“When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
What constitutes an enemy? The dictionary defines the word as anyone who is hostile, hateful or unfriendly, who intends to injure and oppose. Think of the feelings an enemy evokes.
Generally the Psalms are beloved. However, there are verses that might confuse us, when the Psalmist describes the enemy as those bloodthirsty people rising up against God, in a spirit of hatred. In return, are these people worthy of hate? (Psalm 139:19, 21-22). Some Old Testament references take us down quite a different path from what Jesus recommends.
Diametrically opposed to hating our enemy, Jesus teaches a new way – a better way. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Is this contradictory to the instruction of the Old Testament? No – it is now possible because Jesus was leaving the Holy Spirit to dwell within His disciples, to strengthen and encourage in “the way” of love. Jesus demonstrated how far He was willing to go (remember He said “I am the Way”?), by dying on the cross at the hands of His enemies, in order that we might be freed from sin and guilt. Are we really willing to follow our leader?
Jesus repeatedly exhorts His followers to do good towards those who hate us, to pray for those who curse us or mistreat us; even lend them [money] without expecting any return! (Luke 6:28, 35) WOW! How far from these teachings has the church moved today?
Solomon got it right when he said “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles do not let your heart rejoice.” Or – there would be consequences for you! (Proverbs 24:17). Yet how often do we, driven by feelings of revenge or fear, pray imprecatory prayers over our enemies?
Paul who suffered untold persecution left us with the solution, one that eradicates those reciprocal feelings of hostility when we have been wronged, or when we fear being wronged. Quoting from the book of Proverbs, Paul’s recipe was a reminder from the Holy Spirit Himself: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20). In so doing it is just possible to bring him/her into repentance and peace! Praise God!
Do we feel smug when an enemy goes down, or do we grieve for the loss of a soul for whom Jesus died?
How have you treated those God has placed in your path who are disagreeable and even hostile?
How do you hope people will treat you when you have made wrong choices or been just plain difficult?
by Marilyn Daniels
Angels pronouncing God’s ‘Joy’ to the world! Luke 2:10
Miracles from our mysterious God! Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:34-35
A woman recognizing her Saviour. Luke 1:46-47
Prophecy fulfilled in time and space. Genesis 12:3, Micah 5:2
Immanuel: God taking on a physical body. Matthew 1:23
The Babe – manna in a manger, Bread of Life! John 6:35, 10:10
Star attraction around the globe. Matthew 2:1-2
Wisdom leading wise men to worship. Matthew 2:2
Peace and goodwill to every tribe and nation. John 3:16, Revelation 5:9
The Son of God seeking to save… Luke 1:35, 19:10
Shepherd of God’s sheep, the Lamb who was slain. John 10:11
King of kings, Lord of lords. Luke 1:32-33, Revelation 17:14
“Today in the town of David, a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God!”
Thank you for sending your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, to walk among men and women, that we might know You intimately. Please remove our unbelief, our arrogant independence, our self-justification so that we might humble ourselves in worship of this Holy Babe. May our response to Your precious gift of Eternal Life bring glory to You this Christmas. May our worship come from hearts purified by the blood of Christ, for it is in His name we pray for forgiveness of sin, and for guidance, that our lives may be pleasing in Your sight, Oh Lord our God. Amen
by Marilyn Daniels
One of my favourite hobbies is doing jigsaw puzzles. I have friends who share this interest, so now family and friends have some exquisite scenery lining their walls, over which many happy hours were spent. What makes it so interesting? Tiny bits and pieces require minute examination to see if patterns and colours will match. It is so satisfying when the strangest shapes suddenly fall into place!
For me, sometimes scriptures are a puzzle. Take for example the sign given to Isaiah of the virgin conceiving and bearing a son. We need to look at the context to examine this puzzle piece. Israel had been continually disobedient. By Chapter 7 the Lord has already exclaimed “Stop” three times. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings” (1:13). “Stop doing wrong” (1:16). “Stop trusting in man” (2:22). He has pronounced more than seven woes descrying the varied sins of His people.
Now in the era of King Ahaz, an opportunity to test the nation’s faith presented itself in the design by Syrian and Israelite kings to overpower Jerusalem. (By this time Israel and Judah had split, becoming separate kingdoms.) Ahaz is warned by God “If you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all!” (7:9). Having said that, the Lord challenges Ahaz to ask for a sign that will bolster his faith. He’s given great latitude “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights” (7:11). I wonder what I would have answered in the same situation….and you?
Ahaz refused, sounded very pious: “I will not put the Lord to the test” (7:12). How would you respond if one of your children refused the offer to ask for something you wanted to give them? Isaiah was exasperated! However, God was not taken by surprise. He had the puzzle piece ready to fit. A virgin will conceive. Some commentators suggest that Isaiah knew this referred to the young woman he was going to marry and that he was prophesying, under the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would bear a son. It is presumed that Isaiah’s first wife had died after the birth of his first son. The second son would not have reached the age of moral discrimination before the rest of the prophecy came true. The kings that Ahaz feared so much would both be dead and their kingdoms laid waste (7:16). Other puzzle pieces yet to be fitted in, include several references to “in that day” (7:18, 20, 21, 23).
Let’s think about this. What do we know about the nation Israel, or learn about God in this scripture? Does this prophecy fit into one time frame or does it cover past and present (for us), as well as future. This is where we require time to ponder. Puzzles were not put together in an instant. They require a right perspective, an overview, some experimentation, patience, and certainty that it will all fit together in the end.
In hind sight we know that Jesus was the future predication fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy – the babe born of a virgin! The fulfillment of this sign assures us that other prophecies will be completed in His time. As much as the reality of God’s outworking in the faith of Ahaz, so is this a reality when our own faith is tested.
For example – what signs have been fulfilled in your life and mine? Do we know we have been freed from our sins by the blood of Christ? Do we know the power of the Holy Spirit when we are tempted and tried? Have we seen the hand of God leading us into paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake? Looking back, how has God fit the puzzle pieces of your life together?
by Marilyn Daniels
Recently the news media made us aware of child abuse taking place in another country where young girls are “married” according to the rules of their religion, for short periods of time. Essentially this was one way of covering sexual abuse that is becoming increasingly more prevalent, in a place where poverty makes girls helpless victims as young as the age of 9.
One girl being interviewed with her face covered, told the interviewer that life for her ended, once this abuse began. There was no hope for a normal life once she was victimized. One wonders how any religious group might believe that God is pleased with the destruction of a child’s future hopes and prospects. Yet it is happening around our civilized world today. What does God’s Word tell us?
Luke records Jesus’ woe: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through which they come. It would be much better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck, than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).
Jesus also calls little children to come to Him. Many of us may be familiar with his words: “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). He demonstrated His personal love and concern for children.
What happens to abused children in our world today? How responsible are Christians for social injustices? Will it do when we stand before God to tell Him we felt helpless? That we prayed for them? What fuels our passion? Do we take comfort in the fact that God will take care of them? Truly we believe His mercy and justice will, in the end, take care of all those who are victims of man’s violence. But will we be held responsible in any way? Must we not engage in yet another form of warfare in the twenty-first century?
Ezekiel’s words are forever a challenge to my heart. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman….so hear the Word I speak and give warning from Me….. If you have warned the wicked man to turn from his ways, and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 33:7, 9).
How effective has our sense of mission been around the world? Do we truly believe the gospel, given in Jesus’ words “I am the way the truth and the life…no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)? Does the World, for whom Jesus gave His life, know or care that life is sacred, a gift from God not to be violated in any way?
Children are the future of every nation. What must be done, what can we do, to protect them for Jesus’ sake? Their abuse is only a symptom of an even greater evil; buried in the heart of man is rebelliousness against the very God some folks claim to serve. That is spelled out in Frank Sinatra’s song: “I did it my way”. Is this then the challenge for our world today?
How much effort have I made to warn my world about the consequences of evil?
Have I demonstrated the love of Christ in such a way as to win others to the cause of Christ?
Does Ezekiel’s warning apply to the Church of the twenty-first century?
How practical is it to pray for victims of abuse around our world? Is there anything else we must do?
by Marilyn Daniels.
Do you remember being afraid of the dark? How many little children express fear of the dark? As adults can we identify with those fears? Dark moments in adult life may look different from the physical darkness that envelopes the imaginations of little kids, but they are just as real, none-the-less.
The Bible tells us of one man who experienced darkness physically and spiritually. He was near death – certainly a cardinal moment for us all. He knew he needed God to walk with him through this experience, but being out of fellowship with God made that an even more humbling experience. In spite of feeling banished from God’s sight, as he deserved to be, he tells us “When my life was ebbing away I remembered You, Lord, and my prayers rose to You” (Jonah 2:7).
How often is this the human experience? We feel engulfed, threatened, trapped. Everything is swirling around us as the breakers roll over our spirits. Isn’t it then that we think of God?
Recently I watched “Call the Midwife”, a programme set in the late 50’s which reminded me of the community nursing I did in the early 60’s. The young nurse in the series was shocked by the conditions she faced in the east end of London, as was I in Regent Park, Toronto. The lifestyle of people who were suffering deprivation of every kind, could only be called ‘dark’.
How much they needed to know God listens and answers prayer. He alone can bring our lives out from the pit. “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). He is the source of all comfort because He is the God of grace (Jonah 1:8). He is described by David : “You are my lamp oh Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29).
Why did Jonah struggle in the dark? He was running away from God. God had called him to do something he didn’t want to do. Can you empathize with Jonah? Jonah recognized his punishment came from God. ”You hurled me into the deep” (Jonah 2:3). But he also knew God didn’t leave him there. “You brought my life up from the pit!” (2:6).
In his subsequent dealings with the Ninevites one might have supposed Jonah would have identified with them. They were displeasing to God and yet He saved them. In his darkest hour Jonah experienced God’s mercy and grace, but still begrudged it to the Ninevites. In a way, his own attitude kept him in darkness. Do we face this same struggle on our journey through life?
In the month of November we remember some of the darkest days in recent history – two great wars, called “World Wars” because humans from every continent met in combat. Principles of righteousness and democracy were at stake. Many nations paid dearly for the depths of darkness that nearly annihilated a whole generation of young men. Running away from the truths of God’s Word, the enemy assaulted the very chosen people of God. This was indeed a journey away from God!….a journey through darkness!
By Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net
Our Ladies are studying the book of James. We’ve probably read it many times, but there is still much to learn! A little phrase suddenly jumped out at me “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (2:13). First of all we need to understand what judgment looks like.
In our world today people are tweeting about their personal observations, so often from the bias of criticism, it seems. Is this the test of one’s intelligence, I wonder, to be able to discern the faults of others? How often are we acting out what Jesus warned about – looking at the speck of sawdust in our brother’s or sister’s eye, while ignoring the plank that limits the vision in our own (Matthew 7:4). Jesus recommended that we take time to remove the plank before we assume a helping relationship with our brother/sister (Matthew 7:5).
Sometimes we ignore the potential dangers God warned the Israelites about …the damage of giving false testimony about our neighbour (Deuteronomy 5:20), because we are so quick to pass sentence on another fellow human being. James reminds us that often anger is the basis of our condemnation, so we should pause to listen, before expressing our opinions (James 1:19). Have we forgotten the besetting sins of our own nature that make us so displeasing to God?… and yet He repeatedly forgives us. Can we, will we, pause to remember His mercy?
Here’s the thing – Jesus told the crowd assembled on the mount, that we will be judged with the same measure of mercy we deliver towards those who offend us (Matthew 7:2). James amplifies this thought:
“judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13). That follows the theme of the Lord’s prayer that so many of us know by heart, and repeat often: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12 KJV).
Do we really want God to forgive us in the same way as we have forgiven others? Even William Shakespeare got it right when he wrote the Merchant of Venice, reminding Shylock that mercy must be freely given – “The quality of mercy is not strained [forced]”. It must be genuine, real. God knows whether or not we are going through the motions, or if we mean what we say.
Often it is hard to forgive – it is a Divine gift in the moment. With God it is possible for mercy to triumph over judgment. Our judgment may or may not be perfectly correct. That is not the issue. The ability to lean on God to help us deliver His mercy to others is demonstrated by our desire, and His power, to forgive. This is the Divine triumphing in the lives of human beings!
Dear Heavenly Father,
We say we are followers of Jesus. He was so merciful to those who were accused! May we learn from His example. His love drew people to Himself! May our lives exemplify our appreciation for all men and women because they are made in the image of God. Search my heart and see if there is any wicked way in me , before I pronounce judgment on anyone else. Help me to remember Jesus’ words “He/she who is without sin cast the first stone”. May I live by His perfect example, which demonstrated Your love for everyone. May Your mercy out-weight the judgments I might make. Keep me from slandering others. Empower me, my Father, to triumph over evil. In Jesus’ name I pray.
By Marilyn Daniels.
Again we are privileged to listen in as Jesus is speaking to the crowds. We need to look at the context to understand what He means when He says “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God” (:25). First of all notice that He identifies Himself as the Son of God throughout this chapter. Nearly 20 times, Jesus refers to His special Father-Son relationship with God. Secondly He is talking about eternal life (:24). He uses the present tense to describe crossing from death to life.
Now, as so often John records, Jesus prefaces His message with “I tell you the truth….” (6:25). Only God is the essence of truth. Here on earth our truth is motivated so often by self-interest, but God’s is pure truth and this is what His only begotten Son will tell people then, and now.
Jesus says the time has come, in fact it is now – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. Who are the dead? Surely Jesus didn’t mean those buried in the ground. Of course not! He is talking about spiritually dead people. Paul spelled it out for the Ephesian church “You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live” (2:1). That describes spiritual death in the midst of physical life, separation from God who cannot be in the presence of sin.
To further prove He is talking about spiritual life and death, Jesus clarified His Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him, should have eternal life…and I will raise him/her up in the last day” (6:40). Note that eternal life begins at the moment when a person puts their faith in God’s Holy Son! It is not something we wait to receive when we die. That eternal life is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
The Jews kept asking Jesus for a sign to prove His deity (6:30). One might wonder what they expected. After all He was known for His miracles, so much so that crowds followed Him (6:24). How many of those who followed Him then were still dead, looking for excitement because of this miracle-worker new in town? Curious? Wanting to be fed, healed, to be seen as good because they were allied with a Holy man? How many things motivate a human being’s loyalties? We know the crowd was fickle. After lauding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, within a week they turned to shout “Crucify Him”! What caused their change of heart? They were dead spiritually. Those who were alive followed Christ to the tomb, grieving over His suffering and sacrifice.
It is a mystery how some folks go to church all their lives, but never hear the voice of the Son of God. We cannot judge another human heart, but Jesus knows, and the final judgment has been given to Him (5:22). Its never too late to hear, while physical life lasts. The thief on the cross was promised eternal life in Paradise that very day. How merciful is God to forgive at the eleventh hour, but oh what a waste of life in which one might have found such joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord!
“Come Holy Spirit, dark is the hour.
We need Your filling your love and Your mighty power.
Move now among us, stir us today.
Come Holy Spirit – Revive Your church today!” John W. Peterson
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
Someone coined the phrase “looking at life through rose-tinted glasses”. This is described as an unduly idealistic, optimistic, sentimental, or wistful perspective on or about something. People looking through rose-tinted glasses only notice the good things about them, a view that is unrealistic. Its good to be positive in one’s outlook, but it is also important to be balanced.
The Apostle Paul was aware of mankind’s tendency to look through a glass darkly – a view through which our judgment is somewhat clouded. God gave Paul the reason why we do not see things clearly, which thankfully he recorded for our own understanding. In his first letter to the Corinthians church, Paul explains that our knowledge is only partial (:9). God who is omniscient, needs you and me to rely on His wisdom, knowledge and love. Sometimes we see in part because we don’t want to accept responsibility for things we do; as with the first people on earth, its easier to blame someone else than to accept the rebuke of a friend. “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).
It is common for us to see a poor reflection of ourselves in a mirror, rose-tinted or otherwise darkened by sin. James gives us some further insights on how to deal with this problem. When looking at oneself in a mirror there are two options. If we don’t like what we see, we can do something about it, or we can go into denial. The Holy Spirit gave James an important truth – humans have the tendency to immediately forget what they might recognize and work to improve (James 1:24). Is this wise?
God longs for us to be pure, when we claim to follow Jesus. His Word gives us the direction we need, clarifying His will for our lives. When we spend time studying the Bible we are freed, James goes on to say (1:25), and blessed by the liberty God gives to us, from the sin that so easily bests us. Once our spirits have soared into the heavenlies , let loose like a balloon floating up into the sky, who would return to the darkness of this world’s thinking and degrading behaviours?
Paul and James agree that maturity, gained through love and perseverance is the Christian’s goal…..mature in understanding God’s character, we grow to be more like Him…..mature in our understanding of what true love looks like – that amazing love of God which is more than compassionate, which is impossible without His unconditional love flowing through us.
Growing in our faith requires action on our part. He has given us the means to know Him….His Word, David said, saved him from sinning against God (Psalm 119:11). It wasn’t just reading it or hiding it in his heart, but by obeying God’s word, David was blessed. God in turn blesses us, wiping away the darkness that clouds our vision, as we persevere. Its hard to do God’s will, to be obedient but He stands ready to give us all the wisdom and knowledge required to do His will. He doesn’t leave us to flounder alone!
Will you accept responsibility for your own sins? How does God want you to deal with them?
Does your life and mine bring joy to the heart of God?
Have you been freed by the perfect law of God?
Do you understand what God requires of you in His perfect law? Its not complicated –
“If anyone considers himself/herself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his/her tongue, he/she
deceives themselves and his/her religion is worthless” (James 1:26)
Some time ago I was watching a TV series in which a young white woman attempted to seduce a handsome young black man using the phrase “Vive la Difference”. She wanted to “live in the moment” by celebrating those differences. In our world today there seems to be a growing acceptance of this philosophy. Counter-productively there is also less acceptance of those differences that might lend permanency to our relationships. Critical appraisals fracture friendships and marriages. How is it possible to live in a world so divided?
Recently I heard a young man parroting what he had likely heard someone else say negatively about the values of an older man. It caused me to wonder where we place our emphasis. Do we appreciate the strengths in our individual family and friends, or are we anxious to shape them into something else? Would we like them to be what someone else appears to be? What does the word of God tell us? Solomon gives us some suggestions. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17). “Wounds of a friend can be trusted” (Proverbs 27:6). How is this type of friendship possible?
Jesus Himself was known as the friend of tax collectors and sinners….both were groups of people who were totally unacceptable to the religious establishment (Pharisees) because they didn’t conform to their image of how people should live. Certainly they did not exemplify those values Jesus preached. So – what did He find so compelling that He would eat with them? Sharing meals demonstrated social acceptance, in that era.
Jesus’ philosophy of life was grounded on love. Love that always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7). What did His love protect? Those individual characteristics that are at the same time charming and disarming? His love covers a multitude of sins because underneath there is potential to be developed, by building a sense of hope. When the possibilities that God has given to us are recognized, even after failure, as was the case with the Samaritan woman (John 4), any person can be transformed by God! Persevering love and acceptance form the greatest catalyst for developing one’s potential.
High in the list of controversies popular today is the issue of racial discrimination. Surely we can see how God has made all peoples of the earth beautiful. Different? Yes! But isn’t that what lends harmony in music – the differences of each instrument! How boring it would be if the were all cellos or trumpets. It is the diversities that we celebrate as we examine our earth scientifically! It is unique ideas shared that bring progress to any movement.
In business, successful upper management recognizes the need for diversity within its leadership, as might a church within its leadership. The richness of diversity encourages growth. This is why Paul recommends the church takes advantage of the various gifts God has given to individuals (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). We need each other to create a network of encouragement and support.
Vive la Difference!
Do we have a friendly world view towards our fellowman?
Can we look beyond their fault to see their need? (Song by Dotty Rambo).
“Dear Lord. Help me to celebrate those differences within the Body of Christ that are so essential to a healthy body. Thank you for the beauty of all You have created! Let me rejoice in the vision that You have given to some very gifted people. May I be in tune with those who have learned to listen to Your still small voice saying “This is the way. Walk in it.” Bless me with the means to help those with hands held out, in service to these who are so needy. May my thoughts be pure and my heart loving as a peacemaker, representing Jesus Christ in this world. Guide my feet in paths of righteousness with a spirit of cooperation. Oh God give unity in the midst of the precious diversity You have created, I pray.”