Devotional 135: Abide in Me

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.

It seems appropriate as we prepare to celebrate 243 years of independence from Britain, that we be reminded as believers that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, on it, and under it. (Psalm 24:1)

But we have mistaken independence from man’s rule to mean that we are sovereign, and that it’s the Father’s obligation to honor us, not punish us, as we engage and indulge in pride and faithlessness. Indeed, we expect  no form of rebuke, consequences, or even judgment to be passed on us.

We have become one nation under a symbolic and ineffective ‘god’  who is presumed to have only blessed the wealthy, as he punishes the poor.

We have relegated the Messiah to be all-forgiving because He ‘hung out’ with sinners, forgetting that He never held them guiltless, told them to repent, and blessed them in their faith. Consider this story:

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The man was paralyzed, so how could he sin? We are told that it is what comes out of people that makes them evil. Our thought life is connected to our spiritual life, and our thought life reflects the condition of our heart toward G-d. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We can trust that although we aren’t told what the sins of the man were, that Jesus knew he had them, and because of the faith put into action by his friends, a form of intercession, he was forgiven of them and healed.

We keep G-d at a distance, relegating Him to the Old Testament, seen by some as judgmental, hypocritical, contradictory, and false, up to and including even His existence. We assume a familiarity with Jesus we don’t have, who is the only way to be forgiven by G-d, forgetting, to our eternal peril, that He tells us in no uncertain terms: “I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) 

How can they be One if the Father is greater? They are One in will, purpose, and thought. Jesus never refuted the edicts of G-d, and in fact was commanded by G-d to come and save us. (John 6:38)

As we celebrate independence from a bad king, let us hold fast to the King of Kings, our High Priest and Good Shepherd, who sustains us and sees to it that we bear good fruit through His atoning sacrifice, once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us through all things concerning revelation of the Gospel’s truth, convicting us of sin, and leading us to repentance, for He is the promised seal of our salvation.

We may respect the authorities placed over us, and honor our kings, but we are to keep a reverent and holy fear of G-d. (1 Peter 2:17)

In these hedonistic times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest themselves, let us remember that ever good thing comes from above and to be independent of Christ is to be under G-d’s wrath. There will come a time when grace shall cease, and the harvest begin.

May the Lord keep before our hearts the words of Joshua: (24:15)

“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In this nation, in our prosperity, we have become prideful, irreverent, arrogant, loud, hateful, and evil.

Your people have been divided among themselves, and shepherds lead their flocks astray, twisting the words of the Father, as the Pharisees did, to their profit and own well being, not realizing they are losing their souls as they gain the world, forgetting that their condemnation will be greater for rending the flock the sons and daughters of hell. (Matthew 23:13-15)

We have forgotten our first love. Our churches capitulate to growing numbers and political agendas, and no longer to Truth.

Let those of us who yet have ears to hear discern the absence of the Father’s will when those who would lead us speak falsely, their hearts revealed. Give us ears to follow Your voice.

Renew our hearts, revive and refresh our flagging, misguided spirits, and have us respond once more to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Replicate in our nation the church of the Book of Acts, where none wanted, and all who had provided gladly for all who didn’t, and all were blessed accordingly.

Pour out Your Spirit on us, and let us repent, that our land may be healed.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 128: He Has Shown You What is Good.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

What we must come to understand about the words, “It is finished.” which Jesus said before He died, is that as far as the Father’s part in providing us salvation is concerned, it is indeed over.

There is no Father without the Son, no G-d without Christ, and those who say otherwise have heard but have not listened.

Christ tells us:

Matthew 16:4

4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”And He left them and departed.

Throughout His ministry he admonished the religious leaders stuck on ritual and outward appearances, status and wealth, political power and regional control, that He would not perform miracles just for the sake of the faithless. They had seen Him perform them, and still asked for a sign.

 

Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

And once again, here, in the parable of the vine dressers, He concludes with a frightening rebuke: (Matthew 21:43)

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

This is consistent with another constant reminder that it is those who do the will of the Father that are His family, and that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…?” will be part of the kingdom. In those matters of who belongs, the King is sovereign.

As we yet abide in the covenant of His grace, granted to us by the Father through the events of this day, let this be a day of joy, lifting songs of praise and thanks for His mercy.

(Matthew 26:27-32)

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Today then, let us purge the doubt and fear that daily assaults our faith, and acting on His promises, fulfill our own callings and finish our own work in this age of mocking scorn. It is only His prophecies that we are seeing come to pass, for even in this age, though they asked for a sign, don’t believe it, as it was in His own day.

Matthew 27:41-45

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

Remember, these were the leaders who believed their salvation assured because they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, yet, when the sky grew dark and the earth shook, it was the pagan Roman centurions who cried out. (Matthew 27:54)

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 

“Truly this was the Son of God!”

Yet even in the midst of the wickedness, corruption, destruction, hatred, and evil of today’s world, we can yet take comfort in the words of our Savior, if we endure to the end, not fear, and not lose heart.

John 6:40

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

There is yet time, so seek Him while He may be found so that when the harvest comes we may be reconciled to the Almighty, who has given the Son all authority over all things, and we too, shall have a day of resurrection.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have shown us what is good, right, just, and holy. You have shown us how to live as Christians among demons and rebellious spirits, and how to live as brothers and sisters among ourselves.

We are joyful that You were obedient, and thankful that You finished the work the Father gave You, yet like the maverick apostle Peter, we have taken our eyes off You and find ourselves drowning with the concerns of earthly life, and the battering of our spirits by the walls of resistance and unbelief by those to whom we testify that the works of the world are evil.

There are indeed days where our own spirit falters, and earthly reason replaces faith, and earthly practicality replaces Heaven’s promises in our lives.

But you don’t relax the Father’s standards for us, nor compromise His Word that we might not be convicted, for as a good shepherd keeps to the path, so too, must missionaries complete their mission.

So send us times of refreshing, Lord, and let us begin to look to that day when as believers, as workers in the reaping of the harvest, as gleaners of the fallen ones, we will no longer ask any questions.

Today, then, we say in fearful wonder and joy, along with the centurions who saw the sky darken and felt the earth shake as You turned away from the wretched sins we cast on You as You died and rose again, for our sake.

Truly, this is the Son of G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 127: Good Works Glorify G-d

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The works that we do in His name are not to call glory to ourselves. What work we do in faith is through the power of the Holy Spirit, but all of it points back to the source, the Father, and therefore He gets the glory.

Here’s another example:

Matthew 9

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house.

Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified G-d, who had given such power to men.

And once more:

Matthew 15:29-31

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

2Jesus 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 God of Israel.

They did not glorify Jesus, but the Father. As Nicodemus stated:

John 3

The New Birth

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

It was Jesus’ mission to preach the Father’s will to us, and to tell us that the Father is here to help us in our fallen state, sending His Son to redeem us, to reconcile us back into the kingdom.

But it has to be our choice to believe. No one will be standing next to anyone else in the day of judgment and blame another for not having a relationship with our Lord and Savior. The Word says what it says, and none can add to it or take away from it, and as Jesus prophesied, it will not pass away.

John 14:7-9

The Father Revealed

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

And later, after the Lord had ascended back to the Father’s right hand, we have this:

Acts 3

A Lame Man Healed

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 

Many who were once mighty leaders in teaching, seeking His will, and preaching the Word of the Lord fell by the wayside and were cut off because they attributed their blessings to their efforts, and began to compromise their G-d-given authority from the pulpits with the values of the world. They sought its wealth by which they could live well and exercise control as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day controlled their own people for profit and the praises of men like themselves.

Let us be mindful of our calling, and who we serve, as we work out our salvation and finish the work of our earthly ministries, that His kingdom may be made known, and through our works, the Father is ever glorified. It’s only through His Spirit that we are able to be successful in all that He has given us to do.

The True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“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.If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We are called to walk in the light as Your Son is in the light, for He tells us that a time of darkness is coming, where no one can work (John 9:4).

As the day is far spent, the harvest plentiful, and the workers few, let us then be diligent in our work and sure of our calling before that hour comes.

All that we do is for You, and through You, the giver of grace through the obedience of Your Son, our Shepherd, to whom You have given all authority to justly decide who will enter into Your rest, and who will be cast into the outer darkness, for in that day it will be too late to seek Your face and know Your will.

So Father, today we submit ourselves, whether it be the first time, or the thousandth, to the gentle yoke of hard obedience through faith as we follow the Narrow Way behind our Shepherd.

May we reflect His light as He reflects Your glory, for He says of You:

“I and the Father are One.”  (John 10:30).

We ask to give us the strength to abide in Him, as He abides in You, now and forever.

We ask in faith, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us according to our faith, and as You have said.

Amen

Devotional 100: A Man Called Jesus

John 9:8-12

Therefore the neighbors and those who previously had seen that he was [a]blind said, “Is not this he who sat and begged?”

Some said, “This is he.” Others said, “He is like him.”

He said, “I am he.

10 Therefore they said to him, “How were your eyes opened?”

11 He answered and said, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to the pool of Siloam and wash.’ So I went and washed, and I received sight.”

12 Then they said to him, “Where is He?”

He said, “I do not know.”

For a lot of us who’ve received Christ, outside of the movies a crucifixion is an abstract concept, but every time we’ve seen it portrayed our spirit recoils a bit no matter who the victim is.

It is designed to cause suffering, suffocation, nerve damage, and that’s before death.

The whips were designed to tear flesh from the body, not just scar.

The crucifixion of our Lord was enhanced by beatings with fists, whips, a crown of thorns, and constant striking, spitting, hair pulling, and mocking.

Yet He asked forgiveness for his accusers and executioners, because He knew the nature of the world, and testified to it that its works were evil.

As He’s commissioned us to be His hands and feet as He sits at the Father’s right hand and intercedes for our backsliding, those without Him remain in their fallen nature, being the hands and feet of our Enemy. As we are to go about preaching, they go about mocking. As we come fight against moral decay, they use the faithless and the cowardly to advance.

Christ told us:  14 The sower sows the word. 15 And these are the ones by the wayside where the word is sown. When they hear, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 These likewise are the ones sown on stony ground who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness;17 and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arises for the word’s sake, immediately they stumble. 

The Apostle Peter experienced this first hand, and had to be restored. So have we, and so do we.

Christ was a miracle working man, yet untainted by the earthly seed of man. He was attached uniquely to the Father. But He also grieved, wept, and marveled, just as we do. I imagine there were times he even laughed. He got thirsty, hungry, and tired.

He climbed mountains to be alone and pray.

To heal Bartimaeus, He spit.

He is not only our Savior, but our Brother. He is not only our King, but our Friend. He is not only the Son of G-d, but our Shepherd. He is not only the Lion of Judah, but our judge. All of the latter terms are earthly offices, and all of the former divine in nature.

Let us not deny His humanity, though His works were of Heaven through the power of faith in the Holy Spirit, and the approval of the Father.

Bartimaeus received his sight, but didn’t know where Jesus went.

Let us thank the Father that today, we don’t have that problem, for Christ again tells us:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

That’s fitting, since He is the finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Never let the horror of Your sacrifice be lost on us. You suffered much, in flesh and spirit, for our sake. Those of us who believe and follow must suffer also, to share in the glory.

We don’t understand it all, but one day, we will, and that will be a glorious day for the faithful. 

No hatred, war, bloodshed, evil intent, deceit, greed, lust, or transgression. All things made new, all evil destroyed. The light of the Father Himself will be our sun, and the heavens will ring with holy praise.

Help us to remember our places are prepared, our rewards set aside, our crowns given to throw at Your feet, for the silver and gold is Yours.

As Your prophecies unfold, help us to keep hold of the hem of Your garment, that we might be made whole, spotless before the Father, our unworthy names not blotted from the Book of Life, Your Book of Remembrance of us as You come into Your kingdom.

Help us to know that what we’ve read, seen, and heard in our own walks was appointed to us from before the foundation of the world. Some of us came later rather than sooner, and endured some unneeded hardship, but You applied the goads that got us to declare our faith in You, as we reached the end of ourselves and our own ways, lost in darkness too deep to dispel on our own.

As with Bartimaeus, some of us would declare it a late-life miracle indeed, but we are here, now, and all that’s left behind is no longer important. Our eyes are focused on You, and our lives, the very ones You gave back to us, are Yours to make what You will of them to the Father’s glory.

And for it, we shall be eternally grateful, dwelling with You in the sight of God, reconciled to Him forevermore.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.