Devotional 60: His Command is Everlasting Life

John 12:42-50

Walk in the Light

42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe,[a] I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

The Son of G-d came as the representative of the Father’s will, to seek and save the unrighteous, unrepentant, unbelieving, and unforgiving by telling us the Gospel of His death and resurrection, and that eternal life would be bestowed upon those who believed in His words, promises, and prophecies, and did as He commanded.

We are not pure vessels of service, we are not inherently good, and we are prone to leave this all behind when we feel that the whole pursuit of heavenly things is in vain and ultimately foolish.

We read with no understanding, we pray while distracted, we mutter our praises, and our silences are not filled with meditation on that which pleases Him.

Our backs are turned, our hearts hardened, and our ears stopped.

And here comes G-d’s emissary to say, “Assuredly, I say to you…”

We know the voice of our Shepherd, but do we return to the fold?

It’s a difficult thing to leave, and a difficult thing to return.

Jesus was grieved when Philip asked Him: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus embodied the very will of the Father toward us: fellowship, praise, glory, reward, blessings, peace on every side, prosperity with no trouble, pure hearts, songs of rejoicing and psalms of ascent, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and our Father above all.

We have all been in gatherings where we felt this, knew it, and submitted to it, and there was no greater feeling in the world.  And then the world comes crashing in: traffic on the way home, a snide remark, a dirty look. Sometimes right after the gathering, from the people who were there with you.

It is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of reality.

But faith is every bit as real. Jesus is every bit as real. The power of G-d is every bit as real, for He is the Creator of ALL.

Today, on this Father’s Day, let us remember the Names of our G-d,  the plea of His emissary and only Son, who expresses that Father’s will to us in this year of the Lord’s favor.

Let us remember that the Great Commission is ultimately to fulfill what the Messiah tells us is the Father’s command: eternal life.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

No, we don’t understand it all. We can’t. But we have Your example to follow, and even though You sacrificed Yourself for us, there are those who reject Your gift. You say their words will judge them; help us to know our words will judge us also. To proclaim You and not preach the Gospel, to proclaim You and seek our own glory, to follow You as a means to our own ends.

We are admonished to study and show ourselves approved, yet our Bibles grow dusty, and remain unmarked.

I’ve been guilty of this, and yet Your presence is there when I return to my senses.

“Father, give me my inheritance,” becomes, “Father, make me a servant in your house.”

But over and over, you restore me to my proper station as one worthy of sharing the gift of life with, of revealing the Truth of the Father’s Word, which He holds higher than His Name. You bring me back under the holy blood covenant of atoning grace as I repent and seek forgiveness.

And you say ‘Yes.’

This is the Father’s love for us: that He sent You, Lord Jesus, to tell us what He would have us know. It is sad that few will find the way, that their own words will condemn them to a life of needless pain and separation.

Happy Father’s Day, my Lord G-d, and thank You for the precious gift of Your Son, that I might return to You with gifts of my own, blessing Your Name in the assembly of the saints that dwell in Your house, forever.

Amen.

Devotional 59: I Delight to do Your Will

Psalm 40:8-9

I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.

 

The googled definition of delight is to 1: please someone greatly  2: to take great pleasure in.

Do we, as believers, delight to do G-d’s will? Do we really?

The Lord says that the greatest among us will be the servant of all, that He himself came to serve, and not be served.

It’s one thing to do the Lord’s will when we are the centerpiece, and quite another to do it in obscurity among the ungrateful, or for only a brief period, or even to the point of martyrdom, where no one knows you or will bother to remember you. What about when your body, quite possibly, will never be found?

Delight?

How can one take delight in such circumstances to the do the will of an unseen G-d?

We must, in all things, take caution to make sure we are hearing from G-d, and listening (they are not the same) to what He has called us to do. There’s doing what we think is His will, and then there’s being in the center of it.

Yes, there’s delight. There’s also fear, doubt, reluctance, hesitancy, excuse-making. It’s all there, right alongside courage, faith, resolve, rejoicing, and immediacy.

Let delight be at the center, for this is not our eternal home.

Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. King, Elie Wiesel, these are some of my heroes who demonstrated true courage in the face of intense adversity, whose faced down their beliefs in the darkness, and set their faces like flint as they picked up their crosses, flaws and all.

But there’s no delight in beatings, imprisonment, watching comrades die, and staying among the filth and stink of dying lepers.

Yet we are reminded of the ‘others’ in Chapter 11 of Hebrews, who took their stand on their way to death and persecution.

(end of v. 35) Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Delight? The Messiah tells us this:

John 15:18-25

The World’s Hatred

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’[a]

Delight? Yes, dear brothers and sisters. Take heart, and be resolved in your minds to delight in doing His will. In the end it shall be: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23)

For the Lord takes delight in our service, whatever it is, wherever it may be, for however long the time. He takes delight in our purpose fulfilled, our lives fruitful, and our service rewarded in in the proper place and time.

He will sing over you, and anoint you with the oil of rejoicing.

Yes, delight.

 

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

In our trembling humanity, help us to count the cost of loving our neighbors in a hateful, selfish world. 

Let our hearts be resolved, our motives pure, our desires for fleshly praise extinguished.

Let our hands be helped by like-minded brothers and sisters who come alongside and aid us when we falter, and if necessary, send angels to minister to us in our gardens of stone and beauty if we begin to look for another cup, surrounded by satanic spears, traitors, and the wrathful faithlessness of Your enemies.

Let our minds not be entrapped by the foolishness of the many tangents Your Word fosters among us: How old is the earth? What animals were on the ark? What was Jesus’ skin color? Hymns over secular sounds? What version of Your Word is the best? 

It is the work of Satan planting tares among wheat, and unleashing his wolves among flocks. 

The best version of the Bible is the one that has the story of Your Son’s death and the power of His Resurrection. Like the Apostle Paul, let us determine to know nothing among this fickle populace except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 

Let us delight in obscurity and persecution if it is the center of Your will.

Let us be ready to embrace death when the proverbial sword is at our necks and we hear the words of man say: Renounce your Savior. 

With delight, let us open our mouths for the Spirit to fill, not worrying what we shall say, and pour ourselves out, embracing our fate, since You have determined it since before the foundation of the world, and revealed Yourself to us through Your Son and Your Word to us through the power of Your Spirit.

Let us always please You, and take great pleasure in doing it, as we delight in each other having one will through the Son, us in Him, and Him in You.

In the Name of Jesus I ask it, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 53: Wash and Be Clean

2Kings: 9-14 Namaan’s Leprosy Healed

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Arenot the Abanah[a] and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Namaan was highly esteemed and a man of titles, used to a certain level of pomp in his presence, yet he was humbled at the house of the prophet Elisha. Indeed, he was insulted at the affront of not even getting a personal greeting.

To make matters worse, he was told to do something so simple that it also affronted him even though he was told it would heal his leprosy: Go take a bath.

There is within us that which refuses to believe that that it’s not about works and rituals and ‘doing.’ Pr. David Jeremiah in his book The Invasion of Other Gods points out that the appeal of Eastern religions is that the level of human involvement gives a sense of control, of being deserving of the favor of those gods by doing that which pleases them.

It’s an ancient conditioning of the human mind: From early on in life we are told that hard work, submission to authority, and obedience to rules are how we are rewarded in life, and by life. Productivity and frugality secure our futures, and sense of personal responsibility allows us to live civilly (for the most part) with each other.

We work to secure our legacies and security for the days we are no longer able to work. Inheritances are passed down, added to, and passed down again, and nothing is accrued unless the work is done to amass them.

Yet for those of us who believe, serve, and follow the Lord this is a paradox, for we are told not to worry about such things.

Or is it?

Let’s keep in mind that work was given to us a curse for Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating from the Tree of Knowledge:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

That being said, we are told in Proverbs 22:9 that a man skilled in his work will not serve obscure men, but kings. We have this example in the workmanship of Solomon building the House of the Lord.

We are also admonished by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:22-25

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

In other words, being in bondage is no excuse to sin.

The point of this seemingly rambling post is that it is often the simple things, not the grand, where we find the Lord’s blessing.

Namaan was hoping for a public spectacle that would reinforce his sense of greatness, yet he felt insulted by being told to just go bathe.

There were no wars for him to fight, no conditions attached, no rituals to perform, and until the gentle rebuke of his servants, he was angry. But it wasn’t until he obeyed the prophet’s message that he received his healing.

There’s a saying that’s popular in some Christian circles: ‘Lord, don’t move the mountain, just give me the strength to climb.’

Sounds noble, doesn’t it? You don’t wish to trouble the Lord with something so trivial as moving a mountain out of your way.  In fact, it’s as egotistical and foolish as Namaan wanting to do something more difficult to cure himself.

See, here’s the thing:  the Lord didn’t say He would move it, he said, ‘Speak to the mountain in faith, believing it will move, and it will be cast into the sea.’

Why would you want to struggle to ascend a difficult path the Lord would flatten, and straighten, and make smooth without obstructions? The view of your destiny is not only clearer when that happens, but faster.

There is no need for false heroism; life is hard enough, isn’t it? Just do the task before you, or as Oswald Chambers puts it, ‘the task that lies nearest to hand,’ and receive your blessing. Stop complicating that which the Lord would make easy for you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, I thank You that the grandiose egos of men count as nothing under the covenant of grace. Let me not block my own way through sin and rebellion. Let me not be cast down because of pride and make my blessing void.

Help me to be ever mindful that You are the One who raises and puts down, that Your mercy is for the repentant, that Your love is everlasting, and that Your will is for me to thrive in whatever I do, wherever I am.

Let the works of my hands please You. Bless them, increase them, and let them find the ones who need it. Let my integrity be intact not only when the rulers watch, but when no one’s around. 

Keep me from a false sense of self-sacrifice, looking for strife where You have given peace. Let me discern the still, small voice from the pompous, empty grandiosity of earthly recognition and platitudes.

Bring to mind that I am in the year of Your favor, that I may consecrate my life to You, and You alone, and that always, You hear my prayer of faith in my affliction:

Be removed, and cast into the sea.

I ask it by the Power of Your Holy Name, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 51: The Things Concerning Me Have an End

Luke 22:37

37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’[a] For the things concerning Me have an end.”

Branded a criminal, a demon, a blasphemer, a charlatan, an upstart, a rebel, and a fraud, all prophesied from the beginning, our Lord came to save us and not only take on our sins, but our labels; have we not been guilty of all these things?

Yet we can rejoice in celebration as we are yet in the year of His, with mercy and grace continually pursuing us.

We have the Word, the gift of hindsight, technology, pastors, preachers, and prophets today, yet do you believe we really understand any better than the Apostles did as they walked with Him in His earthly ministry as He spoke of Heavenly things?

Could we place our faith in spiritual matters any more than they did when they felt the heat of the desert sun on their bodies?

Did the concept of eternity click for them as they aged and came to the persecution Jesus prophesied they’d receive for preaching in His Name?

Today, this Good Friday, brothers and sisters, we still have cause to rejoice; though the earthly ministry of Jesus had an end, the eternal reign of Christ with G-d does not, and we discover to our exceeding joy that the things concerning Jesus do have an end, not in time, but eternity.

Take heart, be still, and know that He’s taken away the sins of the world, once for all, for those who believe.

“You believe in G-d. Believe also in Me.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, that You would save the unworthy, the ungrateful, and even the unfaithful speaks to the everlasting love You had for us before the world’s foundation.

We’ve counted the cost, and chosen this day whom we serve.

Alongside You, in Faith, we take up our crosses, put on our armor, set our faces like flint in these times of softened souls and hardened hearts, striving to be wheat in the midst of tares, willing to bear the blows and count ourselves blessed for the sake of the Gospel.

In our times of faltering, help our unbelief, strengthen our hands, send the Spirit to us in boldness, rekindle our hillside lamps and fill them with the oil of joy, and help us to hear the Father’s voice and do His will on earth as it is done in Heaven: immediately and without question.

With thankful hearts we praise You, with hope we long for You, and with love we serve You all the days of our lives, that we might rule and reign with You, and glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever, which is the chief end of humanity.

Amen.

 

Devotional 50: He Put Them All Outside

Mark 5:36-43

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated,“Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

I love the story of redemption through the cross, because it means that Jesus is resurrected, and that means those who believe in Him will be resurrected too, spotless and blameless before the Father.

Personally, I think the Resurrection doesn’t get enough attention. We have the hope of eternal life, and life means we must be raised. The power of the grave is broken, to the point where even the sea will give up its dead.

We read in the Word that Jesus could work no miracles where there was no faith, yet we’re told if our faith is the size of mustard seed, it can provide the spark.

In some ways this story parallels that of Lazarus: Jesus was ministering elsewhere when the death occurs, and He visits once he’s done ministering to the crowd. What’s different is that the closer Jesus gets, the thinner the crowd, until only His inner circle and the child’s parents remain as witnesses, whereas the raising of Lazarus was more public.

The way Mark puts this is almost humorous in verse 40: And they ridiculed Him. But when He put them all outside…” The juxtaposition is jarring, and there was probably nothing humorous about it, but Christ does not surrender His authority any more than the Father shares His glory. They left.

Jesus had no time for the faithless clamoring of useless mourning.

How bold they were to mock Him, knowing who He was, ‘knowing’ the child was dead.

But we’re not unlike them at times, even professing faith. We ‘know’ things that Jesus doesn’t about ourselves, our lives, our plans, our families…we are not as quick to submit to His authority in all aspects of our lives.

We ‘know’ it’s too late to start over, or the marriage is ending, or the delinquent child is never going to get it together….

We must begin to do with our own faithless behaviors what Jesus did to the doubters at the door: Put them all outside, and say to the things of G-d, “I say to you, arise.”

And like the little girl our Lord raised, we must feed those things in us of G-d that provides us with perseverance, and shut out that which distract us, taunt us, mock and abuse us by assailing us with the words and deeds of long ago. Give yourself something to eat.

Put them all outside, brothers and sisters, and as Jesus told Jairus: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Therefore I pray

Lord Jesus, help me to put outside all of the thoughts or feelings that are not tied into Your power to redeem me from sin.

Help me not to hear those who say “Don’t trouble the Teacher any longer,” so that I am not caught up in the noise of faithless fatalism.

Increase my peace in times of turmoil, my faith in the midst of trials, and my understanding in times of confusion.

Let me feel the presence of the Spirit as I enjoy the blessing of restoration.

Let me hold fast to the hope of being raised into eternal life in the Kingdom of G-d, to the cloud of witnesses after the Great Shout: ‘Come forth!’

I would not be among the faithless of the outer darkness who reject the Gospel because they ‘know’ there is no G-d. You say that in that time, as here, there will be weeping, for the killing of the soul is true death, and not merely sleep.

I would not be snatched from Your hand, even when I stray, so I ask Your forgiveness when I stood silent among those who ridiculed You.

I ask these things in faith, believing I’ve received, and for all my Brothers and Sisters who believe in You across the nations of the world.

Amen

Devotional 43: You Shall Recover All

1 Samuel 30:1-8

David’s Conflict with the Amalekites

30 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David.

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?”

And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.

Losses come in two forms: the first is through attrition and time, when we lose our ancestors, and the loss is felt more keenly the more we know and love them. This is why great-grandparents hold such esteem among us, and is considered a title and age to be honored by their descendants.

The second is through the nature of man: greed and the love of money, jealousy, hatred, and we don’t understand why, if we’re good people our Lord will not always shield us from such.

But Jesus tells us the world hates us because it hated Him first, and it hates Him because He testifies that its work are evil.

Yet the plan of the Father is redemption, and so was here with David, and so it shall be with us. The one thing that was consistent with David was that whenever he was victorious, he sought the Lord first. Coming home to find all you’ve loved, worked and fought for taken from you by an enemy is a crushing thing, and David, flaws and all, was as human as the lowliest soldier in his army.

David returns home after being rejected by the Philistines to find the city burned and everything stolen. He weeps with his people, and when that’s over, his people talk of killing him because he led the men from home and they weren’t there to protect their own.

He was the king, and he’d left their gates open to the enemy. Like true thieves, the Amalekites came when no strong man was there, they captured the weak, and took what  belonged to the king and his people.

This was an indictment against David, who had a reputation of being strong and might, feared, and a brilliant strategist. If ever there was a moment for a man to despair, this was it, but David knew where his help came from.

v6 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Do we believe God is control of our circumstances, even if we suffer loss? Do we believe he reins in what Satan is allowed to do to us? Consider, this is the only time we’re told that there was a raid with no slaughter, just thievery. Everyone they lost was still alive. Who kept them all safe, that David would recover all?

How odd that an Egyptian would fall sick and be left behind, and in the countryside, just happens to come across the king looking for the men who attacked his home, and this man just so happens to know where the troops are…

When we seek G-d first for answers, He honors our faith.

When we are told to pursue, we get what He’s set aside for us to have; it has been preserved for us, but we must take action. G-d did not put a change of heart in the Amalekites to suddenly come back with everyone and drop them off. David still had to go, though he was sad, tired, and angry.

When we too are done shaking our fist, grinding our teeth, and rending our garments in times and moments we don’t understand, surrounded by people who are out to destroy us from within and without, we must still go.

And the Father promises, we shall surely recover all, with increase for our faith. David took back what belonged to Him, and the Amalekites. Moses led the Hebrews out with increase after all those years of slavery.

Nothing will ever be missing, or dead, when we recover all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, if I am to pursue according to Your word, give me the strength to pursue. As your servant David said, ‘I am poor and needy,’ and I am of little faith. 

You are the G-d of eternity who redeems our times when we’ve gone astray, and You keep and preserve all that You have for us until we are found ready to receive, or worthy of the prize. 

When my works are tested, I will weep at the loss of reward for I know that among them is stubble, good for nothing, and times of fruitlessness where I was cursed. I know that I have not only grieved Your Spirit, but I’ve broken the heart of the Son, and made You turn Your eyes, for You cannot look on sin.

Yet You see the end of my days, and my future is a memory to You. So I ask that You walk with me as I pursue, and help me to perceive the signposts, my Egyptians, my markers of stone, my altars, my pillars of cloud and fire, that I may finish the work You’ve called me to do.

And in so doing, I shall recover all that was mine and the enemy’s by the power of Your right hand.

In the Name of Jesus I ask it, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

 

Christmas Faith

CHRISTMAS FAITH: “So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.” Luke 2:15-16

The shepherds, their attention so dramatically focused, their vision so profoundly heightened, had their hearts stirred to the point where, obedient in their faith, they immediately walked to Bethlehem. In a town full of people their steps were guided unerringly to where the Messiah lay,

They found His mother quietly turning the meaning of this over in her mind, and Joseph, his stepfather, quietly obedient in his secondary role, the meaning of his dream crystallizing in his mind.

Here at last was the Messiah, the Promise of Redemption, the Son of G-d.

In a crowded city, there were no crowds around Him.
In his royalty, there were yet no kings to honor Him.
In His deity there was no power, for He had subjugated it to His humanity.

Yet He came for everyone, yet He came as King of Kings, and yet He will reign forever.

As Christmas fast approaches, amid the noise and madness remember that the most important, profound, life changing and lasting things can take place in the humblest of circumstances.

Amen.

Christmas Signs

CHRISTMAS SIGN: Luke 2:12

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

God tailored the sign given to the recipients of the news. Not for the shepherds the subtlety of a Star in the east, but an angel in their midst. The shepherds received a Savior; the Magi were told of a King. The shepherds’ message was given in a startling fashion so that there would be no misunderstanding of the event that had taken place.

The Magi had been studying the star and plotting to follow it long before.

How fitting they bought gold, so that a carpenter could afford to flee to Egypt.

And frankincense, a kingly scent to overpower the smell of livestock.

And myrrh, a burial spice, prophetic in its symbolism, as was the oil of anointing at Bethany.

Shepherds were not welcome in places such as palaces and temples, so access would be given them by placing the newborn King someplace where they too could see and worship.

But the city of David was the city where the pinnacle of King David’s line was born. The Magi would be welcome there, and treated as the royalty they were. And when they arrived under the guidance of the star they worshiped Jesus, not his parents.

Of the thousands of babies born that night to swell the ranks of the census, this one was in a special place, a place where typically no human baby would ever be placed, a container to feed cattle and sheep.

A synonym for manger is “crib.”

Later He would come to say, ‘He who eats my body…’

The signs that point the way to Him are still being revealed to those who would walk the path to see and worship, and those who would look for the signs G-d has promised He would set in the heavens.

May the knowledge that your King is accessible to you, and that you may partake of Him, bring you comfort and joy.

Amen.

Devotional 40: Who Touched Me?

Text: Luke 8:40-48

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. 43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him[a] said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’[b]

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” 47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer;[c] your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

As Jesus’ popularity grew, the crowds increased and became pretty much the order of the day wherever He went. Their reasons for gathering were as varied as their problems, their needs, and their motives for wanting to see Him.

What encourages most about these stories where he travels among large crowds is that there are those who are there because of two things: their faith in His claim, and their desire to get to Him for their need.

Some spoke with Him, others were brought to Him, and still others were afraid to approach His presence. We have such a story here, often sermonized through the years from various perspectives, but what’s truly remarkable about this story to me is what Jesus said after having His clothing touched:

“Who touched Me?”

He’d lain hands on many people, and restored their sight, their health, their right minds, even their departed spirits, but this touch was so special, so lost amid the large number of people, so random in that there was no crying out to Him, that even He had to ask who it was that touched Him.

Imagine a need so great, so full of longing, so full of the desire to be released from pain that you’d be willing to risk the wrath of a divine being by personally touching them. Imagine your faith so strong in that divine being that you’d be willing to touch just their clothing on the off chance that such a seemingly foolish gesture would make you well.

We’re not told how old this woman is, only that she had her condition for twelve years, one that in the culture was shameful and unclean. It likely brought her a great deal of ridicule, and caused no end of embarrassment. Yet, she knew that if her life was going to change by believing on Jesus, this would be her opportunity to change it.

We read in verse 46 Jesus’ reply to Peter:

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”

As with so many miracles, faith is the key that makes the power work. It won’t do so in cases of doubt or faithlessness. It can’t. So great was her faith, and so desperate was her desire that when she did touch His clothing, power He had not deliberately dispensed went out of Him, and in such an amount that He felt it leave.

And as before with the blind man’s cry that made Jesus stand still, so too did this.

Not knowing how Jesus would react, she tried to hide, but in verse 47 we read:

47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

Interesting that in the midst of the press of a large crowd she was suddenly ‘no longer hidden.’ We are admonished that it is we who must press through our own personal crowds to get to Him. It need not be a crowd of people. It could be a crowd of idols we’ve set up around us, a crowd of past failures that tell us to be quiet, when we need to shout out all the more. Perhaps it’s a crowd of deeds and words from the past that tell us not to trouble Him, for He is royalty, and we are rags.

But He never turns away those who earnestly seek Him, who persist in spite of their current circumstances.

Jesus always responded to faith and usually called forward the petitioner. Such was the case here, but so commanding is His presence that she grew afraid, fell to her knees, and confessed what she’d done and gave her testimony as to what happened.

Jesus graciously blesses her in front of crowd:

48 Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Her faithful boldness has not only been approved, but given the royal seal, and her restoration is now spiritual as well as physical, so that we have her story even to this day.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I confess that I don’t seek Your attention, for though I profess to follow and serve, there are times I don’t carry myself as a servant of all, but as a pompous man entitled and deserving of the service of others.

There are times I think my meager, half-hearted service does You honor, when it is You who has called me to serve those in need of You, to be salt and light, to be the city on the hilltop, to shout from the roof what You whisper to me in my far too infrequent prayer time.

My need of You is greater than I know, and I would press through to touch the hem of your garment, the strap of your sandal, the soles of Your feet if I were truly conscious of how small a part of my life I’ve made You. I would turn away in defeat, shouted down. I would kiss Your cheek in a moonlit garden while the servants of Hell took you in my place, count my silver, and spend it on raucous living that leads to death.

I wonder then, if You’d look for me, and leave the ninety-nine to find me still, lead me beside still waters,  restore my soul, and put me back in my right mind with the joy of my salvation.

My issue of blood is that I need Yours to cover me, that I would be mindful of my rebellious backsliding into sins that held me in a grip long ago, before the Spirit revealed You to me. I would stay connected at all times, in all things if I had strength to crucify my flesh by taking up my cross.

I would not be conveniently obedient as King Saul was, but I know that I don’t possess King David’s desire to pursue capturing Your heart. I would be mindful of counting the cost of following You, and throw the silver of betrayal into the dust.

Help me press through, Lord. Hear my cry. Stand still, turn and call to Me so that I would not be hidden from You, and I will know Your voice and follow.

Once again, let me touch the hem of Your garment, that Your power is shared with me, making me whole again.

In Your Holy Name I ask it.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 35: If It is of God…

Acts 5: 33-42 Gamaliel’s Advice

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His[a] name.42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

The Apostles had been released from prison by an angel of the Lord, who told them to go out and speak to the people. Finding them doing so, the military officers brought them before the enemies of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who had ordered them to stop.

The captain had gone with his officers to bring them from the court, but didn’t harm them. Surely men who’d escaped a guarded cell in the middle of the night might have some clout in heavenly realms. Best to be careful when dealing with G-d’s anointed, as David himself took heed, though Saul was out of favor.

But at this point, the Apostles had seen the fulfillment of all that Jesus had taught to them, and indeed, had feasted with Him after He rose, so they defied the council with bold words, in no uncertain terms saying they would not obey man, but G-d, as they, and the Holy Spirit, were witnesses to the Ministry.

Acts: 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (italics mine).

It is indeed an exhilarating thing to minister under the power of the Spirit, and to be under one who’s preaching or worshiping to bring in His presence.

But title, power, wealth and influence are ever reluctant to let go of earthly things:

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them

None other than Gamaliel, Paul’s mentor, stands to speak a word of caution over the rising tide of anger, and does so eloquently. As he commands the respect of the people as a teacher of the Law, he speaks with authority, and persuades the council to consider what it is about to do.

38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.

And that, no matter how dirty you fight, is a losing battle before it begins.

Even in the midst of all the hostility that surrounded Christ, there are those who recognize the hand of the Father in the unfolding of things, as Jesus never spoke a word that didn’t come to pass.

We see it even now, in these times: Nation against nation, brother against brother, rebellious children, broken marriages (there are websites now dedicated to the practice of adultery and fornication), the contamination of our land and water, increasing natural disasters, the breakdown of ecosystems, and the rising defiance in those who would call evil good, and sin, tolerance and freedom. The bestowing of self-rights rather than being our brother’s keeper is the order of the day, and those of us who stand fast in faith in our Deliverer find ourselves increasingly dismissed, insulted, and shunned.

There are those in the faith who have compromised for the sake of being approved by men, and there are those who have left, feeling the Power should compel them to obedience, for they don’t seek the way out of temptation, and failing, turn their backs.

Now more than other, we must seek the hem of His garment, lest we too, be dragged away among the multitude, our voices crying unheeded in the wilderness, that hearing they may neither hear nor understand.

The way is narrow, and few there will be who find it, says the Lord.

Will you be among them, walking the narrow road, following the true Good Shepherd’s voice? I dare ask, will I?

Therefore I pray:

Father, we would be with You, watching the Light of Your glory in the new heaven bathe the new earth, so that no sun is needed, no moon affects the tides, and the lion rests beside the lamb, the two aspects of our Lord reconciled, as we will be to You because of the Atonment.  We long for the day our tears are dry, our pain is gone, and death and hell and sin have no dominion over us.

So let all we do be at Your command, and let us move in obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that our work will move the hearts of mankind, and no one will stand against it.

Fill our mouths with praise and Truth, and give us bold hearts, but help us to temper it with mercy and grace to those not yet ready to receive. Bring to mind the wheat and tares, and that we are but seed planters, and You are the One who waters and adds daily to the number.

Set a table before us in the presence of our enemies, that they may see the love of our fellowship, and turn from their worldly ways. Help us also to have discernment of the Judases in our midst, who smile and smile, and yet are villains. 

You have, Lord Jesus, commanded us to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, but also to shout from the rooftops, and let our peace return to us when not properly received. Let us not have to be scattered, but to willingly go, willing to suffer shame for the Gospel, knowing we have rewards where no man can break in and steal.

In the Power of Your Holy Name, and by the Blessing of the Almighty, I ask it.

Amen.