Devotional 112: The Jesus Whom Paul Preaches

Acts 19:11-

Miracles Glorify Christ

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 

At some point, as believers, we’ve walked into places and felt a presence, either of the Holy Spirit, or something else, an ‘off’ feeling, or an outright feeling of malevolence. What is fortunate is that the powers Jesus imparted to His disciples weren’t just given to the twelve, or to the seventy, but to all who put faith in His Name that He empowers to preach the Gospel.

Paul and the itinerant Jewish exorcists were not of the Twelve, yet the Word states that the miracles performed through them by G-d’s power were unusual in and of themselves. People were healed by inanimate objects that were in Paul’s possession, anointed with holy power in that the Spirit abided on them, and did the work He was supposed to perform on the afflicted where Paul preached.

Jesus Himself said to the Twelve,

Jesus Forbids Sectarianism

38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side.

It stands to reason that if we are grafted into the Branch, we are not forbidden to carry on His work. In fact, He expects that, and calls to account those who don’t as unprofitable servants.

The work of the Kingdom supersedes all, and the work must be carried out by the faithful, for that’s the only way the power of the Spirit can work.

John 14:12 The Answered Prayer

12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

But He also cautioned the disciples He sent out: Luke 10:19-20

19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

More, as we understand it, is not given in greater measure to one than another, Paul says:  (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

If the gifts were of diverse gods, or diverse paths to G-d, there would be no need to preach the Gospel to every nation.

The Christ Paul preached is the same one we hear about on Sundays, and read about in our Bibles, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, until He comes again in His fearful glory, ready to vanquish His enemies and judge His people, to be redeemed to the Father, or separated forever.

G-d did not spare Christ from His absence when He took our sins to the cross to the point where Jesus physically felt Himself forsaken; how then, are we spared His wrath?

Let us, like the itinerant priests of Israel, be steadfast in the unity and consistency of our faith as we drive out the darkness while we pray, sow, and reap by the power of the Holy Spirit, done in the Name of Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The veil tore not only the barrier between man and the Father, but between the Chosen and the unworthy, the Jew and Gentile, and we who are now grafted in through grace now know, too, that the joy of salvation is ours through faith in You.

We have sometimes taken grace for granted, and put You in a human box of tolerance and acceptance of that which G-d did not allow. Those You forgave, You also told to repent. It is a hard calling to deny our flesh, take up our crosses, and follow a narrow road to unseen glory. Sin feels good, and we justify our evil by twisting the Word to our purposes, by putting repentance on a schedule, and by continually removing ourselves from G-d’s presence.

Suffering with You is better, but not desirable, and when You tell us that to find our lives with You we must lose the earthly one, seeds of doubt sprout in the heart.

As we spiral downward toward tribulation, increasing our own sorrows, we who believe will continue to pray and intercede, as You did for your disciples, sent out as sheep among wolves, trusting You to fill us with the power of the Gospel for present times.

Yet Your love and power converted one of your most staunch detractors into the most powerful ministry of the Gospel, and he reminds us that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that the Father is not a man that He should lie, and that we must suffer to attain the promises.

We want redemption on our terms, but that is being lukewarm water, unfruitful, unprofitable, tasteless salt, and a dim lamp indeed if on our best days, our righteousness is as rags in the Father’s sight.

Strengthen us, Lord, to continue on with You as the days grow dark, and the signs of the end You spoke of manifest themselves through the evil hearts of powerful people who do not know You, and the beauty of the grace You offer. You tell us they have their reward, and there will be none to be found on the new earth, or in the Kingdom of G-d.

I would not be among that company, Lord. Rekindle in me the love and reverent fear of the Father, who will not compromise and make exceptions for me, having revealed You to me, for the life I now live, and the parts of it I do not, will not, give to You. Help my unbelief, but complete my submission as well, for my heart is hard, and my head is filled with earthly concerns so that my focus is not on You, or the Narrow Road.

Without You, Lord, I will fall, and stumble, and embrace the darkness, believing it light.

Without You, I am only fit to be burned out of existence, never knowing peace, and never entering into my Father’s rest.

You are the Christ whom Paul preaches, even now, reaching down to strike me from my pedestal, and newly open my eyes, continually. Let what miracles You manifest through me, if any, always give the Father greater glory, as You have done.

And with a grateful heart, I thank You.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 110: Now We Believe

John 4:39-42

The Savior of the World

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

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

As believers, we’ve likely heard multiple sermons of Jesus’ encounter and conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. It was such an uncommon thing that the disciples were taken by surprise when they returned from their dinner run to find Jesus speaking to her.

She had a reputation among her neighbors, so much so that she came out alone.

Jesus begins his lesson on being the living water, and speaks to her marital and spiritual conditions. His own reputation by now is such that the Samaritans, despised of the Jews, have taken hope in the message that they too can be redeemed through faith.

John 4:25

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

The exchange between them happens, and she is so intrigued by His words that she leaves the water there and goes to tell the people of her city that a prophet is among them.

Her reputation notwithstanding, they are eager to see for themselves, and the most extraordinary thing happens: those who are despised of the Jews urge Jesus to stay and minister among them, and He does.

“And many more believed because of His own word.” Having heard the power and authority of His words, they confirm the answer to her question, “Could this be the Christ?”

What a gracious Lord we serve! He makes even those who were the mortal enemies of His own people have faith in the Gospel.

But then, Jesus’ enemies always recognized His deity:

Luke 4:33-36

33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. 36

And again:

Luke 8:26-28 A Demon-Possessed Man Healed

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”

If the demons know Him as the Son of G-d, and obey His word, how can we who claim to love him by faith, and worship Him in spirit and truth, do any less?

It’s interesting to note that the demons proclaimed Him, but the Pharisees and Sadducees did not.

Today, the enemies of Christ (and we who believe in Him) are once again Legion, but we are divided among ourselves and confused in our limited, comfortable, mortal interpretation of the Word of an eternal G-d. It’s a lot like when David moved the ark without the Father’s blessing and guidance, we lean on our own understanding, and reap the results.

For example, in an effort to soften the blow of impending condemnation, some churches have stopped proclaiming to the world that its works are evil, no longer say the word ‘sin,’ and have made their peace with that which G-d calls abomination because it is now legal and popular, and we find ourselves once again divided among class, race, and politics.

We are commanded not to judge, but we are also commanded not to compromise. We do, even with our silence which is for a few reasons: 1-we don’t want to become social media targets. 2- we don’t want to lose friends with differing opinions, so we decide to keep the peace and ‘agree to disagree,’ or 3- we’re afraid of the consequences and retaliation we and our families can fall victim to at anytime.

Let us keep in mind that the Lord Jesus was a prophet, and all that He proclaimed came to pass in His lifetime, just as the end times will one day be manifest. I think we’re beginning to see the start of it now, more so than at any other time.

If the enemies of Christ don’t doubt Him, and judgment begins with the Children of G-d, it’s time for those in the faith to recognize that perhaps His power, prophecies, and proclamations concerning Himself are true, and bring ourselves in line with His word about who the Father is and what He wants: to be reconciled with His children in the new earth, His presence a light in the new Heaven, where there will be no more sun and moon, and we’ll have no memory of this sinful, evil world.

And there will be no more sin because the enemies of G-d will no longer exist, anywhere.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Your will is so aligned with the Father’s that even the demons can’t be in the presence of Your holiness. For them, it’s torment. It gives the Father no pleasure to punish a rebellious angel with chains and fire, or to cast a rebellious soul from His life giving presence into outer darkness, yet there is no middle ground. The disciple You loved tells us that the faithless abide in the Father’s wrath.

Help us to hold fast to Your truth when the consequences are made manifest, and the perils of judgment on a faithless land begin to increase and surge all around us. There is no safe place, there are no hiding places, and You are yet giving us time to repent, believe the Gospel, and be saved. 

Let me follow Your example, that even those against me can see a difference as I clean up the dirty places of my life once more, and get back under Calvary’s covering.

Today, right now, I put from me all that does not glorify You in thought, word, and deed.

Today, right now, help me to love and minister to our enemies at the table You set before me in their presence.

Help me to forgive them as well, continuing to speak the goodness of Your name and have them see the difference in me has come about through Your grace and the Father’s willingness to reveal You to me. 

Help me to speak the Truth, planting seeds for others to water, and still others to reap.

Let my love for You be as unwavering as my faith in You, and let my life be consecrated to You for the Kingdom’s sake, and to the Father’s glory. 

I ask it in Your name.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 108: The Other Prophesied King

The purging of our heart’s strongholds is long, hard work.

1 Kings 13:1-5

The Message of the Man of God

13 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ 

2 Kings 23:1-3

Josiah Restores True Worship

23 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.

Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.

The only king prophesied by name in the Bible other than Jesus was destined for righteousness and fellowship with G-d.  A good king recognized that the process of purification for the sins of his people began with him, and was a reflection of him. What the king does, the people will follow.

Josiah did a lot of work, tearing down the hedged bets of shrines, high places, altars of human and child sacrifice, unholy objects and idol figures that were a plague on the land, built by his forebears in case the G-d of Abraham was not who He claimed to be.

It is amazing how much of our human attributes we ascribe to G-d’s ability to achieve, never knowing that even our highest possible achievement is our limited way of expressing love to Him, and even prone to error, as when David first moved the Ark of the Covenant, if not done without His permission, guidance, or assistance. These are works of the flesh, burned to stubble in the testing by holy fire.

That being said, we too, were prophesied to be the children of G-d.  Our days were planned before one of them came to be, and now, we live in the fruition of that summoning. Are we willing and able to remove the rebellious items in the high places of our own houses? Are we willing to consent to G-d’s sovereignty in His calling on our lives? Are we willing to put our pride and will aside, and empty ourselves of who we think we are, in order to be who the Father called us to be, and do what He’s asked us to do?

Are we ready to leave all?

Luke 5:27-32 

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.

To give up the one thing keeping us from the Kingdom?

Mark 10:21

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

The Father’s call supersedes anything and everything else, and demands obedience if we are to be His servants, discipline if we are to be His disciples, and faith if we are to be in His presence.

It was said of Josiah:

2 Kings 23:25

25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.

Compare that to this:

1 Samuel 15:11

11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

What will be said of us, as the children of the living G-d, called through grace, partaking of His mercy?

It’s up to us.

Therefore I pray:

We thank You, Father, for the mercy of Your calling, for bringing us out of the world to reveal the truth of Your Son through the power of Your Spirit. 

Let disobedience and perverse things be far from us, and let our eyes be pure lamps so the light that enters us brings no stains of darkness to our souls.

Help us to hold fast to Your statutes, obey Your commandments, and allow the purification of our fellowship with You, and the conviction, confession, and remission of our sin to reconcile us to You again, by the Spirit’s prompting.

We would not grieve you with our faithlessness, erecting high places in the worship of the created instead of the Creator, handing our fates over to false gods, and trusting in fables of the stars and zodiac, and put before the doing of Your will the enjoyment of our possessions that Your hand has freely given us, to provoke Your anger.

We would abide in Your love and not Your wrath, for You are jealous for our souls, and have given us salvation that we might be reconciled to You. We will not treat it as a common thing. Bring to mind, when we fall into temptation to backslide, and sin, that we were bought with a price that cost You everything, and the You bestowed the gift to us alongside Your chosen people.

Father, we cry out to You today, to restore good and righteous leaders to us, to break the spiritual choke hold Your sworn enemy has the world in now. Bring our leaders to godly repentance. Convict them, O Lord, and open their eyes to the strife their words and actions create, the pain and the worry, the loss of life You’ve given to all men, not just to one nation, the elite, and the wealthy.

We pray Josiah’s spirit of mind be with us as peg down our tents in new territory, and if it is not, O Lord, Your will still gets accomplished. 

May our deeds withstand the testing fire, that we might claim our reward, and depart from those who would see us hurt, or dead, before our work is done.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 107: Her Sins are Forgiven

Luke 37-50

37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Women were not supposed to be of consequence, subject to the will of their husbands, however cruel. Left without choices, without education, without options, some turned to harlotry and crime.

As such, they could be equal to men in hardness of heart, infirmity of will, subject to temptation, and as prone to immorality and downfall as any of their male counterparts.  Condemned under the Law, they had no chance at redemption, until the Son of Man came to tell them otherwise.

The Pharisee said of Jesus:  “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus replies: 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.

How would He know her sins were many if He was not a prophet of G-d?

The Songs of Ascent in the Old Testament was for the men of Israel to go to the mountain to seek the Lord, but G-d was not above using women to accomplish His purposes when men could not, or would not, step forward.  Abigail, in saving her foolish husband, became the wife of a king. Deborah told Barack he would get no glory if she went with him, but she obeyed the Father’s calling when he wouldn’t go without her.

It was no less true in the ministry of Christ.

Luke 8:1-3

Many Women Minister to Jesus

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Even His disciples were surprised that He would minister to them as individuals.

John 4:25 – 27

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.  27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was the women who first came to His tomb. (Luke 23:55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, (*Joseph of Arimathea carried Jesus body to the tomb)* and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 24:1-3

He Is Risen

24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

And again in verse 10:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.

And while it was true He didn’t condemn the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees, He did not exonerate her from her guilt:

John 8:10-11

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

He never said she didn’t commit the sin.

It is our calling as husbands, fathers, and brothers, and even as sons, to minister to the souls of our female family members, and our wives in particular as life partners. As the body, we are to pray for our Sisters in Christ, edifying them and coming alongside them in the ministry of the Gospel, being careful to observe all of the Lord’s ordinances of treating them with proper respect.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We thank You for our sisters in Christ, co-workers of the harvest, the Ruth’s and the Rahab’s, working in faith to spread Your Word, show Your love and compassion, and be fruitful branches of the Kingdom work that leads to life everlasting. 

We thank You for our help-mates, the mothers of our children, the brides of our youth who make our homes into sanctuaries that protect us from the outside world, and give us havens of worship and family unity.

We thank You for the elder Mothers of our ancestry, who raised us in the fear and reverence of Your Word, seeking Your presence and intercession on our behalf, that we might be sustained and prosper in Your favor as we seek Your face.

We thank You for our daughters, raised to be strong women of G-d, helpmates to their own husbands, and ministering to their own families with what they’ve been taught. We beseech You on their behalf that their men seek always to pray, and not lose heart, and know they have steadfast life partners at their side, as You ordained marriage to be.

We pray for the single woman, that she fulfill Your calling according to Your will, and that if she needs a partner, You will send her one worthy of a king’s daughter, but if You do not, bring to mind that she is not the daughter of a king, but of the King of Kings. Let her not lose heart, nor succumb to the world’s values that to be alone somehow reduces her worth and negates her purpose, that not having children renders her null in Your eyes.

We ask that You strengthen them all: the mother and the barren, the young and the old, the single and the married, the lost and the confident. Let us minister to them in Your love, with Your compassion, patience, and mercy when they also fall into sin, and make them accountable for keeping to Your precepts if they stray.

Bring to mind that they are as essential to Your ministry as we are, and they are as responsible for the Great Commission as we are, and that they are to give of their gifts and talents, as we are. 

Help us to support one another, keeping each other in prayer, believing the best of each other, and loving them as Christ loved the church, which He sacrificed His life for, submitting His will while seeking the face of the Father, unwavering in faith.

Together, let us build our houses on Your foundation, that nothing may destroy our unions, and no man can sunder what G-d has joined.

Lord Jesus, build our houses, enter them, and dine with us.

We will open the door when You knock.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 106: The Accursed Crowd

The Pharisees called them accursed, but they had it wrong.

Who Is He?

40 Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.”

But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Rejected by the Authorities

45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”

46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”

47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

It didn’t seem to matter what Jesus did or said, their hearts were hardened, their heels dug in, and they kept turning to their heads and not their hearts, their knowledge of The Law of Moses puffing them up with pride, Moses’ own words and those of G-d, his friend, twisted and added to so they could control the largely unschooled agricultural population of the day, and line their pockets as they claimed to be holy men who alone could understand and interpret the Scriptures.

Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Both of these particular sinners were especially despised under the Law, though Rahab the harlot is in the very genealogy of Christ, and Matthew the publican wrote the Gospel that ties everything Jesus said and did back to the Prophets.

Time and again, they resisted the Word, excommunicated the faithful, questioned His authority, His sanity, and His deity, yet they couldn’t deny His power.

John 12:17-19

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!”

And it scared them to the core.

Their pride in their knowledge was the very undoing of their power, and their lack of faith the undoing of their salvation. Moses, the Lawgiver himself, will accuse them before the throne on the day of judgment.

They were jealous of His youth, His refusal to kowtow to their authority, His popularity, His questions that rendered them silent, His calling them out on their hypocrisy, hard hearts, and love of the praises of men even as they purported to be men of G-d, adding to the Law that which gave them power and authority over the people.

And He remained obedient, knowing they would never change, but He never stopped trying to reach them.

John 8:42-43

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

It is hard for men of honed reasoning minds to accept things on faith, but that’s not because there is no evidence, it’s because they’ve chosen the tangible over the unseen. The very fact that G-d has sustained His Word throughout all of history, and that it’s still being attacked, speaks to its power.

Science doesn’t supersede G-d, yet almost every atheist clip I’ve watched will reference their education into science at some point, if not at first. Just as they haven’t seen G-d, they haven’t seen billions of years ago, but they attest to it as a certainty. They say the Bible was written by men, and therefore prone to error, but so are science books, and how often has what’s been taught has changed, and how are they still discovering new things? It’s the mind of the infinite mind of G-d, which we cannot fathom. They call it error, but ‘building on previous knowledge’, as if it’s not possible to grow in the knowledge of G-d.

And today, there are those among believers who enjoy a certain smugness, not realizing that the Gospel is to be shared, the downtrodden are to be ministered to, and the purpose of the church is to continue the work of Christ, seeking and saving the lost.

Yet we see wonderfully blessed ministries that are content to sit in comfortable chairs with the same people week after week, ministering to themselves as they laugh and mock their less fortunate brethren, retreat behind their gates, and shield themselves from harm, real and imagined, at the hands of the very people they should be ministering to.

They pander to would-be politicians who can steer funds and favor their way to increase the pastor’s status and the sizes of their congregations.

They side with the oppressors on matters of injustice, knowing the wrong, but remaining silent in the commitment and justification of it.

Speaking the truth has ever resulted in loss and isolation; it is no less true for us now than it was for Jesus back then, and we are told to chose whom we will serve, the first will be last, some have their reward, and some who believe they’re in the kingdom will be told to depart for practicing lawlessness.

We forget our Savior’s words in Matthew 25:40

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.’

Jesus calls the downtrodden His brothers and sisters.

Let us be careful, and mindful, that we are here temporarily, and like the child Jesus, we are to be about our Father’s business, lest we be deemed unfruitful, unprofitable, and therefore fit to be cast into the outer darkness, and not entering into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As we approach this holiday season, rife with pagan symbolism and worldly greed, we tend to ‘remember’ the unfortunate among us, and give ourselves spiritual pats on the back as we volunteer and donate to see to their needs, after which we put them away along with the decorations.

Open our eyes to how Your grace and blessings puts us in a position to provide for others, no matter how small the item, or how frequent the gift. Bring to mind that our brothers and sisters who wander with nowhere to lay their heads are just as hungry on President’s Day and July 4th as they are at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for forgetting Your words, for letting our guard lapse and our own comfort blind us to those around us in need.

Help us to judge no one, but to see past the fault to the need, as You did, even among the Pharisees, and even on the cross.

Open our hands and mouths this holiday season, and instill us with a spirit of boldness as we trust You to fill our mouths with what should be said, always pointing the way to You, as You point the way to the Father.

Let our faith remain steadfast, our repentance sincere, our joy complete, and our lives consecrated back to You.

Keep our work fruitful and profitable; I would not burn with the chaff, Lord, and keep  our prayers with each and every person and family that has gone to glory as a result of this fire. I pray Your peace for them, now and forever as this year, when they take their photos, there will be one less in them.

Help me obey the Holy Spirit in all things, since He speaks from what You give Him.

Let us not be prideful in our salvation, nor selfish in our ministering; this is not a serve one, save one of Your own kind.

Lord Jesus, remind us that ALL nations will be gathered before You on that day, and that we are responsible for ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world, not just the neighborhood.

Help us to remember that we were once part of the truly accursed crowd, educated in the world and ourselves, knowing neither Law nor understanding grace, but now we are newly accursed by the faithless, under the loving care of our Shepherd, and redeemed to our Father through the Son’s atoning work.

Today, let us cast our lot with Him who is able, in fear of the Lord our G-d, and go to Him, abiding, that we may finish the work to which we’ve been called, and plant seeds for the harvest to come as He commands us, speaking Truth to power, and Truth in love to the accursed crowd.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 104: Everyone’s Chains were Loosed

Acts 16:25-34

The Philippian Jailer Saved

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Beaten for driving out a divining spirit, and ruining the profits of a servant girl’s masters, not only Paul, but his companion Silas, suffered ‘many stripes’ for doing so. In Rome, facing great resistance, Paul continued his steadfast preaching, unwavering and uncompromising, setting the Jewish leaders on fire with jealousy as the people gathered to hear the words Christ gave Paul to speak.

Silas was a prophet of G-d, (Acts 15:32), so He would have been acquainted with the teachings of Christ as well, and was under the anointing by his proximity to Paul. They made a dynamic team, going to the churches of Syria and Cilicia after parting with Barnabas over Mark.

In the midst of their affliction and the loss of their freedom they began to praise G-d, and where praise is, His presence is in the midst of where two are gathered in His name. This pleased the Father to the extent that even though it was Paul and Silas who suffered, He freed everyone, though Paul didn’t intercede for them directly. It says, however, that the prisoners were listening, and are we not told that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word? (Romans 10:17)

Yet, so caught up were they that even though their chains were loosed, no one had the presence of mind to run, but stayed near where the Lord’s presence was strong. “We are all here,” Paul tells the anxious jailer, who is so fearfully reverent that he asks the question every Christian witness longs to hear: “What must I do to be saved?”

More often than not, in these times, we are told to keep silent; unfortunately, the powers that be in the places that can negatively affect us are in agreement. Bibles, prayer groups, praying over meals, and especially witnessing,  are severely discouraged, and going against it comes with dire consequences that may involve our livelihood if we are found out.

Yet when those around you are in crisis, have you not received a private, personal request to pray? I have, on more than one occasion. Maybe to themselves, they’re ‘hedging their bets,’ like those who go to church on Christmas and Easter, ‘just in case,’ but if you’ve professed yourself a believer, they know who to find when they’re really in need.

Understand that when you present yourself to the Lord, it is not just for You alone, and when you praise G-d in the midst of your afflictions, people are not only watching, they are listening. Are you steadfast, bold, unwavering, and uncompromising in your faith, believing you and your household saved through the atoning work of the Son?

Have you been freed from the chains of sin, and delivered out of bondage?

Have you driven out the spirits who come against you in the places you inhabit, and have you suffered for it?

Be assured, you are in the Father’s favor, the Son’s hands, and the Spirit’s power, and all the glory goes to Him who delivered not only you, but everyone around you, for it seemed good in His sight, and to his glory, to do so.

Therefore I pray:

In the midst of receiving my spiritual and earthly stripes, Father, I praise you in the midst of those who don’t understand what I do, and why I do it. Let it be as a seed, Lord, planted in fertile soil so that I may glorify You when they ask of me: “What shall I do to be saved?”

Let me always have an answer for seekers, a light for the blind, a rebuke and purging of diviners, and shield me from such, for I’m weak, and likely to entertain them, making them equal to prophets, when they are in fact demons that would see me persecuted.

Let the Spirit fill me with what I should say, and use my gifts and talents as Jesus used all of Paul’s scholarly gifts, and Barnabas’ ability to encourage and see beyond fault, and Timothy’s charisma and courage. I would be fruitful to the Vine into which I’ve been grafted through the covenant of grace.

As I pray, and intercede, and stand in the gap, let those who are watching see the movement of Your hand, and touch those souls that would be ignited through the work You would have me do, and let me not stumble or do anything that would turn them away. 

I would finish the race, and receive the crown, to Your honor and glory Lord, that I may rest and live forever in the Power’s light, in Your eternal Kingdom full of peace, praise, and love everlasting, now and forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 103: I Will Not Leave You Orphans

John 14:15-18

Jesus Promises Another Helper

15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

We call it ‘the still, small voice,’ among other things, but it’s by far the most important voice we have, and the one we’re most prone to ignore. I have endured unnecessary struggles as a result, and have no one but myself to blame.

I remember the day Jesus sealed His promise of eternal life to me; that it took place on a mountain held a special significance for me then, but then I came back to the valley, and the clouds of the world rained down, and though the voice never stopped speaking, I stopped listening.

But the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not break their promises, and they are not without understanding, and while the Spirit may yet be found, it’s in my best interest to not only listen, but to abide.

As Jesus said the Father sent Him, and He spoke not on His own, so it is too, with the Holy Spirit. Christ tells us:

John 16:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

The Word of G-d is not a scattered, random thing, for if Jesus and the Father are One in will and purpose, the reconciling of man to G-d by the Word and faith in Christ, the Spirit is of the same. So, taken all in all,  there’s no  disconnection in the consistency of the Word’s message: Repent, and believe the Gospel.

How fitting, then, that He who came down a King of humble birth, would use a ‘still, small voice.’ But it’s the most authoritative one we should serve without hesitation.

The miracles and signs were done in the presence of assemblies in temples, in cities, in villages, in front of hundreds and thousands, but in the quiet moments of mountaintop prayer, closet intimacy, nights of candlelight on your knees before the altar, the voice speaks to you, in your circumstances.

But our Savior was never ‘over the top,’ and the Holy Spirit, one on one, won’t be either.

We are on a difficult road to find a narrow path, to spend eternity with a promised king, guided by the Spirit with a still, small voice, while being pelted from the roadsides of the world with all manner of mockery and filth.

Do we, as He did, set our faces like flint as we set our sights heavenward, while doing His will on the earth?

No doubt it is a hard calling in unparalleled times. And yet, the Word of the Lord, higher than His name, has survived all attempts to blot it out, and we take it our hands today to read:

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to You.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Holy Spirit, 

I repent of grieving You through doubt, disobedience, willful sins, rebelliousness, and faithlessness. You are spoken of the least in our churches’ earthly sermons, but You are as powerful a manifestation in the assembly of the saints as when the Father’s glory filled the temple.

And indeed, You glorify the Father as well as the Son.

Let us be reminded that You speak the words of our Lord to our everyday, modern day problems with simple truth, heavenly guidance, and eternal love, and that You also, like the Father and Son, can’t look on sin, and grieve when we give in to temptation.

But we thank You, also, for not abandoning us, for convicting us, and being constant in the message: Repent, and believe, and be reconciled to the Father.

Help us to know that it is not only You, but also the voice of the Father and Son that tell You what to say to us, though You have Your own realms of authority.

Thank You for not waiting for the quiet hours only to speak, but also in the midst of chaos, You impart that peace beyond understanding to us, that we may glorify G-d in word and deed among the faithless. 

As You continue to guide us and reveal the Truth of the Gospel, help us also to do the Father’s will by remaining humble, by noticing the still, small details among us that allow us to serve the Kingdom: to help the widow and orphan, and give a cup of water to a child, and restore our brothers and sisters who’ve fallen by the way, and to say what You would have us say, not speaking on our own authority, that we might bear fruit and reconcile others to Christ, that they too might be saved, walking the Narrow Way with us, fulfilling a hard calling in difficult times.

Let it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen. 

Devotional 101: He Sent Me

Jesus is not ‘cool’ with things the Father isn’t.

John 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

I heard of a painting where the Father and Son are looking at the world, and they see the people are lost, and Jesus says, “Let me go to them.” That is a very moving, powerful, thought, but it isn’t true, and this was not Jesus’ first time saying He was sent.

Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s command to go and preach His will for repentance, and came at the Father’s command to offer Himself as the focal point for salvation and the redemption of our souls from eternal separation and ultimate destruction, which is why He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not the seed of man.

Jesus also tells us (John 8:51)  51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

The reason he is able to say this is because it is not, in fact, His word:  (John 12:49)

49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.

and again, when He admonishes Philip:

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’?

There is a modern notion that Jesus somehow separated from the Old Testament G-d of judgment who seemed to constantly be smiting and hating His own creation, but we who are called know that G-d hates sin, not us, and that He grieved and flooded the world while He still had one righteous man to start over, because the world loved sin.

As Satan captured Eve’s imagination through her senses so that she disobeyed G-d and Adam surrendered the world’s dominion to G-d’s enemy, so too, does he do so now. We are told that we’re happy when our wants are satisfied, not just our needs met, and this puts us in the path of temptation, making us prone to not only sin, but backslide. And sometimes even turn away.

Christ calls us out of the world to a greater reward, a greater comfort, and indeed not only to a better life, but an eternal one. In the delay of that gratification, we are told that we have to suffer with Him first, and crucify the lust of the flesh on the daily, pray and stay faithful, and remember that this is not our home.

We have the Word of G-d to keep us on the narrow path. We speak of Jesus’ miracles, but we forget that G-d also raised the dead, healed, calmed storms and made them, cast out demons, delivered in miraculous fashion, appeared to His servants, called a select few His friend, and performed signs in the heavens, even stopping the earth so the sun could shine as Israel finished fighting (Joshua 10:13). 

Jesus tells us that His own miracles were of the Father’s power (John 9:4)

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

There is also the modern notion that Jesus would ‘be cool’ with things the Father is not. Again, we who have been called realize that we are under grace, but grace does not give us a sin license, and to call good that which G-d calls evil. In our pride, we gainsay G-d and say He is at best outdated, and at worst, dead.

But He is eternal, and therefore can be neither, and there will be a judgment day.

In that we would be well to remember the one thing Jesus said that reminds us they are inseparable concerning the Father’s will and our eternal souls:

John 10:22-30

The Shepherd Knows His Sheep

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Yes, we have been given to Jesus (John 6:44)

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

G-d has done all He is going to do to redeem us, because he loves us. The rest is up to us, and the choice is ours to make.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

As long as we dwell here to preach and live out the Gospel, let us call to mind Your own words that point back to the Father’s sovereignty in all things, at all times, concerning every aspect of our lives. 

You tell us to let our lights shine so that men may see our works and glorify the Father.

When the Apostles continued Your work, glory was given to the Father. (Acts 3:6-8)

Thank You for being obedient, that we might be saved, reconciled, and redeemed, dwelling with You in the kingdom by faith instead of being eternally punished for our faithlessness and pride.

Thank You for being obedient in understanding that while we are frail, hard of heart, doubting, ungrateful, and yet sinful, You must set the Father’s standards before us before the Day of the Lord comes. 

And thank You, Father, for revealing the Son to us that we might be called Your sons and daughters, given the privileges and rights of the King’s children. We thank You for the ears to hear.

It is a dark world for shining a light of faith, but we have the Light of the World on our side, obedient, loving, and compassionate, but reminding us that the Harvest comes with a dread and ultimate purpose: the purging of the tares, the burning of the unfruitful, the separation of the unfaithful and lawless, who are cut off without remedy, and misunderstand our Savior’s meekness, and that if He is for us, none can stand against us.

Let us call to mind that He will not return as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah, in all of Your glory, His angels with Him, in an instant. 

Father, let my soul be among those raised in the last day. Help me to endure to the end, that I might be saved, praising You always, living on the New Earth, as Your Son reigns over us, in eternal obedience to Your guiding hand.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 100: A Man Called Jesus

John 9:8-12

Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was [a]blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”

He said, “I am he.

10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”

12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?”

He said, “I do not know.”

For a lot of us who’ve received Christ, outside of the movies a crucifixion is an abstract concept, but every time we’ve seen it portrayed our spirit recoils a bit no matter who the victim is.

It is designed to cause suffering, suffocation, nerve damage, and that’s before death.

The whips were designed to tear flesh from the body, not just scar.

The crucifixion of our Lord was enhanced by beatings with fists, whips, a crown of thorns, and constant striking, spitting, hair pulling, and mocking.

Yet He asked forgiveness for his accusers and executioners, because He knew the nature of the world, and testified to it that its works were evil.

As He’s commissioned us to be His hands and feet as He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for our backsliding, those without Him remain in their fallen nature, being the hands and feet of our Enemy. As we are to go about preaching, they go about mocking. As we come fight against moral decay, they use the faithless and the cowardly to advance.

Christ told us:  14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 

The Apostle Peter experienced this first hand, and had to be restored. So have we, and so do we.

Christ was a miracle working man, yet untainted by the earthly seed of man. He was attached uniquely to the Father. But He also grieved, wept, and marveled, just as we do. I imagine there were times he even laughed. He got thirsty, hungry, and tired.

He climbed mountains to be alone and pray.

To heal Bartimaeus, He spit.

He is not only our Savior, but our Brother. He is not only our King, but our Friend. He is not only the Son of G-d, but our Shepherd. He is not only the Lion of Judah, but our judge. All of the latter terms are earthly offices, and all of the former divine in nature.

Let us not deny His humanity, though His works were of Heaven through the power of faith in the Holy Spirit, and the approval of the Father.

Bartimaeus received his sight, but didn’t know where Jesus went.

Let us thank the Father that today, we don’t have that problem, for Christ again tells us:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That’s fitting, since He is the finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Never let the horror of Your sacrifice be lost on us. You suffered much, in flesh and spirit, for our sake. Those of us who believe and follow must suffer also, to share in the glory.

We don’t understand it all, but one day, we will, and that will be a glorious day for the faithful. 

No hatred, war, bloodshed, evil intent, deceit, greed, lust, or transgression. All things made new, all evil destroyed. The light of the Father Himself will be our sun, and the heavens will ring with holy praise.

Help us to remember our places are prepared, our rewards set aside, our crowns given to throw at Your feet, for the silver and gold is Yours.

As Your prophecies unfold, help us to keep hold of the hem of Your garment, that we might be made whole, spotless before the Father, our unworthy names not blotted from the Book of Life, Your Book of Remembrance of us as You come into Your kingdom.

Help us to know that what we’ve read, seen, and heard in our own walks was appointed to us from before the foundation of the world. Some of us came later rather than sooner, and endured some unneeded hardship, but You applied the goads that got us to declare our faith in You, as we reached the end of ourselves and our own ways, lost in darkness too deep to dispel on our own.

As with Bartimaeus, some of us would declare it a late-life miracle indeed, but we are here, now, and all that’s left behind is no longer important. Our eyes are focused on You, and our lives, the very ones You gave back to us, are Yours to make what You will of them to the Father’s glory.

And for it, we shall be eternally grateful, dwelling with You in the sight of God, reconciled to Him forevermore.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 99: When the Lord Relents

Jonah 1:10-16

Jonah Thrown into the Sea

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.

12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.

Whenever the story of Jonah is preached, we focus on Jonah’s disobedience from the command of the Lord, for he was one of the Chosen, called and sent by G-d to preach to the most murderous, heathen nation in the known world.

Jonah did not want them to hear the Word of the Lord, because G-d had called them to repentance and he didn’t want them forgiven, so he ran.

G-d could have sent someone else and cut Jonah from the fold, but He didn’t. As Jonah thought he could hide and take a ship to go the opposite direction, G-d stirred up the sea, and Jonah confessed, but look at what happened:  Jonah told them how to calm the storm, but they too, relied on their earthly knowledge and tried to row to land anyway.

Through his disobedience, Jonah recognized that innocent people, sailors who had no knowledge of G-d, were going to die, but when he told them how to remedy their situation and get out of danger, they disobeyed Jonah until they realized this was not a race they were going to win.

Our flesh and spirit war the same within us; the flesh rages to fulfill itself, and the commands of the Lord are dropped into the midst of it, quietly: a verse, an admonition, a ‘chance’ encounter, all signs that we can read and know. It is a goad against that which will cause us to sin, but we press on toward gratification of our own desires, hurting our souls and grieving the Spirit in the process.

And Satan smiles…

It is when we come back emptied of our pride, and convicted of our wrong, that we go up to our mountains, into our prayer closets, open our Bibles, return to church, and confess ourselves to other believers, or just to Jesus, and cry out that the Lord not hold our rebellion against us.

And in His mercy,  by His grace, and through His Son’s atoning work on Calvary, we are given another chance to get it right, and we go back to doing that which we were called.

As the Lord admonished his reluctant Apostle, (Acts 9:5)

 “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Iis hard for you to kick against the goads.”

All the resistance, the arresting of believers, the self-righteousness of an overachieving Pharisee who’s reputation struck fear in the hearts of Christians, was only preparation for the most widespread messages of deliverance outside of Christ Himself in the known world of the day, and down through the ages.

We use the phrases ”In G-d’s time, ” and “In His own way,” but there are times we don’t like either, and we rush forward too far, or delay too long. It is then the seas rise up, and we feel the goads prodding us back into the fold. But we only hurt ourselves, and sometimes those around us, when we do this.

Let us be reminded that G-d is sovereign: it is His plan, in His time, the silver and gold is His, and also what it says in Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.

There is no hiding place, so let’s set aside the needless burden and stop delaying to repent, or indeed, as Christ said, ‘Sin no more,’  and get on with the Lord’s work. We will not be rewarded for sin; G-d isn’t winking at it, nor is He ‘letting it slide’ because it’s popular and legal in the eyes of a weak, confused, hard-hearted, broken, prideful, rebellious humanity that says nothing is wrong with anyone, and nothing needs to be repented for, and hell, and even G-d, do not exist.

For those who loosely subscribe, the G-d of love they want to embrace to excuse their sin is also a G-d of judgment who will not, but they ignore the day of the Lord’s vengeance to their peril. As believers we are to scatter our seeds, and let our peace settle or return to us by the will and power of our Heavenly Father, until He tells us we’re finished, and calls us home.

Therefore I pray:

I confess that I have delayed my calling, carried my burdens too long, because they allowed me to lick the wounds of my anger and point at those who wronged me, that I might not forgive them and do good to them, be kind to them, love them, and tell them about You lest they turn to You and be forgiven also.

I fooled myself into thinking I alone was worthy of favor, love, and mercy, and that only those who’ve already gone through their own fires of faith are also worthy of the kingdom.

The mocking, leering, abusive, blaspheming, faithless unbelievers we would just as soon leave to the storms and the outer darkness make us afraid and have no part with us. 

Father, I thank you that our prideful, self-righteous hearts don’t make the final call; we would foolishly pluck the wheat up with the tares, and burn it all in the fire in our uncertainty, then realize we’re going to starve to death.

Forgive me for the times my stumbling rebellion put others at risk because I ignored the Spirit’s voice, and caused them to not do what was right.

In the end, Jonah brought these men to You also when they saw You calm the sea after they were obedient, and then he went on to do the work You called him to in Nineveh, among a heathen people that loved all things worldly, and loved You not at all.

Let my work also bear double fruit, as a matter of letting unbelievers see Your works, even through my moments of repentance from having my own way, coming to recognize that there is no ‘my’ way. 

Let me continue to honor You in the work You’ve called me to do, without burden, without question, and without delay.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen