Devotional 41: They Made Widely Known…

Luke 2:8-18  Glory in the Highest

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

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

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

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely[c] known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

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

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

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

Why shepherds?

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“G-d is with us.”

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

Amen.

Devotional 36: Show Us the Father

John 14:8-14

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

If ever there was proof of the spiritual disconnect between man and G-d, Philip’s request of Jesus to show them the Father manifest is it. He’d seen Jesus’ ministry up close, and indeed, had moved in power on his own under Christ’s authority, and yet his words seemed to echo that of the Pharisees in their constant demands for proof and credentials that Jesus was who He claimed.  In John 8: 57-58 we read:

57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?”

58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 

 

Jesus often rebuked the Apostles for their lack of faith and their uncomprehending of His mission, yet He chose by and large unlearned and ‘average’ men; they were of no great account or consequence in Galilee save that they walked with Jesus.

So then, what differentiated them from other average men? Jesus saw that they could be reached, and would respond, and His preparation, sowing, and ministering to them took as much of His time as ministering to the sick, the possessed, and the dead.

He saw that Philip upon His departure, they would indeed be obedient and change the world, carrying the sword He brought that would cleave households in two, as it does to this day.

Yet Philip, it seems, captures Him off guard right after Thomas demonstrates another kind of misunderstanding regarding the way to Heaven and to the presence of G-d.

“Lord,” Philip says, “show us…. ”

Jesus effectively replies that basically that’s all He’s been doing, and how could Philip not know that.

Nicodemus, the secret believer among the Pharisees, knew it:

This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from G-d as a teacher, for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)

This too is a revelatory statement; Nicodemus would have heard what the Pharisees were saying about Jesus when He wasn’t around. They agreed on His teachings and signs as being from G-d, yet constantly banded together to discredit Him, until He turned their questions on their heads, and made them fearful of His authority, though He lacked what they thought were the required credentials.

The multitudes followed Him because they saw, and their needs were immediate, and possibly for the most part, their motives were immediate gratification, as in the lepers He cleaned, but only one returned to thank Him.

But there were others who came to receive the Word, a word of hope and encouragement, of long-suffering love, of the forgiveness of sins for the repentant, and the promise of eternal life when earthly life was done, renewed and transformed, even glorified, and praising G-d forever.

And Philip, in earthly failing such as we all have, says “show.”

Jesus responds by telling him that He speaks what the Father gives, and the Father works through Him to perform His will in miracles as well as His word, that we might see that He is a good G-d through the works of the Son: the healing of the sick, the restoration of the dead, and the sowing of the Good News as a covenant act of grace unmerited.

And Philip, at the angel’s command, sees a chariot driver in the desert, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, changes a nation…

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, since I first received You, I find that I am repentant, yet still sinful. Your apostle who was once your enemy advises us the fight is lifelong, and we go on doing what we don’t want, mixed with what You would have us do. That is lukewarm, and You have said in no uncertain terms You would spew that out.

Help our unbelief while there is yet time.

I, for one, am relieved the Father is long-suffering, and that He sent You to redeem my wretchedness, and turn it into righteousness. In my weariness of trials, I anticipate the easy yoke, yet You say persecution comes.

And I must choose, consciously, and daily, whom I will serve. It is to our shame that our humanness thinks to please everyone, that You wink at our rebellion, that You only love those of us who’ve professed our faith in You, but if You and the Father are One, and He is in You, we are admonished that to evangelize, lest the souls of the lost be on our heads, for the Father says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Help transform and transport us as well, Lord, and help us to see You in each other, and know that You and the Father are indeed One. We believe on Your word, and in the signs and wonders You perform, for our own salvation, and the imparting of the Father’s Spirit to us was in itself a miracle to us, the hour we first believed.

And let us go into all the world, and open Your Word to the hungry chariot drivers.

I ask it in Your Name, knowing by faith You will grant it to us, as You have said.

Amen

Devotional 35: If It is of God…

Acts 5: 33-42 Gamaliel’s Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

 

Devotional 33: I Was No Prophet

Amos 7:10-16

 Amaziah’s Complaint

10 Then Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, “Amos has conspired against you in the midst of the house of Israel. The land is not able to bear all his words. 11 For thus Amos has said:

‘Jeroboam shall die by the sword,
And Israel shall surely be led away captive
From their own land.’”

12 Then Amaziah said to Amos:

“Go, you seer!
Flee to the land of Judah.
There eat bread,
And there prophesy.
13 But never again prophesy at Bethel,
For it is the king’s sanctuary,
And it is the royal residence.”

14 Then Amos answered, and said to Amaziah:

“I was no prophet,
Nor was I a son of a prophet,
But I was a sheepbreeder[a]
And a tender of sycamore fruit.
15 Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock,
And the Lord said to me,
‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’
16 Now therefore, hear the word of the Lord:
You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,
And do not spout against the house of Isaac.’

The one thing I love about the Father is his consistency.

Time and again he pulls from the rag pile and sends out the most unlikely people to do the work he requires, knowing they will obey, telling them not to be afraid, shoring them up with the power of the Holy Spirit and righteous indignation.

Amos is about as unlikely a prophet as they come, but we know he’s a prophet of G-d, because the prophets of G-d never failed to get the attention of kings and rulers, from Moses to Micah.

The reactions of said kings and rulers also seldom deviated, usually prompted by their right-hand men. In the case of Amos, it’s Amaziah, used to the intrigues of court and dealing with men of wealth, power and influence, as well as having the king’s ear.

He summarily dismisses, banishes and threatens Amos in the same breath, and cites the fact that the prophet stands in the king’s sanctuary and residence.

But as read in Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and those who dwell therein.”

Amos, being obedient to the Father’s call despite his lack of clerical credentials, answers Amaziah with even more boldness, after reciting his credentials as a sheepherder and caretaker of fruit. By all measures of earthly success, but for the call of G-d on his life, he would have died in obscurity as a simple sheepherder and fruit picker, perhaps well-liked by his employer and fellow servants, but otherwise unknown to the world today.

“I was no prophet,
Nor was I a son of a prophet,
But I was a sheepbreeder[a]
And a tender of sycamore fruit.
15 Then the Lord took me as I followed the flock,
And the Lord said to me,
‘Go, prophesy to My people Israel.’

As believers, at some point we’ve heard the Call, and suddenly found ourselves at a fork in the road that says ‘Obey’ and ‘Disobey.’ We read only of the prophets who answered the call (Jonah refused to go to Nineveh because he knew G-d would forgive them, but it was not because he doubted what G-d said).

It’s a frightening thing, and I myself have experienced it. Nothing as earth-shattering as the overrunning of a nation by a powerful enemy, but I’ve told people they had positions, and things they were looking for would be in certain places, and they’ve come to pass.

I don’t count myself a prophet by any means, but I knew when I heard from the Lord; there was a certainty that what I was saying was not coming from a place of emotion, or trying to do good in the flesh, or to impress anyone. It was simply: “Tell them____”. and I obeyed.

G-d sends out His Word, and says it will not return void:  Jonah gave the shortest sermon in recorded history, and a whole nation repented, sparing itself. But the people of Nineveh did not pass down the legacy, and eventually it was destroyed.

As the saying goes, “G-d has no grandchildren.”

In this day and age of relativism, modernism, feminism, atheism, sexual immorality and gender identity confusion, would you be obedient if the Father said, “Go into their midst and prophesy?” Would you be willing to suffer the consequences, and possibly see the fruit, as Jonah did, or would you quail at the challenge to your credentials among the learned clergy. The Pharisees were always asking Jesus, another man of humble, dubious beginnings who seemingly had no other credentials, and didn’t even practice his trade of carpentry, “By whose authority do you do these things?”

You’re in good company.

Prophesy in faith, not in yourself, but in He who sent you.

Psalm 81:10  “If you open your mouth, I will fill it.”

He did it for Moses, and Amos, and He’ll do it for you. For us.

Amaziah was appalled that this commoner spoke so rashly, and probably felt justified in thinking Amos would quail in fear when Amaziah told him where he was, but G-d responded with a harsh punishment for Amaziah instead.

Yes, we are commanded to come boldly before the throne with the torn veil, but we are also called to go out from it just as boldly, speaking Truth in love

Therefore I pray:

Let my feet hasten to where You would have me go, Father, but it will have to be You. Like Jonah, I don’t understand unconditional love and forgiveness. Nineveh staked prophets out in the unrelenting desert sun, and was known as city of every vice, and yet, the words of Your prophet changed a nation.

So too, Amos, the shepherd and fruit attendant, who spoke against King Jeroboam, who’d become a tyrant.  He also spoke against those cities who aided the vice and turned a blind to it in the name of profit.

Whatever the words you’d have me speak, whether to change a nation or a single heart, fill me with Your words, Your power, and increase my faith, that I might obey and speak boldly.

Let me not boast of that which you gave me to say, as if I did a grand thing in my own strength. I know where my help comes from.

I would be a fisher of men, and a seed-planter, and a sheaf-bringer, or a shepherd, or a fruit attendant. As Your most learned apostle said, “I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some.” (1st Cor: 9:22), taking the same fire and zeal he used to persecute the church to advance it.

Help us to know, that we too, must suffer for your Name, and to count the cost, take up our crosses, and follow.

In the Name of Your Holy Son, and by the power of Your Holy Spirit, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 29: “But If Not…”

Daniel 3:16-18

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. 18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”

There are Scriptures that speak of testing by fire: .tests of our faith, our works, our hearts, and our love.

In general, when those who follow the Way speak of trials, our tendency is to link them to fire.  In days of old, to profess the sovereignty of Christ at the expense of a powerful and corrupt church often did, in fact, end in trial by fire.

Captives away from their homeland, their names changed, and under the constant threat of death or the promise of reward based on the whims of a volatile, arrogant king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego gave the ultimate answer to their impending doom, obeying G-d’s commandment to have set no gods before Him, to not worship images of the created, nor images of man.

“We have no need to answer you in this matter…” Their minds were already made up. Surely they already knew of the king’s decree, and didn’t do it. Their hearts were set on G-d, and if they were to meet Him tragically and painfully, they would do so willingly.

Honestly, how many of us would have the faith and courage to say that in the face of impending, indeed, imminent death. The devout and pious young men were not even tranquilized to face their doom, and were excessively bound so that there was no escape from the flames that were so hot they killed some of Nebuchadnezzar’s mightiest men. (I think G-d was sending the king a message even then, I digress…)

They affirmed their faith with an even more fantastical statement. “…but if not…”

We are reminded of ‘the others’ in the Book of Hebrews, who had no last minute rescues, who saw no divine intervention, who were torn apart by various means with their faith in G-d intact in their hearts, and the kingdom of Heaven on their minds.

In these days, as the love of many grows cold, and the once-faithful turn away, as we are all tempted to do when see the flint-like face of our Savior leading His people to a new Promised Land, our Shepherd leading His sheep to the green pasture where the lions lay next to them, we are reminded to let not our hearts be troubled, nor afraid, and to believe in G-d, and the Son he sent for us to reconcile us to our Creator, and to  redeem us spotless and blameless, without sin, into His eternal kingdom, redeeming us from the flames of the Prince of this world.

We are reminded He will be with us, even to the end of the age, and He revealed Himself as He did, in fact, redeem His good and faithful servants from the flame of a worldly king, who then testified as a pagan witness to the presence of Jesus.

25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”[a]

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, You have said the world will hate us because it hated Your first, and that it hates You because You testify that its works are evil. You never wavered in the face of temptation, or persecution, or crucifixion, or death. And even as You died, You took a repentant thief into Paradise.

Give us the resolve to stand, O Lord, as Your three servants who set the example for us on earth, as You set it for Heaven. Help us to keep discernment through the eyes of the Holy Spirit in us, and know that the battle is spiritual, and not of flesh and blood.

In an age of faithlessness, compromise, and blasphemy, we ask You to increase our faith, and help our unbelief.

We need You now more than ever, to impart Your strength to our quavering voices and shaking knees, to shout from the rooftops what You’ve whispered, and to set our holy lights on the hills of a land in decline, and be voices in the wilderness, proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s favor, and to seek Him while He may yet be found.

By the Power of Your Holy Name, I pray,

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 24: Cry Out All the More

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.

Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”

50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.

51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”

52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.

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

Bartimaeus had reached a point of weariness with his affliction, blindness, so when Jesus was near, he called to Him, his voice carrying above the excited din of the crowd as they saw Jesus approaching.

In his cry, Bartimaeus gives the designation of recognition of Jesus as the Messiah as ” Son of David,” and pleads for mercy.

Why mercy? Isn’t that something granted to the sinful? How would a blind man, begging alms, be sinful? We can only guess that Bartimaeus cursed his lot in life, and blamed God, and was angry at being treated as human refuse for depending on the patronizing, pitying kindness of strangers.

In his state, the people nearest him tell him to be quiet; he is a poor, blind beggar, and Jesus is a King, so they marked him as unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence by those who probably either ignored him everyday, or mocked him as they gave of their surplus.

Continuing to place his faith in Jesus, obeying the prompting of the Spirit within him, he cried out all the more. In his weariness with his affliction, he saw an opportunity to be free of it, and in his acknowledging of Jesus as Messiah, the faith in his cry for mercy caused Jesus to stop, and command Bartimaeus to approach.

The fickle crowd who at first told him to shut up, now tells him to cheer up, and to rise and go forward. Though none offer to help him stand, Jesus’ command also removes the human barrier of doubt, so neither will they hinder his way.

As Matthew left all, and Lazarus was loosed from his burial shroud, and the bedridden man lowered through the ceiling rose to carry his bed outside to throw it away, Bartimaeus throws aside the garment that marked him as an afflicted pauper, worthy of little more than pitied contempt and whispered judgement as to the nature of his sins, and stands before Jesus.

He answers Jesus’ question (though He knew what the man wanted; he wanted him to say it, to proclaim that he wished to be healed, and free), and says he wants to receive his sight.

Immediately, with no touching from Jesus, with no mud-making, with nothing more than the power of His Word, Jesus heals him through his conduit of faith, and tells him so:

“Go your way, your faith has made you well.”

We read that Bartimaeus did not go his way, but followed Jesus down the road, no doubt giving thanks and praise and glory to the Father.

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, You admonish us to ask, seek and knock. These are not only acts of faith, but of persistence, of effort with a goal in mind of building our faith to have our prayer answered.

Help me to understand, Lord, that as I persist in my petitions to You they will not be granted without these two things:

  1. faith in You, and the promise that You said all things are possible through the Father,

2. being in Your presence, for You said apart from You I can do nothing, nor can You work in me if I possess a sullied spirit and a skeptical mind.

Help me to listen to the still, small voice when the devil’s hordes are shouting for me to be quiet, to sit down, to trouble the Master no longer, for my prayers are stillborn in my mouth.

I thank You that in Your presence, we leave the garments of our afflictions in the dirt, no longer begging for strangers’ alms, but sitting at the King’s table, partaking of the bounty of Your mercy on us, and the goodness of your grace towards us.

Let me cry out to You all the more, Son of David, that You may say to me:

“Your faith has made you well.”

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 23: The Third Day

Hosea 6:  1- 3

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

 

The thought of giving an account to the last Judge, King, Ruler, Savior, and Creator of the Universe is at once something we view as ‘far off’, as it depends to some extent on how soon we shuffle off these mortal coils (depart from life, for you non-Shakespeare readers).

Yet we are told by the Apostle Paul that to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord, and that the spirit of man returns to G-d while the body returns to the earth. We are told by him that we shall be like Christ in glorified bodies when we are called forth from the grave, ‘sown corruptible’ and harvested as ‘incorruptible.’

If our spirit returns, and our bodies are raised at a later time, what are we called to do in the interim before flesh and spirit reunite? Daily, our flesh sins, and while we’d like to think most of it is unintentional and unplanned, that doesn’t mean we’re not called to repentance.

We also make choices to sin when we know better. Just yesterday, I skipped people in a line at a convenience store when another registered opened to reduce the backlog. A man gently touched my shoulder to stop me, but I ignored it and paid for my item ahead of others who’d been standing there. It was a Saturday morning, and I wasn’t late for anything, so I don’t know why I did it other than that I just didn’t feel like waiting. It was wrong, and rude, and I felt bad for doing it, but not enough to hang around and apologize to the person who tried to correct me. I didn’t even look at him, because to acknowledge him meant I knew what I was doing.

Are there more heinous sins than line-jumping? Yes, but that didn’t make it right to do, especially since I know that Christ Himself would not have done that, and I profess to be a follower. It was a moment of fleshly weakness, and I indulged it as fast as the thought occurred to me. We must be ever-vigilant. Let him take heed who thinks he stands, lest he fall, right?

This doesn’t even speak to our so -called secret sins. They’re only secrets from others, but not from G-d, who sees all we do, no matter the time of day. We can also sin through neglecting our spiritual lives by not praying, not confessing our sins, not meeting in fellowship, not reading G-d’s Word, that which He holds higher than His Name.

So how much like Christ can we be then?

Let’s take comfort in the words of this verse, but let’s also obey it, for there is no other way to salvation.

Verse 1: We must act. In order to return, we must stop going that way and turn ourselves, around, that we may stop being afflicted and disciplined for our sins. The Shepherd walks behind us and before us, calling to us that He may remove our sin by the power of His Blood.

Verse 2: We experience restoration though revival, and on the third day, as the Father raised the Son, that we might know it’s by His power and through His will, the Lord Jesus Christ will summon us forth with a great shout, and we too, will feel that power.

When we repent, He resurrects that part of the Holy Spirit in us that we’ve neglected to communicate with, that we live and not die in His presence.

Verse 3: We must learn. From that perspective, we are to pursue of knowledge of Him as a lifelong endeavor, discovering the wonders of Our Father, our Savior, and the revelation of the Spirit anew, without ever coming to the end of our knowledge.

We read that when we seek this knowledge, we are refreshed in our spirits when He comes to us like rain to a dry land, with times of refreshing, covered in the covenant of Grace.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, when move out of your Presence to seek my own way, when I disconnect myself from that power of your healing, the protection of Your hand, I am never out from under the covering of Your blood.

I thank you, Lord Jesus, for not giving up on me, for not turning me away when I stop to pick up the shiny, worthless objects of the world strewn along my path.

Thank You for forgiving me.

Thank You for restoring me.

Thank You that I am free to pursue knowledge of You, without restriction.

Thank you for replacing the rags of my righteousness with Your perfect ones.

Thank you for allowing me to live and not die in the Fathers presence.

Thank You for times of refreshing, for the rain of your reign over my vaporous life, giving it substance, and calling it blessed.

I will return to You, O Lord, for You have said that You would return to me.

“Let it be unto me as You have said.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotional 22: Do You Believe This?

John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Today we celebrate the Risen Christ, and though He was speaking to Martha, who had professed her faith that her brother Lazarus would rise on the last day, Jesus tells her that the power of G-d that granted Him life through the Spirit is ever with Him.

This little family believed in Jesus as Messiah, and Jesus therefore tells her that even those who’ve already died, if they believe, shall live.

It seems a paradox, but it’s not. We are admonished to seek G-d while He is near, while He may be found, while we are in the Year of the Lord’s Favor. Jesus tells us He would prefer if we were hot or cold, for the lukewarm He will spew out. That means He’s more involved with those who are cold than with those who believe ‘there are many roads, but they all lead to G-d.’ To their eternal peril, those paths lead to dead ends and outer darkness.

I read of gods who’ve said similar things that Jesus said, but none ever said “No man comes to the Father, but by Me.”

Jesus never wavered in His statements of identity, but the question is now put to a mere mortal about matters beyond her scope. “Do you believe this?”

It is a question that has resonated through the ages, and it is there in our hearts, in our thoughts, and in our world spinning slowly out of control, as He said it would.

Martha had a decision to make, and she answered rightly:

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

On this Resurrection Sunday, what is our response to this question?

Let us count the cost of our answer, be willing to leave all, and take up our cross, so that we, like Christ, can say:

“It is finished.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I celebrate Your risen Presence in my life today. I praise the Father, that He allowed me to come to You, to come under the covering of your Blood, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that I may enter Your eternal kingdom.

You know my weaknesses, and see my secret sins, and know the motives of my heart that are not in alignment with Your will, even now, after I profess to believe, and struggle to follow.

But Lord, underneath my unrighteous rags, I believe in the Atoning work of the cross, I believe in Your promise that I will live after I die, I believe that I will be reconciled to my Heavenly Father through You, His Son, and live eternally under Your perfect rule, and live out the ultimate purpose of all created humanity:

To glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever.

Resurrect a renewed and righteous heart and spirit within me today, Lord, celebrating that You are Risen.

You are Risen, indeed.

Amen.

Devotional 18: As the Lord Commands

Good Intentions:

13 Then David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us; and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul.” Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.

King David was a charismatic leader, even at the beginning when the women sang of his deeds as a warrior fighting in King Saul’s army, triggering his jealousy and  years of chasing to rival anything on The Fugitive (I’m carbon dating myself, but you get it if you know the show…) As a result, the people generally granted him leeway even when he wasn’t entirely in line with G-d’s will.

This was one of those times; his intentions were good, but reading the verse, he consulted with everyone except the One who inhabited the Ark according to prescribed rituals. What was right in the eyes of the people was, in part, aligning themselves with David’s impulsive desire, and none of his men checked him, because he was so well liked and respected by them. (Nathan the prophet wasn’t there…)

Although G-d allowed them to move it, it was because they didn’t consult him that the ark was not properly secured, so that when the oxen stumbled, Uzza felt compelled to put out a steadying hand, and, not being consecrated, or a priest, or a Levite, in his unclean state he touched a holy thing where the presence of G-d would come, and paid with his life.

His intentions to steady the Ark so that it wouldn’t touch the ground were honorable, but the act of touching it, even casually, was not lawful.

G-d was exacting in his requirements for the Ark of the Covenant, and there was no room for interpretation or compromise in them.

Because of Uzza’s death, we read in verse 12:

David was afraid of G-d that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of G-d to me?”

David was therefore afraid to move the ark further, thereby blessing the house of Obed-Edom.

*Psalm 111: 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.*

Which brings us to the Lord’s commands:

Chapter 15: 11-15

11 And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites: for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab. 12 He said to them, “You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites; sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it. 13 For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.”

14 So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. 15 And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.

Adhering to the law, we see steps taken that weren’t in Chapter 13:

  1. Only the Levites can carry the ark
  2. David pitched a separate tent for it
  3. Then he called the people together
  4. He admonished the priests to sanctify themselves and their people

He blamed the people in part for it: “…you did not do it the first time…” but as the King, it the fault for it ultimately fell on his shoulders.

Though we are under the covenant of grace, our Savior makes it clear to Israel (and to the grafted in Gentile branches) that He was not here to replace or dispense with the Law; it follows that the Living Word cannot supercede the written Word, which G-d says He places higher than His Name.

Jesus admonished the Pharisees when they claimed the Law of Moses as their righteousness that by professing to follow Moses they were, in fact, condemning themselves. In John’s Gospel we read:

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

We have the proverb: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  While it may not be that extreme, we see that even under the New Covenant, there are proper ways to boldly approach the throne of grace; not as arrogant people, but as supplicant children, allowed a degree of respectful familiarity seasoned with reverence.

For example, a child has access to their parents, and may sit on their knee and make their requests known, but still say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ That’s different from storming into their room, pointing a finger, and demanding all their needs be met.

So it is with our Father in Heaven, therefore let us revere Him as He has told us, in spirit and truth, with all our heart, soul, mind and body.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven

I thank You that the veil was torn so that under the righteousness of the sinless Blood of the Lamb, I can be in Your presence without fearing to die.

But let me always be  cognizant of the awesome majesty I approach, for You are the Creator of all things, and while this life’s vapor is slowly dissipating before it returns, I don’t want to take it for granted, or treat it with irreverence.

Let me always be faithful and obedient to all You have commanded in matters of worship, that Your presence may be manifest in me wherever I am. Keep me mindful through the conviction of the Holy Spirit to never let my good intentions usurp the place of Your decrees, statutes, and commandments, just as man can’t usurp Your sovereignty.

In the Name of my holy Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, I ask it, believing I have already received.

Amen

 

 

Devotional 15: We Hear What We Want

1st Kings: 7:12-19

The Revolt Against Rehoboam

12 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it(he was still in Egypt, for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon and had been dwelling in Egypt ), that they sent and called him. Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying,“Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”

So he said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.” And the people departed.

Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?”

And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”

10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’”[a]

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” 13 Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!”[b]15 So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the Lord, that He might fulfill His word, which the Lord had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying:

“What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Now, see to your own house, O David!”

So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.

18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

The son of Solomon did not inherit his wisdom, nor did he ask God for anything regarding the rule of His people. As Solomon’s heart turned to flesh instead of God, so too, did his son’s heart turn to flattery by his peers.

Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders his father knew, and chose instead the advice of youth who, like him, were wealthy simply by virtue of being their fathers’ sons. In their flattering, they hoped to profit from his cruelty.

They told a cruel man to act even more so, a greedy man to be even more so, and an arrogant man to be even more so, and ignore the pleadings for mercy from those he ruled.

The elders had advised ‘servant leadership’ in order to win the hearts of the people; the kingdom wasn’t financially insolvent, so they wouldn’t have advised it if it wasn’t possible.

And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”

His own father taught people from around the world: 1st Kings 4:34

 

34 And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

We see this type of leadership all through the ministry of Jesus, but He actually remarked upon it to the disciples. From the Gospel of John 13 we read:

12 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.

While Rehoboam didn’t have this example to turn to specifically, he nevertheless had a choice in how he would rule, but in reinforcing through bad advice what he already had in his heart to do, he forgot that God is sovereign.

We read in Psalm 75: 4- 7:

“I said to the boastful, ‘Do not deal boastfully,’
And to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up the horn.
Do not lift up your horn on high;
Do not speak with a stiff neck.’”

For exaltation comes neither from the east
Nor from the west nor from the south.
But God is the Judge:
He puts down one,
And exalts another.

 

Therefore Rehoboam was forced to flee the land he would’ve ruled, for he drove them to rebellion, and gave up the crown.

In our seeking after the will of God, we must align ourselves with those doing likewise, even as we minister to those who are not, either by example or personally.

Our integrity in such things matters to God, especially if we’re in positions of power and influence. Let us be ever mindful, when we are tempted, that God is sovereign, and will hand over what you would rule to someone who will seek after Him, and you will be forced to flee.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, pluck from me all that wants praises from man, while disregarding Yours, which is all that matters.

Help me to heed the still, small voice of caution and not the chorus of insincere encouragement. Let me abide by the statutes of Your will, especially when it goes against my fallen nature.

I would not have that which You bestowed on me with honor removed from me in rebellious shame.

Let me always heed the teaching of my Lord, who showed the world what it is to serve, and love, and bless from a position of power and influence given by You. Let me always follow His example in serving those He called, and calls today, to accomplish Your work for the Eternal Kingdom.

Let me always walk uprightly before You in those times.

In the Name of Your Most Holy Son, and my Teacher and Lord, Jesus Christ, I ask in faith, believing I have already received.

Amen.