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.’ 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 favor, 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, and it’s an ending in 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 47: The Savior of the World

John 4: 39-42

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

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

What was this?

The disciples return to find Jesus not only ministering to a woman, but to a Samaritan at that.

They were the mongrel race of Jacob, full of mixed marriages and weird customs; the Father’s chosen were not to deal with them.

Did that not also hold true for His Son, the One who claimed to do His Father’s will?

The Judge of all nations had something in mind, and the mongrel race was of a piece of the Father’s plan this day, starting with it’s most devalued member. She was alone at the well because even among her own she was an outcast. It was her very lack of convention and propriety that allowed her to engage Jesus in conversation after His request for drink of water.

She challenges him along spiritual and racial lines, both of which He ignores, because He’s going to the root of the problem, and eventually gets from her a confession of knowledge that was never confirmed.

v.25 “I know that Messiah (who is called Christ) is coming. When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

As Jesus proceeds to prophesy and tell her of her life, she is stirred to back to town and tell the people. It’s a selfless act for one who seems to lead a hedonistic lifestyle. Like Jonah, her sermon is short, but effective. There is something in her manner that compels them; a societal outcast is calling them back with her to the well to see a man she spoke with.

If nothing else, he sounds like a good man, and there’s not much to do, so they go.

And Jesus stays two days, preparing the ground to receive the sacrifice of His righteousness for those with reprobate lifestyles.

‘And many more believed because of His own word.’

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

You have all wisdom and power, and see the hearts of humanity.

We who say we left all to follow You, love You, believe in all Your promises and miracles, yet we turn away from forgiving and praying for our enemies, much less minister to them.

I admit a hard heart regarding this too, Lord. It feels good to rage and curse, and like Andrew said, to call down fire from Heaven (thank You for not letting us do that). It is our nature to want to see our enemies brought low, and to point our fingers and laugh at their destruction.

But the Father says He takes no pleasure in it.

Still we excuse it with: “His ways are higher than ours, and we’re only human after all.”

Yet the Father says be holy as He is holy.

He not only expects us to do it, He commands it.

I confess I don’t want to. I ask that you help me to see my enemies for what they are: an unfinished, sinful work that needs a  Potter’s hands, a sinner who needs salvation, a man sick in his soul.

Help me not to say, “I thank You that I’m not like this man.”

Remind me I am to be a lamp on a hill, salt and light, and a fruitful vine so that all who hear of You through my words come to You and believe it for themselves.

By the Power of Your Name, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 45: Made to Stumble

Mark 14:27-31  Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night,[a] for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’[b]

28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

***************

Let me set up a scenario for you:

You’re in a dark, cold cell; hungry, tired, and thirsty.

Heavy chains and manacles are on your wrists and ankles.

Vermin nip, flies beset, and you’re shivering.

The cell door opens, and in come the guards again; you see they mean business, again.

Heavy blows that hold nothing back rack your face and body, and once again, the long, cold, shiny blade is laid against your throat, and the spit lands on your cheek as they pull your head up by your hair and use the blade to life you on your toes, and it breaks the skin as you feel your neck start to bleed.

“Renounce Jesus,” they say, and you open your mouth….

**************

The goal is to be like Christ, but as I’ve said before, we’re more like Peter.

Our faith is not entirely based on what we believe of Christ, but also what we believe of ourselves.

How steadfast and faithful we are in our own minds! How unwavering and brave!

When storms come, the Christ image in our minds sets our faces like flint, but on the inside we’ve taken our eyes off Him, and we don’t dare say, “Lord, save me!” because of a moment of fear and doubt, or in the midst of a trial.

We are told over and over again that the Apostles not only didn’t understand, but ultimately they were afraid to question Him on what He meant. (Mark 9:30-32)

In our weakness, we try to repair the torn veil or substitute it by statements of boldness: “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

And then an unbeliever exposes us to the harsh light of our tormentors, and we curse, then hide and weep.

I am thankful that He has compassion, and that He knows me better than myself.

We’re only fooling ourselves, and I am thankful that He forgives a broken heart and contrite spirit.

He later asked Peter three times if he loved Him, one brick of restoration for each one Peter broke apart with his denial.

Do we love Him enough to die, figuratively and literally, that He might not be ashamed of us, deny us to the Father, and command our departure to the outer darkness? Paul admonishes us to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall.

Let us build each other up in faith, and with joyful hearts embrace our fates like ‘the others’ in Hebrews who received no miraculous rescue from persecution and death because the world ‘was not worthy of them.’

Peter’s bitter tears finally humbled him, but the Lord uses that in which we are gifted to His glory, for in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of three-thousand because of Peter’s boldness, and he never looked backed (except when he lapsed in front of Paul. Big mistake…)

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters; He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If I scatter, let my bitter weeping make the ground good soil and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit to speak light to darkness, love to hate, but mostly truth to power. Let me be compassionate but uncompromising, bold but not self-righteous, fearless with faith and holding onto Your promises of a prepared place.

And let me always speak, as You did, in love. Let my words be few as they point to Our Father, that He get all the glory, honor and praise.

Thank You for looking upon this unworthy servant, and restoring him to be reconciled.

In Your Name, I ask it.

Amen

Devotional 44: He Sighed in His spirit…

The Pharisees Seek a Sign

11 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. 12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

A sign seemed a small thing to ask, for Jesus was unlike other preachers, teachers, rabbis and prophets of His time: He had no equal.  Indeed, how could He?

He astonished the crowds with His teaching, He was confident in His authority to perform miracles, He had a retinue of unlearned yet passionate men, and a women’s ministry that was unheard of in His time.

He spoke to Samaritans, forgave the sins of the faithless, and called out the religious leaders for their hypocrisy, challenging their power over the people and their control of political events in Israel.

All the while He knew that eventually He would have to die at their hands in order to save them all.

They questioned His authority relentlessly, tried to trap Him repeatedly, and he constantly left them in a state of embarrassed confusion and wrath that exposed their corrupt hearts.

They called Him out as a blasphemous youth and rebellious upstart, and sought to stone him more than once.

He could’ve ended it with a sign.

Why not gather them all together on the mountain, where there could be no doubt, in full view of Heaven and earth, before all the people? Why not give them a sign that You are truly sent from the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  They’d believe You then, Jesus. They’d leave You alone then.

Jesus knew what was in a man, and refused them. He was not a street magician performing to please crowds. If they were jealous and hated Him for the ministry He was doing without a sign, how much more jealous and hateful would they be if they saw the Father seal Him before their eyes as the Messiah?

The virgin birth they knew about was not enough.

The miracles He performed in front of them were not enough.

He took what they knew and told them it all pointed to Himself, and it was not enough.

Their stubborn faithlessness  wearied Him so, he sighed deep in His own spirit.

How many of us, in our moments of unbelief, can make that claim?

Is He enough for us, O we of little faith? Do we truly believe, professing with lips and no honor in our hearts? Do we sacrifice instead of obey? Do we pray on the night’s watch?  Do we shout what He’s whispered? Do we forgive as He did, and love as He loves?

What are the signs?

Where are the signs?

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

I grow weary of doing good in an ungrateful world. I grow fearful of what people will think and say if I profess You, though I don’t deny You in my heart. I have no boldness, and am quiet when I should shout. I withdraw from the kinds of crowds You went into.

I don’t believe You will give me what to say when I open my mouth to preach the Gospel.

I feel as though I have no authority at all to speak of You as I act on my own sinful desires.

And I ask for signs: wet fleece, wet grass, a star in the heavens, a prophetic word, a verse in the Word, a reversal of bad fortune…

If I just had those, Lord, I’d be so much more encouraged to speak of Your goodness, Your mercy, Your grace, and yes, Your judgment. 

And You say to me, “No sign shall be given.”

Then increase my faith to continue. Help my unbelief. Feed this little dog the scraps from Your table. Let me take a drink from the well of Living Water. Let me eat of the Bread of the Life. Let me set stones on the path, and find wells in the desert. Let me see Your glory fill the temple of my heart, for even King David said, “I am poor and needy.” 

I would not have my spirit fail, nor be broken.

If you’re trusting me with Your silence, Lord, then I trust Your hand works where I can’t see, preparing my place, and guiding me along the path.

I thank You, King Jesus, for all that You’ve done, and all that You will do to complete my story as the Author and Finisher of the work You started. Write Your sign on my life, Lord, and set me on a hill so that men will see, and glorify G-d.

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.

Christmas Child

CHRISTMAS CHILD

“For there is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Children are born of their mothers, into their families, not to groups of people.

Christ, already being begotten of God, had to be in a sense born again Himself through the body of Mary, thereby becoming in His earthly body like the people He came to redeem.

Unlike Adam, made fully formed as a man, Jesus went through a cycle of growth:

He understood what it was to be under parental authority, to learn at the feet of the rabbis (and later amazed them).

He knew what it was to work, play, and interact with siblings who think you’re strange.

He understood temptation to seize power, hunger, thirst, scorching heat, and freezing cold when He was in the desert, so much so that at the end of His testing the angels came to tend Him.

He understood grief, weeping at the death of Lazarus.

He marveled at the centurion’s proclamation of faith.

He understood frustration, trying to get the Pharisees to open their eyes.

He understood obedience in the face of fear in the Gethsemane Gardens.

He understood what it is to die.

But this night, He is a baby, sleeping in his mother’s arms, under His earthly father’s protection, given to us by the Father of all, and we celebrate His delivery not only to Mary, but to us, and for us.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

“For unto us, a child is born. Unto us, a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

May His Holy Presence be newly born in your homes and among your families this Christmas.

Amen.

 

Devotional 41: A Triumphal Entry, A Confession of Defeat

John 12:12-19

The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’[a]
The King of Israel!”

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

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

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

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

As they saw the people leaving, those who witnessed the dramatic raising of Lazarus, and those who heard of it from the witnesses, their hearts must’ve failed within them, for in this they saw, finally, that Jesus had broken their oppressive grip on the people.

Caiaphas had prophesied that:

” (Jesus) would gather together in one the children of G-d who were scattered abroad.”(John 11:52)

Their plotting to kill him was intensifying, but Jesus knew what to do and stayed on mission, knowing what He was going to endure. How easy it would’ve been to slip away, to be seen no more, to give over control and the oppression that came with it back to the men who believed themselves empowered by G-d to twist His Word to their benefit.

But then, we would not have the final cry of Our Savior gaining victory over sin, death, and hell: “It is finished.”

He did well to try to get them to see that the Law they so loved to quote and add to was embodied in Him, that the patriarchs existed to guide Israel to Him, that Moses and the prophets were writing about and speaking of Him, but they refused to see.

It is with good reason our Lord tells us to set our minds on things above, for these men were lost in the trappings, living for the approval of men. Even now, ministers of the Gospel are falling prey to this in a world of immediate gratification and accolades for doing wrong and evil things.

And even in this, we see the Word of the Lord being played out before us. Nation against nation, brother against brother, divided houses of worship falling prey to predatory teaching and false doctrine.

We would do well to remember that in His capacity as Savior, our Lord admonishes us to remember these things: to watch and pray, that he who endures to the end will be saved, that there is no other name under Heaven by which we come to the Father, and we have been called out of this world, that we may receive the gifts of Grace, Salvation, and Eternal Life from the Wisest, as He received gold, frankincense, and myrrh for our sake.

Therefore I pray,

King Jesus, 

I ask that You bring to remembrance in me all that You’ve said to do, to bring to mind the promises of the Father for me through You. Help me to watch and pray, to fast in seeking, to build altars in my home, and set guards over my mouth and heart, that my meditation be pleasing to You.

As I celebrate Your birth, help me not to be sentimental, disconnecting its importance from Your resurrection to which Your own 12 witnesses and Mary Magdalene have seen, to which Thomas proclaimed You Lord and G-d, for having seen You, he saw the Father too.

In the year ahead I ask Your blessing over all my house and those of my family in You. I ask Your protection, that no weapon formed against me will prosper. I ask Your mercy once again over the wrong I know I will inevitably do as surely as sparks fly upward, and I thank You for the grace you will impart.

Help me, above all, to know that it is in You I live, and move, and have my being.

Thank You for paying the price of this servant; I would not grieve Your heart for doing it.

In You there is eternity, and as time grows shorter, draw this lost sheep closer, for I would be found by You even as I seek, as the father ran to the prodigal.

In Your Name above all names, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 41: They Made Widely Known…

Luke 2:8-18  Glory in the Highest

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold,[a] an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”[b]

15 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.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[c] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

The Father uses shepherds for all manner of things, from kings to evangelists.

They were often men of low birth, smelly, filthy, and ragged from the toils of their ignoble but necessary service. Yet in the fullness of time, when the Messiah finally arrived, it was to these and not the religious leaders that the angels appeared.

If anything this proved a foreshadowing of the unconventional ministry of our Lord: a King born in poverty, a Savior born amid peril, a Divinity clothed humanity, a Creator helpless in the arms of His earthly mother.

Why shepherds?

They were simple, as in uncomplicated: They weren’t puffed up with learning and ritual, they weren’t sidetracked by philosophy or obsessed with power and control, they had no trappings of office, and no real wealth to speak of that made them arrogant.

They were dutiful, as in responsible: They were in the fields at night, when more predators are about. Their lives were ever in danger, and their vigilance had to be constant at all times. They likely slept during the daylight hours  in order to be alert and earn their keep.

They were unified, as in co-operative: Whatever differences they may have had took a back seat to the fact that in order to survive the perils of the night’s watch, they had to work together to make it through.

They were fearful, as in reverent: When the angels appeared, they didn’t panic and run though they were afraid. After the assurance of the angel, after the blessing of the hosts, they rejoiced at the news.

They were bold, as in excited: Knowing how they were perceived by society at large, nevertheless they left for Bethlehem to see the Babe for themselves, and believing, they made what the angel told them widely known. They probably spent a great portion of the night traveling to wherever they would to spread the Good News, a foreshadowing of the Apostles going into the world, to make His resurrection widely known.

Therefore I pray:

Father, I’m not a shepherd. I’m not built for mountain perils or desert dangers, but You already know that, nor did You call me to it.

But I find that oftentimes, I’m not as the shepherds were: simple, dutiful, united with other believers, not reverent, and definitely not bold. 

Yet I would not be fruitless tree, cursed by the Messiah to never bear again. 

So Father, I ask for the shepherds’ heart, that I may make widely known the Good News of my Lord, who willed to reveal You to me, and sent me the Spirit to empower me and seal the Word of my salvation on my heart.

Equip me, Father, to find travel the long, hard distance to the narrow road; I would greet my brothers and sisters who walk with me there. I would see my family rejoicing in the Kingdom. I would save a lost soul who needs You, even if it’s just to plant a seed.

The lions and bears of life come for me. The desert sun of doubt and cold moon of rebellion makes my heart hard soil. My darkness is greater for the things I see, though I profess to know You. 

I would plead You send a star to guide me on the path back to my King, that I might worship Him in spirit and truth, and honor my vows to Him.

I would once again be a wise man bearing gifts for Him, ever seeking, rejoicing, glorifying and praising, and making widely known that which was told to me: He is Emmanuel.

“G-d is with us.”

I ask it in the power of His Name, believing I’ve received.

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.