In this Psalm of penitence David pleads for forgiveness and cleansing. He fears what life would be like without the presence of God. The distress causing David to pray this way is the very real understanding of how his life had failed to please God. His sin was ever in his face. Was he not forgiven?
The Bible tells us that all children of God are saints. The word “saint” comes from the Greek word hagios, which means “consecrated to God, holy, sacred, pious.” So who is a saint today? Paul talks about equipping the saints (KJV) [‘God’s people’ NIV] for works of service, for the purpose of maturing His Church (Ephesians 4:12). However the saints need prayer (Ephesians 6:18) Why?
Paul answers this question. In the passage where he addresses the equipment needed by children of God to fight the enemy of our souls (Ephesians 6:11), Paul warns the church at Ephesus to always keep on praying for the saints; in other words for one another, even for him (6:18-19a). Isn’t it comforting to know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for the saints (Romans 8:27). We also read that God guards the feet of His saints (1 Samuel 2:9).
Both Old Testament and New tell us about saints who sing God’s praises (Psalm 30:4), who love and fear the Lord. In a triumphant song of praise the Psalmist writes “The Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honour!” (Psalm 149:5). They “will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes! Forever and ever” (Daniel 7:18). In the end saints will be given the privilege of judging (1 Corinthians 6:2). With all of this in mind, let’s not be deceived. Sainthood is not for a special few. Neither do we pray to saints for their support – there is nothing in scripture about that. Jesus is the one and only intercessor when we sin, with whom we share our joys and sorrows (Hebrews 7:25).
So, just as David struggled with the memory of his sin, do we also? Yes. The Apostle Paul did; he describes the struggle in Romans 6. However, there is something protective about remembering the awfulness of our sins. If we forget that taking another drink will put us over the edge, that just an innocent flirtation endangers our sexual purity, that overeating is hard on the body, that gossip ruins another’s reputation, may we not yield to temptation more easily?
Psalm 51 is a cry for mercy according to God’s unfailing love! (:1) As much as our sins impact the lives of others, it is against God alone that we have truly sinned (:4). God desires truth – and the truth is I am vulnerable to attack from within and without….but God! He is the source of wisdom and allows us to distinguish between our sinfulness and His holiness. He is the only One who can wash away all my iniquity (:2), who longs to create a new heart in each of us (:10), who saves me from guilt (:14), who knows if my repentance is genuine (:17).
Have you ever done anything that you hate with a passion? How did you deal with it? Are you forgiven? Do you remember it? How does that memory protect you from a repeat performance? Do you come before God with a broken spirit and a contrite heart? How does God promise to receive you in that attitude? Are you a saint or a sinner? Isn’t the answer “both”?
by Marilyn Daniels
Jesus was disappointed. He had been working and walking, eating and drinking with His disciples for three years. They were His intimate friends. As such He expected them to know Him very well, yet here was Philip asking Him to show them the Father. Why did that matter?
Jesus had talked about God the Father continuously throughout His ministry, primarily to identify Himself with His Father in heaven. He even taught His disciples to pray to God as “Our Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). Now, in the present moment Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure to God the Father. The crucial message He was leaving with them was that no one could get to God in heaven unless they followed the Way, the Truth and the Life, new names He gave Himself (John 14:6).
In the face of Philip’s question Jesus patiently explained again that “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father” (14:9). John the Baptist had already prepared the way, years before, by preaching that “No one has ever seen God [in His invisible Spirit-being], but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known” (John 1:18). Jesus declared to Philip and the other disciples: “It is the Father, living in Me, who is doing His work” (14:10). The mystery of how He is in the Father and the Father is in Him needed explanation once again, since Jesus’ purpose was to bring glory to God the Father.
Let’s consider briefly the life of Jesus. In His ministry He was often prophetic about His immediate future, things fulfilled in His life-time, as well as events to which we still look forward (i.e. John 6:62). He demonstrated His foreknowledge when He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, prior to speaking with him. Jesus declared God to be a loving Father, challenging His followers to love one another as a sign they were Christ-followers (John 13:34-35).
Jesus Himself was an emotional being, weeping at the grave of Lazarus, angry with the moneychangers in the temple, compassionate towards sinners, loving people who didn’t always respond to Him such as the rich young ruler. If nothing else, Jesus showed us the Father is a relational Being. Created to be like God, people need to be secure in relationship with Him. Within that significance and security, all our relationships benefit.
Then there were the miracles which He often used to illustrate His Divinity. He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed thousands with few resources, made the blind to see, lepers clean, and the lame walked. His disciples witnessed how the winds and waves were subject to His voice, this One who is also Creator God. He escaped out of crowds who sought to kill him and walked on water. God doesn’t call us to walk on water; He just calls us to love! Perhaps the greatest miracle of all was the forgiveness He freely expounded towards the very folks who nailed Him to the cross.
If in three years of talking about His Father the disciples still didn’t ‘get it’, its impossible for us to exhaust the riches of scripture, in our search for understanding of an Omniscient, Almighty, Eternal, Omnipresent, and Infinite God. Do we still ask “Show us the Father” when doing our daily devotions? Shouldn’t that be our prayer? It will take eternity for us to fathom the riches of His grace and mercy, to see clearly the mind of God in all its justice, and to interpret His wisdom.
Since man was made in the image of God its important to understand God’s heart and mind. How often did Jesus talk about doing the will of His Father? Are we challenged to do the will of “Our Father”?
Perhaps the greatest demonstration of the heart of God was when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. If He is in the Father and we are in Him, do we weep over our Jerusalem? Where has God planted us? Why, how and when do our lives, yours and mine, reveal the Father to these dear people?
Recently I watched a documentary on Anti-Semitism. After the atrocities of WW2, Jewish children of the Holocaust were brought to England, clothed and fed, and put into homes where they were cared for and educated. What happened to that spirit? It was shocking, for me, to see how subtly Satan has convinced some believers today, that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, that they are evil and the source of the world’s evils. What happened to the ‘forever principle’?
It began with God’s promise to Abram of land that would be forever his, belonging to Abram’s offspring forever (Genesis 13:15). This was an unconditional promise. God’s faithfulness could be seen even when His people were slaves in Egypt “I will bring you to the land I promised….”(Exodus 6:8) Throughout captivities which befell the people of Israel as the consequence of disobedience, God has remained faithful to this promise. The land, a tiny portion compared to some of the empires of our world, has become a hot spot of political controversy throughout human history. Why is this vital spot so significant? It is the battleground between good and evil, God and Satan.
When Solomon finished building the Temple in Jerusalem God promised His eyes and His heart would always be there forever (1 Kings 9:3). His very name would be there forever. There was an “if” to this promise. It was conditioned on the faithfulness of the king and his people (:6-7). Sadly we see that Israel today has largely rejected God – so many are atheists. But there is a remnant. Who are they and what do we know about God’s promises to them? First of all God’s judgment caused a diaspora which effects Jews today. Jeremiah was given insight into a future, which we see has come to pass. God told him “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture…..I Myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture” (Jeremiah 23:1-3). This was accomplished in 1948.
When Jesus Christ came to earth He was followed for many reasons – some were curious about His way of teaching through parables. Others sought healing miracles. Some were fascinated by the way He could feed crowds of people from minimal resources. A few saw Him as who He said He was – the long-awaited Messiah (John 1:41, 4:25, Matthew 28:18-20). He declared Himself to be the good Shepherd! (John 10:11) Through Him we see God’s promise renewed by Paul. God said “I have reserved for Myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal [past history]. So, too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace”! (Romans 11:4-5). Also notice God’s new covenant with Israel recorded in Hebrews 8:8-10.
In the twentieth century the land was restored to the Jews who are still God’s people. Among them are obedient followers of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. One of the most influential Christians of our times is a Jewish man with dual citizenship with Israel and the USA. Joel Rosenberg has ties with Arabs, Jews and believing Christians, carrying out God’s ancient promise that the gospel would be from the Jews to the nations of the world. God’s ‘forever principle’ remains true. Jews have suffered for their sins, but as God’s chosen people, they will always be the conduit by which salvation through Jesus Christ came to the world!
Reflection: Gentiles have the joyous privilege of being grafted into the Vine (Romans 11:17-21). Jesus called himself the Vine (John 15:1). Salvation and eternal life are for everyone, but the land which God promised to the Jews, is forever theirs, a visual reminder of God’s faithfulness. This is the forever principle!
It is to the Holy Mount in Jerusalem that the King of the Jews, Jesus, will one day return.
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He will reign
forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15)
Change is ever present in human history. Some people delight in change, but most feel comfortable in what are familiar circumstances. When Paul wrote the words of our title, I wonder if he was reflecting on the life he had lived as a zealous Pharisee. His personality was intense so whatever he took on, he seemed to do it with gusto. Maybe some of us are like that.
Writing to the church at Galatia, Paul is eager to defend faith in Jesus Christ. As a religious Jew Paul had kept the Mosaic law, hoping he would earn eternal life by his good works. There’s a degree of anxiety for anyone trying to earn their way to heaven, isn’t there? What celebration when he discovered he could only get to heaven through Jesus Christ! So, as he wrote to the Galatians “the life I now live”….what was it that made a difference?
Perhaps Paul’s purpose is spelled out in the first verse of his letter. He sees himself as one called by God. When he practised Judaism he also felt called by God to persecute the very One whom he now worshiped. He identifies Jesus Christ as one with God; amazing how Paul learned that the One he had formerly persecuted was actually who He said He was! “The gospel I preached….I received by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12). This revelation transformed Paul’s life!
Sometimes we find it difficult to define words and grace, God’s grace, may be one of them. It was a meaningful concept to Paul. He talked about the grace of Christ (1:6). Although he was “advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers” (1:14), God called him into His service, by His grace. The church leaders in Jerusalem recognized that this persecutor of the church had indeed been saved by God’s grace (2:9), agreeing Paul and Barnabas should become missionaries to the Gentiles. Who better than one who was also a Roman citizen?
God’s grace rules out any possibility of man accomplishing his own salvation. It is the gift from God (Ephesians 2:8)….a gift which must be believed and received (John 1:12). Paul wouldn’t set aside that fact for any consideration. If there was any other way to eternal life, then Christ died for nothing (2:21). Totally committed to faith in Jesus Christ, Paul was a changed man with a new life. So he writes about the “new life I now live” (2:20).
This new life includes freedom from guilt of the past, power for living the present and hope for the future when we reach our heavenly home. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery [to sin]” (Galatians 5:1). This new life gives us the power to forgive others as we ourselves have been forgiven and to restore. “If someone has been caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Paul goes on to assert there is ministry for us all in that we then are qualified to “carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (6:2).
Carrying someone else’s burden call for grace. We need the fruit of the Holy spirit to equip us for that task. Only when we are changed, given new life, do we qualify as servants of God. Then we will experience the fulness of life in Christ, which brings richness, purpose and joy to the “now” in which we live.
Moses and the nation of Israel were singing….imagine you can hear them. It would be the biggest choir you would have ever heard. It has been estimated, based on a census taken at Sinai, that the Israelites numbered two million people when they left Egypt. Now they were praising God, exulting in all that makes Him great! Perhaps their words are your testimony today “The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation, He is my God and I will praise Him!” (Exodus 15:2). In those few words we get a glimpse of the character of God.
Strength. Have you ever felt weak? The Israelites had. They had been in slavery for about 400 years….many generations had not seen freedom. They felt totally helpless, but now they were free at last! God had done miraculous things. He brought them a leader, totally qualified by life experience in the Egyptian palace. The great Pharaoh had given way under the power of their God, after a series of miraculous plagues impacted his nation, and lastly his own son! Even his weak attempt to recapture his slaves at the Red Sea had been foiled by the Israelite God. The Egyptian army drowned on the very spot where God had dried up the waters to let His people cross.
Song. Out of the spirit of the moment their hearts swelled in song. Many hymns of praise have been written over centuries of time, focusing on the love of God, particularly since He gave His own Son as a sacrifice for sin. This song was all about power. God’s right hand was majestic in power. Do we see that in our lives? Do we believe that? Has God shattered our enemy? Who is the enemy of people of faith? Satan of course. Day by day are we aware of gaining victory over temptation and sin because we are kept by God’s powerful right hand? Jesus promised that no man could pluck us out of our Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). The “greatness of Your majesty” (:7) also became a theme in this hymn of praise. Do we understand the significance of majesty? It refers to the Sovereignty of God, upon which all of our faith is founded. Either “He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all!” That is a catch phrase used by Dr John Moore, which is worth memorizing because it describes the essence of our God, who is worthy of all praise. Dr Moore wrote the song “Burdens are lifted at Calvary”. Calvary was seen, in that day, as a place of weakness and defeat, but it was the glorious means of the greatest victory ever seen, when Jesus defeated the power of death and hell! Praise God for the Lamb who was slain and who rose again! Moses’ song goes on, praising the certainty that God will lead the people whom He redeemed, right to His holy dwelling. This is prophetic. They were on their way back to the land of promise, where eventually the temple of God would be established as the place of worship, His holy dwelling (Exodus 15:12).
Salvation. Yes – only God could procure their salvation and today because Jesus lives we can face tomorrow. The Gaithers wrote those lyrics. Salvation is now, a glorious reality for today as well as hope for tomorrow:
“And then one day I’ll cross that river, and fight life’s final war with pain
And then as death gives way to victory, I’ll see the lights of glory and I’ll know He reigns!”
Salvation comes from the God who is “Majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders….the God of unfailing love” (Exodus 15:11, 13).
This song thrills our hearts with hope. Moses’ vision came true and now we, as did they, look forward to the day when “the Lord will reign forever and ever” (:18) and we with Him! (2 Timothy 2:12) Hallelujah!
by Marilyn Daniels
When Jesus came to earth God had been silent for 400 years, historians like Josephus tell us. No prophets or priests had been given special messages for God’s people in such a long time! Yet the people waited. As circumstances unfolded, spiralling downwards, Israel still looked for Messiah. It is truly amazing that although their worship had degraded, they still held onto the hope that God would deliver them.
However, they had forgotten something. God’s promises would be fulfilled, but only on His terms. His promised deliverance would be of a spiritual nature, not political or temporal. What were those terms? Who would Messiah be like? The Jews had been given clues. Isaiah wrote about Messiah, as did David and some of the prophets. Whatever had been taught in the synagogues, or in the Temple at Jerusalem, it seems that the nation only had a partial understanding of what to expect.
Pain is a great catalyst calling for action ….some action, any action seems to be better than waiting. Ripe with expectation the Jewish people were ready to grasp at straws. If Jesus were truly Messiah, they were ready! The question was – were they ready to return to the loving arms of God? Were they prepared to follow Christ’s teachings? Certainly the religious elite were not…and they were the teachers of the people!
We know how that ended. Death seemed to have removed their only hope. Very few got the message. And Jesus wept (Matthew 23:37).
Have we, who are blessed to hold scripture in our hands, learned anything from these mistakes? Does Jesus weep today, watching people stuck in the same rut as the children of God, in ancient times? Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. What sort of deliverance are we waiting for, when we remember Jesus is coming again?
How often do we pray for deliverance from our circumstances – health issues, financial binds, unfulfilled relational needs and the list goes on? Are we interested in those deeper blessings only known as we shelter safe within the arms of God? Dottie Rambo wrote about that –
“I’ll have no fear, for Jesus walks beside me…and I’m sheltered safe within the arms of God”.
Is that true for you and for me? Whatever happens today or tomorrow with COVID-19, are we ready to walk with God through it all? If Jesus should come today or tomorrow are we ready to meet Him?
What does your relationship with God mean to you today?
Do we anticipate a glorious reunion when we meet Jesus, Messiah, face to face? Or are we stuck in the rut of religious tradition, looking for relief of unpleasant circumstances, of a temporal nature?
Can you say with King David:
”Cast me not away from Your presence O Lord; take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of my salvation, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:11-12 KJV)
by Marilyn Daniels
Micah 7:18 1 Corinthians 2:18
What do we know about the mind of God – He who created the universe, all things large and small? Mankind is discovering a lot about the electric impulses of the brain, how the sun and planets function, disease management, and the secrets of our earth. These discoveries are to be celebrated, but if we think about it, God knows already every detail we are uncovering.
Jesus who revealed the mind of God to His generation, also majored on relationships – that part of life which in the twenty-first century causes so much international angst and individual pain. Is this suffering within the plan of God? Surely not! Jesus told His disciples He came to set them free from guilt and shame. He came to bring peace and joy. Because of His great love, through the Holy Spirit the triune God comforts and directs us. However, we must receive His gift. He is still accomplishing His purposes upon this care-worn world. And….there are consequences for making choices outside of the will of God.
When we lose sight of the magnificence of His will, as it was seen in the creation process as well as in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we lose heart and hope. That certainly isn’t the design of the God who is relational, loving, provisional, forgiving and kind. It seems “Katie” Wilkinson as she was known, grasped something of this when she wrote the following song.
May the mind of Christ, my Saviour live in me from day to day,
By His love and power controlling All I do and say.
May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph only through His power.
May the peace of God my Father rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me, as the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing, this is victory.
May I run the race before me, strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus as I onward go.
May His beauty rest upon me as I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel, seeing only Him.
A member of the Church of England, she was involved in a ministry to the girls in London. She also participated in the Keswick Convention Movement. She would have struggled with the reality of human suffering, but the hope she knew as the greatest reality was to be found in the mind of Christ her Saviour!
Look at what it meant to her to have the mind of Christ:
Triumph through His power! The peace of her heavenly Father ruled her choices giving her calm to comfort others who suffered and grieved. The love of Jesus obviously humbled Katie, but by looking to Him she was strong enough to continue in the race, even to the point of facing enemies. Only then did the beauty which draws others to our Lord, rest upon her, and her ministry to girls.
How does one get to know the mind of God? Certainly we hold His guide in our hands – that Holy Word which reveals His character and His will to us. But I have discovered there is nothing that brings me greater joy than to wait upon Him as I listen for His voice, while on my knees. Worshiping Him for all He is takes practice. Are we willing to spend the time in order to know the mind of God?
Perhaps this hymn will be our prayer.
by Marilyn Daniels
We have heard this expression used when calculating global economies, but how does it apply to the world of 2020?
The book of Job is written about a man favoured by God. Not only was Job wealthy, but he had a large family. The Bible records “He was the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Apparently his lifestyle pleased God, for we are given a glimpse into a conversation taking place before the throne of God. The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and up-right, a man who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8).
In 2020 I wonder how the conversation has gone between God and Satan. God could challenge Satan again to look at the world He created and the people whom He loves. (Let’s remember, since we just celebrated Easter, God sent His only begotten Son to pay the price of the sins of all people.) Hypothetically, would it have gone something like this? God: Have you considered my servants in North America? They have been reading their Bibles and praying, giving selflessly to the poor, caring for the disadvantaged at home and abroad, welcoming strangers into their hearts and homes, so they could tell them about the love of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. They have been straining to look after the environment, even at the cost of their own comfort and convenience. There is no other nation on earth like them!
Or, would God looking down see self-indulgence, greed, hatred and a spirit of entitlement? In this “me” generation does God care about our human rights, yours and mine, or has He called His children to care about the rights of those less fortunate? Surely as the world trembles in the face of an invisible enemy today, we might do some soul-searching.
Faced with the overthrow of all his good fortune, God had allowed Satan to test Job to the limit. He lost his property, his family and his health. Wouldn’t that make most people scream that God is ‘unfair’? Perhaps Job’s worldview may mean something to anyone facing the loss of all they hold dear. The Bible tells us he did not lose his faith in God, but rather fell to the ground and worshiped, saying: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised!” (Job 1:21).
Hundreds of years later, the Apostle Paul knew something of Job’s experience. He tells us “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12).
Does our happiness depend on what we have, or does the attitude of gratitude colour our world rosy?
When do we most often find ourselves on our knees? Usually it is when we are in need.
Can we, do we trust God to supply all our needs through His riches in glory in Christ Jesus? (Philippians
Do we count our relationship with God among our riches? Do you have, or have not?
Let us pray the prayer of David – Psalm 51:10-12.
Before He began His formal ministry, Jesus was tempted in the desert. Drawn away by the Holy Spirit, there was a purpose in this time alone; He was there to fast and pray. Following Jesus’ baptism He needed time alone with God. Our young people sometimes attempt 40 days of fasting, but they do it together and it is not practised in the complete absence of food. The purpose of course is to feast one’s eyes on God, to hear His voice. Is this what Jesus was doing in the desert?
So much is made of the temptation which followed Jesus’ fasting that we sometimes forget to look at the amazing strength He received from talking with His Heavenly Father for 40 whole days! Think of it! How often do we spend 40 minutes dedicated to listening to God? Its hard to spend an hour in prayer – Jesus’ disciples couldn’t do it in Gethsemane; you and I aren’t, generally, much different.
We hear sermons about how Satan attacked Jesus when He was most vulnerable. Perhaps we forget the way God had nurtured His spirit for 40 days; given their precious communication, Jesus was able to meet Satan armed with the “sword of the spirit” which Paul talks about (Ephesians 6:17).
One pastor recently reminded his congregation that Satan took what was good, in an attempt to pervert Jesus’ calling. Jesus’ response demonstrated His commitment to that calling, based on the Word of God.
Satan didn’t stop until he had tempted Jesus to abandon His calling, twisting reality in the attempt to invert the whole experience of worship. Jesus knew Himself to be worthy of worship. This was, and is the truth. He, being the way, the TRUTH and the life (John 14:6), was not going to abdicate His royal position for any temptation here on earth.
Worship is to be God-centered. Sometimes in order to take our focus off of temporal things we need to be alone in the desert with God, where nothing will distract us from listening to His voice. Then, and only then will we know the joy of having the Holy Spirit minister to our innermost needs. Imagine the irony of Satan, a created being himself, trying to tempt the Omniscient, Almighty Creator with power.
Our prayers often exemplify what we believe about God’s power. Only in a desert experience can we know the reality of scripture “My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Matthew records how this played out in the life of Christ. Can we, will we, see beyond the temporary to the eternal, in our desert experiences?
by Marilyn Daniels