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 28: Will You Also Go Away?

John 6: 60-70

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 Him. 65 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. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[a]

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

Jesus had just alluded to what seemed to be acts of cannibalism and violation of the Law against consuming blood, much less doing it willingly.

Being simple men, these disciples did not understand that Passover itself embodied the coming of Christ through the symbolic eating of bread and drinking of wine.

A hard saying, indeed. “Who can understand it?”

Jesus’ attempt to clarify by teaching on the Spirit only served to further obfuscate.

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.

It seemed that at this point, the desertion of Jesus began en masse, since He turned to Peter after the uncomprehending crowd dispersed and asked him, “Do you also want to go away?”

And Peter’s reply, eloquent and affirming as it was, did not keep him from denying he even knew Jesus at all.

I wonder if, even though Jesus knew from the beginning that this would happen, if it broke His heart to see the disconnect in the eyes, the stopping of the ears, and as they began to turn their backs on Him, if he felt hurt.

I’d like to think so, yet He loved on many who didn’t believe, and as they ‘walked with Him no more,’ neither did He walk with them.

I’m thankful that the year of the Lord’s favor, the covenant of grace, allow us to yet seek Him through the Spirit’s divine revelation, at the Father’s direction, while He may be found. But if we continue in doubt, willful disobedience, and outright rebellion, there will come a day Jesus can’t be found.

And it will be too late.

If, therefore, He will not let us be snatched from His hand, let’s not pry his fingers open with hard hearts, blind eyes, and stoppered ears.

Let’s not think eloquent prayer will keep us from sinfulness.

Let’s not think we won’t sleep in the garden when the hour has come.

Let’s not think we’d believe on His Name without signs and miracles.

Let us take heed not to think we stand, lest we fall, as the Apostle Paul admonishes us.

Let us hold fast to our Savior, knowing that the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the wooden doorposts of the Israelites delivered from slavery has become the Lamb’s blood shed on the wooden cross to break our spiritual chains to sin and death, and reconcile us in love and worship to our Eternal Creator, now and forevermore.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, thank You for grace and mercy, thank You for healing and restoration, thank You for blessings, and delivering me through my trials.

On the days, and in the moments, when I would turn my back to walk no more in communion and fellowship with You, I beg of You to call my name, and to remind me that I am in the Book of Life because of the Bread of Life, because of the vine that connects You to me, and us to the Father.

I repent of belief based on signs and wonders, and embrace the faith of the centurion, a faith so great that even You exclaimed in admiration of it.

I repent of not obeying Your words, for I am a foolish man in a house of sand, founded on sand.

Call me forth from my spiritual grave, Lord Jesus, that I may never turn away, because as Peter said, there is nowhere to go, for only You have the words of Spirit and Life, and You speak them to me, casting pearls…

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 27: Stretch Out Your Hand

Matthew 12:9-14

Healing on the Sabbath

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Sabbath, the sacred day of rest, when no work is to be done, knows no rest from the Pharisees’ plotting, yet Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, not replace it.

We read where crowds are astonished at the way Jesus teaches, because He ‘taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,’ who taught what they were able to glean, or manipulate, to keep the people docile, uninformed, intimidated, and under control of the powerful, and wealthy, religious leaders.

Yet their jealousy persisted, and with every attempt to trap Jesus in the things He said, they lost face with the people, and control of their power.

What they failed to realize is that the Sabbath itself is given to us as a day of restoration, to rest from our labors, restore our strength, our family ties, our relationships with others and our communities, and to reflect on the goodness of the Lord.

Their question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was therefore a foolish one.

Jesus, ever teaching to the secrets of the heart, answers them with an analogy that speaks to their need to preserve their wealth, for livestock was wealth, and they would rescue a sheep from a well in order that they might continue to profit from it, because they loved wealth rather than G-d and their fellow man.

But men are more valuable to G-d than livestock. Isn’t that why He sent us His Son?

Also, Jesus asks something of the man with the withered hand. We don’t know if the Pharisees brought him to the synagogue to be complicit in their plans, but we do know he didn’t go unnoticed and ignored by Jesus even if that was the case.

And so, a test of faith and obedience:

“Stretch out your hand.”

Jesus doesn’t touch him, but as the hand draws closer to the presence of the Lord, it’s made whole again, and useful now to the kingdom of G-d.

Obedience and faith must be our hallmarks as believers. We must act, ‘in faith believing,’ and pray ‘as if (we’ve) already received,’ and the restoring power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will do its part.

Therefore I pray:

This, O Lord, is simply a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for restoring me to G-d, that I might see the light of His glory and not die, for You are the light of the world, and the bread of Heaven, and You have promised me eternal life through belief in your Name, and obedience to your Word.

Today, I stretch forth the withered hand of my faith, Lord Jesus, right where I am, right now, knowing You will make it whole again the closer it gets to Your presence.

Your unworthy servant bows low before You, to thank You for paying my debt, and granting me the mercy of Your shed blood for my sake, and Your grace to help me up when I stumble.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making my spirit whole through Your broken body, now in glory, and seated at the Father’s right hand.

I long for the day we meet, and I am made whole anew, and forever.

Amen.

 

Devotional 26: They Begged Him to Depart

Matthew 8:

31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away[a] into the herd of swine.”

32 And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water.

33 Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.

Demons are ever evil, but they are also subject to the will of God. Our fallen state, our inability to grasp the mind, heart and will of God, narrows our focus on earthly things and earthly matters.

There is a reason why Jesus admonishes us to abandon those things if we follow Him.

Here Jesus comes to Gergesenes, and not one, but two demon possessed men, described as ‘exceeding fierce,’ sense His presence, and come to him with a fearful question: “Do You come to torment us before the time?” They too, as the other man Jesus delivers from possession, live in the tombs, for demons can only be themselves among dead people (in they spiritual as well as the physical sense).

They ask His permission to go into the pigs so they can steal the herd, kill the livelihood of the city, and destroy the wealth of those who’ve prospered from them.

Jesus knows this too, but He grants it, because the souls of pigs are worthless to the kingdom of G-d, but the souls of men are not, and Jesus’ kingdom, as He told us, is ‘not of this world.’

In v. 34 we read: “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus.  And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region.”

What a contrast to the story of the other man, who went around telling others what Jesus had done for Him, about his deliverance, or those who came out with Samaritan woman, and asked Jesus to stay with them, the sworn enemies of Israel, and minister to them.

But this city, concerned with earthly matters of commerce and profit, took no pleasure in the divine deliverance of their countrymen, no rejoicing in the presence of the Messiah, who even the demons recognized as Lord. We read these sad words instead:

“…they begged Him to depart…”

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

When Christ entered my life, I never thought I would ever ask Him to depart, but there were times when I did, and times when I still do, because my nature is fallen, my heart is evil, my motives impure, and I am fixed on earthly comfort, overly concerned with what the Prince of this world has to offer.

You’ll recall after the Resurrection, Peter told Jesus: “Depart from me Lord, for I am sinful man.” It was done in repentance, in the agony of the fact that Jesus loved him no matter what, would restore him no matter what, and that there was nothing he could do to earn it, deserve it, or drive it away.

How often do we use those words differently. “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful person.” It’s because I want to sin, and the power of the Spirit is beginning to bring the Word to mind so I don’t, but I want to, and I convince myself sometimes that I even need to, in order to keep my sanity when surrounded by stupid people who are making my life difficult, in order to make myself understood, because I have a right to be happy, and because I can, if all else fails, exploit and abuse the covenant of grace, sinning more that it may abound.

Have you asked Him to depart from the region of your soul, as it rages among the tombs?

As we sit on the fence, on one side, we see all the splendors of the world, the adoration, the wealth, the instant gratification, and the sibilant whisper of the serpent underneath: “All these things I will give you, if…”

On the other, we see the narrow road, leading to the narrow gate, full of stones and thorns and bloody brambles, with little to recommend it other than the promise that on the other side is where something better, greater, and far more lasting awaits us, if we’ll only follow…

Will we choose exceeding fierceness, or exceeding peace?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, there are times when I run from the Father’s presence, manifested in You, because the darkness of my heart, which comprises the dark where I sin, is as bright as the noonday sun to both of You.

Pluck me from Hell’s fence into Your embrace, for You said no one can snatch me from Your hand; yet there are times when I would pry your fingers open, and fall into the unquenchable fire.

I would not be a drowned, unholy pig, having demons savage my condemned soul, for as Yu say, the grave has power too. You’ve broken it, but I need to receive Your power to be free of it. I would not t have You depart from me.

Take me with You, and I will follow.

In Your Name I pray.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 21: So he left all…

Luke 5  27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

The Lord requires we carry nothing to distract us from what He would have us do in His service. When he sent out the disciples, he told them to take nothing, so that they would not be distracted with the things they carried over the preaching and ministry they were assigned to do.

I’ve heard the Gospel of Matthew referred to as the ‘testimony of Jesus’ enemies’ (Pr. James McDonald, Walk in the Word Ministries). The phrase stuck with me because it amazed me to realize that even your enemies can see the Power of G-d in your life, and come against it. But the Lord is our vindicator in these matters, and indeed, sets a table before us in their presence, that we might either make peace, or watch the Lord move them aside, as He fights our battles.

While the tax collectors weren’t necessarily enemies to Christ, their corruption and greed were widespread and well known, and Jesus often preached the evil of riches in the hands of greedy, corrupt men. So when He calls us to Him, we, like Matthew, must leave behind earthly treasures.

In Luke 18:18-23 we read the account of the rich young ruler:

18 Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

19 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ ”[a]

21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”

22 So when Jesus heard these things, He said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

23 But when he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.

This was the only thing that separated him from the kingdom of God, but it was also the greatest thing, and he chose it over the kingdom. His heart was in the right place, but it was not prepared. Many of the things Jesus spoke about doing regarding wealth escaped the understanding of those who had it, as it was in this instance.

Yet when Matthew, called Levi then, heard the voice and saw the love in the countenance of Jesus, he left everything: his books, his writing tools, possibly even the stashes of overage he collected that day, and had a feast that night, as much to celebrate his own freedom as to honor Jesus.

The widow gave all with her two mites, and even Zacchaeus, called out of a tree by name,  gave half his wealth to the poor, and paid quadruple what he stole by the time Jesus was done, and the Lord blessed the tax collector’s house by saying it was now under salvation

So we see there is a spiritual currency for following Jesus, a currency for faith, and many of us are not sure we’re willing to pay sometimes. Yet Jesus makes several references to this currency throughout His ministry. He speaks of casting unprofitable servants into outer darkness, he speaks of being unfruitful, and counting the cost of taking up our crosses, and leaving everything, never to go back again. He speaks of taking on work we are not able to finish when we fail to count that cost.

 

And it is to our earthly shame, and our eternal peril that we do so.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, let me be willing to leave all for the sake of following You.

Don’t let my emotions of doubt and fear and loneliness lead me into temptation, where I would blame Your absence for my present, yet transitory plight.

Help me to empty my hands and heart of idols of my own making, however temporary, for tomorrow is not promised to me, and I would not die in sin.

Help me to know that my heavenly mansion is financed by my heavenly treasure, for I will take nothing with me from this world when my time is done, except a spotted soul made spotless by Your holy blood, which redeems me into the kingdom, that I may achieve what you say is the chief end of man: to glorify G-d and to enjoy Him forever.

In Your Name I ask it, believing I have received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 10: Matthew 27: 52  And the graves were opened…

Matthew 27:51-53 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.

They were buried inside the hills, in caves, under the desert sands, in verdant gardens, and desolate mountains. Stones had been rolled, and the tombs sealed until the last day, plans and dreams, loves and fears expired, their earthly lives forfeit, their spirits awaiting eternity.

In the process, the flesh rotted beyond recognition, and stank, and became full of maggots and worms eating the internal organs of the dead, their bodies returning to the soil from which all were first birthed.

They were unclean in every manner, and yet redeemed.

But when the veil was torn, the power of the Father was unleashed with the spilling of the Son’s sinless blood, when he surrendered His own spirit, and finished the atoning work.

Jesus testified to this power before the Sanhedrin: Mark 14:62

62And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”

And again to the Sadducees when they questioned him: Matthew 22:29

Jesus replied, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

And as when Ezekiel prophesied to the bones, and as when Jesus called forth Lazarus, the Spirit of the Living God moved, going into the tombs of the faithful who received grace to return them to life, just as in Exodus, the Angel of Death passed over their houses and slew the sons of their enemies.

To honor their king, they waited; we are not told what they did in the meantime, perhaps they prayed and glorified and worshiped the Lord, as the Holy Spirit told them what had occurred, and what they were to do.

Scoffers and unbelievers mock, and say things like “zombie Jesus” to ridicule the faith and rile the believers ire, but if we have faith, we don’t need to defend the Truth.

Jesus says this: John 6:40

For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall
have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”

If Jesus is doing the Father’s will, and we’re told the Father cannot lie, then neither can Jesus: John 14:9

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Many believe we are now in the last days; the day fast approaches, but we’re not there.

Be assured, however, that Jesus speaks of a last day.

Graves will be open for the final time, and will exist no longer.

Neither shall the faithful be unclean, nor will we have memory of this world.

No sun, no moon, but the light of the Father our quickening, and our sustenance, for eternity, in His holy presence, praising, rejoicing, working, fellowship, forever and ever.

This is imaginary foolishness, say faithless mockers. Pray for them; they are perishing, and in their pride, have no inkling of their fate.

Hold onto your faith, and pray, and let the Power open the graves of what you once believed lost, or think you are now losing.

Let your faith dig deep, and pull from the graves your marriage, your children, your family, your friends, your own faith, and the faith of believers around the world, suffering for their refusal to renounce the Name of the Lamb of God, and the Judge of all nations.

We know not the hour; therefore watch, and pray.

And believe.

Therefore I pray:

Let not my heart be troubled or afraid, for You, O Lord, have proclaimed the Good News, and have overcome this world. You have taken me under the covenant of Grace, that the wrath of God not abide on me, though I yet walk in this world, in sin, destined to die.

 I believe in Your promise, that if I hold onto my faith, there will be a last day, and an everlasting life connected to the Power behind all things, for You have said, that with Him, all things are possible.

 Increase my faith, Lord Jesus, and help my unbelief. Save me, O Lord, when the waves of doubt would drown me, and bring to mind for me to reach for Your holy hand when I start to sink in the midst of the buffeting.

I ask the Power to renew my strength, to redeem the lost time, to open the grave of the things He called me to that I did not nourish, and let die. Let there be times of refreshing, and renewal.

In Your Holy Name, and by the Power of Your holy blood, I ask, believing I have already received.

Amen.

Devotional 9: Lord, to Whom Shall We Go? (John 6:68)

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

Often throughout His ministry, to His disciples, as well as all the crowds, and even to the religious leaders, Jesus’ conviction and confirmation of his mission and purpose never wavered: to speak words of life concerning the Father’s will for, and through, the work of the Son, by the anointing power of the Holy Spirit.

These phrases we hear repeated: “I tell you the truth…” “Assuredly, I say to you…” and “Let no one…”

In Acts 4:12, Peter tells the Sanhedrin “…there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This confirms Jesus’ earlier statement, recorded for us in John 14:6: I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by Me.”

If the road that leads to life, leads into the Kingdom of God, is indeed narrow with few travelers,  I will follow the Light of the World who speaks the Truth, who has the words of eternal life.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I thank You for not giving up on this rebellious prodigal, the one who daily makes Your sacrifice a common thing through willful sin.

My fear of your holy, righteous wrath is dulled, for I take for granted Your forgiveness; understanding that I had it even as I was in the act, the Spirit is grieved, Your heart is broken, and the Father turns away, for he can’t abide to look on it.

I hear Your voice, Lord, when I walk down the wide path to destruction that spans the chasm of the demons and fires of hell. They whisper my name with sultry voices, and pull at me with soft touches, they cover their malevolent intentions with eyes of innocent beauty, with eyes that feign interest, with adoring looks as they anticipate ripping my sould from me in triumph when I’m cast into the outer darkness.

And so I return, Lord, asking You to make me a hired hand, for I too am not worthy of the sonship, of fellowship with You.

How can You be closer than a brother and stand the smell of the piggish sin upon me?

I don’t know, really, why You continue to pursue me, but on the day that I don’t find You behind me, I will know that I am irretrievably lost, and there will be weeping…

Don’t let the enemy snatch me from Your healing hands.

Embrace me, O Lord, that I may feel Your heart, and take way my sins, the public and the secret.

And thank You, for guiding me to the next step on the narrow path, closer to glory, closer to You, closer to the Father, to dwell now and forevermore in Your House.

By the Power of Your holy Blood I ask, believing I have already received.

Amen.