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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Uncategorized

Worthy of Praise

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Exodus 15:1-18

Moses and the nation of Israel were singing….imagine you can hear them. It would be the biggest choir you would have ever heard. It has been estimated, based on a census taken at Sinai, that the Israelites numbered two million people when they left Egypt. Now they were praising God, exulting in all that makes Him great! Perhaps their words are your testimony today “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation, He is my God and I will praise Him!” (Exodus 15:2). In those few words we get a glimpse of the character of God.

Strength. Have you ever felt weak? The Israelites had. They had been in slavery for about 400 years….many generations had not seen freedom. They felt totally helpless, but now they were free at last! God had done miraculous things. He brought them a leader, totally qualified by life experience in the Egyptian palace. The great Pharaoh had given way under the power of their God, after a series of miraculous plagues impacted his nation, and lastly his own son! Even his weak attempt to recapture his slaves at the Red Sea had been foiled by the Israelite God. The Egyptian army drowned on the very spot where God had dried up the waters to let His people cross.

Song. Out of the spirit of the moment their hearts swelled in song. Many hymns of praise have been written over centuries of time, focusing on the love of God, particularly since He gave His own Son as a sacrifice for sin. This song was all about power. God’s right hand was majestic in power. Do we see that in our lives? Do we believe that? Has God shattered our enemy? Who is the enemy of people of faith? Satan of course. Day by day are we aware of gaining victory over temptation and sin because we are kept by God’s powerful right hand? Jesus promised that no man could pluck us out of our Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). The “greatness of Your majesty” (:7) also became a theme in this hymn of praise. Do we understand the significance of majesty? It refers to the Sovereignty of God, upon which all of our faith is founded. Either “He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all!” That is a catch phrase used by Dr John Moore, which is worth memorizing because it describes the essence of our God, who is worthy of all praise. Dr Moore wrote the song “Burdens are lifted at Calvary”. Calvary was seen, in that day, as a place of weakness and defeat, but it was the glorious means of the greatest victory ever seen, when Jesus defeated the power of death and hell! Praise God for the Lamb who was slain and who rose again! Moses’ song goes on, praising the certainty that God will lead the people whom He redeemed, right to His holy dwelling. This is prophetic. They were on their way back to the land of promise, where eventually the temple of God would be established as the place of worship, His holy dwelling (Exodus 15:12).

Salvation. Yes – only God could procure their salvation and today because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow. The Gaithers wrote those lyrics. Salvation is now, a glorious reality for today as well as hope for tomorrow:

And then one day I’ll cross that river, and fight life’s final war with pain

And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns!”

Salvation comes from the God who is “Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders….the God of unfailing love” (Exodus 15:11, 13).

Reflection:

This song thrills our hearts with hope. Moses’ vision came true and now we, as did they, look forward to the day when “the Lord will reign forever and ever” (:18) and we with Him! (2 Timothy 2:12) Hallelujah!

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

A Desert Experience

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Matthew 4:1-11

Before He began His formal ministry, Jesus was tempted in the desert. Drawn away by the Holy Spirit, there was a purpose in this time alone; He was there to fast and pray. Following Jesus’ baptism He needed time alone with God. Our young people sometimes attempt 40 days of fasting, but they do it together and it is not practised in the complete absence of food. The purpose of course is to feast one’s eyes on God, to hear His voice. Is this what Jesus was doing in the desert?

So much is made of the temptation which followed Jesus’ fasting that we sometimes forget to look at the amazing strength He received from talking with His Heavenly Father for 40 whole days! Think of it! How often do we spend 40 minutes dedicated to listening to God? Its hard to spend an hour in prayer – Jesus’ disciples couldn’t do it in Gethsemane; you and I aren’t, generally, much different.

We hear sermons about how Satan attacked Jesus when He was most vulnerable. Perhaps we forget the way God had nurtured His spirit for 40 days; given their precious communication, Jesus was able to meet Satan armed with the “sword of the spirit” which Paul talks about (Ephesians 6:17).

One pastor recently reminded his congregation that Satan took what was good, in an attempt to pervert Jesus’ calling. Jesus’ response demonstrated His commitment to that calling, based on the Word of God.

Satan didn’t stop until he had tempted Jesus to abandon His calling, twisting reality in the attempt to invert the whole experience of worship. Jesus knew Himself to be worthy of worship. This was, and is the truth. He, being the way, the TRUTH and the life (John 14:6), was not going to abdicate His royal position for any temptation here on earth.

Worship is to be God-centered. Sometimes in order to take our focus off of temporal things we need to be alone in the desert with God, where nothing will distract us from listening to His voice. Then, and only then will we know the joy of having the Holy Spirit minister to our innermost needs. Imagine the irony of Satan, a created being himself, trying to tempt the Omniscient, Almighty Creator with power.

Reflection:

Our prayers often exemplify what we believe about God’s power. Only in a desert experience can we know the reality of scripture “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Matthew records how this played out in the life of Christ. Can we, will we, see beyond the temporary to the eternal, in our desert experiences?

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