Devotional 123: That Deceiver

Matthew 27:62-65

Pilate Sets a Guard

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

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

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

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

Matthew 27:51-53

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

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

Matthew 22:25-35

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

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

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

 (John 14-19)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark 16:14

The Great Commission

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

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

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

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

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

Ecclesiastes 8:9-11

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

Death Comes to All

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

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

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

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

I tell you the truth…

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 119: No Man Common or Unclean

Acts 10:24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

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

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

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

We understand the Jews were chosen, as Moses said:

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

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

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

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

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

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

25 As He says also in Hosea:

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

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

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

And he says to them:

Acts 10:34-35

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

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

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

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

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

As Paul told the Corinthians,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 116: The Kingdom Within

Luke 17:20-30

The Coming of the Kingdom

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

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

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

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

Yet, He didn’t sin.

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

Matthew 27:46

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

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

John 17:5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet the Father tells us this:

Deuteronomy 7:9-11

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

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

Jesus tells us:

John 14:1

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

And again…

Matthew 18:3

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

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

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

Will He marvel at our faith, or our unbelief?

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

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

Devotional 115: Those Who Do the Will of My Father

Matthew 7:24-29

Build on the Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

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

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

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

So what does He tell us:

Sending Out the Twelve

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

He charged the disciples with ministering to Israel because:

Matthew 19:28

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

As for the rest of us, He says:

Matthew 10:21-22

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

Matthew 10:27-28

Jesus Teaches the Fear of God

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

 

Matthew 10:32-33

Confess Christ Before Men

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

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

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

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

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

Are you really?

Therefore I pray:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 106: The Accursed Crowd

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

Who Is He?

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

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

Rejected by the Authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 12:17-19

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

And it scared them to the core.

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

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

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

John 8:42-43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus calls the downtrodden His brothers and sisters.

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 102: In That Day…

Luke 17:26-31

26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

    The final day and hour unknown by all, even Jesus.
(Mark 13:32) 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    What we do see is the acceleration of the world’s technology, and the continued use of the word ‘unprecedented’ as it pertains to natural events, the ‘chipping’ of employees by their companies, the continued exploitation of people for cheap labor, and the siphoning of wealth and natural resources to those who can afford to pay.
    What we do see are homeless cities in the shadows of luxury buildings that may or may not be filled.
    What we do see is the decline of education, the return and rise of prison slave labor, and  detached and unresponsive, self-serving governments.
    What we do see is a press dedicated to fear-mongering, and creating a sense of ‘other.’
    And it is all of G-d, who has not abandoned His throne, and even now does not share His glory, and even now, is in control.
    We keep thinking there’s going to be a sign, or a warning, where if we got it wrong or walked away, somehow we’d be able to get back. Jesus warns us of being lukewarm, doubtful, and unfruitful. We don’t get those days back, and that’s why He tells us to count the cost before we commit.
    His plan is one of salvation of our corrupted souls, not our earthly flesh. His plan is one of forgiveness and the purging of sin through the blood of Christ, not to wink at it and let it slide because it’s legal under man’s law, and popular in public opinion. His plan is to create a new Heaven and a new earth, not leave us on a planet made dead through the works of His enemy. His plan is destroy evil forever, and let us be under the rule of He who is without sin, our Good Shepherd, Friend, Brother, Judge, King, and Savior, who will come again as Lion, not Lamb.
    But the signs are already here, it’s just that no one believes them to be related to the Word of the Lord. We are witnessing, as signs, only the inexorable, incremental fulfilling of Christ’s prophecies.
    It will be an unprecedented ordinary day, in the context of whatever ‘ordinary’ looks like at that point.
    In the meantime, we move slowly forward, like a celestial iceberg, toward the day of our titanic reckoning. (Matthew 24:3-14)

The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The Great Tribulation

14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought notthen let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!18 And pray that your flight may not be in winter.19 For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

21 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

Everyday events will be ongoing, and then eternity will impose itself on time, and the law, judgment, and will of G-d will supersede the fragile and compromised dominion of men.

In the meantime, the suffering of those of us who will not renounce His Name in order to continue to exist will also increase. We must hold fast to the fact that this is not our permanent home, and the rubber of our faith will meet the road of reality when the pain of their torture hits, and we are confronted with our own mortality, and He does not deliver us in spectacular fashion, as with the Hebrew children, but we become one of the ‘others’ delivered up, and cut in two.

We have, to our peril and on a global scale, disregarded the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

And if our righteousness on our best day is as filthy rags before the Father, how much more then should we heed Christ, and prepare the way of the Lord?

Therefore I pray: 

Lord Jesus,

As we strive in a fallen world to hold fast to its polar opposite, and do the Father’s will, that we may be reconciled to Him in word and deed, and live with You in eternity, give us a bold spirit to endure to the end that we might be saved.

We ask this so that we might not hold onto the Truth as a selfish thing, for You tell us none can come to You unless the Father grants it. We ask that You put the seeds in us to plant, and call us to where they’re needed, which You have said is not already among the righteous.

A lot of churches have become culture clubs that don’t serve their communities, that do outreach like Pharisees, seeking their rewards among men, patting sinners on the head, and saying ‘Keep warm and well fed,’ while providing no coat or food. The minds of their shepherds are on earthly pleasures even as they preach. They seek power they can’t keep in a world where they can’t stay, and don’t honor You with their hearts.

The tares are planted, and the wolf and serpent stalk and slither among the flock, seeing to their own profit and posterity like Simon the Sorcerer, who sought Holy Spirit’s power as a magic act. They have forgotten Your words: ‘They have their reward.’

Yet we are tried, mocked, tempted, grow weary, and even now as the prophecies of unfold, we are doubtful if any of this will come to anything resembling what You’ve told us.

In those times, remind us to seek You, that we might be comforted, given rest, and imbued once more with power from on high; let us seek times of refreshing, and let our peace return to us.

Bring to mind the Psalms and Proverbs of Your two greatest kings, for one teaches us how to do business with G-d, and the other, with man.

I would endure to the end, Lord, that me and my house, and the ones that You’ve given me as I sow will be saved.  I ask that You grant this also to my Brothers and Sisters around the world, that it will be as You have said:

Mark 13:27

27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

and (Matthew 24):

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In that day, we will ask You no more questions, there will only be unspeakable joy, and the memory of this fallen world will be washed away forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 100: A Man Called Jesus

John 9:8-12

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

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

He said, “I am he.

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

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

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

He said, “I do not know.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He climbed mountains to be alone and pray.

To heal Bartimaeus, He spit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 98: When the Lord Confirms

1 Kings 1:5-10

Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. (And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, “Why have you done so?” He was also very good-looking. His mother had borne him after Absalom.) Then he conferred with Joab the son of Zeruiah and with Abiathar the priest, and they followed and helped Adonijah. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and the mighty men who belonged to David were not with Adonijah.

And Adonijah sacrificed sheep and oxen and fattened cattle by the stone of Zoheleth, which is by En Rogel; he also invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the men of Judah, the king’s servants. 10 But he did not invite Nathan the prophet, Benaiah, the mighty men, or Solomon his brother.

The reason Adonijah’s bid failed was because he exalted himself, and we already know what our Lord has to say about that: (Matthew 23)

11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Adonijah was an opportunist, taking advantage of David’s weakness in age and his penchant for not disciplining his sons. It wasn’t the first time, for Absalom had also taken a run at the throne, so this was a spiritual stronghold for David in terms of being vulnerable, but it was G-d who’d secured David to the throne, not his men, and not the people, therefore he couldn’t be overthrown by earthly means, though many had tried.

David instinctively knew not to kill Saul, though he had every reason, and more than one chance to do so. But when the time came for Saul to be removed, G-d didn’t let David do it, but a prideful soldier who thought he was serving the crown by taking advantage of his opportunity.

Adonijah surrounded himself with other opportunists, and no one rebuked him or tried to stop him. The wrong people, also not confirmed by G-d, were at the feast, but now comes the contrast. David now had to act, and quickly, lest word of Adonijah’s coronation spread, and the people begin to drift toward him and get him in their minds as being the rightful king. G-d had not confirmed him, and neither had David.

Bathsheba’s timely warning came not a moment too soon: (1Kings 1)

20 And as for you, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, that you should tell them who will sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.

David’s response was immediate, and the following ritual that rightly confirmed Solomon to the throne was done within the guidelines of the Lord’s decrees. David had learned from the Ark of the Covenant fiasco. (1 Kings 32-37)

32 And King David said, “Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.” So they came before the king. 33 The king also said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have Solomon my son ride on my own mule, and take him down to Gihon. 34 There let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him king over Israel; and blow the horn, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 Then you shall come up after him, and he shall come and sit on my throne, and he shall be king in my place. For I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and Judah.”

36 Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king and said, “Amen! May the Lord God of my lord the king say so too.37 As the Lord has been with my lord the king, even so may He be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

And G-d used the city as an ampitheater to quickly end the false reign of the usurper:

40 And all the people went up after him; and the people played the flutes and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth seemed to split with their sound.

At the feast of the false king, when Jonathan, the priest’s son, brought news of the official coronation, these men proved themselves no more loyal to Adonijah than they’d been to David.

49 So all the guests who were with Adonijah were afraid, and arose, and each one went his way.

How often have we gone before G-d, without waiting for confirmation, with presumption of His blessing, and yes, even with pride that we are the one called to fill the gap and come to the rescue, only to be humiliated, or hurt, when we find out we weren’t only not called, but are incapable of doing the job we thought we could do.

It’s all around us: “Live every day like it’s your last.” “Carpe diem.”  “Opportunity only knocks once.”

But Solomon himself wrote through the Holy Spirit:

11 I returned and saw under the sun that—

The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.

Time for what? Chances to do what?

To do the work G-d has called us to do, to use the gifts and talents He’s given us to His glory. If He has plans to give us a hope and a future, and instills us with gifts, and calls us out of the world, we need not get caught up in the world’s need for recognition. But it’s not in our timing, necessarily. The favor of man is not where our blessings come from, but the favor and calling of G-d.

And how many times has it happened, the manifestation and needs for our gifts, that it never came in the way, or among the people, we thought it would?

Peter tells us this: (2 Peter 1:10-11)

10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

In other words, Heaven and earth will split with the sounds of rejoicing over you, the rightful heir to the mantle of which G-d has called you.
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven, bring to mind this prayer from Your Word when I would seek to go before presumptuously and pridefully before You, not assured of Your blessing, not in Your security, and not in Your calling:
Proverbs 30:8-9 

Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

Help us, like David, to bide our time and do no harm as You anoint us, confirm us, and exalt us to where You need us to be, securing our position, opening doors no one can shut, and shutting those no one can open.

Let us keep before us in our hearts and minds that we will triumph over our enemies, no weapons formed against us will prosper, and let it be that our light so shines, those who mean us harm will glorify You.

Prepare our hearts that our exalted place may be out of the sight of people, but as we are skilled in our work, we will not remain in obscurity.  But if we do, that too, is for Your glory, and You see us, and our reward will be no less without earthly praise.

It is a humanly impossible task in this imperfect world where pride, standing out, being unique, is a daily command to our flesh. Remind us when these temptations come that with You, Father, as Your Son has told us, all things are possible.

I ask it in the Name of Jesus, believing I’ve received.

May it be to us You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 96: Take Possession

Deuteronomy 1:8

See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’

They had the Father’s promise they would be delivered and be given good land, and after all He’d performed to deliver them from Egypt in spectacular fashion, they took their eyes off Him, and turned them not only downward, but inward, and became as grasshoppers in their own eyes.

If we profess to be faithful to a G-d unseen, yet all powerful, how is it we limit ourselves? Why do we limit ourselves? Usually, a whole host of earthly reasons that have nothing to do with G-d not doing what He said. (Numbers 23:19)

19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

If deliverance and salvation were valuable enough that Jesus should come down to die for our sins that we might be raised to life, what is its value to us?

Grace is undeserved, Love is unconditional, but Salvation is going to cost. There has to be some effort on our part to attain that which we claim to believe.

Matthew 7:7

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

And again:

Matthew 7:24

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And once more: (Matthew 11)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.

We still have to go meet Him, though He’ll meet us where we are. We have to ask for Him to come in; He’ll not do so otherwise.

Revelation 3:20

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

When there are altar calls, or if someone is just crying in the dark at their worst hour, and their final moment of despair, there has to be some effort extended. He’s at the door now, but He won’t always be there.

Luke 22:37

37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

And though He was speaking here of the crucifixion, it is no less true for when He comes again. There is the day of G-d’s wrath, where He will deal with the unbelievers and the rebellious.

We must take possession of G-d’s promises, repeat His Word back to Him, for even He tells us it’s higher than His name, and His name is above all. Imagine G-d, holding His Bible over His head, then go back to when Moses was weary, and his officers lifted up His arms, or when the serpent staff was lifted, and the Israelites were healed.

When Christ was lifted up, we were all healed. Do we receive that? Do we believe it?

Go open the door, while He yet tarries.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Today I take possession of all that is in Your hand for me,  Your good plans to give me a hope and a future through the atoning work of Your Son.

I take possession of my salvation, walking it out with reverent fear.

I confess to You that it was not always so, nor is it still. There are times when I’ve left the door closed, and stayed silent when the mocking began. I was a coward and a backslider, as Peter was among the Jews when Paul rebuked him. There are times, to my shame even now, when I am still those things.

I take possession then, of the covenant of grace, of the chance to repent, and receive Your gracious restoration when You look at me and ask if I love You, and You give me beauty for ashes, even as You dry my tears, renewing me in heart and spirit.

I take possession of the joy of Your love, the promise of eternal life, and deliverance from death and hell.

Anoint me again, Father, with the oil of righteousness, the balm of forgiveness, and the incense of praise that pleases You. 

I would confess my Christ boldly before men, that He may confess me to You,  so I may be saved. 

Let me remember that like the workers in the vineyards, Your will is sovereign, and I am rewarded for the work I complete, tested to see if it will stand. Help me to build it on spiritual rock, that it would not be toppled, or consumed by Your testing fires. Help me to seal it against he who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. 

I take possession today, not only of the promise of cross, but of the stone that was rolled away to reveal that my soul’s redemption was so valuable, You sent Your Son to receive it by faith in me. 

Let my life therefore reflect my faith in You.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 93: The Old Wine

Luke 5:34-39

34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’

Last time I wrote about making ourselves small in G-d’s eyes, looking, so to speak, through the eyes of grasshoppers; this brings us to the second thing we do after we’ve made ourselves small: we turn back.

Israel, on the brink of taking the land promised them, saw the giants and quailed, though the Father had already proven His faithfulness. It rendered void their plea for deliverance from Egypt, and as much as it angered Moses, (Psalm 106:33)  it really angered G-d.

David recounts their faithlessness in Psalms 78 and 106.

G-d already told them He was giving them the land, and their victory was assured. What should have been a time of rejoicing turned into decades of purging, for G-d wouldn’t allow that generation He delivered from slavery to occupy a new land in faithlessness.

 

Consider this from Luke 9:61-62

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go bid them farewell who are at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

So, back to the wineskins. Why is the old wine better?

The appeal of the old wine is the process is behind us, and success, in whatever degree, is evident in front of us. The thought of doing it again with the new grapes in the hot Israeli sun was not appealing: gathering, hauling, storing, making the wine, then pouring it into the wineskin itself so it doesn’t spill.

But it had to be done.

Yet consider again what Jesus says at the end:  they don’t immediately desire the new. We don’t like ‘suddenly’ unless its favorable. A sudden increase in pay, or the gifting of a need unexpectedly met.

But Job and his family also had a ‘suddenly’ experience, didn’t they? What now?

It comes down to a matter of trust: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:15)

Our Lord tells us in Matthew 6:31-34

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

So if He is: faithful to keep His promises, the author and finisher of our faith, our living Redeemer, and we trust and hope in Him to deliver us from the grave, then how are we walking that out in our lives?

Do we really trust this? Did G-d really say…? The serpents never stop crawling; don’t isolate yourself in spiritual gardens of solitude.

We hold His Word in our hands, and He tells us His Word is higher than His Name, and there is nothing greater than that.  Let us be assured by the words of the Apostle who experienced the greatest highs and lows of all G-d had to offer:

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have said to us that You are united to the Father in will, deed, and intentions toward us, and the Father Himself tells us His plan is to give us a hope and a future.

Yet we are to suffer with You in order to share the glory of Heaven with You, and forsake our very lives and loved ones when You call us to do the work of the kingdom. It is a life of obedience under a light yoke with a heavy price.

Our grasshopper eyes and nostalgic hearts look back, and Your light is calling to us from a strange place we’ve never seen and don’t understand. The way is fraught with perils and trials, and we read over and over again these assurances:

Don’t be afraid. Trust and believe. I am with You always. I will deliver you. I forgive you. No one can snatch you out of my hands. I call you friends. I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you. Do not worry. Do not doubt. Believe in G-d, believe also in Me. Assuredly, I say to you…

We know that one day we shall want the new wine, and it will be better than that which You prepared at the wedding feast. Strengthen us, Lord, to keep our eyes focused on You, and not to be like Israel, provoking You to wrath, but let us answer the call as did Your disciple Matthew, with no hesitation, and no regrets.

Luke 5:27-28

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

I ask it in Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.