Devotional 152: Seeking Redemption

Luke 2:36 – 38

Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 151: A Growing Ministry

Luke 2:39 – 40

The Family Returns to Nazareth

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

     May it be done to us as You have said.

      Amen.

Devotional 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 129: A Rift in Ministry

Acts 15:36-41

Division over John Mark

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

From what we are told and not told, Barnabas and Paul never ministered together, or quite possibly, ever even met again. We are told that Mark left them, but not why. As Paul’s missions were extensive and difficult, but critical to the spreading of the Gospel, whenever Mark left them to return to Jerusalem was likely an inopportune time, and made an already difficult task that much more difficult.

Barnabas, however, was still willing to give Mark another chance, but Paul was not.

As an alternative seemed to be available, we’re not sure why it got to the point of a such an argument, but perhaps Barnabas at this time had seen and heard enough of Paul, and knew enough of Mark, to launch out on his own. We are not told that was the case, but very often, when G-d splits a ministry amid chaos and strife, it still ends to His glory.

The Book of Acts itself came after the church was persecuted and its members and missionaries forced to run for their lives, if not their freedom.

We don’t have any books written by Barnabas that chronicle his time with Mark and the work they did in Cyprus.

But we do have this, later, from Paul:

2 Timothy 4:9-11

The Abandoned Apostle

Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Alone and in prison, perhaps Paul had received word of all that Mark did in Cyprus to assist Barnabas. We are told that Demas made his decision to return to worldly things, and the others left for their own reasons. But now, he tells Timothy to get Mark, and bring him to help Paul during his last days, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”

This, like Paul’s conversion, is a complete 180 from where he was when Barnabas took Mark away. How very lonely even the tone of Paul’s letter is, where after having preached to millions, he only has Luke.

Yet even so, that was one more than Jesus had when ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’

And as Christ restores Peter, so Paul restores Mark, even if indirectly, back into the ministry of the Gospel. Mark, however, in contrast to Demas, never truly left.

We have the words of John:

(1 John 2:18-20)

Deceptions of the Last Hour

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Let us be thankful that we yet have the grace and mercy of our Father, who has imparted it to the Son, who has encouraged us to stay the course. For Christ says of those who turn back: (Luke 9:62) 

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.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In the course of our walking, there are days it is not in us. As Mark returned to Jerusalem to get back on familiar footing, with maybe some fear of such a pagan and polytheistic culture, so we too seek comfort zones even in our missions. 

Paul took some hard, long, and difficult journeys, but as You sustained him, so You sustain us. 

Paul’s faith and trust in You was absolute, more often than not. His communication and obedience were shining examples of what our own walks could, and should be. 

Yet even when we are Mark, we yet serve. Forgive us when we take the lowly place not in humility, but in fear, discomfort, doubt, and anger. 

It is in the matters of Your sovereignty, and in Your will for our lives and the pleasures of this world come into conflict, that we ask You for Paul’s resolve, but Barnabas’ compassion. As we minister to the next generation, of new believers in all nations, and look to those who have run the race for guidance to take their mantles with fear and reverence, let us remain connected to You. 

And when and where we fall, let us rise to once again be useful in ministry, being refreshed, restored, and reconciled to You, to Your glory, and abiding in Your will.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen. 

Devotional 108: The Other Prophesied King

The purging of our heart’s strongholds is long, hard work.

1 Kings 13:1-5

The Message of the Man of God

13 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ 

2 Kings 23:1-3

Josiah Restores True Worship

23 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.

Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.

The only king prophesied by name in the Bible other than Jesus was destined for righteousness and fellowship with G-d.  A good king recognized that the process of purification for the sins of his people began with him, and was a reflection of him. What the king does, the people will follow.

Josiah did a lot of work, tearing down the hedged bets of shrines, high places, altars of human and child sacrifice, unholy objects and idol figures that were a plague on the land, built by his forebears in case the G-d of Abraham was not who He claimed to be.

It is amazing how much of our human attributes we ascribe to G-d’s ability to achieve, never knowing that even our highest possible achievement is our limited way of expressing love to Him, and even prone to error, as when David first moved the Ark of the Covenant, if not done without His permission, guidance, or assistance. These are works of the flesh, burned to stubble in the testing by holy fire.

That being said, we too, were prophesied to be the children of G-d.  Our days were planned before one of them came to be, and now, we live in the fruition of that summoning. Are we willing and able to remove the rebellious items in the high places of our own houses? Are we willing to consent to G-d’s sovereignty in His calling on our lives? Are we willing to put our pride and will aside, and empty ourselves of who we think we are, in order to be who the Father called us to be, and do what He’s asked us to do?

Are we ready to leave all?

Luke 5:27-32 

Matthew the Tax Collector

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.

To give up the one thing keeping us from the Kingdom?

Mark 10:21

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

The Father’s call supersedes anything and everything else, and demands obedience if we are to be His servants, discipline if we are to be His disciples, and faith if we are to be in His presence.

It was said of Josiah:

2 Kings 23:25

25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.

Compare that to this:

1 Samuel 15:11

11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

What will be said of us, as the children of the living G-d, called through grace, partaking of His mercy?

It’s up to us.

Therefore I pray:

We thank You, Father, for the mercy of Your calling, for bringing us out of the world to reveal the truth of Your Son through the power of Your Spirit. 

Let disobedience and perverse things be far from us, and let our eyes be pure lamps so the light that enters us brings no stains of darkness to our souls.

Help us to hold fast to Your statutes, obey Your commandments, and allow the purification of our fellowship with You, and the conviction, confession, and remission of our sin to reconcile us to You again, by the Spirit’s prompting.

We would not grieve you with our faithlessness, erecting high places in the worship of the created instead of the Creator, handing our fates over to false gods, and trusting in fables of the stars and zodiac, and put before the doing of Your will the enjoyment of our possessions that Your hand has freely given us, to provoke Your anger.

We would abide in Your love and not Your wrath, for You are jealous for our souls, and have given us salvation that we might be reconciled to You. We will not treat it as a common thing. Bring to mind, when we fall into temptation to backslide, and sin, that we were bought with a price that cost You everything, and the You bestowed the gift to us alongside Your chosen people.

Father, we cry out to You today, to restore good and righteous leaders to us, to break the spiritual choke hold Your sworn enemy has the world in now. Bring our leaders to godly repentance. Convict them, O Lord, and open their eyes to the strife their words and actions create, the pain and the worry, the loss of life You’ve given to all men, not just to one nation, the elite, and the wealthy.

We pray Josiah’s spirit of mind be with us as peg down our tents in new territory, and if it is not, O Lord, Your will still gets accomplished. 

May our deeds withstand the testing fire, that we might claim our reward, and depart from those who would see us hurt, or dead, before our work is done.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 107: Her Sins are Forgiven

Luke 37-50

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

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

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was no less true in the ministry of Christ.

Luke 8:1-3

Many Women Minister to Jesus

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

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

John 4:25 – 27

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

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

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

Luke 24:1-3

He Is Risen

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

And again in verse 10:

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

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

John 8:10-11

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

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

He never said she didn’t commit the sin.

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We will open the door when You knock.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 106: The Accursed Crowd

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

Who Is He?

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

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

Rejected by the Authorities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 12:17-19

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

And it scared them to the core.

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

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

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

John 8:42-43

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus calls the downtrodden His brothers and sisters.

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 97: Unending Dominion

Daniel 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.

In the beginning, the Father trusted His new creation with the stewardship of the earth.

Genesis 1:26

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

But His new creation, in spite of the fact that his mate gave in to the serpent’s wiles, still had a chance to save it. Sadly, for all of us, he did not.

Genesis 3:17

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.

Hate Mondays? ^^^^

Don’t. Be glad you have a place to go, and be glad you can get there.

Adam didn’t rebuke Eve, but blamed G-d:

Genesis 3:12-13

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

As the saying goes, ‘You had one job…” But the blame game had started, and from that point there was no going back. Man had given his dominion to the enemy of G-d not only on the earth, but within his own spirit.

As a result, we’ve been in rebellion ever since, doubting G-d’s promises ever since, and allowing ourselves to be repeatedly, (and sometimes willingly) deceived if it pleased our ears and fit our agenda, seeing the lie for what it was, and going along anyway.

Dr. Myles Munro described prayer as seeking G-d’s divine intervention in earthly affairs, because G-d doesn’t take back what He gives, and the heart of men is set toward doing evil.

Fortunately, G-d does new things, and is a G-d of restoration: when the smoke and fires of tribulation and judgement are quenched, the power of the grave cut off, and the destruction of sin is thoroughly final, our Savior takes over, restored to His rightful place. He has already withstood the temptation of the evil one, not exchanging His kingdom to come for immediate acclaim of the masses who would see him dead, though He suffered greatly in the desert. It was so intense that the angels had to minister to Him.

As a result, He has not given over His dominion, not handed the scepter to the serpent, and intimately understands the sovereignty of His Father’s plan in ways and to levels we cannot yet understand. The apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 13:12)

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

How are we known? We were fashioned in the womb by the Father’s hands. I think it’s safe to say then that our confusion will be cleared up in the most wonderful way, and the parts will be made whole.

In that we will be able to trust in our Lord, dominion, like us, won’t ever be taken from His hand. For that, (and Mondays where we can go out to earn our daily bread), let us be  truly thankful.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

From the beginning, we have shown ourselves unworthy and incapable of complying with Your commands, of holding You in reverent fear and honor. 

And from the beginning, You had a plan to reconcile us to You. Yet you also tell us that even in the end, there will be a harvesting of unbelievers, and we as Your ambassadors, are to be about the kingdom work of calling them to repentance.

As the lost slink further into the shadows, the mockers grow louder, the self-righteous twist Your Word to suit political ends of power, control, and money acting like the very Pharisees You denounced and constantly rebuked, let us stand firm against the onslaught.

As we ourselves tremble when we face the mob, stones of science and the wisdom of men in their books and in their mouths ready to fly at us, give us the boldness of the Holy Spirit, the conviction of the Truth we are about to speak, and let us rejoice, whatever the outcome, that we have declared Your Son before men, that He might declare us before You. Indeed, let us confound them as Paul confounded the Jews in Damascus. (Acts 9:22)

And let those who have ears among the crowd hear, and receive in good soil the restoring love and enduring faith of the Gospel message as balm over the serpent’s sting, looking to the second Tree of Life where our Savior spilled His blood to present us before You, that we might not die in Your presence. 

Set for us divine appointments among the seekers, and let us open their understanding with Your words as we walk with them along the way, leaving their hearts afire for You when we go.

Help us to remember the day is far spent, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth echoes on the horizon as the angels gather once more to reap, one final time, and strip us of the corrupted dominion we’ve practiced. Let us dwell under Your light as You shine forth from the new Heaven, as we enjoy the new and unpolluted, sinless earth You will give to Your Son, our Savior, Shepherd, Brother, and Lord King, now and forevermore.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 69: No Sign Will Be Given

Matthew 12:38-42
The Scribes and Pharisees Ask for a Sign
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Two major themes regarding faithlessness and doubt run through the Word:  “Where is your G-d?” and “Give us a sign.”

The truth is that the spirit of man is attuned to the Spirit of Heaven, Throughout the ages, men have looked at the sky and made stories of gods, and they’ve looked at creation and made stories of gods (I’m including goddesses in the generic term). Now we fight over which continents gods were ‘first’, and which ones were more ‘powerful’ and what color they were, and how they ALL have a god whose story parallels that of Jesus.

Like the Israelites who requested Moses go up the mountain rather than have G-d come to them, the will of man has subdued the spirit of man, in fear of confronting the glory of G-d, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

“Higher power,” “Universal Energies” ‘Something out there.’ ‘Somewhere out there,’ and my personal favorite, “The Big Man in the Sky.” In John 4:24, Jesus clearly tells us:

G-d is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do it in spirit and truth.

and King David tells us in Psalms 19: 1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.

We are the only planet with an atmosphere that sustains a variety of natural forms, the only planet that has human life, we are far enough from the sun that we don’t burn or get pulled in by its gravity, and far enough away from the moon so that the tides are proper.

We go from that to a G-d who numbers the hair on our heads, and knows when His sparrows die.

Paul tells us that men are without excuse for their idols when they come into the knowledge of G-d.

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

My point is this: the signs are all around us, just as it was with those who asked Jesus for a sign. The unbelievers, mockers, and scoffers will always put the burden of proof on the believer, and use the Ayn Rand quote: “You can’t prove a non-existence.”

We need to be able to defend our faith, yes, but we don’t have to defend G-d. We don’t have to prove His existence, because the evidence of such is all around every one of us. They neither truly seek G-d or want to believe because they’d be confronted with something greater than themselves, and even if you were to perform a miracle, they’d attribute it to part of science yet undiscovered. Jesus raised dead people, and healed a man’s blindness who they knew, and they still asked Him by whose authority was He doing these things, and for a sign that He was from G-d.

For the most part, men have chosen their lot according to what they desire most. The earth is transitory, as is power and wealth, and because they chalk the Bible up to being error-prone, outdated, old-fashioned, and imaginary, they never read that their plans come to nothing. They die in their sin and unbelief, for Jesus tells us that by our words we’ll be justified, and by them, condemned. (Matthew 12:37)

Therefore I pray: 

Let us not stumble before the onslaught of Your enemy’s soldiers, Lord.

Let us hold fast to eternal truth, and not transitory arguments. Let us not meander down dark roads of useless philosophy, and forms of godliness with no kernel of truth, the foolishness of man’s wisdom. You’ve said even the elect will be fooled by signs and wonders performed by false Christs, but You also tell us Your sheep know Your voice, and that if we endure to the end, we’ll be saved.

Help us to remember that You help the downtrodden, speak truth to power, and maintain Your connection to the Father, glorifying Him in all things, and every work You do. As we follow, help us to copy Your example.

Let us remain grounded in the Word of the Father, whose anointed spoke and wrote of You, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all nations, our eternal King, and our final Judge.

We would not scatter abroad, Lord. When we backslide, let us touch the hem of Your garment, and rise again, spotless, blameless, and reconciled. We would be worthy, faithful disciples.

Today, let me consider all You’ve made in the simple things you’ve surrounded my life with, and the grand things you’ve done in the earth. I pray for those in distress by the power of nature, even so, still guided by Your hand. Deliver them, bless them, and restore them according to Your will. Let there be among them those who would point to You, that new souls chosen before the foundation of the world be redeemed to the Father. Speak peace to the natural storms, and peace to the spiritual storms that will follow.

By the power of Your holy name, I ask it.

Amen

Devotional 63: They Might Also See Lazarus

John 12:9-11

The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

Dead four days, and no Christ to speak Life to him.

When Jesus did arrive, Martha, lacking the centurion’s faith, not-so-gently rebukes Him.

Jesus cautions her on doubting His ability, and restores her to a path of faith in Him, and shortly after, her brother is resurrected, unbound, and restored to her and Mary.

The Pharisees, chained in the grave of laws of their own making, infamous for their hard hearts and earthly concerns, don’t rejoice, but plot to murder a man and friend of Jesus, simply because people believed on Him after that miracle, and slipped from their control and influence.

Lazarus was a daily reminder and testimony to the authority, power, and life changing ministry of Jesus: a life restored by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Promised One.

Are we also daily reminders and living testimonies to the hard-hearted?

Are we willing to be?

Once dead in our sins, now restored to Life with the seal of the Spirit on our souls, which we must now guard against the desires of the flesh for earthly things.

We are the called, and no one takes us from his hand, but we can wriggle free if we want.  We can stray from the path at any moment. We grieve the G-dhead daily, if not hourly, and our hearts are reminded in the watches of the night that the darkness is harder to walk in than the light.

Sin by daylight, repent by starlight? No, brothers and sisters, cling to Him always, in all things, and when temptations come, and weariness assails, and doubt soils our songs of praise, and our offerings are unacceptable to Him, consider this:

There was only one way out of the grave, and Christ has revealed it to us. His ‘great shout’, I believe, is the “Come forth!” on the last day, when those who’ve built their house on the Rock of Heaven, and follow the Lamb of G-d, will reign with the Prince of Peace in an eternal Kingdom with no sin, and our sun shall be the light of the Father, with a new Heaven and a new Earth, restored to purity, with Hell and evil and faithlessness, and all manner of sin destroyed.

Even through his grave clothes Lazarus saw, and stumbled toward the Light….

Let those of us who say we see and know walk in it, as we work out our salvation, and bear good fruit.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I struggle with my building on Your commands. Doubt creeps into my prayers, and Your delay in answering my prayers kindle in me a quiet resentment. “If you were here, my __________ would not have died.”

Help me to know that “Even now, He will grant You whatever You ask.”

Help me to be a daily reminder and living testimony to the glory and power of Your atoning work, that hearts may soften, minds will change, and people will see You in me, as I strive in my earthly heart to see You in them.

I would not struggle and fight to love my fellow man, Lord Jesus. I would not lay charges against those who curse and wrong me. I would pray for those who wish me harm and use me. I would have my rewards stored in heavenly places.

I would claim my crown to throw at Your feet, and live in the center of the Father’s will, doing the work I’ve been called to do.

Only abiding in You is it possible, for with G-d, all things are. 

Keep me from wriggling out of Your hand, pierced for the redemption of my soul, restoring me to You as my Brother, and walking with You as my friend, and serving You as my Messiah and King, for the Father has given all into Your hand.

I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.

Amen.