Devotional 66: ‘I Am Not Like Other Men’

Luke 18:11-15
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Remember the tee shirt that had: ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ on it? I thought for sure lightning would strike. What familiar arrogance in that statement, worn by the most un-Christian people you’re likely to never meet in Hollywood. Their desire is to reduce the Son of God to the Age of Aquarius.

As Paul says in Romans 6:15: What then? Shall we sin because we not under law, but under grace? May it never be.

I add, may it never be so with us! Christ tells us He has called and chosen us out of the world. In that regard, we are not like others, but we are not to keep such status to ourselves. He also commands us to tell others.

If we’re honest, though, there are times we’ve felt a little more held together than those around us, keeping our composure in the midst of the madness, watching others get caught up.

I don’t know if any of us have prayed such as this Pharisee in our Lord’s parable, but we’ve certainly felt the seed of it grow at certain times. That, in and of itself, is not an evil thing, as long as we remember Paul’s admonition:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of G-d, 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’ 

In the watches of the night, we are confronted with our own stock and store of how we’ve handled the day’s events and those G-d has brought across our path, how we’ve performed before our cloud of witnesses, and whether or not we were role models for how to behave and perform under pressure.

And again, if we’re honest, most times we come up short.

But let’s always remember that in fact, with enough time and circumstance, we are equally capable of performing the most reprehensible act as anyone in solitary confinement under the worst jail in the world.

We have it easy here. Need water? Buy a bottle, or turn on the tap.

What if we had to walk miles, with hundreds of others, to a drying pool of it in the middle of a hot, putrid rainforest, on muddy roads runny with sewage?  I’ll not belabor the point: your imagination and self-knowledge will fill in what you’re capable of.

Stay humble before G-d, and penitent. And thankful, realizing that we are all, in fact, just like everyone else. Were it not for the graces and gifts, the blessings and favor, and the delivery from trials by the hand of our Father, and the mercy of His Son, anchoring ourselves in the Spirit and Truth of His Word, it could always be us in solitary confinement, under the jail.

Imagine the darkness, the silence, the exposure to vermin and weather, the stench of your unwashed body, and the reek of sin on your unclean soul.

Will you not ask for mercy? He is faithful and just to forgive.

Since He sees in the darkness as we see in the light, which He created, He knows exactly where you are, and what you’d do.

Would you not be justified before Him?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Your Son tore the veil, that we may approach the heavenly throne without fear of death. Your Word says to approach boldly, but some have taken it to mean with an arrogance and familiarity they would not show a powerful earthly man, but have no problem displaying it before a divine King.

Even in our anger, our limited scope of Your plan for us and the lives of our loved ones, Your hand giving and taking according to Your will, let us pour out all that’s in our hearts in humility.

We would not be arrogant, for the very next breath we take is by Your pleasure.

Let us remember that Jesus died for the Pharisee as well as the tax collector, and has left the choice to follow and believe to every person who has heard His words.

Let us remember that you, O G-d, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and it is Your desire that all would come to repentance.

You sent Your Son to prepare the narrow path, and we are grateful, but we can also hoard the grain of Your truth in our hearts, that we might feel justified before You.

Help us to know, Father, that in those moments it is we who are not like the tax collector, justified before Heaven, and forgiven in Your sight.

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

Amen.

Devotional 65: The Right Hand of the Power

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

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

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

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

What we know as believers are two things:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is Power indeed.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 64: The Day is Far Spent

Luke 24:28-35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it any wonder Jesus calls me foolish?

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

   Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Amen.

 

Devotional 60: His Command is Everlasting Life

John 12:42-50

Walk in the Light

42 Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. 45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me. 46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. 47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe,[a] I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.”

The Son of G-d came as the representative of the Father’s will, to seek and save the unrighteous, unrepentant, unbelieving, and unforgiving by telling us the Gospel of His death and resurrection, and that eternal life would be bestowed upon those who believed in His words, promises, and prophecies, and did as He commanded.

We are not pure vessels of service, we are not inherently good, and we are prone to leave this all behind when we feel that the whole pursuit of heavenly things is in vain and ultimately foolish.

We read with no understanding, we pray while distracted, we mutter our praises, and our silences are not filled with meditation on that which pleases Him.

Our backs are turned, our hearts hardened, and our ears stopped.

And here comes G-d’s emissary to say, “Assuredly, I say to you…”

We know the voice of our Shepherd, but do we return to the fold?

It’s a difficult thing to leave, and a difficult thing to return.

Jesus was grieved when Philip asked Him: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus embodied the very will of the Father toward us: fellowship, praise, glory, reward, blessings, peace on every side, prosperity with no trouble, pure hearts, songs of rejoicing and psalms of ascent, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and our Father above all.

We have all been in gatherings where we felt this, knew it, and submitted to it, and there was no greater feeling in the world.  And then the world comes crashing in: traffic on the way home, a snide remark, a dirty look. Sometimes right after the gathering, from the people who were there with you.

It is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of reality.

But faith is every bit as real. Jesus is every bit as real. The power of G-d is every bit as real, for He is the Creator of ALL.

Today, on this Father’s Day, let us remember the Names of our G-d,  the plea of His emissary and only Son, who expresses that Father’s will to us in this year of the Lord’s favor.

Let us remember that the Great Commission is ultimately to fulfill what the Messiah tells us is the Father’s command: eternal life.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

No, we don’t understand it all. We can’t. But we have Your example to follow, and even though You sacrificed Yourself for us, there are those who reject Your gift. You say their words will judge them; help us to know our words will judge us also. To proclaim You and not preach the Gospel, to proclaim You and seek our own glory, to follow You as a means to our own ends.

We are admonished to study and show ourselves approved, yet our Bibles grow dusty, and remain unmarked.

I’ve been guilty of this, and yet Your presence is there when I return to my senses.

“Father, give me my inheritance,” becomes, “Father, make me a servant in your house.”

But over and over, you restore me to my proper station as one worthy of sharing the gift of life with, of revealing the Truth of the Father’s Word, which He holds higher than His Name. You bring me back under the holy blood covenant of atoning grace as I repent and seek forgiveness.

And you say ‘Yes.’

This is the Father’s love for us: that He sent You, Lord Jesus, to tell us what He would have us know. It is sad that few will find the way, that their own words will condemn them to a life of needless pain and separation.

Happy Father’s Day, my Lord G-d, and thank You for the precious gift of Your Son, that I might return to You with gifts of my own, blessing Your Name in the assembly of the saints that dwell in Your house, forever.

Amen.

Devotional 57: In Vain They Worship

Defilement Comes from Within

15 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; [a] and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’[b] But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’[c]Thus you have made the commandment[d] of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And[e] honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”[f]

We are implored by Jesus to come, take, learn, and find rest when we exchange our yoke for His (Matthew 11:28-30), yet the Pharisees burdened themselves and the people with trimmings, trappings, and rituals that added to the Father’s commandment, while at the same time absolving themselves of keeping the Law.

Do we render the the commandments of G-d to no effect, not only through our traditions, but also through our desires? If we are honest, we all have the potential.

We too, as believers who love G-d amid our own struggles, have from time to time asked ourselves this question since the time of Eden: Did G-d really say….? in order to gratify our flesh in the immediate moment.

The self is a powerfully tempting spiritual stronghold for evil, and it is through our frailty  of mastering it that we are brought to suffering. For if Heaven is paradise, surely feeling good here on Earth is justified.

What we forget in pursuing earthly pleasure is that it’s fleeting at best, and damaging at worst.

We are to worship G-d in spirit and truth (John 4:24)

We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Luke 10:27)

We are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3)

We are to acknowledge that every good thing comes from Him (James 1:17)

And we are to give Him thanks and praise (Psalm 150:6)

The modern world sees this as outdated, imaginary, foolish, and limiting, when in fact it puts a hedge of protection around us and our loved ones since our lives are living stones, ministering to a lost and dying, dry and thirsty, spiritually bankrupt and morally compromised world.

Brothers and Sisters, let us be in the Word, which G-d says is higher than His Name, which is a lofty height indeed, since His Name is above all others. Determine for yourself to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (Corinthians 2:2), with the promise of his power to restore us to life through faith in Him, raising us on the last day.

That’s all we need to know, and all we’ll ever need.

The rest is for the fire.

Let our worship not be in vain, for the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd. Let s not be taken in by the empty, erroneous, and transient doctrines of men seeking control, wealth, power, and vanity, thanking G-d they are not like the poor man standing next to them, instead of thanking Him for their blessings.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We are grateful that You speak to our weakness in doing that which we know You’ve commanded us. We thank You for the things we know of You, and revealing the Father’s will to us through grace, reconciling us to Him through faith in Your atoning work.

Those things the Father has hidden are, as King David said, knowledge to wonderful for us to attain (Psalm 139:6) We can no more fathom the Father’s mind than we can know all there is to know about His creation.

From where we stand, we are baffled that He made us at all, since it cost Him to send You to die for us, that we might be sinless before Him. On our best days as servants, we are bumbling and inept before You, and it is You who add to the numbers, and the Spirit who strikes the heart with conviction and reveals the Truth of the Word.

Yet the Father says He will return to us if we return to Him. (Zecharia 1:3)

So let us go to the House of the Lord, if not physically, then in our hearts and thoughts.

Let’s anoint our lips with oil to praise, light the incense of our hearts to give thanks, and make our worship pleasing to Him.

Lord Jesus, edify us, and seal the Word to our heats and minds, that we may not add men’s foolish doctrines to it and render the Father’s Word to no effect. Let its double-edge cleave knowledge and wisdom from foolishness and vanity.

In Your Name, we ask it.

Amen

Devotional 48: We Are Able

Matthew 20:20-23

Greatness Is Serving

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

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

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

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

They said to Him, “We are able.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are able.”

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 46: Assuredly, I Say to You

Mark 10: 29-31

29 So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[a] or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, 30 who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In context, the rich young ruler decided to hold onto his possessions, and Peter has just told Jesus they left all to follow him. Jesus responds, starting with ‘Assuredly, I say to you…”

Our Lord uses this phrase (or its translated variants)  when He’s prophesying.

The Son of G=d who had a hand in the creation of all things prophesies to us still, but in our humanity we don’t understand, or turn away, or we’re afraid to question.

What it means for us as believers however, is that it is certain to happen. For my part, I think we don’t pay attention to what the Word really says because we tend to take it and apply it to us.

One of the phrases I think we do this with is “all nations.” There are people who say that, but think G-d only means the nations that look like them. When you eat, take, or give all of something, nothing is left of it. I often wonder when these people read that phrase, what really crosses their mind when they see it.

Another one is ‘the last will be first.’ We live in a prosperous, powerful nation, and with phrases like ‘Not our kind’ and ‘Not in my backyard’ which I wrote about in a previous post, there are people we pass by in various states of wretchedness, brokeness, sinfulness, and states of poverty. Like Christmas decorations we bring them out once a year and tuck them back inside when the holidays are over. To be sure, there are those who work those ministries year round, but for the most part the general public makes it a once-a-year ‘feel good’ works kind of thing. And that’s okay in and of itself: our lives are busy with jobs and families, our concerns about our own future and making sure we have enough to look after ourselves.

After all, Jesus said the poor will always be with us. I haven’t seen an eradication of charities yet, and we can give to who and what we wish to share our resources with. And He also tells us that what we do have comes with their own brand of persecutions: bills, taxes, maintenance, health problems that afflict us and reduce our ability, trouble and strife in families, in addition to general hatred and unbelief in our faith both from within and without it.

So what’s the point? The point is that when the harvest is done, those people will be at the front of the line, the ones who sleep in wet alleys, the children who are battered and abused, the victims of a predatory society who have by and large replaced or misunderstood that the silver and gold belongs to G-d, not us. (Haggai 2:8)

In the parable of the Field Workers, the last who came to work were paid the same as those who came earlier, and they were mad the last received the same pay. The thief on the cross came to faith and repentance at the last possible instance; there was no time for him to study. It came down to a simple declaration of faith and repentance: “Remember me, when You come into Your kingdom.”

We all know the gracious and life giving response Jesus gave Him.

“Assuredly I say to you…”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I take comfort from Your willingness to keep assuring us our salvation is true, our places prepared, and the work is finished.

Help me to claim that which is mine through faith in You, and works on Your behalf. Let repentance be true, and every doubt a liar. Let me lips and heart be conjoined in their honor, in their meditation, in their joy and hope of salvation.

Let we who have enjoyed the basics of life, and the overflow of life in You, rejoice at the sight of the least of all nations standing in line before us as You bless them with far more than the crumbs from our tables, however lavish.

Let us raise our voices in praise, song, and thanksgiving as we see Your mercy displayed in the light of the Father’s glory.

Insofar as what time remains to me, let me be light and salt in the ways that I can, that they may see You in me, and I see You in them, that we may both glorify our Father in heaven.

I repent of the times I shuttered that light willingly and knowingly, with willful and selfish purpose when I heard from the Spirit to open my hand.

Soften my heart, embolden my spirit, and fill me with power in the ways that You would have me work to help others. Help me to know always that Your prophecies concerning me are ‘yes and amen,’ in blessed assurance.

By the power of Your Holy Name, I ask it.

Amen.

Light of the Whirled…

(For my parents. RIP)

 

I remember swinging

between the both of you,

smiling,

feeling loved and secure.

 

You were no longer together

even then,

but I felt no loss in that moment.

 

And when my own small children swung

in that same manner between their mother

and me,

many years later

I saw the same smiles,

and thought of you.

 

I hope you’re together now.

I hope you’re swinging between

the arms of God,

and you’re both smiling.

Devotional 45: Made to Stumble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And they all said likewise.

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

Let me set up a scenario for you:

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

Heavy chains and manacles are on your wrists and ankles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

In Your Name, I ask it.

Amen

Christmas Mom

*For my own mom, born on Christmas Day: Annie D. Holland 1934-1990 Rest in Jesus.*

CHRISTMAS MOM

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Beyond her song, Mary is silent, watchful, fearful, hearing words spoken about her son, her miracle child, who would change the world. Strange men smelling of sheep and the outdoors surround you and look at your baby with reverence, love and awe.

Day after day as she gathered with the women, did the older ones shun her, and the younger ones mock her? Did the men sadly shake their heads that she was allowed to remain among the people? Save for her visit to Elizabeth, we’re not really told what Mary went through, save the long journey to Bethlehem with a full belly, riding on the lumpy, hard back of a hairy animal for miles across desert country, before the frantic journey to Africa.

She endured with faithful obedience all that God said would happen. A woman of integrity, she did not turn from the path once she said, “Let it happen to me as You have said.” Indeed, her soul magnified the Lord to the point of singing…

Did she not sing “G-d exalts the humble’? She remained steadfast so that whatever they did or said didn’t cause her faith to break. She had seen the angel, and knew what G-d had told her.

And it was enough.

This Christmas, in our homes, may the bond between the blessed Mothers and their precious Children deepen in love, strengthen over time, grow in trust, and rejoice in gratitude for having one another, pondering in their hearts the wonder of it all.

 
Amen