Devotional 70: Great Multitudes Followed Him

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

At some point, brothers and sisters, we made a decision to follow.

Something in His message drew us, reached us, and changed us, and while it may not have changed everything all the time, we are nonetheless aware of it when we choose to do that which we shouldn’t out of human frailty, and that is what confession and repentance are for, (and that is between you and the Lord).

Some in the multitude followed in the immediacy of the moment:  to get healed,  because others were going,  they had nothing better to do…

Others followed because they needed the reassurance of the Father’s love, and that they were valued by Him, because they simply could not live up to the criteria and conditions their religious leaders placed on them.

Still others followed to have their spirits healed through the power of grace.

The beauty of our Lord is in this statement: (John 6:37)

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

Throughout His ministry, as wide and fiery and controversial as it was, the decision was made by those who followed, for whatever reason, to go to Him. It was the first act of faith on our part, and we all came at various stages in our lives, for whatever those reasons were.

But in the quiet of your heart, wherever you made your decision, you had to leave that place, and go.

Yes, we’ve strayed, backslid, compromised, held our peace, left without helping, took shortcuts, made mistakes, and messed up all over the place. And as angry and doubtful as we may become, as rebellious and shameful as we may act, that seed is rooted, and in the quiet of your heart, eventually, you look around again, and see Him standing right there, waiting for you to, as the prodigal did, come to your senses.

We’ve seen the power of G-d at work in our lives, and know the truth of Him. His existence is not a question for us, even though sometimes His plan is. The truth of His word has called to our spirits, and we’ve responded. I’ve told you the story of my own experience, which I still recall with awe, after all these years.

We’ve seen His goodness in our blessings, we have His Son to dispense grace to us in the year of His favor, but is that because we want to please Him, or do we just not want His wrath on us.

Hebrews 10:31  tells us it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living G-d.

We’ve read of His judgment as well, and how thoroughly He cuts off the wicked; He will also stir them to agitate His blessed when they stray. How many times was Israel called to repent, and given into the hands of invaders?

How many times are we?

Yet rejoice, brothers and sisters. We’ve seen the headlines. The signs are gathering, and Jesus never made an inaccurate prophecy, nor one that never came to pass.

Let us follow Him, growing in the knowledge and love of Him, abiding in Him to achieve the Father’s purpose for us, for we are in Him, and He is in the Father. If we follow Him, let it be down the narrow road.

And in the quiet of your heart, and the watches of the night, He will heal you, for though you are part of a great multitude, He knows your name.

It’s written in the Book of Life, and He is the Author and Finisher.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In these tumultuous times, let our eyes continue to be on You, to focus on Your will, being reminded that our time of persecution is coming, and indeed, now is.

The sifting to follow will be great, and dark, so we will need Your light more than ever, that we may continue to follow You, and not turn back.

Strengthen us with Kingdom power, O Lord, and let the Holy Spirit fill us with bold reverence, and tell us how to respond to those who will come to us and ask, ‘Why are you at peace? How can you be at peace?” 

Send us back to the river stones, the path markers, the books of remembrance, when our own strength fails us and we forget. 

No matter where we live, no matter the distance we travel, no matter our trials and tribulations, no matter our grief, no matter our occupation, something You’ve said to us reached us, and the Father has seen fit to grant us to be in Your presence; you’ve said no one can come to you unless it be granted by Him. (John 6:44)

We would be reconciled to Him through Your blood. Help us to remember that grace and honor has been granted us, and it is a fearsome thing, not to be held common, that the wrath of the Father be on us once again.

In the quiet of our hearts, we made the decision to come. Help us to resolve there also, and make the decision to follow, for You’ve told us that the path narrows, the hour is coming, the day is far spent, and night is here.

I ask it in Your name, believing I’ve received.

Amen

Devotional 65: The Right Hand of the Power

Matthew 26:62-64
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Our Lord tells us that G-d is spirit, (John 4:24), and we are told that in the new Heaven there will be no sun, only the Light of G-d. In our human minds, what is brighter and more life sustaining than the sun?

Yet, the power of the sun burns by the power of G-d, our Creator.

As faith was the key to the working of miracles (“According to your faith, let it be done to you.” Jesus told them), so to do sinfulness, unrepentance, and faithlessness grant power to the influence of sin and the grave, which is also spoken of as having power of its own. If it didn’t, there would have been no need for Jesus to break it.

What we know as believers are two things:

  1. We will all rise to spend eternity somewhere, either in the presence of G-d, or separated from Him. Jesus’ tells us there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth at the time of the harvest separation.

2.  Every knee will bow, and tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord, including the knees                 and tongues of those who will die in their sins.

As Charles Stanley once said, for some it will be a submission done in joy, and for others in angry, fearful resentment and sadness.

In this verse, this is the only time Christ names G-d as Power, though he spoke of it earlier to the Sadducees regarding the resurrection and marriage in the afterlife. (Matthew 22:29)

 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 

For me, the most telling thing about that very power takes place when before Jesus came out, at the moment of His death, graves were opened. Stones were rolled away from tombs all over the place. (Matthew 27:50-54)

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

They came out afterward, that Jesus might be called the firstfruits of our redemption.

Imagine the joy of those families who the dead returned too, the sense of wonder, the questions and testimonies, the buzz throughout the community that echoed Mary’s own question: How could this be?

This is why I can’t get caught up in the modern crazy.

Yes, these men have power, and we are under authority, but let us remember the words of Jesus to Pilate: John 19:11
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Yes, we are to pray for them, but G-d is sovereign in these things, and brings down one to bring up another. In that instance, as Peter tells us:

17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear G-d. Honor the king. 

We are to honor the king, but we are to fear G-d, as Jesus tells us not to fear men who can only kill the body, but fear the One who can cast both into hell. (Matthew 10:28)

G-d will not compromise; He is not winking at sin, and the authority He’s granted to His Son will not be revoked, and is not a thing to be trifled with; we do so to the peril of our own souls.

There is a reason, Brothers and Sisters, we refer to Him as ‘The Almighty.’  He will be the source of light for the new earth, shining from the new heaven, and the sun won’t even be a memory.

He holds the universe together, He has named all the stars,  He watches the sparrows, and He lovingly redeems the faithful souls of His creation.

That is Power indeed.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

You are the source of my life, health, and strength. No weapon formed shall prosper, but You did not say it would not be formed. Living in the world of Your enemy, who is ours also, as we are Your sons and daughters, we ask that through Your power and will to defeat him for You strengthen us as well.

Your Son has said to us that Heaven suffers violence, and it is taken by force.

Give us spirits of bold violence, Lord, to stand in the face of Your enemies and declare Your Son to the trembling demons, to bring down their strongholds, to disarm them of their weapons, and to plant seeds that will bring them to Your throne.

The full armor is hard to bear for this soldier, Lord. Often, he stumbles and falls under its weight. He does not take care of it as he should, and leaves openings for the fiery darts that pierce him and cause him to stray, to run, to give up, to desert the fight.

And You send Your Son to me to show me His hands and remind me that the victory is won, and all I need to do is call upon Him to save me. He tells me the truth:  You are faithful and just to forgive an this errant knight once again, restore him to his senses,  hand him back his weapons and say, “Go here.”

And he goes, in the grace of His redeemer, but by the Power of Your will.

We engage the day’s troubles anew, knowing that You are watching over us, and in reverent fear, we thank You for the strength to overcome it, through the power of our Lord and Savior, given to us by the power of Your love.

Thank You, Almighty  G-d, for favor, blessing, glory, and honor. May we return it all to you with interest, as the good servant in the parable of the talents pleased his master.

In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 64: The Day is Far Spent

Luke 24:28-35

The Disciples’ Eyes Opened
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Imagine walking with Jesus, receiving essentially a master class on all that concerned Him regarding the Scriptures, yet not knowing it was Jesus, at least by sight, but having your heart respond during His lessons, and realizing in hindsight you’ve been given the greatest gift there is: to walk with the Lord as He taught.

We see this over and over again, though doubtless some in the crowd just came to be healed, and fed. Who’s to say whether or not they went on to turn their hearts to Him in faith and obedience, or having received the desires of their hearts, went back to their earthly existences.

The tax collectors (a special breed of sinners, because they always separated the two: ‘tax collectors and sinners’), the sinners, the prostitutes, the downtrodden, all repeatedly followed Him to receive the message over and over again that they had value to their Father, that there was a better life waiting, that they were worthy of respect because of their humanity, not their theology or finances.

And Cleopas and his companion, their hopes of a new way of thinking and living dashed with the crucifixion, flee the center of the chaos to mourn quietly and return to their homes, when in fact they were on their way to a divine appointment.

So this learned traveler walks with them, joins their conversation, and rebukes the news of the faithlessness expressed to Him, and He begins to teach.

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

There is no hurry now, or thought of discomfort, or even worry about the future. There is only the silence of the surrounding countryside, and the compelling voice that has touched hearts, revived spirits, changed lives, and saved souls in this intimate moment.

And Jesus, knowing He’ll soon depart, sees them to their destination, but they invite Him to stay, “for the day is far spent.”

Not knowing Him, they know the night roads are dangerous and unsafe for solitary travelers. They would not see the innocent harmed, so they offer the shelter of their dwelling for the night.

It is when He breaks bread with them that their eyes are opened, and it’s only then that He leaves.

32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

And on the same roads unsafe and dark roads they wouldn’t see Him travel, they went back as soon as He left them to tell the news.

I remember being that excited once. If I’m to be honest, it’s not the case any longer on most days. I do it as discipline and ritual, in a spirit of duty rather than joy. My heart, once burning for the Word, is now merely, barely, a warming flame.

My fruit is unripe, my offering unacceptable, my obedience resentful as I rely on my own strength to do my own thing in my own way.

Is it any wonder Jesus calls me foolish?

I know better: I’m to show myself approved, to always have an answer for my hope, to be assured of my calling, to work within my capacities and giftings to spread the Gospel to every nation, doing my part to hasten the end.

  (Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

One thing is certain: My end is assured, and for the time I have left I need a rekindled heart, a revived spirit, and a changed life.

Be careful in your walk, brothers and sisters, lest the day be far spent and He does not abide with you.

Therefore I pray:

   Lord Jesus, 

    Walk the road with me, teach me, and open my eyes.

    Break bread with me, and open my heart as You open the Scriptures to me once again.

    Reveal Yourself to me in my sadness, my darkness, and my time of need, that I might remember You spoke of all things that concerned You, and told me that as Your disciple I would undergo them too, both suffering and glory.

    My days are far spent, and I draw closer to the shining light of the kingdom, not grieving with Cleopas, but rejoicing with David in the knowledge my Redeemer lives,  my King forgives my debt, my Shepherd protects me, my Master’s yoke is easy, and my Savior breaks the chains of sin and the power of the grave.

   Let me shout from the housetops what is whispered in my ear.

   Let my burning heart be the light on the hill, filled with oil for the bridegroom’s wedding feast. Let me drink the new wine with You in the Kingdom of G-d.

   Let me humble myself to receive my crown, and place it at Your feet.

   Let my praise reflect my gratitude and joy for all You’ve done, as You bring Your good work to completion in me, never leaving or forsaking me, sticking closer than a brother.

   Breathe the Spirit of Truth back into my soul, Lord, for I would seek deeper truth and mysteries of You, preparing the answers for my hope, and to let my light shine before men that they may glorify the Father.

   I place this life You’ve given me in Your hands once more, to ripen the fruit, to take the plank from my eye, to dry the tears, and ease the loneliness, to cleanse the stains of sin, and to pierce the heart to grieve them, not the Holy Spirit, and  to repent before Your throne.

   I ask by the power of Your Name, believing I’ve received by the mercy of  Your holy hands.

   Amen.

 

Devotional 48: We Are Able

Matthew 20:20-23

Greatness Is Serving

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”[a]

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;[b] but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Their faith in Jesus as the Son of God was not in question, though they still didn’t fully understand. Indeed, the brothers were in His inner circle, as we see references to Peter, James, and John throughout the Gospels.

It is in their humanity and seeming piety that they found they were in error, and Jesus, with compassion, lays it out for them.

Their mother, being part of the ministry of women that followed Jesus, saw an opportunity, and thought to seize on it to elevate her sons. Clearly they discussed and conspired to approach Jesus to do something they thought was possible: to be favored by the leader in a highly visible manner, much like Haman sought to glorify himself through Ahasuerus.

If we’re honest, when the leader favors us in our earthly endeavors, we feel proud of ourselves that the work we’ve done has attracted their notice and we become for a moment the center of attention. Yet the Bible tells us that if we are skilled in our work, we will not serve before obscure men, and Paul admonishes us to work as unto the Lord, and not man. Given that combination, this request is not only overbold, but mires it in earthly things though it targets Jesus’ eternal kingdom: to sit on the Lord’s right and left hand for all eternity!

We know that the placement of one at a table during an event had to do with wealth, prominence, social significance, and the degree of the relationship to the host; the closer you were, the more important you were.

Yet they approach Jesus and kneel before him in false humility.

That they don’t understand what He’s saying about His cup and baptism is evident in the easy confidence of their answer when He asks, ‘Are you able?’ and they reply.

“We are able.”

What we must remember is that they were as much in the dark of the things Jesus spoke of concerning Himself as the rest of us would be. He preached difficult things to unlearned men, and simplicity to the scholarly, and they were both confounded by His speech.

Let us also remember that Jesus already took His cup, tore the veil, spilled His blood, and rose from the grave to return to the Father. That was His cup. At the table of life, we each have our own, and there are days we sip from it, and days when it’s poured over our heads.

And on the days we are baptized with worldly vileness, remember that He has called us out of it, and is preparing our place.

And it is in Him, and only in Him, that we can say, with quavering voices, as we kneel before the Infinite and Eternal G-d, that we are able.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our misunderstanding and misapplication of the many things you spoke concerning Yourself and the kingdom, forgive me for taking my cup lightly, with no reverence of what Yours contained. The wine of my trials is far sweeter than Yours had to be, and it is nothing to speak truth to evil, though I tremble when I see the world gather to stone those who proclaim Your truth.

Help me to remember that the places in Heaven have already been prepared by the Father. Therefore, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and true repentance, I am assured a place through faith in believing I too am redeemed from the power of the inevitable grave.

Through Your love, and by Your mercy, strengthen my hands to lift to my cup, take up my cross, count the cost, and follow You on the Narrow Way, rejoicing in overcoming my earthly trials to exchange it for Heaven’s reward from Your hand, glorifying the Father with You in the Your kingdom.

I thank You now, for making me able through Your sacrifice, and the cup of the covenant of mercy and grace.

Amen.

Devotional 38: He had Compassion

Luke 7:11-17

Jesus Raises the son of the Widow of Nain

11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.

16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen up among us”; and, “God has visited His people.”17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region.

Here in the United States, we have acronyms of exclusion: NOK (Not Our Kind) and NIMBY (Not In My Backyard).We want no proximity with the unpleasant. We don’t want to sup with the unfortunate, much less was their feet.

Yet the Lord Jesus says this: (Matthew 25:34-40)

  34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

There are those who toil in the background, unseen and unsung, unknown and uncared for, taken for granted, whose names we don’t ask and never know. There are those readily helping people without question, the thought of cost or usury, or getting anything back in return. It is these who will enter into the Savior’s rest, glorified and lifted by the Savior Himself.

The most striking thing about this was something I heard from Pr. Alistair Begg, who preached that in this particular story no one asked Jesus to do anything. It seemed a matter of timing and opportunity, but there was never anything random about the ministry of our Lord.

A large crowd and many disciples, not just the twelve, are with Him.

A large crowd proceeds from the gate with the unclean corpse, to bury it.

A mother is losing her son, a recurrent theme in the Word of G-d, but so is what follows.       In verse 13 we read:

When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.”

And such was His compassion that he not only went into the midst of them, but in the midst of all the uncleanness of the moment, He touches the open coffin, and such was His authority, those who carried it grew still.

With no further delay, or even an introduction, He speaks to the body of the young man, and restores his spirit to him, and life. We can only wonder what the first words of his new life were, but we are told only that he began speaking. I’m pretty sure it was a bunch of questions.

He also restores the mother’s joy.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Son, all of their eyes were opened, and they knew Him, and as with all the culmination of Jesus’ work, the Father was glorified in reverent fear and love.

Therefore I pray:

With thanksgiving and reverent joy, I thank You, Lord Jesus, for raising me from the dead, restoring me to my Father in Heaven.

   You saw my soul being carried from the gates, an unclean thing borne by unclean things, to be taken out as a fruitless vine for burning, and you touched the open casket of my life, and commanded the demons to stop.

    And You spoke to me in Power, and restored my spirit to me, for I did not complete the work, and you’d not finished making me into Your likeness.

     I would arise, Lord, and take my rightful, lowly place, but the grave is quiet and peaceful, and there are no dreams, nightmares or strife. No one mocks me there, or asks me where You are, or tells me You’re only in my mind and don’t exist.

     No persecution comes because of the Word, and I would have peace, and have You depart from me.

     But You have given me a Great Commission, and as you have completed the work the Father gave You, so must I, and do His will unto the least, in Your strength, and in Your Name, and with Your compassion, for I have none in this sinful flesh to give on my own.

    Let it be done to me, as You have said.

   Amen.

Devotional 37: I Fell at His Feet…

Revelation 1:10-17

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and,[a] “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia:[b] to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,[c] “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

In this day, we hear the confident boasts of the faithless, the bitter, the unrepentant, the scorners and mockers, the defiant rebellious, and the witches and satanists:

“When I stand before G-d, I will say/do/ ask/ tell Him  –”

Hear the Word of the Risen Lord, for to you he will say:

“Depart from me, you cursed…”

He speaks of the fate of worthless servants, even those who profess to be sons of the kingdom, and the fate of Lucifer’s goats.

To Him, you are lawless strangers, disqualified from entry into His kingdom. You questioned His existence, did good with wrong motives, mocked His atoning death, and scorned His rising, reconciled to His Father, and reconciling you through His blood, which would have made you spotless, had you but listened.

You placed your faith in your knowledge, in the science, in reason, and yet the son of a carpenter confounded the learned leaders of His day, and taught with such authority, they bore false witness.

But this is why He came. And this is what He said would happen.

You’ve rejected the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the King of angels. He is subject to His Father, and will rule over all, and you’ve spurned His love, grace and mercy, because of your pride.

And He has told you, you will share the fate of the prideful.  In Matthew 7, we read:

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

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.

And again, in Matthew 25:

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

If judgment starts with those who profess Him, how then, will you stand, unbeliever?

Here is what you will do, and all that you will be able to do:

You will fall at His feet as one dead, and if you don’t seek Him while He may be found, indeed, that is what you will be.

You will find yourself unable to speak, if indeed, the disciple who was the closest of Jesus’ inner circle, the only disciple to escape execution, could not speak, and could not stand in the presence of the holy Majesty.

Spare yourself, and cease your prideful boasting, putting faith in the transitory world, and the ever shifting sand of scientific discovery, for the mind of G-d is infinite, and His works past finding out, because they were known to Him from the beginning, and they begin and end with our Lord, Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, You came among us to call the lost, and we indeed are all lost, even those who profess You, and speak of You before men, and invoke Your Name in doing kingdom work, but don’t glorify You in their hearts, or their motives. They begin to think they are in their own strength, and tempt You to destroy them, not knowing You will simply release them into the hand of the enemy, who will, in fact, destroy them, and bring them to share his own fate.

We ask the anointing of the Helper to reveal that the unquenchable fire is no metaphor.

We ask the anointing of the Helper for discernment of pride, and wrong motives.

We beseech You to have Him ignite in us a renewal of Power to carry Your two-edged sword, to cleave hearts, and bring tears of repentance, that they, and we, might see once again the love of undeserved grace and mercy to souls otherwise doomed to twist in the fire, as a kite in an errant wind.

We would not be unprofitable servants, or cursed and lawless strangers to You, the One we profess to love above all, and prove it false by our actions.

Align us with the Your will, Lord Jesus, for it is the will of the Father that we believe on You, and Your will is not separate from His as to the work we are to perform.

It is only difficult because of our hard hearts, prideful minds, and sinful thoughts.

Yet You are long-suffering, and hear the prayers of Your servants.

Hear this prayer, Lord, for it is the cry of my heart, and the heart of every servant, and unbeliever, who reads these words.

Grant us ears to hear, and plow the hard soil of our hearts, and help us to store up treasures in Heaven, where there are no thieves, and we stand reconciled, spotless, blameless, under the Cross, redeemed by the Resurrection, and our works stand the test of fire, that we may enter into the joy of our Master.

Once again, Lord, I beseech the Throne for mercy, the Cross for grace, and the Spirit for power.

In Your Name, I ask, in faith believing.

Amen.

 

Devotional 34: Sifted Like Wheat

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial: Luke 22: 31-32

31 And the Lord said,[a] “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost for His Highest that when Peter rebuked Jesus, it was because he thought he knew where his testing would come, but it came in a place he didn’t expect, and he wept bitterly because he failed so miserably.

Indeed, all of the Apostles swore loyalty, but when the hour came, they fled. We see our Lord sorrowful that they would not even stay up to pray for Him, as they were heavy with food and drink, coupled with doubt and not comprehending the things that Jesus said would occur.

But as I often write, Peter is perhaps the most relatable disciple, because his walk with Christ is as intense, volatile, and prone to error as our own. Jesus, in fact, implies it is Satan who speaks through Peter as the hour approaches, and Jesus rebukes not Peter, but the tempting spirit speaking through him. “This will surely not happen to You.”

It was Jesus’ own hope that the Father pass the cup of sin and gall to find a sweeter way, but He set aside His glory and desire to be spared to obey the Father.

We’re not told when Satan asked to sift Peter, to really see what he was made of, as he sifted Job. But just as God was certain in Job’s steadfastness despite his laments, Christ was equally sure of Peter’s shakiness despite his claims of steadfastness. We see in verse 32 that in fact that He already knows what Peter will do, just as he knew what Judas would do. Peter would deny Christ before men, to the point of cursing those in the crowd who insisted they’d seen him with Jesus.

It is the ultimate act of love in what Jesus not only says to Peter, but to us in our most wretched state in the lifelong war between flesh and soul,

When you have returned to Me…”

This is a statement we are to cling to, for our Savior tells us that if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father. This is why the Word admonishes to seek Him while He may yet be found. No one is redeemed faithless and unrepentant from the grave.

“When you have returned to Me…”  The lost sheep is never banned from the flock, because those who follow know His voice. There is no place else to go, as we find so often in our wanderings to other temples and idols, for He alone has the words of life and truth.

As the Father grants the prayers of the Son, there is yet time for Peter to receive the keys to Heaven, and so Jesus prays not only for his return, but commands him to strengthen his brothers.

Satan has planted his tares, and will sift the saints in the last days, but it is Christ and His angels who will reap the last harvest, and there will be nothing left to glean. As John the Baptist tells us,

 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” (Matthew 3).

Our Lord would not have His most tempestuous, impetuous disciple be chaff; As the angel said to Mary, “Go and tell the disciples, and Peter…” (Mark 16:7)

As Peter’s denial was threefold, so was his path to restoration, as the Lord asked him three times after the Resurrection:

“Peter, do you love me more than these?”  (John 12:15)

We answer, as he did, in all our failings: “Lord, You know that I love You.”

Therefore I pray:

My Lord and Savior, my heart is grieved that Your inquiry should so pierce my heart, because I have done in deed that which made You have to ask. Under the covenant of grace, I would see myself returned and restored to you, and redeemed spotless again in the Father’s eyes.

I would have my own spirit rejoicing again in Your presence, my place in the Kingdom of Heaven assured, my crown still bright, my works unconsumed as wood, hay, stubble, or chaff, my divine work finished, and my earthly connections to those You gave me intact.

I would not be cast into the outer darkness, weeping and gnashing my teeth.

Like the holy Psalmist in whom the Father was pleased, let me be tested and tried to see if there is any wicked way in me, and give me a clean heart and an upright spirit. Help me to remember, and know, that in You my salvation is assured, my return to You certain. Strengthen my love for You and establish it unshakable in the bleakest of circumstances and the most wicked of persecutions.

And use my trials, O Lord, to help me to strengthen my brothers and sisters, that they may return to You also.

In Your Holy Name, and by the Power of the Spirit of the Living God, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 32: Let Them Grow Together…

Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

This parable is often not preached, in deference to the one about the Sower and the seed, which is the Word, but I found myself drawn to this for a few years now, especially as the times upon us now continue to unfold in seemingly unchecked aggression, fighting for rights, and strife along racial and economic lines.

I am reminded of the admonition to take the lowly place, so that we may come up higher when called by the host, instead of taking the high and lofty place, and lose it to someone of greater stature. Jesus said the least in the kingdom of Heaven was greater than His cousin and herald, John the Baptist. As Christians act like Pharisees, and compromise with the world (me included), and don’t practice grace and judging righteously, speaking Truth in love, and loving one another even inside the Way, we must walk in faith while watching, praying, and making disciples of ALL nations, not just the ones who look like us. We must be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

What draws me to this parable is that:

1- the landowner’s property had to be big, if an enemy was able to get in and sow weeds undetected (figuratively speaking).

2- the plants looked enough alike that weeding them before the harvest would’ve culled the good along with the bad.

3- the good crops are utilized, protected by the barn, and used by the landowner for the good of others, feeding them on that which is whole and good.

4- the tares are to be destroyed, consumed by fire, and made to disappear.

But here’s the main thrust of it: They looked so enough alike as they grew that the servants would not be able to tell them apart.

There are former Christians who have left the faith for various reasons. John says they were not of the faith or they would have remained.

John 2:19 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.

There are new believers entering the faith:

Luke 23:39-43

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,[j] save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[k] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

I would be among the sheaves of joy, going into the Kingdom, forever protected, forever sinless, forever useful, forever praising God and serving Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, remember me indeed, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

I bless Your holy Name above all names that took my wretchedness into your dying body, and purged me of fault before the Father, that I might be with you, on that day, resurrected in Paradise.

Help me then, Lord, to store up my treasures in Heaven, where thieves don’t break in and steal. Strengthen my desire to be ever like You, and less like me. Cover the filthy rags of my self-serving righteousness in Your spotless blood, and save me from the fires waiting for the unfruitful and purposeless, and the outer darkness of the rebellious and faithless, in the time of Harvest.

Do not blot my name from the Book of Life, that I may eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden, and live forever with You as my Savior, Brother, Master, Lord and King.

I ask it in Your Name, in faith believing.

Amen.

Devotional 31: He Went Up on the Mountain to Pray

Matthew 14:23

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 

Our Lord had just lost His earthly cousin and divine herald, and no doubt keenly felt the loss, and throughout the day we see Him seeking to be alone, but there was no time to mourn, for there were yet people in need.

How selfless of Jesus to turn and not only minister to a large crowd, but to perform a miracle in their midst and feed them as well.

Do we need to wonder if we would do such during a time of mourning? As Christians, there should be no doubt of it, but as human beings, how many of us would turn to another in need and say, “I’m here for you. I will take care of you.”

There is nothing more to be done for the departed, however dreadful the loss, and though we never feel the same, time passes, and pain recedes, and we go on.

Most understand that in our grieving, time is needed.

Our Lord had no such luxury.

 

Matthew 14:13

  When Jesus heard it *(the beheading of John), He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself.

      But when the multitudes head it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

So great was their need, they walked the shoreline to find Him.

For some, it may have been just to get their immediate needs met; for others, it might have been in the hope that he would teach something that gave them hope. For yet others, it might have been a combination.

From what the text says, no one went there in doubt, unbelieving, for it says he healed their sick. They had to have faith in His ability, believe in His divinity, and trust that the Father worked through Him to accomplish good things.

After ministering to them, He seeks again to be alone, and sends the disciples ahead while He dismisses the crowd. No doubt there was more comfort to be given, more thanks to be received, more questions, more exclamations of gratitude and worship that He had to listen to before the last of them were gone.

v.23 “Now when evening came, He was alone there.”

A dark sky, a rapidly cooling desert wind,  hard rocks beneath his knees, and yet He prays, for now He knows His hour is coming quickly, and He would draw comfort from John, but John is in Heaven, his mission complete.

And he watches in sorrow his cousin on His knees, alone in a dark and cold place, praying for strength, praying for comfort, for a touch of the Father’s hand, not because He’s in doubt, but because He’s in need.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, let me be mindful of Your goodness toward me in times of loss, whether it be of people, possessions, or positions. Keep me in mind of where my treasure lies, in view of Your glory, awaiting my return to You.

Thank You, Father, for the witness of John the Baptist, who preached of a different Passion, the Second Coming of Our Lord, as King Jesus, Lion of Judah, for His mission as Lamb of God was completed on the cross.

Let me hear from you in dark, deserted places, how You will never leave me or forsake me, how You will hide me in Your hand from my enemies, how you will deliver me from sin and the destroyer, give the lie to the Accuser by the power of the Blood of Your sinless Son, who took mine upon Him, that I be blameless before You.

Help me to heal, in whatever way You grant to me, those in greater need, those who have less than I after my own loss. Help me to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of the Lord in Mary’s, and died in prison, unsure now of his infant leap of faith, not seeing the time he preached of fulfilled in his sight, alone in his own dark and solitary place, physically as well as spiritually.

Help me to walk by faith in the 4th hour of the watch, in the storm, when I can’t see You.

Let me proclaim the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and let me be blessed instead of offended because of my Lord.

Let me not pray in doubt, but in need.

Let me not praise with my lips only, absent my heart.

And when I put out my sinking hand, and pray that You save me, You are there, reaching down to save a sinful man for no other reason than love.

Thank you for your compassion, as I interrupt Your prayers with my own selfish needs, hoping You teach me something that gives me hope.

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

Amen.

A Father’s Day Devotional 2016

Matthew 7:11

11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Our sons, marrying, continue our family line. Our daughters, given in marriage, continue the families of their husbands, but are no less a part of us.

What, then, should be our legacy as fathers? What values do we impart to them that will reflect the best of us as they grow into their individuality? As adults, they will either hold on to those lessons, or release them, based on our examples.

Jesus says that as men, we are evil, yet will not give our children things that are bad for them. While this is not true for all men, it is true according to G-d’s plan for the family.

We are evil not because we are mean people, but because we were born to sin, and trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward.

Unable to earn grace, and undeserving of mercy, we yet have it through our Lord and Savior, Who tells us that if we keep our eyes on Him, we see the Father. He tells us that He and the Father are one: in purpose, in will, and in action. Jesus will not gainsay the Father, for He tells us that He only speaks that which the Father has given Him to say.

As we grow to manhood and undertake the roles of husband, father, head of house, spiritual leader, and priest of our Lord, we are yet sinners, and hence evil, but also capable of love. We smile when our children our happy, and comfort them when they’re sad. We rejoice in their victories, and counsel them in their setbacks.

We teach, and discipline, and guide them in times of adversity.

And as they grow and watch us, let us keep praying psalms of ascent, when the men were called apart to climb the mountains and do kingdom business with the Lord our G-d.

This is not just a calling, but a ministry, a responsibility like no other. It is not to be entered into casually, with a loose connection born of lust. Children in the hands of their fathers, we are told, are like arrows. Let us consider carefully where, how, and who they will impact when they land.

And when the time comes to go the way of all flesh, and rest with our fathers, hopefully we see our legacy of Lord’s love in our children’s eyes.

Therefore I pray:

Let every man who reads this consider the cost of the sacrifice, for the children You give him, O G-d, will once again face You for judgment, and we, as fathers, will be held accountable for that which we imparted to them; that which was of You, and that which was not.

Teach us to love as the Father loves us, giving good things, wanting to bless, and show favor, but not favoritism.

Lord, put a special anointing on the fathers of children with special needs, and guide them in the way they should go, if You do not grant healing. according to Your sovereign will.

Help us to see the Father’s love through Christ’s example, and to emulate, and to turn to You for strength when we waver, and make mistakes, and sin against our children.

Help us to keep our promises.

Help us to be good providers.

Above all, Lord, I pray, let our legacies of the gifts you gave us be pleasing to You, so that when we give account of our fatherhood, You will say to us, Well done.

Amen.