Devotional 152: Seeking Redemption

Luke 2:36 – 38

Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served G-d with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The first evangelists were the shepherds of Bethlehem, another was Simeon, whom the Father promised wouldn’t see death until he’d seen the Hope of Israel.

Anna’s words are not recorded, but her evangelism was one of consolation. There was a presence in the land now, a feeling of hope, however misguided later when Jesus began His ministry.

Even then, they were coming to Him, but had no idea of the impact of Simeon’s prophecy: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against….that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2: 34-35)

But Anna’s words didn’t speak to the power of His ministry in taking on the religious leaders of His day, but to the hearts of the multitudes that would follow Him to hear once again that the Father loved them, and saw them in their wretched moral, mortal states and wanted to bless them, be kind to them, show them mercy, and ultimately save them from the things they couldn’t see that kept them in spiritual bondage.

Even then, there were those in the temple seeking to get right with G-d, seeking forgiveness of sins, seeking justice from being wronged, and petitioning the Father’s throne with rites and rituals according to the Law He’d given them, but here was a new and better way.

As we enter into a season that has all but forgotten the Way and the importance of our heavenly Redeemer, let us hold fast to His Word that we are still loved, seen in our present state, and He is yet merciful and kind, wanting to bless us.

But let us not forget that He is also coming again, not as the Lamb of G-d but the Lion of Judah. While it is our pleasure to give Him thanks for ourselves, we, like Anna, are to prophesy and comfort those still looking for redemption.

That is how we are to serve Him, worshiping in spirit and truth, speaking with authority, ministering in love, and moving always in compassion.

We need not be temple prophets; our temples are wherever He is in the midst of us.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today, let us recapture the joy of the shepherds who preached all over the place, all night, blessing the Father that You were sent to us to redeem us to Him, for we were, and are, too weak and sinful to stand in His presence. As your most intrepid Apostle said, ‘I do the things I don’t want to do.’(Romans 7:15)

As the season of giving corrupts itself as we prosper, let the remnant of us keep still and silent as You search the thoughts of our hearts, and purge that which is not of You, not like You, and not through You. 

We remember today that our very lives, much less our blessings, are received from Heaven by the Father’s will, which You have shown us.

We remember today the miracles You’ve performed on our behalf, the grace and mercy You’ve shown us by not condemning us, the love You show by continuing to abide with us, giving thanks and breaking bread with our souls that the Scriptures might be open to us.

We remember today not to turn away so that the lamps of our bodies remain good, and our hard hearts looking for redemption become broken, penitent, and new as they burn with Your light through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We remember today to bless the Father, that He’s done a new thing in our lives, and that we are assured in You, through Calvary, that the greatest gift of all is the chief end of man: to glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 151: A Growing Ministry

Luke 2:39 – 40

The Family Returns to Nazareth

39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of G-d was upon Him.
The birth of our Lord Jesus was not like any other before or since; He occupies a unique space between divinity and humanity, Son of G-d, and Son of Man, sent from Heaven by the Father into the lineage of David at a moment in time.

He has been referred to as the Second Adam, but he is first among the Reedemed (Matthew 27:50-53), and as it’s been preached, He was everything Adam was not, but suffice it to say in one aspect He went through something Adam did not: childhood.
As Son of Man, He could not exert the inexhaustible powers of His divinity to save a dying world, though it would have been more expedient. He suffered as we do, faced temptation as we do, faced challenges to His authority, treachery, denial, rejection and betrayal.
And with this brief glimpse into His childhood (the one we have, though as John said, He said and did many other things that are not written in the Book (John 21:25), we have the seedlings of the ministry to come.

When the family left Jerusalem and had to go back for Him, they found Him in the midst of the rabbis, who were amazed at His understanding and questions, this seeming son of an unremarkable carpenter. Later, we see that the crowds He spoke to are amazed at the authority which He taught them, which was unlike that of those who were to become the enemies of His ministry.

His answer to them gives inkling to the scope of His ministry that is beyond that of His immediate family. “Why did you seek Me?” later turns into this statement when He’s told His family is outside: (Mark 3:31-35)

31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.”

33 But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” 34 And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.”

 

He grew in other ways as well: in favor with G-d and men, but what we must keep in mind as we alternate between stumbling and sailing smoothly is that nothing is outside of the Father’s will, for our Shepherd’s hands can’t be pried open.

And while we are free to stray and leave, the question becomes ‘why would we’ or as Peter asked, “To whom shall we go?”. What would we be returning to?  Were our eyes on the Lord, or on the person who said they came to us on His behalf, then caused more harm than good.

 

Even as a child, Jesus was so focused on glorifying G-d and undoing the damage caused by humanity’s limited grasp of eternal matters concerning our souls, that almost everything else did not matter to Him. He wasn’t foolish regarding more practical matters, such as where to eat and sleep, but even so, He finished a ministry that was constantly under siege, and in the fullness of time, sabotaged by a pretender who’d seen all the things the others had seen, but couldn’t get his need to outweigh his faults.

But we know His ministry will never be destroyed, because the seed planted by the Creator can’t help but grow. (Mark 13:31)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

     We who follow You have seeds that need to grow, and children that we need to protect and watch over.      

     Let us remember that You are the Vine, and we are the branches, and so to abide in You the seeds in us that need to be watered in Your will, which is also the Father’s, are the only ones that will grow. Let everything else become a cursed fig tree within us, bearing no fruit ever again because it denied You.

     In Your authority you amazed the rabbis and the rabble of Israel with Your understanding and teaching, and with ability to turn back on Your challengers how weak and selfish they were in their work. But You touched them, and told them how much G-d loved them anyway.
     Yet as a child, You still subjected Yourself once again to Your earthly parents when they came back for You, because Your time had not yet come. Likewise, let us now become subject to Your authority, because You are the Way, Truth, and Light, and the only Name under Heaven by which we are saved.

     As the season of Your birth nears, let us ignore the clamor of those outside telling us we are out of our minds, and if need be, include those who seek You into our families who are not of our family, that we might broaden the scope of our calling in You to love those not like us.
      And in the days, trials, and triumphs to come, help us to grow in favor with G-d and man, doing all things well, and walking in our authority as the eternal
children of the King of Kings.

     May it be done to us as You have said.

      Amen.

Devotional 150: That They May be One

John 17:20-26

Jesus Prays for All Believers

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

24 “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. 26 And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

We have split into a number factions and sections over beliefs, rituals, and matters of doctrine.

We have split over color, culture, language, and styles of worship.

We have devalued each other, and while we are at war with each other, the enemies of Jesus smile and and work from the darkness of our hearts, the frailty of our faith, the doubt in our minds, the dregs of our flagging spirits, and the hardness of our hearts.

Yet with all of these numerators of like and kind, we have one common denominator: the Lord Jesus Christ, the one thing we must all have to make this work, and finish the walk. He’s the only one who can present us to the Father spotless and blameless, through the empowering work of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:12-15) (John 16:28-30)

In the coming year,, as we are sent out like the seventy to herald His coming, everything we do should point back to G-d, through faith in the Son. Our Lord is very clear:

John 5:24-30

Life and Judgment Are Through the Son

24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. 25 Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice 29 and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

Yet so many in our day seek to separate them to assume an earthly familiarity with the King of Heaven, and separate Him from the Father of all. They do so to their soul’s peril and their calling’s shame.

Let those of us who remain faithful to a spirit of giving thanks to G-d for all our blessings remember that we are to be at peace with all, with ourselves, with our families, and especially with each other as we sit down together to break bread and give thanks (Mark 8:6), despite the fact that we have been disobedient to His word on sectarianism (Mark 9:38-39), we have a common denominator: Our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We have lost the way, being disobedient to Your word not to divide ourselves with bickering, but we have done so.

Forgive us our hard hearts, compromised preaching, misuse of tithes and offerings, misunderstandings and errant interpretations of our Father’s Word, twisted for our own benefit and gain as we call it His will.

For if we are unprofitable in doing only our due diligence as servants, we are worthless indeed to do that which You’ve told us not to do. 

We are of wrong spirits, rejoicing in our works and not that our names are written in the Book of Life (Luke 10:17-20)

As we approach Thanksgiving Day here in America, let our Martha service be full of Mary’s worship, reflecting on the meaning and value of the Word, and to whom we should give our thanks and praise as our reasonable service.

Take that which we have and multiply it, to the Father’s everlasting glory as we unite in one spirit under the covenant of His grace, mercy, long-suffering, and loving kindness. You have shown His will for us, in that if we’ve seen You, we have seen Him.

Bless us as we move slowly forward to sit, now and forever, at the tables set for us in Your kingdom if we are counted worthy to enter into His rest.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 149: Take Heed to Yourselves

Luke 21: 34 –

The Importance of Watching

34 But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. 38 Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.

As believers, we are to lean on the power of Christ’s divinity and sacrifice to be redeemed from sin into the Father’s kingdom, and while it comes with few outlying conditions or duties that we must perform, neither does it come without effort on our part.

After the redemptive truth of the Gospel is revealed and our fealty for Christ declared, we must then expend something to establish it, or as Jesus would say, to ‘settle it in our hearts.’ He told us we would have difficulty doing this, because the world hates Him for testifying that its work are evil (John 7:7) and as His followers, we are called to do the same, and are therefore targets of His enemies, both physical and spiritual.

We are also called to do more than our share  for we are unprofitable to Him if that’s all we do. (Luke 17:10) . The list is daunting: love one another, keep His commandments, give (not sell) to the poor, pray, repent, flee from sin, forgive, and glorify G-d in all we do, say, and think.

How do we accomplish this? By abiding in Him (John 15:5) and by taking heed to ourselves. There are so many pitfalls on the Narrow Path, that even as we follow Him, we are to keep watch over ourselves. This goes to the heart of our mortal pride. Remember the boast of Peter  (Matthew 26:33)  and what came of it.

As Oswald Chambers wrote: “Peter thought he knew where the test would come, and it did not come where he expected it.” (My Utmost for His Highest)

King David asked to set a guard over his mouth (Psalm 141:3) and his son advises us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), and so our Lord and Savior reinforces this to us.

Today, let us release that which concerns us and go to Him, because He’s told us that those who seek Him, He will not cast them out. It is up to us, however, to count the cost to follow, and to choose whom we will serve.

If we are to follow then, it is with the understanding that there will be no compromising for our backsliding, no looking the other way.  He will judge us before the throne of His grace, and the works not done for the Kingdom will be cast into the fire, quite possibly alongside us if we are found to be lacking.

Attaining the Kingdom, then, is not a drag-along prospect, but a willing, voluntary following to say to the Father, Son, and Spirit,

‘Yes and Amen. Our spirits align with Yours, and we would enter into our Father’s rest under the reign of the Son, and be filled eternally with the Holy Spirit.’

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

       We rejoice today that You have sent us a comforter, one who reveals to us all the things that are of You and the Father, One in will and purpose, to redeem the souls of unprofitable servants who stumble, backslide, succumb to sin, and frequently need Your mercy and grace to continue on the Narrow Path to salvation. 

       We praise You for letting us know beforehand that we have been deemed worthy to hear Your shout on the last day, and be raised. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

      We abide in You today, Lord, with repentant hearts and contrite spirits, that You may renew us, cleanse us, anoint us, and sing over us once again to restore our tiring spirits in this body that demands to go into the flames of condemnation. 

     Today, and as we abide in You, every day after, we set a guard over our hearts and mouths, we stay in the Word that will not pass away, and we love one another as You love us, edifying the Body, and doing more than our share as we are called to preach to every man, and keep watch.

Lord, we will take heed to ourselves, lest when we think we stand, we fall. (1 Cor 10:12) 

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 148: Growing Faint in Battle

2nd Sam: 21:15-18

2 Samuel 21:15-18

Philistine Giants Destroyed

15 When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. 16 Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”

G-d did not tell David not to fight, but allowed him to grow faint in his last battle against the Philistines. Had it not been for Abishai, David would have met his end since he’d grown too old to be out there fighting.

His men perceived this, and told him he would no longer come out, as his role at that point was to continue to be ‘the lamp of Israel.’

It is a time we will all face. Having had many health challenges this year, I now find myself viewing my mortality from my peripheral vision. One day it will stand in front of us, and one day, it will put its cold, skeletal hand on our shoulders and guide us away from the spiritual battle.

Our only recourse to redemption at that point will be our faith in Christ raising me up on the last day with a great shout, as He awakened Lazarus.

In the time that remains, a lot has been shed so that I might move forward faster, as time is no longer a friend, marching relentlessly on to its own inevitable ending where it will give place to eternity.

I wonder if David found it difficult to hear, recognizing the whole latter part of their statement as a polite way of telling him that because of his weariness he might have cost them the victory. Certainly they would have been disheartened if he fell.

Even Jesus said, ‘The things concerning me have an end,’ as far as His earthly ministry was concerned, because He’ll reign over His people forever.

There will come a time when our own work will be winding down to completion, and we find ourselves faint in battle. The lamps of legacies we leave behind will testify to the work we did for the kingdom, and the rest cast out as dross.

We are warrior- priests, servant-leaders, sons and daughters, reaping harvesters, planters, water-bearers, and seed-sowing sheep all united under one Shepherd who leads the way back to the Source who created us: our Father, who is in Heaven, His Name forever hallowed as we dwell, worship, work, and live in His divine light brighter than the sun.

We will no longer cry (Rev 21:4), we will no longer have any questions (John 16:23), no longer die (Luke 20:46) we will be spotless, blameless, and pure, and there will be no more battles to fight as we live, move, and have our being for all eternity (Acts 17:28), sharing in the work where we won’t grow faint (Isaiah 40:31), now and forever.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,
    As we abide in You, please give us the strength to do greater works through Your power imparted to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, to do the impossible with G-d, for G-d.
     Your prophecies manifest themselves with growing frequency and intensity, and we, like Israel, would not have a quenched lamp or a feeble warrior on the field to fight to where we need to be, that we might recover all. (1 Samuel 30:8)
    As we age, checking off the list of declines listed in Ecclesiates 12:1-8, let us hold ever faster to the hem of Your robe, that we might be made well.
    We would not be like the sons of Eli, neglecting Your house for our own, abusing the privilege of servants to the people to our own gain.  Be with us Lord, and help us to feel Your presence even closer in these perilous times; keep us close to You, as we are prone to wandering.
      May we hear and know Your voice as You lead us to do greater work, and bless those who give and speak life by the power of Your will.
    May it be that as we grow weary, His strengths are given us to do greater signs and wonders, not to deceive, but that those who see our works will glorify G-d, and join the family to carry on the work of the harvest, for we must all decrease before your holy power and sovereign will.

    May it be done to us as You have said.

    Amen.

Devotional 147: I Will Give You a Mouth and Wisdom

Luke 21:10-19

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

Called to sow the seeds of the Gospel, we are now at the beginning of the end.
The body of Christ is bravely fighting against the powerful minions of hell. They are legion in number, strong in power, and all arond us not only in the places we live, but in our very homes.
The slings and arrows that come daily with being a family are compounded exponentially when the many attack the few proclaiming Jesus as the Christ.
As we can now minister to the world faster than ever before, reaching vast amounts of people globally in almost instantaneous contact, we now see the rise in persecution of our faith and the falling away of many as the message of Christ is obscured and replaced by modern day ‘alternatives’.
Let us be reminded of Jesus’ words that we are to endure to the end to be redeemed (Matthew 24:13)
The challenge comes when the proliferation of resistance to His message and our insistence on its validity begins to affect our finances, abilities, health, and families.
They become more intense as subgroup after subgroup that don’t align with G-d’s word are given free reign to go after believers in all walks of life.
Jesus tells us these attacks will increase in scope and depth, and we’ll be hated by all, but it will be: all to whom He did not reveal the Father, all who practice lawlessness, all who turn aside, all who walk away, all who will not hear, all who will not repent, all who won’t receive, all who will not seek, and all who will not come to Him.
In the midst of this this He says that as we proclaim Him as the only way, He will give us the words and wisdom to silence them, and perhaps turn them to G-d. This is the setting of tables for us in the presence of His enemies, and therefore ours.
Granted access to each other, we are to share what we have been given by the Lord with them.
The choice, upon hearing, is theirs to make, but whether we sow, plant, or water, it is ultimately the Father who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6)
We need not fear others, but we are to arm ourselves with the knowledge of the Word. Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15), but it is Jesus who tells us that He, being greater than Solomon, will give us what we should say, and to settle the matter in our hearts, and trust Him to deliver His message through us in such a way that no one can refute the words we speak, even as the Queen of Sheba ran out of hard questions for Solomon.
Have we settled it in our hearts? Can we? And if so, will we?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

      There are times when the tales of Your daunting ministry to the lost of Israel inspire us to walk farther, but there are other times they overwhelm us with the sheer magnitude of it and the impact it created, as the qualities of our own ministries are to follow Your example.
      Were it not for grace, we wouldn’t be up to the task.
      Were it not for mercy, we’d be cast aside.
      For reasons we don’t always understand, You have found us worthy of revealing the Truth to us, and have called us to put our hands to the plow to begin the work of the Kingdom of G-d, ruled by Your iron will and loving hands.
      As we stand in the midst of those who do not love you, we settle in our hearts that You will do what You say, and that You are who You say.
      We are mindful that this life is preparation for the one to come, this evil world replaced by one of sinless virtue and purity, and we, as Your sheep and the Father’s children, will be forever holy and able to stand in His presence under Your hand and by the power of the Holy Spirit and Your redeeming blood.
      As You judge the nations and our work, let the lost we have ministered to for Your sake bear witness to the motives of our hearts towards them to bring them into the fold, that they too may live eternally to the glory of, and to glorify G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.
Amen.

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 144: Who Then Can be Saved?

Matthew 19:23-28

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

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

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

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.

In the previous section, Jesus had just told the rich young ruler that only one thing stood between him and heaven, and told him to give what he had to the poor. The ruler, thinking Jesus meant his possessions, now had a choice to make, and chose wrongly.

Jesus was talking about his heart toward G-d by committing to what he said he wanted to do: follow Him. It says he went away sad, but Jesus neither persuade him any further, nor pursued him.

Turning the encounter into a lesson, He let the disciples in on the reason why one can’t serve G-d and money. As common men, they likely thought that wealth brought some degree of assurance with it, for surely a rich man is blessed by G-d, or in the case of tax collectors, prospered through usury and crooked means.

Upon Jesus’ revelation, it says they were astonished at this.

Let’s look at another encounter:

Luke 19:1-11

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were ‘especially heinous’ in the eyes of the people, but because there sins were great, when Jesus spoke, their spirits were convicted and their hearts turned.

Jesus said to the Pharisees that the people they viewed as the most irredeemable were in fact getting into the kingdom ahead of them. (Matt 21:28-32)

Zacchaeus repented openly, in Jesus’ presence, and restored more than he’d taken to those he’d victimized through his position. In that moment he received Jesus’ words of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Wouldn’t we all breathe a sigh of relieved joy to hear those words spoken to us?

But even before he got to this moment, it says that he received Jesus joyfullyHe so wanted to see the Lord that even though he was short, he put in the effort to climb a tree in order to make that happen.

People likely laughed at him as he made his way up, but once he was ‘out of the world,’ Jesus noticed him, and salvation was given to him and his house. The Lord tells us every good thing comes from above, including financial wealth, but it’s never to be hoarded, because it gets in the way of serving G-d.

Let’s ask ourselves today if we’re hoarding any earthly thing that stands between us and the kingdom of G-d. It doesn’t have to be money, but maybe a talent we have, or a service we’d like to perform for others, but for whatever reason we don’t move forward to do it.

Why are we holding back? Likely, someone will laugh, make snide comments, tell you why it won’t work, say you’re not the one to do it, and so on…

But what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?

We have a choice to make now, too: do we turn sadly back to our earthly possessions, passing on the chance to store up treasure in Heaven, or release them with a joyful spirit of repentance, being reconciled to G-d in the presence of our Savior?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As Zacchaeus restored over and above that which he’d taken, so too, do You restore to us over and above that which the enemy has stolen. Indeed, he can’t stay in Your the presence of Your holiness, which is why we call to mind Your words to be holy as You are holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

The Father has imparted gifts and talents to be shared with the world, but the persecutions that come with taking up our crosses have driven us back, and some have been driven away.

We would not stand in that assembly, and so we ask that when the moment comes, You strengthen us, reminding us of the joy that awaits us, the salvation we gain, when we receive You with right hearts and clean spirits, covered by Your blood for the remission of sins.

Forgive us for splitting our service between earth and heaven, for being lukewarm in our commitment, for having hard hearts and deaf ears, lured by the idols of the world from the narrow way to Life everlasting, for being seduced by our possessions.

Today, we renew our efforts to climb back out of the world, so that as the Father’s eyes roam to and fro seeking a righteous person, we can, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves, and like the prophet Isaiah, say boldly, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Today, we release our imparted gifts anew, doing the work of the kingdom, preaching the Gospel to all nations, that they too, might receive Your words of salvation, mercy, and grace.

We go out in boldness, proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, and the irrevocable fate of life everlasting, one in the kingdom of light, the other of darkness.

In our humanity, help us with our own unbelief; we would not be poor ambassadors.

We give thanks to the Father for grafting us into the Vine, releasing our gifts to the poor in spirit with joy, speaking the Gospel Truth in love.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 142: The Ministries of Mary

Matthew 28:1-10

He Is Risen

28 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

The Women Worship the Risen Lord

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

At some point we’ve learned throughout the years that women were not credible witnesses because of cultural and sexist matters to extensive to get into here, but what we do know is that where these women sought Jesus, He wasn’t there, and it was He who found them.

Isn’t that just like Him? He is a shepherd seeking the lost after all. (Luke 19:10)

Those who have doubts, questions, fears, and feelings of unworthiness, does He not tell us to come to Him? (Matthew 11:28)

Before the tomb, there  was yet another Mary (the sister of Lazarus)  involved. (John 12:1-7)

Then the trio of Mary Magdalene, another Mary, (the mother of the disciple James), and Salome, brought spices. Before this, Mary Magdalene and Mary had seen Jesus put into the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61)

To what extent they heard Him prophesy His resurrection, we don’t know. Likely they hadn’t, since these came on the third day to find the angel there, and the Lord risen. Or if they did, had no more understanding of it than the disciples. But the angel tells them it was as Jesus said, and they depart from the tomb with ‘fear and great joy.’

In modern times, there is a rebellion against patriarchy, but it was G-d’s system for provision and protection of women and children. It was the men called to go up the mountain to meet with G-d in the Songs of Ascent. It was, unfortunately, also men who turned the system into one of abuse and disenfranchisement of their helpmates, but it was not intended to be that way.

Jesus turned the matter of dealing with women on its head because He ministered to them even to the point of revealing Himself to a people considered the enemies of Israel. (John 4:10,John 4:27) (Luke 10:41-42) tested their faith, (Matthew 15:21-28) praised them for that which they did which was in the Father’s will, (Matthew 26:12) healed them (Mark 5:30-34) and forgave them, but He did not hold them guiltless of sin. (John 8:10-11)

Today, if at all possible, let us as followers of G-d and heads of households bless the nurturers of our children and the caretakers of our homes. We are admonished to love them as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25-28)

Christ will meet them on the road, and they will rejoice.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We are thankful, indeed, humbled, that You bother to look for us in our wretched states to present us to the Father as blameless for indulging in sin of all kinds, sometimes willingly. 
We thank You for bringing us the helpmates we need beside us, committed to us in heart as they are to You in spirit, blessing us in the establishing of our houses and legacies.

Today, we repent and ask Your forgiveness if we have twisted Your Word to make unwilling slaves and objects of those who have pledged their love to us, believing in faith that we told them we have found what is good.

We ask a special blessing of strengthened union. Help us to minister to them as You did, when they need us. Help us not to hold them guiltless, and to not forsake ministering of their needs as we provide and protect. 

As we ascend in prayer to commune with the Father, impart to us Your strength to carry out His will for our lives, and that of our families.

Let us follow Your example of love, mercy, grace, and respect as we live out our days together, letting no enemy through the gates to tear apart that which G-d has joined together through love, commitment, and faith in You. Let us not be breakers of vows, or swearers of oaths, lest we be proven liars before the judgment throne.

Let us rejoice that You are in the midst of us, departing with fear and great joy from that which would entomb us in sin with Your enemies.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 141: He Wrote About Me

John 5:39-47 

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

From the second book of the Bible, from the time of the Passover Lamb sacrificed in its perfection, the coming of Christ was foreshadowed.

From the hanging of a scarlet thread in the window of a prostitute’s house, the safety of those inside and those outside was assured (Joshua 2:8-22)

The people of Nineveh heard the shortest sermon ever recorded, and the entire city had a revival. (Jonah 3:4)

The Queen of Sheba ran into a man with a fragment of G-d’s knowledge, and a spirit of skepticism was subdued. How much more foolish then, for the people who claimed G-d, to doubt the one who said, “One greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:38-42)

The missionary work of Saul of Tarsus, the ‘Pharisee of Pharisees,’ was so thorough in proving Christ was throughout the Scriptures that he confused and angered them to the point where they sought his death. (Acts 9:20-22)

In modern days, those who don’t like what the Bible says ascribe to the Lord a ‘laid back’ disposition because He ‘hung out’ with sinners. What they miss is that He never left them as they were, and admonished them to repentance, and not to backslide. (Luke 5:32)

Those He ministered to were not right with G-d and headed for damnation, for he mentions greater sins and worse things befalling those who do.

As faith was required to believe all things pointed forward, up until the fulfilling of the Father’s Promised One, so too, must we believe now that all things lead back to Him, for He is in the center of all that’s to come. (Luke 24:30-32)

As we have been grafted in through the Father’s will to grant us mercy and grace, we must now have faith in His promises, trust in His prophecies, and obedience to His commands, for He tells us they came from the Father, and those who hear and do the Father’s will shall be victorious.

We have to believe the atoning work, symbolized by the spotless lambs of Exodus in the year of the Lord’s favor, will be sufficient for the forgiveness of sins to be passed over by the Lion of Judah in the day of the Father’s wrath.

Let us pray it may be so. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Let us hold to the fact that You are, in fact, the scarlet thread that runs all through Scripture, that before the foundation of the world You were destined to be sent to redeem the sins of man.

We pray for an attitude of reverence for the words you spoke, that the grace You imparted in the grafting in of the Unchosen is not a license to sin, but a call to flee from sin, even in matters of the mind and heart. 

Let us focus on that which tells us to do the Father’s will in loving one another and praising Him in spirit and truth, loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Let us use our gifts to increase the harvest of redeemed souls through the power of the Holy Spirit to the Father’s glory.

We humble ourselves in gratitude that You have revealed the Father to us, that we might enter into His kingdom and rest, secure from evil forever in word, thought, and deed.

Help our moments of unbelief, increase our faith, and remind that when we believe on You, we believe in Him who sent You, and He will remember our sins no more.

We ask in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.