A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul

Luke 2:34-35

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

As we began, so we end this Christmas Eve day, with the words of Simeon.

When he was done prophesying, he turned his attention to Mary and spoke those words. There was a great foreshadowing here, and later, throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry, did He not reveal the thoughts and hearts of men?

Did he not admonish those He called to follow?

John 15:17-19 

The World’s Hatred

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

Did He not give us the reason?

John 7:7

 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 

Did He not tell is we would share in His suffering, as well as His glory?

John 15:20

 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

And yet, though it says she pondered these things in her heart, she forgot. On the day they went looking for Him, he was an embarrassment, and they thought He was out of His mind.  This was especially striking, because every day, Mary was in His presence. Every day, was she not reminded of the miracle of His birth? Reminded of the angel’s visit? Reminded of her song? Reminded of the visit to her cousin?

She watched Him grow in favor and wisdom with G-d and man, so why would she think He was out of His mind all those years later, even after the enigmatic words He spoke in the temple as a child?

Mark 3:20-22

A House Divided Cannot Stand

20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

It is because we also forget, Brothers and Sisters, that the divine love of the Father afforded us the means to reconcile with Him through Jesus, and only through Jesus can we do so, and we do not understand divine love even as we fear divine judgment.

John 14:6   Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Only abiding in Him do we have the ability.

John 15:5  “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

His teachings were hard for some to understand and follow. They turned away.

For others, their worldly wealth got in the way of their mission. They chose their wealth.

What is it for us, today? The commercialism, the career, the emphasis on things and saving money, going about our everyday lives, and making of His sacrifice, as the writer of Hebrews says, ‘a common thing.’

Hebrews 10:29

29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

We are repeatedly told we cannot fathom mind of G-d. Why redeem us in this way, when He has the power to cleanse all and start over, as He did with the flood? He didn’t create a new man, he preserved a remnant of a righteous one, and He did it all through the Word, searching for them, and putting His hedge of protection around them even as He delivered them in their fallen states into enemy hands.

We fail to understand our worthiness of grace, and therefore are keenly aware of when we’ve received it for our own sins. That is the piercing of our souls: and with it comes sorrowful repentance, purification, and the chance to return, and like the prodigal go from: “Father, give me–” to “Father, make me…”

We ever reduce the things of Heaven to the things of man. “The Big Man in the Sky.” Really? “The Energy of the Universe.” It just exists with no source?

No, let’s not be sidetracked by the foolishness of celebrating solstices. Let’s not have our own questions cause us to doubt. If we say we believe in the promise of salvation, in our humanity and day to day struggles, there are times we will forget, but it isn’t Jesus out of His mind. It’s us out of fellowship, no longer abiding, because the pasture in the valley looks greener, though it’s shrouded in shadows and death and fire.

But when we do, let us be still, and remember that He yet still rejoices over our coming to Him, as He came to us.

Let us remember to take up our crosses, and count the cost.

Let us remember that we share in His suffering, to be mocked and persecuted.

Let us remember we will be tempted, and that there are times we will fail.

But most importantly, this Christmas, let us remember that He loved us first, and came down to be with us, to speak the heart of the Father to us, and His will for us, and left us a reminder in His Word that we can access whenever we want, no veil, no sacrifice, no law.

Let us ponder these things in our hearts, and remember.

Let them pierce our own souls when we forget.

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas

Devotional 31: He Went Up on the Mountain to Pray

Matthew 14:23

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 

Our Lord had just lost His earthly cousin and divine herald, and no doubt keenly felt the loss, and throughout the day we see Him seeking to be alone, but there was no time to mourn, for there were yet people in need.

How selfless of Jesus to turn and not only minister to a large crowd, but to perform a miracle in their midst and feed them as well.

Do we need to wonder if we would do such during a time of mourning? As Christians, there should be no doubt of it, but as human beings, how many of us would turn to another in need and say, “I’m here for you. I will take care of you.”

There is nothing more to be done for the departed, however dreadful the loss, and though we never feel the same, time passes, and pain recedes, and we go on.

Most understand that in our grieving, time is needed.

Our Lord had no such luxury.

 

Matthew 14:13

  When Jesus heard it *(the beheading of John), He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself.

      But when the multitudes head it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

So great was their need, they walked the shoreline to find Him.

For some, it may have been just to get their immediate needs met; for others, it might have been in the hope that he would teach something that gave them hope. For yet others, it might have been a combination.

From what the text says, no one went there in doubt, unbelieving, for it says he healed their sick. They had to have faith in His ability, believe in His divinity, and trust that the Father worked through Him to accomplish good things.

After ministering to them, He seeks again to be alone, and sends the disciples ahead while He dismisses the crowd. No doubt there was more comfort to be given, more thanks to be received, more questions, more exclamations of gratitude and worship that He had to listen to before the last of them were gone.

v.23 “Now when evening came, He was alone there.”

A dark sky, a rapidly cooling desert wind,  hard rocks beneath his knees, and yet He prays, for now He knows His hour is coming quickly, and He would draw comfort from John, but John is in Heaven, his mission complete.

And he watches in sorrow his cousin on His knees, alone in a dark and cold place, praying for strength, praying for comfort, for a touch of the Father’s hand, not because He’s in doubt, but because He’s in need.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, let me be mindful of Your goodness toward me in times of loss, whether it be of people, possessions, or positions. Keep me in mind of where my treasure lies, in view of Your glory, awaiting my return to You.

Thank You, Father, for the witness of John the Baptist, who preached of a different Passion, the Second Coming of Our Lord, as King Jesus, Lion of Judah, for His mission as Lamb of God was completed on the cross.

Let me hear from you in dark, deserted places, how You will never leave me or forsake me, how You will hide me in Your hand from my enemies, how you will deliver me from sin and the destroyer, give the lie to the Accuser by the power of the Blood of Your sinless Son, who took mine upon Him, that I be blameless before You.

Help me to heal, in whatever way You grant to me, those in greater need, those who have less than I after my own loss. Help me to mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice.

John leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of the Lord in Mary’s, and died in prison, unsure now of his infant leap of faith, not seeing the time he preached of fulfilled in his sight, alone in his own dark and solitary place, physically as well as spiritually.

Help me to walk by faith in the 4th hour of the watch, in the storm, when I can’t see You.

Let me proclaim the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and let me be blessed instead of offended because of my Lord.

Let me not pray in doubt, but in need.

Let me not praise with my lips only, absent my heart.

And when I put out my sinking hand, and pray that You save me, You are there, reaching down to save a sinful man for no other reason than love.

Thank you for your compassion, as I interrupt Your prayers with my own selfish needs, hoping You teach me something that gives me hope.

In the Name of Jesus, I ask, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 30: Depart from Me, for I am a Sinful Man…

Luke 5: 1-8

 

5 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it,he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.

 

That night the fish proved smarter than men, for they weren’t where the disciples were fishing in the cold water, all night long.

Tired, discouraged, with nothing to show for their efforts, and feeling like failures in their own calling, they then sit patiently while Jesus teaches the people from the boat, because it’s too crowded on the shore.

We are not told when Jesus finished speaking to the crowd, but now he’s about to reward their patience in spectacular fashion.

But now comes the test not only of faith, but fortitude: Put out into deep water…

   Surely they’re thinking, what does the son of a poor carpenter know of the sea?

But Jesus had never claimed to be the son of a poor carpenter.

“,,,and let down the nets for a catch.” A twofold command.

The large, heavy nets they just finished washing and setting aside, they now have to take back with them, and go into deep water. It took longer to get to the deep water, was more turbulent and prone to currents, and harder to control the boat.

And Peter, who had to listen to Jesus sermon to the people for who knew how long, was now tired, and his answer, like the command, is twofold. He testifies to what they’ve done in their own strength, that they’ve toiled all night and caught nothing, but then he submits to the Lord’s will: “Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net.”

So when Peter hears and obeys the Word of the Lord, the nets are not only filled for one boat, but two.

Peter, James and John are astounded, but it is Peter the passionate who sees and knows this is the Father at work in through the Son.

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”

How like the centurion Peter is in this moment. Lord, I am not worthy to receive you under my roof, only say the word…

Peter is speaking from his heart, and while Jesus is concerned with the heats of mankind, He in fact came to redeem the souls back to their Creator.

Evil knows good, and will use it, trick it, and corrupt it if possible.

But evil fears holiness, and can’t abide in its presence.

Our Lord says the world hates Him because He testifies to it that its works are evil, because the prince of this world walks it, and ravages those who would hear and obey the Word of the Lord.

He makes us weary in worldly pursuits, and we testify to the Lord of them: I’ve worked hard all night, all these years, all this time, and have nothing to show for it.”

And it’s there some give up and turn away, while others yet say, “Nevertheless, at Your word, I will…”

Which one will you be?

if the latter, welcome then, to the army of God. Get ready to fight the current in deep water, and by faith our Lord promises there will be no way to prepare for the overflow that will be the honoring of your faith and obedience in Him, the Living Word.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I am grateful that it’s I who must obey you, and not the other way around, for I would tell you to depart from this sinful pod of flesh. It would be a foolish request, for then I would die unclean, unjustified, unrighteous, and not reconciled to the Father, and my soul condemned.

I can’t deny the wide road to Babylon is smooth and pleasant, and the city itself, like the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, is pleasing to the eye, and indulges the senses. I cast a disparaging eye to the narrow road to the kingdom of G-d and eternal life, full of bloody thorns of martyrs and saints, with a narrow gate lost in the fog of the hilltop.

But I am grateful that when I say, “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man,” looking toward Babylon with anticipation, and I, not You, move away, You endure the heartbreak again, and watch me go, but wait for me to come back to myself, and return to Your open arms, receiving me again with rejoicing, and walking with me once more.

Thank You for blessing me in the midst of my rebellious obedience that testifies to my own strength first, but ultimately, nevertheless submits to You.

May it ever be so, and in Your Holy Name I ask it.

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…”

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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 24: Cry Out All the More

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Your faith has made you well.”

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 23: The Third Day

Hosea 6:  1- 3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how much like Christ can we be then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

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

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

Thank You for forgiving me.

Thank You for restoring me.

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

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

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

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

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

“Let it be unto me as You have said.”

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotional 22: Do You Believe This?

John 11:25-26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is finished.”

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

To glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever.

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

You are Risen, indeed.

Amen.

Devotional 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 19: Help My Unbelief

Mark 9: 17-24

17 Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. 18 And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

19 He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.” 20 Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

21 So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. 22 And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe,[a] all things are possible to him who believes.”

24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!” 26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

A father’s faith in the works of Jesus had suffered a blow from the inability of the disciples to cast out a violent, life-threatening demon from his son. The demon threw the boy into fire and water, the father said, in order to destroy him.

How wearying it must have been for the father to be ever-vigilant in order to save his son’s life, how frightening to see that visage take over an innocent face, subjecting it to brief glimpses of hell’s horrors! But to his credit, he didn’t give up. We’re not told if he traveled a great distance to get to Jesus, but I believe he would have done anything to save his son’s life, as any good parent would.

Also to his credit, when the disciples couldn’t cast it out, though his hopes were initially dashed, he sought out the source of holy Power, and went to see Jesus.

When the man tells Jesus that his disciples failed, Jesus initially rebukes them (again, though indirectly) for their lack of faith, because now, as a result, this man has come to him full of hope, but also doubt.

As they bring the boy to Him, the demon does obeisance, albeit violently, and throws the boy’s body to the ground because even demons are unable to stand in the presence of the Lord.

After a brief Q & A with Jesus, the father, not surprisingly, qualifies his request with, “But if You can do anything…” This is the first time Jesus’ ability to do anything is called into question. Normally, when we read “if” statements in Scripture, it goes more like this: “Lord, if you are willing…”

But Jesus, having compassion, puts forth a condition of his own: “If you can believe…”

Faith is the conduit to answered prayer, and without it being in the person making the request, Jesus will not override doubt. Not cannot override doubt, but will not. This is why we are admonished to ask in prayer, believing we have already received.

The father now realizes what he’s done, and cries out, offering his remnant of faith for Jesus to take and increase. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

And Jesus casts out the demon with a caveat of his own. “Enter him no more!” for the father’s doubt has left his son vulnerable to repossession, as Jesus said. In Luke 11:24-26 we read: 

24 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. 26 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

And the gathering crowd now adds their voices of doubt to the scene, believing Jesus has killed the boy by delivering him:

26 Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Is it any wonder Jesus cried out against the faithless generation He worked among? And as much as we would like to believe in our own piety, we too, even now, have our moments; but even faith the size of a mustard seed has to be nurtured.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, You say all things are possible to those who believe, but my faith is as a mustard seed, and the conditions surround its soil are not conducive to its growth: my senses, my circumstances, my finances, my health, my family, and other worldly cares cause it to struggle to break its small and fragile shell, and it suffers greatly, weakening from stagnation every day.

I would not have it die, Lord, so help my unbelief, for you cannot work where there is doubt.

Cast out that demon in me that wants to please man, and to do all that you say makes a man unclean from the inside out, and his soul before God impure and unworthy to enter the Kingdom. I would not be a whited sepulcher.

Bless, purify, sanctify, and forgive this unworthy servant who listens to hell’s whispering: “Did G-d really say…?”

Deliver me, O Lord, from myself: my way, my strength, my will, my thoughts not taken captive, for they are flying demons looking for an empty house.

Lord Jesus, I pray that You command them to enter me no more, that may stand guiltless before Your throne, and hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.

“Enter.”

Amen

Devotional 18: As the Lord Commands

Good Intentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the Lord’s commands:

Chapter 15: 11-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven

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

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

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

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

Amen