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)

Uncategorized

The Joy of the Lord

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Nehemiah 8:1-12

It had been a very long time since the Israelites had worshiped God, as a nation, in Jerusalem. In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews captive to Babylon. In 539 Cyrus overthrew Babylon and as was his custom , he encouraged expats to return to their homelands. Fifty thousand Jews returned under the leadership of Zerubbabel, to rebuild their temple, although it was not finished until more than 20 years later, under the reign of Darius.

Meanwhile Nehemiah was moved by God to return to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The book of Nehemiah reveals the heart of a man of prayer! Through opposition from within and without, he persevered , faithful to God’s calling upon his life. The nation was blessed by this one man and in our chapter we find them gathered, at last, to worship God. Ezra the priest brought the book of the law; in the spirit of renewal these people were once again touched by the words of God.

We would hardly think of rules and regulations as something worthy of worship, but it was so much more than that…the law demonstrated God’s love! How much He cared for every detail of each person’s life! How often is the God of the Old Testament seen as a God of wrath and yet He was so very longsuffering, faithful to His covenant of love! (Nehemiah 1:5). We find these same qualities in the God we worship today. How longsuffering is He with a church that is lukewarm, casual in its worship?

These people, coming out of loss, hardship and suffering had much to worship God for! They stood with hands raised towards heaven out of reverence for the scriptures Ezra was reading (Nehemiah 8:5). They stood for hours while the words of God were read and discussed. The Levites were eager to make sure they understood the law (:8). Then the people “bowed down and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (:6). As we lounge in padded seats with our coffee during church, how does our body language speak to God of our enthusiasm for His Word?

The Israelites were celebrating the privilege they had lost! Their hearts were deeply stirred! At last the joy of the Lord, described by Nehemiah himself, “is your strength” (:10)! Celebrate without grieving; he urged them not to weep (:9,10). This was a new season of joy. The time, which Solomon later referred to for weeping, had passed. Now it was time for “great joy” (:12, 17), to honour the greatness of their God, and all that He had done to restore them to fellowship with Himself!

Jesus came to restore our fellowship with God, sent by the Father in heaven to suffer and die on our behalf – yours and mine. As we celebrate Easter, Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection let us not forget that joy does not require the absence of pain. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

Reflection:

The Israelites had been disciplined by God who must remain true to His word. He had warned them repeatedly about their rebellious hearts, their unfaithfulness to Him as they turned to worship idols. Had they taken Him seriously? Do we today take God at His word? Why do we believe that a loving God will not also be just? He must be true to His character and so, let us question if it is possible we stand at the edge of a precipice, inviting His discipline, even His wrath, by the way we treat His law? His goal is to give us joy born out of freedom from sin! It is our joy that is contagious as we seek to win others to our Lord Jesus Christ. The early church welcomed the gospel message with great joy (1 Thessalonians 1:6). It is joy in the Lord which keeps us from sin.

Perhaps you would like to do a personal study on the number of situations in which joy is mentioned in both Old and New Testaments!

by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)

Devotional

Surrender?

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1 Corinthians 13:3

A pastor recently asked the question “What are you holding onto that you won’t surrender?” That question caused me to examine my heart. Is there anything I long for? Are there unfulfilled dreams? Do I covet more stuff? Am I discontented in relationships? Do I need to feel more in control of my life? What irks my spirit most?

For me I admit time, comfort and convenience are things I find hard to surrender sometimes. I am a creature of routine. Surprises are fun but many people as they age, cling to habits of a life-time. Where has that feeling of serendipity gone? As young people we sang:

All to Jesus I surrender; All to Him I freely give.

I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.”

Did our youth group really commit to that in everyday life? Looking back, God often brought the unexpected into my experience. Surrendered to Him, it was always good, even wonderfully fulfilling. Not that the experiences in themselves were necessarily positive, but I could always be positive that good would come out of them, through lessons learned.

The Apostle Paul talks about surrender. Hidden away in the most famous love chapter in the Bible the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write: “Though I surrender my body to the flames….” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Now under any circumstances that is not something most of us would want to do – it’s not on our list of expectations! Obviously it’s an extreme measure he is introducing to explain love….there is no sacrifice that we can make, even the death of our bodies, which is worth it, if we do not love.

Yet – there have been martyrs of the faith who have surrendered to the flames. We know that Paul, following his conversion, experienced death threats and attempts on his life. Daniel records the experience of his friends who ended up in a furnace so hot that those opening the door were overcome (Daniel 3:19-23). Notice Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not saved from the experience, but a visible presence stayed with them and in the end a heathen king gave glory to God for saving their lives.

Surrendering to the evil whims of others isn’t on our bucket list, but scripture is filled with examples of those who did. Read Hebrews Chapter 11. For the sake of bringing glory to God can we surrender to the unknowns that are bound to come in the year ahead? What is it that we are hoping for? Are we certain of things we cannot see? What is it that challenges our faith today?

Faith is all about surrender. “Without faith it is impossible to please God”. Anyone who comes to Him must believe that He has their best interests at heart! This amazing God has promised to reward those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6). Can you surrender your life to Him?

Reflection:

What will motivate our choices in the year ahead? It is the desire to be led by love?

If I give all I possess to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames, by have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3)

Who knows what might come out of our surrender to God?

I must ask how far I will go in order to surrender to what is right?

How may the fires of our trials and afflictions bring glory to God?

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net

Devotional

Praying With Tears

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Isaiah 25:8

Recently I was reminded of something I heard many years before – that we are not sinners because we commit sinful acts, but we commit sinful acts because we are sinners. This reflects back to the truth that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Jesus gave us hope when He claimed those who mourned would be blessed….not speaking of grieving over a loved one’s death, but rather grieving over one’s sinful disposition. Only then do we enter into the blessings of God’s Kingdom (Matthew 5:4).

John the Baptist began the theme of repentance prior to Jesus’ ministry, after 400 years of silence from God, warning that the Kingdom of God was at hand (Matthew 3:2). Following Jesus’ ascension Peter preached the gospel of repentance, launching this foundational truth of Christianity on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38). Jesus talked about repentance during His ministry, but we have some prophetic words from Him recorded by John in the Book of Revelation, when Jesus calls the seven churches to repent (Revelation 2 & 3)!

The Apostle Paul expands on the theme: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). David knew what it meant to repent so he wrote “weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). When the sincerity of our tears is assessed by God as genuine, there is an overwhelming joy in the restoration of our Father-child relationship!

Richard Foster believes that “tears are God’s way of helping us descend with the mind into the heart and there bow in perpetual adoration and worship” (Prayer, Page 41, italics mine). We really cannot worship in spirit and in truth while our hearts are separated from God by unconfessed sin. We worry about what people will think, so often try to hide our sins from those we know and love, but God knows everything. There is nowhere to hide from our eternal and infinite God (Psalm 139:7).

There might be a progression in our spiritual growth if we consider the fear of the Lord means holding Him in awe, in the deepest possible respect. Like Isaiah we might fall on our faces before this Majestic Being who is ruler of all, praying “Woe is me….my eyes have seen the King” (Isaiah 6:5). Having compared God with himself, Isaiah recognized that even as God’s prophet he was impure! As his tears fell the Lord raised him up, knowing the sincerity of his heart.

Isaiah knew a lot about tears. He wept on behalf of the obstinate, rebellious nation of Israel, but God assured him that one day, when death {separation from God] was swallowed up forever, the Sovereign Lord would wipe away all tears! What a glorious hope! (Isaiah 25:8).

Reflection:

Can you identify with the Psalmist who wrote: “My eyes shed streams of tears because Your law is not kept” (Psalm 119:136)?

Do you pray with tears over the sins of the world, or of the church, or even of your family?

Have you ever wept over your own sins? (Psalm 51:1-9)

Is your hope based on God’s promise that joy will come after tears of repentance? (Psalm 30:5)

by Marilyn Daniels

http://www.marilyndaniels.net