Devotional

Tough Love

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1 John 3:1-6

Let us establish one fact to begin with. The Apostle John reassures us: “God is love….we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16, 19). God is the source of all true love. He goes on to say “If anyone says ‘I love God’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (:20). The rationale is that it is impossible to love someone you can’t see if one hasn’t been able to love the persons we do see – our brothers and sisters, and our neighbour.

The Holy Spirit living in each believer’s heart, grows fruit in us. Most of us are familiar with the verse that begins “The fruit of the Spirit is love……” (Galatians 5:22). Why does God mention love first? Is it because without love, all the other segments of fruit growing in our lives, would shrivel, distort? Love is foundational because “God is love”. Isn’t this why Jesus called each believer to “love God and love your neighbour”, naming these as the two greatest commandments? (Matthew 22:37-39).

Jesus left His disciples with a “new” commandment: “Love one another” (John 13:34). Why was this so different? The last 6 of the Ten Commandments required behaviour that was loving towards all others. ”Honour your father and mother, do not murder, do not commit adultery, don’t steal, do not bear false witness against your neighbour, do not covet your neighbour’s possessions” Exodus 20:12-17). Love requires self-restraint, which takes us back to the verses in Galatians. The only way we will know God is working in our lives is to see the changes that are being made by the Holy Spirit, one of which is ”self control” (Galatians 5:23) Wow!

When love is growing in our hearts we will be careful not to hurt someone else. Our bodies and even our tongues will be restrained. The tongue can wound another’s heart. James describes it like this: “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person” (James 3:6). However, James has also written words of great hope “If you really keep the royal law, found in scripture: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ you are doing right” (James 2:8).

Some years ago a child-rearing philosophy became popular. Use “tough love” the experts said. It wasn’t noted then but it stands to reason that the discipline required to correct another, begins with me. Therefore I must examine my own heart and life to see if I require more of someone else than I do of myself. This is why Jesus came…to show us the Father’s love! It is sacrificial. But – it is also demanding. Jesus’ death wasn’t easy – it cost Him everything! It was absolutely necessary for anyone to have a relationship with His Father. How far are we, His disciples, willing to go to put that into practise?

There is a danger that we offer a gospel of quick fix, with a love that is really meaningless. When we glimpse the agony of our Saviour on the cross our hearts are overwhelmed by His love. Then came the glory of His resurrection! Unthinkable! It is the fruit of His passionate love! The greatest of all possible hope!! Because He toughed it out to prove His love is genuine, we are offered the gift of faith.

Reflection:

Is it possible for us to receive this kind of love from the Lord Jesus Himself? Would we be strong enough to withdraw from a relationship that is inappropriate, not from lack of love, but because our love has become pure?

The Holy Spirit is pleading with each soul who hears the gospel. His love offers us the opportunity to share with others what it means to be free from the guilt with which so many live. We cannot possibly earn our salvation. We can’t even clean up our act in order to be acceptable to God. The miracle of His love is that He reaches down to lift us out of the pit and set our feet upon a rock (Psalm 40:2). This is tough love. All glory to God!

Read 1 John 3:1-6.

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Confession

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Psalm 51

What is the purpose of confession? Here’s the truth: God knows everything. He doesn’t need to be told what we have done, because He is aware. King David recognized this. “Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely!” (Psalm 139:4). The Psalm begins with a call to worship this Lord who knows every detail of our lives, perceiving our thoughts, familiar with all our ways!

Way back in time, God made clear a need for confession. Written in the Torah we read “If they confess their sins….their treachery against Me and their hostility toward Me…I will remember My covenant” (Leviticus 26:40, 42) Why is this necessary? Again we turn to David for an explanation. “Against You, You only have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (Psalm 51:4). We may harm other people, but in doing so we are breaking God’s standard for holy living. Thus confession needs to be made to Him, while perhaps restitution needs to be made to those we have hurt.

Our confession is a recognition of the standard of God. In violating His perfect will, we need to remember the seriousness of our offense against a Holy God! Confession, if nothing else, is an act of humility. If that is genuine, we will be restored because God is faithful to His covenant. He has promised us eternal life, which begins at the moment we believe, and receive Jesus as Lord (John 1:12). Too many want Him as Saviour, but deny His Lordship by living their own way. Do we really want “Thy will be done”?

There is grave danger in using a “profession of faith” to get into heaven. That is not what the Christian life is all about. It is rejoicing in our salvation with such strength of purpose that life takes on a whole new meaning. We are indeed “…a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” when we are “in” Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

People in New Testament times, once they confessed their sins, were baptised. That is another act of faith, a demonstration to God and the world that we are serious about becoming children of God. Now we truly are one with the Father [united], depending on Him to guide and protect us (John 17:11). When we take control of our own lives, laying plans without consulting God’s wishes, we need to confess our waywardness.

Confession opens the door for cleansing. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Of course there are those who deny they have any sin. This is a dangerous practice because it denies what God knows to be true. We often sin in our thoughts, or with feelings of anger, or fear, or hatred, resentment and the list goes on. Then there are those times when we do not do what the Holy Spirit is prodding us to do, called the sin of omission. If the truth about our personal sin is not something we are prepared to confess, then John says “His [God’s} Word has no place in our lives” (1 John 1:10). That is such a dangerous place to be!

Reflection:

What is it that prevents us from confessing to God? Do we deny we continue to sin, fearing if we do God will punish us? Have we presumed on God’s grace, believing He will overlook our sin because we are covered by the blood of Jesus? Do we look at sin casually – “it’s just a little white lie” mentality? The danger is if we are not obeying God’s Word. Satan takes hold of our weakness by inserting misunderstanding of what it means to relate to a Holy God! Our Father is also our judge…and a fair one, at that. However, we must not presume upon His mercy.

“It is written: As surely as I live, says the Lord, ’Every knee will bow before Me; every tongue will confess to God’. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:11-12).

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Love Begets Love

1 John 4

So many people today seem to be starving for love. How many men and women will go to almost any lengths to generate a love relationship? Sadly they are often motivated by a desire to have their felt needs met, in order to feel complete. This imposes the impossible on other people. Only God can fill this void. When we know Him we have a new self-image because we recognize all the potential He has created. Though some fear this looks like pride, in reality this celebrates the love with which He created us. Jesus understood this necessity when He instructed His listeners to “love your neighbour as [much as you love] yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The apostle John had seen this type of love in action, had witnessed the remarkable love of Jesus for people of every station in life, the poor and marginalized, those who were oppressed, those who were socially unclean, physically challenged, demon possessed, the rich and famous. Jesus’ loving spirit, His compassionate nature reached out to draw people to Him. People followed Him in droves all over the countryside. They even forgot they were hungry as they gathered on the hillsides to listen to Him. Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles alike sought Jesus for His wisdom, coming to Him by day or by night.

When our needs drive our passions, values we believe in can quickly erode away. There are a dangers in making such personal sacrifices while trying to make someone love you. Jesus was devoid of any such personal agenda. His ministry was for the people whose lives He touched. He didn’t fear what people thought, but rather was committed to doing the will of God, day by day, person to person. His motivation for coming to earth was love. Paul describes it as humble obedience, servant-like in Philippians chapter 2.

Look around you at those people who have a lot of quality friendships. Why have they been so blessed? What is lacking in lives that are virtually friendless and desperately lonely. How often have I heard people complaining about the church as a cold and uncaring place? In reality that perspective is often held by those who find it difficult to love themselves. Without a confidence in who they are, people often find it difficult to reach out to others, or when they do they only talk about themselves.

Love is interested in what makes another tick. For most, this is the essence of Mother-love. Moms want to understand what things their kids will enjoy? In Church do we show interest in where people come from? What are some highlights of their lives, or is there anything they find challenging, need prayer for? Can you relate – laugh and cry together?

We can learn from the Apostle who writes that love is from God (1 John 4:16). He saw love teaching in the synagogue, challenging the heresies of that day, feeding 5,000, healing lepers, hanging on a cross. Perhaps you have never seen the love of God. When you do, you will understand how love begets love!

Reflection:

In our world today people crave attention and value the number of friends they have on social media. In the light of our discussion today, what would help them to resolve this tremendous “felt need”?

Do you have a positive outlook on life that attracts others, because of what God is doing in your life? Has the love of God overwhelmed you with its purity and peace? What qualities attract others to you, and therefore to Jesus?

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

Devotional · Uncategorized

Defection Described

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1 John 2:18-19
There is a phrase used by John the Apostle that is painful to read. “….even now many antichrists have come” (1 John 2:18). Prophesying about the last days, John tells us how to recognize the antichrist. The “last hour” (1 John 2:18) is described by one commentator as the time period between Christ’s first and second coming.
Throughout John’s references, the common factors are :
1. “This ….spirit of antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world….if they had belonged to us they would have remained” (1 John 2:19). They have exhibited a spirit of independence.
2. This antichrist can be recognized by his deception, his lies – “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ” (2:22).
3. They reject that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, which in effect is also a denial of God the Father (1 John 2:22, 2 John 7).
Where does this spirit originate? It is the satanic force behind all teachings and activity that would destroy Christianity. Sadly, we can clearly see this in our world today! We hear people talking about being “spiritual”, or about interacting with the Divine. Whatever that means, usually it applies to something emanating from inside mankind, without any acknowledgement that at the heart of every man is the deepest need, only fulfilled in a relationship with Jesus Christ!
In John’s day, as unfortunately today, many of these people belonged to the visible church but were not believers (2:19). How sad is it to realize that among the wheat there really are tares growing, subtly promoting their doctrine by watering down the truths of scripture. Jesus tells us – “While everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (Matthew 13:25).
The church has become sleepy. The enemy is planting his weeds among us. Unfortunately these seeds are hard to recognize until they have grown and by then to cut out the weeds would also injure or destroy the wheat. Paul warned the church in Ephesus: “Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). It was serious enough for Paul to warn them repeatedly, and with tears! (20:31). What to do?
Paul says “Be on your guard” (Acts 2:31). Wake up! Smell the coffee! Be discerning! We are to be ready to confront lies. This takes courage, because obviously we will not be popular. It may even divide friends, friends who have given in to the gospel of love as a weak acceptance of evil. We need to know our Bibles well, to deal with those finer points of doctrine that some will so subtly, and some rather unknowingly, shift from the truth.
They went out from us, [they defected not necessarily physically, but cognitively] but they did not really belong to us” (1 John 2:19) for if they had they would have kept the faith. The journey of their thoughts, the promotion of their interpretation of scripture for their own advantage, proves that they do not belong to us!
However, John does not leave the believer without hope. “But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (2:20). Believers are led by the Holy Spirit to know all truth (John 16:13). We need not be afraid!
Reflection:
Who are the key players in the scenario John describes? What is the problem?
Does this same scenario describe the church today? How does it differ?
Would you know how to discern the spirit of anti-Christ?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Love Begets Love

woman carrying baby at beach during sunset
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1 John 4

So many people today seem to be starving for love. How many men and women will go to almost any lengths to generate a love relationship? Sadly they are often motivated by a desire to have their felt needs met, in order to feel complete. This imposes the impossible on other people. Only God can fill this void. When we know Him we have a new self-image because we recognize all the potential He has created. Though some fear this looks like pride, in reality this celebrates the love with which He created us. Jesus understood this necessity when He instructed His listeners to “love your neighbour as [much as you love] yourself” (Mark 12:31).

The apostle John had seen this type of love in action, had witnessed the remarkable love of Jesus for people of every station in life, the poor and marginalized, those who were oppressed, those who were socially unclean, physically challenged, demon possessed, the rich and famous. Jesus’ loving spirit, His compassionate nature reached out to draw people to Him. People followed Him in droves all over the countryside. They even forgot they were hungry as they gathered on the hillsides to listen to Him. Jews, Samaritans and Gentiles alike sought Jesus for His wisdom, coming to Him by day or by night.

When our needs drive our passions, values we believe in can quickly erode away. There are a dangers in making such personal sacrifices while trying to make someone love you. Jesus was devoid of any such personal agenda. His ministry was for the people whose lives He touched. He didn’t fear what people thought, but rather was committed to doing the will of God, day by day, person to person. His motivation for coming to earth was love. Paul describes it as humble obedience, servant-like (Philippians 2).

Look around you at those people who have a lot of quality friendships. Why have they been so blessed? What is lacking in lives that are virtually friendless and desperately lonely. How often have I heard people complaining about the church as a cold and uncaring place? In reality that perspective is often held by those who find it difficult to love themselves. Without a confidence in who they are, people often find it difficult to reach out to others, or when they do they only talk about themselves.

Love is interested in what makes another tick. For most, this is the essence of Mother-love. Moms want to understand what things their kids will enjoy? In Church we show interest in where people come from? What are some highlights of their lives, or is there anything they find challenging, need prayer for? Can you relate – laugh and cry together? Do you have a positive outlook on life that attracts others, because of what God is doing in your life? Has the love of God overwhelmed you with its purity and peace?

We can learn from the Apostle who writes that love is from God (1 John 4:16). He saw love teaching in the synagogue, challenging the heresies of that day, feeding 5,000, healing lepers, hanging on a cross. Perhaps you have never seen the love of God. When you do, you will understand how love begets love!

Reflection:

In our world today people crave attention and value the number of friends they have on social media. In the light of our discussion today, what would help them to resolve this tremendous “felt need”?

Vist Marilyn at http://www.marilyndaniels.net