Devotional 123: That Deceiver

Matthew 27:62-65

Pilate Sets a Guard

62 On the next day, which followed the Day of Preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees gathered together to Pilate, 63 saying, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead.’ So the last deception will be worse than the first.”

65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how.”

It’s interesting to note that even after they’d gotten what they wanted, there was still enough fear in them to warrant asking for an extra seal around a tomb.

They thought He was lying, but even if the Apostles had taken the body, He would not have been seen again by anyone, and they would have been spreading a falsehood. Remember that after His crucifixion, there were graves opened, but none of the occupants came out until He was the first.

Matthew 27:51-53

51 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.

Jesus had told the Sadducees, when they questioned Him regarding resurrection, which they did not believe in:

Matthew 22:25-35

25 Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. 26 Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. 27 Last of all the woman died also. 28 Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her.”

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. 31 But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the multitudes heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

They had  all seen the signs and wonders, and lost the political and financial reign of terror they’d exercised over the people, establishing an uneasy peace with the Roman government when Jesus came into Jerusalem:

 (John 14-19)

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.”

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!

Subjected to stinging rebukes by this young upstart, in their fever to regain control, there was some fear yet in their hearts even after His death. The Apostles, being unlearned men, probably would not have been clever enough to carry out such a scheme, since they could barely understand what Jesus was saying without elaboration or being afraid.

He’d rebuked them too, for their lack of faith, when He appeared to them afterward.

Mark 16:14

The Great Commission

14 Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.

We have so many questions, that we like to think if we’d walked with Jesus Himself, there would be no doubt. Let us remember that in the words of the parable of the wheat and tares: “An enemy has done this.”

And while it is the Father’s will that none perish, and He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, He did not spare His Son the pain of our deserved punishment, nor will He share His glory, nor will victory be to His enemies.

He has also said He’s put blessings before us as well, and we are to choose whom we serve. Joshua gave an emphatic answer, and we are warned that we will not be allowed to walk in two worlds, lest our praise be like lukewarm water to Christ, to whom all authority has been given, because He finished the work of His Father’s command.

It is the pride of mankind that exalts itself above the will of G-d, placing its hopes on the created, glorifying ever shifting ‘scientific’ discoveries that can’t begin to fathom or know the mind of an infinite G-d, even as we are in the process of upsetting the balance of the very systems designed to keep us alive as we exploit, enslave, and engage in all manner of vice, because our hearts are not set on Him.

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11

All this I have seen, and applied my heart to every work that is done under the sun: There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt.

Death Comes to All

10 Then I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of holiness, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done. This also is vanity. 11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

In their zeal to prove Him false, the Pharisees and Romans proved Him all the more true, and ran with the story they’d invented in the first place to discredit Him.  It’s like when Jesus told the people He’d healed not to make Him known, and they witnessed for Him and proclaimed Him anyway, and to a greater degree. His goodness is not to be contained within us, but we are prone to pride and sin.

In the midst of all this clamoring, what needs to be restored in our own lives, that will help us to endure to the end, that we might be saved, and that the Father’s wrath will not abide on us, and that we not die in our sins?

As we come to the season of renewal, resurrection, and the casting off of dead things from our past that yet hold us by the ankles, remember, it was the ‘deceiving’ Jesus, the one who obeyed His Father even unto death on a cross, fully understanding and embracing the nature of his ministry, says to us:

I tell you the truth…

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

In these times, we hold fast to Your words, and have seen the Father’s power at work in our own lives, and in the lives of our loved ones. Having done all we can, we stand today united in faith, in love for one another, carrying on the work as the path narrows, the world mocks and scorns, and punishes us. 

That we shall suffer with You that we might inherit with You, this too,You have said to us. As You are the final Prophet of the Living G-d, we see Your words unfolding, for there is no falsehood in You.

You have said to us You will reward the believers who endure to the end, should their works stand the test of the fire to come, and that we will answer for our words and deeds, for there is nothing that is unknown to You.

Help us, in these times of blindness and darkness, confusion and legalism, entertainment and glorifying of false shepherds who compromise Your Word to fill their coffers, to hear and know Your voice, that we not fall away into this fiery furnace of sin and lose You, for while none can snatch us from Your hand, You will open it to let us out should we desire to die, unbelieving in the wrath to come.

My Lord, let Your living water sustain us in moments of doubt, bless us with undeserved grace, give to us unmerited mercy, and let the Holy Spirit be patient with us, continuing to work the hard soil of our hearts and minds, and place the gentle yoke of obedience on us, when we once again turn back to You.

Indeed, the world has gone over to You, for You have overcome it.

Let it be done to us as You have said. We ask, in faith believing.

Amen.

Devotional 122: I Make All Things New

 

Revelation 21

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

I once saw Richard Gere on an interview talking about children, and he said that babies were having moments of epiphany all the time. Among Webster entries of definition is this list:

3a(1)a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something
(2)an intuitive grasp of reality through something (such as an event) usually simple and striking
(3)an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
ba revealing scene or moment

 

Yet within those moments, those revelations, the object of the epiphany has a familiarity; we’ve just come to a different level of understanding it.

It is in Christ that we are under a New Covenant, yet the matter of covenants is familiar to us. It is the breadth, depth, and inexhaustible nature of its grace, mercy, and long suffering that is the epiphany when He breaks through our barriers and reveals the truth of our Father’s kingdom, and the truth of our unworthy state to inherit it, to us through the baptism Holy Spirit.

It is as frightening a moment as it is wonderful to realize that yes, your soul’s eternity is at stake in these matters, and so many are so blind. The devil is a busy liar, tripping people up, making them focus on the fallibility of man rather than the unerring truth of divinely inspired writing. On skin color and actual birth days rather than the principles of brotherhood and love. On equating a popular majority with morality. And of course, the ever tightening focus on self, and self-gratification in all things.

Yet, when we turn from resistance to faith, Paul tells us: (2 Corinthians 5:13- 17)

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

The epiphany that we miss here is that appearances, ethnicity, attractiveness, wealth, and all the other things we associate with as being the ‘good things in life’, don’t matter to the message we are to preach.

Paul encapsulates the mission of Christ as well as his own when he tells us:

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Serving All Men

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the [a]law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

The Father provides ministers at every level for every aspect of life, that the lowest unbeliever among us might attain salvation at the highest level, for all eternity.

We call spring a season of renewal, yet we are familiar with it. The colors and warmth of it provide a much needed break from the ice and snow that marks our winters, and gives to the earth what it needs at that time. It is what we do in our season that makes us new: learning a new thing, traveling to somewhere strange to us, or volunteering to do something for a cause we hold dear.

The renewal is always there, dormant and waiting for release. The flowers and birds remain the same in the same regions. The tourists descend like locusts, and the bugs and gnats and flies also return, just enough to keep us from romanticizing warm weather.

But the renewal of ourselves is a constant thing. There are times when we surprise ourselves and rise to occasions we never thought we’d encounter. They beat down are comfort zones and snatch us away, unprepared, unplanned, and unqualified to do that which lies ahead of us.

But G-d…

Isaiah 43:18-20

18 “Do not remember the former things,
Nor consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing,
Now it shall spring forth;
Shall you not know it?
I will even make a road in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert.

In this season of renewal, in Nature, self, and spirit, let us come to know our Father on a deeper level, to have an epiphany of him that was unrealized before now, if not unsought. And let us give thanks that our meditation on His goodness to us has so pleased Him, He will reveal more of Himself to us.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I thank You for sending Your Son to make me a new creation, though You knew my days before one of them came to be.

I am a new creation in that Your wrath no longer abides on me, and You call me to remove it from the lives of others, to those who will receive the Christ as the only way to be reconciled to You, spotless, blameless, and worthy of the inheritance of sons and daughters in their Father’s kingdom.

We thank You for the seasons we’ve endured, both physical and spiritual, and for seeing the fruit of our labors bear rewards, both small and great, and sometimes, undeserved.

We thank You for a New Covenant. Let us now be faithful in it to do our part as You have been in Yours to redeem us. Help us to remember that You take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and have placed the burden on us to do such work in the Light that mankind will see it and glorify You.

Let us, in this season of renewal, cast off the shells of things dead within us, around us, and let us bear them on our backs no more, nor carry them in our hands, nor keep them in our presence. We leave them, right now, at the Throne to be consumed as chaff by Your holy fire.

Grant to us perception of the new things, opportunities, people, and ways we might cultivate to assure ourselves of our calling while bringing the lost to the harvest.

We ask for continuous epiphanies of Your will, plan, and purpose, for Your mind is unfathomable, yet You have given each of us a part in accomplishing that which You would have us do, and called us to ministry.

Let our work not be unfruitful, but let us be faithful sowers of the Gospel, for whether we plant, water, harvest, or all three, it it You, and You alone, who gives the increase.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 119: No Man Common or Unclean

Acts 10:24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

When we understand that G-d means to graft us in through the covenant of grace, the act of holding onto our own salvation without sharing the good news takes on a different kind of disobedience.

We understand the Jews were chosen, as Moses said:

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.

But under the New Covenant, Christ tells us: (John 10:14-16)

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Paul affirms this again (Romans 9:22-26)

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

We should be joyful that we who believe are no longer under the wrath of G-d, but we are not to keep silent. We are to tell the Good News, and it is up to Holy Spirit to open the ears and hearts of those who would listen.

Cornelius thought to gather his relatives and close friends ahead of Peter’s arrival. They were expecting something great to happen in the presence of the most volatile disciple who had finally come to a more steadfast faith, to the point where he was standing up in the midst of assemblies to proclaim the divine glory of someone he once vehemently denied to the point of cursing.

And he says to them:

Acts 10:34-35

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

If the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, and all who dwell on it, how then, in His presence, can anyone be unclean? Through faithlessness,  doubt, denial,  unbelief, backsliding,  compromise, and willful and presumptuous sin without repentance.

We cannot find the Narrow Way without faith, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and works.

In the current times when xenophobia and racism are at a fever pitch, not just here, but all across the world (as Christ foretold, ‘brother against brother, and nation against nation’) we are not to consider the ‘other’ as an unclean thing unworthy of salvation.

As Paul told the Corinthians,

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

So while there is no partiality, it is not a license to continue sinning, for without repentance and faith in Christ there is no remission of sin, and the wrath of the Father remains.

We are not called to judge, but tell, and let the Spirit do His work. He may be content to leave the seed for the moment, and water it another time, but we must remember always that it is G-d who brings the increase.

In the meantime, we work out our own salvation, and take the planks from our eyes, living righteous lives and worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, loving G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one another as Christ loved the Church.

In these times, it’s a daunting task, but we have the words of our Savior: (Matthew 19:26)

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

You have invited us to the wedding feast, ragged and unworthy to stand before G-d, worthy of judgement and the outer darkness. Thank You for giving us a way to be reconciled to our Creator without sin, and that is through faith in the atoning work you did for us, that we might escape the tribulation of the days to come, and inherit the kingdom along with You.

We thank you, Good Shepherd, for the grace you’ve given us, for sustaining us in the valleys of trials and temptations, for bringing us out, for healing us by Your stripes, for granting us Your peace, and for showing us the Father.

We thank You for providing us a Comforter who guides us into all truth, and convicts us of sin. He is the seal and approval of our salvation, when You’ll call us forth from the grave with a great shout.

We thank You for interceding for us, the unchosen, before Heaven’s throne, and not condemning us as we continue to strive for Your example, growing in favor with G-d and man. Continue to speak to us while we’re enduring the scorn of Your enemies as proof we are indeed the sons and daughters of the living G-d, as we contend in the gates with those who would silence us. Fill our mouths with Truth no one can speak against, and give us what we should say.

Help us to speak truth to power, and truth in love, proclaiming You before men that we might also be proclaimed by You to the Father.

Give us the strength, in our trembling, to stand in the midst of the assembly, and by the power of Your Spirit preach the Gospel to all who cross our path, that they may see and know we are Christians, and glorify G-d as You claim them for the kingdom.

Open our hearts, our eyes, our spirits to rejoice with the angels when souls are redeemed from all nations, not just with those who look, act, and believe as we do.

From this day forth, help us to know that it is the Father’s will that all should come to repentance and faith in Christ, and no one should perish, but to also tell them that there will be a day of judgement, and in that day the Covenant of Grace is void.

May the grace, peace, and power of  the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 116: The Kingdom Within

Luke 17:20-30

The Coming of the Kingdom

2Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

22 Then He said to the disciples, “The days will come when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it.23 And they will say to you, ‘Look here!’ or ‘Look there!’ Do not go after them or follow them.24 For as the lightning that flashes out of one part under heaven shines to the other part under heaven, so also the Son of Man will be in His day.25 But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built;29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all.30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

The Father has done His part to reconcile us to Him: it is through faith in the atoning work of the cross through the Son.

They are one of will and purpose, but Jesus was obeying the Father’s command, for He was the only one who could. Yet, G-d let Him be tempted, mocked, brutalized, scorned, and challenged, that He might know what we face in our weak and mortal flesh.

Yet, He didn’t sin.

It was painful for Him to be apart from the Father, painful to the point where He accused the Father of abandonment.

Matthew 27:46

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The sky went dark because as our sins were upon Him, the Father couldn’t look on it. The physical disconnect was palpable to our Christ. When it was over and He prayed before His ascension, He said:

John 17:5

And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.

I imagine the anticipation made Him want to go as soon as possible.

Do we seek the presence of G-d like that?

Do we ask Him to restore us to our former glory of the day we felt that presence, and knew we’d been called out of the world?

Do we ask Him to rekindle the passion of our first love for Him, or do we begin to doubt in the day to day of taking up our crosses, denying the lust of the eyes, participating in the grueling quest for money, crucifying our flesh, and walking the narrow road?

Do we grow weary of doing good, and remaining steadfast in an increasingly hostile and mocking world that would like nothing better than a dead G-d? They would have it so the whims of the wealthy can be imposed, and their price exacted, on those of us who fear and follow Him.

Yet the Father tells us this:

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face. 11 Therefore you shall keep the commandment, the statutes, and the judgments which I command you today, to observe them.

When you love and trust someone, and they advise you, and have the power to benefit you greatly, you will heed their advice because you believe they will cause you no harm.

Jesus tells us:

John 14:1

 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

And again…

Matthew 18:3

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Our Lord is not telling us to become or think like little kids, but to also trust, wait, and manifest the Spirit of righteousness and love within us, as children accept with no expectations or preconditions.

So then, if all we need to manifest the will of the Father on earth is indeed already within us, (“Your kingdom come, and Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven), are we trusting that what He told us is true, and do we release it with the power of faith, or do we lean on our own limited, human understanding and honor Him with our lips, and not our hearts and obedience?

Will He marvel at our faith, or our unbelief?

We must be ready, for when the day comes, there will be no more time to prepare.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

You tell us the kingdom is within us, but we are not profitable for heavenly things, and these are words we cannot bear, though we know them to be true because You do not lie.

You told Your disciples that the prince of this world had nothing in You, but he does in us, Lord, and it’s compelling, strong, and evil. His presence brings blight upon our earthly forms, and damnation of our eternal souls.

Sometimes he covers the path to condemnation and death with pretty things that camouflage his slithering, cursed form.

Remind us then, that we have all of Your words, and that not one of them shall pass away, outlasting both Heaven and Earth. You reassure us, as Peter said, with the words of Life. 

You know our weaknesses, but You also command us to remain strong, fearless, and faithful to the Truth You’ve shared with us. Let us keep an ongoing spirit of godly repentance, that our shallow fellowship with You may deepen, and the power of sin be dulled.

The seeds of the Kingdom of Eden are within us, dormant in a fallow field, awaiting the harvest. In the meantime we sow, and drink from the Water of Life, take shelter beneath the Holy Vine, follow the Good Shepherd, give thanks for our Savior, and praise the Son of G-d to whom all things were given. May the seeds of Eden become the fruits of the Father’s divine will on the new and sinless Earth, created anew and purified for all who believed.

This day, we bow before You, O King, and cut the stones from our hearts that they may be tender to receive Your eternal Word. Let our ears hear the lessons in the parables, and receive comfort in the prayers, blessings, and assurances from Your lips, believing with our mustard seed faith that nothing will take us from the power of Your nail-scarred hands. 

Impart to us, the disciples of this age, the power of the Holy Spirit so that unbelievers shall see the signs and wonders that follow us, and the love we demonstrate for each other that will bring them like gathered wedding guests taken from the streets.

Let us be of one accord so they see us as lights on a hillside, that we might point them to You, as You point them to the Father.

Let the kingdom within us shine forth as the noonday sun, that they may see, and hear, and be saved. 

Keep our steps sure, our hearts steadfast, and our faith as a threefold cord, not easily broken.

Keep our souls humble, that we may not exalt ourselves and be cast down.

May it be done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

Devotional 115: Those Who Do the Will of My Father

Matthew 7:24-29

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

In the Gospel of Matthew we are pointed time and again to the prophets bolstering that which Jesus was doing: healing, casting out demons, preaching and teaching, feasting and fasting, getting alone with the Father, and finally, dying on the cross.

It’s a Gospel full of action, and as that may be the case, through it all Jesus calls us to action as well. Chapters 6 and 7 list do’s and don’ts, and their consequences, and motives of the heart.

If we make a show of faith and piety for the praise of men, we are told there is no further reward coming from the Father, and our good deeds are done in the lust of the flesh for praise. Such acts ultimately count for nothing in heavenly places or plans.

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

It need not even be a direct blood line to Him. Just simply do that which He tells you, because as He stated, 30 I and My Father are one.”

So what does He tell us:

Sending Out the Twelve

These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven [a]is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

He charged the disciples with ministering to Israel because:

Matthew 19:28

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

As for the rest of us, He says:

Matthew 10:21-22

21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

Matthew 10:27-28

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

27 “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops.28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

 

Matthew 10:32-33

Confess Christ Before Men

32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.

So we are to endure, fear G-d, and confess Christ, and in the enduring, love our neighbor with all that entails for us and them, but we are to love G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

It is a tough calling, not for the faint of heart and those who would hang on like barnacles, taking up space, making no contribution, and slowly destroying that which the Father is trying to build with us, and in us.

So ask yourself, as this year continues, are you doing the work Christ called you to do, greater than His own?

Are you part of His family, doing the Father’s will in His name?

Are you really?

Therefore I pray:

Let the habits and discipline of doing Your will, O Lord, become second nature to us, such that we are not conscious of how it registers with man. 

You have grafted us in with the sons of the Kingdom, through Your covenant of redemptive grace, reconciling us to G-d, as it was in the beginning, so I ask that You forgive our unbelief and rebellion, Lord. We know not what we do.

When the Spirit has sanctified us once more through repentance, let us continue on in the work You’ve called us to do, preaching the kingdom is at hand.

Let us be ever mindful we were bought with a price, are worth more than sparrows, are more beautiful than field lilies, and worth more in His sight.

And when we return to ourselves after a flight of fancy ends, I ask that You hear the cry of our sorrowful hearts ascending to You, and heal them.

In the end, Lord Jesus, we ask that You strengthen us, imparting Yourself to us from the very core of Your being. 

For Your sake, we shall endure, and grow strong, and through faith, we shall confess You and praise the Father as You have done so many times. 

And let us rejoice with You as our fellowship is restored, as You rejoiced when the Father came to You in the pit, after Your taking our sins away through the horror of the cross, and the holy power of the Resurrection.

Even so, Lord Jesus, we ask that You remember us, unfruitful servants that do only what they’re told, when You come into Your kingdom.

According to our faith, let it be done to us.

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 112: The Jesus Whom Paul Preaches

Acts 19:11-

Miracles Glorify Christ

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 

At some point, as believers, we’ve walked into places and felt a presence, either of the Holy Spirit, or something else, an ‘off’ feeling, or an outright feeling of malevolence. What is fortunate is that the powers Jesus imparted to His disciples weren’t just given to the twelve, or to the seventy, but to all who put faith in His Name that He empowers to preach the Gospel.

Paul and the itinerant Jewish exorcists were not of the Twelve, yet the Word states that the miracles performed through them by G-d’s power were unusual in and of themselves. People were healed by inanimate objects that were in Paul’s possession, anointed with holy power in that the Spirit abided on them, and did the work He was supposed to perform on the afflicted where Paul preached.

Jesus Himself said to the Twelve,

Jesus Forbids Sectarianism

38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side.

It stands to reason that if we are grafted into the Branch, we are not forbidden to carry on His work. In fact, He expects that, and calls to account those who don’t as unprofitable servants.

The work of the Kingdom supersedes all, and the work must be carried out by the faithful, for that’s the only way the power of the Spirit can work.

John 14:12 The Answered Prayer

12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

But He also cautioned the disciples He sent out: Luke 10:19-20

19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

More, as we understand it, is not given in greater measure to one than another, Paul says:  (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

If the gifts were of diverse gods, or diverse paths to G-d, there would be no need to preach the Gospel to every nation.

The Christ Paul preached is the same one we hear about on Sundays, and read about in our Bibles, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, until He comes again in His fearful glory, ready to vanquish His enemies and judge His people, to be redeemed to the Father, or separated forever.

G-d did not spare Christ from His absence when He took our sins to the cross to the point where Jesus physically felt Himself forsaken; how then, are we spared His wrath?

Let us, like the itinerant priests of Israel, be steadfast in the unity and consistency of our faith as we drive out the darkness while we pray, sow, and reap by the power of the Holy Spirit, done in the Name of Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The veil tore not only the barrier between man and the Father, but between the Chosen and the unworthy, the Jew and Gentile, and we who are now grafted in through grace now know, too, that the joy of salvation is ours through faith in You.

We have sometimes taken grace for granted, and put You in a human box of tolerance and acceptance of that which G-d did not allow. Those You forgave, You also told to repent. It is a hard calling to deny our flesh, take up our crosses, and follow a narrow road to unseen glory. Sin feels good, and we justify our evil by twisting the Word to our purposes, by putting repentance on a schedule, and by continually removing ourselves from G-d’s presence.

Suffering with You is better, but not desirable, and when You tell us that to find our lives with You we must lose the earthly one, seeds of doubt sprout in the heart.

As we spiral downward toward tribulation, increasing our own sorrows, we who believe will continue to pray and intercede, as You did for your disciples, sent out as sheep among wolves, trusting You to fill us with the power of the Gospel for present times.

Yet Your love and power converted one of your most staunch detractors into the most powerful ministry of the Gospel, and he reminds us that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that the Father is not a man that He should lie, and that we must suffer to attain the promises.

We want redemption on our terms, but that is being lukewarm water, unfruitful, unprofitable, tasteless salt, and a dim lamp indeed if on our best days, our righteousness is as rags in the Father’s sight.

Strengthen us, Lord, to continue on with You as the days grow dark, and the signs of the end You spoke of manifest themselves through the evil hearts of powerful people who do not know You, and the beauty of the grace You offer. You tell us they have their reward, and there will be none to be found on the new earth, or in the Kingdom of G-d.

I would not be among that company, Lord. Rekindle in me the love and reverent fear of the Father, who will not compromise and make exceptions for me, having revealed You to me, for the life I now live, and the parts of it I do not, will not, give to You. Help my unbelief, but complete my submission as well, for my heart is hard, and my head is filled with earthly concerns so that my focus is not on You, or the Narrow Road.

Without You, Lord, I will fall, and stumble, and embrace the darkness, believing it light.

Without You, I am only fit to be burned out of existence, never knowing peace, and never entering into my Father’s rest.

You are the Christ whom Paul preaches, even now, reaching down to strike me from my pedestal, and newly open my eyes, continually. Let what miracles You manifest through me, if any, always give the Father greater glory, as You have done.

And with a grateful heart, I thank You.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 111: Pray to the Lord for Me

Acts 8:18-25

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

From this story, we see that although Peter admonished him to, Simon the sorcerer did not, in fact, repent, but rather asked for intercession. His heart was not ready to repent. He was poisoned by the bitterness of the apostles ‘showing him up,’ so to speak, by performing a wondrous and unparalleled work among the people, something he wasn’t able to replicate, so they’d usurped his status.

He was bound in iniquity for the practice of sorcery, and needed to shed it in order to be reconciled to G-d, but he wasn’t ready for that, either. He thought the imparting of the Spirit was a ‘magic’ act, negating the Spirit’s indwelling as the equivalent of a parlor trick.

And yet, as believers, we are sometimes requested by those outside of the faith to pray for them in times of catastrophe or when they’re in need.

Do you honor such requests? I do, because it means they see a difference in my life, an assuredness in times of confusion or calamity that they may not possess, in short: the peace of G-d. Sure, they may, like Simon, be ‘hedging their bets,’ but we know the true power of our G-d, for whom nothing is impossible.

I dabbled in tarot as a teenager, and once I took the deck to school, but I was really doing it as a joke. Within three weeks I was doing readings before and after school, during free periods, and at lunchtime. The growth was so fast and exponential that had I charged for it I could have had a nice sideline, and people were willing to pay me, including some of my teachers. But my spirit was troubled not only by how quickly my clientele grew, but the things I was saying to them prompted by the images on the cards themselves. My peers were hanging on every word, confirming as they saw fit.

Even then, there was a holy fear in me that I didn’t recognize as such, and though I hadn’t formally received the Holy Spirit, I was so troubled in my own spirit that I stopped doing it, though I held onto the cards for years afterward until I finally threw them away. I never picked up anything else occult and brought it into the house.

We may unknowingly entertain angels, but we may also unknowingly entertain demons, opening ourselves up. I thank G-d for giving me the strength not to backslide, but as long as I kept the cards, the temptation to pick them back up remained.

But I had a strong family that was praying to the Lord for me, and the cycle was broken.

As believers, we serve a mighty, sovereign, jealous G-d who won’t tolerate even toying with the fringes of evil. For example: Halloween, in this country,  has become ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ instead of the lurid day it  actually is. The other side of the coin, All Saints Day, isn’t even acknowledged, much less celebrated. Perhaps it’s just as well.

I once lived in a place that was a nursing home that had been converted to apartments. Lots of elderly died there, and I vouch for the fact there was paranormal activity, and there was nothing fun or sexy about it. It was scary, and I often invoked the name of Jesus to banish said activity, and it always stopped.

Pray for those who request it of you. You never know what chains you might be breaking, what cycles of evil you’re ending, what souls might be saved as a result of your intercession, reluctant though it may be, for just as Simon didn’t repent, Simon Peter didn’t pray for his redemption, as far as we know.

That would be a shame, because though the power of sorcery is real, the power of the holy name of Jesus is stronger.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Thank You for sending a Comforter, a helper who can reveal Truth, convict of sin, and guide in prayer. I thank You that He takes of what is Yours and imparts it to me. (John 16:12 -15)

I thank You for preserving me in the times I did not truly know You, serve You, or follow You, though I believed.

I am grateful too, that You forgave the iniquity of my youth, and allowed me to yet be grafted in under the New Covenant of grace, in this, the year of G-d’s favor. 

Bless the souls who prayed for me during those times I was foolish, thinking myself immune to the enemy. It is the word of Your disciple that says to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Let me not grow prideful in my service, nor lazy and distracted in my praise, nor lukewarm in my reverence and fear of You. Let me not become sleepy with sorrow, that I might miss You.

In faith, I ask for the boldness to continue to confess Your majesty to all men, trusting You through the power of the Holy Spirit to give me the words and spirit that none can turn against me, deny, or confound.

Let me not only hear the Holy Spirit, but obey His commands, for He speaks what You would have Him say, just as You spoke what the Father would have you say. The Father, You, and the Holy Spirit are all in and of each other, with aligned wills and the promise of the gift of eternal life for the repentant and faithful, therefore let me not be hesitant or doubtful of Your Spirit’s presence in my life, guiding me into Your truth, and sealing me into Your hand, and the Kingdom of G-d.

Have me intercede for those who don’t know You, but ask for prayer with broken hearts, contrite spirits, needs only You can fill, and circumstances only You can deliver them from, that they might glorify the Father.

Let it be so for the remainder of my days. I ask, believing I’ve received. 

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 110: Now We Believe

John 4:39-42

The Savior of the World

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

As believers, we’ve likely heard multiple sermons of Jesus’ encounter and conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well. It was such an uncommon thing that the disciples were taken by surprise when they returned from their dinner run to find Jesus speaking to her.

She had a reputation among her neighbors, so much so that she came out alone.

Jesus begins his lesson on being the living water, and speaks to her marital and spiritual conditions. His own reputation by now is such that the Samaritans, despised of the Jews, have taken hope in the message that they too can be redeemed through faith.

John 4:25

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.”

The exchange between them happens, and she is so intrigued by His words that she leaves the water there and goes to tell the people of her city that a prophet is among them.

Her reputation notwithstanding, they are eager to see for themselves, and the most extraordinary thing happens: those who are despised of the Jews urge Jesus to stay and minister among them, and He does.

“And many more believed because of His own word.” Having heard the power and authority of His words, they confirm the answer to her question, “Could this be the Christ?”

What a gracious Lord we serve! He makes even those who were the mortal enemies of His own people have faith in the Gospel.

But then, Jesus’ enemies always recognized His deity:

Luke 4:33-36

33 Now in the synagogue there was a man who had a spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, 34 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”

35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!”And when the demon had thrown him in their midst, it came out of him and did not hurt him. 36

And again:

Luke 8:26-28 A Demon-Possessed Man Healed

26 Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. 27 And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before Him, and with a loud voice said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me!”

If the demons know Him as the Son of G-d, and obey His word, how can we who claim to love him by faith, and worship Him in spirit and truth, do any less?

It’s interesting to note that the demons proclaimed Him, but the Pharisees and Sadducees did not.

Today, the enemies of Christ (and we who believe in Him) are once again Legion, but we are divided among ourselves and confused in our limited, comfortable, mortal interpretation of the Word of an eternal G-d. It’s a lot like when David moved the ark without the Father’s blessing and guidance, we lean on our own understanding, and reap the results.

For example, in an effort to soften the blow of impending condemnation, some churches have stopped proclaiming to the world that its works are evil, no longer say the word ‘sin,’ and have made their peace with that which G-d calls abomination because it is now legal and popular, and we find ourselves once again divided among class, race, and politics.

We are commanded not to judge, but we are also commanded not to compromise. We do, even with our silence which is for a few reasons: 1-we don’t want to become social media targets. 2- we don’t want to lose friends with differing opinions, so we decide to keep the peace and ‘agree to disagree,’ or 3- we’re afraid of the consequences and retaliation we and our families can fall victim to at anytime.

Let us keep in mind that the Lord Jesus was a prophet, and all that He proclaimed came to pass in His lifetime, just as the end times will one day be manifest. I think we’re beginning to see the start of it now, more so than at any other time.

If the enemies of Christ don’t doubt Him, and judgment begins with the Children of G-d, it’s time for those in the faith to recognize that perhaps His power, prophecies, and proclamations concerning Himself are true, and bring ourselves in line with His word about who the Father is and what He wants: to be reconciled with His children in the new earth, His presence a light in the new Heaven, where there will be no more sun and moon, and we’ll have no memory of this sinful, evil world.

And there will be no more sin because the enemies of G-d will no longer exist, anywhere.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Your will is so aligned with the Father’s that even the demons can’t be in the presence of Your holiness. For them, it’s torment. It gives the Father no pleasure to punish a rebellious angel with chains and fire, or to cast a rebellious soul from His life giving presence into outer darkness, yet there is no middle ground. The disciple You loved tells us that the faithless abide in the Father’s wrath.

Help us to hold fast to Your truth when the consequences are made manifest, and the perils of judgment on a faithless land begin to increase and surge all around us. There is no safe place, there are no hiding places, and You are yet giving us time to repent, believe the Gospel, and be saved. 

Let me follow Your example, that even those against me can see a difference as I clean up the dirty places of my life once more, and get back under Calvary’s covering.

Today, right now, I put from me all that does not glorify You in thought, word, and deed.

Today, right now, help me to love and minister to our enemies at the table You set before me in their presence.

Help me to forgive them as well, continuing to speak the goodness of Your name and have them see the difference in me has come about through Your grace and the Father’s willingness to reveal You to me. 

Help me to speak the Truth, planting seeds for others to water, and still others to reap.

Let my love for You be as unwavering as my faith in You, and let my life be consecrated to You for the Kingdom’s sake, and to the Father’s glory. 

I ask it in Your name.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 107: Her Sins are Forgiven

Luke 37-50

37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Women were not supposed to be of consequence, subject to the will of their husbands, however cruel. Left without choices, without education, without options, some turned to harlotry and crime.

As such, they could be equal to men in hardness of heart, infirmity of will, subject to temptation, and as prone to immorality and downfall as any of their male counterparts.  Condemned under the Law, they had no chance at redemption, until the Son of Man came to tell them otherwise.

The Pharisee said of Jesus:  “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus replies: 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.

How would He know her sins were many if He was not a prophet of G-d?

The Songs of Ascent in the Old Testament was for the men of Israel to go to the mountain to seek the Lord, but G-d was not above using women to accomplish His purposes when men could not, or would not, step forward.  Abigail, in saving her foolish husband, became the wife of a king. Deborah told Barack he would get no glory if she went with him, but she obeyed the Father’s calling when he wouldn’t go without her.

It was no less true in the ministry of Christ.

Luke 8:1-3

Many Women Minister to Jesus

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Even His disciples were surprised that He would minister to them as individuals.

John 4:25 – 27

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.  27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was the women who first came to His tomb. (Luke 23:55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, (*Joseph of Arimathea carried Jesus body to the tomb)* and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 24:1-3

He Is Risen

24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

And again in verse 10:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.

And while it was true He didn’t condemn the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees, He did not exonerate her from her guilt:

John 8:10-11

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

He never said she didn’t commit the sin.

It is our calling as husbands, fathers, and brothers, and even as sons, to minister to the souls of our female family members, and our wives in particular as life partners. As the body, we are to pray for our Sisters in Christ, edifying them and coming alongside them in the ministry of the Gospel, being careful to observe all of the Lord’s ordinances of treating them with proper respect.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We thank You for our sisters in Christ, co-workers of the harvest, the Ruth’s and the Rahab’s, working in faith to spread Your Word, show Your love and compassion, and be fruitful branches of the Kingdom work that leads to life everlasting. 

We thank You for our help-mates, the mothers of our children, the brides of our youth who make our homes into sanctuaries that protect us from the outside world, and give us havens of worship and family unity.

We thank You for the elder Mothers of our ancestry, who raised us in the fear and reverence of Your Word, seeking Your presence and intercession on our behalf, that we might be sustained and prosper in Your favor as we seek Your face.

We thank You for our daughters, raised to be strong women of G-d, helpmates to their own husbands, and ministering to their own families with what they’ve been taught. We beseech You on their behalf that their men seek always to pray, and not lose heart, and know they have steadfast life partners at their side, as You ordained marriage to be.

We pray for the single woman, that she fulfill Your calling according to Your will, and that if she needs a partner, You will send her one worthy of a king’s daughter, but if You do not, bring to mind that she is not the daughter of a king, but of the King of Kings. Let her not lose heart, nor succumb to the world’s values that to be alone somehow reduces her worth and negates her purpose, that not having children renders her null in Your eyes.

We ask that You strengthen them all: the mother and the barren, the young and the old, the single and the married, the lost and the confident. Let us minister to them in Your love, with Your compassion, patience, and mercy when they also fall into sin, and make them accountable for keeping to Your precepts if they stray.

Bring to mind that they are as essential to Your ministry as we are, and they are as responsible for the Great Commission as we are, and that they are to give of their gifts and talents, as we are. 

Help us to support one another, keeping each other in prayer, believing the best of each other, and loving them as Christ loved the church, which He sacrificed His life for, submitting His will while seeking the face of the Father, unwavering in faith.

Together, let us build our houses on Your foundation, that nothing may destroy our unions, and no man can sunder what G-d has joined.

Lord Jesus, build our houses, enter them, and dine with us.

We will open the door when You knock.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 106: The Accursed Crowd

The Pharisees called them accursed, but they had it wrong.

Who Is He?

40 Therefore many from the crowd, when they heard this saying, said, “Truly this is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.”

But some said, “Will the Christ come out of Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people because of Him. 44 Now some of them wanted to take Him, but no one laid hands on Him.

Rejected by the Authorities

45 Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?”

46 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”

47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.”

It didn’t seem to matter what Jesus did or said, their hearts were hardened, their heels dug in, and they kept turning to their heads and not their hearts, their knowledge of The Law of Moses puffing them up with pride, Moses’ own words and those of G-d, his friend, twisted and added to so they could control the largely unschooled agricultural population of the day, and line their pockets as they claimed to be holy men who alone could understand and interpret the Scriptures.

Matthew 21:31-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

Both of these particular sinners were especially despised under the Law, though Rahab the harlot is in the very genealogy of Christ, and Matthew the publican wrote the Gospel that ties everything Jesus said and did back to the Prophets.

Time and again, they resisted the Word, excommunicated the faithful, questioned His authority, His sanity, and His deity, yet they couldn’t deny His power.

John 12:17-19

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!”

And it scared them to the core.

Their pride in their knowledge was the very undoing of their power, and their lack of faith the undoing of their salvation. Moses, the Lawgiver himself, will accuse them before the throne on the day of judgment.

They were jealous of His youth, His refusal to kowtow to their authority, His popularity, His questions that rendered them silent, His calling them out on their hypocrisy, hard hearts, and love of the praises of men even as they purported to be men of G-d, adding to the Law that which gave them power and authority over the people.

And He remained obedient, knowing they would never change, but He never stopped trying to reach them.

John 8:42-43

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.

It is hard for men of honed reasoning minds to accept things on faith, but that’s not because there is no evidence, it’s because they’ve chosen the tangible over the unseen. The very fact that G-d has sustained His Word throughout all of history, and that it’s still being attacked, speaks to its power.

Science doesn’t supersede G-d, yet almost every atheist clip I’ve watched will reference their education into science at some point, if not at first. Just as they haven’t seen G-d, they haven’t seen billions of years ago, but they attest to it as a certainty. They say the Bible was written by men, and therefore prone to error, but so are science books, and how often has what’s been taught has changed, and how are they still discovering new things? It’s the mind of the infinite mind of G-d, which we cannot fathom. They call it error, but ‘building on previous knowledge’, as if it’s not possible to grow in the knowledge of G-d.

And today, there are those among believers who enjoy a certain smugness, not realizing that the Gospel is to be shared, the downtrodden are to be ministered to, and the purpose of the church is to continue the work of Christ, seeking and saving the lost.

Yet we see wonderfully blessed ministries that are content to sit in comfortable chairs with the same people week after week, ministering to themselves as they laugh and mock their less fortunate brethren, retreat behind their gates, and shield themselves from harm, real and imagined, at the hands of the very people they should be ministering to.

They pander to would-be politicians who can steer funds and favor their way to increase the pastor’s status and the sizes of their congregations.

They side with the oppressors on matters of injustice, knowing the wrong, but remaining silent in the commitment and justification of it.

Speaking the truth has ever resulted in loss and isolation; it is no less true for us now than it was for Jesus back then, and we are told to chose whom we will serve, the first will be last, some have their reward, and some who believe they’re in the kingdom will be told to depart for practicing lawlessness.

We forget our Savior’s words in Matthew 25:40

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Jesus calls the downtrodden His brothers and sisters.

Let us be careful, and mindful, that we are here temporarily, and like the child Jesus, we are to be about our Father’s business, lest we be deemed unfruitful, unprofitable, and therefore fit to be cast into the outer darkness, and not entering into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As we approach this holiday season, rife with pagan symbolism and worldly greed, we tend to ‘remember’ the unfortunate among us, and give ourselves spiritual pats on the back as we volunteer and donate to see to their needs, after which we put them away along with the decorations.

Open our eyes to how Your grace and blessings puts us in a position to provide for others, no matter how small the item, or how frequent the gift. Bring to mind that our brothers and sisters who wander with nowhere to lay their heads are just as hungry on President’s Day and July 4th as they are at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, for forgetting Your words, for letting our guard lapse and our own comfort blind us to those around us in need.

Help us to judge no one, but to see past the fault to the need, as You did, even among the Pharisees, and even on the cross.

Open our hands and mouths this holiday season, and instill us with a spirit of boldness as we trust You to fill our mouths with what should be said, always pointing the way to You, as You point the way to the Father.

Let our faith remain steadfast, our repentance sincere, our joy complete, and our lives consecrated back to You.

Keep our work fruitful and profitable; I would not burn with the chaff, Lord, and keep  our prayers with each and every person and family that has gone to glory as a result of this fire. I pray Your peace for them, now and forever as this year, when they take their photos, there will be one less in them.

Help me obey the Holy Spirit in all things, since He speaks from what You give Him.

Let us not be prideful in our salvation, nor selfish in our ministering; this is not a serve one, save one of Your own kind.

Lord Jesus, remind us that ALL nations will be gathered before You on that day, and that we are responsible for ministering to the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world, not just the neighborhood.

Help us to remember that we were once part of the truly accursed crowd, educated in the world and ourselves, knowing neither Law nor understanding grace, but now we are newly accursed by the faithless, under the loving care of our Shepherd, and redeemed to our Father through the Son’s atoning work.

Today, let us cast our lot with Him who is able, in fear of the Lord our G-d, and go to Him, abiding, that we may finish the work to which we’ve been called, and plant seeds for the harvest to come as He commands us, speaking Truth to power, and Truth in love to the accursed crowd.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.