Devotionals by Marilyn Daniels. Check back every week for a new posting...
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on August 18, 2019 at 2:35 PM||comments (0)|
After years of teaching the Bible to adults, it seemed a daunting task to try to teach little children about Jesus. Why? In our sophisticated, developed world Jesus is no longer known. God is not recognized in our schools because we have become a nation with many gods. Although man’s imagination has gone wild, creating fanciful science fiction movies, how easy would it be to describe a spirit to kids today?
In Genesis we read “The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). As a child that captured my attention with thrilling mystery! God, who cannot be seen, was there at the dawn of creation! I was giddy with anticipation! What is that God really like?
Centuries later, because time does not restrict God as it does human beings, God revealed Himself. He took on a human body, specially made. We celebrate that body at Christmas time. Imagine! The God who inhabits the universe became a baby here on earth. How restricting is that? Ah – but God who is omnipresent (present everywhere), was not confined just in that baby’s body. He is everywhere; His spirit was not confined to the body of Jesus.
My curiosity increased as I read on! Mankind was made in the image of God. Why? What does that mean? God created human beings with the ability to think, so that we could have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3). This fellowship we call prayer…having conversations with God. The Bible tells us He hears us when we talk with Him and when we have problems, He even hears our cries.
When we hurt, the heart of God hurts, and like a father, He longs to help us. Part of being like God is that we have feelings. For example: We can love God because He first loves us. We can love our families, friends, and neighbours because God gave us feelings. We also feel sad when someone does something wrong, just as God does.
Each human being is made up of a visible body, but like God we have, within that body, our spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23). We are to keep ourselves pure, clean in body, mind and spirit. How can we do that? By knowing God – thinking like God, acting like Jesus.
We have a record of Jesus’ life in the Bible so that we know how to follow Him. He was kind and gentle with everyone, children and adults, people who were rich or poor, men and women, Jew and Gentile. Being like Jesus pleases God. How can we be like Jesus?...by asking Him to take control of our imaginations, our thoughts as well as our feelings, and our behaviour.
How does He do that? By putting the Holy Spirit inside of those who invite Him to take charge of their lives. I did this when I was a little girl and as a senior now, I can tell you Jesus has led me all the way. The Holy Spirit comforts me when I am sad, but He also makes me aware that when I sin I need to ask God to forgive me. Otherwise I feel out of fellowship with God. The Holy Spirit guides me in the choices I make, when I ask for His help. My life has been full of adventure because I have followed Jesus’ teachings, because I wanted my life to please God!
What fellowship have you enjoyed with God? Can anything break that fellowship?
When you say you follow Jesus, what does that look like to God and to others?
Keeping it simple, can you share Jesus with others?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on August 11, 2019 at 6:30 PM||comments (0)|
According to Luke’s records, there were many who wanted to follow Jesus, but that on their own terms. We read of 3 such people in Luke Chapter 9:57-62. Peter, on the other hand, voiced the commitment of the twelve disciples Jesus had hand-picked. “We have left everything to follow You” (Luke 18:28).
Apparently there were more than those 12 who actually followed Jesus. After rebuking those who wanted to follow Him when it was convenient, Jesus appointed many more to assist Him in His ministry. They were to go head of Him to prepare various Israeli towns for His coming. He commissioned them to heal the sick and to preach about the Kingdom of God (10:9).
Imagine the extent of this ministry …..72 people were appointed to go in pairs. They might expect everything they needed to be provided – food and accommodation (:7). They were to receive whatever food was set before them. Culturally this was important, since the Jews had very strict food laws. Much later this was confirmed in Peter’s life when he had a vision revealing to him that whatever God calls clean to eat, if quite acceptable (Acts 10:9-16).
Who were these people appointed by God? What was their mandate for ministry? They were to preach the truth about Jesus Christ and His kingdom. Peter identified those who know Jesus as a Royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9) In Old Testament terms the priesthood was very exclusive. Not so with followers of Jesus. One might expect the 12 Apostles with whose names we are very familiar, to be singled out for this responsibility, but no – this group was nameless.
Does that matter? Yes! The message was all about Jesus, not about men. So it is today. When we witness to others about faith in Jesus, it is to bring glory to God alone. We are just instruments in His hands; the outcome is up to God. We will be accountable to God for obedience to Jesus’ command to make disciples, but that follows conversion. Before conversion takes place our only responsibility is to point the way to Jesus and to let the Holy Spirit do the rest. If we have been appointed we must be true to our calling as representatives of God. If we are rejected by folks, it is really God they are rejecting (:16).
The 72 returned with joy! They had never had such an experience! Even the demons had responded to their message because they were authorized by Jesus to take control (:18)
When I was learning to witness as a Christian I thought that we were to win others to Christ. Lost on my young mind was the reality of the power that resides in His name! I assumed a responsibility that became too heavy; it was a burden God did not intend me to bear. Jesus said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” ( Matthew 11:30).
Now I can share my faith free from that burden, and instead approach folks with joy!
Are you weighed down with a responsibility that is not yours?
Can you let God be God, and you His instrument?
If you have been appointed by God do you believe He will equip you for the task?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on August 5, 2019 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
Previously I have referred to the verse where, with assurance, a suffering man relies on God’s wisdom. Job wrote “But..” …that big little word which forms a bridge between thoughts. “But He…” Who? God of course. The all-knowing, omniscient One.
Job goes on to indulge in the certainty that his strong reliance on God brought, while he sat on the ash heap nursing his broken body. This was not the way it was supposed to be. He was a wealthy man, but wealth does not ensure health. However, he was also a God-fearing man, one whom the Bible describes as blameless. Would to God each one of us could have that inscribed on our tombstones.
Among his family he was known as a man of prayer (Job 1:4). In his community he was respected for his wisdom as a man of faith. So wouldn’t we think God would bless him because his thoughts and labours pleased the Lord? Not so! As Job cursed the day he was born, he did not feel particularly blessed. He suffered real pain, along with the frustration of not understanding the way life was going.
However, Job was also wise. He had enough insight to see that God was testing him; for what reason he did not know, but he faced this test with the fortitude only experienced by a man or woman of God. Although he had followed in God’s steps (23:11), keeping to God’s way by obey God’s laws, right now the path ahead was in darkness. That darkness terrified him, but did not silence him (23:17).
He saw light at the end of the tunnel. “I will come forth as gold”. He believed God would judge him on the basis of his pure heart. In these words he claims innocence. He has not deliberately turned away from God. There had to be a deeper meaning to his suffering that he could comprehend. Though his friends tried to persuade him there were secret sins in his life, Job was adamant that his trial would prove them wrong.
In the end God raised him up and blessed him with sons and daughters, multiplying his flocks. Why did he suffer? We may not know the answer fully until we get to heaven, but many a person has been comforted by his steadfast belief in the God whose plans cannot be thwarted (42:1). Comparing himself to Almighty God, Job declared he was unworthy (40:2 & 4). He longed for the days when “God’s intimate friendship blessed my house” (29:4).
He trusted God who made him taste bitterness of soul (27:2) because he realized in this world man is born to trouble as the sparks certainly flew upward from a fire (5:7). Trouble mingles with blessings as a reality of life, so he rebuked his wife whose sage advice suggested he curse God and die (2:10). Instead Job comforted himself with the fact that God gave him life, showing him kindness and watching over his spirit (10:12). This was the God Job trusted knew his way. His famous words bring us hope to this day “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him” (13:15).
Job knew that God was fully aware of the path ahead of him, even though he couldn’t see where it was leading. Do we have that same level of trust when things don’t go the way we planned?...the way we expected?
He knew that if a man dies, he will live again (19:25-27). That then life will be glorious because in it we will see our Redeemer. This is a prophetic utterance because as yet Jesus had not come to redeem mankind from sin! There will be a physical resurrection of the body that so plagued Job, a body fully restored. At that moment His heart yearned within him for such a blessing!
Does your heart yearn for the time when you will be healed either physically or emotionally?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on July 28, 2019 at 6:10 PM||comments (0)|
These are the words of Jesus – His response to an earnest seeker. The young man was eager to keep the law; he had religiously done so since his youth. He approached Jesus reverently, falling to his knees and calling Him “good teacher”. Mark records that Jesus looked at him and loved him. There was instant rapport!
Perhaps this is one of the saddest stories in scripture. The young man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life (:17). Since his religion was so important to him, we might wonder why Jesus was so tough, so direct.
Often Jesus gave responses that are hard for us to understand. Note His query “Why do you call Me good?” In its absolute sense “good” was a word that referenced God’s character. Was Jesus reacting to this designation because He knew the young man really had no concept of His divine nature? “No one is good except God alone…”(:18)
This reminds me of Matthew’s record of the sheep and the goats on judgment day. Judging from external appearances a certain group of people had visited the sick, those in jail, fed the hungry etc. but Jesus responded to their claims of service very harshly. “Depart from me – you are cursed!”(Matthew 25:41).
Perhaps the answer lies in the simple truth that there is nothing anyone can do to inherit eternal life. The answer Jesus eventually gave was very revealing: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor” (:21). What was the passion of this young man’s heart? It seems it was his wealth. Jesus, knowing his heart, asked him to give up the most important thing in his life, but he could not. His face fell as he left Jesus.
There is uncertainty in our world today about what it means to be a Christian. Do we follow the rules, as this young man had? Are we religious, devoted to doing things for God? What is it that Jesus was trying to teach this young man and His disciples, who witnessed this scenario?
The answer is given by Jesus Himself. Matthew records His message, often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven….For where your treasure is there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
Jesus was interested in the heart, not the treasure. If we are truly able to call Him LORD, (good) we need to have surrendered all that we are and have, to His control. This the young man could not do.
Applying this scripture to ourselves are we willing to pray “Search me O God and see if there is any wicked way”(Psalm 139:23), anything lacking in my heart and life, as was identified by Jesus in this man’s life? Is there anything you and I treasure more than God’s will? Are we willing to sell all for Jesus’ sake?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on July 21, 2019 at 2:25 PM||comments (0)|
In days gone by preachers passionately warned sinners about the dangers of hell fire. Christians believed they needed to take their neighbours to church where they would hear the truth about heaven and hell. Today evangelism has become more of a personal thing – the testimony of a believer in word and deed, bearing witness to the reality of Jesus and His love. Seldom do we hear hell mentioned now, from the pulpit.
Hell (Sheol in Hebrew) was the place of the dead, described by many Old Testament scriptures. Figuratively it was a word used by the Jews to describe a place of extreme degradation and suffering. Three Greek words in the New Testament describe the after-life: Hades – Greek for Sheol – place of the dead: 2 Corinthians 15:55, Gehenna – a place of dreadful and destructive judgments, of retributive suffering, and Tartarus: a place of destruction, desolation and torment.
Modern thought argues against the reality of hell as an actual place of eternal torment on the grounds that a God of love wouldn’t, couldn’t consign anyone to such an eternal state. However, there are many scriptures which record the words of our Saviour, Himself, warning against specific judgment and wrath to come, a certain reward for rebellion and disobedience.
Although no formal declaration occurs, the Old Testament clearly identifies Sheol as the specific place where the wicked will be punished. “The wicked shall be turned into Sheol, and all the nations that forget God.” (Psalm 9:17) “The wicked in a moment go down into Sheol.” (Job 21:13)
The Lord Jesus clarifies the terms for us by describing the torments of hell. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell! (Matthew 10:28) “…will be thrown outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:12) Paul tells us “God is just…..He will punish those who ….do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)
Both Matthew and Mark quote Jesus’ words “If your hand or foot cause you to sin cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter [eternal] life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.” Similarly “…it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (Matthew 18:8-9, Mark 9:43ff)
Contemporary theologians would deny the justice of God, which needs to be satisfied. Rather they reduce the truth to a matter of living the best way we know how in order to please a one-sided deity who only loves. Not only is this a travesty of justice, but it is a tragic interpretation. Where does it place the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ? God indeed would look weak and uncaring if we worshiped One who would send His ‘only begotten Son’ (John 3:16) to the cross when there was another way of solving the problem of sin.
The Holy Scriptures, which teach the fullness of the character of God and the resolve with which He offered salvation to a lost world, must be upheld as truth. Half-truth is no truth at all, untrustworthy. It is not God’s fault that man chooses day by day, era by era to mis-read His Word. The Word warns mankind of punishment by hell-fire. Certainly that punishment is unnecessary when we grasp the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection which made a straight path for His followers, into heaven, everlasting life, eternal joy and peace.
Praise be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord! (1 Corinthians 15:57)
Why do we turn away from the notion of hell? Is it a reality? Is heaven? How do you make that distinction?
Notice that when life becomes unbearably difficult, folks sometimes refer to it as hell. What does this imply?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on July 14, 2019 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
Watching TV can be very educational….I was interested in the history of salt mines shown the other day. What a desperately important commodity. Widely used for a variety of purposes it was used as an antiseptic in medicine as well as to preserve and flavour food. In Bible times it was the custom to bath newborn babies before rubbing them with salt.
People had found many ways to provide themselves with salt – sometimes digging holes in the ground where salt water from the sea would be confined until it dried and then the salt could be harvested. Evaporation, in general, produced a poorer quality of salt than mining it from salt cliffs and flats.
Did you know that in the Old Testament there was a “Covenant of Salt”? This covenant was a perpetual obligation, a reminder of what we hold dear in our relationship with God! It required that every offering would be seasoned with salt, which speaks of permanence and incorruptibility. Offerings to Jehovah were to be “a covenant of salt forever before Jehovah” (Number 18:19). “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.” (Leviticus 2:13)
The permanency of the Davidic Covenant mentioned in 2 Chronicles 13:5 depended on this covenant of salt. ”…the God of Israel has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt.”
Old Testament Jews, as well as Arabs today demonstrate hospitality by sharing this treasured commodity as a token of friendship and protection. “To eat salt with…” different foods, became the established mode of showing trust.
Salt creates a thirst, in this case a thirst for the “living water” which Jesus claimed to be (John 7:37-38). Is there something about you which creates a longing, a thirst for righteousness? Salt also preserves. Do we preserve a walk that is holy, a spirit of righteousness seasoned by love. How often do we hear of people who season their speech, their beliefs with condemnation. Jesus expects better things of His followers. Salt was /is also used for cleansing. Try to get a tea stain out of a china cup with a bit of salt.
Jesus challenged His followers to be wholesome, Christ-like. Using the illustration of a fountain of water, James tells us that it cannot produce both water that is sweet and salt, at the same time (James 3:11). Curses cannot proceed from the same tongue as blesses God. There must be consistency in the taste. God’s purpose, and our privilege is to give to our needy world something they cannot live without – our lives give flavour, a living testimony to the Love of God that lifts and frees and brightens our world today. We are vessels in which the gospel is preserved forever, permanent and incorruptible. Jesus called you and me and all of His disciples “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).
When we think of ourselves as “salt” what do we envision?
Does our presence in the office, in our homes, in our community of friends have a cleansing effect? i.e. Do people care about their language when they are with us?
What do we relish more and more because of the salt embedded in our souls?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on July 7, 2019 at 3:35 PM||comments (0)|
People! Does any man or woman have the capability of becoming a peacemaker? The job is assigned by governments to achieve international peace. What a glorious possibility!
Why then do both Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophecy a time when the word ‘peace’ will be really meaningless? (Jeremiah 6:14, Ezekiel 13:10) Ezekiel goes on to describe the frailty of what only looks good. “When a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall” (:10-11). In our present world, this could apply to efforts at International peace. Why?
In Ezekiel chapter 13 we read “Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing” (:3). Through the desire begun in the Garden of Eden, to be like God, Satan still attempts to deceive mankind today. We see through a glass darkly the Apostle Paul tells us (1 Corinthians 13:12 KJV). God, however, sees the end from the beginning, since He is the Alpha and the Omega (Revelation 1:8). How could a created being possible aspire to such knowledge? There is only one way we could possibly see things from God’s perspective and that is by getting to know Him. Ezekiel repeats four times the desire of God’s heart – “Then you will know that I am the Lord” (:14, 21, 23) “the Sovereign Lord” (:9)
In scripture we see the Prince of Peace prophesied (Isaiah 9:6), then revealed (Luke 2:14). Jesus blessed His disciples with that special peace which only comes from knowing God (John 14:27). He promised that “…in Me you may have peace” (John 16:33). With this possibility in mind Jesus challenges us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). Leaving us the mandate to make disciples, Jesus’ plan is for us who know Him to attract those who long for peace, by our peaceable way of life.
God has called us to live in peace, to be of one mind. Only by yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit can the mind of any man or woman be at peace with God, with self, and with others. It is impossible for anyone to have peace or to be a true peacemaker without the power of God first of all destroying our tendency to be little gods within ourselves – controlling, manipulating, deceiving. All glory goes to God for making possible the impossibility of my being His instrument of peace!
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called ‘sons’ of God” (Matthew 5:9)
Are you obviously a ‘son/daughter’ of God?
Have you burned any bridges or does God give you the power to make peace among the enemy?
How does your peacemaking bring glory to God?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 30, 2019 at 2:30 PM||comments (0)|
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. They were hungry, so sent on ahead for preparations to be made for a meal. We read that the group was not welcome in that particular village. Usually Jesus’ reputation as a preacher and healer preceded Him, making a certain wave of fame welcoming. When their request was refused James and John, His most bombastic followers wanted revenge. “Shall we call down fire from heaven?” (:54). Jesus gently rebuked them, and they moved on.
As usual, Jesus used this circumstance to teach His followers an important lesson. They needed to understand that as His disciples they would not be welcome everywhere. They would not have wealth and possessions that often commanded respect and honour because He, “the Son of Man” owned no place where He could lay His head (:58).
Their little group drew the attention of people who were curious, one of whom offered to follow Him. Jesus, knowing how fickle the human heart can be pointed out the principle of poverty, which might govern the lifestyle of His followers. “Follow me” Jesus called to another man. Was he casual or curious about, or interested in committing to Jesus? Hearing and perhaps fearing Jesus’ call, the crowd thinned. They remembered responsibilities that demanded attention before they could assume a place among His disciples. One had to go and bury his father (:59). Another needed to go to say good-bye to his family (:61). Were these valid excuses?
When Jesus called Peter and Andrew they were engaged in their fishing industry, but immediately left their boats, nets and father, to follow Jesus. For them there was no turning back. They were not committed because it was popular. They were men of loyal spirit, dedicating heart and soul to God. James and John were challenged by the reminder they would suffer in the service of Jesus. Who takes on a job like that? True followers.
This demands the question – what is a Christian? There are more questions. Is a Christian one who knows about Jesus? …or is a Christian one who knows Jesus? I know about the Queen of England, but she wouldn’t know me if we met. Does Jesus know you? What is it about Jesus Christ that draws our loyalty, our love?
Is heaven the main goal of a Christian? Where does pleasing God enter the picture? Does it involve counting the cost? How is my Christianity reflected in my lifestyle? How does the Bible describe a Christian? We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). God has given us the Holy Spirit to empower us to do His will. David wrote “Your Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 24, 2019 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
The moon shining on new-fallen snow has an unearthly beauty; poets rave! When the snow has gone tiny flowers emerge, responding to the warming of Mother Earth. Cycles of nature! Designed by Creator God, tribes around the world honour Him for His genius.
Life! That is what God is all about. In the natural realm tides pulsate against the shores, teeming with life both plant and animal. Super novae explode causing humans to try to explore the infinitude of space. Microbes divide and multiply….and the list goes on and on. The world, created by God, is a living organism created for movement and multiplication.
Our God Himself is living, actively involved in all that He has created. The crowning glory of His creation is mankind, created in His image. Engaging with His pride and joy, God sustains everything around us here on earth to demonstrate the essence of His being, which is “Life”.
In our scripture reading today, God showed Ezekiel that He had the power to give life to dry bones. It is an allegory, describing what happens spiritually to those who are dead in sin when Christ comes to live in them. How does this happen? It is really an act of God, restoring a relationship that died in the Garden of Eden. Three times God emphasises the power of His will to make alive something that was dead. The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 37:5-6)
Jesus, visible form of the Trinity, declared Himself to be “The Life” (John 14:6) Only through His life flowing through us can we know the Father intimately “No one comes to the Father but by Me”. In Him is life, John writes, a life that is abundant (John 10:10 KJ). He gives us living water, making us conduits of that living water to others (John 7:37-38).
The Samaritan woman begged Jesus to give her the water He promised would quench her thirst forever (John 4:15). He was referring to spiritual thirst. He told His disciples ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). I’ve watched desperate people in Kenya digging into a dry riverbed hoping to source water from parched ground. Has our thirst driven us to the right source?
What makes us seek water?
Which spiritual resources do you draw upon to have a healthy spiritual life?
Do you believe God can make dry bones live?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on June 16, 2019 at 11:05 AM||comments (0)|
The subject of election (predestination), which is very deep and over which theologians have battled for centuries, came up recently in Bible Study. It caused me to review Jesus' words in Matthew 22:14 and what led Him to make this proclamation.
Tension existed between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews. In chapter 21, Matthew notes they were looking for ways to arrest him, but they feared His popularity with the crowds. Jesus spoke to them in parables about the Kingdom of heaven; in this instance the King invited guests to the wedding of his son, but many of them found excuse in business prevented them from attending. Eventually others were invited.
This was prophetic. Jesus knew He had come, the Son of our heavenly Father, to establish an eternal Kingdom to which many who were invited would decline, for a variety of reasons. Gentiles would be included in an invitation first given to the Jews, to be the children of God. The many who were first called refers to the nation of Israel.
Ryrie makes a pertinent comment on that particular verse: "Here it indicates there is a general call of God to sinners inviting them to receive His salvation, and there is also a specific election that brings some to Him" (Ryrie Study notes). The Apostle Paul told the Roman church there was no excuse for anyone not knowing about God – His very handiwork in nature reveals to us there is a Designer and Creator. However, in his own experience Paul had to be struck blind in order for him to "see" God. He was specifically “chosen” to do a task, according to God’s will.
Paul’s message?.... Jesus died for all (1 Corinthians 5:15) so God offers the gift of salvation to all who will receive it..... believing (John 1:12)
Jesus' parable about the rejection of the nation Israel ( Matthew 22:1-14) serves as a serious warning that an invitation has been extended to everyone. “For God so loved the world….”! (John 3:16)
”The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise….He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Have you accepted the invitation to the wedding of the Lamb? Revelation 19:9
How many of your loved ones will be joining you at this celebration feast?