Devotional

Near the Cross

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Matthew 10:38

Sometimes our hearts can be challenged by the stories of others who have overcome great obstacles in life. Today, more than one hundred years after she was born, the life of Fanny Crosby continues to challenge us to hope that through God’s mercy and grace our lives might speak to others, in spite of the trials God allows. The secret to her success might lie in one of her more famous hymns:

Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain;
Free to all, a healing stream, flows from Calv’ry’s mountain.

Refrain:
In the cross, in the cross be my glory ever,
Till my ransomed soul shall find rest beyond the river.

2 Near the cross, a trembling soul, love and mercy found me;
There the Bright and Morning Star shed His beams around me. [Refrain]

3 Near the cross! O lamb of God, bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day with its shadow o’er me. [Refrain]

 Fanny Crosby, who was blind from infancy said: “If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” She also once said, “When I get to heaven, the first face that shall ever gladden my sight will be that of my Savior”.

From the age of 10 Fanny memorized five chapters of the Bible each week, with the encouragement of her grandmother; by age 15, she had memorized the four gospels, the Pentateuch, the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, and many of the Psalms.

Arguing for support of education for the blind, she was the first woman to speak in the United States Senate when she read a poem there. She appeared before the joint houses of Congress; what a testimony! 

Sometimes we refuse to try new things, using our limitations as the reason. She learned to play the piano, organ, harp, and guitar, and became a good soprano singer. She wrote thousands of hymns, remarking: “I never undertake a hymn without first asking the good Lord to be my inspiration”. Her capacity for work was incredible and she could often compose six or seven hymns a day, dictating them to an amanuensis. However, Fanny said that her chief occupation was working in missions.

“Rescue the Perishing” (1869), which became the “theme song of the home missions movement” shows us where her heart was. She was active in speaking engagements and missionary work among America’s urban poor almost until she died at the age of 94.

In her nineties in 1911, Crosby spoke to 5,000 people at the opening meeting of the Evangelistic Committee’s seventh annual campaign held in Carnegie Hall, after the crowd sang her songs for thirty minutes.

Reflection:
What lessons might we learn from this remarkable servant of God? Why did God allow her to struggle with blindness? Why does God allow our particular struggles? What is it that gives you and me the strength to overcome?

“Near the cross! I’ll watch and wait,
Hoping, trusting ever;
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river”. [Refrain]

Let us begin a New Year at the foot of Jesus’ cross, watching and waiting for His return!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Rewards

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Psalm 19:11, Colossians 3:23-24

Recently a friend caused me to think about new doctrinal teaching on rewards. It would take a lot of digging to check out all the Bible verses that speak to the topic, but speak they do. From both Old and New Testaments God’s people are assured of rewards. It is interesting to note that God Himself is spoken of as Abraham’s “very great reward” (Genesis 15:1). What might that mean?

Abraham had just declined taking anything that would obligate him to the King of Sodom, asserting his complete allegiance to “the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:22), with whom he already had a covenant. Therefore God honoured him with His protection and presence.

The Psalmist reminds his readers that in keeping the ordinances [laws] of the Lord, there would be great reward (Psalm 19:7, 11). Old Testament theology demonstrates a conviction that people will be rewarded for their works, a point that Jesus clarifies in His teaching about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:34 – “Come you [sheep] who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance – the kingdom prepared for you.” Not all rewards will be received on earth. Jesus warns that many will be persecuted for righteousness sake; these will receive their rewards in heaven (Matthew 5: 10-12). Paul speaks about rewards in heaven as a certainty. However, he mentions motivation. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for man!” Why? “….since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving!” (Colossians 3:23-24).

In our world today a prevailing attitude seems to be to put our best foot forward when we know we will get something out of it. However, out of a sense of commitment and loyalty the best work is done, done for the sake of the work itself. This is what Jesus was talking about when He spoke about rewards in Matthew 25. Those who were blessed by His Father were totally unaware – “Lord when did we see You hungry….thirsty….a stranger…..sick……in prison?” What a thrilling surprise when they were rewarded by the commendation of their precious Saviour! What a horrible shock that those who, labouring to keep up appearances were told to “Depart from Me you who are cursed” (Matthew 25:41), because they had not seen Jesus in the opportunity.

Let us not forget that prophecy anticipates Jesus’ return -“The Sovereign Lord comes with power ….see His reward is with Him” (Isaiah 40:10).

Reflection:

Can you imagine serving Jesus out of a competitive spirit?

Why do we want rewards?

Would we serve Him if there were no rewards promised?

What will these “rewards” look like?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Vanquished or Victorious?

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Psalm 44

In an era where spelling is almost irrelevant as words are reduced to fit into a texting format, the existence of the English language may be threatened. However, there are those who still enjoy the richness of words as they contribute to our understanding of ideas, of history, as they paint word pictures and describe feelings.

‘Vanquished’ is an old-fashioned word describing those subdued completely in battle, overcome in conflict or contest, or overwhelmed by emotion. There are times in the lives of most of us when we feel vanquished by circumstance – perhaps external, or even internal conflict.

We live in a world of unprecedented choices. One can actually now chose their gender. A growing trend is to examine preferences in early childhood, upon which one’s sexuality is based. Despite physical appearances hormonal growth can be stunted to achieve the look of the gender preferred. Imagine the confusion if in later years these people who are neither man nor woman might long for a child. When we cannot accept and celebrate what God has given to us we find ourselves in serious conflict, vulnerable to feeling continually overwhelmed/ vanquished.

On the battlefield of life Satan has the advantage when we feel conquered. Once we are down we are vulnerable to every fiery dart he can throw at us. But God! In Psalm 44 there is a theme running through this lament, a theme of victory. Israelite history proved God-given victories. He brought them into the Promised Land and settled them there, removing completely those who might have been their enemies. “…not by sword that they won the land nor did their arm [of strength] bring them victory, but it was Your right hand, Your arm and the light of Your face – because You loved them!” (:3).

Looking at the present, the Psalmist recognized the hand of God once again had given him victory: “I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory; but You give us victory over our enemies [Satan, self, others]….in God we make our boast all the day long! (:6-8).

However, momentarily there is a pause. “Selah” – pause and listen. The Director of Music who wrote this Psalm for the sons of Korah, worries about the possibility of God’s rejection. Israel has known the judgment of God. It was not a pretty sight when God removed His blessings because His people broke faith with His everlasting covenant. Their armies failed to gain the victory (:8-9). There had been a diaspora – scattering among pagan nations (:11). In fact, they became a laughing stock among the nations; vanquished in shame and disgrace (:15).

This Psalm is written in denial of ever having displeased God (:17-19). Trusting God who knows the secrets of the heart, he pleads with God to redeem Israel on the basis of his unfailing love! (:21, 26) Jewish history had taught him that God is faithful. This gives him confidence to cry out for redemption from the present overwhelming circumstances (:26).

In the midst of Israel’s rejection of God, He renewed His covenant promises through the prophet Hosea. Down through the ages God has proven Himself to be true to His word: “I will betroth you to Me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness and you will acknowledge the Lord!” (Hosea 2:19-20).

Reflection:

Meditate on these verses.

Note their petition is based on the certain knowledge of God’s unfailing love (:26).

Can you identify with this lament?

How do you approach God when you feel vanquished?

Where will your certain victory originate?

Note that God’s promise is forever…and so we look to the end times when it will be fulfilled in all its glory!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Forever Kingdom

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2 Samuel 7:12-16

We are just finishing the Christmas celebrations of the birth of our Saviour, Jesus. This was just the beginning of God’s perfect plan for a kingdom promised long ago in the Old Testament (Psalm 45:6, Daniel 4:2-3). We have seen some of that unfolding over the past two millennium, but for the fulfilment, we still wait. I heard a message recently about waiting. The speaker used David the shepherd-boy-anointed-king as an example. For 14 years he waited for the earthly kingdom he had been promised. Throughout that time he endured intense jealousy and out-right threats to his life from Saul, the existing king.

The first hint of an eternal kingdom was given in the Garden of Eden when, veiled in language Adam and Eve could not possibly have understood, though perhaps the serpent did, God promised enmity between man and the serpent’s offspring. He promised that man would crush the serpent’s head giving the clue as to who would win the battle (Genesis 3:14-15).

Hundreds of years later the nation of Israel became an official kingdom. Rejecting God as their leader they had cried for a king, just as the nations around them had kings. Samuel records the sequence of events which put Saul, then David on the throne (2 Samuel 7:1). God knew this was a temporary arrangement; it would seem that in giving them the desires of their hearts the nation also gained leanness of spirit, as they had in the desert (Psalm 106:13-15).

Since the beginning God revealed Himself as a covenant God. What did that mean? God made promises to man throughout human history, many of which carried with them binding conditions. For example God promised Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:16). The condition was belief that Sarah would bear this child (even in her old age). Did God mean what He said? Now at this moment in time God declared to David, through the prophet Nathan, the continuation of that promise “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body and I will establish His kingdom forever!” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).

As history has shown, the physical kingdom of Israel fell to foreign powers. Was God mistaken? Wrong? Or did we misunderstand the scope of this covenant – something much larger than life, a spiritual covenant? In Samuel’s records the covenant is two-fold, both immediate and future. For example, immediately following David’s death, David’s son Solomon did indeed build the temple (:13). Later Jesus was acclaimed as “Son of David” (Matthew 21:9).

Looking towards the future, let us remember that twice, as was God’s custom, He reiterates the promise “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before Me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:16). Since the advent of Jesus and all that His life revealed to us about the purposes of God, we now understand this to be a Messianic promise, reflecting the faithful love of the Father through Jesus Christ, whose reign is celebrated in Revelation: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13).

Reflection:

Just to summarize – Jesus who is of the tribe of Judah, the Kingly tribe of Israel, still reigns over that promised Kingdom and one day is coming again to earth to establish a millennial reign, according to promise (Revelation 20:6). This earthly reign will preceded the heavenly reign which will last forever and ever: ”The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15). Will you be part of that “Forever Kingdom”?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Christmas Story Unfolds

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Matthew 1:1, Genesis 3:14-15

Perhaps it will surprise you to know that the Christmas story begins in Genesis. We need to look at some background. The earth was not God’s first creation. Created beings lived with Him in heaven long before earth took shape. How long Lucifer, one of many angels, existed before the creation of man, we are not told.

God created Lucifer [meaning “Shining One”]. Ezekiel describes him as chief among the angels, powerful, intelligent and very beautiful (Ezekiel 28:13-17). What we learn from Ezekiel and Isaiah is that rivalry developed; Satan wanted not just to be like God, but to be in control (Isaiah 14:12-14). That is when things began to fall apart. It is important for us to understand that God did not create evil in the person of Satan [meaning “accuser”]. Privileges were taken for granted, as power was coveted, and Satan’s attempt to seduce Eve and Adam demonstrated his continuing efforts to control God’s creation.

How does this relate to Christmas? As God cursed the serpent, the creature used by Satan to tempt Eve, He predicted that Satan would bruise the heel of One who would actually extinguish any power the Devil gained in the intervening years, by crushing Satan’s head (Genesis 3:14-15). From the beginning, God had the plan.

We know of course, that this is what happened during the Easter event when Jesus was crucified (bruised seems a light term for His great suffering). But wait! Jesus rose from the dead – the Divine Conqueror of death! His resurrection crushed the determined efforts of the “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10). This chapter describes that final battle in heaven. As the Devil is hurled to the earth, salvation is complete; the power of the Kingdom of God, authorized by the blood of Christ, overcomes Satan at last!

How is all of this possible? God sent a tiny baby, born of a virgin to bless all nations of the earth (Isaiah 7:14). God’s Kingdom would be ruled by this baby, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas time! He was also fulfillment of a prophecy given thousands of years before to a man named Abram. The author of Genesis writes the promise of God to this man He renamed Abraham [meaning “father of a great number”]. “I will make you a great nation….and all people on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). That promise was repeated to God’s covenant people, the nation He promised Abraham’s progeny would become.

Matthew begins his gospel “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac…..” (Matthew 1:1). Writing specifically to the Jews, it was crucial for Matthew to begin with the one they called ‘Father Abraham’. Ryrie explains: “The common teaching of that day said the Jews participated in the merits of Abraham, which made their prayers acceptable, helped in war, expiated sins, appeased the wrath of God and ensured a share in God’s eternal kingdom” (Page 1463 Ryrie Study Bible) No wonder they were so shocked when John and Jesus preached the need for personal repentance! All along they had depended on Abraham to ensure their eternal destiny.

The Apostle John records the dissension caused by Jesus, claiming God as His Father (John 8:33-58). His statement that He existed before Abraham was the final straw. This was blasphemy in the ears of orthodox Jews. Yet here we are celebrating Jesus! Not only do we rejoice in His birth, but His life has given each believer eternal life! So at Christmas it really is impossible to remember His birth, miraculous as it was, without thinking of His death on a cross. Hallelujah! That was not the end; He rose again to bring spiritual healing and glorious hope to all who would believe and receive Him! (John 1:12-13).

Reflection:

Isn’t it exciting to see how the Bible draws together events that have been planned in the mind of God from the very beginning of time! This gives me great hope for the future, even when times are tough. Our God is an awesome God!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

What Christmas Means to Me

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In our society today one might ask ”What does Christmas mean?” Folks coming from the middle east or other parts of the world who are not familiar with the Bible, might be astonished to see the decorations and to hear songs like “Jingle Bells” which have no connection with the original meaning of Christmas. The sad truth is that very often Christ has been taken out of Christmas.

The season has become frantically busy, leaving little time to enjoy things that are most precious, like relationships, music, or wintry beauty. After Christmas people often find themselves exhausted and depressed. Perhaps if they knew Jesus, who remains with His own forever, the thrill of His advent would last all year long! Consider what Christmas means to you. The Bible says it is about:

Miracles from our mysterious God! Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:28-35

A woman recognizing her Saviour. Luke 1:46-47

Angels pronouncing God’s ‘Joy’ to the world! Luke 2:10

Prophecy fulfilled in time and space. Genesis 12:3, Isaiah 9:6-7, Micah 5:2

Immanuel: God taking on a physical body. Matthew 1:23

The Babe – manna in a manger, Bread of Life! Luke 2:7, John 6:35, 10:10

Star attraction around the globe. Matthew 2:1-2

Wisdom leading wise men to worship. Matthew 2:2

Peace and goodwill to every tribe and nation. Luke 2:13-14, John 3:16, Revelation 5:9

The Son of God seeking to save… Luke 1:35, 19:10

Shepherd of God’s sheep, the Lamb who was slain. John 10:11

King of kings, Lord of lords. Luke 1:32-33, Revelation 17:14

Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God!”

Reflection:

Dear Lord

Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to walk among men and women, that we might know You intimately. Please remove our unbelief, our arrogant independence, our self-justification so that we might humble ourselves in worship of this Holy Babe. May our response to Your precious gift of Eternal Life bring glory to You this Christmas. May our worship come from hearts purified by the blood of Christ, for it is in His name we pray for forgiveness of sin, and for guidance, that our lives may be pleasing in Your sight, Oh Lord our God. Amen

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Down From His Glory

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John 17:20-23

Struggling for the right words in my devotional prayer, suddenly a wonderful old song came to mind! It is the gospel in a nutshell. It is also very appropriate for Christmas time, although not generally known as a Christmas Carol. Down from His glory.

Ever living story,

My God and Saviour came,

And Jesus was His name!

Born in a manger,

To His own a stranger,

A man of sorrows, tears and agony.

There is so much theology (the study of God) in these words. Jesus is God. He gave up His glory in heaven to become a man; not just any man, but the One who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in His sufferings (Isaiah 53:3). His sufferings were not just physical, but were also emotional and spiritual. He was ridiculed and rejected by the people God called His chosen children, to whom He was sent. His death on the cross caused a morbid separation between Him and the Father; it was something like dividing soul and spirit of the man who was uniquely God-man! This separation was necessary in order to bring together God and mankind, whom He created for a unique fellowship.

The lyricist knew Jesus personally as “My God and Saviour”. God’s saving grace had drawn him into the family of God. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, it is possible for Gentiles to be adopted into God’s Holy family, when they believe and receive the Lordship of Christ (John 1:12-13). Down through centuries of time people have responded to this remarkable “condescension, bringing us redemption”. The Creator God “laid aside His splendor, stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul” according to the second verse of this incredible praise song!

The Christmas association comes with the reflection that this babe, “born in a manger, to His own a stranger” ….”took the form of man, revealed the hidden plan”. From the moment of creation, God knew mankind would be unable to cope with the great gift of choice. Having been made in the image of God we have a will. How often does your will and mine conflict with the will of our Heavenly Father? So God’s plan of creation included a plan of redemption, and here we see it: “all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him”. What does that mean?

Without reluctance, flesh and blood His substance, He took the form of man”. Paul wrote about this to the Philippian Church. “Christ Jesus Who being in very nature God….made Himself nothing, …..humbled Himself and became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:5-8). He died in your place and mine. “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours (wrote the Jewish Apostle), but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). This is the glorious mystery revealed in the man Christ Jesus!

Reflection:

There will always be a response to the life of Christ. The lyricist wrote:

O how I love Him! How I adore Him!

My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!”

.and now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”

Sadly there are those who reject Jesus for innumerable reasons. Satan is quick to give any excuse for not following Him, this One who was born to die that man might live eternally with Him in heaven. This is “the reason for the season” is it not?

Remember Jesus’ prayer recorded by the Apostle John (17:20-23) “I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (:22).

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Execution of Hopes and Dreams

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Matthew 14:1-14

Isaiah prophesied about “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (KJV). In Chapter 53 (:3) he writes about the sufferings, fulfilled at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion. However, Jesus was not wrapped up in His own suffering; He grieved at other times. He wept when Lazarus died, and folks with Him marvelled at how much He loved Lazarus. Perhaps that was a small indication of how much He loved all His followers, then and now. Jesus also grieved over the city of Jerusalem because they would not receive Him as their Messiah (Matthew 23:37).

Today we are looking at another situation which caused him grief. Jesus had a deep respect for His cousin John. He described him as a man of truth, a shining light, bearing witness to His own entry into ministry (John 5:33-35). Matthew records words of highest praise: “Among those born of women, there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (11:11).

Just a short while later Herod had John imprisoned because John had openly rebuked his marriage to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife but had been persuaded to leave her husband, and to marry Herod Antipas. This was tantamount to incest (Leviticus 18:16). John called their marriage unlawful (Matthew 14:4).

John didn’t languish in prison long. The royals had a party to celebrate King Herod’s birthday. The stakes were high, as his step-daughter danced before the crowd. He promised her with an oath, to give her whatever she asked, because her dancing was so exotic. You know the story. Prompted by her mother, the girl asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. How gory is that?!

How did Jesus deal with sorrow when He heard about His beloved cousin? He withdrew into a quiet place to be alone (Matthew 14:13) – from His history we could assume He needed time with His heavenly Father. How do we deal with grief? Do we “take it to the Lord in prayer”? The lyricist goes on –

“In His arms He’ll take and shield Thee

Thou wilt find a solace there”.

However, the story doesn’t end there. Jesus was not allowed to grieve alone. The crowds discovered where He was. Most of us would have our friends drive them away. Not Jesus! He had compassion on them and fed them, healing their sick. (Matthew 14:15-16)

It was not an execution as such, but recently a friend was found by his young wife, dead in their bed. Another friends described it this way “She went to bed a happily married Mom and woke up a single Mom”. Her life, as she had known it had been chopped, a dreadful execution of all she had known. How will she ever manage such grief?

Reflection:

When we are in shock, can we acknowledge our feelings to God or do we try to hide them? The reality is no one can explain this kind of tragedy. Perhaps it doesn’t equate with what happened to John who perished at the hands of an evil man, but we can learn a lesson from the ways in which Jesus faced His grief. With Lazarus He shed tears. He listened to the weeping sisters and He spent time with them. He continued ministering the truths of God’s Word to crowds in Jerusalem, gathered at the temple, fickle as He knew them to be. At John’s death, working, doing what God sent Him to do, took precedence over His personal grief. Once again I am challenged by the life of my Lord!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Battle is God’s

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1 Timothy 1:18

Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them, you may fight the good fight.”

Apparently, as was the custom (Acts 6:4), Godly men had commissioned Timothy to ministry by the laying on of hands. At that time they recognized his particular gift to be used in the Lord’s service (1 Timothy 4:14).

When you read 1 Timothy 1:18 what do you understand about the battle Paul is warning young Timothy against? In daily life do you sometimes feel like you are at war? What is going to give you the victory over that feeling? Paul recommends holding onto faith and a good conscience will do it. To me that means I must live up to God’s expectations, not to qualify but rather to quantify what a Christian is. In Him I must live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28).

In his famous sermon on Mars Hill, the Apostle Paul reviewed all that God had done from the creation of the world in order for man to seek Him, and even find Him – this great omnipotent God! The Greeks were worshiping gold and silver, or stone – images made by man’s genius (Acts 17:29). Now Paul challenged them to look to someone far greater than they could imagine, One who would eventually judge the world through Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son.

The battle, even in Paul’s day was against false doctrine. Myths and endless genealogies promoted controversy. Is it possible to over-examine God’s Word? What considerations take over truth, if we do not take it at face value, trusting the Holy Spirit to make it clear enough for even a child to understand. Jesus warns we need to become like little children, humble, trusting (Matthew 18:2-4). The greatest defence a child or adult could have is trusting God. We sing:

In heavenly armour we’ll enter the land -The battle belongs to the Lord!
No weapon that’s fashioned against us shall stand -The battle belongs to the Lord!

The power of darkness comes in like a flood -The battle belongs to the Lord –
He’s raised up a standard, the power of His blood -The battle belongs to the Lord!

When your enemy presses in hard do not fear -The battle belongs to the Lord!
Take courage my friend, your redemption is near – The battle belongs to the Lord!

We sing glory and honor, power in strength to the Lord!
Songwriters: Collins Jamie (sue)

Paul reminds Timothy that the weapon of prayer is to be used in this battle. When we pray for kings and all those in authority, it pleases God (1 Timothy 2:3). The battle for lost souls, whether they be in leadership or just your neighbour, concerns our heavenly Father because God “wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (:4). Let’s not forget God loves all people, [individuals in our families or communities, kings and bishops, of every tribe and nation] even more than we do.

Reflection:

When you read about anger and strife do you read from a defensive position? Who is the enemy? Who is the protagonist? In November we remember those who were lost in the great World Wars, but let us not forget we also are in a battle against evil!

As a herald and apostle of the true faith, Paul knew what it was to fight the good fight. He brought glory to God by engaging, in love, with those who held him prisoner. Was it really God’s purpose to appoint someone to suffer (2:7)? How would you respond to such a situation? Would you, could you completely trust God?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Tokens of Love

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Galatians 5:22-23

A phrase of a song caught my attention, longing for “tokens of your love”. We spend a lot of time at Christmas and birthdays trying to think of ways to express our love to those who are close to us. How often is our choice determined by the response we hope to elicit?

What is a token? It is a thing serving as a visible or tangible representation of a fact, quality, feeling, etc., often given in appreciation, or as an expression of love, as the song goes. Have you ever thought about what tokens God has given to you, of His love? Perhaps while we are defining words we need to define love. What is love? One dictionary says love is “an intense feeling of deep affection”. Wikipedia expands on that:

Love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states, from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure. 

Theologians try to explain Biblical love, by using many different words. “Love” in the Bible can’t be summed up with just a single word… “there are six different words that can be translated as love, and that doesn’t account for variants and compound words! The more literal translations of the Bible, such as the NASB, have more like 300 mentions of the word “love” because they often translate the Greek and Hebrew into more nuanced words than simply, ‘love’.”

The Apostle Paul devoted a whole chapter to describing what love looks like (1 Corinthians 13). It may be fair to say it takes a life-time to understand the complexities of love. However, one thing is made clear in scripture. “God is love” and “we love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16, 19). Out of the abundance of His own character, God equips us to love Him. Once we have His love abiding in our hearts, we are enabled to love other people in the same way as God loves us.

Tokens of God’s love can actually be seen – they are visible qualities produced by the Holy Spirit living in us. We become more peaceable for one thing; we’ve already established our ability to love others takes on a new look. Does that mean we can love without expecting something back? Loving God’s way produces joy deep within our own hearts, because it is purely in the interests of another human being. How many of us have achieved this? Let us remember “With God all things are possible”. Those are the words of our Lord Jesus recorded by Matthew (19:26).

Have you ever experienced the deep inner satisfaction of doing something good? Perhaps you were gentle or kind when someone was troubled. This brings comfort and encouragement, tokens of love to another human being in distress. Faithfulness is also described by Paul as part of the fruit of the Spirit. There are many people living out their testimony of love in difficult circumstances, believing it is the right thing to do, for Jesus’ sake. I know someone personally who has dedicated her life to the ministry of faithfulness, which takes patience and self-control. One cannot accomplish this without God.

Reflection:

We don’t need to, nor can we, generate the love which is sourced in God alone. Anything else pales by comparison. Perhaps this is why love relationships in our world today are in so much trouble, extinguished by the smallest trifle. Biblical love “keeps no record of wrongs”. When God forgives He forgets our past sins, moving us forward into a brighter and better future. Will we do that for those who have wronged us? God’s love “rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:5b-7). Let us pray that we can pass on to others these wonderful tokens of God’s love for us!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)