Devotionals by Marilyn Daniels. Check back every week for a new posting...
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 20, 2021 at 8:10 PM||comments ()|
Who qualifies to address God as ‘My Father’? First of all, the Bible tells us that God has only one begotten Son (John 3:16). He is called that because His birth was generated by the Holy Spirit, making Him the one and only unique God-man (Matthew 1:20). There are however other children of God, who have been adopted into His Holy family. These are born of water and the Spirit (John 3:5), regenerated from the sinful state which prohibited being part of God’s family. As humans who inherited the sinful nature of Adam, peopleall have been invited by God’s Spirit to join the family by believing and receiving grace and mercy from the Father, through His Son Jesus Christ (Luke 5:32).
Now the Father intentionally brings up His children to be representatives of His character. Scripture lays out what that looks like as we get glimpses of God’s love and wrath, His wisdom and faithfulness, His pure and forgiving heart. The life of Jesus is “the exact representation of God’s being”. There are glimpses of Godliness among those who follow Jesus Christ, but since His life on earth ended, there has been no other about whom it could be said “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3).
Yet Jesus taught His disciples to call upon “Our Father who is in heaven” with the confidence that if we ask anything in His [Jesus’] name we will receive it (John 16:24). Now let us be clear….disciples are those who are also intentional about their relationship with the Father. It isn’t just to escape hell fire that people ask Jesus into their hearts. It is with the vision of what a glorious thing it is to be adopted into God’s family, to “belong”, and to serve Him.
Paul knew all about that when he was saved from a life of conscientious objecting to Christ, to becoming a child of God through belief in Jesus, himself. He wrote that God “predestined us to be adopted as His sons, through Jesus Christ, in accordance to His pleasure and will (Ephesians 1:5). This sounds a bit like the Apostle John who wrote that “to all who received Him [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He [the Father] gave the right to become children of God – children born, not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:12-13). How much do we work towards becoming like Jesus, then, once we claim to be children of God? His life is the template for us in the twenty-first century, is it not?
It is very kind of our Father not to leave us to struggle on our own. We have the example of Jesus , but we also have the indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by the Father to teach and to guide (John 14:16, 26). We know that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man/woman of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Training takes discipline and so our Father disciplines those He loves, and even punishes us when we sin (Hebrews 12:6). The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, “it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). It is the Father’s will that the Prince of Peace rules in our hearts. Therefore we are called to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace!” (Colossians 3:15). What a message for today!
I am so thankful to know God as my heavenly Father. He can be trusted to keep His word, whether it be warnings of judgment, or promises of answered prayer with blessings. His love surpasses anything on the human level because it is not dependant upon my performance. And knowing I am in right relationship with Him brings exquisite peace!
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 13, 2021 at 7:45 PM||comments ()|
1 Corinthians 10:13
The question arose in our Bible study: “What if I ask God for something that isn’t good for me and He gives it to me?”*1 Such a question gives rise to more. “Is God the author of evil?”*2 “Does God ever test us?”*3
The second question requires an answer first. Is God the author of evil? Scripture holds answers for us. James 1:13 tells us “God cannot be tempted by evil and He, Himself, does not tempt anyone”. Jesus’ temptation in the desert was clearly from Satan (Matthew 4). When God’s judgment [calamity, disaster] falls, many would call that an evil, but it is not morally wrong to punish sin. To understand the moral nature of God, we need to know that sin is not a created thing, but rather our response to circumstance, the lack of moral perfection in a fallen creature.
How would it be possible to trust a God who is the author of confusion, One who wavers from one decision to another, One who possibly lies? Paul assures us “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The arch-enemy of God is known to be the Father of lies. Jesus gives us a bio on the devil – a murderer from the beginning, in whom there is no truth (John 8:44). On the other hand scripture defines the character of God. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and then not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). Perhaps we should consider – if God warned of judgment for sin and did not perform it, could we trust His word?
This gives rise to another question. “Does God mean what He says?” We know Adam and Eve fell from grace when they questioned God’s word. Satan helped them: “Did God really say….?” (Genesis 3:1). We need to be careful as we read scripture not to question what God has said. That attitude determines if we are indeed people of faith.
Another question that sometimes gives rise to fear is “Does God ever test us?” Of course He does. The Psalmist prayed: “Test me, O Lord, and try me; examine my heart and my mind” (Psalm 26:2). Perhaps that seems like quite a bold prayer. That creates a transparent relationship between us and God so that we can/will keep short accounts when we sin. Most of us have things in our lives we wouldn’t want spread across the news, but God Almighty already knows these things. Does that strike fear into our innermost being, or do we trust His mercy and His grace? Job knew what it meant to be tested and praised God that “When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Back to our first question. Will God give us things that are not good for us? It may seem so on the surface, but underneath are the Everlasting Arms. Do we trust Him completely to bring good out of difficult situations. What determines whether something is good for us – our comfort, our convenience, our success?…and the list goes on. What are the lessons we learn during those times of testing? Would we have learned to trust Him under happier circumstances? In the end we can trust God to give us what we need.
What exquisite joy - knowing He never leaves us or forsakes us! And – we have His promise for those times when we may even be tempted: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man”. Is there any comfort in knowing others have gone through similar circumstances and come out on the other side glorifying God?....Paul continues “And God is faithful! He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Faith or fear? Which defines your earthly pilgrimage? “There is no fear in love – perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). However, there is another implication in the word fear. People who truly fear God [respect, honour, glorify God] know His Holy Word is to be trusted. They know they are accepted by His loving heart, warts and all. People who live in fear of judgment don’t understand the amazing character of our Sovereign Lord. Even in failure, God gives us hope. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). His faithfulness is the cornerstone of our Christian faith, and casts out fear. When things get tough do we have the right to accuse God of bringing evil into our lives?*2 Are we afraid we may not pass the test?*3 Or, will we celebrate the goodness of God, which equips us for victory?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 6, 2021 at 8:15 PM||comments ()|
Following a series of personal calamities, Handel was encouraged, at the very point of giving up, by reading Charles Jennen’s libretto, which included scripture. Inspired by prophecy as well as by Christ’s life, Handel was moved to begin again. When he wrote “Messiah” no one could foresee its popularity over centuries of time.
When first played it blessed King George 2 so greatly that he stood during the Hallelujah chorus, recognizing Christ as King of Kings, a tradition followed to this day. This Messiah gathered the lambs in His arms, a picture of God’s caring and protection. Therefore we see this scripture engaging men of fame and power – a noted musician as well as the king. Most men might not acknowledge their need of a shepherd’s care, but these men acknowledged their personal need of God to guide them, to comfort them, as though they were His lambs.
Handel must have been reading: “He gathers His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart” (Isaiah 40:11). What a tender picture of God sustaining, providing for, and protecting His sheep. Those who are most vulnerable, the marginalized, the very young and very old are held close to His heart! We cannot forget that Jesus, Himself, tenderly took little children in His arms to bless them (Mark 10:16). During his own suffering was this Handel’s experience of God?
The Bible tells us many things about God’s arms. His power is demonstrated by the strength of His arms and hands (Deuteronomy 3:24), a strength visible among the nations. His arms are holy, the source of salvation (Isaiah 52:10). The Psalmist concurs when he writes “Sing to the Lord….for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him!” (Psalm 98:1).
God’s arms are everlasting. How many people have found comfort in verses written so long ago by Moses? “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). Through generations of human history God remains the same, tender and loving to all who will receive Him.
More than once the question is asked in scripture whether or not the Lord’s arm is too short to save His people? (Numbers 11:23, Isaiah 50:2). Notice it is God who is proactive, stretching out His arm to save the Israelites on different occasions, as no other god had done before (Deuteronomy 4:34).
Perhaps we might emulate God’s example as we meet people today. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit we are equipped to bear His love towards those who are hurting, and those who struggle to understand God. Will His gentle Spirit working in and through us give occasion for us to proclaim the strong and yet tender arm of God to those in need?
Have you ever had occasion to depend upon an arm to help you get up or to walk? How often when we are grieving does a gentle arm around the shoulders bring us comfort. Arms were also designed by God as messengers of love. Imagine as you draw close to someone in trouble how valuable your arm is to them. Let your arms be God’s arms to others in need.
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on May 30, 2021 at 7:50 PM||comments ()|
1 Corinthians 10:13
Do you always recognize when you have been seized by temptation? Satan is subtle. We know how Job was tempted because we read in scripture God permitted Satan to submit him to extraordinary testing. (Job 1:6-12) Everything was taken away from this wealthy man, his possessions, his family and eventually his health. God knew His man! With confidence He permitted this, with only one restriction – Satan could not take Job’s life.
David was tempted on different occasions. In a cave, hidden from his mortal enemy, David could have taken Saul’s life, but he opted to trust God with his own life and future by allowing the King to go free (1 Samuel 24). He is famous for his failure with Bathsheba, but even worse perhaps than that, was when he succumbed to the thought he should take a census throughout his nation (2 Samuel 24:1). Sometimes we ourselves confuse the voice of God with the voice of Satan. Hindsight is always clearer. As David looked back he repented, confessing his sin before God. However, there was a penalty. The consequence of his wrong choice cost 70,000 people their lives, by means of the plague (2 Samuel 24:15)
Why did the man who bravely stood before Goliath in the name of the Lord, fail to remember this Holy One was the source of his strength? Why did he need to count the strength of man-power in his army? We may never know the answer to those specific questions, but what we might learn from David’s experience is how important it is to keep our eyes fixed on God.
Seeking Him, His presence moment by moment, His will for each day, His wisdom and discernment, will give us the courage we need when Satan looks for a weakness in our armour. Knowing our weaknesses is a preventative. Do you know where and when you are most vulnerable? What do you do to prevent Satan getting a toehold in these areas? Denial is the enemy of our faith.
God promises the faithful: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man, and God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear. But when you are tempted He will also provide a way out, so that you can stand up under it.”
This was true so often, in David’s case. God sent people to confront David when he sinned because God wanted him to be pure in heart. Joab, general of his army, was horrified at his suggestion to take a census and warned him of the evils (2 Samuel 24:3). Nathan confronted David regarding his sexual sin (2 Samuel 7). Eventually David was conscience-stricken and regretted bitterly the choices he had made.
Why did David listen to his mentors? Because he recognized he had displeased God.
Do we pause to thank God for bringing folks into our lives who have the courage to confront us so that our fellowship with God is not destroyed?
The question for us, as we face temptation today, must be “Is this pleasing to God?” Does it really matter?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on May 23, 2021 at 6:35 PM||comments ()|
Isaiah 32 John 16:31-33 KJV
All around us the world is changing. Even as I write, one can see the possibility of another great world war looming before us as nation aggravates nation. Nature rises up against mankind as floods or hurricanes, earthquakes or mudslides take the lives of hundreds of people. Closer to home, relationships fracture so easily. Where is the glue that holds things together as spouses part, and children run from home? Even friendship has taken on a new dimension, because isolation reigns in developed countries.
Thousands of years ago life also seemed very harsh. Nations were at war. The prevailing atmosphere was one of gloom, even hopelessness. However, the ancients were given a vision of a better world where each man would be as strong as a refuge from the storm. There would be a sense of protection, like the shadow of a rock in a thirsty land. Those who had been blind would see; the deaf would hear. Minds would be healed, enabling them to know and understand. Even those with speech difficulties would be fluent and clear (Isaiah 32).
Written as prophecy, Isaiah was giving Israel a message from the Lord about Messiah and His Kingdom (Isaiah 32). What an ideal all of the above represents. It will come to pass only when the King reigns in righteousness. Would it be stretching truth too far to suppose that if the “King” (Jesus) truly reigned in the hearts of His people today the world would be a different place? At least we know that “the fool would no longer be called noble, nor the scoundrel be highly respected” (Isaiah 32:4-5).
Isaiah depicts the wasteland of a society that makes up evil schemes, and destroys the weak with lies, leaving them hungry and thirsty, without compassion. Complacency will give way to trembling fear and even mourning in sackcloth. The fortress, and the citadel will become a wasteland until…!
“Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high” (Isaiah 32:15). There is hope! Picture justice dwelling in a desert which was produced by the folly of man. Now righteousness would live in a fertile field. What makes the difference? It is the fruit of righteousness.
In our world today it might seem that many principles treasured by Godly people, are being violated by the opinions of man. For example, mankind, without seeing ahead, claims to be more compassionate than God. Did God really say “Come out from among them and be separate”? (2 Corinthians 6:17). What does this mean? In a day when God’s Word is devalued, perhaps it means we should be bold enough to stand for our belief in Biblical truth. We are different from the world in our thoughts toward God and man. Compassion might take the form of tough-love. When will we allow our “rights” as believers to be taken away, discredited? Will we take a firm stand for righteousness?
Jesus warned His disciples that they would be scattered. It’s easier to be strong when you are joined together. Perhaps this is why Jesus taught there must be unity in the faith (John 17:20-23). Paul reinforced Jesus’ teaching by addressing unity in the church (Ephesians 4:13). Isaiah leaves us with cause for good cheer. He writes that the fruit of righteousness will be peace (32:17). Within our own spirits the possibility of peace in the midst of life’s storms comes to us when the righteousness of Christ rules in our lives.
Jesus promised His disciples they would have trouble in this world. We don’t want to think about that. However, He links trouble to an experience of His peace….”So that in Me you may have peace” (John 16:33). Are we willing to pay the price for His peace? Our confidence comes from the reality of His resurrection when He proved to the world there is greater life beyond what we know and experience here! Will we be a part of His millennial kingdom? Take heart! “Be of Good cheer!” (KJV) “I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
“The effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever” (Isaiah 32:17)
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on May 15, 2021 at 1:20 PM||comments ()|
It is believed he was born sometime between 2,000 – 1,500 BC. He was the apple of his mother’s eye, but had to compete for his father’s favour with his older half-brother. He grew up with significant tensions in his home, sibling rivalries exacerbated by competition between the mothers of two sons. Add to this that when a young teenager, his father felt led by God to sacrifice him on an altar and we have all that is needed for making one very insecure and perhaps rebellious son.
As God so often did, in the Old Testament, and perhaps even today, He gave people what they asked for. However, it took time! Abram needed a son and heir. Sarah longed to bear his child. They were visited by the angel of the Lord who promised them the desire of their hearts. However, they still had to wait – another 25 years must have seemed interminable considering their age when the promise was first given. Belief faltered. Sarah laughed at the idea and so Abraham gave in to her suggestion that they practise the custom of the day, since it seemed God had made no way for them to share a child, since she was beyond child-bearing age.
And so, her maid-servant Hagar bore Abraham’s child. There is no indication that Ishmael was ever adopted by Sarah as originally intended. Eventually he was banned from the home where he had enjoyed being the son of a wealthy patriarch, sent to make his home and to find his way among desert nomads. His mother wept.
Isaac was the son of promise. God clearly told Abraham that Isaac would be born of Sarah for the purpose of His eternal covenant continuing down his ancestral line (Genesis 17:19). As a baby Isaac was circumcised, the sign of that covenant relationship (Genesis 21:4). God ordained his name (Genesis 17:19), to signify the laughter and joy his miraculous birth would bring.
Isaac never seemed to have much control over major events in his life. He was nearly 30 when his father’s servant went to find him a wife. Thankfully Eliezer was a man of prayer (Genesis 24:12-14). Isaac had grown up a witness to his father’s faith in God. When did that faith become his own? Was it when the voice of God thundered from the heavens at the moment of his pending sacrifice? Was it when his mother died and he needed to be comforted? We know that Isaac built an altar at one point in his life, where he called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 26:25).
Rebekah willingly returned with Eliezer to become Isaac’s wife. After many barren years Isaac prayed for a child and she bore twins, Jacob and Esau renowned as totally different characters. As his father had done before him, Isaac feared the king of the Philistines so lied, saying Rebekah was his sister, in case they would kill him to get her.
Still God blessed him as a successful farmer (Genesis 26:12-13), and with long life. Even after he blessed his sons, thinking he was dying, Isaac lived another 43 years (Genesis 27:2, 35:28). In his old age Isaac became blind. Instigated by a suggestion from his Mother, Jacob was able to use this blindness to trick Isaac into giving him the blessing that rightly belonged to his older twin Esau. Many years later they reconciled and together they buried their father at the age of 180.
To all intense and purposes, Isaac was a very ordinary man. He survived a tumultuous childhood. All along the way he was led by others, his mother, his father, his wife and sons. Even Abimelech directed where he lived. He prospered from the land which he faithfully cultivated. Perhaps his one claim to fame was that God entrusted the covenantal promises to him that linked him to Abraham and Jacob, in the development of the nation of Israel.
The tale of three women – Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah! What characteristic did they all share? Was their contribution to family life a positive or negative one? What impact did each have on their husbands and sons? How would you determine who truly believed in God? Compare yourself to each of these women – what can you learn? Is there a woman whose life of faith has made a difference to your spiritual journey?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on May 9, 2021 at 7:45 PM||comments ()|
1 Samuel 3 (1:10-18, 20)
Most of us will be familiar with Hannah’s story. One of Elkanah’s two wives, she was favoured by her husband, but sadly was barren. Desperate for a child, she sought the Lord with tears. It is significant to the story that she went to the source, the only One who could help her. She worshiped God in the Sanctuary at Shiloh, the religious centre of Israel until they lost the ark of the covenant to the Philistines. These are clues that Hannah was a Godly woman.
In due time God gave Hannah a son. She kept the baby with her for the first few years, but true to the vow she had made, she presented the child to the Lord after he was weaned, when he was about 3 years old. At that time she left him, to be brought up for service to God (1 Samuel 1:22).
What sort of impact did this sudden wrenching away from his mother have on little Samuel? We are only told that he ministered before the Lord, under Eli the priest (1 Samuel 2:11). Since we read Samuel wore the linen ephod when he was ministering before the Lord (2:18) we must assume he had been consecrated before the Lord. Now this seemed to be Eli’s second chance. His own sons were a grave disappointment, wicked men with no regard for the Lord (:12). Although they were priests according to their Aaronic lineage, they treated their responsibilities with contempt and then ignored their father’s rebuke.
Jewish history records that Eli wore two crowns; he was both priest and judge, becoming Judge after the death of Samson. He held that position for 40 years until his tragic death at the age of 98. Eventually Samuel succeeded him as judge. Both his people and the child Samuel warmed to Eli’s loving nature. Perhaps he erred with his sons because he was too soft.
Meanwhile God made His purpose clear to Samuel. We are not told how old he was when God called him, but this calling confirmed the role for which God had prepared him. The ground was laid at the knee of a Godly mother who taught him he was an answer to her prayers, that indeed God is faithful to hear our every cry and to answer in the best possible way! Continuing with our story - Three times the boy answered the voice waking him from sleep: “Here am I”. The third time he ran in to see if Eli had called, the old man recognized God was calling Samuel and instructed him how to answer. “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (3:9).
“Speak Lord!” What anticipation! With expectancy this young lad waited on God. How often do we pause in the midst of our busy lives to hear what God has to say? Did this child really believe that God had a message for him? Who was he? Nobody special really, and just a kid. If God gave a young person a message for us would we accept that it came from God? How many ways would we test it first? Do we believe that God speaks to ordinary people like you and me today?
Clearly there are lessons to be learned from Samuel’s life. The boy had a deep respect for his mother’s faith as well as that of his teacher. He was not sheltered from the evil influence of Eli’s sons, but rather learned as he watched them, to abhor that which was evil. When God calls we may mistake His voice for that of someone else, as Samuel did. Usually God confirms His call by repeating it, sometimes by another person’s confirmation. Eli recognized God was trying to get Samuel’s attention. In a day when visions from God were rare, God entrusted this boy with a terrible message of the judgment about to fall on Eli and his sons.
Which do we most resemble, Hannah, Eli, Eli’s sons or Samuel? More personally, have we answered the Lord’s call with “Here am I”? Are we afraid of consecrating our lives to Him? The question lingering in my mind is whether or not I want to hear from God? And if so, why do I not spend more time listening for His voice?
Speak, Lord, in the stillness, speak your word to me; hushed my heart to listen in expectancy.
Speak, O gracious Master, in this quiet hour; let me see your face, Lord, feel your touch of power.
For the words you give me they are life indeed; living bread from heaven, now my spirit feed.
Speak, your servant listens, be not silent, Lord; let me know your presence; let your voice be heard.
Fill me with the knowledge of your glorious will; all your own good pleasure in my life fulfil.
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on May 2, 2021 at 9:00 PM||comments ()|
In Bible study one day a very interesting statement was made to the effect that we have to activate the Holy Spirit in order to see His fruit in our lives. True or false? How might one go about activating the Holy Spirit?
A thought occurred to me that we cannot earn our salvation by anything we do. Neither do we earn the fruit of the Spirit. Paul under inspiration of that very same Spirit, the Divine third person of the Godhead, tells us the fruit of the Spirit is. It is there for us; once we surrender to the leading of the Holy Spirit the seed planted by the Holy Spirit germinates, eventually producing fruit.
Yielding doesn’t come naturally to human beings. So many life situations trigger a natural urge to control; it may be subtle. To give up striving for sanctification, for perfection, even for righteousness puts us exactly where God wants us to be. Then, and only then, can we see His mighty hands at work, reshaping us into the image of Christ, demonstrating His power to make us loving, joyful, peaceable and so forth (Galatians 5:22-23). Have you ever marvelled to find you are a more patient, gentler type of person since you became a child of God? What brought about that change?
When we reject the forgiveness, the freedom, and the faith offered to us by the Holy Spirit we grieve God. He “quickens” those who are dead in trespasses and in sins, with a Holy jolt that activates you and me to a conscious awareness of our need for Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1 & 5). There is no eternal hope outside of accepting these promptings by the Holy Spirit! It is also a very dangerous thing to suppose we, the created ones, might in any way manipulate God the Creator into a fast fix.
You see, the fruit of the Spirit developing from the flower of your salvation, is exactly that – something derived from the power of the root, from the essence of all that is essentially Godly. Paul has just contrasted the acts of our sinful nature (Ephesians 5:19-21) with the pure realities of being controlled, directed, empowered by the Holy Spirit, living in us. He knows our needs better than we know ourselves. His perfect nature covers our filthy rags with the righteousness of Christ! (Isaiah 64:6).
Facing His crucifixion, Jesus comforted His disciples with a very important promise. He would not be a visible presence in their lives, but He would send the Holy Spirit, not just for them, but for all of His followers down through centuries of time. The characteristics of God would flow into our lives as we turn our thoughts towards the Lord Jesus Christ. “Fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). It is Christ alone who saves and sanctifies and fills us with the capacity to be what God wants us to be! Hallelujah!
It is Satan’s ploy to make us think we have any part to play as we live the Christian life. It is terribly humbling to understand I am nothing, but God is everything. Yet we know that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13). The thrill comes when we recognize that God has been working in and through us to accomplish His eternal purpose and that we see this without any anxious striving on our part! That of course does not mean we throw out living according to Biblical principles, but God gets the glory for enabling us to do so!
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on April 25, 2021 at 5:00 PM||comments ()|
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).
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!
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on April 18, 2021 at 6:00 PM||comments ()|
In olden days as men marched into war they kept their eyes open for the standard which was a visual signal for where you were to go. The standard-bearer would be close to the leader, providing a rallying point. If anything happened to the standard-bearer and he went down, the whole battle could be lost, since the army would be without direction. If the enemy captured your standard, the honour of the unit was lost.
Today believers are in a spiritual battle and God has given us a standard. The rally point is around God’s Word. It keeps us close to the leader, to our Heavenly Father. It brings the church together with one vision and purpose. Without this Holy book we wouldn’t know Jesus, who must be lifted up to draw all people to Himself. Why is that important?
Jesus’ life demonstrates the principles of spiritual warfare. In purity, faithfulness and love Jesus marches the troops forward, following Him who set the highest of all possible standards. We are to walk in the ways of truth, honour and kindness. We are equipped by God for the battle. First of all He motivates us through the indwelling Holy Spirit to have the right attitudes. Not too many people have gone to war loving their enemies, but Biblical principles clearly state we are to do just that (Matthew 5:44). This remarkable deviation from what is “human” makes a spectacular statement to a world filled with anger, hate and fear.
Following our Saviour’s example, God strengthens followers of Jesus to be joyful in the midst of adversity. Haven’t you noticed how contagious real joy is? People who are always venting over some disappointment, or complaining they haven’t been treated well, often make us nervous because we don’t know when they will begin to see us as their enemy. Joy isn’t about laughter, but it is a deep-seated satisfaction derived from being in the will of God, pleasing Him by our holy thoughts, our intentional choices, and our selflessness.
Selflessness does not mean we become a doormat, or that we succumb to abuse. It is comprised of the intentional deeds we do to help others, to lift them up physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Everyone can encourage those who have fallen. Jesus Himself said he came, not to heal those who are well, but those who are sick (Luke 5:31). Can we see the soul-sickness of those about us? What might we do to help?
Solomon taught “A soft answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1). Spiritual warfare is not for the purpose of gaining ground, but rather for giving grace. Paul taught “Do not take revenge….but leave room for God’s wrath….On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:19-20). Our Lord showed grace to His abusers as He cried from the cross “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Recognizing our own sinful state before we were saved by the love of Christ, provides us with a spirit of empathy. Surely all humans come to the foot of the cross equal in guilt and shame. The exquisite relief of God’s forgiveness must then become the catalyst for us to share His mercy and grace, even with those who are our enemies. Paul continued teaching the Roman church “…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good!” (12:21).