Devotional 70: Great Multitudes Followed Him

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

At some point, brothers and sisters, we made a decision to follow.

Something in His message drew us, reached us, and changed us, and while it may not have changed everything all the time, we are nonetheless aware of it when we choose to do that which we shouldn’t out of human frailty, and that is what confession and repentance are for, (and that is between you and the Lord).

Some in the multitude followed in the immediacy of the moment:  to get healed,  because others were going,  they had nothing better to do…

Others followed because they needed the reassurance of the Father’s love, and that they were valued by Him, because they simply could not live up to the criteria and conditions their religious leaders placed on them.

Still others followed to have their spirits healed through the power of grace.

The beauty of our Lord is in this statement: (John 6:37)

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.”

Throughout His ministry, as wide and fiery and controversial as it was, the decision was made by those who followed, for whatever reason, to go to Him. It was the first act of faith on our part, and we all came at various stages in our lives, for whatever those reasons were.

But in the quiet of your heart, wherever you made your decision, you had to leave that place, and go.

Yes, we’ve strayed, backslid, compromised, held our peace, left without helping, took shortcuts, made mistakes, and messed up all over the place. And as angry and doubtful as we may become, as rebellious and shameful as we may act, that seed is rooted, and in the quiet of your heart, eventually, you look around again, and see Him standing right there, waiting for you to, as the prodigal did, come to your senses.

We’ve seen the power of G-d at work in our lives, and know the truth of Him. His existence is not a question for us, even though sometimes His plan is. The truth of His word has called to our spirits, and we’ve responded. I’ve told you the story of my own experience, which I still recall with awe, after all these years.

We’ve seen His goodness in our blessings, we have His Son to dispense grace to us in the year of His favor, but is that because we want to please Him, or do we just not want His wrath on us.

Hebrews 10:31  tells us it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living G-d.

We’ve read of His judgment as well, and how thoroughly He cuts off the wicked; He will also stir them to agitate His blessed when they stray. How many times was Israel called to repent, and given into the hands of invaders?

How many times are we?

Yet rejoice, brothers and sisters. We’ve seen the headlines. The signs are gathering, and Jesus never made an inaccurate prophecy, nor one that never came to pass.

Let us follow Him, growing in the knowledge and love of Him, abiding in Him to achieve the Father’s purpose for us, for we are in Him, and He is in the Father. If we follow Him, let it be down the narrow road.

And in the quiet of your heart, and the watches of the night, He will heal you, for though you are part of a great multitude, He knows your name.

It’s written in the Book of Life, and He is the Author and Finisher.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In these tumultuous times, let our eyes continue to be on You, to focus on Your will, being reminded that our time of persecution is coming, and indeed, now is.

The sifting to follow will be great, and dark, so we will need Your light more than ever, that we may continue to follow You, and not turn back.

Strengthen us with Kingdom power, O Lord, and let the Holy Spirit fill us with bold reverence, and tell us how to respond to those who will come to us and ask, ‘Why are you at peace? How can you be at peace?” 

Send us back to the river stones, the path markers, the books of remembrance, when our own strength fails us and we forget. 

No matter where we live, no matter the distance we travel, no matter our trials and tribulations, no matter our grief, no matter our occupation, something You’ve said to us reached us, and the Father has seen fit to grant us to be in Your presence; you’ve said no one can come to you unless it be granted by Him. (John 6:44)

We would be reconciled to Him through Your blood. Help us to remember that grace and honor has been granted us, and it is a fearsome thing, not to be held common, that the wrath of the Father be on us once again.

In the quiet of our hearts, we made the decision to come. Help us to resolve there also, and make the decision to follow, for You’ve told us that the path narrows, the hour is coming, the day is far spent, and night is here.

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

Amen

Devotional 66: ‘I Am Not Like Other Men’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you not be justified before Him?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 53: Wash and Be Clean

2Kings: 9-14 Namaan’s Leprosy Healed

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Arenot the Abanah[a] and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Namaan was highly esteemed and a man of titles, used to a certain level of pomp in his presence, yet he was humbled at the house of the prophet Elisha. Indeed, he was insulted at the affront of not even getting a personal greeting.

To make matters worse, he was told to do something so simple that it also affronted him even though he was told it would heal his leprosy: Go take a bath.

There is within us that which refuses to believe that that it’s not about works and rituals and ‘doing.’ Pr. David Jeremiah in his book The Invasion of Other Gods points out that the appeal of Eastern religions is that the level of human involvement gives a sense of control, of being deserving of the favor of those gods by doing that which pleases them.

It’s an ancient conditioning of the human mind: From early on in life we are told that hard work, submission to authority, and obedience to rules are how we are rewarded in life, and by life. Productivity and frugality secure our futures, and sense of personal responsibility allows us to live civilly (for the most part) with each other.

We work to secure our legacies and security for the days we are no longer able to work. Inheritances are passed down, added to, and passed down again, and nothing is accrued unless the work is done to amass them.

Yet for those of us who believe, serve, and follow the Lord this is a paradox, for we are told not to worry about such things.

Or is it?

Let’s keep in mind that work was given to us a curse for Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating from the Tree of Knowledge:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

That being said, we are told in Proverbs 22:9 that a man skilled in his work will not serve obscure men, but kings. We have this example in the workmanship of Solomon building the House of the Lord.

We are also admonished by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:22-25

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

In other words, being in bondage is no excuse to sin.

The point of this seemingly rambling post is that it is often the simple things, not the grand, where we find the Lord’s blessing.

Namaan was hoping for a public spectacle that would reinforce his sense of greatness, yet he felt insulted by being told to just go bathe.

There were no wars for him to fight, no conditions attached, no rituals to perform, and until the gentle rebuke of his servants, he was angry. But it wasn’t until he obeyed the prophet’s message that he received his healing.

There’s a saying that’s popular in some Christian circles: ‘Lord, don’t move the mountain, just give me the strength to climb.’

Sounds noble, doesn’t it? You don’t wish to trouble the Lord with something so trivial as moving a mountain out of your way.  In fact, it’s as egotistical and foolish as Namaan wanting to do something more difficult to cure himself.

See, here’s the thing:  the Lord didn’t say He would move it, he said, ‘Speak to the mountain in faith, believing it will move, and it will be cast into the sea.’

Why would you want to struggle to ascend a difficult path the Lord would flatten, and straighten, and make smooth without obstructions? The view of your destiny is not only clearer when that happens, but faster.

There is no need for false heroism; life is hard enough, isn’t it? Just do the task before you, or as Oswald Chambers puts it, ‘the task that lies nearest to hand,’ and receive your blessing. Stop complicating that which the Lord would make easy for you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, I thank You that the grandiose egos of men count as nothing under the covenant of grace. Let me not block my own way through sin and rebellion. Let me not be cast down because of pride and make my blessing void.

Help me to be ever mindful that You are the One who raises and puts down, that Your mercy is for the repentant, that Your love is everlasting, and that Your will is for me to thrive in whatever I do, wherever I am.

Let the works of my hands please You. Bless them, increase them, and let them find the ones who need it. Let my integrity be intact not only when the rulers watch, but when no one’s around. 

Keep me from a false sense of self-sacrifice, looking for strife where You have given peace. Let me discern the still, small voice from the pompous, empty grandiosity of earthly recognition and platitudes.

Bring to mind that I am in the year of Your favor, that I may consecrate my life to You, and You alone, and that always, You hear my prayer of faith in my affliction:

Be removed, and cast into the sea.

I ask it by the Power of Your Holy Name, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 40: Who Touched Me?

Text: Luke 8:40-48

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. 43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him[a] said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’[b]

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” 47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer;[c] your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

As Jesus’ popularity grew, the crowds increased and became pretty much the order of the day wherever He went. Their reasons for gathering were as varied as their problems, their needs, and their motives for wanting to see Him.

What encourages most about these stories where he travels among large crowds is that there are those who are there because of two things: their faith in His claim, and their desire to get to Him for their need.

Some spoke with Him, others were brought to Him, and still others were afraid to approach His presence. We have such a story here, often sermonized through the years from various perspectives, but what’s truly remarkable about this story to me is what Jesus said after having His clothing touched:

“Who touched Me?”

He’d lain hands on many people, and restored their sight, their health, their right minds, even their departed spirits, but this touch was so special, so lost amid the large number of people, so random in that there was no crying out to Him, that even He had to ask who it was that touched Him.

Imagine a need so great, so full of longing, so full of the desire to be released from pain that you’d be willing to risk the wrath of a divine being by personally touching them. Imagine your faith so strong in that divine being that you’d be willing to touch just their clothing on the off chance that such a seemingly foolish gesture would make you well.

We’re not told how old this woman is, only that she had her condition for twelve years, one that in the culture was shameful and unclean. It likely brought her a great deal of ridicule, and caused no end of embarrassment. Yet, she knew that if her life was going to change by believing on Jesus, this would be her opportunity to change it.

We read in verse 46 Jesus’ reply to Peter:

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”

As with so many miracles, faith is the key that makes the power work. It won’t do so in cases of doubt or faithlessness. It can’t. So great was her faith, and so desperate was her desire that when she did touch His clothing, power He had not deliberately dispensed went out of Him, and in such an amount that He felt it leave.

And as before with the blind man’s cry that made Jesus stand still, so too did this.

Not knowing how Jesus would react, she tried to hide, but in verse 47 we read:

47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

Interesting that in the midst of the press of a large crowd she was suddenly ‘no longer hidden.’ We are admonished that it is we who must press through our own personal crowds to get to Him. It need not be a crowd of people. It could be a crowd of idols we’ve set up around us, a crowd of past failures that tell us to be quiet, when we need to shout out all the more. Perhaps it’s a crowd of deeds and words from the past that tell us not to trouble Him, for He is royalty, and we are rags.

But He never turns away those who earnestly seek Him, who persist in spite of their current circumstances.

Jesus always responded to faith and usually called forward the petitioner. Such was the case here, but so commanding is His presence that she grew afraid, fell to her knees, and confessed what she’d done and gave her testimony as to what happened.

Jesus graciously blesses her in front of crowd:

48 Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Her faithful boldness has not only been approved, but given the royal seal, and her restoration is now spiritual as well as physical, so that we have her story even to this day.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I confess that I don’t seek Your attention, for though I profess to follow and serve, there are times I don’t carry myself as a servant of all, but as a pompous man entitled and deserving of the service of others.

There are times I think my meager, half-hearted service does You honor, when it is You who has called me to serve those in need of You, to be salt and light, to be the city on the hilltop, to shout from the roof what You whisper to me in my far too infrequent prayer time.

My need of You is greater than I know, and I would press through to touch the hem of your garment, the strap of your sandal, the soles of Your feet if I were truly conscious of how small a part of my life I’ve made You. I would turn away in defeat, shouted down. I would kiss Your cheek in a moonlit garden while the servants of Hell took you in my place, count my silver, and spend it on raucous living that leads to death.

I wonder then, if You’d look for me, and leave the ninety-nine to find me still, lead me beside still waters,  restore my soul, and put me back in my right mind with the joy of my salvation.

My issue of blood is that I need Yours to cover me, that I would be mindful of my rebellious backsliding into sins that held me in a grip long ago, before the Spirit revealed You to me. I would stay connected at all times, in all things if I had strength to crucify my flesh by taking up my cross.

I would not be conveniently obedient as King Saul was, but I know that I don’t possess King David’s desire to pursue capturing Your heart. I would be mindful of counting the cost of following You, and throw the silver of betrayal into the dust.

Help me press through, Lord. Hear my cry. Stand still, turn and call to Me so that I would not be hidden from You, and I will know Your voice and follow.

Once again, let me touch the hem of Your garment, that Your power is shared with me, making me whole again.

In Your Holy Name I ask it.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 20: He Healed Them All

There is a scene in Godspell (insert eye roll here) where as the sick come in large numbers to christ (there’s a reason I’m using the small ‘c’,) they press in on him, reach out toward him, and begin pushing him to the ground as he succumbs to their numbers, and he cries out from under a mass of hands in front of his face and pulling on his robe, with a look of anguished resignation in his eyes:

“There’s too many of you!”

I serve a different Christ, who even in His weariness, had compassion and healed great multitudes, all of them, with all their different illnesses, regardless of the length of time they had it, or its severity.

In Matthew 15: 29-31 we read:

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the G-d of Israel.

 

The key to it all is v. 31, where before Jesus told the woman from Canaan that she was not part of his ministry, though he granted her request for her faith. He said He was to go the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “…and they glorified the G-d of Israel.”

 

Jesus never took credit for the work of the Spirit through the Father’s dispensation, and even in His humanity, continued to work in the realm of the divine. The Spirit is as limitless as the Father, as eternally indwelling as the Son, and through perfect faith in the Father’s love for Him, and giving back to the Father the glory He inherited, Jesus healed, and healed, and healed.

How blessed we are to have such Power in the Savior of our souls! He can heal anything, according to our faith in that Power, our willingness to submit to the Spirit in Him, and our gratitude to the G-d of Israel for sending Him to us, and for us, that we might be healed of sin, and freed from the power of the grave.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, You said men will be forgiven their blasphemies, and certainly, Lord, in our mortal ignorance, You are brought as low as we are, when You’ve said that in Life we would be as angels in Heaven.

In our fallen state, we can’t conceive of higher planes of existence, at least where You’re concerned; we don’t believe in power that isn’t held in a hand with a vise grip. We don’t believe in not being defeated.

Lord, You knew that when the multitudes came, their motives were purely selfish. You gave freely, knowing they had nothing to give You, but came and took from You, over and over. Even then, Lord, Your compassion overwhelms, for You’ve said, “The poor will be with you always, but you will not always have Me.”

So keep our minds stayed on You, that we may have perfect peace in our afflictions, knowing that You are willing to heal us, knowing that You have compassion on us, despite our selfish motives. Even so, the multitudes came to You for selfish reasons, but also by faith, or they would not have come at all. You rewarded them, and they gave glory to G-d.

Help me, as I pursue Your purpose for my life, not to succumb under the weight of my cross, and cry out the burden is too much for me.

Thank you for being ever true to Your calling, Lord Jesus.

I too, will try to live up to mine, working as unto you, so all my work will be completed.

Amen