Devotional 123: That Deceiver

Matthew 27:62-65

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

It’s interesting to note that even after they’d gotten what they wanted, there was still enough fear in them to warrant asking for an extra seal around a tomb.

They thought He was lying, but even if the Apostles had taken the body, He would not have been seen again by anyone, and they would have been spreading a falsehood. Remember that after His crucifixion, there were graves opened, but none of the occupants came out until He was the first.

Matthew 27:51-53

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

Jesus had told the Sadducees, when they questioned Him regarding resurrection, which they did not believe in:

Matthew 22:25-35

25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

They had  all seen the signs and wonders, and lost the political and financial reign of terror they’d exercised over the people, establishing an uneasy peace with the Roman government when Jesus came into Jerusalem:

 (John 14-19)

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!

Subjected to stinging rebukes by this young upstart, in their fever to regain control, there was some fear yet in their hearts even after His death. The Apostles, being unlearned men, probably would not have been clever enough to carry out such a scheme, since they could barely understand what Jesus was saying without elaboration or being afraid.

He’d rebuked them too, for their lack of faith, when He appeared to them afterward.

Mark 16:14

The Great Commission

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

We have so many questions, that we like to think if we’d walked with Jesus Himself, there would be no doubt. Let us remember that in the words of the parable of the wheat and tares: “An enemy has done this.”

And while it is the Father’s will that none perish, and He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He did not spare His Son the pain of our deserved punishment, nor will He share His glory, nor will victory be to His enemies.

He has also said He’s put blessings before us as well, and we are to choose whom we serve. Joshua gave an emphatic answer, and we are warned that we will not be allowed to walk in two worlds, lest our praise be like lukewarm water to Christ, to whom all authority has been given, because He finished the work of His Father’s command.

It is the pride of mankind that exalts itself above the will of G-d, placing its hopes on the created, glorifying ever shifting ‘scientific’ discoveries that can’t begin to fathom or know the mind of an infinite G-d, even as we are in the process of upsetting the balance of the very systems designed to keep us alive as we exploit, enslave, and engage in all manner of vice, because our hearts are not set on Him.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11

All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

Death Comes to All

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

In their zeal to prove Him false, the Pharisees and Romans proved Him all the more true, and ran with the story they’d invented in the first place to discredit Him.  It’s like when Jesus told the people He’d healed not to make Him known, and they witnessed for Him and proclaimed Him anyway, and to a greater degree. His goodness is not to be contained within us, but we are prone to pride and sin.

In the midst of all this clamoring, what needs to be restored in our own lives, that will help us to endure to the end, that we might be saved, and that the Father’s wrath will not abide on us, and that we not die in our sins?

As we come to the season of renewal, resurrection, and the casting off of dead things from our past that yet hold us by the ankles, remember, it was the ‘deceiving’ Jesus, the one who obeyed His Father even unto death on a cross, fully understanding and embracing the nature of his ministry, says to us:

I tell you the truth…

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

In these times, we hold fast to Your words, and have seen the Father’s power at work in our own lives, and in the lives of our loved ones. Having done all we can, we stand today united in faith, in love for one another, carrying on the work as the path narrows, the world mocks and scorns, and punishes us. 

That we shall suffer with You that we might inherit with You, this too,You have said to us. As You are the final Prophet of the Living G-d, we see Your words unfolding, for there is no falsehood in You.

You have said to us You will reward the believers who endure to the end, should their works stand the test of the fire to come, and that we will answer for our words and deeds, for there is nothing that is unknown to You.

Help us, in these times of blindness and darkness, confusion and legalism, entertainment and glorifying of false shepherds who compromise Your Word to fill their coffers, to hear and know Your voice, that we not fall away into this fiery furnace of sin and lose You, for while none can snatch us from Your hand, You will open it to let us out should we desire to die, unbelieving in the wrath to come.

My Lord, let Your living water sustain us in moments of doubt, bless us with undeserved grace, give to us unmerited mercy, and let the Holy Spirit be patient with us, continuing to work the hard soil of our hearts and minds, and place the gentle yoke of obedience on us, when we once again turn back to You.

Indeed, the world has gone over to You, for You have overcome it.

Let it be done to us as You have said. We ask, in faith believing.

Amen.

Devotional 122: I Make All Things New

 

Revelation 21

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

I once saw Richard Gere on an interview talking about children, and he said that babies were having moments of epiphany all the time. Among Webster entries of definition is this list:

3a(1)a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2)an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3)an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
ba revealing scene or moment

 

Yet within those moments, those revelations, the object of the epiphany has a familiarity; we’ve just come to a different level of understanding it.

It is in Christ that we are under a New Covenant, yet the matter of covenants is familiar to us. It is the breadth, depth, and inexhaustible nature of its grace, mercy, and long suffering that is the epiphany when He breaks through our barriers and reveals the truth of our Father’s kingdom, and the truth of our unworthy state to inherit it, to us through the baptism Holy Spirit.

It is as frightening a moment as it is wonderful to realize that yes, your soul’s eternity is at stake in these matters, and so many are so blind. The devil is a busy liar, tripping people up, making them focus on the fallibility of man rather than the unerring truth of divinely inspired writing. On skin color and actual birth days rather than the principles of brotherhood and love. On equating a popular majority with morality. And of course, the ever tightening focus on self, and self-gratification in all things.

Yet, when we turn from resistance to faith, Paul tells us: (2 Corinthians 5:13- 17)

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

The epiphany that we miss here is that appearances, ethnicity, attractiveness, wealth, and all the other things we associate with as being the ‘good things in life’, don’t matter to the message we are to preach.

Paul encapsulates the mission of Christ as well as his own when he tells us:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Serving All Men

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the [a]law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

The Father provides ministers at every level for every aspect of life, that the lowest unbeliever among us might attain salvation at the highest level, for all eternity.

We call spring a season of renewal, yet we are familiar with it. The colors and warmth of it provide a much needed break from the ice and snow that marks our winters, and gives to the earth what it needs at that time. It is what we do in our season that makes us new: learning a new thing, traveling to somewhere strange to us, or volunteering to do something for a cause we hold dear.

The renewal is always there, dormant and waiting for release. The flowers and birds remain the same in the same regions. The tourists descend like locusts, and the bugs and gnats and flies also return, just enough to keep us from romanticizing warm weather.

But the renewal of ourselves is a constant thing. There are times when we surprise ourselves and rise to occasions we never thought we’d encounter. They beat down are comfort zones and snatch us away, unprepared, unplanned, and unqualified to do that which lies ahead of us.

But G-d…

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

In this season of renewal, in Nature, self, and spirit, let us come to know our Father on a deeper level, to have an epiphany of him that was unrealized before now, if not unsought. And let us give thanks that our meditation on His goodness to us has so pleased Him, He will reveal more of Himself to us.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I thank You for sending Your Son to make me a new creation, though You knew my days before one of them came to be.

I am a new creation in that Your wrath no longer abides on me, and You call me to remove it from the lives of others, to those who will receive the Christ as the only way to be reconciled to You, spotless, blameless, and worthy of the inheritance of sons and daughters in their Father’s kingdom.

We thank You for the seasons we’ve endured, both physical and spiritual, and for seeing the fruit of our labors bear rewards, both small and great, and sometimes, undeserved.

We thank You for a New Covenant. Let us now be faithful in it to do our part as You have been in Yours to redeem us. Help us to remember that You take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and have placed the burden on us to do such work in the Light that mankind will see it and glorify You.

Let us, in this season of renewal, cast off the shells of things dead within us, around us, and let us bear them on our backs no more, nor carry them in our hands, nor keep them in our presence. We leave them, right now, at the Throne to be consumed as chaff by Your holy fire.

Grant to us perception of the new things, opportunities, people, and ways we might cultivate to assure ourselves of our calling while bringing the lost to the harvest.

We ask for continuous epiphanies of Your will, plan, and purpose, for Your mind is unfathomable, yet You have given each of us a part in accomplishing that which You would have us do, and called us to ministry.

Let our work not be unfruitful, but let us be faithful sowers of the Gospel, for whether we plant, water, harvest, or all three, it it You, and You alone, who gives the increase.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 121: Not Far from the Kingdom of G-d

Mark 12:28-34

The Scribes: Which Is the First Commandment of All?

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

But after that no one dared question Him.

One of the scribes was beginning to think for himself, as Nicodemus, a Pharisee, did when he came at night to speak to Jesus.

The scribe’s answer lines up with what the Father had to say about Israel placing too much value on ritual rather than obedience.

1 Samuel 15:22

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

There are days, brothers and sisters, where we go through the motions; our lips, and not our hearts, ‘honor’ Him. He does not inhabit that praise, because it isn’t really praise.

There are earthly experiences that bring us to the precipice of turning away, of cooling our love, silencing the call, and extinguishing the divine gifts.

What then, when taking up your cross, counting the cost, and following a Savior whose face is set like flint toward the glory of G-d seems almost foolish, if not worthless.

Yet Jesus tells us this for our excuses: (Luke 9:61-62)

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

The fate of Lot’s wife dramatically illustrates this for us.

If we are not far from the Kingdom, and if we endure to the end we are saved, and if He is in the midst of our prayers for doing or seeking the Father’s will, and He goes to prepare a place for us, and we are sealed to salvation by the presence of the Holy Spirit, believing He will raise us with a great shout on the last day, we can believe Him when He says “Assuredly, I say to you…”

It is indeed a blessed assurance, a resting comfort, and a heavenly peace.

We are to abide in faith in a world of prophesied turmoil and evil, for it belongs to the prince of this world.

It is the reason a new earth will be created for us to dwell eternally in the Father’s light, spotless and blameless, in a world free from sin and evil. It is something to be feared and desired that we are counted worthy, not because we deserve it, but because He has grafted in those who are not His people through grace, and grace alone.

Though the Father’s wrath abides on the faithless and lawless, His love and mercy daily, and eternally, surround those of us who have placed and confessed our faith in the atoning work of His Son, our Lord and Savior.

And Jesus, given all authority to judge, forgive, and draw us into His Father’s presence, tells us that in doing the Father’s will, and keeping His commandments, we are not so very far from His Kingdom at all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I am a base and unprofitable servant. 

There are days my corruption, laziness, and sinful rebellion are paraded before Your holy eyes in defiance of Your rules for me to live a long, fruitful life, finishing the work You gave me to do.

There are days when I would be content to have the rocks sing my praise to You, even though it would grieve You.

There are days I set down my cross and indulge my flesh, telling myself I’ve done nothing wrong.

But neither have I drawn closer to You, even though I desire to return.

The Good Shepherd walks the path before me. In Him, You are pleased, and implore me to listen to Him. It is up to me to listen and to know His voice, which ministers Your purpose. I thank Him for coming to find me when I go astray. I thank Him for restoring me to the fold, under Your protection, and not leaving me to the outer darkness. 

Thank You for sending Him to overcome Death and Hell for my soul’s sake; unworthy though it may be, You would not see it burned as chaff in the unquenchable fire set for those who hate You.

I’m humbled that my King thinks so highly of this unfruitful, unprofitable servant, who struggles to do even that which he is supposed to do. Though I have less time to walk in the Narrow Way, I thank You for the rewards to come, if there are any. If not, the Kingdom in and of itself is more than I deserve, however humble my place in it.

Such is Your love, Almighty G-d, that You would send Jesus to draw me near once more, and be with You, praising You and giving You all glory and honor, forever and forever.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 120: He Will be Found by You

2 Chronicles 15

The Reforms of Asa

15 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them. And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”

And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the LordThen he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who dwelt with them from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, for they came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.

10 So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 And they offered to the Lord at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought. 12 Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 14 Then they took an oath before the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams’ horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.

16 Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.

18 He also brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and that he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils. 19 And there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.

When our leaders are blessed to walk in the ways of the Lord, the land and people prosper. From the time that Israel requested kings, G-d told them they would be prone to error and sin, and though it grieved Him, he granted their request.

Their fortunes rose and fell on how well or poorly those men listened to the edicts of their prophets, counselors, and even queens (see the Book of Esther).  The land of Judah was fortunate in Asa, who had a loyal heart, but in hindsight, as with every king (David, Solomon, etc) G-d gave them a condition that He’s given the rest of us who are not of earthly royalty, but the children of a king: Seek Me and walk in my ways, and all will be well with you.

When we fall away, we are to return.

When we sin, we are to repent.

When we backslide, we are to confess.

The Lord has promised that if we do these things, He will ear from heaven, and heal us, comfort us, and restore us to Himself.

We can rejoice then, that our High Priest is the Son of G-d, interceding incessantly for our struggling flesh, which we do not crucify for the sake of purity.

The prophet Isaiah tells us: (55:v 5-7)

Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”

Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

It was Asa’s shift in focus that brought him down toward the end of his reign.

2 Chronicles 16

Asa’s Treaty with Syria

16 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.”

So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel. They attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali. Now it happened, when Baasha heard it,that he stopped building Ramah and ceased his work. Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.

Hanani’s Message to Asa

And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”   

10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.

King Asa proves his humanity, and like David not seeking the Lord for the proper procedure to move the Ark of the Covenant, Asa relies on riches plundered from the church to reduce the size of the forces he has to battle, and so loses the war, and now has to fight where before, when he walked in the ways of G-d, the land had rest.

 

Asa Reigns in Judah

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him. And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest. 

The Father has done all He is going to do to give us rest, but our faith in His promises wavers, and fails, and fall away into the grip of the enemy’s world. We doubt, and despair, and grow angry.

Yes, go through the process, but never fail to seek to return. Your Father knew you before He formed you, and all of your days were known before you came to be.

Your Father understands, and if you seek Him, rely on Him, love Him, and obey Him, He will be found you.

All the time.

Every time.

Therefore I pray:

Give us loyal hearts, Lord, but increase our faith as well. Let us not dwell in the world of the enemy as we use his own tools to combat his own forces.

Let us climb the spiritual hills with songs of ascension, seeking Your will and Your presence, believing in faith You will equip us not only for the battle, but for victory, where we too, like King Asa, will carry away ‘very much spoil’ (2 Ch, 14:12).

In seeking You, Lord, we place before You all of our weakness. Consume it with holy fire as You did the offering of the prophet Elijah. Increase our faith, and help our unbelief, even if you do not deliver us from the fiery furnaces that seek to burn away our very souls.

Let us, today, rejoice in the renewal of our oath to seek You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, putting to death within us that which will not accept You. Let us, today, tear down and crush all the high places that have crept up the mountains of our dreams, hopes, plans, aspirations, and replaced You.

The whispers of the world are constant, sibilant as the Garden’s serpent, calling us away: Did G-d really say…?  If we believe Your promises to be ‘yes’ and ‘amen’, there can be no room for doubt. 

As love cannot be compelled, You have set before us blessings and curses, and told us to choose. 

The Narrow Way is rugged, but we follow the One who finished the work, and turned neither left nor right, the One You sent to us, that we may not be lost, or fall away, or be consumed by the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

So today, we renew our oath not to forsake You, but we ask that hold our hands fast to Yours, and bind us tighter to the easy yoke and light burden of working out our salvation, to Your eternal glory.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 119: No Man Common or Unclean

Acts 10:24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

When we understand that G-d means to graft us in through the covenant of grace, the act of holding onto our own salvation without sharing the good news takes on a different kind of disobedience.

We understand the Jews were chosen, as Moses said:

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.

But under the New Covenant, Christ tells us: (John 10:14-16)

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Paul affirms this again (Romans 9:22-26)

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

We should be joyful that we who believe are no longer under the wrath of G-d, but we are not to keep silent. We are to tell the Good News, and it is up to Holy Spirit to open the ears and hearts of those who would listen.

Cornelius thought to gather his relatives and close friends ahead of Peter’s arrival. They were expecting something great to happen in the presence of the most volatile disciple who had finally come to a more steadfast faith, to the point where he was standing up in the midst of assemblies to proclaim the divine glory of someone he once vehemently denied to the point of cursing.

And he says to them:

Acts 10:34-35

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

If the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, and all who dwell on it, how then, in His presence, can anyone be unclean? Through faithlessness,  doubt, denial,  unbelief, backsliding,  compromise, and willful and presumptuous sin without repentance.

We cannot find the Narrow Way without faith, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and works.

In the current times when xenophobia and racism are at a fever pitch, not just here, but all across the world (as Christ foretold, ‘brother against brother, and nation against nation’) we are not to consider the ‘other’ as an unclean thing unworthy of salvation.

As Paul told the Corinthians,

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

So while there is no partiality, it is not a license to continue sinning, for without repentance and faith in Christ there is no remission of sin, and the wrath of the Father remains.

We are not called to judge, but tell, and let the Spirit do His work. He may be content to leave the seed for the moment, and water it another time, but we must remember always that it is G-d who brings the increase.

In the meantime, we work out our own salvation, and take the planks from our eyes, living righteous lives and worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, loving G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one another as Christ loved the Church.

In these times, it’s a daunting task, but we have the words of our Savior: (Matthew 19:26)

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

You have invited us to the wedding feast, ragged and unworthy to stand before G-d, worthy of judgement and the outer darkness. Thank You for giving us a way to be reconciled to our Creator without sin, and that is through faith in the atoning work you did for us, that we might escape the tribulation of the days to come, and inherit the kingdom along with You.

We thank you, Good Shepherd, for the grace you’ve given us, for sustaining us in the valleys of trials and temptations, for bringing us out, for healing us by Your stripes, for granting us Your peace, and for showing us the Father.

We thank You for providing us a Comforter who guides us into all truth, and convicts us of sin. He is the seal and approval of our salvation, when You’ll call us forth from the grave with a great shout.

We thank You for interceding for us, the unchosen, before Heaven’s throne, and not condemning us as we continue to strive for Your example, growing in favor with G-d and man. Continue to speak to us while we’re enduring the scorn of Your enemies as proof we are indeed the sons and daughters of the living G-d, as we contend in the gates with those who would silence us. Fill our mouths with Truth no one can speak against, and give us what we should say.

Help us to speak truth to power, and truth in love, proclaiming You before men that we might also be proclaimed by You to the Father.

Give us the strength, in our trembling, to stand in the midst of the assembly, and by the power of Your Spirit preach the Gospel to all who cross our path, that they may see and know we are Christians, and glorify G-d as You claim them for the kingdom.

Open our hearts, our eyes, our spirits to rejoice with the angels when souls are redeemed from all nations, not just with those who look, act, and believe as we do.

From this day forth, help us to know that it is the Father’s will that all should come to repentance and faith in Christ, and no one should perish, but to also tell them that there will be a day of judgement, and in that day the Covenant of Grace is void.

May the grace, peace, and power of  the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 118: No More Questions

John 16:16-24

Sorrow Will Turn to Joy

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’?20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The Apostle Paul tells us it’s like looking at dark glass.

1 Corinthians 13:12

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

We are told by our Savior that our faith shall be rewarded, and our sorrow turned to joy. We are told by his most ardent disciple of the day that we are shrouded here on earth from heavenly matters.

We are very like the disciples who heard Jesus say these words: confused, scared, saddened, and doubtful.

We are prone to buffeting assaults of spiritual blindness, seeking to place ourselves in the Father’s position, not professing likeness, but professing self sufficiency.

There are variations of it, but all can be summed up this way: “We can do this without a moral compass full of contradictory dogma that tells us we need a ‘god’ to know right from wrong.”

It is because they read with no understanding of what separates us from the rest of world, they read it with the intent of disproving it, they read it with the intent of ridiculing it, and they read it with no faith that what they’re reading could be true.

They read as blind people who don’t know Braille: for them it’s not a system vital to their lives to understand, but a random scattering of dots and spaces that make no sense, and so dismissed as a nonsensical return to times of superstition and ignorance.

Also, they replace the motives of G-d with the motives of men: missionaries used it to control and enslave native populations so that the plundering of their land and resources wouldn’t meet resistance, in much the way the Pharisees plundered the wealth of Israel. Feminists tell us that men have used the Bible to control and enslave women, pointing to the submission verse Paul uses without reading the verse for what it tells husbands to do for their wives.  While this is true on both counts, the Father tells us He will deal with and repay such people, but do we really believe Him?

1 John 2:19

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

It will indeed be a joyous day when our questions are answered, our doubts erased, our fears lifted, and out tears dried.

In the meantime, in our lifetimes we have been called to serve in faith, worship in spirit and truth, finish the kingdom work we were given to do, and love G-d with all our hearts as we edify one another, running this race together as good and faithful servants until the day we have no more questions, and the fruit of our faith is harvested in the eternal worship of Almighty G-d.

Therefore I pray:

I rejoice here on earth in the words of my Savior, that my joy shall be made full in His presence on the day I escape the power of the grave to live eternally in the Father’s kingdom, should the Son judge me worthy of the honor, by the blood of His grace.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for revealing the Father to me, and for sending me the Comforter as a seal of my salvation.

Thank You for shielding me from the Father’s wrath, soon to be visited on His enemies as He restores Heaven and Earth as sinless vessels of purity. Creation will cry out in full vigor as a testimony to His presence.

Thank You, for on that day You tell us all: You will ask me nothing.

I ask that until then You strengthen my faith, help my unbelief, and look for me when I go astray and off the narrow road.

Give me a clean heart, a bold spirit, and a guarded tongue. Purify my eyes, the lamps of my body, with good things, that they might behold the glory of G-d in Your presence, and not let me die.

You’ve given us the way, and finished the work that will see us reconciled and free from sin. You’ve shown us the Father. You’ve told us of His love for us. You’ve told us to believe, and not be afraid.

You tell us that we will be with You in paradise.

I would not lose such a salvation, Lord, for there is no other alternative but destruction.

Hold my hand, and lift me higher. May my faith please You, and release all the good that You have for me here in the land of the living. Thank You for delivering me from my trials, and opening my eyes to the suffering we must endure to be glorified with You in heavenly places.

My heart is grateful today.

My soul will be redeemed.

My flesh will be transformed.

My joy will be made full.

My sins will be forgiven.

And now I ask, may everything I do from here on be devoted to seeing that day where my questions will be answered.

Amen

Devotional 117: To the Unknown God

Acts 17:22-32

Addressing the Areopagus

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.

It’s interesting to note that in such a polytheistic society that put the wisdom of man and the study of human nature above at the center of the universe, there was still a blind spot, but still a longing of the spirit.

The list of Greek gods in comprehensive, and their attributed powers were formidable, but in their natures and emotions they were as capricious and prone to error as the flesh they ruled over, and were indeed, sometimes jealous of human beauty or strength, and visited terrible affliction on the objects of their wrath.

Yet in the midst of all the paganism stood an altar that spoke to the void in their hearts,  a G-d they felt might be there, but one they didn’t know, because they didn’t create Him, He created them. And there was Paul, the Lord’s messenger, to finally proclaim Him, remove their ignorance, and give them fulfillment.

And yet the passage concludes:

3So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Not everyone who heard Paul that day came to the faith.

G-d is never not worshiped by those He reveals Himself to, He is only unknown by those who choose not to believe.

And so it is today. G-d is proclaimed, the message of salvation is shared more rapidly, more internationally now than ever before, and yet there are still those who mock, and those who put it off until later, if they decide at all.

Like Paul, we are not to lose heart, we are not to stop working, we are not to turn aside because our words don’t reach the rich and powerful, or the mockers who place creation above the created, or those who feel the tug in their spirits of a greater calling, and run because it means they’ll have to change their lives to meet G-d’s standard, and not the other way around.

Do we know people like this?

Pastors read volumes on growing churches, and seem no longer content to preach the Word, but put on showcases, and events, and grand conferences, and wonder why nothing is happening.

It is G-d who gives the increase, the anointing, the blessing, and the silver and gold is His, also the land. We are to stay humble, and keep planting.

Luke 17: 1-10 Faith and Duty

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”

The implication is that they did not do more than their service required, in their own strength, and of their own will.

How far in our service are we willing to go? What are we willing to do? Who are we willing to love as Christ would love? What are we willing to give to show that we serve Him, and keep His commandments, building our heavenly homes on rock, and not sand?

Or are we the rich young ruler, who leaves and was sad because he had great possessions? Are we afraid to approach the unlovely, the different, the scary?

Not every ministry is for every temperament, granted, but there is a temperament for every ministry, and there is an altar carved with the Unknown God on its heart in the spirits of our fellow man.

Are we proclaiming that G-d to them?  “What I tell you in secret, proclaim from the rooftops.”

Will we?  “If they will not hear you or receive you, let your peace return to you.”

When?  “The time is coming, and now is….”

It is what we unprofitable servants are called to do, not in our own strength, or of our own will.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Your most headstrong apostle outside of Peter used the fire of his zeal that persecuted You to then proclaim You to others who were like himself before You encountered him. 

He then confounded those learned men with the same vast knowledge, only with a difference: You had opened His eyes to see You as the Father’s emissary to mankind, that we might be reconciled, and in the middle of a land that had gods for everything, he found the one altar set aside to the Father, but they did not know Him.

Such was the longing in their spirit, such was the power of creation’s testimony, that even in their explaining it away with emotional gods, they knew there was yet another presence, but had blinded themselves to it by creating gods in man’s image.

And again, so it is today; they know, but they are waiting until later, and mocking the resurrection, the gift of eternal life. They see the proliferation of evil, and the rise of hatred, the frenzied greed of the wealthy, and the needless death and destruction we are constantly visiting on each other as countries, as people, and say to us: “There is no G-d.”

If we are honest, Lord, though You said these things must be and come to pass, it is hard to look at, and defend. And yet, it’s not at its worst point, and You did not command us to give up. 

As You are coming at an unknown hour, in a day where mankind will be living normal lives before the sign is revealed, I ask for all who hear Your voice, that You strengthen us as You did Paul to stand before the mobs, and when they tell us

“There is no G-d,”

to answer them in love, truth, and steadfast faith,

“The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved from the Father’s wrath to come, for He will purge the earth and heaven of his enemies. Believe, and live.”

Strengthen us, Lord, for we are unprofitable servants, doing as we are commanded.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 116: The Kingdom Within

Luke 17:20-30

The Coming of the Kingdom

2Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

The Father has done His part to reconcile us to Him: it is through faith in the atoning work of the cross through the Son.

They are one of will and purpose, but Jesus was obeying the Father’s command, for He was the only one who could. Yet, G-d let Him be tempted, mocked, brutalized, scorned, and challenged, that He might know what we face in our weak and mortal flesh.

Yet, He didn’t sin.

It was painful for Him to be apart from the Father, painful to the point where He accused the Father of abandonment.

Matthew 27:46

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The sky went dark because as our sins were upon Him, the Father couldn’t look on it. The physical disconnect was palpable to our Christ. When it was over and He prayed before His ascension, He said:

John 17:5

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

I imagine the anticipation made Him want to go as soon as possible.

Do we seek the presence of G-d like that?

Do we ask Him to restore us to our former glory of the day we felt that presence, and knew we’d been called out of the world?

Do we ask Him to rekindle the passion of our first love for Him, or do we begin to doubt in the day to day of taking up our crosses, denying the lust of the eyes, participating in the grueling quest for money, crucifying our flesh, and walking the narrow road?

Do we grow weary of doing good, and remaining steadfast in an increasingly hostile and mocking world that would like nothing better than a dead G-d? They would have it so the whims of the wealthy can be imposed, and their price exacted, on those of us who fear and follow Him.

Yet the Father tells us this:

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.

When you love and trust someone, and they advise you, and have the power to benefit you greatly, you will heed their advice because you believe they will cause you no harm.

Jesus tells us:

John 14:1

 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

And again…

Matthew 18:3

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord is not telling us to become or think like little kids, but to also trust, wait, and manifest the Spirit of righteousness and love within us, as children accept with no expectations or preconditions.

So then, if all we need to manifest the will of the Father on earth is indeed already within us, (“Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven), are we trusting that what He told us is true, and do we release it with the power of faith, or do we lean on our own limited, human understanding and honor Him with our lips, and not our hearts and obedience?

Will He marvel at our faith, or our unbelief?

We must be ready, for when the day comes, there will be no more time to prepare.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

You tell us the kingdom is within us, but we are not profitable for heavenly things, and these are words we cannot bear, though we know them to be true because You do not lie.

You told Your disciples that the prince of this world had nothing in You, but he does in us, Lord, and it’s compelling, strong, and evil. His presence brings blight upon our earthly forms, and damnation of our eternal souls.

Sometimes he covers the path to condemnation and death with pretty things that camouflage his slithering, cursed form.

Remind us then, that we have all of Your words, and that not one of them shall pass away, outlasting both Heaven and Earth. You reassure us, as Peter said, with the words of Life. 

You know our weaknesses, but You also command us to remain strong, fearless, and faithful to the Truth You’ve shared with us. Let us keep an ongoing spirit of godly repentance, that our shallow fellowship with You may deepen, and the power of sin be dulled.

The seeds of the Kingdom of Eden are within us, dormant in a fallow field, awaiting the harvest. In the meantime we sow, and drink from the Water of Life, take shelter beneath the Holy Vine, follow the Good Shepherd, give thanks for our Savior, and praise the Son of G-d to whom all things were given. May the seeds of Eden become the fruits of the Father’s divine will on the new and sinless Earth, created anew and purified for all who believed.

This day, we bow before You, O King, and cut the stones from our hearts that they may be tender to receive Your eternal Word. Let our ears hear the lessons in the parables, and receive comfort in the prayers, blessings, and assurances from Your lips, believing with our mustard seed faith that nothing will take us from the power of Your nail-scarred hands. 

Impart to us, the disciples of this age, the power of the Holy Spirit so that unbelievers shall see the signs and wonders that follow us, and the love we demonstrate for each other that will bring them like gathered wedding guests taken from the streets.

Let us be of one accord so they see us as lights on a hillside, that we might point them to You, as You point them to the Father.

Let the kingdom within us shine forth as the noonday sun, that they may see, and hear, and be saved. 

Keep our steps sure, our hearts steadfast, and our faith as a threefold cord, not easily broken.

Keep our souls humble, that we may not exalt ourselves and be cast down.

May it be done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

Devotional 115: Those Who Do the Will of My Father

Matthew 7:24-29

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

In the Gospel of Matthew we are pointed time and again to the prophets bolstering that which Jesus was doing: healing, casting out demons, preaching and teaching, feasting and fasting, getting alone with the Father, and finally, dying on the cross.

It’s a Gospel full of action, and as that may be the case, through it all Jesus calls us to action as well. Chapters 6 and 7 list do’s and don’ts, and their consequences, and motives of the heart.

If we make a show of faith and piety for the praise of men, we are told there is no further reward coming from the Father, and our good deeds are done in the lust of the flesh for praise. Such acts ultimately count for nothing in heavenly places or plans.

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

It need not even be a direct blood line to Him. Just simply do that which He tells you, because as He stated, 30 I and My Father are one.”

So what does He tell us:

Sending Out the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven [a]is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

He charged the disciples with ministering to Israel because:

Matthew 19:28

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

As for the rest of us, He says:

Matthew 10:21-22

21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:27-28

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

Matthew 10:32-33

Confess Christ Before Men

32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

So we are to endure, fear G-d, and confess Christ, and in the enduring, love our neighbor with all that entails for us and them, but we are to love G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

It is a tough calling, not for the faint of heart and those who would hang on like barnacles, taking up space, making no contribution, and slowly destroying that which the Father is trying to build with us, and in us.

So ask yourself, as this year continues, are you doing the work Christ called you to do, greater than His own?

Are you part of His family, doing the Father’s will in His name?

Are you really?

Therefore I pray:

Let the habits and discipline of doing Your will, O Lord, become second nature to us, such that we are not conscious of how it registers with man. 

You have grafted us in with the sons of the Kingdom, through Your covenant of redemptive grace, reconciling us to G-d, as it was in the beginning, so I ask that You forgive our unbelief and rebellion, Lord. We know not what we do.

When the Spirit has sanctified us once more through repentance, let us continue on in the work You’ve called us to do, preaching the kingdom is at hand.

Let us be ever mindful we were bought with a price, are worth more than sparrows, are more beautiful than field lilies, and worth more in His sight.

And when we return to ourselves after a flight of fancy ends, I ask that You hear the cry of our sorrowful hearts ascending to You, and heal them.

In the end, Lord Jesus, we ask that You strengthen us, imparting Yourself to us from the very core of Your being. 

For Your sake, we shall endure, and grow strong, and through faith, we shall confess You and praise the Father as You have done so many times. 

And let us rejoice with You as our fellowship is restored, as You rejoiced when the Father came to You in the pit, after Your taking our sins away through the horror of the cross, and the holy power of the Resurrection.

Even so, Lord Jesus, we ask that You remember us, unfruitful servants that do only what they’re told, when You come into Your kingdom.

According to our faith, let it be done to us.

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 114: A Legacy of Obedience

Jeremiah 35:1-14

The Obedient Rechabites

35 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”

Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door. Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine.”

But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’ Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; nor do we have vineyard, field, or seed. 10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians.’ So we dwell at Jerusalem.”

12 Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying, 13 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction to obey My words?” says the Lord14 “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandmentBut although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me.

We, as believers, have to begin to believe that the matter with G-d is settled. That despite all the mysteries, discoveries, epiphanies, setbacks, and new beginning, the war between good and evil was always our own.

The forbidden Tree of Knowledge was willingly plundered of its beautiful fruit by pointing out what was good about it. The consequence of disobedience was made light of, and doubt was planted about the meaning of the Father’s command.

Skillfully, the serpent reduced the Almighty to being fearful Adam and Eve would be usurpers, for once they had His knowledge, they would seek His place, too.

And so now, we have the knowledge, and the choice, but we also have the ultimate weapons to fight: The Word of G-d, the covenant of redemptive grace, and the revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

In these days, the enemy has grown more powerful, and seems to be putting more wins in the column as emotions get ‘triggered’, and excuses and scorn are bandied about like troops of chimps playing tennis.

It is the job of godly parents to bring up their children in G-d’s ways, but it is also the duty of the children to hold onto those ways, and to grow in their own knowledge of the Lord.

Nineveh stood for a time after hearing Jonah, but fell again because the future generations could not stand.

Solomon fell, though his father David sought the Lord constantly in almost all things, and even then, Uriah’s murder was the one stain on his earthly ledger. Yet it was David’s line through which Christ came.

Throughout the books of Kings, we see the contrasting examples of those who did what was right in the sight of G-d, and those who turned away, and what happened to them, and the people who went along, and the grief and peace of the kingdoms they ruled.

In this New Year, let the matter be settled in our hearts and minds that victory belongs to the Lord, that redemption is ours to claim, that the Father loves us and wishes to be reconciled, and the the circumscription of His rules is to keep and protect us from evil and harm.

Let it be settled, as it was when Abraham took Isaac to the mountain, as it was when the Hebrew boys defied Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, and as it was with the generations of Rechabites, who heeded their earthly father to the degree that G-d said of them,

18 And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.” ’ ”

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Your Son tells us that our foundation on Him will withstand the storms of this world, and that we are always to watch and pray, we are always to believe and abide, and we most importantly, we are always to obey Your Word, as He did, even unto death.

Yet our earthly faith is a defective mustard seed, our understanding placed in the box of flesh, and we shoot tethered arrows to the heights of the Babel tower to bring You here. But Your thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and we, like the Rechabites, are but sojourners here.

Unlike them, we have been disobedient, relying on the atoning work of Your Son to excuse us, but not coming to godly repentance that produces tears, not understanding that grace is not license, and that not one word of the law will be discounted.

As we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the New Covenant, let us take comfort in the words of our Savior in these days of mocking, lying spirits that now infect the children of men with confusion, filling them up with emotions and irrational thoughts, believing You to be a vague-shaped power as they indulge their pride in their sins:

John 14:1-3 

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

We hear, O Lord, and believe. And obey.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.