can be trusted to keep His word, whether it be warnings of judgment, or promises of answered prayer with blessings. His love surpasses anything on the human level because it is not dependant upon my performance. And knowing I am in right relationship with Him brings exquisite peace!

by Marilyn Daniels (Marilyn Daniels.net)

Devotional

Faith or Fear?

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1 Corinthians 10:13

The question arose in our Bible study: “What if I ask God for something that isn’t good for me and He gives it to me?”*1 Such a question gives rise to more. “Is God the author of evil?”*2 “Does God ever test us?”*3

The second question requires an answer first. Is God the author of evil? Scripture holds answers for us. James 1:13 tells us “God cannot be tempted by evil and He, Himself, does not tempt anyone”. Jesus’ temptation in the desert was clearly from Satan (Matthew 4). When God’s judgment [calamity, disaster] falls, many would call that an evil, but it is not morally wrong to punish sin. To understand the moral nature of God, we need to know that sin is not a created thing, but rather our response to circumstance, the lack of moral perfection in a fallen creature.

How would it be possible to trust a God who is the author of confusion, One who wavers from one decision to another, One who possibly lies? Paul assures us “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The arch-enemy of God is known to be the Father of lies. Jesus gives us a bio on the devil – a murderer from the beginning, in whom there is no truth (John 8:44). On the other hand scripture defines the character of God. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and then not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Perhaps we should consider – if God warned of judgment for sin and did not perform it, could we trust His word?

This gives rise to another question. “Does God mean what He says?” We know Adam and Eve fell from grace when they questioned God’s word. Satan helped them: “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1). We need to be careful as we read scripture not to question what God has said. That attitude determines if we are indeed people of faith.

Another question that sometimes gives rise to fear is “Does God ever test us?” Of course He does. The Psalmist prayed: “Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2). Perhaps that seems like quite a bold prayer. That creates a transparent relationship between us and God so that we can/will keep short accounts when we sin. Most of us have things in our lives we wouldn’t want spread across the news, but God Almighty already knows these things. Does that strike fear into our innermost being, or do we trust His mercy and His grace? Job knew what it meant to be tested and praised God that “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Back to our first question. Will God give us things that are not good for us? It may seem so on the surface, but underneath are the Everlasting Arms. Do we trust Him completely to bring good out of difficult situations. What determines whether something is good for us – our comfort, our convenience, our success?…and the list goes on. What are the lessons we learn during those times of testing? Would we have learned to trust Him under happier circumstances? In the end we can trust God to give us what we need.

What exquisite joy – knowing He never leaves us or forsakes us! And – we have His promise for those times when we may even be tempted: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man”. Is there any comfort in knowing others have gone through similar circumstances and come out on the other side glorifying God?….Paul continues “And God is faithful! He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Reflection:

Faith or fear? Which defines your earthly pilgrimage? “There is no fear in love – perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). However, there is another implication in the word fear. People who truly fear God [respect, honour, glorify God] know His Holy Word is to be trusted. They know they are accepted by His loving heart, warts and all. People who live in fear of judgment don’t understand the amazing character of our Sovereign Lord. Even in failure, God gives us hope. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). His faithfulness is the cornerstone of our Christian faith, and casts out fear. When things get tough do we have the right to accuse God of bringing evil into our lives?*2 Are we afraid we may not pass the test?*3 Or, will we celebrate the goodness of God, which equips us for victory?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Uncategorized

God’s Arms

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Isaiah 40:11

Following a series of personal calamities, Handel was encouraged, at the very point of giving up, by reading Charles Jennen’s libretto, which included scripture. Inspired by prophecy as well as by Christ’s life, Handel was moved to begin again. When he wrote “Messiah” no one could foresee its popularity over centuries of time.

When first played it blessed King George 2 so greatly that he stood during the Hallelujah chorus, recognizing Christ as King of Kings, a tradition followed to this day. This Messiah gathered the lambs in His arms, a picture of God’s caring and protection. Therefore we see this scripture engaging men of fame and power – a noted musician as well as the king. Most men might not acknowledge their need of a shepherd’s care, but these men acknowledged their personal need of God to guide them, to comfort them, as though they were His lambs.

Handel must have been reading: “He gathers His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11). What a tender picture of God sustaining, providing for, and protecting His sheep. Those who are most vulnerable, the marginalized, the very young and very old are held close to His heart! We cannot forget that Jesus, Himself, tenderly took little children in His arms to bless them (Mark 10:16). During his own suffering was this Handel’s experience of God?

The Bible tells us many things about God’s arms. His power is demonstrated by the strength of His arms and hands (Deuteronomy 3:24), a strength visible among the nations. His arms are holy, the source of salvation (Isaiah 52:10). The Psalmist concurs when he writes “Sing to the Lord….for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him!” (Psalm 98:1).

God’s arms are everlasting. How many people have found comfort in verses written so long ago by Moses? “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Through generations of human history God remains the same, tender and loving to all who will receive Him.

More than once the question is asked in scripture whether or not the Lord’s arm is too short to save His people? (Numbers 11:23, Isaiah 50:2). Notice it is God who is proactive, stretching out His arm to save the Israelites on different occasions, as no other god had done before (Deuteronomy 4:34).

Perhaps we might emulate God’s example as we meet people today. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we are equipped to bear His love towards those who are hurting, and those who struggle to understand God. Will His gentle Spirit working in and through us give occasion for us to proclaim the strong and yet tender arm of God to those in need?

Reflection:

Have you ever had occasion to depend upon an arm to help you get up or to walk? How often when we are grieving does a gentle arm around the shoulders bring us comfort. Arms were also designed by God as messengers of love. Imagine as you draw close to someone in trouble how valuable your arm is to them. Let your arms be God’s arms to others in need.

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Seized by Temptation!

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1 Corinthians 10:13

Do you always recognize when you have been seized by temptation? Satan is subtle. We know how Job was tempted because we read in scripture God permitted Satan to submit him to extraordinary testing. (Job 1:6-12) Everything was taken away from this wealthy man, his possessions, his family and eventually his health. God knew His man! With confidence He permitted this, with only one restriction – Satan could not take Job’s life.

David was tempted on different occasions. In a cave, hidden from his mortal enemy, David could have taken Saul’s life, but he opted to trust God with his own life and future by allowing the King to go free (1 Samuel 24). He is famous for his failure with Bathsheba, but even worse perhaps than that, was when he succumbed to the thought he should take a census throughout his nation (2 Samuel 24:1). Sometimes we ourselves confuse the voice of God with the voice of Satan. Hindsight is always clearer. As David looked back he repented, confessing his sin before God. However, there was a penalty. The consequence of his wrong choice cost 70,000 people their lives, by means of the plague (2 Samuel 24:15)

Why did the man who bravely stood before Goliath in the name of the Lord, fail to remember this Holy One was the source of his strength? Why did he need to count the strength of man-power in his army? We may never know the answer to those specific questions, but what we might learn from David’s experience is how important it is to keep our eyes fixed on God.

Seeking Him, His presence moment by moment, His will for each day, His wisdom and discernment, will give us the courage we need when Satan looks for a weakness in our armour. Knowing our weaknesses is a preventative. Do you know where and when you are most vulnerable? What do you do to prevent Satan getting a toehold in these areas? Denial is the enemy of our faith.

God promises the faithful: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man, and God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.”

This was true so often, in David’s case. God sent people to confront David when he sinned because God wanted him to be pure in heart. Joab, general of his army, was horrified at his suggestion to take a census and warned him of the evils (2 Samuel 24:3). Nathan confronted David regarding his sexual sin (2 Samuel 7). Eventually David was conscience-stricken and regretted bitterly the choices he had made.

Reflection:

Why did David listen to his mentors? Because he recognized he had displeased God.

Do we pause to thank God for bringing folks into our lives who have the courage to confront us so that our fellowship with God is not destroyed?

The question for us, as we face temptation today, must be “Is this pleasing to God?” Does it really matter?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)