Devotional · Uncategorized

This Sickness

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John 11:1-14

 

Jesus wasn’t worried. He knew God had a plan. As always, God’s plan was perfect. Lazarus died. I asked myself – “How do I respond when bad things come into my life?” Quite naturally, Mary and Martha and their family friends grieved over the death of a beloved brother. They could not have hoped that Lazarus would be raised from the dead – nothing like that had ever happened like that before.

 

Meanwhile the disciples who were with Jesus were astonished at His reaction to the news that Lazarus was seriously ill! Here was this marvellous healer lingering where He was for 2 days (:5). They knew He loved Lazarus and Mary and Martha. He demonstrated time and again such compassion for people He didn’t know, in the face of physical suffering. Why did He delay?

 

“This sickness” Jesus told them, “will not end in death” (:4). But then on their way back to Bethany, Jesus revealed what they could not know. “Lazarus is dead” (:14). What a contradiction! Jesus did give them a clue, but did the disciples understand it? He told them up front that this sickness was for God’s glory. How could that possibly be if He didn’t heal Lazarus…..and now it was hopeless – Lazarus was dead.

 

By the time Jesus journeyed back to Judea Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. In a hot country the body quickly decomposes so when He wanted to go to the grave, Martha warned Jesus there would be a very bad odour (11:39).

 

What no one understood was the purpose of this disaster. What questions ran through the minds of the disciples as they travelled to Bethany? What expectations did Mary and Martha have when Jesus arrived? On the way to see the grieving family, Jesus told the disciples He was glad He was not there at the time of Lazarus’ death (:15). They probably attributed that to those common human feelings which come when we face pain. He did tell them He was going to wake Lazarus up – whatever did He mean? (:11)

Jesus also told those who followed Him that this was a test of faith….”that you may believe” (:15). Often a man of mystery, Jesus even today calls us to trust Him when we do not understand what God is doing. What happened to Lazarus demonstrated the glory of God much more than restoration from a sick bed (:41-44). What a glorious revelation of the power of God.

 

This account not only brought glory to God in the days of Jesus, but it encourages our belief today, does it now? Belief in God’s power, and ability to bring to fruition His plans, which, if we read this correctly is simply to make us aware of His magnificence in order to worship the One who is often beyond our finite understanding.

 

Reflection:

When you and I are faced with disaster, do we believe that God will bring glory to Himself through an unbelievable situation?

What situations do we face that seem to be hopeless, and how does our faith in God strengthen us?

Do we truly understand the God we say we worship?

Devotional · Uncategorized

Appointed by God

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Luke 10:1-20

According to Luke’s records, there were many who wanted to follow Jesus, but that on their own terms. We read of 3 such people in Luke Chapter 9:57-62. Peter, on the other hand, voiced the commitment of the twelve disciples Jesus had hand-picked. “We have left everything to follow You” (Luke 18:28).

Apparently there were more than those 12 who actually followed Jesus. After rebuking those who wanted to follow Him when it was convenient, Jesus appointed many more to assist Him in His ministry. They were to go head of Him to prepare various Israeli towns for His coming. He commissioned them to heal the sick and to preach about the Kingdom of God (10:9).

Imagine the extent of this ministry …..72 people were appointed to go in pairs. They might expect everything they needed to be provided – food and accommodation (:7). They were to receive whatever food was set before them. Culturally this was important, since the Jews had very strict food laws. Much later this was confirmed in Peter’s life when he had a vision revealing to him that whatever God calls clean to eat, if quite acceptable (Acts 10:9-16).

Who were these people appointed by God? What was their mandate for ministry? They were to preach the truth about Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Peter identified those who know Jesus as a Royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9) In Old Testament terms the priesthood was very exclusive. Not so with followers of Jesus. One might expect the 12 Apostles with whose names we are very familiar, to be singled out for this responsibility, but no – this group was nameless.

Does that matter? Yes! The message was all about Jesus, not about men. So it is today. When we witness to others about faith in Jesus, it is to bring glory to God alone. We are just instruments in His hands; the outcome is up to God. We will be accountable to God for obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples, but that follows conversion. Before conversion takes place our only responsibility is to point the way to Jesus and to let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If we have been appointed we must be true to our calling as representatives of God. If we are rejected by folks, it is really God they are rejecting (:16).

The 72 returned with joy! They had never had such an experience! Even the demons had responded to their message because they were authorized by Jesus to take control (:18)

Reflection:

When I was learning to witness as a Christian I thought that we were to win others to Christ. Lost on my young mind was the reality of the power that resides in His name! I assumed a responsibility that became too heavy; it was a burden God did not intend me to bear. Jesus said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” ( Matthew 11:30).

Now I can share my faith free from that burden, and instead approach folks with joy!

Are you weighed down with a responsibility that is not yours?

Can you let God be God, and you His instrument?

If you have been appointed by God do you believe He will equip you for the task?

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

Devotional · Uncategorized

My Way

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Job 23:10

Previously I have referred to the verse where, with assurance, a suffering man relies on God’s wisdom. Job wrote “But..” …that big little word which forms a bridge between thoughts. “But He…” Who? God of course. The all-knowing, omniscient One.

 

Job goes on to indulge in the certainty that his strong reliance on God brought, while he sat on the ash heap nursing his broken body. This was not the way it was supposed to be. He was a wealthy man, but wealth does not ensure health. However, he was also a God-fearing man, one whom the Bible describes as blameless. Would to God each one of us could have that inscribed on our tombstones.

 

Among his family he was known as a man of prayer (Job 1:4). In his community he was respected for his wisdom as a man of faith. So wouldn’t we think God would bless him because his thoughts and labours pleased the Lord? Not so! As Job cursed the day he was born, he did not feel particularly blessed. He suffered real pain, along with the frustration of not understanding the way life was going.

 

However, Job was also wise. He had enough insight to see that God was testing him; for what reason he did not know, but he faced this test with the fortitude only experienced by a man or woman of God. Although he had followed in God’s steps (23:11), keeping to God’s way by obey God’s laws, right now the path ahead was in darkness. That darkness terrified him, but did not silence him (23:17).

 

He saw light at the end of the tunnel. “I will come forth as gold”. He believed God would judge him on the basis of his pure heart. In these words he claims innocence. He has not deliberately turned away from God. There had to be a deeper meaning to his suffering that he could comprehend. Though his friends tried to persuade him there were secret sins in his life, Job was adamant that his trial would prove them wrong.

 

In the end God raised him up and blessed him with sons and daughters, multiplying his flocks. Why did he suffer? We may not know the answer fully until we get to heaven, but many a person has been comforted by his steadfast belief in the God whose plans cannot be thwarted (42:1). Comparing himself to Almighty God, Job declared he was unworthy (40:2 & 4). He longed for the days when “God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (29:4).

 

He trusted God who made him taste bitterness of soul (27:2) because he realized in this world man is born to trouble as the sparks certainly flew upward from a fire (5:7). Trouble mingles with blessings as a reality of life, so he rebuked his wife whose sage advice suggested he curse God and die (2:10). Instead Job comforted himself with the fact that God gave him life, showing him kindness and watching over his spirit (10:12). This was the God Job trusted knew his way. His famous words bring us hope to this day “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (13:15).

 

Reflection:

Job knew that God was fully aware of the path ahead of him, even though he couldn’t see where it was leading. Do we have that same level of trust when things don’t go the way we planned?…the way we expected?

He knew that if a man dies, he will live again (19:25-27). That then life will be glorious because in it we will see our Redeemer. This is a prophetic utterance because as yet Jesus had not come to redeem mankind from sin! There will be a physical resurrection of the body that so plagued Job, a body fully restored. At that moment His heart yearned within him for such a blessing!

Does your heart yearn for the time when you will be healed either physically or emotionally?

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

 

Uncategorized

SALT

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Matthew 5:13

Watching TV can be very educational….I was interested in the history of salt mines shown the other day. What a desperately important commodity. Widely used for a variety of purposes it was used as an antiseptic in medicine as well as to preserve and flavour food. In Bible times it was the custom to bath newborn babies before rubbing them with salt.

People had found many ways to provide themselves with salt – sometimes digging holes in the ground where salt water from the sea would be confined until it dried and then the salt could be harvested. Evaporation, in general, produced a poorer quality of salt than mining it from salt cliffs and flats.

Did you know that in the Old Testament there was a “Covenant of Salt”? This covenant was a perpetual obligation, a reminder of what we hold dear in our relationship with God! It required that every offering would be seasoned with salt, which speaks of permanence and incorruptibility. Offerings to Jehovah were to be “a covenant of salt forever before Jehovah” (Number 18:19). “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” (Leviticus 2:13)

The permanency of the Davidic Covenant mentioned in 2 Chronicles 13:5 depended on this covenant of salt. ”…the God of Israel has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt.”

Old Testament Jews, as well as Arabs today demonstrate hospitality by sharing this treasured commodity as a token of friendship and protection. “To eat salt with…” different foods, became the established mode of showing trust.

Salt creates a thirst, in this case a thirst for the “living water” which Jesus claimed to be (John 7:37-38). Is there something about you which creates a longing, a thirst for righteousness? Salt also preserves. Do we preserve a walk that is holy, a spirit of righteousness seasoned by love. How often do we hear of people who season their speech, their beliefs with condemnation. Jesus expects better things of His followers. Salt was /is also used for cleansing. Try to get a tea stain out of a china cup with a bit of salt.

Jesus challenged His followers to be wholesome, Christ-like. Using the illustration of a fountain of water, James tells us that it cannot produce both water that is sweet and salt, at the same time (James 3:11). Curses cannot proceed from the same tongue as blesses God. There must be consistency in the taste. God’s purpose, and our privilege is to give to our needy world something they cannot live without – our lives give flavour, a living testimony to the Love of God that lifts and frees and brightens our world today. We are vessels in which the gospel is preserved forever, permanent and incorruptible. Jesus called you and me and all of His disciples “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).

Reflection:

When we think of ourselves as “salt” what do we envision?

Does our presence in the office, in our homes, in our community of friends have a cleansing effect? i.e. Do people care about their language when they are with us?

What do we relish more and more because of the salt embedded in our souls?

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

Devotional · Uncategorized

What is a Christian?

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Luke 9:57-62

 

Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. They were hungry, so sent on ahead for preparations to be made for a meal. We read that the group was not welcome in that particular village. Usually Jesus’ reputation as a preacher and healer preceded Him, making a certain wave of fame welcoming. When their request was refused James and John, His most bombastic followers wanted revenge. “Shall we call down fire from heaven?” (:54). Jesus gently rebuked them, and they moved on.

 

As usual, Jesus used this circumstance to teach His followers an important lesson. They needed to understand that as His disciples they would not be welcome everywhere. They would not have wealth and possessions that often commanded respect and honour because He, “the Son of Man” owned no place where He could lay His head (:58).

 

Their little group drew the attention of people who were curious, one of whom offered to follow Him. Jesus, knowing how fickle the human heart can be pointed out the principle of poverty, which might govern the lifestyle of His followers. “Follow me” Jesus called to another man. Was he casual or curious about, or interested in committing to Jesus? Hearing and perhaps fearing Jesus’ call, the crowd thinned. They remembered responsibilities that demanded attention before they could assume a place among His disciples. One had to go and bury his father (:59). Another needed to go to say good-bye to his family (:61). Were these valid excuses?

 

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew they were engaged in their fishing industry, but immediately left their boats, nets and father, to follow Jesus. For them there was no turning back. They were not committed because it was popular. They were men of loyal spirit, dedicating heart and soul to God. James and John were challenged by the reminder they would suffer in the service of Jesus. Who takes on a job like that? True followers.

 

This demands the question – what is a Christian? There are more questions. Is a Christian one who knows about Jesus? …or is a Christian one who knows Jesus? I know about the Queen of England, but she wouldn’t know me if we met. Does Jesus know you? What is it about Jesus Christ that draws our loyalty, our love?

 

Reflection:

Is heaven the main goal of a Christian? Where does pleasing God enter the picture? Does it involve counting the cost? How is my Christianity reflected in my lifestyle? How does the Bible describe a Christian? We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do His will. David wrote “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

Devotional · Uncategorized

Life-Source

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Ezekiel 37:1-14

The moon shining on new-fallen snow has an unearthly beauty; poets rave! When the snow has gone tiny flowers emerge, responding to the warming of Mother Earth. Cycles of nature! Designed by Creator God, tribes around the world honour Him for His genius.

Life! That is what God is all about. In the natural realm tides pulsate against the shores, teeming with life both plant and animal. Super novae explode causing humans to try to explore the infinitude of space. Microbes divide and multiply….and the list goes on and on. The world, created by God, is a living organism created for movement and multiplication.

Our God Himself is living, actively involved in all that He has created. The crowning glory of His creation is mankind, created in His image. Engaging with His pride and joy, God sustains everything around us here on earth to demonstrate the essence of His being, which is “Life”.

In our scripture reading today, God showed Ezekiel that He had the power to give life to dry bones. It is an allegory, describing what happens spiritually to those who are dead in sin when Christ comes to live in them. How does this happen? It is really an act of God, restoring a relationship that died in the Garden of Eden. Three times God emphasises the power of His will to make alive something that was dead. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:5-6)

Jesus, visible form of the Trinity, declared Himself to be “The Life” (John 14:6) Only through His life flowing through us can we know the Father intimately “No one comes to the Father but by Me”. In Him is life, John writes, a life that is abundant (John 10:10 KJ). He gives us living water, making us conduits of that living water to others (John 7:37-38).

The Samaritan woman begged Jesus to give her the water He promised would quench her thirst forever (John 4:15). He was referring to spiritual thirst. He told His disciples ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). I’ve watched desperate people in Kenya digging into a dry riverbed hoping to source water from parched ground. Has our thirst driven us to the right source?

Reflection:

What makes us seek water?

Which spiritual resources do you draw upon to have a healthy spiritual life?

Do you believe God can make dry bones live?

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

Devotional · Uncategorized

Many are Called, but…

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Matthew 22:1-14

The subject of election (predestination), which is very deep and over which theologians have battled for centuries, came up recently in Bible Study. It caused me to review Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:14 and what led Him to make this proclamation.

Tension existed between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews. In chapter 21, Matthew notes they were looking for ways to arrest him, but they feared His popularity with the crowds. Jesus spoke to them in parables about the Kingdom of heaven; in this instance the King invited guests to the wedding of his son, but many of them found excuse in business prevented them from attending. Eventually others were invited.

This was prophetic. Jesus knew He had come, the Son of our heavenly Father, to establish an eternal Kingdom to which many who were invited would decline, for a variety of reasons. Gentiles would be included in an invitation first given to the Jews, to be the children of God. The many who were first called refers to the nation of Israel.

Ryrie makes a pertinent comment on that particular verse: “Here it indicates there is a general call of God to sinners inviting them to receive His salvation, and there is also a specific election that brings some to Him” (Ryrie Study notes). The Apostle Paul told the Roman church there was no excuse for anyone not knowing about God – His very handiwork in nature reveals to us there is a Designer and Creator. However, in his own experience Paul had to be struck blind in order for him to “see” God. He was specifically “chosen” to do a task, according to God’s will.

Paul’s message?…. Jesus died for all (1 Corinthians 5:15) so God offers the gift of salvation to all who will receive it….. believing (John 1:12)

Jesus’ parable about the rejection of the nation Israel ( Matthew 22:1-14) serves as a serious warning that an invitation has been extended to everyone. “For God so loved the world….”! (John 3:16)

”The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise….He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Reflection:

Have you accepted the invitation to the wedding of the Lamb? Revelation 19:9

How many of your loved ones will be joining you at this celebration feast?

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