Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 143: The Price of Admission

Acts 14:21-27

Strengthening the Converts

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

There are times when even as believers, no matter how devout, we lose energy, direction, focus, and motivation to walk the narrow path as we follow and work alongside our Lord, but He has prophesied to us that the closer we walk, the further we travel, and the more we work, the harder it will be.

To share in His glory, the Word assures us we will share in His suffering. (John 15:18-20)

So, we have an unseen G-d, a foolish message, a man who claims to be the only way to be redeemed from eternal damnation, and the promise that the more faith we place in it, the world will hate us for it.

Yet we have this:

John 8:28-30

28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

So today, let us measure the strength of our commitment, and continue to exhort and uplift each other in the days ahead. Tribulations are not small things, they are extended,  relentless, disastrous, and spirit crushing. The very origin of the word means a ‘pressing together.’

The Lord would have it so to refine us, to shake out those who are not truly committed, or who haven’t taken stock of the cost. (Matthew 24: 12) (John 2:19)

What’s to come is the reason we must not forsake meeting together, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us. (Heb 10:25)

The fight for our souls is real, and violent, taking place in a realm we can’t see except through divine intervention. It’s a realm we can’t know unless we are willing to seek it, believe in it, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved from the material world’s condemnation in the day of the Father’s wrath.

As salvation has been extended to all nations through grace (Acts 10:34-35), and the prince of this world corrupts weak people with foolish ambitions, people who don’t seem to realize that one day their lives will be required of them, and their plans come to nothing in the grave, evil people who press their will upon the powerless and turn them against each other using their fear as a weapon, he echoes through the ages all that he spoke to Eve in the garden: Did G-d indeed say…? (Gen 3: 1- 4)

So yes, we are to sow, water, and harvest, but it is the Father who provides the increase, and Christ tells us that it will be worse for the places that don’t receive His message in the last days.

Having been called out of the world, we are not to stay in such places physically or spiritually. Indeed, we are commanded to come out. (2 Cor  6:17)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We are thankful that You have widened the circles of Your chosen, that we, appointed to eternal life, have seen the Truth in time for the harvest, and to take part in it, ministering Your Word through the message of Your Son, and through ourselves as His vessels.

There are times we are faithful, but not true, and times we are true, but not faithful. We have our moments, and You understand, but to to dwell in doubt is to backslide, turn away, and fall victim to the perils of this world.

Help us return to godly fear and repentance, restoring our fellowship with You as we seek salvation for ourselves and those we encounter throughout this life You’ve given us. 

May we be salt and light, and may our works stand and remain under the refining fires of judgement. 

May our spiritual fruit be sweet to the taste, and pleasing to You, for without Your Son, we are to be cast into outer darkness if He denies us before You, and says He does not know us.

When we stray, send our Nathan to us to warn us of what’s to come if we continue, send a messenger to say it is not lawful for us to have to give in to the desires of our flesh, and help us make no provision for it.

Let us instead abide under the loving gaze of our Savior, and answer His question: “Do you believe that I can do this?” with, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28) and let us exhort and uplift each other along the way.

When the tribulations come, give us the strength of the voices of Paul and Silas, the power to bring down angels that open doors and break chains through praise, giving all glory and honor to You, Father.

We would endure to the end, holding onto the True Vine, following the Good Shepherd, and working in the peace of the Light of the World, under the protection of the blood of the Lamb of G-d, to be raised on the last day by the Lion of Judah, and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We ask, in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

Devotional 137: I Must Decrease

John 3:22-31

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

We have, as a nation, exalted ourselves in being things and having traits we had nothing to do with. We so desire to label G-d, to have him be more like us than to rise to His standards, that we minimize the teachings of Chris to fit our political views, suit our emotional needs, and justify our besetting sin.

Yet John the Baptist embodies the humility of serving as Christ’s herald.

His disciples, however, viewed it as something of a competition. “…all are coming to Him!”

John deftly guides them out of the spiritual minefield of competition and pride. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  What an attitude of servitude!

Jesus and John, up until the time John was in prison, were for the most part affirming each other. (John 5:16-30)

If we could only stay so humble, so unaware of ourselves because we’re focused on the Gospel gaining traction and being taken to all nations, how different would our churches be today? How powerful would the impact be on the current state of things?

How much different would the church look to faithless mockers if we served with godly focus and attitude, ministering truth in love?

How much more fulfilled would our own lives be?

The problem is that even in the midst of revival, the serpent enters again to plant seeds of doubt and fear.

John came to such a crossroads, and so do we, eventually, even seeing the signs and wonders for ourselves, attributing them to ‘nature’ rather than the Father’s control. Nature was created by Him.

Since He cannot look on sin, and hates pride, the earth’s next judgement will have to be by fire. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth created, with no hell attached below us, no sin, no evil, and above us not just sky, but the presence of the Living G-d, and a world full of worship and fellowship.

Most importantly, there will be no death. (Luke 20:27-38)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

The borders of darkness are shrinking, and the shrill cries of the prideful, the unbelievers, the sinful, and the faithless grow louder around us, and we are called to deny You before men. 

Keep our spirits bold, and give us what we should say in the hour we are called to testify to the Truth You gave us. (Matthew 10:19)

Let us maintain  pure hearts and contrite spirits before You, and humble ourselves in Your presence, to Your glory and that of the Father.

Forgive us when we take the wrong paths at spiritual crossroads, and call to us, Good Shepherd, that we might once again be under Your protection, for You’ve said none will be snatched from Your hand.

Let us discern rightly the signs of the times, as the sons of Issachar did, and know what to do. Give us the pure and powerful worshipful faithfulness of the Levites, and sanctify us, cleansing us from unrighteousness. 

As we watch the prophecies unfolding, and see the acceleration and increase of the Gospel alongside the acceleration and increase of immorality, let us decrease, that Your light in us be revealed. May it heal, and bring to faith, and may they see us respond in love, compassion, mercy, and grace, but always in truth, that they may see our good works and glorify G-d.

May it be done to us, Lord, as You have said.

Amen.

 

She Kept Asking Him (Mother’s Day 2019)

Mark 7:24-30

A Gentile Shows Her Faith

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

This mother had seen enough of her child suffering, and was led to where the Lord Jesus was staying, despite His desire to remain anonymous and hidden. Doubtless because wherever He went, the multitudes followed, whether out of curiosity, or to get their immediate needs yet, or perhaps in faith, bringing a sense of worship to the Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of G-d.

She ignored the fact that He ignored her, because she kept asking. She ignored the fact that He was a rabbi, that He was trying to seek solace and have, as we say, some ‘downtime.’ He was probably tired from traveling, and was looking forward to getting some rest.

She ignored the fact that He implied she had the value of a begging dog, being a foreigner and not one of the Chosen of Israel.

She ignored the fact that she was a woman, and that culturally it was not seemly for her to approach Him, much less be persistent in her request.

And she did it because she was a mother whose child was not only suffering, but had something wicked and unholy inside her that tormented not only her child, but herself.

What would she not have said or done?

She could have gotten angry, discouraged, frustrated, and scornful, even blasphemous.

Instead, she humbled herself, because it wasn’t about her, and to a large extent, it wasn’t about Jesus either. Only her daughter mattered, and she had to see to it that her daughter was made well, by any means necessary, so this man she’d heard of was her last chance to make her daughter well.

And she recognized that although He told her He was exclusively ministering to House Israel, it was worth the risk that having recognized His divinity and royalty, there was still a possibility He might, as He didn’t turn her away.

Her profession of faith in His goodness, mercy, grace, and compassion got her the desired result as she pushed past all the obstacles and odds against her and said she’d be willing to take the crumbs He had to offer.

Jesus himself tells her of his decision: “For this saying…”

A mother’s heart beats in sync to that of her children, and beats for them.

It’s not only a rhythm, but takes on a harmony as well. It is a bond that we, as fathers, will never physiologically know and understand, but we recognize, as sons, that it is something special, beautiful, and unique, for it is the first rhythm we ever heard in the world, and we are all the better for its music.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all moms everywhere.

Keep the faith. It will be rewarded.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

      We thank You for the vessels You chose to bring us here to do Your will. Some did not always nurture, and some even did harm, but You delivered us from their snares, and healed us. 

       We ask that You help us to forgive them.

        We thank You for the Mothers who were good, strong, positive, and embraced the challenge of parenting, sometimes alone, to raise us well and teach us about the lives You would have us live. 

       We thank You for the Mothers to be, that they may feel the love of their children in the way You feel love for us, without bounds, and taking care of all our needs, securing our futures even as You allow us to choose to follow Your teaching, and keep Your Word before us in all things.

     We pray You grant Your peace to those Mothers who’ve lost their children, no matter the method. They will be hurting this day, and if there’s a divine appointment we need to keep, reveal it to us, and let us go to it, that they might be comforted through Your presence in us, and be saved.

     We pray that You heal the hearts of hurting children whose Mothers are no longer here, for whatever reason.

     We thank You for the wives that continue our houses, and help to finish the work You gave us to do.

     May it be done to them as You have said, and today especially, let every household rise together, and call Your blessings on and over our Mothers who are here with us today, and those who are always with us in spirit.

Proverbs 31:

      27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”

  Amen.

 

       

Devotional 128: He Has Shown You What is Good.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

What we must come to understand about the words, “It is finished.” which Jesus said before He died, is that as far as the Father’s part in providing us salvation is concerned, it is indeed over.

There is no Father without the Son, no G-d without Christ, and those who say otherwise have heard but have not listened.

Christ tells us:

Matthew 16:4

4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”And He left them and departed.

Throughout His ministry he admonished the religious leaders stuck on ritual and outward appearances, status and wealth, political power and regional control, that He would not perform miracles just for the sake of the faithless. They had seen Him perform them, and still asked for a sign.

 

Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

And once again, here, in the parable of the vine dressers, He concludes with a frightening rebuke: (Matthew 21:43)

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

This is consistent with another constant reminder that it is those who do the will of the Father that are His family, and that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…?” will be part of the kingdom. In those matters of who belongs, the King is sovereign.

As we yet abide in the covenant of His grace, granted to us by the Father through the events of this day, let this be a day of joy, lifting songs of praise and thanks for His mercy.

(Matthew 26:27-32)

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Today then, let us purge the doubt and fear that daily assaults our faith, and acting on His promises, fulfill our own callings and finish our own work in this age of mocking scorn. It is only His prophecies that we are seeing come to pass, for even in this age, though they asked for a sign, don’t believe it, as it was in His own day.

Matthew 27:41-45

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

Remember, these were the leaders who believed their salvation assured because they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, yet, when the sky grew dark and the earth shook, it was the pagan Roman centurions who cried out. (Matthew 27:54)

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 

“Truly this was the Son of God!”

Yet even in the midst of the wickedness, corruption, destruction, hatred, and evil of today’s world, we can yet take comfort in the words of our Savior, if we endure to the end, not fear, and not lose heart.

John 6:40

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

There is yet time, so seek Him while He may be found so that when the harvest comes we may be reconciled to the Almighty, who has given the Son all authority over all things, and we too, shall have a day of resurrection.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have shown us what is good, right, just, and holy. You have shown us how to live as Christians among demons and rebellious spirits, and how to live as brothers and sisters among ourselves.

We are joyful that You were obedient, and thankful that You finished the work the Father gave You, yet like the maverick apostle Peter, we have taken our eyes off You and find ourselves drowning with the concerns of earthly life, and the battering of our spirits by the walls of resistance and unbelief by those to whom we testify that the works of the world are evil.

There are indeed days where our own spirit falters, and earthly reason replaces faith, and earthly practicality replaces Heaven’s promises in our lives.

But you don’t relax the Father’s standards for us, nor compromise His Word that we might not be convicted, for as a good shepherd keeps to the path, so too, must missionaries complete their mission.

So send us times of refreshing, Lord, and let us begin to look to that day when as believers, as workers in the reaping of the harvest, as gleaners of the fallen ones, we will no longer ask any questions.

Today, then, we say in fearful wonder and joy, along with the centurions who saw the sky darken and felt the earth shake as You turned away from the wretched sins we cast on You as You died and rose again, for our sake.

Truly, this is the Son of G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 124: Lord of the Sabbath

Luke 13: 

A Spirit of Infirmity

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, ]“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

The Sabbath day is full of ritualistic ‘don’t’s and ‘can’t’s and ‘not supposed to’s, and that is not to mock it, for the Father set it up as a day of rest for His chosen, and gave them the rules to abide in it, and truly rest. Even when He supplied them manna in the desert, they were not to go out on the Sabbath to collect it if they couldn’t gather it all. Of course, there were those who tried, and suffered the consequences.

What the religious leaders who trailed Christ like sharks on a blood trail failed to realize is that His ministry was eternal in purpose and scope, and while there were times He went away to renew Himself, the work of the ministry was ceaseless because man is ever in a pitiful state, whether it be spiritually, physically, or financially, or all of the above.

They could not rejoice in the miracles Jesus performed over those they wanted to control and manipulate. He hurt their pride, and properly reapplied all their learning to that which they should have been doing, to the point where they were so caught up that every time they tried to trap Him, He’d quiet them with a question or a timely word.

Matthew: 12 Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The common people rejoiced at what Jesus did, and glorified G-d, because this was something new in their midst. They were astonished at His authoritative teaching, His boldness, His wisdom, and His power. Their needs were immediate, but their sins were forgiven forever.

We’d like to believe that those who were healed when on to live a life that continued to glorify G-d, but we can’t possibly know that; that is for the harvesting angels to know. We should ask how often do we, after getting our needs met, turn back to pursuing our wants?

Let us not be like the legalists and miss the point: there is never a time to not do good to someone else. There is no resting from that. In fact, we are called to do it in ways that are contrary to what we’ve been taught as people.

Pray for your enemies? Bless those who curse you? Turn the other cheek when they strike you? Love the sinful, thankless, evil, and faithless, and minister to them?  Forgive them? Love them? Forsake all to follow Him?

Yes, all that and more. He tells us to partake of His body and blood to be like Him, and to do as He does, which is what we pray for but don’t do. The ones who turned away didn’t understand, because their hearts were hard, and the Spirit did not open their ears. The disciples were so used to hearing things they didn’t (yet) understand, that Peter answered for most of us why we ‘stick around.’

John 6:60-68

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

It is the spirit of G-d in us responding to the Spirit in Him.

The Apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Are we resting on Him in faith, this Sabbath day? Are we, like the temple priests, ministering, too?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Within our man made structures, there are rules, orders, laws, and procedures that allow us to do our work in the most efficient way possible, free not only from interruptions, but from dangers within and without. 

Yet You call us to minister to a world of chaos and unbelief, lawlessness and strife,  and preach to them a message that seems so foolish and impossible that it has to be the Holy Spirit who opens their ears, for You say that no one is drawn to You unless it is granted to them by the Father. 

We are to plant seeds, and water if need be, but we are also to live as lights on a hillside, and to walk a narrow road. As Your works pointed those who saw them to glorify the Father working through You, let us also, as You said, do greater works, that the same may be accomplished as the harvest draws nearer, and Your prophecies come to pass. 

Help us not to grow weary in doing good, and to do all things well, growing in favor with the Father and man, that our enemies through our faith in You be silenced, and put to shame. 

And let us be ever mindful to rest not only from our labors, but on Your promises, and on the seal of our salvation to be reconciled, blameless before the Throne, and our works withstand the test of fire as we stand before You, longing for the words to enter into Your rest.

We ask in faith, believing.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 122: I Make All Things New

 

Revelation 21

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

I once saw Richard Gere on an interview talking about children, and he said that babies were having moments of epiphany all the time. Among Webster entries of definition is this list:

3a(1)a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2)an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3)an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
ba revealing scene or moment

 

Yet within those moments, those revelations, the object of the epiphany has a familiarity; we’ve just come to a different level of understanding it.

It is in Christ that we are under a New Covenant, yet the matter of covenants is familiar to us. It is the breadth, depth, and inexhaustible nature of its grace, mercy, and long suffering that is the epiphany when He breaks through our barriers and reveals the truth of our Father’s kingdom, and the truth of our unworthy state to inherit it, to us through the baptism Holy Spirit.

It is as frightening a moment as it is wonderful to realize that yes, your soul’s eternity is at stake in these matters, and so many are so blind. The devil is a busy liar, tripping people up, making them focus on the fallibility of man rather than the unerring truth of divinely inspired writing. On skin color and actual birth days rather than the principles of brotherhood and love. On equating a popular majority with morality. And of course, the ever tightening focus on self, and self-gratification in all things.

Yet, when we turn from resistance to faith, Paul tells us: (2 Corinthians 5:13- 17)

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

The epiphany that we miss here is that appearances, ethnicity, attractiveness, wealth, and all the other things we associate with as being the ‘good things in life’, don’t matter to the message we are to preach.

Paul encapsulates the mission of Christ as well as his own when he tells us:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Serving All Men

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the [a]law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

The Father provides ministers at every level for every aspect of life, that the lowest unbeliever among us might attain salvation at the highest level, for all eternity.

We call spring a season of renewal, yet we are familiar with it. The colors and warmth of it provide a much needed break from the ice and snow that marks our winters, and gives to the earth what it needs at that time. It is what we do in our season that makes us new: learning a new thing, traveling to somewhere strange to us, or volunteering to do something for a cause we hold dear.

The renewal is always there, dormant and waiting for release. The flowers and birds remain the same in the same regions. The tourists descend like locusts, and the bugs and gnats and flies also return, just enough to keep us from romanticizing warm weather.

But the renewal of ourselves is a constant thing. There are times when we surprise ourselves and rise to occasions we never thought we’d encounter. They beat down are comfort zones and snatch us away, unprepared, unplanned, and unqualified to do that which lies ahead of us.

But G-d…

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

In this season of renewal, in Nature, self, and spirit, let us come to know our Father on a deeper level, to have an epiphany of him that was unrealized before now, if not unsought. And let us give thanks that our meditation on His goodness to us has so pleased Him, He will reveal more of Himself to us.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I thank You for sending Your Son to make me a new creation, though You knew my days before one of them came to be.

I am a new creation in that Your wrath no longer abides on me, and You call me to remove it from the lives of others, to those who will receive the Christ as the only way to be reconciled to You, spotless, blameless, and worthy of the inheritance of sons and daughters in their Father’s kingdom.

We thank You for the seasons we’ve endured, both physical and spiritual, and for seeing the fruit of our labors bear rewards, both small and great, and sometimes, undeserved.

We thank You for a New Covenant. Let us now be faithful in it to do our part as You have been in Yours to redeem us. Help us to remember that You take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and have placed the burden on us to do such work in the Light that mankind will see it and glorify You.

Let us, in this season of renewal, cast off the shells of things dead within us, around us, and let us bear them on our backs no more, nor carry them in our hands, nor keep them in our presence. We leave them, right now, at the Throne to be consumed as chaff by Your holy fire.

Grant to us perception of the new things, opportunities, people, and ways we might cultivate to assure ourselves of our calling while bringing the lost to the harvest.

We ask for continuous epiphanies of Your will, plan, and purpose, for Your mind is unfathomable, yet You have given each of us a part in accomplishing that which You would have us do, and called us to ministry.

Let our work not be unfruitful, but let us be faithful sowers of the Gospel, for whether we plant, water, harvest, or all three, it it You, and You alone, who gives the increase.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 116: The Kingdom Within

Luke 17:20-30

The Coming of the Kingdom

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

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

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

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

Yet, He didn’t sin.

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

Matthew 27:46

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

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

John 17:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet the Father tells us this:

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

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

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

Jesus tells us:

John 14:1

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

And again…

Matthew 18:3

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

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

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

Will He marvel at our faith, or our unbelief?

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

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

Devotional 115: Those Who Do the Will of My Father

Matthew 7:24-29

Build on the Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

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

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

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

So what does He tell us:

Sending Out the Twelve

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

He charged the disciples with ministering to Israel because:

Matthew 19:28

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

As for the rest of us, He says:

Matthew 10:21-22

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

Matthew 10:27-28

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

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

 

Matthew 10:32-33

Confess Christ Before Men

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really?

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 113: The Son of His Love

Colossians 1:13-18

13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

As far as we know, this is the only reference in the Bible that uses this title for Jesus, just as Jesus referred to the Father once as ‘the Power.’

Mark 14:61-62

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

62 Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

Power and love are seldom symbiotic, yet they are united in the Father and Son, since Jesus tells us they are One in will and purpose: the redemption of mankind, the saving of the faithful of all nations, and the purging of G-d’s enemies eternally from His sight.

As we enter into another year of earthly uncertainty and turbulent times, watching as the prophesies of Christ unfold, and witness the hardening of hearts, the cooling of divine love, the mocking and persecution of the faith, and the worm of earthly concerns that kill the planted seeds of the heavenly kingdom, as believers we can rest assured of everlasting mercy, inexhaustible supply, and unmerited grace.

Reconciled in Christ

19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

But let us be mindful that the minions of hell are also roaming, and that darkness has a restless power of its own. It is the reason we are to abide in the Savior, deny ourselves, crucify our flesh, take up our crosses, keep his commandments, and follow Him in faith, believing all that we pray for in His Name, and that which is aligned with the Father’s will, shall be granted to us.

We also are to be restless as we walk the Narrow Way. We must move toward, and not away from, the hope of the Gospel. With every passing year, the end of our earthly journey draws closer, and the future, indeed, as soon as tomorrow is not guaranteed to us.

Let us rejoice that the Savior has overpowered darkness, even as its pleasures and short term gains tempt our tendencies towards evil, accumulating earthly comforts and indulging in lustful pleasures.

Let us give thanks for our strong Shepherd who has overcome the world. We need not walk in fear of the fallen angel; though while on this earth, he is of some consequence, as believers we continue to rebuke the Accuser, and to pierce its flesh with praises to our Risen Lord.

Therefore I pray, 

King Jesus,

I thank You for bringing me through this year, through the trials and glories, with my life, health, and strength intact.

Thank you for all you’ve done, for all you’re going to do, and for your loving kindness and the mercy of Your living water to this unfruitful servant.

Let me worship the Father, Lord, in spirit and Truth. 

Let me once more seek Your face, touch Your robe, sit at Your feet, give you a drink from the well,  let me weep and rejoice and marvel with You, walk across the sea to You, and give you something to stand for at the right hand of the Power when You receive my spirit.

Let my praise be worthy of Your blessing.

Let my heart be ready to receive Your rebuke, then be restored to You and the Father, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and led into deeper Truth.

My prayer for my brothers and sisters who share the Faith with me is that You do a new thing for them that is easily perceived, so fragrant with Your favor that there will be no denying the provenance.

Let my work be unto You, as well as my family, income, and gifts.

Lord, in the coming year place Your servant in the path of those You would call, and fill my mouth with the wisdom You would have me provide, speaking as the Son of Love would speak to a Samaritan, a night visitor, a high priest, a king, or a fisherman.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.