Devotional · Uncategorized

Songs in the Night

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Acts 16:16-30

How often have you been awakened in the night with the strongest impression God wants to speak to you? Samuel and others are Biblical examples of such an experience. Job’s friend Elihu thought he knew the answer to Job’s problems, reminding him that God our Maker is the one who gives songs in the night (Job 35:10). What experience he was drawing upon we do not know, but I know what it is like to sing praises to God in the middle of the night. Do you?

Two thousand years ago, at midnight, though a strange choice of hour to sing praises to God, Paul and Silas were doing just that from a most unlikely place. They were in prison, but that did not stop them from glorifying the Lord their God. In the quiet of night, without officials rushing about and the clamour of daylight hours, it was a testimony to other prisoners at the very least. Imagine! God heard them and responded. He sent a violent earthquake which released them from their chains.

What chains bind us in the night? Are our hearts free from oppressive thoughts, resentment, disappointment or despair? What is it that keeps us awake at night? Do our hearts fail us for fear? Do we regret succumbing to temptation? Have we hurt someone we love, immeasurably? Do we care that we have displeased God? Does our faith waver?

Or – are our hearts overflowing with joy in the faithfulness of our mighty Saviour? Slowly dawning in the silence of night, spiritual truths take shape with spectacular joy as we meditate on our glorious Lord. Haven’t we heard the voice of God responding to our cries? Haven’t we felt the touch of His loving hand through the physical presence of a brother or sister in Christ? Hasn’t God’s Holy Spirit suddenly enlightened our understanding on a scripture with which we have been long familiar?

What marvellous sights have we seen, or sounds have we heard, that draw us to worship the Creator of all things? What thanksgiving replaces sorrow and loss! What hope pierces the darkness! Hallelujah!

Reflection:

It is often in the darkness of night that my spirit burns within as I see the Light of God, and listen to His voice. Whatever my cries may have been, healing comes in the sweetness of His presence. Thank God for the mercies of victory in Jesus that is only understood when all other distractions have been taken away!

Why are you downcast, O my soul?….by day the Lord directs His love; at night His song is with me”

(Psalm 42:5a & 8a)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

How Big is Your God?

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Isaiah 40:25-26

In my early morning prayer my imagination was smitten by the reality of God’s amazing design for our world and stretching beyond – the universes mankind is just discovering! I awoke to the gorgeous purity of freshly fallen snow! Imagine! God creates each flake different from another; is it because His creative genius delights in intrigue, as well as in beauty? Imagine the same attention to detail, included in creating the Milky Way!

I enjoy nature programs on TV because they bring me so much closer to the Creator of all things. Fascinating! Colours and shapes, as well as function, never cease to amaze me. But then there is the majesty of mountains, contrasting with the depths of fiords and seas Why? we might ask; man does ask that question and spends much time and energy to find out the answers. Sadly many scientific minds put their own spin on the reasons behind creation….and God answers back with His own questions.

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand?” (40:12). Through the prophet Isaiah, God reveals Himself as “the Sovereign Lord [who] comes with power” (40:10). He reminds Israel “…Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket or weighed the mountains on the scales….”? (:12). “Who has understood the mind of the Lord?” (:13).

Job expressed awe of God “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (5:9). “He moves mountains…..He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble. He speaks to the sun and it does not shine….. He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south (9:5-7, 9). “Who can say to Him [the Lord] – ‘What are you doing?’ “ (9:12) Job is surprised that such a God would be mindful of a mere human being (7:17).

Recently I was reminded that children of God have a great treasure in nature. It stretches our imagination to explore the creative handiwork of God, in which His majesty and might are very clearly seen! In that nature excites our pious thoughts and increases our devotion to God, it might be said to be sacramental. Let your imagination roam! How big is your God?

Reflection:

Limited by time and space, as we humans are, it is very hard to imagine the extent of God who is not confined by either time or space. If we cannot physically see Him, what then are His thoughts? How privileged we are to live after He revealed Himself through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! Since Jesus walked the earth, we have been able to understand the very heart of God, who loves His created beings with an everlasting love. Every detail of His creation is for a purpose, from those things which are invisible to the naked eye as well as in the spectacle of a starry night stretching beyond the beyond.

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

There is None Like You

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Exodus 20:1-7

A popular song today describes the uniqueness of the Christian God.

There is none like You,
No one else can touch my heart like You do,
I can search for all eternity Lord
And find, there is none like You.

Your mercy flows like a river so wide,
And healing comes from Your hand.
Suffering children are safe in Your arms,
There is none like You.

In a world threatened by political instability, one might ask where can we find security? What is truth? Who can we believe, rely on? Then suddenly the words of this simple song spring to mind and we know! God is our Rock! (Isaiah 26:4). He never wavers (Psalm 110:4). His word is truth (John 17:17) and it endures forever (Hebrews 13:8). There is none like YOU!

Just imagine the condemnation our world faces because it has ignored or rebelled against the will of God. Yet His mercy continues to flow. Today He is saving people from every tribe and nation, sometimes through the reading of His most Holy Word. By sending visions, or sometimes sending missionaries to share about His mercy and His love, the Holy Spirit is moving to draw men, women and children to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2 KJV).

Indeed He is the only one who can touch hearts with His incredible love. What other god declares He is love? Did you know there are 18 Bible verses that reassure us of God’s unconditional love? What is that like? It means He loves us while we are still sinners (Romans 5:8). We did nothing, nor can we do anything to earn God’s love – faith is a free gift, born of God’s love (Ephesians 2:8-9). We just need to receive and believe (John 1:12-13).

As we, God’s children, suffer anxious thoughts about the conditions in our world, we are reminded that God’s love is eternal….that He is faithful to His covenant love, so we are safe in His arms. That is eternal security, not physical. Bad things happen. People get sick in our fallen world, but believers know that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. The most important healing of all is cleansing of our souls from evil. This only God can do, through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!

Reflection:

Do you believe “there is none like YOU”? How is that demonstrated in your daily walk? Does God know your faith wavers? Do others see you stable and secure in His love? Would others envy the security and peace you bring into situations that would rock their boats?

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Perfect Man

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Job 42:1-6

The Bible spells out the realities of man’s sin nature in every example. Thankfully it doesn’t drop a veil over human folly, but rather gives hope to you and me. Even in the case of Job, described as blameless and continually devout, we find him repenting in dust and ashes. Why? What was his sin? We know he suffered cruelly from loss and bereavement, from physical illness and mental cruelty. When his wife advised him to curse God and die, she attacked the thing most precious to him – his faith.

What then did he repent of, in Job 42:6? Was he humbled by the greatness of a God he could never fully comprehend, God who had blessed him so abundantly in the past, a God who was personal in spite of his own lack of knowledge and understanding? Job now saw God whereas before he had only heard of Him.

Perhaps Job realized how deeply he may have offended God by cursing the day of his birth. We can only guess at thoughts and feelings arising from his renewed understanding of the supreme God he worshiped.

Like David, Job’s adoration and intentionality toward God had never failed. In this regard he was blameless. However, he now saw the difference between himself as a created being, and the Creator of a design far beyond his understanding. God, seeing his heart, through suffering opened his mind to greater things than Job would have perhaps ever explored in the normal course of everyday living.

We know scripture tells us Jesus was without sin; the only human form that can claim that distinction. Was this because He knew the mind of God and fully understood His heart and will? Certainly no other human being ever has.

However, as we struggle here on earth, let us rejoice that we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us to guide our hearts and minds. Having placed our feet upon the Way of Jesus Christ, and with Him as our supreme example, we have every cause to hope that we might be found blameless of intentionally rebelling against God Almighty, even if we do not achieve perfection in this life.

Reflection:

Describe in your own words what a perfect man would look like? Example?

How has God gifted us in order to achieve perfection?

Does God demand perfection?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

God’s Justice

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Isaiah 5:9-17

“But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice” (Isaiah 5:16)

Many people fear the wrath of God. They perceive Him as an angry judge. True – we are accountable to Him whether or not we acknowledge His supremacy, and for our response to Him, one day all people will be judged (Philippians 2:10, Hebrews 12:23). For that reason, if we are not right with God, one might well fear Him.

It is interesting then to explore the words of Isaiah. “God will be exalted by His justice” (Isaiah 5:16) This quality is one that brings us to reverential worship. Why? Because we know He will be fair in His judgment. Since God is all-knowing, He views a bigger picture than our finite vision allows. He knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (Psalm 94:11), when sometimes even we do not understand ourselves. Paul spoke of that dilemma when he exclaimed “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).

Perhaps this is why scripture instructs us not to judge others. Jesus warned: “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” ( Matthew 7:1). Our understanding is obstructed by the plank in our own eye through which we try to assess the sawdust in our brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3ff).

Notice that Isaiah’s prophecy begins with a “but”. Looking at the previous verses we see that in spite of all that Israel had done to displease God, and the punishment they had therefore brought down upon their own heads, “God would show Himself Holy by His righteousness” (Isaiah 5:16).

Contrasting verses 15 and 17 we see man brought low, humbled (:15) but then as God exercises His justice, the nation, redeemed because of His righteousness “will graze as in their own pasture” (:17). This is a picture resembling Psalm 23 which so many people find comforting in times of trouble. “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul” (:2-3). What a beautiful picture of peace and contentment in the place designed for restoration!

This is what exalts our God above every other God – the mercy and grace of His tender Spirit towards fallen man. You see – justice has been served. Jesus Christ died on the cross, taking the sins of mankind on Himself – paying that awful penalty, so that we might be freed from guilt and condemnation (Romans 8:1). “He sacrificed for their sins, once for all when He offered Himself” (Hebrews 7:27). This is the ultimate expression of love – God’s love which tempers His justice with mercy and grace.

Reflection:
How much does mankind know of real love today?

Are we fair in our perception of our great God or does our fear of His justice, often born of unresolved

guilt, colour our response to His great gift of love?

Do we fear God out of respect for the qualities in His character which links wisdom with love, exalting His supremacy in all that is worthy of worship?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional · Uncategorized

Eschatology

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Revelation 20:2-15, 22:7 & 12

What a big word! Often thrown around in academic circles, what does it mean? Defined by theologians themselves, eschatology is the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul, and of humankind. It is a branch of theology designed to reassure the saints, but unfortunately an emphasis on end time events has often served to confuse them.

Discussion began when Jesus tenderly prepared His disciples for His death. He reassured them there was a purpose in His going away…. He would be preparing a place for them, so that He could return to take them to live with Him forever (John 14:2-3). Between then and now there has been a lot of debate about when and how this will come to pass. Schools of thought within Eschatology question whether Jesus will return before the tribulation or in the middle of it, or even afterwards. That information is veiled, but let us look at what we do know.

  1. Jesus will return (Matthew 16:27, Acts 1:11, Revelation 22:7 & 12).

  2. The dead in Christ will rise first and then those who are alive at His coming will be gathered up to meet them with Jesus, in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).

  3. At the end of the tribulation those who did not bow down to worship the beast will reign with Jesus for 1000 years, after Satan and his angels have been locked up and sealed in the Abyss (Revelation 20:2-3).

  4. At the end of the Millennial reign of Christ on earth, the rest of the dead – those who did not believe, will be raised to face judgment (Revelation 20:5, 11-15).

Jesus repeatedly told his disciples they would not know the day nor the hour of His return (Matthew 24:36). His concern was that they/we be watching, that they/we be ready (Matthew 25:13), waiting for our heavenly bridegroom to come.

God must be understood by individuals, and by nations, as the God with a perfect strategy for the end times. Satan has another game plan. If he can deter mankind from spreading the gospel, from reclaiming lives for Jesus’ sake, he will have more followers when the end does come. There is nothing wrong with the study of end times; however when it comes to spending time and energy, one might ask if those would be better expended on winning the lost, before it is too late? Eschatology must demonstrate that the plan of God is relevant to the very end of human history.

Reflection:

Why do you suppose so many people are caught up in the theology of the ends times?

How does this win an argument for Satan’s purposes?

Devotional · Uncategorized

Eternity

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Psalm 93

The Lord Reigns! He is robed in majesty….and is armed with strength……Your throne is from long ago; You are from all eternity!” (:1-2)

Where and what is eternity? Those who read the New Testament are probably more familiar with the word eternal….God is eternal and longs to give us eternal life. To be completely accurate, we can never be eternal, though we may someday enjoy eternal life, because we are created beings. God alone is eternal, but scripture gives us hope that we will spend eternity with Him.

From cover to cover the Bible speaks about our Eternal God. Abraham called upon the name of the Eternal God (Genesis 21:33). The original form of the Hebrew word means “the God of Eternity”. We cannot look at eternity without understanding the nature of God. “The eternal God is your refuge” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Here is perfect security! “Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel He made you King” [Solomon] 1 Kings 10:9. Imagine a love that is eternal! “Your Word Oh Lord is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens” Psalm 119:89. Imagine being able to trust someone’s unchanging promises! Through all that God has created He made known His “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). God is the source of eternal blessings and pleasures according to the Psalmist (Psalms 16:11, 21:6), in His eternal kingdom (Daniel 4:3)

Coming from the Eternal God, the self-existent One, an angel proclaimed the Eternal Gospel to every nation, tribe, language and people (Revelation 14:6). Paul clarifies this for us. God’s intention was that the church would make known the wisdom of God, would testify or verify His eternal purposes accomplished through Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11). The gospels are full of promises about eternal life, but at the same time include warnings from Jesus, Himself, about eternal fire (i.e. Matthew 18:8, 25:46). Our hope lies in Christ Jesus who became the “source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9).

So – where will we be spending eternity? The word encompasses more understanding than is humanly possibly, limited as we are by experiences in time and space. So God gives us clues. Jesus tells us we may be with Him in Paradise (Luke 23:43). Obviously this is a specific place; or is it the state of peace and joy that makes living anywhere, a paradise? He also said He was going to prepare a place – actually mansions, for His disciples who were grieving the news that He was going to leave them. That does create a vision of what our heavenly home might be like, doesn’t it? The crucial point of His promise is “I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:3).

What is eternity?…. is a harder question. Within the framework of our language it is difficult to describe something as nebulous as eternity. It is a concept of time which exists outside of our known time frames. Think of the heavens – stars stretching beyond the reach of our strongest telescopes. How far do they go and what is beyond them? That is a forward look at what eternity is like. However, looking back – God existed before the world was formed. How far back can we go to find the origins of an eternal God? That is impossible, because He always existed.

For me this makes God absolutely glorious! Unfathomable! I must worship this Divine Creator Being, who for human understanding must be described in 3 unique persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit! The Eternal living throughout Eternity! What an awesome God!

Reflection:

How sad it is that man seems to have lost some of the awe owing to God. His glory coloured the creation of the world and still lights up the heavens! Curiosity about the heavens causes man to delve into technology, yet by Him, by Almighty God Himself we may be given understanding, not only into the methods of creation but also the purpose of His eternal design. What a privilege it is to have fellowship with Eternal God with the assurance that those who follow His ways will spend Eternity with Him. Forever and ever! Hallelujah! As we begin a New Year, may our reflections centre on God who is unlimited by time and space.

Devotional · Uncategorized

Advent

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Wikipedia describes Advent as “a season observed in many Western Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas. The term is an anglicized version of the Latin word adventusmeaning “coming”. Advent is not a word to be found in the Bible, but was designed by the early church to signify a momentous Biblical truth. The LORD Jesus has come. Why was this so significant?

Today we hold the whole of scripture in our hands, the Old Testament and the New. Throughout both the key figure is the LORD. He is known by several names given to God’s chosen people Israel. Let us note that these Israelites were not chosen on the basis of their great accomplishments or particular intellect. In fact we do not know why they, above any other people groups, were “chosen”. We do know that although God’s choice seems at first glance to be exclusive, He made His intention clear from the very beginning. When He called Abraham out of Ur, God stated He would include all nations in His Divine plan (Genesis 12:3).

God’s design was to develop a nation of people who would truly worship Him, preparatory to the Advent which, from the beginning, He knew would be necessary. It had not taken long for mankind to succumb to temptation, a choice that gives everyone, to this day, the knowledge of good and evil.

Many good people lived in the centuries between Adam and Christ. However, the general bent was for man to displease God, to rebel against His laws, to worship other gods and to destroy one another. The world became so dark that God nearly annihilated all mankind. His own chosen people were dispersed throughout the then-known world, away from their land, away from their centre of worship. Just as He is doing today, God gave people over to the evil desires of their hearts (Romans 1:24).

At last it was time! Into a very dark world came the light of life (John 1:4-5). The advent of Jesus brought both light and life. Hope! The yearning heart of God would be satisfied. Through Jesus Christ a people responsible for spreading the light of the gospel would be “born again” – people who celebrated the advent of holiness into an evil world. What a contrast!

It is enough to say Jesus was the fulfilment of prophesy. This is why His coming – His advent, is remembered more than 2,000 years later as the pivotal point in history. Satan has tried in every way to get rid of Jesus, because once He came to earth He continued to indwell His people through His Holy Spirit (John 16:7). Believers continue to crush the head of the serpent, who writhes in his attempts to darken the doors of churches, and the hearts of men.

But for the advent of our LORD, it is quite possible that Satan’s strikes would have endangered mankind forever. However, the purposes, the Word, and promises of God must not be overlooked. God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

Reflection:

How many children keep an advent calendar? Perhaps some adults do too. Does it focus on the baby Jesus? Or does this season of advent mean simply a moment to rush around purchasing gifts and food, decorating homes and squeezing in the occasional moment to carol songs about the Christmas spirit? How many people have the real spirit of Christmas, a spirit of peace and good will to all? Have our traditions burdened our spirits into a seasonal grumpiness because of all the obligations family and friends have placed upon us? What do our hearts sing about the Advent of Jesus?

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

Devotional · Uncategorized

Immanuel

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Matthew 1:18-23

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection:

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

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

Devotional · Uncategorized

Pondering the Puzzle!

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Isaiah 7:9-23

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).

Reflection:

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

http://www.marilyndaniels.net