Devotional 128: The Gathering of Tares

The Parable of the Tares Explained

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

It is a terrible thing to hear! It will be even more terrible to experience, but what mankind forgets in the seeking of kings is that the king is given sovereignty: he gets to decide who belongs, and who doesn’t, who means him harm, and who doesn’t, who seeks to take his place, and who doesn’t.

There are those who don’t believe in G-d because they don’t understand that belief in the Son is the only way to him. As Dr. David Jeremiah said, the appeal of Eastern religions is that there are things for man to do. There are rituals and  chants to perform that are more active than merely believing.

But what they also don’t understand is that mere belief is not the only tenet of the Christian faith: there are the acts of repentance, of obedience, of giving thanks and praise, enduring mockery, and intolerance, and even death, of taking care of those among us who are less fortunate, of telling others of the way to salvation, of missions, of ministering to our families and neighbors, and using our gifts to herald and advance the Kingdom in truth and love, and to worship in spirit.

Faith is the catalyst. Repentance and salvation are the result of faith.

We are taught that Jesus came to die for us, and that’s true, but it goes one step further:

Matthew 16:21

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

His death was an active affair. There were people complicit in every aspect of it, but few speak of the horror of crucifixion. He was Christ, so our minds like to relegate His pain to the realm of the abstract, but had He not felt it all, had He not seen the horror of what was  to come, He would not have pleaded for the cup to pass.

He felt all of the abuse heaped on Him, the weight of the wood on His shoulders, the heat of the sun on His parched flesh, the stabbing of the spear, the spit of those who once followed Him in multitudes to be healed.

And He never let go of the Father until G-d turned away as our sins formed the clouds and blocked His vision. That, for our Lord, was the most horrific aspect of all, and the first and only time He spoke of the Father forsaking Him, even though He knew full well that the Father could not look on sin.

So, if as Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 6:20)

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

And Christ tells us: (Luke 12:5)

But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

Yet people rebel: “You made me this way, and you want to burn me for eternity because I am this way?” There are variations on this, and without examination, seems to even make sense.

Yes, we are “that way”, but we don’t have to stay ‘that way,’  for we have been given the power to choose.

There are those who repent of sin, and there are those who fall into it. It is not an easy choice to shed the things of this world and follow Jesus, but it is always, as long as there is the covenant of grace and the precious gift of time, possible.

John 6:37

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Seeking Him is active too, and even those of us who claim to believe are called to return, to abide, to rest, to sit at His feet and learn of Him, to pray without ceasing, and to love one another.

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.”

Your king is looking for you to be a part of His family, His kingdom, and His eternal life.

Are you looking for Him, or are you content to be a tare in the field, awaiting the dread harvest of His reapers?

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

There are times I don’t know if I am wheat, or weed. I have all the outward appearances of a good servant, but inside, I am a rebel. My pride is all around me, and glory in the blessings I think I’ve received through my own efforts, with no favor from a silent, distant G-d who wants me to believe that the son of a carpenter came to save my soul.

But You are not the son of a carpenter, you are the Son of G-d, and the Son of Man.

Your sovereignty is unchallenged, and Your judgment is just.  Help me to know that every idle word will be held to account, and every secret thing brought to light, whether good or evil.  Then help me to follow the path of righteousness, and believe that You can heal me.

Today, Lord, I lay my sin on the altar for the consumption of Your holy fire, instead of my backsliding soul.

Deliver me from myself, and the whispers of those around me who are agents of the prince of this world. Give me discernment, that I might see what You see inside my own circle of friends and family. 

I would be a light on a hill, pointing them to You, as You point them to the Father.

I don’t believe that I can do greater works than You, for I am not worthy of You. Knowing me fully, yet You still came for me, still revealed Yourself to me, still forgave me and loved me then, as You do now, even though my love for You has wavered, and waxed cold, and rekindled more times than I can count. 

But the hairs on my head are numbered, my days are few, yet You tell me I am worth more than sparrows and lilies to the Father, and He will purge His enemies from His sight.

I would not be burned, Lord. I would be redeemed. Help me to keep a reverent fear of the Father, who has given all authority to judge the hearts of men to You, then let me abide in You, that my sins will be blotted out, and remembered no more by Him who can destroy the essence of my very soul created through Your hands.

I desire to be among the blessed, among those who do His will, among His mother, brothers, and sisters.

I desire to be wheat and not a tare, escaping the harvest’s fires that consume all that wasn’t fruitful, or good, or of use, having used the soil of life to bring forth things of no value the sower, and being destroyed along with he who deceives by planting look-alike seeds of damnation.

Lord, I am blind. I want to receive my sight, and I believe that You, and only You, can do this.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen. 

Devotional 128: He Has Shown You What is Good.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

What we must come to understand about the words, “It is finished.” which Jesus said before He died, is that as far as the Father’s part in providing us salvation is concerned, it is indeed over.

There is no Father without the Son, no G-d without Christ, and those who say otherwise have heard but have not listened.

Christ tells us:

Matthew 16:4

4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”And He left them and departed.

Throughout His ministry he admonished the religious leaders stuck on ritual and outward appearances, status and wealth, political power and regional control, that He would not perform miracles just for the sake of the faithless. They had seen Him perform them, and still asked for a sign.

 

Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

And once again, here, in the parable of the vine dressers, He concludes with a frightening rebuke: (Matthew 21:43)

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

This is consistent with another constant reminder that it is those who do the will of the Father that are His family, and that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…?” will be part of the kingdom. In those matters of who belongs, the King is sovereign.

As we yet abide in the covenant of His grace, granted to us by the Father through the events of this day, let this be a day of joy, lifting songs of praise and thanks for His mercy.

(Matthew 26:27-32)

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Today then, let us purge the doubt and fear that daily assaults our faith, and acting on His promises, fulfill our own callings and finish our own work in this age of mocking scorn. It is only His prophecies that we are seeing come to pass, for even in this age, though they asked for a sign, don’t believe it, as it was in His own day.

Matthew 27:41-45

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

Remember, these were the leaders who believed their salvation assured because they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, yet, when the sky grew dark and the earth shook, it was the pagan Roman centurions who cried out. (Matthew 27:54)

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 

“Truly this was the Son of God!”

Yet even in the midst of the wickedness, corruption, destruction, hatred, and evil of today’s world, we can yet take comfort in the words of our Savior, if we endure to the end, not fear, and not lose heart.

John 6:40

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

There is yet time, so seek Him while He may be found so that when the harvest comes we may be reconciled to the Almighty, who has given the Son all authority over all things, and we too, shall have a day of resurrection.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have shown us what is good, right, just, and holy. You have shown us how to live as Christians among demons and rebellious spirits, and how to live as brothers and sisters among ourselves.

We are joyful that You were obedient, and thankful that You finished the work the Father gave You, yet like the maverick apostle Peter, we have taken our eyes off You and find ourselves drowning with the concerns of earthly life, and the battering of our spirits by the walls of resistance and unbelief by those to whom we testify that the works of the world are evil.

There are indeed days where our own spirit falters, and earthly reason replaces faith, and earthly practicality replaces Heaven’s promises in our lives.

But you don’t relax the Father’s standards for us, nor compromise His Word that we might not be convicted, for as a good shepherd keeps to the path, so too, must missionaries complete their mission.

So send us times of refreshing, Lord, and let us begin to look to that day when as believers, as workers in the reaping of the harvest, as gleaners of the fallen ones, we will no longer ask any questions.

Today, then, we say in fearful wonder and joy, along with the centurions who saw the sky darken and felt the earth shake as You turned away from the wretched sins we cast on You as You died and rose again, for our sake.

Truly, this is the Son of G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 127: Good Works Glorify G-d

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The works that we do in His name are not to call glory to ourselves. What work we do in faith is through the power of the Holy Spirit, but all of it points back to the source, the Father, and therefore He gets the glory.

Here’s another example:

Matthew 9

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house.

Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified G-d, who had given such power to men.

And once more:

Matthew 15:29-31

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

2Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

They did not glorify Jesus, but the Father. As Nicodemus stated:

John 3

The New Birth

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

It was Jesus’ mission to preach the Father’s will to us, and to tell us that the Father is here to help us in our fallen state, sending His Son to redeem us, to reconcile us back into the kingdom.

But it has to be our choice to believe. No one will be standing next to anyone else in the day of judgment and blame another for not having a relationship with our Lord and Savior. The Word says what it says, and none can add to it or take away from it, and as Jesus prophesied, it will not pass away.

John 14:7-9

The Father Revealed

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

And later, after the Lord had ascended back to the Father’s right hand, we have this:

Acts 3

A Lame Man Healed

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 

Many who were once mighty leaders in teaching, seeking His will, and preaching the Word of the Lord fell by the wayside and were cut off because they attributed their blessings to their efforts, and began to compromise their G-d-given authority from the pulpits with the values of the world. They sought its wealth by which they could live well and exercise control as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day controlled their own people for profit and the praises of men like themselves.

Let us be mindful of our calling, and who we serve, as we work out our salvation and finish the work of our earthly ministries, that His kingdom may be made known, and through our works, the Father is ever glorified. It’s only through His Spirit that we are able to be successful in all that He has given us to do.

The True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We are called to walk in the light as Your Son is in the light, for He tells us that a time of darkness is coming, where no one can work (John 9:4).

As the day is far spent, the harvest plentiful, and the workers few, let us then be diligent in our work and sure of our calling before that hour comes.

All that we do is for You, and through You, the giver of grace through the obedience of Your Son, our Shepherd, to whom You have given all authority to justly decide who will enter into Your rest, and who will be cast into the outer darkness, for in that day it will be too late to seek Your face and know Your will.

So Father, today we submit ourselves, whether it be the first time, or the thousandth, to the gentle yoke of hard obedience through faith as we follow the Narrow Way behind our Shepherd.

May we reflect His light as He reflects Your glory, for He says of You:

“I and the Father are One.”  (John 10:30).

We ask to give us the strength to abide in Him, as He abides in You, now and forever.

We ask in faith, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us according to our faith, and as You have said.

Amen

Devotional 126: His Own Word

John 4:39-42

The Savior of the World

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The woman at the well had already spoken to Him, and Jesus had revealed Himself to her, as her heart was seeking Him, and her life certainly needed Him. While the text doesn’t specifically say she was something of an outcast, she was certainly alone, but something in her was so different the people who heard her were curious enough to see for themselves who this man was that had the woman so fascinated.

And their lives changed as well.

What they found was someone who was supposed to be the enemy of their people, two cultures that despised one another, and yet they too, were open to His words, looked on Him, and most importantly, listened. 

Throughout Christ’s ministry, His words always got past the layers, broke the walls,  stripped away the veneers, and got to the heart of the problem, the real question, and the true need.

His teaching had carried an authority that had been amazing not only to the people, but to the rabbis in the temple from the time He was missing as a child.

The Boy Jesus Amazes the Scholars (Luke 2:41-47)

41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

Our Savior says to us, even today:

John 10:24-27

24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Yet we have among us false Christs, false teachers and prophets, and those calling themselves apostles who are not. Caught up in the world, their true trust is in their riches, and the belief that Jesus does not, in fact, mean what He says about all nations being gathered to Him.

They walk with hate in their hearts, and arrogance, exuding airs of exclusivity, mocking those who are different from themselves, and placing trust of their eternity in the hands of false shepherds who are focused on riches, favors, politics, and gimmickry.

I once debated, almost daily, with a man who held a different view, and when I showed Him from the Scriptures where his error lay, it shook him. We parted ways due to circumstances, and kept in touch for a short while, but way lead on to way, and I trust he held onto the truth, as he also believed the Word of G-d was unerring. His claim, however, was that his faith required teachers who studied and rose through the church ranks to reveal the word to the flock, and he believed that they were the most accurate. Until I showed him the error of his belief that there was no hell, that Jesus Himself spoke of it, so it could not be a metaphor.

The most disturbing thing he told me was how many Christians they angered because those Christians didn’t read their Bibles. I imagine that’s how they got most of their converts, showing them in the Scriptures what they wanted them to see, and convincing them, because they had no spiritual voice of their own, neither connecting with Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Believers, we have the Word in our own hands, and to neglect it is to be led astray. While study is necessary, reading it is also required. Jesus tells us that even hearing it is not enough, we must act on it.

There is only one path back to the Father, only one true G-d, but His enemy does have power and influence. In fact, he is called the prince of this world. Let us give thanks that we have the King of kings, the Most High, and the Almighty G-d, whose power is greater than he who is in the world.

Acts 17:10-18

Ministering at Berea

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

The Word of our Father is such that, even in a polytheistic pagan society, men and women came to faith in the Savior of the world.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We are losing sight of our Shepherd, Your Son, who came to reveal the truth of Your existence, the honesty of Your Word, and the love that You bear for His errant, straying, ever-rebellious, ever-doubting flock, for He tells us that You have given all over to Him regarding our righteousness as well as our judgement.

Counted worthy to be among the flock, we have the power within us to not make the Shepherd work harder than He needs to, but we are incapable of withstanding temptation, of doubt, of cleansing ourselves from sin.

Daily, the Shepherd must wash us clean again.

We are grateful to Him, Father, that He tells us You are faithful and just to forgive, and that You would see us reconciled to be with Him in the kingdom, and that the memory of this sinful world will be no more.

We humbly submit ourselves today back under His hand, back into Your favor, back into Your grace, back into Your presence.

As we search our Word, let us also search our hearts, minds, and motives. Let us deny ourselves, take up the cross, count the cost, and follow Him through the valleys of the shadow of death on either side of the narrow path, that we might find the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and live forever.

Until then, may we no longer be like the sin-filled pagans among us, who believe all manner of things that require no change within themselves. Let us not put our trust in the created, and in men who love the praises of men, or who call ‘good’ that which you call ‘evil.’

Let the Holy Spirit close our eyes to false teachers, prophets, and Christs; they are tares the enemy has sown among the wheat.

Let us come out to hear You for ourselves, Father, that we might believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and that You have told Him all He should say to us concerning You. Let us affirm that our search for the Savior of the World is over, because now we ourselves have heard His own word, and know Him by His voice.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 125: “Look, Lord…”

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were appointed by the Roman government, and they were to collect the taxes that funded it. Calculations were made for the right amounts owed, but once those limits were met, the tax collectors were unsupervised and unregulated as to collecting more than was necessary, hence, they were especially despised, and frequently lumped in with harlots as especially heinous types of sinners.

But yet, we have the story of Matthew, who when Jesus called to him, left everything.

Luke 5:27-28

Matthew the Tax Collector

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Indeed, He admonished His own disciples that distractions would not help their cause:

Luke 14:33

33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

It was no less with Zacchaeus, who, like Matthew, we are told, also received Jesus joyfully, and again, the questions of the Pharisees regarding this practice come around again.

But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus again answers with the same thing, said a different way:

10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

But what is often overlooked here is the joy Zacchaeus felt, so convicted of his wrong in Jesus’ presence, that he actually wanted the Lord to witness his repentance.

“Look, Lord…”

Are we that confident in our repentance, in our faith in mercy and grace, in the New Covenant itself, that when we turn again to the Father through our faith in the Son, we can say, “Look, Lord…” ?

Are we brave enough to call Heaven’s attention to the changing of our ways, the words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts, and our communion with the Holy Spirit?

Dare we?

Will we make restitution to our King, restoring ourselves to His mercy and grace, seeking His forgiveness of our sins in His authority as the Son of G-d, and through faith in His finished work on the cross as the Son of Man?

Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, how far will we go to see a glimpse of our Savior’s face, how much effort are we going to put in to our salvation to get into His presence, and seek His blessing and favor over ourselves and our houses?

Let us be ready to feast with Him, that the wrath of the Father not abide on us. Let us restore our fellowship with Jesus, that we might be saved and raised on the last day.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, but neither let us tire of resting in Him, knowing that all our work will be tested, all our secrets brought to light, but all of our sins forgiven by the shedding of His blood.

May we be confident enough in our faith walk to seek His face, saying to Him as He fellowships with us: “Look, Lord…”

Therefore I pray:

I confess now, Lord Jesus, that I am sick, and lost, and as You are the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd,  I ask that You forgive me, heal me, and convict me of all unrighteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me make my restitution to those I’ve wronged, and restore myself once again to the Father, who hates dishonest scales. 

Let it be said of me that salvation has come to me and my house, for Jesus noticed my zeal in seeking Him. I thank You, Lord Jesus, for the covenant of grace and mercy that abides on me through You, in You, and of You. Let me not substitute Your spotless, blameless righteousness and favor for the sake of earthly things that will pass away.

May it be true of me that I want You to see the good works I’m doing, forgiving those who’ve wronged me, and restoring that which I’ve taken without gratitude, or the means to repay. 

It is a great debt You’ve forgiven me, so that I might forgive others who’ve wronged me.

May I joyously receive Your blessing over me and my house, standing in Your presence, unable to make restitution for redemption, and unable to attain it through anything I might do.

May my heart feast with You in heavenly places, even as it burns within me as we walk together in the day, far spent. Call me to celebrate with You after repenting of my sin, as You speak to seal the Word of the Father to my heart.

Let my works, in conjunction with the true repentance of my heart, bring You joy, so that I might be confident enough to say to my Savior, “Look, Lord…”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 124: Lord of the Sabbath

Luke 13: 

A Spirit of Infirmity

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, ]“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

The Sabbath day is full of ritualistic ‘don’t’s and ‘can’t’s and ‘not supposed to’s, and that is not to mock it, for the Father set it up as a day of rest for His chosen, and gave them the rules to abide in it, and truly rest. Even when He supplied them manna in the desert, they were not to go out on the Sabbath to collect it if they couldn’t gather it all. Of course, there were those who tried, and suffered the consequences.

What the religious leaders who trailed Christ like sharks on a blood trail failed to realize is that His ministry was eternal in purpose and scope, and while there were times He went away to renew Himself, the work of the ministry was ceaseless because man is ever in a pitiful state, whether it be spiritually, physically, or financially, or all of the above.

They could not rejoice in the miracles Jesus performed over those they wanted to control and manipulate. He hurt their pride, and properly reapplied all their learning to that which they should have been doing, to the point where they were so caught up that every time they tried to trap Him, He’d quiet them with a question or a timely word.

Matthew: 12 Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The common people rejoiced at what Jesus did, and glorified G-d, because this was something new in their midst. They were astonished at His authoritative teaching, His boldness, His wisdom, and His power. Their needs were immediate, but their sins were forgiven forever.

We’d like to believe that those who were healed when on to live a life that continued to glorify G-d, but we can’t possibly know that; that is for the harvesting angels to know. We should ask how often do we, after getting our needs met, turn back to pursuing our wants?

Let us not be like the legalists and miss the point: there is never a time to not do good to someone else. There is no resting from that. In fact, we are called to do it in ways that are contrary to what we’ve been taught as people.

Pray for your enemies? Bless those who curse you? Turn the other cheek when they strike you? Love the sinful, thankless, evil, and faithless, and minister to them?  Forgive them? Love them? Forsake all to follow Him?

Yes, all that and more. He tells us to partake of His body and blood to be like Him, and to do as He does, which is what we pray for but don’t do. The ones who turned away didn’t understand, because their hearts were hard, and the Spirit did not open their ears. The disciples were so used to hearing things they didn’t (yet) understand, that Peter answered for most of us why we ‘stick around.’

John 6:60-68

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

It is the spirit of G-d in us responding to the Spirit in Him.

The Apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Are we resting on Him in faith, this Sabbath day? Are we, like the temple priests, ministering, too?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Within our man made structures, there are rules, orders, laws, and procedures that allow us to do our work in the most efficient way possible, free not only from interruptions, but from dangers within and without. 

Yet You call us to minister to a world of chaos and unbelief, lawlessness and strife,  and preach to them a message that seems so foolish and impossible that it has to be the Holy Spirit who opens their ears, for You say that no one is drawn to You unless it is granted to them by the Father. 

We are to plant seeds, and water if need be, but we are also to live as lights on a hillside, and to walk a narrow road. As Your works pointed those who saw them to glorify the Father working through You, let us also, as You said, do greater works, that the same may be accomplished as the harvest draws nearer, and Your prophecies come to pass. 

Help us not to grow weary in doing good, and to do all things well, growing in favor with the Father and man, that our enemies through our faith in You be silenced, and put to shame. 

And let us be ever mindful to rest not only from our labors, but on Your promises, and on the seal of our salvation to be reconciled, blameless before the Throne, and our works withstand the test of fire as we stand before You, longing for the words to enter into Your rest.

We ask in faith, believing.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

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.