Devotional

Can One Escape God?

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Matthew 25:31-34

Reading through the prophets, we distinctly hear the voice of God. Sometimes He is angry, sometimes He is pleading, sometimes He seems to be just biding His time. “I will remain quiet and look on from my dwelling place, like shimmering heat in the sunshine, like a cloud of dew in the heat of harvest.” (Isaiah 18:4-5) This is rather a pastoral view of God in His heaven, isn’t it?

Matthew Henry shed some light on this unusual passage. Apparently God’s people were being trampled on, but the perpetrator will find that in the end they are indestructible. God is waiting until the time is right to rescue His people. In the case of Cush [modern Sudan], God will show mercy. Eventually they will bring gifts to the Lord, when they recognize Him as the Almighty One (Isaiah 18:7). Ryrie suggests that these gifts will be the people of Cush, themselves.

This illustrates the day, yet to come, when the nations of the earth will be convinced that Jehovah is the true God, and Israel is His people, and unite in presenting spiritual sacrifices to His glory. Because the wicked seem to triumph for a while, let us take heart from this scripture that God does care for His people, for Israel as well as the international church.

There is a time and place for everything. Contrast this picture with the words of Jehovah in Isaiah chapter 62. “For Zion‘s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet until her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch” (:1). Note how important it is to keep verses in their context!

A Psalm illustrates not only the plan of God as seen above, but the presence of God. “You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise. You know my thoughts….You are familiar with all my ways”(Psalm 139:1-3). This can be rather disconcerting when we admit there are times when we do not understand ourselves. God knows. Amazing! Even more thrilling is God’s omnipresence. The Psalmist continues…”Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?”(:7).

Scripture is full of promises of God’s faithfulness, of His abiding with His people, of the Holy Spirit now indwelling believers (Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19). These bring great comfort in times of distress and hardship.

In the end, both the saved and the unsaved will come before God. Jesus describes this event “When the Son of Man comes in His glory….He will sit on His throne…..All nations will be gathered before Him and He will separate the people……the sheep on His right hand and the goats on His left…..Then the King will say – ” (Matthew 25:31-34). There is no escape! Those who follow Jesus have nothing to fear. Take heart! “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you”(:34).

Reflection:

Why would anyone want to escape God? It is impossible to hide from Him. ”Where can I go from Your Spirit O God?” (Psalm 139:7). David follows this question with several questions beginning with “if” demonstrating the omnipresence of God. There is no escaping One who is everywhere!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Numbers


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Numbers 14:18-24

Numbers are often used as a measure of success. What marks did you get? How much do you earn? How many attended a certain function? How old are you? Our great Omniscient God attends to detail, counting the very number of hairs on each person’s head. He also created vast expanses of stars, and angels without number. He numbered the tribes of Israel exactly one year after they left Egypt. They gathered in the desert near Mt Sinai to receive instructions from the Lord, through His servant Moses (Numbers 1:1-2).

Are numbers important to God? The Bible answers that question for us. The Lord Jesus talked about the importance of one sheep that was lost and how the good shepherd left ninety-nine to recover that one (Luke 15:3-7). He used this to illustrate the rejoicing which takes place in heaven over one person who comes into the family of God (Luke 15:7-10).

When is the last time you heard a sermon from the book of Numbers? Yet – the theme of this book is relevant to our day and age. God’s intention was for His people to walk by faith, trusting in His promises. They did not have Bibles tucked under their arms when they went to church, but rather stood in the sun for hours, to hear the Word of the Lord, thundered by His prophet Moses. The book is very real, since it describes the weaknesses of the nation’s leaders; Moses, Aaron and Miriam did not always measure up to God’s standard. Ryrie notes “God miraculously supported them during those years of rebellion and wandering and finally brought them [the nation] to the Promised Land” (Ryrie Study Bible Page 197).

The first chapters of this book deal with the sanctification of God’s chosen people. One event had Messianic overtones, when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to heal folks bitten by snakes (Number 21:9) Compare this scripture with John 3:14. Only God could turn that evil into good. Paul understood this principle when he wrote “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

In this remarkably honest book we find the nation celebrating the first Passover. Just after the completion of the Tabernacle, designed to foster worship, God spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai (9:1) laying out the details of this specific celebration. And so “The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses” (9:5). We also find the Holy Spirit in this Old Testament book! Moses gathered 70 elders together and the Lord descended in a cloud to speak to him. Then “He took the Spirit that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit on the seventy Elders “. Under the power of the Spirit of God, they prophesied – a one-time only event (11:25).

Throughout their journey, the Israelites often grumbled. We read that in spite of this “The Lord was slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion” (14:18). It is this same God who grows patience and kindness and love in His children today through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). However, lest we take God’s mercy for granted He warned “no one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it [the Promised land] (Numbers 14:23). There are consequences for our choices, even today.

Reflection:

There are so many lessons to be learned from the Book of Numbers. Here the character of our faithful, covenant-keeping God is confirmed in the experience of wayward Israel.

The words of Balaam remind us of the committed life “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth” (22:38). Would to God we stayed by this principle, letting our yea be yea and our nay mean nay (Matthew 5:37).

God desires to make a covenant of peace with those who are zealous for the honour of the Lord (25:12-13). This reminds us of the cost to the One who purchased our peace at Calvary, doesn’t it?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Old, Old Story

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Matthew 28:19-20

Jesus said “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). He said this on the basis of authority given to Him by the Father, to rule in heaven and earth. Therefore….!

John recalls Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, addressed to His Father: “Father the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You”. Jesus was facing the cross. He needed strength of purpose, knowing His Divine calling was to bring peace and rest to hurting hearts, through restored fellowship with His Father. His prayer goes on – “For you granted Him [the Son] authority over all people, that He might give eternal life to all those You have given to Him”. That sweet fellowship, beginning at the moment of conversion, will continue throughout eternity! So that we really understand what eternal life is, Jesus defines if for us – it is knowing God and Jesus Christ (John 17:1-3).

The visiting preacher was passionate! Folks – he reminded us, you can go and baptized, as well as teach people about Jesus Christ, without making disciples! How many people have said the sinner’s prayer, thinking that meant they were going to heaven, but the seed planted produced no growth and certainly no beautiful flowers. Some seed died because it landed on stony ground, other seed was choked by weeds growing in the same patch (Matthew 13).

Making sure the seed grows takes time and careful tending; it needs to be watered, perhaps even fertilized, and many gardeners carefully remove weeds. Jesus illustrates nurturing spiritual growth by discussing the need to prune branches in order to produce fruit (John 15:1-2). If we are to see growth we need the ministry of presence. Walking alongside, as Jesus did with His disciples for 3 years! We get impatient for souls. In the urgency of evangelism, we forget sometimes to nurture by loving and learning more about God, together. Sharing the joy of the Lord is one of the privileges of the Church! There is nothing more satisfying than encouraging brothers and sisters in their faith!

The key to discipleship is given by Jesus, in these verses. We are teaching others to obey His commands, to think “God thoughts”. What are they? They shape our entire worldview. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37-38). This is the first and greatest commandment, summarizing the first 4 of the ten commandments given to Moses. We are not to worship any other gods, or to take the name of God lightly [in vain]. The rest of those (Exodus 20) are summarized in the way we treat our neighbour .

Jesus commands us to love our brothers and sisters, our neighbours and even our enemies – the way we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39). If we are honest we are often self-indulgent, with our time, our money and our possessions. If generosity of spirit is the hallmark of discipleship, a lot would change in our world today. Even of those who do not follow Him, many are willing to label Jesus as a “good” man.

Reflection:

Would they say the same about us, giving us kudos for the way we celebrate humanity? Are we known for acts of kindness? Are we selfless? Some of us are blessed to remember earthly fathers who looked like Jesus, who went out of their way to bless others! It is the “Old, Old Story”, captured in the words of the song and challenging us to identify with Jesus in thought, word and deed!

Tell me the old, old story,
  Of unseen things above,
Of Jesus and His glory,
  Of Jesus and His love;

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Encouraging Who?

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Hebrews 3:12-14

We know that encouragement is a Biblical principle. Remarkable isn’t it, to consider that God not only lays down principles by which to live, but also provides all that we need in order to abide by them. Encouragement is listed among the gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:8). Perhaps knowing we need the Holy Spirit in order to exercise this gift, will prompt us to lean more on God, in order to meet the needs of others.

Encouragement is regarded throughout both Testaments as necessary to spiritual development. “We sent Timothy who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith” (1 Thessalonians 3:2). In the Old Testament we read – “Stop doing wrong; learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed” (Isaiah 1:17) How often it is easy to overlook those who are quiet and shy. Paul recommends, among other things, that we not forget to strengthen the timid (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Encouragement, like many other Christian virtues needs renewing day by day “Encourage one another daily….so that none of you may be hardened by sins deceitfulness” (Hebrews 3:13). It is needed by leaders. In training Joshua to take his place, the Lord instructed Moses “Encourage him, because he will lead Israel” (Deuteronomy 1:38). It is needed by brothers in the Lord, and was even needed by Jesus Himself (Matthew 26:38). “He [an elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).

One requires great patience to encourage others. It can be emotionally draining (2 Timothy 4:2). Serving others requires that gift of the Spirit. “Patience” (Galatians 5:22, 2 Timothy 4:2). Also, those who form the support network for aging relatives or grieving friends know how much energy it takes to be a reliable presence in the face of such great need.

Josiah, King of Israel encouraged the priests in their temple duties. How important it is when we see encouragement coming from the top down! Paul found that in exercising praise he encouraged himself. Today he might have written a book on self-help! Barnabas fulfilled the meaning of his name, “Son of Encouragement”, by his ministry to others (Acts 4:36). Endurance and encouragement from the scriptures brought about a spirit of unity in the early Church.

If the truth were known there probably isn’t anyone living who has never needed an encouraging word, a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on. We who have been recipients of such a ministry, understand the magnitude of the miniscule….it is little things that mean so much in times of crisis. Jesus said “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me (Matthew 25:40). Therefore all of us can do something to encourage others, if we would only be sensitive to their moments of need.

Reflection:

Remember a time when God used someone to encourage you. How did that feel?

Would you like to have the reputation of making others feel the same?

What is it that prevents you and me from seizing the opportunities that God places before us?

Would you be willing commit to a ministry of encouragement?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Uncategorized

Victorious

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It began in heaven. The decision was made within the Godhead to send Jesus to earth to accomplish the “salvation plan”. Here’s how it went. Paul enlightened the Philippian Church, writing that Christ Jesus “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (2:6-7). Jesus demonstrates to us how to control pride of place. Status often means so much to us as human beings, doesn’t it? Victory number one!

The story continues. Jesus’ parents found Him in the temple, where according to the custom He had celebrated His ‘Bar Mitzvah’ at twelve years of age. Returning home, the missed him and returned to find Him discussing theology with the Rabbis. “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers”! (Matthew 2:42-47). We might have thought a young boy, quizzed by the religious leaders of his day might have been timid, but not so for the One who created the system, and the people who were practising it. Victory over fear of what people might think!

We’re all familiar with the “temptations” which Jesus endured during 40 days of fasting in the wilderness (Matthew 4). Satan tried his best to weaken Jesus’ resolve to do His Father’s will, but “Hallelujah” failed to deter Him. Victory #3.

Throughout His life, short as His ministry experience was, Satan tried to taunt Him, ridiculing Him for making Himself equal with God, for calling God His “Father”. The final blow might have been when people mocked Him for saving others, but not saving Himself. He had wrestled, as He faced the awful trauma of crucifixion which lay ahead of Him, as He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. How well do we handle our own fears? If we knew we would suffer pain and humiliation, would we pass the test? The miracle of calling it all off at any point would have devalued the very reason for Jesus coming to earth in the first place – Victory #4 overcame fear of personal pain!

Folks gathering around the foot of the cross failed to see the victory that Jesus experienced by His very death. The reality was He could have saved Himself, but immediate satisfaction would have destroyed His purpose. He had to die that man might live! Hadn’t the angel prophesied to Joseph “She will give birth to a Son and you are to give Him the name ‘Jesus’ because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). And so for us today, we read: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all” (2 Corinthians 15:14-15). Victory #5. Will we take up Peter’s challenge “Christ suffered for you, leaving an example, that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21)?

We know that we will live eternally with Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Our certain hope is based on His resurrection. Imagine life without such joyous anticipation? And He was seen, over a period of 40 days, “giving many convincing proofs that He was alive” (Acts 1:3). Again we read Peter’s words “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). Victory #6!

Reflection:

If we have put our trust in what Jesus has done, then do we trust His promise that He will come again? Are we preparing for His return? At that time He will have His final victory of evil! Sin and death will no longer provoke us because Satan and his angels will be cast into the Lake of fire to stay, forever (Revelation 20:10). Praise God! Seven, the perfect number – seven victorious moments in the life of Christ, bring us the greatest of all possible joy!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Uncategorized

Victimized

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The little child who was worshiped by Kings from the east, became a man. In the intervening years it had not been easy to be parents of the Christ-child. They had to endure public opinion about Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. Then at the tender age of two Jesus was seen to be a threat; sought by Herod the King after the Magi came looking for a new baby king. Led by God, they fled to Egypt to keep this precious child safe. We might recall the tragedy that befell innocent babies in Ramah (Matthew 2:1-2, 16), as this wicked king sought to extinguish the Son of God.

Herod died, so the family returned home. For nearly thirty years Jesus lived quietly at home in Nazareth. What were His thoughts as He learned His earthly father’s trade? What sort of life did He have with the question of His paternity hanging over His head? We sense that within the home things were not always easy. What was it like for His siblings to live with the eldest child, who had a history of being worshiped as King?

One commentator labels Matthew Chapter 10 as “The Program of the King; the Program announced”. Chapter 13 becomes “The Program Altered”, then “The Program Attacked”. Here we see the community in which Jesus grew up, explodes! Jesus had been going “through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 13:35). Coming back to His hometown, He began teaching in the synagogue where amazement quickly turned into indignation. “Where did this man get the wisdom and these miraculous powers?” and “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” Suspicion grew! “Isn’t His mother’s name Mary?” and they went on to list His brothers by name, attempting to destroy His reputation, as a child sent by God (Matthew 13:53-57).

His ministry became perhaps the greatest example of human fickleness, because so many people followed Him for all the wrong reasons. Human nature is hard to change. Crowds followed Him for what they could get – healing and hope. They longed to be free from Roman oppression; surely this miracle-worker would engineer the ultimate miracle for their oppressed nation. Consider the burden this expectation put on Jesus, who described “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

Most of us experience problems with sibling rivalry or criticism, jealousies or competition during our life time. As we have seen, Jesus was not immune to these human inconsistencies. However, the real test came at the end of His ministry when the “religious right” decided the time had come to get rid of this maverick teacher. They became passionate to extinguish what they saw as blasphemy, making Himself equal with God (John 3:34-35). After all, how many times had Jesus called God His Father? And now He was forgiving sins? (Mark 2:5-7).

Jesus became the ultimate victim of a religion whose leadership had lost the concept of a personal relationship with God. Their abuses were heaped onto the people they were given the privilege of leading spiritually, in the form of rules and regulations which were almost impossible to keep. What was one more injury to add to the list, and so we find their consciences seared. Crucifying the Christ was nothing to so many who needed to know the God they said they worshiped, is a God faithful to His promises.

Reflection:

In the end an abuser reaps what he sows. Sadly in the eternal scheme of things, those who victimize the Christ, are eternal losers.

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

Devotional

Hosanna!

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Matthew 21:6-16

Hooray! Yeah! Hosanna! Exclamations of excitement and joy! Jesus was being celebrated as He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. “Hosanna” is Hebrew for save, an expression of praise.

Once a year we make a special effort to thank God for all that He has given to us; the date varies from culture to culture, but usually centres around harvest time. At Easter we sing praises for the sacrifice of Jesus’ life, but what did the people of Jerusalem know about Jesus that caused such accolades this particular year?

Israel lived under oppression. The nation desperately wanted a Saviour. This man from Galilee was a miracle-worker like no other. Could it be that God would use Him to save them from the Romans? Was this idea the impetus that created crowds crying out “Hosanna”?

Prophecy identified a king riding on a donkey into Jerusalem (Zechariah 9:9). As we have noted before, donkeys were not the usual mode of transport for kings, so this unusual event would attract attention! David prophesied “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Psalm 118:26) and Jesus Himself acknowledged His claim to be the “Son of David” (Mark 12:35). These folks acknowledged that link.

It often fascinates me how God orchestrates His work in this world. In Noah’s day sin was rampant. Why did He not send the Saviour then? Why did He flood the entire world, wiping out mankind except for Noah’s family? What was it about the era which spawned silence from Almighty God for 400 years, then caused Him to send His only begotten Son? What is God’s next step of judgment on a world who denies, rejects, mocks this precious Son?

Do you ever wonder what it would be like for Jesus to come riding into your world today? What would crowds of people say? Hosanna? Crucify Him? Actually He is riding into your world and mine, on the words of proclamation each believer has been given. Are we shouting Hosanna? Or do we keep silent?

Reflection:

Hosanna! Save! Cries from anxious hearts yearning to be free! What do we pray for today? What binds us like prisoners of fate? What would cause us to cry “Hosanna” “Save” to our neighbours, our colleagues at work, our family members – dearest and nearest?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Little Children

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Matthew 18

Have you ever stopped to analyze the characteristics that make little children so delightful? Recently I was reading a commentary on the portion of scripture we are studying today. It aptly describes a child as one easily lost in awe “the doors of life flung wide open to wonder”! (Daylight Devotional Bible). Most of us have experienced the tugging hands which are so eager to show us what they have discovered, gasping in surprise, belly laughing when something is funny.

Have you ever noticed how in total innocence a child cries without shame? As sophisticated adults we often try to hide our tears.. Thankfully our Saviour shed tears, according to the Biblical principle laid down by the Apostle Paul “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). What a pity to lose the innocence of childhood in the fear of looking childish. There is such a difference between the two.

The Lord Jesus is recommending we become like little children and in this chapter warns against giving offense to any little ones. Notice His reference to their guardian angels (18:10). Do we stop to take into account that little ones have a God-given protection? So in the spiritual realm, babes in Christ are protected by the power of the Holy Spirit. It would be better for a mill stone to be hung around the neck of anyone who puts a stumbling block in their way (Luke 17:2).

Consider what this might mean. Have you ever felt discouraged? What if you or I were responsible for discouraging a new believer, causing them to doubt the Lord’s ability to care for them, or to doubt the purity of His intentions? God forbid that we should ever cause them to foster false doctrine.

So what does He mean for you and me to become like little children? Who of us would want to look weak and dependant. How we fight to gain independence, forgetting sometimes that the ultimate goal of maturity is interdependence.

Jesus uses the term “Little Children” lovingly. Nurturing is part of His compassionate, loving nature. If we wish to be like Him we need the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit growing these characteristics within us from the very DNA of Christ our Lord. We cannot achieve this on our own, but need to surrender to God’s leadership, just as if we were little children ourselves. Perhaps one of the greatest acts of surrender is exemplified in the life of our Lord who taught us to pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

Reflection:

Do we feel it is demeaning to be called little children? If so how can we relax in the arms of our Heavenly Father? The Bible warns us to put away childish things, comprised of fear and envy, covetousness and even tantrums, when we don’t get what we want, or think we deserve. That is behaviour unbecoming to any child and requires the Father’s discipline. How blessed we are to have a Father who cares deeply enough to guide us in paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

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

Outreach

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Matthew 28: 19-20, Acts 1:8

“GO” Jesus said to His disciples. By example He had done that very thing when He left the glories of heaven to come to earth. Often when we think of that word we conjure up images of foreign lands, differing tribal customs and unknown languages. We don’t think we can handle all of that, nor do we feel “called”. So what does Jesus mean – is that really a command, and it is a command, only for a few?

The Apostle Peter, addressing “God’s elect, strangers scattered throughout…” [the then known world] (1 Peter 1:1), said “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood….a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9). Are you a chosen a child of God? What is God’s purpose in drawing people like you and me into His family? How thrilling is it that we have an eternal purpose as children of God? It is to these people that Jesus left His last commission.

However, in focusing on the word “Go” we sometimes forget the rest. “Make disciples”. A disciple is exactly what Peter described, a person belonging to God, one who follows in the steps of Jesus. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you” (1 Peter 2:21). We need to remember the tremendous cost of our becoming children of God. This is no casual adoption but was made with great care (Ephesians 1:5). Peter goes on to remind us, you and me today, that Jesus suffered for us, “leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps” (2:21).

So, we are chosen, called and equipped to follow Jesus’ example of making disciples. Where do we do that? Jesus left us in no doubt. We are to start in Jerusalem – that is, at home. It is a lot harder to live for Jesus in a place where people know us well, our foibles and weaknesses. They know how to pull our triggers, and can test our sincerity. Once we pass that test, of making our words and deeds match, then we are ready to go into Judea. Where is your Judea? Is it the work place? Your community? Your church? Isn’t it curious when Churches promote “Outreach” they think beyond their doors? Yet, if the truth be known, there are a lot of folks who go to church who need discipling so that they, in turn, can make disciples.

Some believers are called to go “to the ends of the earth”, but Samaria lies between. Have you ever had a “Samaria” experience? This is where people have a different belief system, whether it is atheistic of New Age, or one of the other great world religions. Samaritans had corrupted the purity of the Jewish faith, making a syncretic system by combining faith in God with the Assyrian religion. Do you understand Jesus enough to lovingly explain what you believe, to share the wonderful relationship you have with the Lord Jesus Christ with people who have adopted wrong ideas about Christianity? In Samaria we may find folks who have been wounded by the legalism of an errant church. How can we encourage their faith in Jesus? Samaria prepares us for outreach at the ends of the earth.

Reflection:

Let us not forget that it is living in the light of the love of God that best enables us to share the new life we are enjoying – a life of peace because our sins have been forgiven, a life of purpose because someone reached out to show us the way. Remember Jesus said “I am the ….Way” (John 14:6). What is it that we fear about sharing Jesus with others? Are we truly in love with Jesus? Or, is it that we know our words and deeds don’t match? Do we feel inadequate because we don’t know scripture well enough? I have found there is always something more to learn from God’s Word. If I wait until I know it all, I would never talk to others about what I do know. In our hearts do we recognize that we are really lukewarm, or even cold, when it comes to feeling responsible for those who are lost? What is it that prevents us from honest outreach?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)