Devotional

Let There Be Light!

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Genesis 1

It is a simple statement, but what does this tell us about God? His first words indicate He wants us to live in the light of His presence. His glory lit up the darkness at the dawn of creation when “the earth was formless and empty” and darkness prevailed (Genesis 1:2). There was no other source of light! Hovering over it all was God’s Spirit, ready for our world to join the universe, in God’s great creative plan.

Suddenly light burst forth in the darkness! The power of God’s word is manifested as He separated the light from the darkness, preparing a place where mankind could dwell. He “saw that the light was good”! He even named “day” and “night”; these became morning and evening, the first day (1:4-5). In the beginning….! At the end of time there will be a wonderful experience for all who believe that Jesus is “the Light of the world” (John 8:12). We are going to live in a city where there will be no hydro. In fact there will be no need of sun or moon since the glory of God will brilliantly illuminate heaven! (Revelation 22:23). It is going to be beyond spectacular!

In the life of Jesus we see again the heart of God who desires all people should walk in the light of His glory. Adam and Eve enjoyed that privilege in the Garden of Eden, until they chose to disbelieve God’s Word. Jesus brings us back to God. He said “I am the Light of the world”! That is quite a claim! (John 8:12). This theme is repeated “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world” (9:5). Miracles performed by Jesus brought light to the blind, but let’s not forget – He also came to bring light to the spiritually blind.

God’s intention is for all people to enjoy the “light of life” brought to us by His only begotten Son (John 3:16). It isn’t complicated. That fellowship comes to those who believe and receive the Light which John clearly identifies in his gospel (John 1:12). “In Him [Jesus] is life and that life is the Light of men”. John is inspired to explain “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it” (John 1:4-5). However, the truth is that “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Now, the gospel is free. Paul says he offers it through his preaching in order “to win as many as possible”. Isaiah, hundreds of years before Christ came to earth proclaimed “How beautiful….. are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion ‘Your God reigns’!“ (52:7). Today the best preaching is done by the silent witness of lives changed by God to love others!… lives lit by the Light of God, who make a difference – you in your small corner and I in mine! Lives touched by the Holy Spirit with joy and peace, kindness and patience, and forgiveness.

Reflection:

Is God’s Light radiating from your life? How will your eulogy read regarding the way your life has represented faith in Christ Jesus, to the people around you? These are questions each of us would do well to consider. God’s Light is both exquisite and powerful. His love generates tranquility and energy. It attracts because it is real!

Let there be Light!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Subtleties of Satan

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Matthew 26:26-28

Have you ever wrestled with a problem that just won’t go away? Sometimes we struggle with unforgiving thoughts, resentments, feeling that life just isn’t fair. Perhaps we are perplexed because we don’t understand what God is trying to teach us, or we are fearful about the future, unsure if we can fit in with God’s will. There are so many things that take our focus away from the Lord Jesus. Satan has no end of strategies.

Surely in Church our minds will be able to see Him, lifted up in worship. Communion, that holiest of ordinances, of course is one of those occasions. I have watched men handle the loaf of bread as tenderly as if it were the body of the Lord, prepared for burial; the reverence that is due Him may be seen, whether our thoughts would be worthy of examination.

It took me three days to ask God’s forgiveness for disrupting a communion service. Oh I doubt anyone but my immediate friend knew the struggle I was having, but the Lord knows everything. The little cup of wine was so cleverly devised that all we had to do was lift the cellophane off the wafer and then expose the tiny wine glass. I couldn’t get the wrapper off the wafer we were using in a COVID scenario; the problem just wouldn’t go away! I had used these before, but as I sat struggling, it never occurred to me that this was a battle against the Evil One.

Satan does not want us to celebrate Jesus. He sits at our elbow ready to turn our eyes away from the One who is Light and Life. On this particular Sunday where were my thoughts of reverence? Did I really need to use the wafer, to make me remember the dear body of my Lord, broken for me and my sins? Of course I am not forgetting the words of Jesus as He prepared His disciples for what was to come. “Take and eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26:26).

At that moment in time His words could not have held the same meaning for the men who listened, as they would have in future days and years to come. Two thousand years later what do Jesus’ words mean to you and to me today? As I celebrate the broken body of my Lord, is it in spirit and in truth, or has it become a ritual? The struggle I had that day was with something in my hand, but wasn’t it also with something in my mind? Where was the sadness about my Lord’s costly sacrifice? Where was the gladness for God’s free forgiveness of my sins? What was I thinking about God’s amazing grace, His unconditional love? Why was it so important to conform to tradition?

Thankfully the Holy Spirit brings to our minds opportunities that are lost, so that we can ask for God’s forgiveness. How precious it is to know “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).

Reflection:

We need to be aware that issues of tradition might subtly distract us from the real goal of worship. Satan will use any ploy to dissuade us from tenderly recognizing the precious body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, broken and poured out for the forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28). Without His sacrifice there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). How lost I would be without Jesus! Lesson learned? Let us fix our eyes on Him, forgetting the apparent struggles at hand.

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Gospel of John

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As I prepared to study the Gospel of John I realized my approach has always been to use it as a tool for evangelism. So many verses from John’s gospel have been committed to memory, perhaps the best known being “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). What is the thrust of that verse? God’s character, His love. The world is secondary, though it is very important to know His love encompasses everyone – the whole world! Suddenly I am reading this well-known gospel with fresh eyes. Jesus, who is God incarnate [in the flesh] reveals to us the heart and mind of God, as John records His life and ministry, His prayers and His passion.

 

What does this mean for us 2,000 years later? God’s love forms the foundation for all that I am as a Christian. His love is supernatural, sacrificial, and strong. God’s love really defies description, so we needed the only begotten Son to demonstrate the purity, and purposefulness of Divine love. More than any other of the gospels this one reveals the deity of Christ; John’s starting point takes us back to before Creation! There was the WORD who is God, the Creator of all things, the giver of life, both physical and spiritual. Awesome!

 

Ryrie reminds us that Jesus’ deity is asserted “in the series of “I AM…” claims which Jesus made (6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5).[P. 1615 Ryrie Study Bible]. John’s purpose in writing as he did was “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). In his epistle John again refers to the importance of knowing that we have eternal life, because we trust God’s revelation through His Son (1 John 5:13).

 

“New birth” is one of John’s themes. John 3:6 is not as well known as verse 16, but clearly is key in Jesus’ teaching. John quotes Jesus “…no one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (3:5-6). Prefaced by “I tell you the truth” Jesus thunders down through the ages this truth which still stands today “You must be born again” (3:7).

 

Babies who are born and neglected, sometimes die. John’s gospel perpetuates themes that nurture the growth of spiritual infants. For example we are completely dependant on the Holy Spirit. This member of the Trinity is often ignored. How is that possible when He is the source of all comfort, the One who guides us in our decision-making, and teaches us the meaning of all that scripture records?

 

Jesus’ dependency upon God His Father is an example to us. “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (5:19). Should you and I call ourselves children of God if we do not follow His example? At the end of the day will our Heavenly Father say “This is My son/daughter in whom I am well pleased”? (Matthew 17:5). John identifies sufficient of Jesus’ works for us to grasp the idea of what God reasonably expects. However, Paul expands that concept “ I urge you…..to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable service” (Romans 1:1-2).

 

John did not call Jesus the “Word” carelessly. Jesus said “Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me….the words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (John 6:57, 63). Nurturing babes in Christ was important to Jesus. Three times He told Peter to “Feed My sheep” (John 21:15,16,17).

 

Reflection:

Are we listening to the truth of scripture, of Jesus’ words?

Does it matter that our lives are pleasing to our Father in heaven?

What motivates us to feast on the Bread of Life? (John 6:35)

What happens to babies who are not fed?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Immanuel

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Matthew 1:18-23

Our Lord Jesus had many names, Immanuel being one of them. It means ‘God with us’. Most frequently remembered as a name from Isaiah’s prophecy, we sing songs about Immanuel at Christmas time. Matthew records the fulfillment of this prophecy (Matthew 1:23) .

Dr. Richard Bucher has found over 100 names and titles given to Jesus throughout scripture. Each one is rich with meaning as it identifies a significant characteristic of our Lord. He suggests that none has such great meaning as this one – Immanuel.

In a sense God has always been with His people – “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?….Do I not fill heaven and earth? Declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:24). God never lost an awareness of what was going on in the lives of His people. But the reality is they had shut Him out of their lives.

Sin often separated the Israelites from their God (Isaiah 59:2). Isaiah further describes details of Israel’s sins and their consequences, in the rest of this chapter. Other scriptures like Psalm 14:2-3, 1 John 1:8 and James 2:10 clearly reveal that all mankind is sinful before God. However, the Lord’s message was always one of hope “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor His ear too dull to hear!” (Isaiah 59:1, 16, 20). Even in exile, experiencing the consequences of their rebellious hearts, God was present (Ezekiel 16:59-60).

Knowing we cannot live righteously on our own, evidenced by the Israelites’ failure to keep the 10 commandments, the Mosaic law, God knew further help was needed. He who longs for relationship has lavished both His grace and His love on believers (Ephesians 1:8, 1 John 3:1). The condition for receipt of His gift of love is that a person must believe and receive it (John 1:12).

Reflection:

As with His people of long ago, today the same need exists! Sin separates us from a pure and holy God. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, Isaiah 64:6). We need GOD with us! Imagine – we have been given the Holy Spirit to indwell each person who repents of their sin and asks God to reign in their lives! Merry Christmas! This is God’s message to humankind, as the babe became “Immanuel”.

by Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

John’s Joy!

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John 1:1-7

The Apostle John is excited! His joy overflows as he writes. All the way down through the history of the Church, even into the twenty-first century, we recognize the source of John’s enthusiasm, from his introductory words.

He is writing to his “dear children” (2:1)…..children of the faith who have responded to the message that he declares in verses 5-7. It is a message about light. Jesus Himself claimed to be “the light” (John 8:12) in a world darkened by sin.

Turning back to John’s introduction: This specific “Light” existed from the beginning. Yet John had seen the Light with his own eyes. He had walked and talked with this man famous for preaching, teaching and healing. Did he recognize the challenges Jesus would send into the faith community of John’s day?

Standing at the foot of the cross, seeing all of his hopes for future ministry with Jesus nailed to a cross, what were John’s thoughts? Now his perspective has obviously changed! The “Life” had appeared! Jesus claimed to be the “Life” (John 14:6). John describes a distinguishing factor about that “life”….it is eternal (1 John 1:2). That phrase “eternal life” wasn’t familiar to Jewish worshipers. In the Old Testament God is described as eternal (Genesis 21:33); His love is an eternal blessing(Psalm 21:6-7). Daniel even makes reference to God’s eternal kingdom (4:3) but what that meant was rather vague.

Twice John’s excitement causes him to proclaim that which he is intimately acquainted with. He knew Jesus, the man, but now the resurrection revealed His glorious deity! All that the disciples had seen and heard must be preached “so that you also may have fellowship with us” (:3). Imagine – our identity as believers means we are in fellowship with those very disciples who walked and talked with Jesus.

Listen to Jesus’ prayer, recorded by John: “My prayer is not for them alone (the disciples of his day). I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message (you and me), that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have Sent Me” (John 17:20-21). This is the Kingdom of God in all its reality, formed through centuries of time! No wonder John is excited! Eternal life, in Jesus Christ our Lord, is as present today as it was 2000 years ago, making us one in the body of Christ.

Reflection:

Meditate on Jesus’ words:

In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of men” John 1:4)

Does your heart resonate with John’s joy?

by Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

The God Who Knows!

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Psalm 139:1-4

Theologians have come up with a big word to describe one aspect of God. He is omniscient. Big words expand our vocabulary but when we are talking with one another about God we seldom use them.

Omniscience strikes awe into the heart of anyone who understands what it means, so what does it mean?

As I bowed in prayer this morning I was compelled to worship God because He hears and answers prayer based on all that He knows about me and those for whom I am praying. It really is a privilege for us to bring our cares to God, isn’t it? – our God who understands the bigger picture and all the forces that have caused us joy or pain.

Knowing the workings of the human heart, God can give direction that suits our particular need, and does so through the power of the Holy Spirit. The thought occurs – how does God who is perfect and Holy understand man’s propensity to sin? He is our Creator. As the great designer of mankind, God sees the weaknesses that cause failure and He tests our weak points to demonstrate His strength, which is made perfect in weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God knows us in every detail – physically, emotionally, spiritually, better even than we know ourselves. Throughout the Old Testament we see this all-knowing God providing for His people out of the wealth of His nature – rich in love, wisdom, mercy and patience. Time and again when His children cried out to Him God responded gently, kindly, in spite of the superficiality of their tears.

Often it was a matter of personal comfort that drove folks to prayer, then, just as now. With a deep sense of entitlement God’s people come to Him, knowing that He knows and cares about our welfare. What gives us that confidence when so much of the time we ignore His longing to be loved, to be in intimate fellowship, to communicate with joy? Is it because we know God is Omniscient?

The Bible is explicit:

Psalm 147:5 – God’s knowledge is infinite, endless, limitless.

1 John 3:20 – God knows all things

Matthew 10:30 – hairs of our heads are numbered – nothing is too small

Psalm 147:4 – nothing (universe) is too vast, beyond His knowledge

Hebrews 4:13 – no creatures are hidden from God – all things are open to Him

Psalm 44:21 – He knows the secrets of our hearts

1 Chronicles 28:9 – He knows our intentions, our thoughts!

Reflection:

Imagine that this omniscient God wants to be known by His creatures. He makes His righteousness and salvation known so that we can have a personal relationship with him (Psalm 98:2). God even wants His greatness and holiness to be known by the nations (Ezekiel 38:23). He is an inclusive God because love is the very essence of His nature!

by Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Love Begets Love

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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

Devotional · Uncategorized

My Gentle Shepherd

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Isaiah 40:1-5, 10-11

Many years ago the Gaithers wrote beautiful lyrics addressing the need people have of a Shepherd. They perceived a need for strength, provision and guidance that comes from God alone. Like Martin Luther, they recognized there was no other that we can turn to for answers to the problems in our lives today. This Shepherd, they knew from scripture would be gentle.

 

Isaiah makes an astonishing contrast as he describes God’s power. “See the Sovereign Lord comes with power and His arm rules for Him” (40:10). Then, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Isaiah also describes God as a Shepherd, One who gathers the lambs in His arms and carried them close to His heart. What a tender picture! This Shepherd also “gently leads” (40:11).

 

Isaiah chapter 40 is described as one of consolation, reviewing the greatness of God. We do not often equate gentleness with greatness, but here it is. Paul also tells us the fruit of the Holy Spirit living within each believer, produces gentleness, among a host of other qualities derived from the greatness of God’s character. Isaiah begins the chapter with an injunction from God to “comfort My people” (:1), to “speak tenderly to Jerusalem” (:2).

 

There are hints of salvation as God’s voice calls “prepare the way for the Lord” (:3). Whatever did that mean? Matthew enlightens us in his gospel. John the Baptist, hundreds of year after Isaiah’s prophecy, was identified as the one who came to prepare the way for the Messiah. How did he accomplish this? By preaching repentance (Matthew 3:8).

 

Jacob was the first person who called God his Shepherd. As he blessed his sons on his deathbed he told them “God has been my Shepherd all my life to this day” (Genesis 48:15). Centuries later King David is famous for saying “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). The Magi, visiting baby Jesus identified Him as the fulfillment of prophecy “who will be the Shepherd of My people Israel” (Matthew 2:6).

Jesus confirmed that “I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). “No one can snatch them out of My hand” (10:28). “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me” (10:27). Mark records Jesus’ rebuke when the disciples wanted to shoo little children away, thinking He would be too busy for kids. “He took the children in His arms, put His hands on them and blessed them”(Mark 10:16) What a sweet picture of my Gentle Shepherd!

Reflection:

Do you need a Shepherd in your life? Why or why not?

“Dear Father, What a comfort it is to be held close to Your heart. Thank You for loving me as only God can love, unconditionally. Thank You for forgiving me for all my failures and wrong choices. I pray that You will strengthen my faith as day by day I learn to lean on You for guidance. Help me to discern Your will for my life, day by day. Thank You for Your Holy Word that nourishes my soul! Thank You for protecting me from evil, as I follow Jesus day by day. May my life be pleasing in Your sight. Thank You for being such a gentle Shepherd”

Visit Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net