Uncategorized

When God Withdraws

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Romans 1

In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with some Biblical truth, in order to ground the Roman Church. He includes truths revealed in scripture about God, Himself. Now that Paul has described God’s character to us, he turns to compare it with man’s. What a disappointment humankind must be to our Creator. He gets little glory or appreciation for all that He has done for us! In fact it is quite the opposite. Man, giving in to the folly of pride, started creating his own gods. ”…their foolish hearts were darkened” (:22).

First of all man’s intellect became his god. What he thought, what he believed, what he chose to worship, became of primary importance. Where did that take him? God first gave man over to sinful desires. His thinking was infected with self-righteousness.

Second, God gave them over to shameful lusts, through which any sexual behaviour became appropriate. The heart of man became suspect, as his feelings led his head. This was not the Creator’s intention. He had revealed Himself repeatedly, through acts of mercy, through scripture, through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, Paul writes – “Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).

Third God gave them over to a depraved mind. The mind of mankind, originally created with all the potential of Godly decision-making, became filled with every kind of evil, greed and depravity resulting in a whole list of godless activities (Romans 1:29-31). Today our society, if not condoning these, will excuse murders, insolence, mistreatment of parents, hating God, in a spirit of senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless living. The final line is drawn when they decide to approve of everyone doing such things (Romans 1:32); seen in the freedom of man’s wisdom running loose.

Note that three times Paul says “God gave them over”. Leaving man to decide his own fate, God withdrew. His character did not change. He is always, eternally, a God of love and truth and holiness. However, sin and holiness are like oil and water – they do not mix.

How is the faith community to respond? We are to love our enemies – the person, not the sin. That is very hard to do. Out of fear we want to see these evils corrected. We fear for the salvation of our loved ones, for the infection of sin which is spreading throughout society, pandemically. But we are a community of faith and our faith is put into practice by doing what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do if He walked through North America today, for example?

Is it possible to bridge the gap between right and wrong? No! Jesus already has done that with His life, and death, yet people still reject His remedy for the sickness of sin. The best we can hope for is that His joy and peace, demonstrated in a spirit of love, will create a yearning in hearts darkened by an error that is spreading like wild-fire in our hedonistic society today. We know that God has already gone to the nth degree to correct these evils, but His love is everlasting!

So we pray that the Light will still provide Life, drawing men and women out of the pit they are digging for themselves. Let us all remember at the dawn of a New Year, that positive change always begins with “me”. Furthermore, I am the only person over whom I can really have any control. With God the Holy Spirit’s help I can exercise that required control which will temper my mind and heart, and my reactions to things others do to irk me.


Reflection:

Which is the greatest sin of our day? Is one worse than another? Do we not all continue to sin in small ways or large? How dangerous is prejudice? Is this why Jesus commanded us not to judge others?

The Psalmist prayed that God would search his heart (Psalm 139:23).

Let us pray: “Create in me a new heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, or take Your Holy Spirit from me, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.” Amen (Psalm 51:10-12).

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Uncategorized

Christlikeness

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Matthew 16:24-26

The long awaited Christ [Messiah] came to earth as a baby. Lost in the tinsel and twinkle of earthly celebrations today, the majesty of all that Christ is from eternity past, is often lost. That baby embodied all that is God – infinitude, wisdom and power. Yet as we sing “O come let us adore Him” what is it that we really mean? Do we envision the baby Jesus as “Christ the Lord”? What honour do we give to His Sovereignty? As we come face to face with Jesus do we surrender control of our lives to truly make Him “Lord” over all we are and have?

When we think about the baby in the manger, it is hard to comprehend that all the characteristics of the Godhead were wrapped up in that tiny bundle, so loved by Mary and Joseph. There lay the Creator of all things (John 1:3); yet He humbled Himself, scripture records. His humility cost. As a man, Jesus died on the cross, obedient to His Father’s plan to save you and me from the jaws of hell (Philippians 2:8).

Here’s a thought…..Jesus gave up His glory and majesty to become like you and me. We might reflect on how important our status is, in our family, community or church in comparison to His. However, He lived a life like no other recorded down through history. Born into humble circumstances Jesus was kind, caring, and forgiving. He encouraging goodness in others; His example is the mission of every believer. During His earthly sojourn He was Godly, connected intimately with His Father in heaven. They were never separated until that awful moment on the cross when sin, yours and mine, dragged Him out of the Father’s presence (Matthew 27:46).

When we look at the baby who gave Himself so that you and I might live (John 10:18), we celebrate the reality of Christmas. Recently a pastor proclaimed “Christmas is not all about family because it is all about Jesus”. Within this reality there is both a call and a cost. We, who claim Jesus to be our Saviour, are called to represent Christ here on earth, if we say we follow Him – if we declare ourselves to be “Christian”. Do we look and act and talk like the Lord Jesus Christ? (John 13:35).

Here on earth Jesus entered into every aspect of life along with His fellowman. He met folks at weddings and worshiped according to Jewish law, in the synagogue. Jesus began at a very early age to be “about My Father’s business” – found teaching in the temple at the tender age of 12 (Luke 2:49). He continued traveling throughout Israel, teaching, eating, praying, fishing, serving on His Father’s business.

Reflection:

What is God calling us to do, since we say we know Jesus? Do we fear the cost of His call? Do we find ourselves changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, becoming more Christlike as we look at others? Are we accepting, forgiving, loving our neighbours as ourselves? What are we willing to sacrifice in order to serve our Lord, to be “the only Jesus” another might ever see? Are we becoming hardened to the needs within our world today – physical, material, emotional, as well as spiritual needs?

I sometimes wonder: What would Christ be doing about the environment, the pandemic, the anger, fear, hostility and abuse to be found in every corner of our globe? Derived from His loving character, Jesus laid down His very life for others, including you and me. Might this be written on our tomb stones?

“Here lies the most Christlike person who ever lived”.

MarilynDaniels.net

Devotional

Eternal Hope

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Psalm 62

Recent research on nurses in the workplace has found that the need for resilience is critical, linking resilience, hope and optimism together. Other psychological studies demonstrate this linkage in the development of emerging positive organizational behaviour, which simply means happiness in the workplace.

What is your greatest hope today? Health? Happiness? Strength? Wisdom? Love? There is a multitude of things we as Christians pray for, but do we recognize the depth of the hope that we have in Jesus Christ?

Let’s look at David’s hope. In Psalm 62 he describes its source. “My hope come from Him”….from God alone in whom his soul finds rest (:5). What is it about David’s God that differs from other gods of his era? Twice he refers to God as his rock and his salvation (:2, 6). In the challenges of change we all need to know our souls are resting on the solid rock, don’t we?

This God is a “mighty rock” which forms a fortress or a refuge for the King of Israel. David’s job is not an easy one. His people are wayward, his sons rebellious (:3,4). Facing all of this, plus international warfare, we must not be surprised to learn that he became disheartened. At such a low point in his life, David seeks strength and security in God, knowing he can trust His faithful love (:12). Where do we go when needing consolation and direction?

David’s testimony declares God to be One who listens, and he encourages others, including you and me today to “pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge”! (:8). As I examined my own hopes for today I wondered if I could affirm what David says: “My salvation and my honour depend on God” (:7)?

Billy Graham spent his long life teaching and preaching hope to a world writhing in pain. “For the believer there is hope beyond the grave, because Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven for us by His death and resurrection”, he reminded his listeners. We often celebrate this hope at Easter, but do we consider the cost that put a baby in a manger? Facing a life of distrust and even persecution and death, Jesus came to give us eternal hope.

Reflection;

Do we ever look at hope from God’s perspective? It actually is a gift to us voiced through the prophet Jeremiah who, on God’s behalf declared “I know the plans I have for you…plans to give you hope and a future” (29:11). Eternal hope! God doesn’t intend for mankind to feel hopeless. He created an eternal home for all those who love Him and follow Jesus (John 14:1-3). Eternity is a long time – much too long for our finite minds to comprehend. God, the author of hope, looks forward to our fellowship with Him throughout eternity. He sent His Holy Son to make a way for this dream of eternal life to come true. At Christmas time our thoughts turn to gifts. What an exquisite gift we have in Jesus Christ. Eternal Hope!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Creator God

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Isaiah 6:1-3

Outside my window is the most beautiful tree. Its graceful shape and glorious fall colours stimulate my very soul to worship the Creator! In every season this tree represents the genius of God’s design and reminds me of the glory of His Sovereignty over all creation. Our minds, so limited by time and space, find it hard to understand anything outside those limits; mankind is just beginning to grasp the expanse of our universe yet the reality of other universes is also beginning to dawn in recent times. This raises a question: Where was Jesus before the world began?

In His high priestly prayer Jesus asks the Father to glorify Him “in His presence with the glory I had with You before the world began” (John 17:5). How often do we limit the person of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the figure who walked our earth for 33 short years? Have you ever tried to imagine what His pre-incarnate glory was really like?

Isaiah had a glimpse of this glory. In fact, the whole earth, in his vision, was “full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). If we allow God to be God, we might just see Him outside of the part of creation we experience day to day. His presence not only fills the earth, a concept pretty hard for mere humans to understand, but also fills the universe, beyond what we can see.

Paul clarifies this picture. “He who descended”…this Jesus who came to us as a baby in a manger, “is the very one who ascended higher than the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe” (Ephesians 4:10). This Jesus, God’s “Son, whom He appointed heir of all things,” is the One “through whom He made the universe” (Hebrews 1:2). According to the Bible God’s “Son is the radiance of God’s glory” and He sustains all things by His powerful Word” (Hebrews 1:3). This is the Creator God whom John identifies as the “Word” (John 1:1).

When we worship the Holy Baby in Mary’s arms, do we give ourselves time to contemplate the Majesty that prevailed on the day when God declared His creation “good”? (Genesis 1:31). According to the Biblical record that declaration covered everything – the separation of light and darkness, the sky, the seas and dry land producing vegetation like my tree, the universe with sun, moon and stars, the bewildering variety of birds and fish, all living creatures, the crowning glory of which was man, made in God’s own image! What a quotable quote: “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26)!

I like to imagine that the majesty of Creator God appeals to every one of mans’ senses, as well as to the delight of knowing that He calls us into fellowship with Himself. What an honour it is to be called the child of Almighty God! The whole purpose of Creation was to mingle with His creation…and so we read that God walked with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8). He brought the woman He created, to the man (Genesis 2:22). He also brought the animals to the man to see what he would name them (Genesis 2:19). He was and is personally engaged!

Reflection:

Creator, sustainer – our Creator God is an awesome God! Will we allow Him to be greater than our comprehension can see? It was Satan’s desire to be like God which caused his expulsion from heaven. We have been given the privilege of serving God, but even in heaven we will not be like the One who is eternal, since we are created beings. Neither we will ever know all things, or have all power. Even Satan has to operate through his demon host, since he, as a created being, can only be in one place at a time. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, children of God can celebrate Creator God as He takes us on a voyage of discovery day by day! Hallelujah!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Three F’s

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1 John 1:8-10

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to free [purify] us from all unrighteousness”.

Who is writing this? The author identifies himself: “We have seen and heard”. This is an eye witness account from one of the followers of Jesus Christ, the Apostle John. His goal is for his readers to enjoy fellowship which is “with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Knowing his message will make a difference in the lives of those who accept it, will make his joy complete (:4).

Let’s unpack John’s proclamation. He is talking about his first-hand experience walking and working and listening to the “Word of life” for a period of three years. This “Word” means a lot to John – he wrote about Him in his gospel. Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham (Genesis 12:3) appeared in person to folks living in Israel, but alas! ….the very nation to whom He offered Himself as a sacrifice for sins, rejected Him (John 1:11). Thankfully Jesus’ offer of eternal life extended then to “…all those who received Him, to those who believed in His name”. To these, down through centuries of time Jesus gives “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

What we see here in just a few short verses challenges you and me to receive and believe God’s eternal plan of salvation. All of us have sinned. No one has been able to measure up to God’s glory by doing good works. Neither can salvation be inherited. It is quite simply a personal acceptance of God’s gift, born out of His faithfulness to a promise made so very long ago! “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you” God told Abraham (Genesis 12:3).

From the beginning of time God was aware of how fragile the humanity He created, is. Adam failed to live up to His standards, disbelieving the truth of what God had said. What a sad rejection of our loving heavenly Father! Only a few short generations of time elapsed before the wickedness in the then-known world was so great that God was forced to begin again, saving Noah and his sons, the only people left on earth to remain true to God by following Him.

Millenia later God sent His only begotten Son – incarnate God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, to save His people from their sins (1 Timothy 1:15). Surely this act of kindness demonstrates the love God yearns to share with mankind. “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God”! (1 John 3:1). Jesus travelled throughout Judea “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3”:3). It isn’t enough to regret when we have done wrong, but repentance requires a turning away from those sins which so easily best us.

God knows the sincerity of our hearts and what motivates us to try harder to please Him. Knowing our weaknesses, God’s great love sets us free (John 8:36) from the bondage we naturally have – that terrible affinity to sin! He knows the battle we are in and provides us with the support we cannot live without. The indwelling Holy Spirit guides children of God into paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake (Psalm 23:3), thus restoring our souls!

Reflection:

Have you received forgiveness and freedom because you believed Jesus was sent by our faithful God? What does that make you? (…a child of God). What do you enjoy as a result? (freedom from bondage to sin, fellowship with the Father, fruitfulness and purpose, fearlessness as we war against evil).PTL!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Contending for the Faith

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Jude

It never hurts to review the basics of our faith. Let us take a look at the over-all picture that necessitated Jude’s letter. His first love was the gospel. His intention was to write about the salvation they shared. I wondered, when was the last time I shared the joy of my salvation with another believer? So often we think of sharing as a witness to the unsaved, but in reality it is a discussion that we can more truly enjoy when we share with other believers what Jesus is doing in our lives, today.

However, Jude’s heavy burden regarding false prophets in the church became his focal point. He was energized by an awareness of evil, and the harm it could do to the reputation of the church. Therefore, he strongly advised the church to contend for the faith. In our world today we might advance the same concerns, for similar reasons.

To substantiate his theme, he reviews patterns in history: Sodom and Gomorrah giving in to the evils of their day, fell under God’s judgment (:7). God released His chosen people from bondage and provided for their needs in the wilderness, but eventually had to punish those who did not believe (:5). Even some angels fell under God’s condemnation, by willfully giving up their positions of authority (Ephesians 6:11-12). Their eternal punishment still awaits; at present they remain bound in chains (Jude :6).

With such a history Jude might rightly fear what will happen to the church of his day, already influenced by Godless men. They know the history, but have they learned from lessons of the past? Have we? Are we standing guard against the infiltration of evil into the congregation of the righteous? To be inclusive is a good thing, but it can be carried to a dangerous extreme if it involves compromise.

Without doubt we face some very difficult choices in the church today. “Be merciful…snatch others from the fire and save them…show mercy, mixed with fear” (:22-23). How do we balance righteousness with the desire to see all people come into fellowship with God? God has a standard. Jude writes about the return of the Lord for the purpose of judging everyone’s acts, words and self-interest, according to that standard (:15-16).

Then Jude offers a solution. Each individual Christian bears a covenantal responsibility. By asking for forgiveness of sin we enter into a covenant relationship with God. We are to keep ourselves close to God by building ourselves up in our most holy faith (:20) Jude fills our minds with God – His character, His goals, His protection, His love! Jude testifies to the depth of knowledge and experience he has as a believer. Do our lives bear such a witness to our world today?

Reflection:

It may seem simplistic to say we do that by reading the Bible, but what does that entail? Is it just a religious exercise? Or – do we read it to learn how we might best please God, how to recognize evil when we see it, to accept its rebukes for our personal sins, to gain comfort in our distresses, to experience the very mercy, peace and love that form the basis of our testimony to others?

Learning comes through repetition. Therefore it is imperative that we meditate, mull over, ask questions about what we have read. How does this apply to our world today? To me? “Think on these things” (Phil.4:8).

Are our choices and decisions a result of fervent prayer in the Spirit. In the Spirit? What does that mean? Do we pray for what we want, or do we search to know the mind of God and pray He will accomplish His purposes in and through us? How then do we know the mind of God? By observing His principles for Godly living contained in Scripture. Then we are prepared to contend for our faith!

(MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Doing Battle

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Hebrews 4

In both Old and New Testaments God makes reference to a battle of words. In a Messianic prophecy, speaking about the servant-Messiah, He revealed to Isaiah “He made My mouth like a sharpened sword”. Jesus Himself describes a battle over which He will be victor: “Repent! Otherwise I will soon come to you and fight against them with the sword of My mouth” (Revelation 2:16).

Most humans at some time or another have been wounded by words, whether intentioned or not. Some have referred to this as the pain of the soul, a problem that lasts far longer than physical scars. James describes the tongue as a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It is capable of corrupting the whole person, of setting the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell (3:6). Have you ever been burned by someone’s words?

If the power of the human tongue can do that much damage, then consider what the judgment of Christ’s tongue might look like! Jesus describes it as a two-edged sword (Revelation 2:12). In our scripture reading, the writer of Hebrews is talking about the consequences of unbelief, warning “Today, if you hear His voice [the words of the Gospel] do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). God’s intention is to give His children peace and rest – the whole of this chapter is devoted to that.

However, Satan is very actively engaged in negating the words of God. From the very beginning, as we have noted many times before, he questioned whether or not God really did say certain things. Is God the Creator of peace and justice? Do His laws, decrees, words of wisdom and guidance mean anything to us today? Do we believe He is a perfect and just God, one who knows everything – our motives, our thoughts and deeds?

Why would He not be fair to His children? The greatest battle between good and evil was won at the cross, followed by the miraculous resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The cost of God’s perfect gift of salvation has been fully paid, but Satan still wants you to believe it can be earned. We have been given a full description of this event in words of Holy Scripture. How then is it possible for the wisdom of Satan, or of man to question what God has revealed? Isn’t this the battle of the ages?

Reflection:

Down through time we see the sword of truth “dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The question becomes personal when we ask ourselves, what does God see in our hearts? Do we long for purity and truth, for justice and spiritual integrity? Does the church, or indeed do I bring glory to God by following in the steps of Jesus my Lord? Will I do battle against compromise and overt evil? Has my passion for God grown lukewarm?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Fruit of Self-Control

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Galatians 5:22-23

My sense of right and wrong has been offended. I am grieving injustice. I am tempted, so my conscience is in conflict. My feelings have been seriously hurt and I don’t think I will ever forgive the wrong done to me. I am angry to find my world in chaos. There are so many individual responses to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, aren’t there? And for these our Mighty God has given to us the unique indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

The list of benefits we receive when we yield to His leading is long. We know He gives us love, joy and peace. We might even remember that He, the Holy Spirit seeks to make us kind, gentle and patient. Do we credit Him for the goodness with which we serve those in need, or do we claim some of that glory for ourselves? When we are faithful are we aware that it is conditioned by the power of God or conversely, the lack thereof? But how often does our list end there?

What exactly does the fruit of self-control look like? How many sermons have you heard on the topic of self-control? Is it difficult because we don’t understand it, or is it difficult because we don’t know how to glorify God for the fruit He is growing inside of us? Are we willing to ponder the “difficult”?

God’s Word is very realistic. We see the contrasts clearly, between good and evil. Humankind struggles with our capability for reason, and tries to justify the reactions that so often colour our world. What is our guide? In only a few generations, mankind had wandered far away from the path of fellowship with God; only Noah’s family remained true to their heavenly Father. Clearly there was no desire for self-control as folks gave in to every desire of the flesh and the devil, and we know what happened to them.

Today as we look around us things don’t seem much different. Every man is doing what is right in his own eyes – the very problem seen twice in the book of Judges where God records the reason for existing sin. “Israel had no king”. Because there was no accountability to God, “Everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 17:6, 21:25). In order to control ourselves, we need to recognize the only One who can make us in His image, as “King”. Oh – physically we have been made in his image, having been given heart and mind and soul, but to control the self, we desperately need the love and the goodness of God poured into our lives day by day…to become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)

It goes against the grain to recognize our need. Many today think we should be autonomous.

“Autonomous motivation is defined as engaging in a behavior because it is perceived to be consistent with

intrinsic goals or outcomes and emanates from the self.”(Google)

The only problem with this idea is that we do not emanate from ourselves – we are created beings, with accountability to our Creator. He is the One who created us for His purposes, with goals and outcomes planned for each individual. “I know the plans I have for you….plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Looking down through time God sees all that is glorious for His children throughout eternity, in that little word future. When most humans think of the future it is with the hope that when I grow up I will become….., or when I get married I will start a family, or when I retire I will be able to do so and so. God’s vision is limitless. Eternal!

Reflection:

Would you agree then that self-control is achieved by using the supernatural power given to us by God, through the Holy Spirit, who gives us insights into who we might become and the Divine wisdom and power to do so? Self-control gives us victory over those very things that would separate us eternally from our God, as well as victory over the flesh and the devil.

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

In Remembrance

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Luke 22:15-20

November is a time set aside to remember the horror of two world wars, and of course veterans from other wars are also celebrated. So many young lives were lost in a slaughter made necessary in defence of values and ideals considered to be worthy personal sacrifice.

Another battle might be remembered as we look at the evils of warfare. Only one life was lost, but it has impacted the world for more than 2,000 years! Jesus died for the sins of the whole world so that every tribe and nation will have an opportunity to know God in a personal way. Why is that important?

Another question for today is: “What makes life worth living?” What is it that gives meaning and purpose to the routines which day after day may become mundane, boring and even perhaps meaningless? As we remember what men and women in bygone eras have fought for, do we hold anything so very dear that we would be willing to die for it?

Imagine the value of every person, each of us created in the image of God. Giving us the capability to make choices was a risky business, but God wanted us to freely love Him in response to His great love for each individual. He loved us so much that He was willing to provide the only solution to the wrong choices which led mankind into sin. Sin, of course, separates us from our Holy Heavenly Father.

As we take time to remember WW1 and 2, perhaps we might remember the battle with evil which plagues humans since the fall of Adam. Let us remember, as Christ Himself taught His disciples long ago to remember that awful moment when, bearing the burden of our sin, He was separated from the Father while enduring the agony of the cross. Alone!

However, that was not the end. Good prevailed over evil! The wonderful victory of Jesus’ resurrection authorizes our greatest hope – that we one day will rise to spend eternity with our Saviour and Lord, in His kingdom. Let us cling to this precious remembrance.

Reflection:

What lessons have we learned from history? What might we be willing to die for? Is there something that lights our passion? What memories bring you and me the greatest thrill? What is our heart’s greatest treasure? What do Jesus’ words “Do this in remembrance of Me” bring to mind?

by Marilyn Daniels. (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Important to God

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Isaiah 41:10

In today’s world believers need strength, perhaps more than ever before. I was thrilled by the challenge a pastor gave recently. It actually strengthened me in my resolve to share my Lord Jesus with the world! It was a simple statement really. Speaking about man made in God’s image, he reminded us that “You are important to God”. There it is – the gospel in a nutshell. If we ever needed an introductory statement, doesn’t that say it all?

Here’s the thing – your relationship with God, and mine, is founded upon a love beyond anything we can experience here between friends and family. We all disappoint one another, but God – never! Oh sometimes He has to rebuke us, which He gently does through the indwelling Holy Spirit, but if we are honest, in our heart of hearts we know more than rebuke is deserved. Rebuke is very different from condemnation because it gives us opportunity to repent….and God, Himself, gives us the strength to face the realities of conviction. He longs for fellowship with each of us because we are important to God.

Christianity is based on relationship, for that very reason. It is not just another religious ideology, but it an actual relationship with the one and only personal God, in whose image we are made. The joy this generates, gives us holy boldness to share the good news with others!

So what do we do with this information? How do we live out the gospel? Do we impose rules and regulations on others, standards that seem impossible to meet? Does God do that with us? For example I was brought up to believe that Christians do not smoke, so when I discovered a picture of my great grandfather holding a cigar, I was shocked – disappointed! Why, when I knew he regularly held church in his home during his 72-year marriage to my great grandma, would I allow something like that to colour my esteem of this dear grandpa? How quick we are to judge based on human standards!

The Pharisees spent a lot of time condemning folks who didn’t measure up to their ideology. Did they forget that every person, made in the image of God is “important to God”? Certainly they judged folks on outward appearances, something which Jesus Christ frequently challenged. In our scripture verse, Isaiah cautioned the Israelites not to be afraid, adding magnificent promises that God Himself is with them, as He is with those who believe and receive Him today. Furthermore “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). Our strength doesn’t come from how we behave, but derives from His righteousness! Of course how we live reflects on what we say we believe about God. Does our lifestyle bring glory to His holy name?

Reflection:

God inspired Isaiah to record a picture of his own journey with God. “For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me with a robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Can you relate to that? Do others understand the joy that being “important to God” brings you?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)