Devotional

Mother’s Day

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Ephesians 6:2 Proverbs 23:22

Moses was given the 10 commandments as the basic rule of life, for God’s people. They dealt with worship and spiritual issues, as well as those of social justice and interaction. God’s intention is clear; He is to be the focal point of all we do and say. As a faithful Pharisee, Paul understood the importance of the law, reminding Corinthian believers “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:21).

God revealed Himself as the One who would punish those who rejected His law, but balanced that with the wonderful promise to “show love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5-6). What does this have to do with Mothers Day?

God went on to detail what He meant in the 5th commandment which reads: “Honour your father and your mother”. The promise for doing so was that they would bring glory to God by honouring His word, and therefore would live long in the land that He was giving to them (Exodus 20:12). This is the positive side of obedience.

However, Moses received further instruction. “Anyone who attacks his father or mother must be put to death” (Exodus 21:15). Furthermore, “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death” (Exodus 21:17). Another reality is made clear by the Apostle Paul. “If anyone does not provide for ….his immediate family [father and mother], he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8). These are serious allegations, made by Sovereign God.

We need to note that they address our attitude, as much as our deeds. The law is not a suggestion – we are commanded, in this case to honour our parents. Commands are non-negotiable as Solomon knew. “Do not despise your mother when she is old” (Proverbs 23:22). Jesus confirmed this as He rebuked the Pharisees. Apparently they had been giving funds to projects at church [the temple] as a gift to God, “nullifying the Word of God”. They sought to impress people with their generosity while depriving their parents of basic needs. Jesus then called them hypocrites for not abiding by the law to honour both father and mother. God knew they honoured Him with lip-service only. Sadly their hearts were far from Him (Matthew 15:3-8).

“Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:5 KJV). From the cross He looked down at the woman who had given Him birth, who believed in His ability to perform miracles before ever He did, and so Jesus provided for His mother Mary, as He called upon John to take care of her (John 19:26-27).

Reflection:

What are our inmost thoughts as we celebrate Mothers Day? Are we be compassionate as we give our mothers the benefit of the doubt for obvious mistakes? Do we bless them for giving us life? Will we reflect on the positives rather than judging the negatives? Motherhood is an awesome responsibility, entered into, usually, with very little training or orientation. What comfort can we derive from their sacrifice, and moments of generosity, playfulness and love? Will we honour God for those special Moms who adopted us into their hearts and families? Today, some of us need to demonstrate the love of Christ, who reached down to the unlovely to redeem them [us] from every sin and failure, by the way in which we honour mothers who have struggled. Happy Mothers Day!

Devotional

Standing on Holy Ground

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Exodus 19:10-25

Moses was instructed by the Lord to prepare the people to meet with Him. God was in the business of restoration. “Now if you obey Me fully, and keep My covenant, then, out of all the nations you will be My treasured possession” (19:5). First He called them to remember the recent events which had brought them safely out of Egypt. God describes it: “I carried you on eagles wings, and brought you to Myself” (19:4). He had revealed His power by rescuing them from slavery, and now He becomes very personal. His plan is for a relationship. “Although the whole earth is Mine, you will be for Me a kingdom or priests and a holy nation” (19:6).

Many years before, God had made a covenant with their forefathers, beginning with Abraham and passing down the generations through Isaac and Jacob. Now He is about to renew His covenant. The offer is conditional -“If”. The people responded together: “We will do everything the Lord has said” (19:8). The stage was set. Moses, acting as the go-between, conveyed the Lord’s instructions to the people. In order to meet with this powerful Holy God they must purify themselves. Consecration involved rituals of physical cleanliness, including sexual abstinence, as well as being clothed in clean garments (19:10,15). This procedure is intended to “honour the Lord your God….who makes you holy” (Leviticus 20:7-8). As clean as we might try to be, it is God alone who can make us holy.

There were limits put upon the people – a boundary was established around Mount Sinai. “Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death” (19:12, 23). If God told us today that certain limits were to be observed, or else we would die, how seriously would we take His words? Yet His word clearly states “The soul who sins is the one who will die”. Our response to God must be personal…”The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son” (Ezekiel 18:20).

Habakkuk understood the holiness of God. “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong” (1:13). This is why His Holy Son, under the burden of the sins of the world cried from the cross “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).

As the people gathered around Sinai, after three days of preparation, they were greeted by lightening and thunder! While a thick cloud covered the mountain, everyone trembled at loud blasts from a trumpet. Then the Lord descended in fire, while smoke billowed like smoke from a furnace. At last God had the attention of His people.

The Apostle Paul knew folks in his day needed to pay attention to God. He asked “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing, the blood of the Covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” He warned “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!” (Hebrews 10:29-31).

The Hebrews, waiting before God at Mount Sinai were ready, consecrated, and committed to serving God in a Covenant relationship. They stood on Holy ground to receive their orders. Ten commandments became their rule of life. After Jesus’ death and resurrection we can reread these commandments as words of promise. There are no other gods. “I am the way, the truth and the life” Jesus declared. (John 14:6). Through Him God has shown the love He promised on that eventful day to His people at Sinai, promised to a thousand generations of those “who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6).

Reflection:

If we want to see God and to hear His voice in the intimacy of a holy relationship, we need to remove our sandals. They are dirty from walking through a sinful world. Jesus washed His disciples feet, as a symbol of service to Holy God. If we hope to witness to others about the gospel, we need to do so from a position of strength gained only from standing on Holy ground, having our feet “fitted with the readiness [commitment] that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15). Are you willing and ready to stand on Holy ground?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Victorious

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It began in heaven. The decision was made within the Godhead to send Jesus to earth to accomplish the “salvation plan”. Here’s how it went. Paul enlightened the Philippian Church, writing that Christ Jesus “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (2:6-7). Jesus demonstrates to us how to control pride of place. Status often means so much to us as human beings, doesn’t it? Victory number one!

The story continues. Jesus’ parents found Him in the temple, where according to the custom He had celebrated His ‘Bar Mitzvah’ at twelve years of age. Returning home, the missed him and returned to find Him discussing theology with the Rabbis. “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers”! (Matthew 2:42-47). We might have thought a young boy, quizzed by the religious leaders of his day might have been timid, but not so for the One who created the system, and the people who were practising it. Victory over fear of what people might think!

We’re all familiar with the “temptations” which Jesus endured during 40 days of fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4). Satan tried his best to weaken Jesus’ resolve to do His Father’s will, but “Hallelujah” failed to deter Him. Victory #3.

Throughout His life, short as His ministry experience was, Satan tried to taunt Him, ridiculing Him for making Himself equal with God, for calling God His “Father”. The final blow might have been when people mocked Him for saving others, but not saving Himself. He had wrestled, as He faced the awful trauma of crucifixion which lay ahead of Him, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. How well do we handle our own fears? If we knew we would suffer pain and humiliation, would we pass the test? The miracle of calling it all off at any point would have devalued the very reason for Jesus coming to earth in the first place – Victory #4 overcame fear of personal pain!

Folks gathering around the foot of the cross failed to see the victory that Jesus experienced by His very death. The reality was He could have saved Himself, but immediate satisfaction would have destroyed His purpose. He had to die that man might live! Hadn’t the angel prophesied to Joseph “She will give birth to a Son and you are to give Him the name ‘Jesus’ because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And so for us today, we read: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all” (2 Corinthians 15:14-15). Victory #5. Will we take up Peter’s challenge “Christ suffered for you, leaving an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21)?

We know that we will live eternally with Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Our certain hope is based on His resurrection. Imagine life without such joyous anticipation? And He was seen, over a period of 40 days, “giving many convincing proofs that He was alive” (Acts 1:3). Again we read Peter’s words “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). Victory #6!

Reflection:

If we have put our trust in what Jesus has done, then do we trust His promise that He will come again? Are we preparing for His return? At that time He will have His final victory of evil! Sin and death will no longer provoke us because Satan and his angels will be cast into the Lake of fire to stay, forever (Revelation 20:10). Praise God! Seven, the perfect number – seven victorious moments in the life of Christ, bring us the greatest of all possible joy!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Victimized

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The little child who was worshiped by Kings from the east, became a man. In the intervening years it had not been easy to be parents of the Christ-child. They had to endure public opinion about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. Then at the tender age of two Jesus was seen to be a threat; sought by Herod the King after the Magi came looking for a new baby king. Led by God, they fled to Egypt to keep this precious child safe. We might recall the tragedy that befell innocent babies in Ramah (Matthew 2:1-2, 16), as this wicked king sought to extinguish the Son of God.

Herod died, so the family returned home. For nearly thirty years Jesus lived quietly at home in Nazareth. What were His thoughts as He learned His earthly father’s trade? What sort of life did He have with the question of His paternity hanging over His head? We sense that within the home things were not always easy. What was it like for His siblings to live with the eldest child, who had a history of being worshiped as King?

One commentator labels Matthew Chapter 10 as “The Program of the King; the Program announced”. Chapter 13 becomes “The Program Altered”, then “The Program Attacked”. Here we see the community in which Jesus grew up, explodes! Jesus had been going “through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 13:35). Coming back to His hometown, He began teaching in the synagogue where amazement quickly turned into indignation. “Where did this man get the wisdom and these miraculous powers?” and “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Suspicion grew! “Isn’t His mother’s name Mary?” and they went on to list His brothers by name, attempting to destroy His reputation, as a child sent by God (Matthew 13:53-57).

His ministry became perhaps the greatest example of human fickleness, because so many people followed Him for all the wrong reasons. Human nature is hard to change. Crowds followed Him for what they could get – healing and hope. They longed to be free from Roman oppression; surely this miracle-worker would engineer the ultimate miracle for their oppressed nation. Consider the burden this expectation put on Jesus, who described “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Most of us experience problems with sibling rivalry or criticism, jealousies or competition during our life time. As we have seen, Jesus was not immune to these human inconsistencies. However, the real test came at the end of His ministry when the “religious right” decided the time had come to get rid of this maverick teacher. They became passionate to extinguish what they saw as blasphemy, making Himself equal with God (John 3:34-35). After all, how many times had Jesus called God His Father? And now He was forgiving sins? (Mark 2:5-7).

Jesus became the ultimate victim of a religion whose leadership had lost the concept of a personal relationship with God. Their abuses were heaped onto the people they were given the privilege of leading spiritually, in the form of rules and regulations which were almost impossible to keep. What was one more injury to add to the list, and so we find their consciences seared. Crucifying the Christ was nothing to so many who needed to know the God they said they worshiped, is a God faithful to His promises.

Reflection:

In the end an abuser reaps what he sows. Sadly in the eternal scheme of things, those who victimize the Christ, are eternal losers.

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

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Validate

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John 1:29-34

The crucifixion took place by people who vilified the “Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Since His ascension into heaven, His sacrifice is validated by worship of “the Lamb who was slain”, by heavenly hosts gathered around God’s throne! (Revelation 5:9-10, 12).

Returning to His earthly experience, let us first note that the baby in the manger was announced by angels who proclaimed “Today, in the town of David, as Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord”. The shepherds then went into Bethlehem to check it out, and found Jesus lying in the hay (Luke 2:10-11, 16). At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry John made the proclamation, just as we read, that the Lamb had come from God to remove the sin in their wicked world.

Of course we remember that prophecy was clearly fulfilled when the Magi appeared on the scene to worship the “King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:1-2). For Jews who knew their scripture, this was their ultimate hope and so we read that two elderly folk recognized Jesus as the child “destined to cause the falling and rising of man in Israel” through whom “the thoughts of many will be revealed” (Simeon – Matthew 2:34-35). Anna proclaimed to all who were gathered in the Temple that God had given this Child “to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Israel” (Matthew 2:38). And Mary treasured all these things, validating her precious son, in her heart!

After John baptised Jesus, a remarkable thing happened. John heard the voice of God confirming Jesus’ identity “This is My beloved Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). This was witnessed by crowds of folks who had repented, and were being baptised by John (Luke 3:21-22). How thrilling the moment would have been to hear the actual voice of God, as a dove sent from heaven, landed on Jesus! Think of it – the scripture tells us this was the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. How would that minister to the spirit of the man, Jesus? Here His Divinity was authorized, miraculously and publicly, so that people could rejoice in what God was doing. Here was God’s Son – the promised Messiah! This is heavenly validation indeed!

Jesus called a group of men to work together with Him; His intention was to train then to carry on His ministry. It was crucial that they understood what He said about Himself: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). No one but God could make such a claim. Thankfully Peter recognized the truth, and spoke for the others when he declared “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” (Matthew 16:16).

The “Truth”, which Jesus claimed to be inherently, (John 14:6), was also recognized as He hung dying, on the cross. One thief vilified Him, but the other validated Jesus when he asked Him to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 24:42). Oh that folks today would recognize the “Way” into the kingdom of God* , and the “Way” into heaven eventually, is through believing and receiving Jesus Christ our Lord! (John 1:12-13).

At the moment of Jesus’ death there was an earthquake, causing a Roman soldier to gasp “Surely He was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54). The cross was a travesty of injustice, but our Lord carried on, proving the glory of God!

Reflection:

Many people, down through the ages have questioned the veracity of Jesus’ Divinity. If He was simply a man who died, our faith is also dead. But He rose from the dead, was seen by many who validated He lives! (Acts 1:3). We do not worship a dead person but the Giver of True Life, eternal life! The question is: Does your life and mine validate the reality of Jesus Christ, as Lord?

*The kingdom of God is here in the hearts of Jesus’ followers. We do not wait to go to heaven to be blessed, but are members of His Kingdom here on earth, now! ? Because our Sovereign Lord reigns in our hearts. Praise God!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Vilify, Validate, Victimize, Victorious!

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What do all those words have in common? These words describe the life of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As we go into the Easter season, it is customary to reflect on our Lord Jesus Christ. Just how well do we know Him? It is sometimes hard for us to wrap our minds around the fact that Jesus is fully human and fully God at the same time. When He began His earthly ministry, it is curious to read that the Spirit led Him into the desert to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Why was that an important part of His human experience? For one thing it helps Him to identify with us in our moments of temptation. In fact He taught us to pray “Lead us not into temptation” because He knew the powerful impact, the desperate energy it takes, to resist the devil.

Vilify: “To speak about in an abusively disparaging manner”.

Jesus’ life began under the shadow of illegitimacy. God chose a virgin to bear His Holy Son so there would be no question about His Divinity. Some folks, refusing to believe God’s miracle, vilify Mary to this day. To be sure there was no stain on Jesus’ name, a prophecy was given hundreds of years before His birth: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call His name “Immanuel” [meaning God with us] (Isaiah 7:14). And so the “Virgin Birth” became a cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith!

Before His ministry began, the Holy Spirit took Jesus into the desert for the specific purpose of facing temptation.

After 40 days and nights of fasting, most of us would be pretty weak. When we are tired or hungry, when our felt needs are not met, we become impatient, grumpy, and even fearful and angry. It is interesting to note that right at that time Satan tried to take advantage of Jesus’ weakened physical state. He taunted Him:
If you are the Son of God….” (Matthew 4:3). Because we know Jesus is God, we sometimes pass over the impact this would have had on a physically weak person. Bread? What would He have given for a piece of bread? We know, from His later miracles, that He could produce bread miraculously, but He would not do it to satisfy the cravings of His own mortal body. Certainly He would not give the devil the satisfaction of weakening His resolve – to use this time of fasting to draw strength from His heavenly Father, for all that lay ahead. He knew the battle that His humanity would face, and this was just the beginning! Twice in the desert the devil questioned His authenticity, demanding He prove His unique Sonship. Failing that, Satan used many folks throughout Jesus’ ministry to ridicule Him as the Son of God. We find the Pharisees, folks trained in the scriptures and prophecy, who ought to have recognized who Jesus was, questioning Jesus’ identity, and then of course crucifying Him on the grounds of blasphemy, for making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).

What a rollercoaster of emotion existed in Jesus’ life. Crowds of folks celebrated the man they thought was their deliverer from Roman persecution! His miracles produced entertainment for the multitudes. However, when He was taken prisoner, the chant changed to “Crucify Him”! What made the difference? Ignorance mingled with unrealistic expectations, led them astray. Let us not forget the intensity of Jesus’ feelings when He was vilified. How did Jesus respond?

Consider: how painful was this to the heart of the gentle Saviour who so loved the world that He came to sacrifice Himself for each person’s sin? It was apparently enough to make Him weep over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). We humans all need to feel appreciated. Knowing what we now understand from scripture about God’s purposes, how easy is it for you and for me to yield to the Father’s will? Would we deny Jesus what is due the supreme effort He made to subjugate His humanity to the will of His Father?

Reflection:

The important thing is that Jesus didn’t ever feel He had to prove to anyone who He is. We might take a page from His story to consider that as God’s children, neither do we need to prove who we are. If we are living as God wants us to live, what is that to anyone else? Jesus questioned James’ and John’s desire. A verse worth meditating on reflects Jesus’ attitude towards you and me. Nothing else matters. We may be vilified, but Jesus says: “You must follow Me” (John 21:22).

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

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Eternal God

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Genesis 21:33

Have you ever wondered how different the God you worship is, from every person who has everlasting life?

He shares so much of Himself with His children as He grows them into the image of Jesus Christ! First, through His amazing grace He calls us into His family, where we enjoy freedom from guilt and shame because He has forgiven us. He commands us to pass that forgiveness on to others (Matthew 6:14), since Jesus is our example of the attitude we need when we feel abused, or rejected, or persecuted. Words are not enough; God looks at our hearts and deeds, to see if we are genuine (Matthew 6:15).

So, everlasting life begins with forgiveness (Matthew 6:12) which gives us the privilege of calling God our Father. But what do we know about this God who is the source of life? We are created beings who can be transformed by the power of His Spirit, sanctifying our spirits. Will we ever be eternal? The Bible tells us we will live forever in heaven in the presence of God, but it also tells us He is eternal. What is the difference?

For people who know nothing other than the limitations of time and space it is hard for us, sometimes, to look forward into eternity. Everything here on earth comes to an end, eventually, Our physical life will cease, unless some of us live to see Jesus return. What will endless life look like? However, God can do something we cannot do – as He looks back into eons of time, then He remembers we are but dust. We are created beings. We had a beginning; God does not.

This is what sets us apart from the God who gives us the spirit of eternal love. He gives us the privilege of reflecting His great love, but we can never pass on to another human being a love that is eternal. God’s love has no beginning, and no end; our love has a beginning. He is what we will never be; He is eternal. Why is this important? There are some religious philosophies that teach we will become gods in eternity. There is no indication in the Bible that we should expect that. Logically it is impossible to have no beginning, since we were actually made by the hands of God, designed in His heart to accomplish His purposes, in a certain period of time and space.

Satan fell from a very exalted position in heaven because he desired to be like God; it seems he actually thought he could compete. Does he forget this simple truth? A created being, such as he is, and we are, does have a beginning and an end. God does not. Until we get that fact established in our minds, there will be something lacking in our worship of the one true God! It is pretty obvious today that there are people who think they are spiritual enough to make decisions without consulting God for wisdom and direction.

Yahweh* is the sacred name for the self-existent God who revealed Himself as the God of Israel, when He called to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Who are you? Moses wanted to know. “I AM WHO I AM” was God’s reply. In other words “I exist”. This was hugely important for Moses to understand, since he was called to confront the Egyptian Pharoah who had made himself out to be a god. In a pagan society that worshiped multiple gods, it was not difficult to add one more. God’s dynamic, eternal self-existence mattered then, as it does now.

Reflection:

Ryrie comments that the name Yahweh is “the most significant name for God in the Old Testament…meaning: the active, self-existent One….and is especially associated with God’s holiness (Leviticus 11:44-45), His hatred of sin (Genesis 6:3-7) and His gracious provision of redemption” (Isaiah 53:1, 5, 6, 10). When Jesus claimed to be “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) it was only possible on the basis of His eternal disposition! From Him, our eternal God, we receive everlasting life.

*Yahweh appears 6,823 times in the Old testament

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Harbinger of Hope

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Genesis 9:13-16 (Note this is a repeat)

I have set my rainbow in the clouds and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and earth.”(Genesis 9:13).

A brief study of rainbows reveals they can double-arc over a falls, or very rarely they might spring from the same origin. Googling ‘rainbows’, I discovered that from an aircraft or other vantage point of height, occasionally a full-circled rainbow can be seen. Science explains fogbows and moon bows in a fascinating study. Have you ever seen a Sun Dog? Like slivers of rainbow they lend an aura of mystery to the sky, seen around the globe under the right meteorological conditions. Amazing the handiwork of God!

Early in the history of earth God used the rainbow to signal a covenant which He initiated. It is interesting to note it is not reliant on anything to do with man or his behaviour, but rather is a covenant between God and the earth He has created, and sustains. Coming on the heels of a world-wide flood, the promise is all about God. “I have set My rainbow in the clouds” (Genesis 9:13). He takes ownership for this sign. It is quite probable that this was the first rainbow, due perhaps to changes in atmosphere and cloud conditions following the flood. God, who created all things, has perfect timing and capability to make changes in His creation.

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds” God promises that He will remember the covenant He has made with Noah and every living creature (Genesis 9:14-16). We have sometimes got it wrong, thinking that the rainbow was a sign for man to remember what God had promised. Instead it’s a sign that God will not forget His promise; a sign of faithfulness to His covenant! What a marvellous hope!

That hope consists of the reality that a world-wide flood will never occur again. As bad as it gets when we see pictures on the news of terrible flooding in many countries around the world, there has never again been a world-wide flood. God has been true to His promise throughout human history since the time of Noah. It went like this: “Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life” (Genesis 9:15).

When we see a rainbow we recognize immediately that God is in control. I remember a very long drive through the hinterland of Guyana. Trails petered out through trackless savannah. In places we had to choose whether to drive down a steep embankment to cross a stream or to rebuild a rickety bridge. As the day wore on we were getting nervous that the sun would suddenly set as it does in the tropics, before we reached our destination. Pacing beside our vehicles as the men repaired the bridge, I was absolutely thrilled by the sight of a rainbow in the sky. There had been no rain where we were, but there it was! A marvellous sign that God had not forgotten us!

God referred to His everlasting covenant on the occasion of the first recorded rainbow. He has made another everlasting covenant. Hebrews 13:20 refers to the fulfillment of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant” (KJV), or perhaps the Living Bible states it more clearly “Now may the God of peace–who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood….” Salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord! What glorious hope we have in the faithfulness of our great God! And with that benediction God’s purpose is revealed “[He will] equip you with everything good for doing His will”!

Reflection:

What did the rainbow mean to Noah and is family?

Has God kept His covenant with Noah?

When you see a rainbow now, what do you think God will be saying to you personally?

Consider how much our world stands in need of a harbinger of Hope.

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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Weapons of Love

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Matthew 5:44

Long ago a holy man set the record straight. Instead of revenge or retaliation, when we are persecuted we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). In the twenty-first century what might that look like? In modern society we see every rule of God broken with impunity (expectation of freedom from the consequences of our choices). Babies are murdered before they are born, marriage is no longer required as the established ground for raising a family, slander and lying are rampant, and the list goes on. The question is – how do we correct these evils?

A man-child was born to demonstrate the answer to that question. Fully human, Jesus the Son of God, lived only a few years, but His life lives on more than two millennia later, in those who follow His way (John 14:6). How often do we excuse ourselves on the basis of being “only human”. That phrase recognizes the weaknesses and limitations with which each of us has been born. Jesus also experienced human temptation and suffering, such suffering that He sweat drops of blood as he wrestled with the crisis He was facing, in Gethsemane.

Why did He suffer? He knew He had powerful enemies. The faith leaders of His day had walked away from God. They were teaching rules instead of relationship. Love! That was what the world needed, way back then. Even today our witnessing must be born of love. Jesus spoke words that challenge each of us with a love not known in most human terms: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (John 3:16).

First this brings us a recognition of God, Creator of the world. “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1). A New Testament verse reveals to us that Jesus was not just man, but equally He was God ( John 1:1). The only begotten – unique God-man. God’s greatest weapon against evil was His relational Being, His Son Jesus (Hebrews 1:3). As we read John 3 we know that love ruled God’s decision to send His Son. His love blanketed the world…inclusive of race or gender. “Whosever believes” will receive the right to become children of God (John 3:16, 1:12).

In an age when evil reigned, when folks were violent and hateful, angry and greedy, Jesus came to bring what? Love! He cautioned His followers that they would be recognized by their love (John 13:35). As Jesus combatted the evils of demonic oppression, He loved. His heart was drawn towards suffering of every kind as He met with rich and poor, feeble and sick, male and female. He fed and healed and served because He loved everyone. He even loved those who rejected Him (Mark 10:21) and those who crucified Him.

As we serve Jesus, do our hearts cry out to our heavenly Father “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”? (Luke 23:34). Folks are making choices today which reject God’s laws of morality. What is our attitude towards them? Can we change them by nagging or demanding change? What would Jesus do and say if He lived on earth today?

Reflection:

Jesus does live on earth today…in broken vessels, but He has chosen you and me to represent Him, using the weapons He used. We have been given the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 617), who equips us to love and to live at peace, with kindness, gentleness, patience and even self-control! (Galatians 5:22-23). He helps us to do good to those who spitefully use us (Matthew 5:44). Let us always remember our enemies lack the holy hope which sustains children of God in lives of love, faithfulness and gratitude. What does my life witness to a weary, wounded world? Paul gave a benediction to the Romans:


May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

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A Bowl of Stew

Photo by Klaus Nielsen on Pexels.com

Genesis 25:24-34

Many of us are familiar with the history of the Jewish nation, beginning with Abraham. Called by God from the land of Ur, Abram was promised that God would make him into a great nation that would ultimately bless the world. His name was then changed to “Abraham” which means “Father of a great number”. To this day numberless Arabs, as well as Jews, call Abraham their father.

Isaac, son of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah, became a quiet shepherd. He was 60 years old when his twin sons were born. As unalike as could possibly be, Esau and Jacob were different in looks, activity and tastes. God gave Rebekah some insight into what to expect of these children “Two nations are in your womb…one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). In those days, as throughout much of human history, the line of succession went to the eldest male child, so here we see God reversing the customary order of things.

Esau and his father were particularly close. Perhaps Esau was the man Isaac never had the courage or the disposition to become, and so he admired Esau’s wild ways and vigorous activity. Jacob, on the other hand was his mother’s darling. In due time Isaac fell ill; it looked like his days were numbered. The patriarchal blessing must be given before he died. Isaac wanted to celebrate the blessing with a little feast so he called Esau to hunt, and to prepare his favourite dish. What he did not know was that the boys had been involved in a discussion on the birthright many years before.

Esau had come home from hunting feeling famished (Genesis 25:29-30). Jacob was cooking, probably a stew of red lentils since these verses refer to it as “Red Stew”. As the elder son it was quite within his right to order his younger brother. “Quick!” “Look, I’m about to die!” Have you ever used language like that because of a perceived need? How serious that need was for Esau, we do not know. However, we do read that he was quite willing to despise his birthright, actually taking an oath when he sold it to his brother for that bowl of stew (25:33-34).

The time came when Esau recognized what he had given up. Bitter were his tears when he pled with his father to bless him too (Genesis 27:38). How thrilling it is to know that God is willing to restore us to the position of children of God, when we repent of our wrong choices!

We must note that Esau did what every human heart, without the Spirit of God must do – he vowed to take revenge. He blamed Jacob for the choice he himself had made. He entered into a covenant agreement, with an oath, to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew. From Esau we must learn to put first things first, to value the privileges God has given to us, and to take responsibility for our own decisions.

Reflection:

Now the question is…what is the birthright of every human being? We have each been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). It is our right to call Him “Our Heavenly Father”, but do we? Have we been deceived about the state of our spiritual health, just as Esau was mistaken about his physical well-being?

What things take priority in our lives? Do we understand how certain things, or people, hopes and dreams can replace the treasured birthright we have, of being children of God. Satan will tempt us at our greatest point of weakness to believe we need something other than God, to sustain us in the moment. What bowl of stew is tempting you and me today?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)