Devotional

Principles of Suffering

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1 Peter 2:21

Peter is writing “to God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered….who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:1-2). He praises God who, because of His “great mercy” gives us “new birth” along with a “living hope” and eventual “inheritance” which is kept in heaven for each one who “through faith are shielded by God’s power….to be revealed in the last time” (1:3-5). Does this apply to you and to me today?

He then goes on to say that Salvation comes through the sufferings of Christ (1:12), which were predicted by the prophets, men who spoke about God’s anticipated grace (i.e. Isaiah 53). Let’s pause for a moment to look at the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Long before the cross Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37). For any of us who weep over loved ones who still reject salvation through Jesus Christ, we know the suffering of His heart! He knew that everyone would not turn to God, even when He gave His life for them. We know the crowd was fickle; just as people are today. How many want what they can get [heaven], without being willing to suffer for principles seen in the life of Christ. He gave up everything…”making Himself nothing” to become a human being, humbling Himself and being obedient to death! (Philippians 2:7-8).

Jesus taught His disciples all about suffering. When He said “ the Son of Man must suffer many things” He then listed rejection by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law before He mentioned being killed (Mark 8:31). Rejection is painful. Every human being has been created with the longing to “belong”, to be significant and secure in relationships. It is hard to stay the course in the face of rejection. But, thankfully He did!

Peter goes on to describe what following Jesus looks like. Even if we suffer for doing good our hearts will be at peace because our intentions were good, and therefore our consciences are clear before the Lord. If someone speaks maliciously against us, our good behaviour may be a rebuke to them. Certainly our attitude of gentleness and respect will be a powerful testimony in the face of adversity (1 Peter 3:13-16). After all we are representing the One who cried from the cross “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing!” (Luke 23:34).

How might we respond to suffering for Jesus’ sake? Peter addresses this too. We must rejoice! Really? Yes, he writes “Rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may rejoice when His glory is revealed” (4:13). He goes on to say what he, himself, knows all too well to be true: “If you suffer as a Christian do not be ashamed”. We mustn’t forget Peter denied knowing Jesus, fearing for his life at one point in time, yet now his perspective ha s totally changed! Why? “Praise God you bear that name [Christian]”. For Peter to be a Christian meant everything! (4:16).

Reflection:


When we think of suffering, often it is with the fear of physical pain. However, emotional pain goes even deeper – right into the soul of every human being. God can rescue us from that, delivering us from evil (Matthew 6:13), as Jesus taught us to pray. The Holy Spirit infuses us with the power to be kind and good and patient (Galatians 5:22), when we encounter Satanic attacks. Let us be “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light!” (Colossians 1:11-12).

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps” 1 Peter 2:21

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

The Troubled Heart

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John 12:27, Mk 14:33, John 14:1, 27

We are in the season of Lent; Easter is upon us. What have been our remembrances throughout this period of time? Have our hearts resonated with the heart of our Saviour? How have we prepared our hearts to worship the God- Man who took upon Himself the sins of the world, yours and mine? What was the cost of His great sacrifice?

We read, in the last 9 chapters of John, that He prepared His disciples at great length for a grief mankind had never known before. Emmanuel would leave this earth after spending 3 short years teaching God’s love and majestic power, in word and deed. As Jesus talked intimately with the remaining 11 men He had chosen to be with Him through His formal ministry, (Judas had left the supper), He knew their hearts faced very troubling times. How would they cope?

“Let not your hearts be troubled” Jesus told them. Why so? His own heart had experienced trouble. John describes it for us (12:27). Greeks had come seeking Jesus. It seemed that suddenly this alerted Jesus to the fact His time had come. “I tell you the truth…” He said as He used a parable to tell them about His death and resurrection. “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). He went on to explain how this troubled His heart. He is after all fully human, just as He is fully God. Did His followers understand? Did they care?

His following words might form a prayer for when we are faced with terrible trials. He questioned whether or not He should pray that His heavenly Father would save Him from this hour. How can we know the Father’s will when we face abuse, oppression, or rejection; when our hearts are troubled?

As a child I was taught that the Christian life is J.O.Y. meaning Jesus comes first, others second and myself last. Was this exemplified in Jesus’ sacrificial life? When we claim to follow Him, what will be the cost? Do I consider it a sacrifice to give Jesus my will, my time, my energy, my love? Will I render to Caesar that which is Caesar, but to God the things that are God’s? Can I love enough to give all my goods to the poor? Do I care about others within the family of God enough to restore them gently to fellowship when they have fallen?

I have discovered that when my heart is troubled the greatest panacea for healing is to encourage someone else, to draw alongside them and be, as someone wisely said “the only Jesus they may ever see”. What a challenge! This actually puts into practise what Paul experienced. He taught the Corinthian church to comfort others with the comfort with which God had comforted them (2 Corinthians 1:3).

Having a correct understanding of God brings me everlasting joy! My heart cannot remain troubled when I understand He has a plan for my life, one which may allow for moments of suffering, alienation or fear. He has promised He will not allow us to suffer anything beyond our ability to bear it, with His grace, in His miraculous strength! When we sing “Victory in Jesus” do we really mean it?

Reflection:

To struggle is human, to be victorious is Divine! In a sense we have the advantages of both, in that the Holy Spirit indwells the children of God, giving us all we need to endure in the moment. Are we willing to die to self, as our Lord and Saviour did, in order to see others enter into the family of God? Would this trouble your heart, or heal it?

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

I Have Seen Your Tears

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2 Kings 20:5

Weeping is for a season, the Psalmist suggests, but morning brings joy (Psalm 30:5). Why is it then that for many people morning never seems to come? Tears and sorrow seem to last forever! Does God really see our tears?

Tears are a marvellous release of tension. However, some people fear that crying will make them vulnerable. There is some truth to that, but the fact is confronting one’s feelings makes it easier to move forward in life. Actual breaking down into tears may help us to let go of baggage, the beginning of healing. A Jewish proverb tells us “What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul.”

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

There are many reasons for tears – tears of intercession, like King Josiah shed when he realized God’s wrath would fall upon his disobedient people (2 Kings 22:19). God’s people wept for release from slavery in Egypt. Hannah wept before the Lord as she asked for a child (1 Samuel 1:7, 10-15). The woman pouring ointment over the feet of Jesus, wept with tears of love as she kissed His feet. (Luke 7:37ff). Those who pray with tears over the lost, “Go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him!” What a promise! (Psalm 126:6).

Implying that God is attentive to every detail of our lives, the Psalmist prays that God will record his lament, by listing his tears on a scroll. KJV says “Put my tears in Your bottle” (Psalm 56:8). Why is this important? Tears are to be remembered. There are lessons to be learned as we weep. We identify ourselves with the sufferings of Jesus Christ when we weep. Our shame is taken away when we weep over our sins. We release ourselves into the exquisite comfort of God’s love as we sorrow in our disappointment, hurt or loneliness.

As we look at scripture we notice that whether a nation or an individual is suffering, throughout history God has seen their tears. Whatever it takes our Father provides, so that we can be His representatives here on earth. In the Millennial Kingdom we read both death and tears will vanish. “The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8). “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order has passed way” (Revelation 21:4). Until that time, the Holy Spirit will sustain us in our griefs and sorrows by His gentle presence. God does not just see our tears but goes to the utmost to relieve them. Praise the Lord for the fullness of joy when it does come through our Father’s miraculous intervention.

Reflection:

How does it comfort you to know God sees your tears? Does that evoke any other feelings?

Are you uncomfortable when others weep in your presence? If so – why?

Since God allows us to cry in His presence, how might we bring comfort to those who are sad?

by Marilyn Daniels (marilyndaniels.net)

Devotional

Why?

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reflections on Job

“Why” is a little three-lettered word that sometimes gets us into trouble. Children sometimes exasperate their elders as they use it to learn about the world around them. If we question the established order of things, as adults, we may irritate others. Sometimes it is a word used when we fall into desperate circumstances. Often we question God with “Why?” when things are hard to understand, such as natural disasters, or the death of a loved one or a pandemic!

God understands our query more than we know. He too might ask “Why” questions. As His people wandered away from His goodness, His will and His ways, we might wonder why? However, an omniscient God knows all. He knows the end from the beginning. Why? Because He is God. Look at God’s declaration to Isaiah:

“I am God and there is no other [god]!

I am God and there is none like Me!

I make known the end from the beginning!

I say: My purpose will stand! And

I will do all that I please” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

Why then does God allow trouble and violence and death? Job is the Bible character outstanding for his suffering. Yet he was a man described by God Himself, as blameless. From this we learn that trouble does not always perform as a punishment in our lives. Yes – there are consequences for our poor choices, but what did this blameless man learn from his woeful experience?

He did ask “Why” questions: “Why have You made me Your target?” (Job 7:20).

“Why did You bring me out of my mother’s womb?” (Job 10:18).

It seems Job’s faith passed the test because he concludes:

“I could only plead with my Judge for mercy” (Job 9:15).

“Can anyone teach knowledge to God, since He judges even the highest?” (Job 21:22).

“In His hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind (Job 12:10).

“To God belong wisdom and power, counsel and understanding are His…..He pours contempt of the nobles

and disarms the mighty…..He deprives the leaders of the earth of their reason” (Job 12:13, 21, 24).

Reflection:

These reflections may not be encouraging, but Job gives us some very beautiful and up-lifting reasons to trust in God. “He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 32:10).

“The fear [reverence] of the Lord – that is wisdom and to shun evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).

Job longed for those days “When I was in my prime…God’s intimate friendship blessed my house!” (Job 29:4). However, Job also looks to the future “I know that my Redeemer lives…and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God!…How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27).

Does your knowledge of God, your experience of His mercy and His loving faithfulness prompt this same response when you face sorrow and struggles, when you ask “Why?”

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

Would My Love Be Enough?

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1 John 4

A woman knelt by her bed to declare her love for God. She was very thankful for all her many blessings and after a short prayer of praise was ready to rise to meet the day. However, the Lord had a question for her. If all this was taken away from you, would My love be enough?

For those of us blessed to have a love-relationship with God, that question bears some consideration. What expectations do we have? What comprises a love relationship? Is our love for God based on our feelings or on our blessings, or does it emanate from respect and trust, knowledge and truth?

The Apostle John had a unique relationship with the Lord Jesus. He was one of the inner circle, one of three disciples who were chosen to be with Jesus on a couple of significant occasions. The last one was when Jesus asked John and James and Peter to watch with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. He claimed to be the disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23).

Years later John wrote about love in a short letter written to his “little children” (2:1,18), children in the faith. He knew all too well how weak human love is. His had failed Jesus in the desperation of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:40, 43). His frail humanity took over and he fell asleep just when Jesus needed him most. When we claim to love God would we be ready, willing and able to watch with Him one hour?

The interesting thing about John’s understanding of love is his discovery that real love exists within the Godhead. “We know and rely on the love God has for us ”because God is love”. It is the very essence of His being. Our love is acquired, learned. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:16. 19).

The question prompted by the Holy Spirit and faced by the woman in her devotions asked if she believed her love for God was impacted by circumstance or character. Is God’s love enough for any situation? We have a great Biblical example in the life of Job. Wealth and health were taken away; he even lost his family. Left to scrape his boils with a broken piece of a clay pot, what did Job know about God? He had a support network that was useless. His wife urged him to “Curse God and die” (1:9). One of his friends questioned the purity of his heart (8:6). Another suggested that if he put away his sin there would be hope (11:14,18).

It’s no wonder Job was seen as blameless before God (Job 1:1)! His answers to his friends indicated complete trust. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (Job 13:15). He prayed with hope “My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; You [God] will cover over my sin” (Job 14:17). His faith was secure in the knowledge that “my Redeemer lives…that in the end…. I will see God….with my own eyes…..How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). Isn’t that heart-yearning born out of the security Job knew in his relationship with God?

Reflection:

When everything was stripped away, this wealthy man found the love of God was enough to meet the adversity of his circumstances. “You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit” (Job 10:12). At the moment of writing, our world is in a global crisis with the pandemic of COVID-19. Many of those everyday comforts we take so much for granted have been stripped away. It is fascinating to see the differing responses to what God has allowed in our world today. What is your response? Do we question God’s love? Do we trust His plan to work all things for our good? (Romans 8:28).

Devotional · Uncategorized

The Haves and Have-nots

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Job 1:21

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).

Reflection:

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

4:19)

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.

Devotional · Uncategorized

This Sickness

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John 11:1-14

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Reflection:

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

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

Do we truly understand the God we say we worship?

Devotional · Uncategorized

God’s Compassion

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Psalm 116:5-9

Our Life Group had been praying for a woman who has been in a coma for 2 years. What her family have endured during that time can never be told. But I was reminded of the verse that in the King James speaks of “bowels of compassion” – describing the depth of God’s interest in our lives. He calls us to emulate Him by our compassionate hearts, bowels of mercies, heartfelt compassion and other phrases descriptive in various versions of the Bible, of God’s generous nature.

This family is content to let their loved one linger on, but there are many today who would say it is a useless life, one that should be ended. As Christians we believe that matters of life and death rest in the hands of Almighty God – the God of all compassion (Psalm 116:5). On what grounds would a human being decide who should live and who should die; is that decision based on the diagnosis of a terminal or incurable Illness? Many, for example, would agree that ALS is a reason to end life, yet the ‘genius’ of our age, Stephen Hawking, continued to dazzle the world with his scientific mind for nearly 50 years, in spite of the fact he could not speak and was totally helpless to care for himself.

Our generation has been given so much knowledge that we face choices not faced by those who have gone before us. Should we pull the plug, for example and when? Well in days gone by there had been no plug to pull. Now we should be like gods – that very desire which caused Satan to be cast out of heaven has been fulfilled. God allowed man to have a peek into some of the deeper concerns regarding running the universe. If we misuse the knowledge we have now, what eternal damage might be done when we appropriate choices that still belong to God?

In the case of the lady and others like her in coma, how can we see God’s compassion at work? Perhaps we cannot, but her family still wait in hope and everyone will agree that hope is a wonderful thing! It turns bitter into sweet. We learn through our trials that God’s presence and strength are sufficient day by day. Only in truly difficult circumstances can we know the exquisite rest that comes when our hearts trust in His compassion. We might even marvel at the wisdom that is keeping her alive, without contributing to her community of family and friends.

Reflection:

It’s within the nature of man to want to know, but we cannot invent answers to a faith that trusts in the all-wise compassions of the Divine being whose ways often present us with unsolvable (by our finite wisdom) mysteries. In this we must let God be God.

Is it through the eyes of faith that we see the compassion of God at work in difficult circumstances?

Visit me at: http://www.marilyndaniels.net