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.

 

 

Devotional 140: The Gift of Christ’s Revealing

Luke 10:21-25

Jesus Rejoices in the Spirit

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”

We have professed our belief, but what ensues after that is the enemy trying to see in which kind of soil the seed was planted; the persecutions and temptations that follow do all in their power to dislodge that seed.

This is why our Lord emphasizes not only the hearing, but the doing, of the Father’s will. It is why James tells us faith without works is dead (James 2:17)  We put distance between ourselves and our accuser when we manifest our faith in the covenant we’ve entered into: that we believe in the atoning work of the Son, that we may dwell eternally in the Kingdom of G-d.

At one time, our lives were such that we turned seek G-d, but the Father granted authority to the Son to reveal Him to those who sought Him.

YOU were chosen to be given the truth that buried doubt, subdued sin, granted you peace, answered your questions as to G-d’s very existence, and removed you from the impending judgment of the Father’s coming wrath.

What it does not remove us from is the enemy’s grasping attempts to pry us loose:

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.

33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Satan not only asked, but Jesus granted him permission. The most volatile of the Apostles, the one whom Jesus called the Rock on which He’d build His church, would deny Him in His hour of need.

Here we see the power of our Lord’s prophecies at work again: He knew Peter would return, because He said ‘when,’ not ‘if.’ Peter then went on to deliver some of the most searing sermons ever preached, but he went through a time of sifting by Satan, and indeed, had a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Hard soil was tilled. Peter was the only disciple who went into Jesus’  tomb to make sure it was, in fact, empty. He was the only one who stepped out of the boat when Jesus called him.

Have we treated the revelation and gift of salvation, given to us by the Father and revealed to us by Christ, as the gift it truly is? Have we contemplated remaining in faith, repentance, obedience, and works that we might be granted eternal life.

Jesus said to His disciples, when they returned from their missions,

 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Are we rejoicing in our spirits today?

Psalm 118:24

24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

There are days we have taken for granted the gift of the Son’s grace to reveal the Truth of of Your word to us. We ask through the power of Your Son’s holy blood that You forgive us for treating it as a common thing.

We would not crucify our Lord again. 

Today, we pause to give thanks for all You’ve provided, for seeing us through our trials, for delivering us from the sifting of our enemies, for as Paul tells us, we contend in a world of warring spirits for the value of our souls. 

Today, we reflect on the grace of our Shepherd to bring us into the light and green pastures of Your peace, the bloody wrath of Your impending day sparing those of us who believe in the only Name under heaven by which we are saved.

Today, we rejoice that we have made our Lord rejoice in His spirit, that our own unworthy names are written in Heaven, in the Book of Life. Let our works shine before our unbelieving brethren, that they may come to believe and glorify You, Father. 

Today, let our spirits be renewed to not only hear, but do, Your will, abiding in Jesus, for we can do nothing apart from Him, that we might bear fruit that withstands the testing fires.

We rejoice that we too, will be raised up on the last day, to dwell in Your house, and in Your presence, now, and truly forevermore.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 139: New Hearts, Right Spirits

Ezekiel 36:26

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

What we consistently fail to understand about the Father’s will to cleanse us is that it is as uncompromising as it it unwavering, though it does not come without requirements.

People who claim the Word is contradictory have been blinded, given hearts of stone, and ears that cry out for tickling, adapting the infinite, glorious, majesty of G-d to their limited knowledge and puffy intellects.

They place Creation under the tangible but cloudy lenses of ‘Science’ and ‘Evolution’, which has theories it takes just as much, if not more faith, to believe in. But the know there’s no G-d. They are, at best, houses built on shifting sand, and such believers in it are willing to go with it as their source.

And yes, they have their time and place, for He gave us a mind to establish dominion over the earth and subdue it, but they don’t replace Him. It is simply that they can’t fathom the mind of G-d, but the Father is not inconsistent in dealing with His creation.

The matter of hearts and spirits is like a ‘pop-up’ ad throughout Scripture, perhaps the most known of them being this verse:

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    Repentance is the cornerstone of renewed fellowship with G-d, just as faith was the cornerstone of Christ’s miracles manifesting themselves in the lives of those who sought Him.

G-d is not ignoring our sins because we make them legal, and nothing is being done unseen before His eyes. Those things He’s called abominations have only morphed into more forms of spiritual confusion and deception.

The tide of faithlessness is rising, and the current of persecution disguised as legislation moves more swiftly, yet the questions remain the same: “Where is your G-d?”  “Why doesn’t He just save us/ purge evil?”   “You really believe that nonsense?”

Yet Christ tells us:  We will suffer for our faith (Matt: 24:9) The love of many will grow cold (Matt: 24:12) False christs shall rise (Matt: 24:24) He will come at an hour we don’t expect (Matt: 24:44) Not all who call on His name will enter into His rest (Matt: 7:21)

Right hearts and renewed spirits, then, have become things we can’t do without in these times. Peter tells us:

Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 

Are we prepared for the unexpected?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

It is no small thing to walk behind our Shepherd through the valley of death’s shadow.

The path is narrow and steep, and the unholy line both sides of it, waiting for the weak to fall, the foolish to stray from under the protection of His rod and staff, for the inattentive to lose their way, the tired for fall behind, and the fearful to turn back.

Our enemy speaks to us, as he did in Eden, of the fleshly good of Your creation, tempting us with pretty things, and planting seeds of doubt about what You’ve said to us: Did G-d really say…?

He proclaims to us in moments of spiritual fatigue and moments of crisis: All these things I will give to you…

So Father, today we repent of our sins, we confess them to You that we may be cleansed of all unrighteousness, all doubt and uncleanness, all fear and sorrow. Renew our hearts, Lord G-d, and refresh our spirits.

Restore us to fellowship with You, and each other.

Keep us from invoking Your heavenly Name to justify our earthly evils.

We present ourselves before the throne of grace and judgment. We come to You in our filth, with wretched hearts, weak flesh, tired minds, blind eyes, and hard hearts, that You might send the Son to us again to bring us back to You.

We say to Him today, in Your sight and by Your grace:

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 138: Of Such is the Kingdom

Mark 10:13-16 Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

What’s interesting to note is that Jesus was greatly displeased when He saw the disciples not letting the children through. Often he was frustrated at their lack of understanding, but every teacher knows that learning is a process, and as they were uneducated men for the most part, Jesus was patient. Here, it says He was displeased, the word ‘greatly’ implying that perhaps He was even angry.

The Apostles had succumbed (as they often did) to thinking their role was to protect Jesus from the world, and had a sense of exclusivity (which was partly the reason He was frustrated. (Mark 9:38-40) (Luke 9:50-55) 

What’s also of interest is that unbelievers will often use this verse, if they’ve read it or heard it, to point out why the idea of faith is ridiculous to them. They believe we somehow become stupid once we declare it, as if all the intellect in us suddenly vanishes, and all we’ve done up until that point is rendered null and void. They tell us in no uncertain terms that we’ve lost their respect and / or admiration.

In debates they are quick to point out their intellect and the value of science.

“The Bible was written by men.” But so were science books. Our quest for knowledge does not invalidate the Bible, but science invalidates ‘known’ information all the time, though they refer to it as ‘adding on.’  What was ‘true’ for science as it existed in the past has now either been disproved, debunked, or added to, but the Word of the Lord is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. And He is the reason they will never fathom how the universe works. Our knowledge is of good and evil, science and art, and doing what we need to survive.

NASA has done wonderful things, but light-year space travel continues to elude us, and probably always will.

It is bothersome to be summarily dismissed, but the truth is we need G-d more than we need their earthly respect and admiration, since they’re aligned on relying on earthly matters.

But our Lord did not mean the kingdom would be full of childish people(1 Corinthians 13:11) but to be child-like in matters that please G-d,  and continue to do His will despite the circumstances where we find ourselves. 

Children are: trusting, sharing, capable of feeling great love and compassion. They are quick to forgive and have a desire to please. They get excited about giving and receiving, they are inclusive and will expand their circles with no questions asked  (Do we not respond when a child we don’t know waves at us or greets us?)

Children seek comfort when things are not right with them. They tell you everything  that happens to them, and everything they feel. Even when they’re angry, they are quick to forgive and restore fellowship.

They don’t hate. They smile, laugh, and dance freely. They offer to help, or sometimes just start without even offering. They apologize (sometimes). They love to hug.

They are, in fact, most like themselves while they are children.

And then we teach them…

Compare the atmosphere of our country now to this: (Acts 4)

Sharing in All Things

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We ignore to our soul’s peril these words:  “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 

We keep believing, to our soul’s peril, that it’s a nice sentiment, and not a mandate.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, we can’t restore our innocence, having the seed of the Tree of Knowledge in us, we are born in sin from Adam’s legacy, yet we are redeemed in You, but lose our way as the enemy works his own plan among us, in our thoughts, hearts, and deeds.

All that You’ve prophesied is unfolding, and You tell us that if we endure to the end,  we shall be saved.  Endurance means we must retain the hearts of children while experiencing and pushing through a world full of evil and sin.

We hold onto Your words: See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:25)

Let us today take comfort, like children, in the knowledge that You have redeemed us, and though we are buffeted  on every side, no one can snatch us from Your hand. Help us to follow Your voice in the wilderness, and to keep to the Narrow Path of righteousness, holiness, and the truth of the Gospel of Grace and Redemption.

Restore to us a child-like desire to please our Father in Heaven, and trust Him fully in all things, for all things, and to see us through all things.

Lay Your hands on us today, Lord Jesus, and speak blessings to us once again.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 137: I Must Decrease

John 3:22-31

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

We have, as a nation, exalted ourselves in being things and having traits we had nothing to do with. We so desire to label G-d, to have him be more like us than to rise to His standards, that we minimize the teachings of Chris to fit our political views, suit our emotional needs, and justify our besetting sin.

Yet John the Baptist embodies the humility of serving as Christ’s herald.

His disciples, however, viewed it as something of a competition. “…all are coming to Him!”

John deftly guides them out of the spiritual minefield of competition and pride. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  What an attitude of servitude!

Jesus and John, up until the time John was in prison, were for the most part affirming each other. (John 5:16-30)

If we could only stay so humble, so unaware of ourselves because we’re focused on the Gospel gaining traction and being taken to all nations, how different would our churches be today? How powerful would the impact be on the current state of things?

How much different would the church look to faithless mockers if we served with godly focus and attitude, ministering truth in love?

How much more fulfilled would our own lives be?

The problem is that even in the midst of revival, the serpent enters again to plant seeds of doubt and fear.

John came to such a crossroads, and so do we, eventually, even seeing the signs and wonders for ourselves, attributing them to ‘nature’ rather than the Father’s control. Nature was created by Him.

Since He cannot look on sin, and hates pride, the earth’s next judgement will have to be by fire. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth created, with no hell attached below us, no sin, no evil, and above us not just sky, but the presence of the Living G-d, and a world full of worship and fellowship.

Most importantly, there will be no death. (Luke 20:27-38)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

The borders of darkness are shrinking, and the shrill cries of the prideful, the unbelievers, the sinful, and the faithless grow louder around us, and we are called to deny You before men. 

Keep our spirits bold, and give us what we should say in the hour we are called to testify to the Truth You gave us. (Matthew 10:19)

Let us maintain  pure hearts and contrite spirits before You, and humble ourselves in Your presence, to Your glory and that of the Father.

Forgive us when we take the wrong paths at spiritual crossroads, and call to us, Good Shepherd, that we might once again be under Your protection, for You’ve said none will be snatched from Your hand.

Let us discern rightly the signs of the times, as the sons of Issachar did, and know what to do. Give us the pure and powerful worshipful faithfulness of the Levites, and sanctify us, cleansing us from unrighteousness. 

As we watch the prophecies unfolding, and see the acceleration and increase of the Gospel alongside the acceleration and increase of immorality, let us decrease, that Your light in us be revealed. May it heal, and bring to faith, and may they see us respond in love, compassion, mercy, and grace, but always in truth, that they may see our good works and glorify G-d.

May it be done to us, Lord, as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 134: His Blood Be On Us

Matthew 27: 21-26

 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

They said, “Barabbas!”

22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”

23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”

But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”

25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

What a powerful curse the people called down on themselves! If not for Jesus interceding, even as He was dying, the Father’s wrath may have well been visited on Israel’s misguided religious leaders and the Roman empire. (Luke 23:34)

Yet our loving Lord, forsaken by the very source of His glory who darkened the heavens because He could not look on the worldly sins gathering like vultures at the cross, asked forgiveness, his holy blood already spilling to cover the most heinous sinners in the crowd.

This world, which thrives on quid pro quo and being one-up on each other, can’t conceive of that kind of love.

The sons of Abraham and Moses would have doomed themselves for generations to defy the Son of G-d with such an oath. It is because of this that when we return to our sin, backsliding in moments of temptation, doubt, and anger that our Father says if we return to Him, He will return to us. (Zechariah 1:3)

It’s only through this intercession that our names remain in the Book of Life, and the only means through which He’ll not remember our sins. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

His blood is on us, and hopefully on our children, not as a curse, but a blessing, and through our faith, the only path through which our souls are redeemed. We have these words from our Savior to sustain us:

Matthew 26:27-28

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Our sins are not covered over now, they are removed, as if they’d never happened, and forgotten, as if we never did them. If that isn’t cause to give thanks and praise, nothing else comes close. If that doesn’t merit worship in spirit and truth, nothing does.

John 1:29

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Judas, when filled with remorse and confronting the men who paid him, did not say he betrayed an innocent man, but innocent blood. (Matthew 27:3-4)

Pilate would not pass the death sentence on Christ, heeding the warning of his wife (Matthew 27:19) and washed his own hands to symbolically claim his unwillingness to be part of the bloodthirsty mob, echoing the words of the religious leaders to Judas, “You see to it.”  (Matthew 27:24) Make no mistake, Pilate was a worldly man, fully a part of a hedonistic empire, but the words of Jesus disturbed him. (John 19:10-11)

10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”

11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Today, let us be thankful His blood is upon us, over us, around us, and hopefully, over our progeny not as a curse, but a blessing, shed for the remission of sin, so that we might be together, now and forever.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The cleansing is daily, as brief as the days are, and as fleeting as life is.

We fail over and over, and like the good shepherd You are, You wait, and help, and heal us, and bless us again with fresh anointing from the Spirit, with renewed hearts, and yet our most iron resolve to repent crumbles almost as soon as we’re granted forgiveness. 

We are weak and lost without You, condemned to eternal punishment, and yet You interceded even for those who lurked and plotted in the night to see You die. Barrabas was the first to benefit from Your sacrifice, the thief on the cross was the second, and down through the ages, here we are from every nation praying for another day that we not be cut off, our names blotted from the Book of Life, our works worthy to withstand the judgment fires.

Today, on this Father’s Day, let us return once more to our Father in Heaven, who we can only give the scraps of our worship, the uncertainty of our thanks, the ravages of our righteousness, the lukewarm love of our hardened hearts, and our wavering faith.

Thank You for letting us know that You will never cast out those who seek You in earnest longing to be reconciled to the One who sent You.

Thank You for letting us know that You and the Father are One, though He is greater than You. (John 14:8)

Let us, today, turn to our Father and speak these words directly to Him, as no man other than the Son of God is worthy to intercede for us:

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 132: If You are the Son of G-d

Luke 4

Satan Tempts Jesus

  Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

And the devil said to Him,  If you are Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ 

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, ]“Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ 

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’

11 and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ 

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

 

Satan and his demons, fallen angels, and minions know that Jesus is who He proclaims to be (Luke 4:34), (Luke 10:18)  but it was mankind that Jesus had to convince, because it is the souls of mankind that are at stake.

Here was an opportunity to show everyone in the city that He was under the Father’s protection. Here was a chance to publicly remove all doubt, without all the rigors of ministry, the unwashed multitudes clamoring for healing, with only a few giving thanks to G-d for their blessings and miracles.

At the end of a 40 day fast, our Lord, being fully man, was tired, weak, hungry, and hot in the desert sun. He likely looked every bit of it, and now, the Father allows the enemy to assail Him, to see if His obedience was worthy of the times to come, and it is in this moment that the very salvation of man is on the line, because if the Messiah gives in, His death on the cross is no longer necessary, and we die in our sins with no chance of repentance, no grace or mercy, with our filthy righteousness reeking in G-d’s nostrils.

So the Accuser engages the Christ in a war of words, of the Father’s Word, no less, using the Father’s prophet’s own words to get Jesus to fall. The third temptation is most like the one Jesus endured when He was finally crucified. Indeed, the words are almost identical:

Matthew 27:39-43

39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

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

This was the opportune time, and though Satan wasn’t physically there, his spirit was moving among the crowd, among the religious leaders, as Jesus, this time dying as He hung and bled, once again resists the temptation to deliver Himself from the pain.

Indeed, He’d already sought to ask. (Matthew 26:39)  

Does He not tell us that all things are possible with G-d? It was entirely possible to find another way, but then, we’d have no one to stand before the throne and intercede for us, we’d have no holy blood to plead, and no grace to operate in. And while, as Gentiles, we’d not be under the law, we’d certainly be under His wrath, which is the fate of unbelievers.

It is through faith, praise, thanks, and obedience that our Lord operates, and He will not put on a show for the unfaithful. (Matthew 16:4)

He also refrained from acting on that which Satan quoted to Him earlier about being kept by the angels. (Matthew 26: 50-53) though it was confirmed for us earlier that what Isaiah prophesied was true (Matthew 4:11)

Let us be glad then, that we have a Savior who moves in, and is sustained by, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us give thanks, praise, and obedience to a Son who has pleased His Father, and obeyed him in all things concerning our salvation.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

We can’t hold fast to the promises by faith. Even as You ministered, and with all the miracles You performed in the power of the Holy Spirit they said to You: “Help my unbelief,” “Increase our faith,” “Teach us to pray,” “Show us the Father,” and other such phrases that probably wearied Your own spirit. 

Our hearts are hard, and our spirits feeble. We are a wobbly lot, and yet we have Your words to not be afraid, or worry, for we are of value to the Father who knew us before the womb, and would see us reconciled through You, our Savior, Brother, Friend, King, and ultimately, Judge. 

If we are to ask anything in Your Name, You have said that the Father will do it, and with all that we ask, from the big to the small, we ask this above everything: We never doubt that You are the Son of G-d, that You are the only Name under Heaven by which we are saved, that You are the Way, Truth, and Light, and that there will be weeping and unquenchable fire for the unfaithful and disobedient.

Let us never tempt the Father to put on a show for the sake of ourselves, for we have no power in ourselves that does not come through, and from, the Holy Spirit and His grace to us through Your sacrifice.

You have said to us that we will perform greater works, but like Your disciples, we really don’t understand this saying, or we would act on it to do better than we are. Bring it to mind when we are struggling in our own abilities to be more like You, and let us be still before You as we gather strength from You through prayer. 

We ask, also, that You come to us at the opportune times we give so often to our enemy to remind us that as You withstood temptation, we also must stand, abiding in You that we might resist the devil, and have him flee from us, as He did from You, as it is our sake that You bought us at a steep and awful price. 

Let us prove ourselves, in You, through You, and by You, worthy of the cost.

May it done to us as You have said.

Amen.