“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!
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.
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 adventus, meaning “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)
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
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the earth
Creation was silent, awaiting a birth.
The stars were all hung in the sky with great care
In hope that Christ Jesus soon would be there.
Bethlehem was quiet, all nestled in sleep
Unaware of the promise God said He would keep.
And angels in heaven were preparing to sing
A glorious anthem to the new baby King…..
When out in the field there arose such a clatter
The shepherds jerked round to see of the matter.
Away to the sky they all quickly turned,
Viewing a light that made their eyes burn.
The moon on the crest of the small little hill
Made everything quiet and wonderfully still,
When what to their wondering eyes should appear
But a choir of angels that made them all fear.
But an angel of comfort said to “Fear not”.
They were in a moment a curious lot.
More rapid than eagles these angels all went,
The shepherds left wondering what it all meant.
Now come, let us hurry! Now quick let us go!
Lord please guide our steps and keep us from woe.
We’re worried and anxious, but Your message we’ve heard.
We’ll dash away, rush away, seeking the Word.
As dry leaves before a wild storm will fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So down toward Bethlehem the shepherds all fled,
With a song in their hearts of what angels had said.
And then in a twinkling they all seemed to know,
They had reached the right place and thus it was so.
Their anxiety mounted as the stable grew near,
But their hearts were no longer filled with great fear.
He was dressed all so warm in the swaddling clothes,
A beautiful creature in a miniature pose.
A manger of hay was His bed that glad night,
The holiest of scenes, what a wonderful sight!
His eyes how they twinkled, His dimples how small,
His cheeks were like roses, like those of a doll;
His soft little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And His heart was as pure as the new fallen snow.
Mary stood by Him and tenderly smiled,
How thankful she was for the beautiful child!
Though tired and worn she was so full of grace,
For the Saviour had come to God’s own chosen race.
And Joseph was there, so protective and kind,
With praises to God hidden ‘way in His mind.
Oh how could it be, he thought, this child so fair
Had come to lift sins and burdens and care?
The Saviour is here, there is nothing to dread,
Only believe….in the blood He has shed.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to the cross
Where He suffered and bled and died there for us.
And laying down His life, because of our sin,
He gave a last sigh….salvation could begin.
“It is finished” He said as the crowds turned aside,
Saddened and frightened because He had died.
But He rose from the tomb where for three days He lay
And spoke to the disciples as He vanished one day.
They heard Him exclaim as He passed out of sight,
“I will come again soon” – It might be tonight!
By Marilyn Duguid
One of my favourite hobbies is doing jigsaw puzzles. I have friends who share this interest, so now family and friends have some exquisite scenery lining their walls, over which many happy hours were spent. What makes it so interesting? Tiny bits and pieces require minute examination to see if patterns and colours will match. It is so satisfying when the strangest shapes suddenly fall into place!
For me, sometimes scriptures are a puzzle. Take for example the sign given to Isaiah of the virgin conceiving and bearing a son. We need to look at the context to examine this puzzle piece. Israel had been continually disobedient. By Chapter 7 the Lord has already exclaimed “Stop” three times. “Stop bringing meaningless offerings” (1:13). “Stop doing wrong” (1:16). “Stop trusting in man” (2:22). He has pronounced more than seven woes descrying the varied sins of His people.
Now in the era of King Ahaz, an opportunity to test the nation’s faith presented itself in the design by Syrian and Israelite kings to overpower Jerusalem. (By this time Israel and Judah had split, becoming separate kingdoms.) Ahaz is warned by God “If you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all!” (7:9). Having said that, the Lord challenges Ahaz to ask for a sign that will bolster his faith. He’s given great latitude “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights” (7:11). I wonder what I would have answered in the same situation….and you?
Ahaz refused, sounded very pious: “I will not put the Lord to the test” (7:12). How would you respond if one of your children refused the offer to ask for something you wanted to give them? Isaiah was exasperated! However, God was not taken by surprise. He had the puzzle piece ready to fit. A virgin will conceive. Some commentators suggest that Isaiah knew this referred to the young woman he was going to marry and that he was prophesying, under the power of the Holy Spirit, that she would bear a son. It is presumed that Isaiah’s first wife had died after the birth of his first son. The second son would not have reached the age of moral discrimination before the rest of the prophecy came true. The kings that Ahaz feared so much would both be dead and their kingdoms laid waste (7:16). Other puzzle pieces yet to be fitted in, include several references to “in that day” (7:18, 20, 21, 23).
Let’s think about this. What do we know about the nation Israel, or learn about God in this scripture? Does this prophecy fit into one time frame or does it cover past and present (for us), as well as future. This is where we require time to ponder. Puzzles were not put together in an instant. They require a right perspective, an overview, some experimentation, patience, and certainty that it will all fit together in the end.
In hind sight we know that Jesus was the future predication fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy – the babe born of a virgin! The fulfillment of this sign assures us that other prophecies will be completed in His time. As much as the reality of God’s outworking in the faith of Ahaz, so is this a reality when our own faith is tested.
For example – what signs have been fulfilled in your life and mine? Do we know we have been freed from our sins by the blood of Christ? Do we know the power of the Holy Spirit when we are tempted and tried? Have we seen the hand of God leading us into paths of righteousness, for His name’s sake? Looking back, how has God fit the puzzle pieces of your life together?
by Marilyn Daniels
Recently the news media made us aware of child abuse taking place in another country where young girls are “married” according to the rules of their religion, for short periods of time. Essentially this was one way of covering sexual abuse that is becoming increasingly more prevalent, in a place where poverty makes girls helpless victims as young as the age of 9.
One girl being interviewed with her face covered, told the interviewer that life for her ended, once this abuse began. There was no hope for a normal life once she was victimized. One wonders how any religious group might believe that God is pleased with the destruction of a child’s future hopes and prospects. Yet it is happening around our civilized world today. What does God’s Word tell us?
Luke records Jesus’ woe: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through which they come. It would be much better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck, than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin” (Luke 17:1-2).
Jesus also calls little children to come to Him. Many of us may be familiar with his words: “Let the little children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). He demonstrated His personal love and concern for children.
What happens to abused children in our world today? How responsible are Christians for social injustices? Will it do when we stand before God to tell Him we felt helpless? That we prayed for them? What fuels our passion? Do we take comfort in the fact that God will take care of them? Truly we believe His mercy and justice will, in the end, take care of all those who are victims of man’s violence. But will we be held responsible in any way? Must we not engage in yet another form of warfare in the twenty-first century?
Ezekiel’s words are forever a challenge to my heart. “Son of man, I have made you a watchman….so hear the Word I speak and give warning from Me….. If you have warned the wicked man to turn from his ways, and he does not do so, he will die for his sin, but you will have saved yourself” (Ezekiel 33:7, 9).
How effective has our sense of mission been around the world? Do we truly believe the gospel, given in Jesus’ words “I am the way the truth and the life…no one comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6)? Does the World, for whom Jesus gave His life, know or care that life is sacred, a gift from God not to be violated in any way?
Children are the future of every nation. What must be done, what can we do, to protect them for Jesus’ sake? Their abuse is only a symptom of an even greater evil; buried in the heart of man is rebelliousness against the very God some folks claim to serve. That is spelled out in Frank Sinatra’s song: “I did it my way”. Is this then the challenge for our world today?
How much effort have I made to warn my world about the consequences of evil?
Have I demonstrated the love of Christ in such a way as to win others to the cause of Christ?
Does Ezekiel’s warning apply to the Church of the twenty-first century?
How practical is it to pray for victims of abuse around our world? Is there anything else we must do?
by Marilyn Daniels.
Do you remember being afraid of the dark? How many little children express fear of the dark? As adults can we identify with those fears? Dark moments in adult life may look different from the physical darkness that envelopes the imaginations of little kids, but they are just as real, none-the-less.
The Bible tells us of one man who experienced darkness physically and spiritually. He was near death – certainly a cardinal moment for us all. He knew he needed God to walk with him through this experience, but being out of fellowship with God made that an even more humbling experience. In spite of feeling banished from God’s sight, as he deserved to be, he tells us “When my life was ebbing away I remembered You, Lord, and my prayers rose to You” (Jonah 2:7).
How often is this the human experience? We feel engulfed, threatened, trapped. Everything is swirling around us as the breakers roll over our spirits. Isn’t it then that we think of God?
Recently I watched “Call the Midwife”, a programme set in the late 50’s which reminded me of the community nursing I did in the early 60’s. The young nurse in the series was shocked by the conditions she faced in the east end of London, as was I in Regent Park, Toronto. The lifestyle of people who were suffering deprivation of every kind, could only be called ‘dark’.
How much they needed to know God listens and answers prayer. He alone can bring our lives out from the pit. “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). He is the source of all comfort because He is the God of grace (Jonah 1:8). He is described by David : “You are my lamp oh Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light” (2 Samuel 22:29).
Why did Jonah struggle in the dark? He was running away from God. God had called him to do something he didn’t want to do. Can you empathize with Jonah? Jonah recognized his punishment came from God. ”You hurled me into the deep” (Jonah 2:3). But he also knew God didn’t leave him there. “You brought my life up from the pit!” (2:6).
In his subsequent dealings with the Ninevites one might have supposed Jonah would have identified with them. They were displeasing to God and yet He saved them. In his darkest hour Jonah experienced God’s mercy and grace, but still begrudged it to the Ninevites. In a way, his own attitude kept him in darkness. Do we face this same struggle on our journey through life?
In the month of November we remember some of the darkest days in recent history – two great wars, called “World Wars” because humans from every continent met in combat. Principles of righteousness and democracy were at stake. Many nations paid dearly for the depths of darkness that nearly annihilated a whole generation of young men. Running away from the truths of God’s Word, the enemy assaulted the very chosen people of God. This was indeed a journey away from God!….a journey through darkness!
By Marilyn Daniels. http://www.marilyndaniels.net
Our Ladies are studying the book of James. We’ve probably read it many times, but there is still much to learn! A little phrase suddenly jumped out at me “Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (2:13). First of all we need to understand what judgment looks like.
In our world today people are tweeting about their personal observations, so often from the bias of criticism, it seems. Is this the test of one’s intelligence, I wonder, to be able to discern the faults of others? How often are we acting out what Jesus warned about – looking at the speck of sawdust in our brother’s or sister’s eye, while ignoring the plank that limits the vision in our own (Matthew 7:4). Jesus recommended that we take time to remove the plank before we assume a helping relationship with our brother/sister (Matthew 7:5).
Sometimes we ignore the potential dangers God warned the Israelites about …the damage of giving false testimony about our neighbour (Deuteronomy 5:20), because we are so quick to pass sentence on another fellow human being. James reminds us that often anger is the basis of our condemnation, so we should pause to listen, before expressing our opinions (James 1:19). Have we forgotten the besetting sins of our own nature that make us so displeasing to God?… and yet He repeatedly forgives us. Can we, will we, pause to remember His mercy?
Here’s the thing – Jesus told the crowd assembled on the mount, that we will be judged with the same measure of mercy we deliver towards those who offend us (Matthew 7:2). James amplifies this thought:
“judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful” (James 2:13). That follows the theme of the Lord’s prayer that so many of us know by heart, and repeat often: “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us” (Matthew 6:12 KJV).
Do we really want God to forgive us in the same way as we have forgiven others? Even William Shakespeare got it right when he wrote the Merchant of Venice, reminding Shylock that mercy must be freely given – “The quality of mercy is not strained [forced]”. It must be genuine, real. God knows whether or not we are going through the motions, or if we mean what we say.
Often it is hard to forgive – it is a Divine gift in the moment. With God it is possible for mercy to triumph over judgment. Our judgment may or may not be perfectly correct. That is not the issue. The ability to lean on God to help us deliver His mercy to others is demonstrated by our desire, and His power, to forgive. This is the Divine triumphing in the lives of human beings!
Dear Heavenly Father,
We say we are followers of Jesus. He was so merciful to those who were accused! May we learn from His example. His love drew people to Himself! May our lives exemplify our appreciation for all men and women because they are made in the image of God. Search my heart and see if there is any wicked way in me , before I pronounce judgment on anyone else. Help me to remember Jesus’ words “He/she who is without sin cast the first stone”. May I live by His perfect example, which demonstrated Your love for everyone. May Your mercy out-weight the judgments I might make. Keep me from slandering others. Empower me, my Father, to triumph over evil. In Jesus’ name I pray.
By Marilyn Daniels.
Again we are privileged to listen in as Jesus is speaking to the crowds. We need to look at the context to understand what He means when He says “the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God” (:25). First of all notice that He identifies Himself as the Son of God throughout this chapter. Nearly 20 times, Jesus refers to His special Father-Son relationship with God. Secondly He is talking about eternal life (:24). He uses the present tense to describe crossing from death to life.
Now, as so often John records, Jesus prefaces His message with “I tell you the truth….” (6:25). Only God is the essence of truth. Here on earth our truth is motivated so often by self-interest, but God’s is pure truth and this is what His only begotten Son will tell people then, and now.
Jesus says the time has come, in fact it is now – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God. Who are the dead? Surely Jesus didn’t mean those buried in the ground. Of course not! He is talking about spiritually dead people. Paul spelled it out for the Ephesian church “You were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live” (2:1). That describes spiritual death in the midst of physical life, separation from God who cannot be in the presence of sin.
To further prove He is talking about spiritual life and death, Jesus clarified His Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him, should have eternal life…and I will raise him/her up in the last day” (6:40). Note that eternal life begins at the moment when a person puts their faith in God’s Holy Son! It is not something we wait to receive when we die. That eternal life is sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13).
The Jews kept asking Jesus for a sign to prove His deity (6:30). One might wonder what they expected. After all He was known for His miracles, so much so that crowds followed Him (6:24). How many of those who followed Him then were still dead, looking for excitement because of this miracle-worker new in town? Curious? Wanting to be fed, healed, to be seen as good because they were allied with a Holy man? How many things motivate a human being’s loyalties? We know the crowd was fickle. After lauding Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, within a week they turned to shout “Crucify Him”! What caused their change of heart? They were dead spiritually. Those who were alive followed Christ to the tomb, grieving over His suffering and sacrifice.
It is a mystery how some folks go to church all their lives, but never hear the voice of the Son of God. We cannot judge another human heart, but Jesus knows, and the final judgment has been given to Him (5:22). Its never too late to hear, while physical life lasts. The thief on the cross was promised eternal life in Paradise that very day. How merciful is God to forgive at the eleventh hour, but oh what a waste of life in which one might have found such joy and peace through Jesus Christ our Lord!
“Come Holy Spirit, dark is the hour.
We need Your filling your love and Your mighty power.
Move now among us, stir us today.
Come Holy Spirit – Revive Your church today!” John W. Peterson
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
Someone coined the phrase “looking at life through rose-tinted glasses”. This is described as an unduly idealistic, optimistic, sentimental, or wistful perspective on or about something. People looking through rose-tinted glasses only notice the good things about them, a view that is unrealistic. Its good to be positive in one’s outlook, but it is also important to be balanced.
The Apostle Paul was aware of mankind’s tendency to look through a glass darkly – a view through which our judgment is somewhat clouded. God gave Paul the reason why we do not see things clearly, which thankfully he recorded for our own understanding. In his first letter to the Corinthians church, Paul explains that our knowledge is only partial (:9). God who is omniscient, needs you and me to rely on His wisdom, knowledge and love. Sometimes we see in part because we don’t want to accept responsibility for things we do; as with the first people on earth, its easier to blame someone else than to accept the rebuke of a friend. “Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).
It is common for us to see a poor reflection of ourselves in a mirror, rose-tinted or otherwise darkened by sin. James gives us some further insights on how to deal with this problem. When looking at oneself in a mirror there are two options. If we don’t like what we see, we can do something about it, or we can go into denial. The Holy Spirit gave James an important truth – humans have the tendency to immediately forget what they might recognize and work to improve (James 1:24). Is this wise?
God longs for us to be pure, when we claim to follow Jesus. His Word gives us the direction we need, clarifying His will for our lives. When we spend time studying the Bible we are freed, James goes on to say (1:25), and blessed by the liberty God gives to us, from the sin that so easily bests us. Once our spirits have soared into the heavenlies , let loose like a balloon floating up into the sky, who would return to the darkness of this world’s thinking and degrading behaviours?
Paul and James agree that maturity, gained through love and perseverance is the Christian’s goal…..mature in understanding God’s character, we grow to be more like Him…..mature in our understanding of what true love looks like – that amazing love of God which is more than compassionate, which is impossible without His unconditional love flowing through us.
Growing in our faith requires action on our part. He has given us the means to know Him….His Word, David said, saved him from sinning against God (Psalm 119:11). It wasn’t just reading it or hiding it in his heart, but by obeying God’s word, David was blessed. God in turn blesses us, wiping away the darkness that clouds our vision, as we persevere. Its hard to do God’s will, to be obedient but He stands ready to give us all the wisdom and knowledge required to do His will. He doesn’t leave us to flounder alone!
Will you accept responsibility for your own sins? How does God want you to deal with them?
Does your life and mine bring joy to the heart of God?
Have you been freed by the perfect law of God?
Do you understand what God requires of you in His perfect law? Its not complicated –
“If anyone considers himself/herself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his/her tongue, he/she
deceives themselves and his/her religion is worthless” (James 1:26)