Devotional · Uncategorized

Height of Hypocrisy

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Luke 18:9-14

How often have you and I thanked God for our blessings? It’s a critical part of worship isn’t it? First we adore God for His character – all that He is in infinitude, eternality, omniscience and might. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? In other words when we praise God we remember He is so superior to anyone we know, unfathomable really in His wisdom, power and love!

Then we thank God for how He works among the people He has created, sustaining us by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3). In many countries temporal blessings are so abundant that folks begin to think these are their right. Recently I’ve heard people saying no one can take away their rights. Have they forgotten those around our globe who don’t enjoy the same unalienable rights?

Why then have rights to life and liberty been denied so many people? It’s heart-breaking to see babies and little children who will never enjoy the practical sustenance we believe all children need. Doesn’t God care? Yes, He does. He has given us so much that if we shared a portion of it regularly with others, this world would be a different place. How sacrificially might we love others? When we say we love God how does that play out on the horizontal level, here on earth?

Jesus often talked in parables. One such story might relate to us today. A Pharisee stood up to pray in the temple. Notice his posture. Notice his attitude. “Thank God I am not like other men”! What was his perspective on other people? It was very negative. He would have made a great reporter in the twenty-first century. Look at our society – on the streets of our cities there are robbers, drunks, prostitutes, murderers, drug addicts, adulterers and those who cheat on their taxes. There are even crooks in government! (Luke 18:11). Surely I’m not like them!

He continued: “Look God at how good I have been, tithing and fasting regularly – twice a week!” Now to me that statement smacks of pride. Paul reminds people of faith that the universe was made by God (Hebrews 11:1). God asked Job where he was when He laid the foundation of the earth? (Job 38:4-7). Let’s keep our perspectives about God and man in balance. What impact can my fasting and tithing or any other good works have on the God who created all things? It’s like an ant bragging to me about building its anthill.

Just to keep us focused, Jesus contrasts the Pharisee’s prayer with the prayer of a tax collector – a man the Pharisee has just mocked. This man didn’t even raise his eyes to heaven, but “beat upon his breast and said ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’ “ (Luke 18:13).

Which man do you think was justified before God? Looking at our world today, it’s shocking to see Christians caught up in what once might have been called a “worldly” perspective. I was told once by a professing believer, that God only wanted the best for me and therefore my old, ramshackle car was an affront to Him. I almost bought it!! However, I knew that God had provided me with a vehicle that got me where I needed to go, freeing me to share with others some of the wealth of this world that still remained in my pocket. This was my comfort in the face of ridicule.

One more lesson might be learned from this parable. Had the Pharisee forgotten that to judge others is a sin in the eyes of God? Along with his insatiable pride, he was as much a sinner as those he criticized. God could judge his heart, even if his life looked good on the outside. We who know God the Father intimately have the unalienable right and privilege to spread His love to those who have lost heart and hope. Just as God lifts us up when we are weary, so we must lift up others with words and deeds of encouragement. May God forgive us if we don’t!

Reflection:

Do I feel accountable to God for all that He has blessed me with?

Which man’s life does mine resemble?

How do others see me, and is it the same as the way God sees me?

Who might you view as society’s outcasts? Would you be willing to come along side them in love?

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

Heaven

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Revelation 22
There seem to be many more questions than answers, on the subject of heaven. Where is it? What will it be like? What will we do there? There are 3 levels of heaven described in scripture – the firmament where the birds fly – what we now refer to as sky. The second is the heavenlies where galaxies go on, into infinitude. And then there is the dwelling place of God where He sits on His throne, a visible presence of the One who until now is the invisible God.
Martyrs and saints who have passed from this life, are with the Father, as is the Son who is seated on a throne at the Father’s right hand. Surrounded by angels, singing praise to the holiness of our triune God, we might envision heaven as just a bright and happy place to be. We are not told a lot in scripture about heaven – just enough to make us curious. We are given some idea of things that will be missing – no more death or crying or pain; no longer will one have to fear evil, nothing impure, no restrictions in a physical, visible temple, no longer any curse, no more night, (21:4, 8, 25, 27, 22; 22:3, 5).
However, the New Jerusalem is described in detail as a city of brilliance and beauty! Coming out of heaven this holy city will be as breath-taking as a bride adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2). It will be the abode of the saints according to Hebrews 12:22-24 “the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven.”
There will be work to be done in heaven. “His servants will serve Him” (Revelation 22:3). Where did we ever get the idea that we would be completely idle, sitting on a cloud, strumming a harp? Jokes have been made about this, but the truth is, we will be busy. Having experienced a life-time of challenges as God stretches and teaches us in His service here on earth, one might wonder what sort of service will there be in heaven? Will there be lessons to learn?
Perhaps the greatest joy will be the Father dwelling visibly with men. “They will be His people and God, Himself, will be with them and be their God” (Revelation 21:3). Just imagine! God in visible form – majestic, loving, accessible! What greater prospect could any human being have than to live in the visible presence of Almighty God?
But…. There is often a “but” in life and here it is. Day by day, those of us who know God personally here on earth will continue in His presence, in heaven. However, many have chosen to live in a world of their own making here without God as part of their daily experience. For many this seems to be a hell on earth. Just so – it will continue in the after-life, living in the absence of the glory of our Father. The choice is ours to make now.
When our thoughts accuse us, when circumstances aren’t to our liking, when we are angry and afraid, when we are vulnerable and hurt, or disappointed by others, life can feel very bleak. Even black! Darkness enters the soul. This is certainly not God’s will. Jesus came to bring light (John 1:4). Sometimes our responses to situations make life anything but heavenly. Yet that was God’s intention when He sent Jesus to show us the way to eternal life. “In Him was life and that life was the light of men!”
Reflection:
Why would anyone choose to live in darkness?
Is it really possible to experience “heaven on earth”?
What might that look like?
What do you look forward to most when you get to heaven?
Uncategorized

The Judge

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Matthew 7:1-5

Recently I was brought to my knees when I realized how judgmental I had been about a quiet Christian. Wondering why they weren’t making more of a difference was really an attempt to put them in the place of God. Let me explain. Only God can change lives; we are simply His instruments. As long as we are doing His will in the place He has put us, the results are totally up to Him.

Jesus told His disciples that He has been given the authority, by His heavenly Father, to judge (John 5:22). Since that is His responsibility, is it any wonder that Jesus warned His followers not to judge others? He knows each one of us has our weak points, areas where we need to grow, areas against which we may even have to battle in order to mature in our faith. Remember He told the crowd “He who is without sin cast the first stone”? (John 8:7KJV). He knows the dark side of every human being.

First Jesus demands we remove the plank out of our own eye (7:5). Why? That very plank prevents us from seeing properly. Have you ever had an eyelash in your eye? The result is a lot of natural tears which blur your vision. Imagine a plank! Now we see through a glass darkly, Paul told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV). If that is the extent of our vision, how can we accurately assess the direction we ourselves should be going, let alone where someone else is headed? When the plank is removed from my eye, I can see where my judgement is faulty.

Another question arises. How do we feel when the shoe is on the other foot and we are unfairly judged by other folks? Has that ever happened to you? Its almost a fact of life, isn’t it? So where is that going to stop? It must stop first with me! We claim as Christians to follow Christ. Our judge is fair, positive, encouraging. He does not tear us down, but builds us up into a holy body. “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news?” (Romans 10:15)

Part of the problem is that we often look at circumstances rather than at the people involved. We may want the circumstances to change because we are afraid. Therefore in examining my own heart can I, will I, acknowledge my own fears? Do those fears honour God? When we take our eyes off of the situation and remember Jesus told us His followers would be known by their love for one another, our emphasis shifts.

This is hugely important because in this scripture passage Jesus said if we want to be judged fairly, we must do unto others what we would have them do to us; we must expect to be judged in the same way as we judge others (Matthew 7:2). He pretty much said the same thing in the Lord’s Prayer….we are to pray: ”Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

God then brought me to the conclusion that it takes more strength to be less verbal, but just to live the life God intends us to live, than to be looking for external “results” from our verbal witness. Besides, in any relationship one cannot judge what is quietly being said and done behind the scenes, which one day may bear fruit. Our attitude is so often governed by our feelings and those often rely on our ignorance. When will we let God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Why does our worldly wisdom seem so much better than God’s?

Recognizing truth requires a response. If I have sinned against a brother or sister by my judgmental attitude, how can that be changed? First I have to try to look at the facts. Maturity comes when our hearts and minds are in tune with God. Thoughts and feelings must be in sync. What do I know to be true? How will I respond to that truth? Will I praise God for the good I know exists? Will I pray for my brother or sister to be mightily used of God?

Reflection:

Without realizing it, our goals often become utopian. For example, we want to live at peace. Jesus said “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). The peace, His peace which He gives to us through the Holy Spirit, is that calm which exists within our spirits, yours and mine, even in our darkest hour. It is not dependant upon circumstances. While we strive to right the wrongs of people in our world , our focus is in the wrong place. Certainly we are to help those who are hungry, needy, or abused as long as we are motivated by compassion for their distress. Let us take stock of Jesus’ words of comfort: “Take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Do we believe?

Devotional · Uncategorized

Leaving Things Behind

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Philippians 3:7-14

This devotional is a corollary following ‘My Sin Is Ever Before Me’. It’s absolutely necessary for us to understand the glorious freedom we have been given in God’s forgiveness. Think about it. Perhaps you have destroyed someone’s reputation by passing along unnecessary gossip, which in the end proved to be untrue. You feel terrible and apologize. Then, marvellously, your friend forgives you. How do you know you are truly forgiven? They don’t rub your face into the memory of what you said. Fellowship is restored.

Forgiveness uplifts us! That is what brings glory to God. In spite of our wrong-doing, when we confess and turn from our sin, He lifts us up to have communion with Him, because we’ve been cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus! His forgiveness facilitates our moving forward. He even shares His plans with us so that day by day we are able to worship Him, serve Him and revel in the abundant life Jesus promised to God’s children!

The joy of knowing that our lives can please God brings us tremendous hope that today, and in all our future days, we have something special to strive for. In order to do so we must leave the past behind. The Apostle Paul knew all about that. He wrote to the church at Philippi that he found “straining toward what is ahead” took all his energy. It required leaving the past behind. (Philippians 3:13)

You see – Paul had a renewed vision! God was sharing His purposes for ministry that gave impetus to Paul’s plans, his hopes and his work. He was totally committed to doing the will of God. It cost him; he was tested by shipwreck, human violence and rejection, imprisonment and so forth. But it wasn’t only the bad things that imprisoned Paul. His status as a Pharisee, his position in society had also had a negative impact and it was all this which now he told the Philippians, he had to leave behind.

Just imagine saying “I consider everything a loss [good and bad] , compared to the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things!” (Philippians 3:8). It takes maturity to leave the past behind, while remembering its impact on our lives. Certainly our vulnerability to pride often blasphemes the very sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, because it brings glory to me and you, rather than glory to Him! We live in ever-present danger because our enemy goes about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour [destroy, separate from our Father, God] (1 Peter 5:8).

Reflection:

The Holy Spirit brings balance to our thinking, as He reminds us of all that Christ taught. We are to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. If we remain in a state of hatred for what we have done it will colour our relationship first of all with God. It means we really haven’t received His forgiveness, but also it makes us suspicious of others. Instead of rejoicing with all that God is doing to bring folks into sweet fellowship with Himself, we lose sight of the glory of God! This is a grave danger. The Bible tells us to rejoice in the Lord always and to think about whatever is true. My prayer is that we will leave the past behind, pressing on toward God’s goal for you and me. There is a prize at the end of the journey. (Philippians 4:4, 8, 14)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

My Sin is Ever Before Me

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Psalm 51

In this Psalm of penitence David pleads for forgiveness and cleansing. He fears what life would be like without the presence of God. The distress causing David to pray this way is the very real understanding of how his life had failed to please God. His sin was ever in his face. Was he not forgiven?

The Bible tells us that all children of God are saints. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” So who is a saint today? Paul talks about equipping the saints (KJV) [‘God’s people’ NIV] for works of service, for the purpose of maturing His Church (Ephesians 4:12). However the saints need prayer (Ephesians 6:18) Why?

Paul answers this question. In the passage where he addresses the equipment needed by children of God to fight the enemy of our souls (Ephesians 6:11), Paul warns the church at Ephesus to always keep on praying for the saints; in other words for one another, even for him (6:18-19a). Isn’t it comforting to know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints (Romans 8:27). We also read that God guards the feet of His saints (1 Samuel 2:9).

Both Old Testament and New tell us about saints who sing God’s praises (Psalm 30:4), who love and fear the Lord. In a triumphant song of praise the Psalmist writes “The Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honour!” (Psalm 149:5). They “will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes! Forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). In the end saints will be given the privilege of judging (1 Corinthians 6:2). With all of this in mind, let’s not be deceived. Sainthood is not for a special few. Neither do we pray to saints for their support – there is nothing in scripture about that. Jesus is the one and only intercessor when we sin, with whom we share our joys and sorrows (Hebrews 7:25).

So, just as David struggled with the memory of his sin, do we also? Yes. The Apostle Paul did; he describes the struggle in Romans 6. However, there is something protective about remembering the awfulness of our sins. If we forget that taking another drink will put us over the edge, that just an innocent flirtation endangers our sexual purity, that overeating is hard on the body, that gossip ruins another’s reputation, may we not yield to temptation more easily?

Psalm 51 is a cry for mercy according to God’s unfailing love! (:1) As much as our sins impact the lives of others, it is against God alone that we have truly sinned (:4). God desires truth – and the truth is I am vulnerable to attack from within and without….but God! He is the source of wisdom and allows us to distinguish between our sinfulness and His holiness. He is the only One who can wash away all my iniquity (:2), who longs to create a new heart in each of us (:10), who saves me from guilt (:14), who knows if my repentance is genuine (:17).

Reflection:
Have you ever done anything that you hate with a passion? How did you deal with it? Are you forgiven? Do you remember it? How does that memory protect you from a repeat performance? Do you come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart? How does God promise to receive you in that attitude? Are you a saint or a sinner? Isn’t the answer “both”?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Show Us the Father

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John 14:6-14

Jesus was disappointed. He had been working and walking, eating and drinking with His disciples for three years. They were His intimate friends. As such He expected them to know Him very well, yet here was Philip asking Him to show them the Father. Why did that matter?

Jesus had talked about God the Father continuously throughout His ministry, primarily to identify Himself with His Father in heaven. He even taught His disciples to pray to God as “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Now, in the present moment Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure to God the Father. The crucial message He was leaving with them was that no one could get to God in heaven unless they followed the Way, the Truth and the Life, new names He gave Himself (John 14:6).

In the face of Philip’s question Jesus patiently explained again that “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9). John the Baptist had already prepared the way, years before, by preaching that “No one has ever seen God [in His invisible Spirit-being], but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known” (John 1:18). Jesus declared to Philip and the other disciples: “It is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work” (14:10). The mystery of how He is in the Father and the Father is in Him needed explanation once again, since Jesus’ purpose was to bring glory to God the Father.

Let’s consider briefly the life of Jesus. In His ministry He was often prophetic about His immediate future, things fulfilled in His life-time, as well as events to which we still look forward (i.e. John 6:62). He demonstrated His foreknowledge when He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, prior to speaking with him. Jesus declared God to be a loving Father, challenging His followers to love one another as a sign they were Christ-followers (John 13:34-35).

Jesus Himself was an emotional being, weeping at the grave of Lazarus, angry with the moneychangers in the temple, compassionate towards sinners, loving people who didn’t always respond to Him such as the rich young ruler. If nothing else, Jesus showed us the Father is a relational Being. Created to be like God, people need to be secure in relationship with Him. Within that significance and security, all our relationships benefit.

Then there were the miracles which He often used to illustrate His Divinity. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed thousands with few resources, made the blind to see, lepers clean, and the lame walked. His disciples witnessed how the winds and waves were subject to His voice, this One who is also Creator God. He escaped out of crowds who sought to kill him and walked on water. God doesn’t call us to walk on water; He just calls us to love! Perhaps the greatest miracle of all was the forgiveness He freely expounded towards the very folks who nailed Him to the cross.

If in three years of talking about His Father the disciples still didn’t ‘get it’, its impossible for us to exhaust the riches of scripture, in our search for understanding of an Omniscient, Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent, and Infinite God. Do we still ask “Show us the Father” when doing our daily devotions? Shouldn’t that be our prayer? It will take eternity for us to fathom the riches of His grace and mercy, to see clearly the mind of God in all its justice, and to interpret His wisdom.

Reflection:

Since man was made in the image of God its important to understand God’s heart and mind. How often did Jesus talk about doing the will of His Father? Are we challenged to do the will of “Our Father”?

Perhaps the greatest demonstration of the heart of God was when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. If He is in the Father and we are in Him, do we weep over our Jerusalem? Where has God planted us? Why, how and when do our lives, yours and mine, reveal the Father to these dear people?

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Forever Principle

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Hebrews 8:1-13

Recently I watched a documentary on Anti-Semitism. After the atrocities of WW2, Jewish children of the Holocaust were brought to England, clothed and fed, and put into homes where they were cared for and educated. What happened to that spirit? It was shocking, for me, to see how subtly Satan has convinced some believers today, that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, that they are evil and the source of the world’s evils. What happened to the ‘forever principle’?

It began with God’s promise to Abram of land that would be forever his, belonging to Abram’s offspring forever (Genesis 13:15). This was an unconditional promise. God’s faithfulness could be seen even when His people were slaves in Egypt “I will bring you to the land I promised….”(Exodus 6:8) Throughout captivities which befell the people of Israel as the consequence of disobedience, God has remained faithful to this promise. The land, a tiny portion compared to some of the empires of our world, has become a hot spot of political controversy throughout human history. Why is this vital spot so significant? It is the battleground between good and evil, God and Satan.

When Solomon finished building the Temple in Jerusalem God promised His eyes and His heart would always be there forever (1 Kings 9:3). His very name would be there forever. There was an “if” to this promise. It was conditioned on the faithfulness of the king and his people (:6-7). Sadly we see that Israel today has largely rejected God – so many are atheists. But there is a remnant. Who are they and what do we know about God’s promises to them? First of all God’s judgment caused a diaspora which effects Jews today. Jeremiah was given insight into a future, which we see has come to pass. God told him “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture…..I Myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture” (Jeremiah 23:1-3). This was accomplished in 1948.

When Jesus Christ came to earth He was followed for many reasons – some were curious about His way of teaching through parables. Others sought healing miracles. Some were fascinated by the way He could feed crowds of people from minimal resources. A few saw Him as who He said He was – the long-awaited Messiah (John 1:41, 4:25, Matthew 28:18-20). He declared Himself to be the good Shepherd! (John 10:11) Through Him we see God’s promise renewed by Paul. God said “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal [past history]. So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace”! (Romans 11:4-5). Also notice God’s new covenant with Israel recorded in Hebrews 8:8-10.

In the twentieth century the land was restored to the Jews who are still God’s people. Among them are obedient followers of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. One of the most influential Christians of our times is a Jewish man with dual citizenship with Israel and the USA. Joel Rosenberg has ties with Arabs, Jews and believing Christians, carrying out God’s ancient promise that the gospel would be from the Jews to the nations of the world. God’s ‘forever principle’ remains true. Jews have suffered for their sins, but as God’s chosen people, they will always be the conduit by which salvation through Jesus Christ came to the world!

Reflection: Gentiles have the joyous privilege of being grafted into the Vine (Romans 11:17-21). Jesus called himself the Vine (John 15:1). Salvation and eternal life are for everyone, but the land which God promised to the Jews, is forever theirs, a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness. This is the forever principle!

It is to the Holy Mount in Jerusalem that the King of the Jews, Jesus, will one day return.

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)

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Life I Now Live

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Galatians 2:20

Change is ever present in human history. Some people delight in change, but most feel comfortable in what are familiar circumstances. When Paul wrote the words of our title, I wonder if he was reflecting on the life he had lived as a zealous Pharisee. His personality was intense so whatever he took on, he seemed to do it with gusto. Maybe some of us are like that.

Writing to the church at Galatia, Paul is eager to defend faith in Jesus Christ. As a religious Jew Paul had kept the Mosaic law, hoping he would earn eternal life by his good works. There’s a degree of anxiety for anyone trying to earn their way to heaven, isn’t there? What celebration when he discovered he could only get to heaven through Jesus Christ! So, as he wrote to the Galatians “the life I now live”….what was it that made a difference?

Perhaps Paul’s purpose is spelled out in the first verse of his letter. He sees himself as one called by God. When he practised Judaism he also felt called by God to persecute the very One whom he now worshiped. He identifies Jesus Christ as one with God; amazing how Paul learned that the One he had formerly persecuted was actually who He said He was! “The gospel I preached….I received by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). This revelation transformed Paul’s life!

Sometimes we find it difficult to define words and grace, God’s grace, may be one of them. It was a meaningful concept to Paul. He talked about the grace of Christ (1:6). Although he was “advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (1:14), God called him into His service, by His grace. The church leaders in Jerusalem recognized that this persecutor of the church had indeed been saved by God’s grace (2:9), agreeing Paul and Barnabas should become missionaries to the Gentiles. Who better than one who was also a Roman citizen?

God’s grace rules out any possibility of man accomplishing his own salvation. It is the gift from God (Ephesians 2:8)….a gift which must be believed and received (John 1:12). Paul wouldn’t set aside that fact for any consideration. If there was any other way to eternal life, then Christ died for nothing (2:21). Totally committed to faith in Jesus Christ, Paul was a changed man with a new life. So he writes about the “new life I now live” (2:20).

This new life includes freedom from guilt of the past, power for living the present and hope for the future when we reach our heavenly home. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery [to sin]” (Galatians 5:1). This new life gives us the power to forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven and to restore. “If someone has been caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Paul goes on to assert there is ministry for us all in that we then are qualified to “carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).

Reflection:

Carrying someone else’s burden call for grace. We need the fruit of the Holy spirit to equip us for that task. Only when we are changed, given new life, do we qualify as servants of God. Then we will experience the fulness of life in Christ, which brings richness, purpose and joy to the “now” in which we live.

Devotional · Uncategorized

A Prayer for COVID

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Nehemiah 1

Recently I received a list of prayers that might take us through the difficulties we are presently facing with restrictions in our life-style, during the present global pandemic. It started well. “Our great physician, we ask for Your healing touch for those infected with the virus. For those facing quarantine and feelings of isolation, comfort them with the promise of Your presence. We declare Psalm 91:10-11 – that no plague shall come near our dwelling for You shall give Your angels charge over us, to keep us in all Your ways”.

Prayer for me, is a learning experience, even after a life-time of talking with my Heavenly Father. Something about this prayer bothered me. When Jesus was asked how we should pray He began with the tender reminder that God is our Father, great and majestic, sitting on His throne in heaven “Our Father who art in heaven….hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). Now this puts us in the right frame of mind as we approach a Holy God.

This is, after all, the God who can bring either blessings or curses upon His people depending on their obedience to Him. And indeed He did just that back in Nehemiah’s day– the Israelites tried the patience of God until He was forced to bring consequences of their choices upon them. They were in exile when Nehemiah discovered things back home in Jerusalem were deteriorating, and he wept. Many folks are weeping because of the impact of COVID internationally today. Things are deteriorating around the world. Does God see? Know? Care?

How did Nehemiah deal with his painful thoughts, with his grief? Did he shake his fist and ask “How could a loving God let this happen?” or did he claim the promises of God? What comes first when we want to claim God’s blessings? Our heart attitude must be scrutinized. “Search me O God and know my heart…..see if there is any offensive way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). Nehemiah’s first thoughts are of confession, nationally, personally and communally; he and his father’s house and all of Israel had earned the wrath of God (Nehemiah 1:6-7). When we are in distress do we remember to examine our hearts before God and then confess our sins?

Carrying on where we left the Lord’s Prayer….then Jesus taught His disciples to pray that God’s will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. God’s will does not allow wickedness to run rampant, unchecked. His disciplinary actions may be hard to bear, but very necessary nonetheless.

Looking at our world today it would seem that everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes. If we saw the chaos and hatred, violence or neglect through the eyes of God, perhaps our prayers would take a different shape. People are dying without understanding God’s love. Have those of us who enjoy it let our world down? What can we do, or pray for, that will remedy the situation?

Reflection:

Our words display what is on our hearts. How awful is it to offend God? In a world that focuses on my rights, we sometimes act as though God owes us something…they call that entitlement. Is this approach we take with the Supreme God, Lord Jehovah, Yahweh? It is a great eye-opener on what sort of a God we worship when we come to Him demanding, rather than humbly beseeching His favour. Of course we want COVID to end – it’s a plague, the very pestilence Jesus said would be a sign of His return (Luke 21:10-11). What is foremost on our minds when we think about COVID?

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