Devotional 16: They were Astonished at Him

The only story we have of Jesus as a child outside of the Christmas story is found in the second chapter of Luke, where Jesus was missing for three days after his parents had returned to Nazareth, each thinking He was with the other.

 

In Luke 2:46 – 47 we read:

    46) Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking questions. 47) And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

These words come again with Christ as an adult in Luke 4: 31-32:

   Then He went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbaths. 32) And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority.

The occurrences of the words ‘astonishment’ followed by ‘authority’ appear several times throughout Jesus’ ministry, because His authority, His claims to divinity and being the Son of God, never wavered.

Who He was, and why He came never changed in His preaching, despite the intense pressure the religious leaders brought to bear on Him to recant.

His words were consistent regarding the issues surrounding our salvation, and His call to it consisted of three essential parts:

 

  • Repent: God will not wink at sin or compromise on what His Word says. In Psalm 138:2 David writes that the Lord God has exalted His Word above His Name, therefore if His Name is above all names, how do we get to thinking that He will nullify or compromise His Word, and therefore it doesn’t apply?

  

  • Believe: The Father will not brook doubters, for we read in the Gospel of John 3:18: He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

 

  • Follow: The Father will only acknowledge those who acknowledge His Son. In John 15:23 we read: “He who hates Me hates My Father also.”

And when Jesus was transfigured on the high mountain, we have the second manifestation of God’s approval of His work, as we had at the beginning of His ministry, when He came to John the Baptist.

In Matthew 17:5 we read:

     And while (Peter) was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”

       We have other admonitions by Jesus to take up our crosses, count the cost, forsake that which we love for His sake, and to be ready for persecution.

These are admittedly not easy, but for the sake of our salvation, if Jesus teaches with astonishing authority, the uniqueness and consistency of His words are designed to penetrate, to reach us, to break down our resistances and remove our excuses for not doing them

In effect, they sift those who claim to believe from those who truly believe.

We have, interceding on our behalf, not only the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Chief Judge, but also a Master Teacher whose words are still being discussed some 2,016 years after His birth, even to the point of denying His existence.

Such is the manner of bold, authoritative teaching.

Take the Gospel seriously, because it’s not pick-and-choose, and it’s best you not be found lukewarm with one foot in the world.

Our Lord has overcome the world, and He is the Living Word.

As He overturned the money tables, so too, will He flip backwards and topple all who seek to wink at God’s mercy and say, “I’ll do it at the end.”

The ‘end’ may come suddenly, and sooner than you think, and you’ll have died in your sins, as well as your ‘sleep.’

Therefore I pray:

      Father in Heaven, make me to understand the neediness of my time, and give me what I need to change what has to be changed in my own life, and to affect the lives of others for Your kingdom.

      Help me, like Issachar’s sons, to understand the times, and know what to do.

     Help me to subject myself to the authority my Lord and Savior would wield over me as He teaches me to follow Him into Your Presence, in reverence to You, in faithfulness to Him, and in obedience to Your Holy Spirit.

     By the Power of His Blood and in His Holy Name I ask it, believing I have already received.

      Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 15: Are You the One?

In the amphitheatre of the Judean wilderness, the herald of the Messiah preached to the people and the religious leaders about repentance and the coming judgment, and imminent damnation and separation and destruction for the unrepentant enemies of God and Christ.

 

 Matthew 3: 7-12

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[a] 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

And under the penumbra of that rousing introduction, Jesus begins his work of imparting grace to sinners, of speaking of loving one’s enemies, performing miracles for the servant of a Roman centurion, a Greek woman’s daughter, and revealing Himself to the a Samaritan female with a bad reputation.

 

It was the work of holding the teachers and leaders of the Jews accountable for their corruption, cowardice, hypocrisy, and the work of feeding and healing multitudes of people John said He would punish.

 

And John, who leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s, sent messengers whose words must’ve torn at the Savior’s heart, even though He probably knew John would come to doubt before He ever descended:

 

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)

 

John wasn’t there when Jesus proclaimed from the book of Isaiah the ‘year of the Lord’s favor,’ and therefore didn’t realize He did not speak of ‘the day of the Lord’s vengeance’ that John was preaching.

 

Jesus sends the reply that the events which the prophets spoke of and the tenets that the Law commands are being fulfilled, along with this gentle rebuke:

 

‘And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’ (Matt: 11:6)

 

Prophets predicted all manner of works God through Christ would perform, but they were never given specific times; they only knew what would happen, not when.

 

So it was with John, who prophesied the events of the day of vengeance, and so grew disillusioned when Jesus, from what he heard, was going around doing good instead, and didn’t attempt to get John freed.

 

We’re not told if John was comforted, or encouraged by Jesus’ answer, but it was all he was going to get before his death.

We’re not told if his faith was restored, and if he died despairing of hope.

 

John, if he doubted Christ, was not condemned for this moment; Jesus said the least in the kingdom is greater than John, so we know that John is there, leaping again in the presence of his Lord and Savior.

 

And for all of us steeped in the Word of the Lord, it’s all we’re going to get as well, yet God says He will pour out his Spirit on all men, and we will know that we know.

And it will be wonderful to see.

 

Therefore I pray:

 

 Lord Jesus, I praise and thank You for adding this unworthy servant’s name to the Book of Life.

Thank You for finding me in the year of the Lord’s favor.

Thank You for loving me enough to let no one and nothing snatch me from Your holy hand.

Thank You for not only breaking the sin chains, but dissolving them as well.

Pour out Your Spirit on me, O Lord, so that I may walk in white, with Your righteousness before me so I will not die, an old man, will dream dreams again with Your power and favor anointing them.

  

By faith I receive Your mercy, in fear I reverence Your truth, desiring to flee the wrath to come.

 

Therefore, Lord, give me dreams wrapped in faith, mercy, love, joy, peace, understanding, and fill me with divine though and strength for all that You would have me to say, do, think, or imagine. 

 

As I carry out and further the herald’s missive, to prepare the way of the Lord, grant me bolder power, favor, and discernment, that I may disciple all nations for Your Name and to Your everlasting glory, before the throne of God.

 

I ask in faith, believing I have already received.

 

Amen.

Devotional 14: There was No More Spirit in Her

picture credit: Illustration by Avi Katz from the book, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Blu Greenberg and Linda Tarry

1st Kings 10: 1- 5

The Queen of Sheba’s Praise of Solomon

10 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.

No doubt this queen was an intelligent woman; we can only guess that she was beautiful as well, but verse 5 takes a peculiar turn when it announces that ‘…there was no more spirit in her.’

What spirits were there that fled before the God-given splendor of Solomon?

  1.  A doubting spirit: Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord…

     In a polytheistic culture, how could one god possibly have all this knowledge? Surely the labors of heaven and earth and man were divided among gods, for no one god could possibly bear the burden; they were mighty over their places, the god of the sun, the goddess of the moon, the god of the seas…etc, but they were not omnipotent over all.

And why would any god share such knowledge with a mere man; he might guide a king or queen in their rule, but surely not impart wisdom on such a grand scale as to give the man any splendor of his own..

As we walk by faith, not by sight, given the flint-faced commandments of our Savior, in our humanity we question the things He wants us to obey because they’re contrary to our fallen nature.

Rumors of Solomon’s God-given wisdom stirred up a spirit of doubt, and she, like Thomas, needed to see for herself. That’s a need we can all relate to, one that we even pray for from time to time. “Lord, show me a sign…”

But unlike the queen, when we return home, we won’t be laden with material goods, but the seed of the Holy Spirit on us, in us, and with us, with the power of conviction of putting sin in us to death, and revelation of the Living Word of the Father

2. A challenging spirit:  she came to test him with hard questions

There are those who believe themselves wiser than people of faith; they are people who place pride in their intellect and ability to ‘show up’ the works of a divine Spirit (God is spirit, Jesus tells us), based on their physical experiences.  In other words, they attempt to seek to understand spiritual matters from a material view, and cannot. I don’t say that as an excuse for us as believers NOT to be knowledgeable, for indeed, Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her.

However, the Apostle Paul admonishes that knowledge puffs up.

We must remind ourselves not to wield the Sword of the Spirit arrogantly, and to stay abreast of our studies, if we can, that we too, as Peter writes (1st Peter 3:15)

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

But to those whose pride is in their intellect, independent of God, as if He would give man dominion and tell him to subdue the earth without giving him the knowledge to do so, their mind is their idol, and God will brook no idols in his presence, or share his glory.

They test us with what they believe to be ‘hard questions,’ not realizing that their own spirit of pride, coupled to their faithlessness, will yield neither comprehension nor revelation.

3. Spiritual restlessness:  and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.

Something stirred within her, just hearing of Solomon’s wisdom and splendor, for we seek after the knowledge of God, because as Ecclesiastes 3:11 states:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

If King David was the man after God’s heart, then Solomon, in asking for wisdom, was the man after His mind, and God added to him for his unselfish request.

So the Presence of the Lord in every aspect of Solomon’s life was so all pervasive and overwhelming to her, that she glorified God, for as verse 5 says, ‘there was no more spirit in her,‘ and Solomon sent her back with more than she came with, though what she left him was unique in all of Israel, the like of which they’d never see again.

Jesus says of her  (Matthew 12:42) 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, let not the spirits of defiance and doubt hold sway over my faith in my salvation by Your blood.

Grant to me also discernment, increase my fruit, and help my unbelief.

Let me always be ready through the power of Your Word to be ready to answer, but fill my mouth with what You would have me say, and therefore not worry, for You  said:  for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. (Luke 21:15) 

Put to rest and silence all testing spirits, the lying spirits, the spirits of destruction, of pride in knowledge, of striving over the miniscule and insignificant.

Keep me focused on what is important and true: You, and You crucified, resurrected, and seated at the right hand of the father, waiting to welcome me home, bringing back with me more than I left with, to Your everlasting glory.

Hosea 6:

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.

Amen.

 

Devotional 13: Is Christ Divided?

1st Corinthians 10- 13

Sectarianism Is Sin

10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

We speak of ‘schools of thought,’ with foundations in schools of philosophy, where skilled master teachers of vast intelligence pushed their students to think in new ways and to question established ideas using reason and logic, and getting to the ‘true’ definition of a word and the ideas behind the meaning.

Perhaps the most common and well known of these is what we refer to now as the Socratic method:

*As a tactic and approach, Socratic questioning is a highly disciplined process. The Socratic questioner acts as the logical equivalent of the inner critical voice which the mind develops when it develops critical thinking abilities. The contributions from the members of the class are like so many thoughts in the mind. All of the thoughts must be dealt with and they must be dealt with carefully and fairly. By following up all answers with further questions, and by selecting questions which advance the discussion, the Socratic questioner forces the class to think in a disciplined, intellectually responsible manner, while yet continually aiding the students by posing facilitating questions.

A Socratic questioner should:
a) keep the discussion focused
b) keep the discussion intellectually responsible
c) stimulate the discussion with probing questions
d) periodically summarize what has and what has not been dealt with and/or resolved
e) draw as many students as possible into the discussion.

*Paul, R. and Elder, L. (April 1997). Foundation For Critical Thinking,
Online at website: www.criticalthinking.org

Paul encountered this in the roiling metropolis of Corinth, where ‘schools of thought’ were, possibly inadvertently, invented by the followers of Christ, but separated by those who listened to the preaching of Peter, Apollos, and Paul himself, respectively.

The apostle Paul quickly lets them know, with one pointed question, that such division as it concerns the finished work of Calvary does not apply to Jesus, and therefore should not apply to the faithful:

“Is Christ divided?”

Jesus didn’t die and rise that men may argue over who preaches His gospel the best.

The Corinthians were victims of their times in this, and Paul sets them straight (for the moment) in that even though they are three preachers, they are all preaching the same thing: the finished work of Jesus Christ, who died, as it says several times in the book of Hebrews, ‘once for all.’

Yet, some groups today accuse others of ‘false worship.’

And Jesus said the Gospel was to be preached to ALL the nations:

Matthew 28:19 – “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

and the only division there will be is between the faithless and unrepentant, and the faithful:  (Matthew 25: 31-33)

The Son of Man Will Judge The Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[a] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.

Yet we get into heated discussions over his skin color, his childhood, his marital status…

As believers, though we are admonished by Christ not to do it (Mark 9:38-39), and Paul reinforces it here, we do the things we are forbidden to do; we’ve created sects of worship: different styles, different songs, different churches, and different preaching.

Any church worthy of the name, and any pastor worthy of their calling should all be emphasizing the same thing: (1st Corinthians 1:21-23)

              21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b]foolishness…

The rest is chaff in the wind. I didn’t come to the Lord’s house to hear musical skill or listen to clever oratory; I came to hear the Word of The Lord. We need to repent, burn off the dross, and return to the Gospel.

 Therefore I pray:

Lord, forgive my words and thoughts of prejudice, of hating my brother, of branding his outward shows of love towards You as phony or insincere, because their displays don’t look like mine.

Keep me from judgment of the hearts of Your servants.

Forgive me for the times I went down the paths that had nothing to do with anything You said, simply because it seemed a popular way to go.

 Keep me from ‘schools of thought’ that seek to limit my understanding of You, and bind me with chains of duty and fear instead of your light and easy yoke.

 Forgive my worldly compromise, for daily, I fail You in this.

 Lift me, O Lord, back into Your heavenly presence, and let Your light be as the noonday sun, to burn and purge my sin from me, as far as the east is from the west, or the left nail-scarred hand from the right, where they stretched out Your loving arms, and You embraced this unclean thing, and called me to Your pierced side.

 Thank You, Lord, that I might know the promise of eternal life is mine to inherit through faith in You, in that You rose on the third day, and will raise me up to be with You on the last.

 Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

 Amen

 

 

Devotional 12: “Unless you repent…” (Luke 13: 1-5)

Repent or Perish

13 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Lord Jesus dispels the concept of ‘worse sinners’ receiving ‘worse punishment’ (except when he berates the cities that didn’t repent and believe in Him though he performed works in them; Matthew 11: 20 – 22)

The key is to repent, but today, in addition to not wanting to call sin, ‘sin,’ we remain unsure of what that means or looks like.

Various definitions and parameters set by denominations only serve to confuse us further.

Hollywood portrays it as just a matter of saying ‘I’m sorry.’ That’s an apology, not forgiveness.

Sins, once committed, can’t be undone, and as Paul says, the battle between flesh and spirit is one we will fight until our final day. But as he also says, we’re not to go on sinning so grace may abound (Romans 6:1)

Proverbs says we will perish ‘without remedy’ (Proverbs 29:1) if we keep hardened necks and refuse to bow.

We must confess (agree with God you’re in sin, then confess to God, and to our brethren, not to a priest; we have a high priest that has made atonement already).

It is simply not possible without God’s help to live a sinless life, but we can get as close as we ever will if we keep our vision focused, guard our hearts, place a watch over our mouths, and make a covenant with our eyes. These will be imperfect, but we are called to come out of the world, and so we must do our best, and repent when we fail at that.

Therefore I pray.

I thank You, O Lord, for your long-suffering mercy.

Without it, for the things I’ve looked upon, I should be struck blind.

For the things I’ve coveted, I would lose my hands.

For the unforgiving hardness of my heart, which was once softened by the healing balms of Your mercy and grace toward me, and once basked in the warm promises of Your holy Word, I would burn eternally for having turned my lukewarm back to You, to revel in worldly pleasures, mocking Your sacrifice and the coming Judgment.

And like King Saul, die in my sins of disobedience, having played the fool.

Therefore now, Lord Jesus, I come once again to You, reeking of the world, unable to stand in Your presence, to ask once more, like a beggar, for you to clean and purify me, that I may stand among the spotless and blameless of Your selection, before the white throne, where the children of the Lord, the sons and daughters of the king, the righteous, do not beg.

Forgive my doubting, help my unbelief, and rub the mud of Your mercy over my spiritual eyes, so they would open more fully, be more perceptive and discerning, and bold to test, rebuke, cast out, and restore to Yourself a straying soul.

 I would not be a greater sinner in Your sight, that I would perish from Your sight forever.

Remember me, O Lord, when  You come to claim Your bride.

Or let me meet you in the air, beloved Savior, and pull me from this hellish husk of flesh; cast my sins from me, and dry my tears that I may dwell in the House of the Lord forever, because Your goodness and mercy followed me all the days of my earthly life, into eternal life.

By the Power of Your Holy Name, I ask it,

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 away 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.

Devotional 8: Luke 11-19 Where Are the Other Nine?

Ten Lepers Cleansed

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted uptheir voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”

So often, when we get what we want from our Lord, when He shows us mercy by not giving us over to what we deserve, and he intercedes on our behalf, and makes clear our path, we forget to thank Him, for our hearts immediately revert to love of self, and not love of God.

Think of it as a teenager snatching money from his father’s hand, and going out to do something his father doesn’t approve, but he doesn’t care; he’s got what he wanted, and it cost him nothing.

In this story, it is the enemy of God who returns to give thanks to the Son of God, who in turn lays the glory of the miracle at the Father’s feet, but there is praise unheard, love not given, gratitude not felt by the other nine, for once they were healed, they forgot about the Healer, and the source of His power.

Yet our Father in Heaven says, “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people. (Hosea 2:23)

And yet the Word says, “The kingdom of Heaven will be of every tribe, tongue and nation.”

And we hate one another because of color, language, country of origin, and we make up reasons when we have none.

Many times did Jesus cross racial, cultural, and even gender boundaries in order to reach people; it is no wonder that Paul says, “I have been all things to all men.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, I can tell myself that I don’t have your gift of speech, that I don’t possess your insights, your eternal wisdom, your capacity to love. I can tell myself that You were human, yet so much more.

But that’s what you tell me everyday, isn’t it? That I’m a child of God, every bit as precious to Him as You are, if I put my faith in You, in the power and holiness of your blood, and in the glory of Your resurrection, where we will  be with each other again.

Help me, O Lord, to remember You in the good times, as well as the bad.

Let me praise You, O Lord, when my heart is cleansed from sin, and my flesh reflects it. Bring me under the anointing of Your blood Lord, that I might stand unwavering with You before the cock crows three times.

Help me to know that You arise with me in the morning, and go before me to clear the path of danger.

Teach me, Father, and help me to never be hesitant in expressing my thanks to You for cleansing me, a foreigner, not your people, whom your Son has graciously dealt with mercifully.

I will listen to Him, because in Him, You are well pleased.

I will glorify You for my cleansing by His stripes, His scars, and His Love.

I showed myself to Your High Priest, and He has proclaimed me well by my faith in Him. 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for bowing your lowly head, battered and pierced by thorns on every side, to listen to my cry, 

“Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.”

Amen.

Devotional 5: Neither do I condemn you…

From the Gospel of John, Chapter 8:

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up[e] and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience,[f] went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her,[g] “Woman, where are those accusers of yours?[h] Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and[i] sin no more.

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This is the familiar story of the adulteress caught in the act by the religious leaders, and brought before Jesus in order to trap Him. It’s used as a supplement to the verse “Judge not, lest you be judged, and with whatever measure you do it, it will be done to you.”

It’s also used as an example of Jesus’ covenant of grace toward us, but no one ever really talks about the conclusion of the passage.

The fact is, (if God’s Word is inerrant, and John’s witness is true) she was an adulteress, loving on the husband of another woman, and as Jesus convicted the Pharisees with his scorching reply, he did not hold the woman guiltless of her sin, and told her to leave from there and NOT do it again.

She had to go back to this man she had feelings for, and tell him they could no longer be, tell him to return and rejoice in the wife of his youth, in order to purify her own soul before the Lord.

We are not told whether or not she did, for that was not the point of the story. The point of the story, as far as I’m concerned, is that everyone left there with some work to do on themselves in terms of forgiveness, purity, and repentance.

We are under grace, but we will not be held guiltless for sinning under its covenant. Vigilance, keeping watch over our own souls, our words, our thoughts, our actions, is inconsistent at best, and non-existent at worse, taking grace for granted.

In Hebrews 10: 26- 29 it states:

The Just Live by Faith (bold letters added for emphasis)

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 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?

and again in 10:31: It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Therefore, I pray:

Lord Jesus, Your sacrifice tore the veil, that I may approach the Father’s Presence under the covering of Your blood, that His mercy may be extended toward me in my final hour, and that I escape the fires of hell by accepting your sacrifice as the only thing that redeems me in the Father’s sight.

Grant that I may approach the throne boldly, but reverently, with fear and trembling, rejoicing and giving thanks in faith that I have received what I will ask, and over and above what I’ve petitioned my King to do for me.

Let me be ever mindful of grieving the Spirit of grace, Who reveals all Truth in Your Word to me.

Thank You for the sacrifice of the covenant of grace, proclaiming the Year of the Lord’s favor, and grafting me in, who was not called ‘His people.’

Lord Jesus, I repent, and return to You; receive Your prodigal once again, and wrap his unworthy soul in the folds of Your mercy..

Let me be ever mindful that the pain you felt was real, that the revulsion You felt toward my sins crept into Your very being, and grieved Your human heart, yet did not deplete Your divine love.

Daily, I contribute nails and thorns, but they no longer touch You, for the Work is finished. Burn them, Lord Jesus, and purify me in their fire, that I may stand on the last day, and enter into my Father’s kingdom, to praise Him forevermore, and rejoice in holy fellowship with You and all the saints.

In Your Name, and by the Power of Your Blood, I ask, in faith believing, that I have already received.

Amen.