Devotional 129: A Rift in Ministry

Acts 15:36-41

Division over John Mark

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

From what we are told and not told, Barnabas and Paul never ministered together, or quite possibly, ever even met again. We are told that Mark left them, but not why. As Paul’s missions were extensive and difficult, but critical to the spreading of the Gospel, whenever Mark left them to return to Jerusalem was likely an inopportune time, and made an already difficult task that much more difficult.

Barnabas, however, was still willing to give Mark another chance, but Paul was not.

As an alternative seemed to be available, we’re not sure why it got to the point of a such an argument, but perhaps Barnabas at this time had seen and heard enough of Paul, and knew enough of Mark, to launch out on his own. We are not told that was the case, but very often, when G-d splits a ministry amid chaos and strife, it still ends to His glory.

The Book of Acts itself came after the church was persecuted and its members and missionaries forced to run for their lives, if not their freedom.

We don’t have any books written by Barnabas that chronicle his time with Mark and the work they did in Cyprus.

But we do have this, later, from Paul:

2 Timothy 4:9-11

The Abandoned Apostle

Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Alone and in prison, perhaps Paul had received word of all that Mark did in Cyprus to assist Barnabas. We are told that Demas made his decision to return to worldly things, and the others left for their own reasons. But now, he tells Timothy to get Mark, and bring him to help Paul during his last days, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”

This, like Paul’s conversion, is a complete 180 from where he was when Barnabas took Mark away. How very lonely even the tone of Paul’s letter is, where after having preached to millions, he only has Luke.

Yet even so, that was one more than Jesus had when ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’

And as Christ restores Peter, so Paul restores Mark, even if indirectly, back into the ministry of the Gospel. Mark, however, in contrast to Demas, never truly left.

We have the words of John:

(1 John 2:18-20)

Deceptions of the Last Hour

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Let us be thankful that we yet have the grace and mercy of our Father, who has imparted it to the Son, who has encouraged us to stay the course. For Christ says of those who turn back: (Luke 9:62) 

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.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In the course of our walking, there are days it is not in us. As Mark returned to Jerusalem to get back on familiar footing, with maybe some fear of such a pagan and polytheistic culture, so we too seek comfort zones even in our missions. 

Paul took some hard, long, and difficult journeys, but as You sustained him, so You sustain us. 

Paul’s faith and trust in You was absolute, more often than not. His communication and obedience were shining examples of what our own walks could, and should be. 

Yet even when we are Mark, we yet serve. Forgive us when we take the lowly place not in humility, but in fear, discomfort, doubt, and anger. 

It is in the matters of Your sovereignty, and in Your will for our lives and the pleasures of this world come into conflict, that we ask You for Paul’s resolve, but Barnabas’ compassion. As we minister to the next generation, of new believers in all nations, and look to those who have run the race for guidance to take their mantles with fear and reverence, let us remain connected to You. 

And when and where we fall, let us rise to once again be useful in ministry, being refreshed, restored, and reconciled to You, to Your glory, and abiding in Your will.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen. 

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 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 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 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 118: No More Questions

John 16:16-24

Sorrow Will Turn to Joy

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

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 John 2:19

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart is grateful today.

My soul will be redeemed.

My flesh will be transformed.

My joy will be made full.

My sins will be forgiven.

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

Amen

Devotional 117: To the Unknown God

Acts 17:22-32

Addressing the Areopagus

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

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD

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

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

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

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

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

And yet the passage concludes:

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

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

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

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

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

Do we know people like this?

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

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

Luke 17: 1-10 Faith and Duty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

“There is no G-d,”

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

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

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

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 116: The Kingdom Within

Luke 17:20-30

The Coming of the Kingdom

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

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

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

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

Yet, He didn’t sin.

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

Matthew 27:46

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

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

John 17:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet the Father tells us this:

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

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

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

Jesus tells us:

John 14:1

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

And again…

Matthew 18:3

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

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

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

Will He marvel at our faith, or our unbelief?

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

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

Devotional 115: Those Who Do the Will of My Father

Matthew 7:24-29

Build on the Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

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

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

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

So what does He tell us:

Sending Out the Twelve

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

He charged the disciples with ministering to Israel because:

Matthew 19:28

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

As for the rest of us, He says:

Matthew 10:21-22

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

Matthew 10:27-28

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

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

 

Matthew 10:32-33

Confess Christ Before Men

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really?

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen