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 124: Lord of the Sabbath

Luke 13: 

A Spirit of Infirmity

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, ]“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

The Sabbath day is full of ritualistic ‘don’t’s and ‘can’t’s and ‘not supposed to’s, and that is not to mock it, for the Father set it up as a day of rest for His chosen, and gave them the rules to abide in it, and truly rest. Even when He supplied them manna in the desert, they were not to go out on the Sabbath to collect it if they couldn’t gather it all. Of course, there were those who tried, and suffered the consequences.

What the religious leaders who trailed Christ like sharks on a blood trail failed to realize is that His ministry was eternal in purpose and scope, and while there were times He went away to renew Himself, the work of the ministry was ceaseless because man is ever in a pitiful state, whether it be spiritually, physically, or financially, or all of the above.

They could not rejoice in the miracles Jesus performed over those they wanted to control and manipulate. He hurt their pride, and properly reapplied all their learning to that which they should have been doing, to the point where they were so caught up that every time they tried to trap Him, He’d quiet them with a question or a timely word.

Matthew: 12 Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The common people rejoiced at what Jesus did, and glorified G-d, because this was something new in their midst. They were astonished at His authoritative teaching, His boldness, His wisdom, and His power. Their needs were immediate, but their sins were forgiven forever.

We’d like to believe that those who were healed when on to live a life that continued to glorify G-d, but we can’t possibly know that; that is for the harvesting angels to know. We should ask how often do we, after getting our needs met, turn back to pursuing our wants?

Let us not be like the legalists and miss the point: there is never a time to not do good to someone else. There is no resting from that. In fact, we are called to do it in ways that are contrary to what we’ve been taught as people.

Pray for your enemies? Bless those who curse you? Turn the other cheek when they strike you? Love the sinful, thankless, evil, and faithless, and minister to them?  Forgive them? Love them? Forsake all to follow Him?

Yes, all that and more. He tells us to partake of His body and blood to be like Him, and to do as He does, which is what we pray for but don’t do. The ones who turned away didn’t understand, because their hearts were hard, and the Spirit did not open their ears. The disciples were so used to hearing things they didn’t (yet) understand, that Peter answered for most of us why we ‘stick around.’

John 6:60-68

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

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

It is the spirit of G-d in us responding to the Spirit in Him.

The Apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Are we resting on Him in faith, this Sabbath day? Are we, like the temple priests, ministering, too?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Within our man made structures, there are rules, orders, laws, and procedures that allow us to do our work in the most efficient way possible, free not only from interruptions, but from dangers within and without. 

Yet You call us to minister to a world of chaos and unbelief, lawlessness and strife,  and preach to them a message that seems so foolish and impossible that it has to be the Holy Spirit who opens their ears, for You say that no one is drawn to You unless it is granted to them by the Father. 

We are to plant seeds, and water if need be, but we are also to live as lights on a hillside, and to walk a narrow road. As Your works pointed those who saw them to glorify the Father working through You, let us also, as You said, do greater works, that the same may be accomplished as the harvest draws nearer, and Your prophecies come to pass. 

Help us not to grow weary in doing good, and to do all things well, growing in favor with the Father and man, that our enemies through our faith in You be silenced, and put to shame. 

And let us be ever mindful to rest not only from our labors, but on Your promises, and on the seal of our salvation to be reconciled, blameless before the Throne, and our works withstand the test of fire as we stand before You, longing for the words to enter into Your rest.

We ask in faith, believing.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 103: I Will Not Leave You Orphans

John 14:15-18

Jesus Promises Another Helper

15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

We call it ‘the still, small voice,’ among other things, but it’s by far the most important voice we have, and the one we’re most prone to ignore. I have endured unnecessary struggles as a result, and have no one but myself to blame.

I remember the day Jesus sealed His promise of eternal life to me; that it took place on a mountain held a special significance for me then, but then I came back to the valley, and the clouds of the world rained down, and though the voice never stopped speaking, I stopped listening.

But the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not break their promises, and they are not without understanding, and while the Spirit may yet be found, it’s in my best interest to not only listen, but to abide.

As Jesus said the Father sent Him, and He spoke not on His own, so it is too, with the Holy Spirit. Christ tells us:

John 16:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

The Word of G-d is not a scattered, random thing, for if Jesus and the Father are One in will and purpose, the reconciling of man to G-d by the Word and faith in Christ, the Spirit is of the same. So, taken all in all,  there’s no  disconnection in the consistency of the Word’s message: Repent, and believe the Gospel.

How fitting, then, that He who came down a King of humble birth, would use a ‘still, small voice.’ But it’s the most authoritative one we should serve without hesitation.

The miracles and signs were done in the presence of assemblies in temples, in cities, in villages, in front of hundreds and thousands, but in the quiet moments of mountaintop prayer, closet intimacy, nights of candlelight on your knees before the altar, the voice speaks to you, in your circumstances.

But our Savior was never ‘over the top,’ and the Holy Spirit, one on one, won’t be either.

We are on a difficult road to find a narrow path, to spend eternity with a promised king, guided by the Spirit with a still, small voice, while being pelted from the roadsides of the world with all manner of mockery and filth.

Do we, as He did, set our faces like flint as we set our sights heavenward, while doing His will on the earth?

No doubt it is a hard calling in unparalleled times. And yet, the Word of the Lord, higher than His name, has survived all attempts to blot it out, and we take it our hands today to read:

I will not leave you orphans; I will come to You.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Holy Spirit, 

I repent of grieving You through doubt, disobedience, willful sins, rebelliousness, and faithlessness. You are spoken of the least in our churches’ earthly sermons, but You are as powerful a manifestation in the assembly of the saints as when the Father’s glory filled the temple.

And indeed, You glorify the Father as well as the Son.

Let us be reminded that You speak the words of our Lord to our everyday, modern day problems with simple truth, heavenly guidance, and eternal love, and that You also, like the Father and Son, can’t look on sin, and grieve when we give in to temptation.

But we thank You, also, for not abandoning us, for convicting us, and being constant in the message: Repent, and believe, and be reconciled to the Father.

Help us to know that it is not only You, but also the voice of the Father and Son that tell You what to say to us, though You have Your own realms of authority.

Thank You for not waiting for the quiet hours only to speak, but also in the midst of chaos, You impart that peace beyond understanding to us, that we may glorify G-d in word and deed among the faithless. 

As You continue to guide us and reveal the Truth of the Gospel, help us also to do the Father’s will by remaining humble, by noticing the still, small details among us that allow us to serve the Kingdom: to help the widow and orphan, and give a cup of water to a child, and restore our brothers and sisters who’ve fallen by the way, and to say what You would have us say, not speaking on our own authority, that we might bear fruit and reconcile others to Christ, that they too might be saved, walking the Narrow Way with us, fulfilling a hard calling in difficult times.

Let it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen. 

Devotional 45: Made to Stumble

Mark 14:27-31  Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night,[a] for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’[b]

28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

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

Let me set up a scenario for you:

You’re in a dark, cold cell; hungry, tired, and thirsty.

Heavy chains and manacles are on your wrists and ankles.

Vermin nip, flies beset, and you’re shivering.

The cell door opens, and in come the guards again; you see they mean business, again.

Heavy blows that hold nothing back rack your face and body, and once again, the long, cold, shiny blade is laid against your throat, and the spit lands on your cheek as they pull your head up by your hair and use the blade to life you on your toes, and it breaks the skin as you feel your neck start to bleed.

“Renounce Jesus,” they say, and you open your mouth….

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

The goal is to be like Christ, but as I’ve said before, we’re more like Peter.

Our faith is not entirely based on what we believe of Christ, but also what we believe of ourselves.

How steadfast and faithful we are in our own minds! How unwavering and brave!

When storms come, the Christ image in our minds sets our faces like flint, but on the inside we’ve taken our eyes off Him, and we don’t dare say, “Lord, save me!” because of a moment of fear and doubt, or in the midst of a trial.

We are told over and over again that the Apostles not only didn’t understand, but ultimately they were afraid to question Him on what He meant. (Mark 9:30-32)

In our weakness, we try to repair the torn veil or substitute it by statements of boldness: “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.”

And then an unbeliever exposes us to the harsh light of our tormentors, and we curse, then hide and weep.

I am thankful that He has compassion, and that He knows me better than myself.

We’re only fooling ourselves, and I am thankful that He forgives a broken heart and contrite spirit.

He later asked Peter three times if he loved Him, one brick of restoration for each one Peter broke apart with his denial.

Do we love Him enough to die, figuratively and literally, that He might not be ashamed of us, deny us to the Father, and command our departure to the outer darkness? Paul admonishes us to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall.

Let us build each other up in faith, and with joyful hearts embrace our fates like ‘the others’ in Hebrews who received no miraculous rescue from persecution and death because the world ‘was not worthy of them.’

Peter’s bitter tears finally humbled him, but the Lord uses that in which we are gifted to His glory, for in the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit touched the hearts of three-thousand because of Peter’s boldness, and he never looked backed (except when he lapsed in front of Paul. Big mistake…)

Be encouraged, brothers and sisters; He is the author and finisher of our faith.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If I scatter, let my bitter weeping make the ground good soil and fill me with the power of the Holy Spirit to speak light to darkness, love to hate, but mostly truth to power. Let me be compassionate but uncompromising, bold but not self-righteous, fearless with faith and holding onto Your promises of a prepared place.

And let me always speak, as You did, in love. Let my words be few as they point to Our Father, that He get all the glory, honor and praise.

Thank You for looking upon this unworthy servant, and restoring him to be reconciled.

In Your Name, I ask it.

Amen

Christmas Witness

CHRISTMAS WITNESS (Luke 2:17-18) Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

A group of unschooled men on fire with a holy message should sound like a familiar bell to our ears. Walking the streets of Bethlehem, they spread the message: Emmanuel.

At the doors of the inns where the people slept, waking the highborn and the low, with fervent, reverent whispers, with excited gestures, with joyous shouts, they spread it throughout the length and breadth of their travels, throughout the night. Whatever silence there had been was now filled with something better: Emmanuel

And all those who heard wondered that these men, not prone to talk of things fantastic, not subject to flights of fancy, walked among them with something so important to them that they could not keep silent, speaking to them of visions and angels and heavenly praise, followed by directions to where a living prophecy fulfilled lay in a manger: Emmanuel

This Christmas, let us not keep silent in the face of those who would say “Stop speaking in this Name!”  Time grows short, and there are those who would yet marvel that our own hearts burn with a holy witness, though we’ve seen Him not.  Emmanuel (G-d with us)

Amen

Christmas for All

CHRISTMAS FOR ALL Luke 2:10

“Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which will be to *ALL people.” *(Caps added).

Again, from the beginning, God intended His Word to reach ALL the nations, first to the Jews, then the Gentiles. It was never to be contained, but to enfold. The shepherds, social outcasts, were the FIRST to hear the news of the savior’s birth.

How is it then, that we debate over His skin color, what He said, who He meant it for, WHY He said it? The issues are trivial and from the pit of Hell that keep the FAMILY of GOD divided.

Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of ALL the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”

If He was Black, ALL NATIONS would include Europe, Sweden, Finland, etc. If He was White, ALL NATIONS would include Africa, India, South America, Asia. This is why the Model Prayer begins with: “OUR Father, who art in Heaven…” It is, “Thy will be done on EARTH,” not, “Thy will be done only in Israel.”

ACTS 17: 26-28
26 And He has made from ONE blood[a] EVERY nation of men to dwell on ALL the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ (caps added).

Include someone in your Christmas celebration that was never included before, and show them the love of Christ.

Christmas Signs

CHRISTMAS SIGN: Luke 2:12

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

God tailored the sign given to the recipients of the news. Not for the shepherds the subtlety of a Star in the east, but an angel in their midst. The shepherds received a Savior; the Magi were told of a King. The shepherds’ message was given in a startling fashion so that there would be no misunderstanding of the event that had taken place.

The Magi had been studying the star and plotting to follow it long before.

How fitting they bought gold, so that a carpenter could afford to flee to Egypt.

And frankincense, a kingly scent to overpower the smell of livestock.

And myrrh, a burial spice, prophetic in its symbolism, as was the oil of anointing at Bethany.

Shepherds were not welcome in places such as palaces and temples, so access would be given them by placing the newborn King someplace where they too could see and worship.

But the city of David was the city where the pinnacle of King David’s line was born. The Magi would be welcome there, and treated as the royalty they were. And when they arrived under the guidance of the star they worshiped Jesus, not his parents.

Of the thousands of babies born that night to swell the ranks of the census, this one was in a special place, a place where typically no human baby would ever be placed, a container to feed cattle and sheep.

A synonym for manger is “crib.”

Later He would come to say, ‘He who eats my body…’

The signs that point the way to Him are still being revealed to those who would walk the path to see and worship, and those who would look for the signs G-d has promised He would set in the heavens.

May the knowledge that your King is accessible to you, and that you may partake of Him, bring you comfort and joy.

Amen.

Devotional 41: A Triumphal Entry, A Confession of Defeat

John 12:12-19

The Triumphal Entry

12 The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out:

“Hosanna!
‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’[a]
The King of Israel!”

14 Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written:

15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
Behold, your King is coming,
Sitting on a donkey’s colt.”[b]

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him.

17 Therefore the people, who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of his tomb and raised him from the dead, bore witness. 18 For this reason the people also met Him, because they heard that He had done this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing. Look, the world has gone after Him!”

As they saw the people leaving, those who witnessed the dramatic raising of Lazarus, and those who heard of it from the witnesses, their hearts must’ve failed within them, for in this they saw, finally, that Jesus had broken their oppressive grip on the people.

Caiaphas had prophesied that:

” (Jesus) would gather together in one the children of G-d who were scattered abroad.”(John 11:52)

Their plotting to kill him was intensifying, but Jesus knew what to do and stayed on mission, knowing what He was going to endure. How easy it would’ve been to slip away, to be seen no more, to give over control and the oppression that came with it back to the men who believed themselves empowered by G-d to twist His Word to their benefit.

But then, we would not have the final cry of Our Savior gaining victory over sin, death, and hell: “It is finished.”

He did well to try to get them to see that the Law they so loved to quote and add to was embodied in Him, that the patriarchs existed to guide Israel to Him, that Moses and the prophets were writing about and speaking of Him, but they refused to see.

It is with good reason our Lord tells us to set our minds on things above, for these men were lost in the trappings, living for the approval of men. Even now, ministers of the Gospel are falling prey to this in a world of immediate gratification and accolades for doing wrong and evil things.

And even in this, we see the Word of the Lord being played out before us. Nation against nation, brother against brother, divided houses of worship falling prey to predatory teaching and false doctrine.

We would do well to remember that in His capacity as Savior, our Lord admonishes us to remember these things: to watch and pray, that he who endures to the end will be saved, that there is no other name under Heaven by which we come to the Father, and we have been called out of this world, that we may receive the gifts of Grace, Salvation, and Eternal Life from the Wisest, as He received gold, frankincense, and myrrh for our sake.

Therefore I pray,

King Jesus, 

I ask that You bring to remembrance in me all that You’ve said to do, to bring to mind the promises of the Father for me through You. Help me to watch and pray, to fast in seeking, to build altars in my home, and set guards over my mouth and heart, that my meditation be pleasing to You.

As I celebrate Your birth, help me not to be sentimental, disconnecting its importance from Your resurrection to which Your own 12 witnesses and Mary Magdalene have seen, to which Thomas proclaimed You Lord and G-d, for having seen You, he saw the Father too.

In the year ahead I ask Your blessing over all my house and those of my family in You. I ask Your protection, that no weapon formed against me will prosper. I ask Your mercy once again over the wrong I know I will inevitably do as surely as sparks fly upward, and I thank You for the grace you will impart.

Help me, above all, to know that it is in You I live, and move, and have my being.

Thank You for paying the price of this servant; I would not grieve Your heart for doing it.

In You there is eternity, and as time grows shorter, draw this lost sheep closer, for I would be found by You even as I seek, as the father ran to the prodigal.

In Your Name above all names, I ask it.

Amen.

Christmas Lights

Luke 2:9

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.”

A light from Heaven suddenly overtakes you.

In your world, this has never happened. It’s night time, and you’re outside, and suddenly….

We have the gift of hindsight, but the shepherds were afraid. Greatly afraid.

Did they cry out, shield their eyes, maybe even start to run? Yet, the light was not hurting them, or blinding them, or burning them. It was just sudden.

He is the God of “suddenly.”

Remember the conversion of Saul? In Acts 9:3 we read:

“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” 

We are admonished to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (John 1:7)

May the light of God surround you with peace, and change your life, your heart, with the news of the blessed birth of our Savior. It really doesn’t matter what day, it matters that it happened.

“The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters.

Devotional 32: Let Them Grow Together…

Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

This parable is often not preached, in deference to the one about the Sower and the seed, which is the Word, but I found myself drawn to this for a few years now, especially as the times upon us now continue to unfold in seemingly unchecked aggression, fighting for rights, and strife along racial and economic lines.

I am reminded of the admonition to take the lowly place, so that we may come up higher when called by the host, instead of taking the high and lofty place, and lose it to someone of greater stature. Jesus said the least in the kingdom of Heaven was greater than His cousin and herald, John the Baptist. As Christians act like Pharisees, and compromise with the world (me included), and don’t practice grace and judging righteously, speaking Truth in love, and loving one another even inside the Way, we must walk in faith while watching, praying, and making disciples of ALL nations, not just the ones who look like us. We must be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

What draws me to this parable is that:

1- the landowner’s property had to be big, if an enemy was able to get in and sow weeds undetected (figuratively speaking).

2- the plants looked enough alike that weeding them before the harvest would’ve culled the good along with the bad.

3- the good crops are utilized, protected by the barn, and used by the landowner for the good of others, feeding them on that which is whole and good.

4- the tares are to be destroyed, consumed by fire, and made to disappear.

But here’s the main thrust of it: They looked so enough alike as they grew that the servants would not be able to tell them apart.

There are former Christians who have left the faith for various reasons. John says they were not of the faith or they would have remained.

John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

There are new believers entering the faith:

Luke 23:39-43

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,[j] save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[k] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

I would be among the sheaves of joy, going into the Kingdom, forever protected, forever sinless, forever useful, forever praising God and serving Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, remember me indeed, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

I bless Your holy Name above all names that took my wretchedness into your dying body, and purged me of fault before the Father, that I might be with you, on that day, resurrected in Paradise.

Help me then, Lord, to store up my treasures in Heaven, where thieves don’t break in and steal. Strengthen my desire to be ever like You, and less like me. Cover the filthy rags of my self-serving righteousness in Your spotless blood, and save me from the fires waiting for the unfruitful and purposeless, and the outer darkness of the rebellious and faithless, in the time of Harvest.

Do not blot my name from the Book of Life, that I may eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden, and live forever with You as my Savior, Brother, Master, Lord and King.

I ask it in Your Name, in faith believing.

Amen.