Devotionals by Marilyn Daniels. Check back every week for a new posting...
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on September 29, 2019 at 9:15 AM||comments (0)|
Technology takes us around the world today to where we can view the detailed sufferings of humankind. Should war and famine, abuses arising from anger or hatred, political unrest and persecution become an immediate threat to us in North America, we ourselves might be overwhelmed by dread.
David wrote that the Lord looks down on the sons of men, from heaven. His vantage point may seem external, but the Bible also tells us that God knows the thoughts and intentions of each heart. This is what He finds: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) How hopeless does that sound? Yet God who created humans, blesses the man/woman who trusts in Him, making him/her as secure as a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:7).
God does not want you or me to feel overwhelmed by dread. He assures us through the Apostle Paul, who wrote: “God did not give us a spirit of timidity [fear], but a spirit of power, of love and a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). What causes us to dread something? The knowledge that our hearts are not right before God may be a contributing factor. We do have a conscience that informs our psyche, allowing us to be a peace in the midst of turmoil and even suffering, but also condemning us when we are wrong.
Some people think God searches our hearts to punish us for our evil thoughts and desires, but really God is looking for righteousness, those who are seeking fellowship with Himself (Psalm 14:2). When He sees that, God will go to any lengths to ensure such fellowship is vibrant, real through a relationship with Jesus Christ our Lord. We see illustrations of that in the lives of the Centurion and Lydia, recorded for us in the book of Acts.
Certainly God will punish evildoers, those who persecute His people. These folks never seem to learn. They just don’t get it! We see the problem occurring over centuries of time. The tendency of that heart which denies God, is to “do what is right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25 KJV).The evil is not confined to what they do, but stems from the notion that they are their own god. This is what ought to fill us with overwhelming dread.
In this Psalm David yearns for the establishment of God’s Messianic kingdom (:6-7). When Jesus returns to earth the powers of evil will be overwhelmed by the radiance of His glory! Every knee shall bow (Romans 14:11). What a glorious hope that overwhelms every dreaded thought!
Who is it that searches your heart and mine? (Jeremiah 17:10)
What is God’s attitude towards evil?
How far will God go to provide a way for you and me to escape evil? (1 Corinthians 10:13)
What frees you from a spirit of dread?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on September 22, 2019 at 4:45 PM||comments (0)|
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.
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?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on September 15, 2019 at 4:50 PM||comments (0)|
A metaphor is an image which suggests similarities between two different ideas, without implying that they are identical. Scripture uses metaphors extensively as a way of illustration and teaching. Given the number of metaphors applied to Jesus Christ alone, there is a lot to learn! On the one hand He is the Shepherd – the good shepherd. On the other hand he is the Lamb – the lamb without blemish! There is no contradiction when these descriptions are given to illustrate a characteristic.
Jesus makes reference to Himself in a variety of different ways. He calls Himself the door, the vine, the light, the way, the shepherd, the life….. God the Father is described as the Potter, the Rock and so on.
When He describes Himself as the door, that might mean either a protection against evil, or a gateway into eternal life. I am the Vine refers to connecting man to the Father and His power. He is the "Rose of Sharon," the "Lily of the Valley," and the "Plant of Renown." He is a rock, a refuge, and a strong tower. He is referred to as the light of heaven and in Rev. 22:16, "the Bright and Morning Star."
There is purpose and hope in the illustration of the potter (Isaiah 64:8), who molds and shapes the clay into a perfect vessel, to be used by the master! WOW! The process is sometimes painful – there are tools involved that trim the clay, fire that hardens it against breaking, glaze that coats it to keep it pure.
Some metaphors are subjective (according to the way we perceive them to be). What does Jesus mean by “I am the life” (John 14:6)? Apparently life is something we must give away. “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). What does this teach us about the eternal life Jesus promised His followers? Is it not something to be shared with others?
“Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8)! Mixed metaphors. He wants everyone to taste, to savour the riches of His grace! He meets each of us at our point of need as He lights the path before us with truth. We know this from John’s account: “I Am the way, the truth” (John 14:6)! Everyone is invited to partake of His light, because Jesus declares Himself to be the Light of the world! (John 8:12).
Now when we study the Word of God we must always finish by asking questions. What is this teaching me? How does this impact my faith? Does this create a spirit of praise in me? What must I share with others? .....or some other such queries.
For me these metaphors excite awe! The magnitude of God’s person is described metaphorically so our finite minds can take in the infinite. What a blessing that God teaches us with illustrations that expand our understanding! What an awesome God we serve!
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on September 8, 2019 at 3:05 PM||comments (0)|
In today’s scripture reading Jesus has just healed a blind man. The Pharisees found fault, as usual. After all, Jesus had healed this man on the Sabbath and keeping the regulations seemed to be more important than caring for a suffering human being. My uncle was totally blind for the last 30 years of his life. Fortunately he had a very positive temperament and enjoyed the memories of all he had seen during the first 65 years of his life, but I can just imagine how wonderful it would have been for him to have had his sight restored.
The man Jesus healed was born blind. He had no memories of flowers and sunsets. He had not even seen the faces of his parents! Jesus was not restoring his sight; He was giving him sight for the first time. Imagine how thrilling that would have been! Shut your eyes and listen to sounds that you can identify because you have sight. All the sounds with which this blind man was familiar would take on new meaning – bird songs, crickets, footsteps fast or slow, bubbling water. Now he could put faces and voices together! Would the Pharisees have denied him all this? Isn’t the love of Jesus something wonderful?!!
Jesus once called the Pharisees blind. Why? Read Matthew 23:13-19. He called them sons of hell (:15), blind fools (:17). Why was this so tragic? Because they were the spiritual leaders of that day….”blind guides” (:16, 24). Jesus referred to a spiritual blindness that was leading the nation away from God by putting too much emphasis on rules, and not enough on the spirit of those laws. This was indeed a woeful situation, individually and nationally.
This was one of Jesus’ most powerful sermons. “Brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:33). Passionately Jesus grieved over Jerusalem in His concluding remarks. “How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (:37). Blind as their spiritual leaders, these unbelieving Jews were bound for hell. This was not God’s will for His chosen people.
Who are God’s chosen people? God promised Abraham He would bless the nations through him….and Jesus is that promised One. Gentiles too are blind, without Christ, but God loved the world enough to send His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him has eternal life” (John 3:16).
Jesus promises that those who recognize His deity saying “blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” will see Him. Paul prayed that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18). God is not willing that any should perish.
Spiritual vision gives us insight. When we see Jesus, our minds are enlightened by truth. This opens up a whole new world. Instead of being bogged down in the darkness of evil, we become children of light! …people who shed light into a world darkened by sin (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Praise the Lord!
Can you say with the man John writes about: “Once I was blind but now I can see” (John 9:25)?
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on September 1, 2019 at 10:45 AM||comments (0)|
Perhaps at the beginning of a new school year Tuesday after Labour Day will become memorable as we look at what happened Once Upon A Tuesday.
Sunday is the first day of the week, therefore Tuesday is the third. Today it is becoming less common to hold weddings on Saturday. Apparently in Jesus’ day a wedding could also be any day of the week. This Tuesday a wedding was taking place in Cana.
We are pretty familiar with the story. Jesus, along with His mother and disciples attended the feast as invited guests. Who were the bride and groom? That detail is not recorded, nor is the account of this wedding, in any of the other gospels. Why was it important to John?
John’s gospel is the most theological, written to everyone with the focus on the deity of Christ. In recording this first miracle, John noted “He [Jesus] thus revealed His glory”. The miracle, itself, was quietly done – a lot of water suddenly tasted like wine. Not just any wine…the governor of the feast was astonished at its quality (2:9-10). Note that whatever God creates He will pronounce it “Good” (Genesis 1).
Jesus was very confident. Immediately after the men had drawn the water, as He told them to do, He instructed them to take it to the master of the feast. His mother’s faith was rewarded. When she discovered the wine had run out she told the servants to do whatever He told them to do (2:5).
At the end of His earthly ministry Jesus proclaimed that all authority had been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). However, on this Tuesday no one understood exactly who He was. Those disciples He had called (John 1) weren’t entirely sure why they were following Jesus. His call was compelling, but they hadn’t seen any of His miracles, nor had they heard Him preach, when they left everything to follow Him (Luke 18:28).
John tells us that this miracle was the beginning of the disciples trusting in Jesus “and His disciples put their faith in Him” (2:11). God knew they needed a visual! They had never seen anything like it! Just imagine what it would have been like to be there that Tuesday! For us today the Holy Spirit is our guide. The Apostle Paul gives us insight: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons/daughters of God…..The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:14, 16).
Can you describe the glory of Jesus?
What is it about Jesus that caused you to follow Him?
Did you need a “visual” to recognize His deity?
Perhaps Tuesday might become a special day when we remember Jesus’ glory.
|Posted by kelvinbueckert on August 25, 2019 at 2:40 PM||comments (0)|
How many young couples holding a tiny new life in their hands, start out hoping to improve on the parenting that was modelled for them? Others want to emulate the Dad or Mom or even Grandparents they were blessed with. What is the highest expectation a new Mom and Dad might hold of what their parenting skills will achieve?
In hospital with my own firstborn I remember the two young girls sharing my room both wanted to “grow up” with their babies. Both 18, it is probably they still had some growing up to do. But maturity is a relative term…we are forever learning. Adapting to parenthood is a process, not an event.
There is one exception. God, our Heavenly Father is the perfect parent. He is not in the process of ‘becoming’. He is….all that is perfect, the loving, all-seeing, all-knowing, fair and just, Parent. Although we may try, it is impossible to pull the wool over His eyes; we cannot manipulate God. We can anger Him. People throughout human history have grieved our heavenly Father. How does He respond?
Our Father God disciplines those He loves, for our own good (Hebrews 12:6,10). People have asked why God would allow suffering, but perhaps it is because He knows it is often through suffering that men and women will turn to Him for His help. Why does God not fix the inequities in our world today? He knows we need to be stretched…those who are rich need to help those who are poor. Are we passing the test?
As parents we think we are better people when we rush in to fix the mistakes our children make, whereas the reality is they would become better people if they suffered the consequences of their wrong choices. On the basis of mistaken understanding of the character of God, we judge Him according to the ways of man, rather than the other way around. He is the benchmark of perfect parenting.
What is the product of perfect parenting going to be? Someone who is happy? Someone who is helpful? Someone who has hope? Can health and wealth compare with these assets? Sadly I have seen the most wealthy people who are empty of hope or happiness because they have no vision for helping. The perfect parent reaches out to help others, modelling choices that will impact a child’s well-being forever.
Our Father God reached down to a world that was suffering to offer help and hope, joy and peace, relief from the worst suffering possible. Separation from God determines our eternal destiny, so with kindness, mercy and grace our Father sent Jesus into this world to make relationship with His Father possible by paying the penalty for our sins. Jesus modelled how to live, and how to love. As our prefect Father’s perfect Son, Jesus offers us sonship, in His name. Will we receive God’s offer?
|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?