Devotional 66: ‘I Am Not Like Other Men’

Luke 18:11-15
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Remember the tee shirt that had: ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ on it? I thought for sure lightning would strike. What familiar arrogance in that statement, worn by the most un-Christian people you’re likely to never meet in Hollywood. Their desire is to reduce the Son of God to the Age of Aquarius.

As Paul says in Romans 6:15: What then? Shall we sin because we not under law, but under grace? May it never be.

I add, may it never be so with us! Christ tells us He has called and chosen us out of the world. In that regard, we are not like others, but we are not to keep such status to ourselves. He also commands us to tell others.

If we’re honest, though, there are times we’ve felt a little more held together than those around us, keeping our composure in the midst of the madness, watching others get caught up.

I don’t know if any of us have prayed such as this Pharisee in our Lord’s parable, but we’ve certainly felt the seed of it grow at certain times. That, in and of itself, is not an evil thing, as long as we remember Paul’s admonition:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of G-d, 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’ 

In the watches of the night, we are confronted with our own stock and store of how we’ve handled the day’s events and those G-d has brought across our path, how we’ve performed before our cloud of witnesses, and whether or not we were role models for how to behave and perform under pressure.

And again, if we’re honest, most times we come up short.

But let’s always remember that in fact, with enough time and circumstance, we are equally capable of performing the most reprehensible act as anyone in solitary confinement under the worst jail in the world.

We have it easy here. Need water? Buy a bottle, or turn on the tap.

What if we had to walk miles, with hundreds of others, to a drying pool of it in the middle of a hot, putrid rainforest, on muddy roads runny with sewage?  I’ll not belabor the point: your imagination and self-knowledge will fill in what you’re capable of.

Stay humble before G-d, and penitent. And thankful, realizing that we are all, in fact, just like everyone else. Were it not for the graces and gifts, the blessings and favor, and the delivery from trials by the hand of our Father, and the mercy of His Son, anchoring ourselves in the Spirit and Truth of His Word, it could always be us in solitary confinement, under the jail.

Imagine the darkness, the silence, the exposure to vermin and weather, the stench of your unwashed body, and the reek of sin on your unclean soul.

Will you not ask for mercy? He is faithful and just to forgive.

Since He sees in the darkness as we see in the light, which He created, He knows exactly where you are, and what you’d do.

Would you not be justified before Him?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Your Son tore the veil, that we may approach the heavenly throne without fear of death. Your Word says to approach boldly, but some have taken it to mean with an arrogance and familiarity they would not show a powerful earthly man, but have no problem displaying it before a divine King.

Even in our anger, our limited scope of Your plan for us and the lives of our loved ones, Your hand giving and taking according to Your will, let us pour out all that’s in our hearts in humility.

We would not be arrogant, for the very next breath we take is by Your pleasure.

Let us remember that Jesus died for the Pharisee as well as the tax collector, and has left the choice to follow and believe to every person who has heard His words.

Let us remember that you, O G-d, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and it is Your desire that all would come to repentance.

You sent Your Son to prepare the narrow path, and we are grateful, but we can also hoard the grain of Your truth in our hearts, that we might feel justified before You.

Help us to know, Father, that in those moments it is we who are not like the tax collector, justified before Heaven, and forgiven in Your sight.

I ask it in Jesus’ name, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

Devotional 28: Will You Also Go Away?

John 6: 60-70

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[a]

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

Jesus had just alluded to what seemed to be acts of cannibalism and violation of the Law against consuming blood, much less doing it willingly.

Being simple men, these disciples did not understand that Passover itself embodied the coming of Christ through the symbolic eating of bread and drinking of wine.

A hard saying, indeed. “Who can understand it?”

Jesus’ attempt to clarify by teaching on the Spirit only served to further obfuscate.

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

It seemed that at this point, the desertion of Jesus began en masse, since He turned to Peter after the uncomprehending crowd dispersed and asked him, “Do you also want to go away?”

And Peter’s reply, eloquent and affirming as it was, did not keep him from denying he even knew Jesus at all.

I wonder if, even though Jesus knew from the beginning that this would happen, if it broke His heart to see the disconnect in the eyes, the stopping of the ears, and as they began to turn their backs on Him, if he felt hurt.

I’d like to think so, yet He loved on many who didn’t believe, and as they ‘walked with Him no more,’ neither did He walk with them.

I’m thankful that the year of the Lord’s favor, the covenant of grace, allow us to yet seek Him through the Spirit’s divine revelation, at the Father’s direction, while He may be found. But if we continue in doubt, willful disobedience, and outright rebellion, there will come a day Jesus can’t be found.

And it will be too late.

If, therefore, He will not let us be snatched from His hand, let’s not pry his fingers open with hard hearts, blind eyes, and stoppered ears.

Let’s not think eloquent prayer will keep us from sinfulness.

Let’s not think we won’t sleep in the garden when the hour has come.

Let’s not think we’d believe on His Name without signs and miracles.

Let us take heed not to think we stand, lest we fall, as the Apostle Paul admonishes us.

Let us hold fast to our Savior, knowing that the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the wooden doorposts of the Israelites delivered from slavery has become the Lamb’s blood shed on the wooden cross to break our spiritual chains to sin and death, and reconcile us in love and worship to our Eternal Creator, now and forevermore.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, thank You for grace and mercy, thank You for healing and restoration, thank You for blessings, and delivering me through my trials.

On the days, and in the moments, when I would turn my back to walk no more in communion and fellowship with You, I beg of You to call my name, and to remind me that I am in the Book of Life because of the Bread of Life, because of the vine that connects You to me, and us to the Father.

I repent of belief based on signs and wonders, and embrace the faith of the centurion, a faith so great that even You exclaimed in admiration of it.

I repent of not obeying Your words, for I am a foolish man in a house of sand, founded on sand.

Call me forth from my spiritual grave, Lord Jesus, that I may never turn away, because as Peter said, there is nowhere to go, for only You have the words of Spirit and Life, and You speak them to me, casting pearls…

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 15: Are You the One?

In the amphitheatre of the Judean wilderness, the herald of the Messiah preached to the people and the religious leaders about repentance and the coming judgment, and imminent damnation and separation and destruction for the unrepentant enemies of God and Christ.

 

 Matthew 3: 7-12

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.[a] 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

 

And under the penumbra of that rousing introduction, Jesus begins his work of imparting grace to sinners, of speaking of loving one’s enemies, performing miracles for the servant of a Roman centurion, a Greek woman’s daughter, and revealing Himself to the a Samaritan female with a bad reputation.

 

It was the work of holding the teachers and leaders of the Jews accountable for their corruption, cowardice, hypocrisy, and the work of feeding and healing multitudes of people John said He would punish.

 

And John, who leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s, sent messengers whose words must’ve torn at the Savior’s heart, even though He probably knew John would come to doubt before He ever descended:

 

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)

 

John wasn’t there when Jesus proclaimed from the book of Isaiah the ‘year of the Lord’s favor,’ and therefore didn’t realize He did not speak of ‘the day of the Lord’s vengeance’ that John was preaching.

 

Jesus sends the reply that the events which the prophets spoke of and the tenets that the Law commands are being fulfilled, along with this gentle rebuke:

 

‘And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.’ (Matt: 11:6)

 

Prophets predicted all manner of works God through Christ would perform, but they were never given specific times; they only knew what would happen, not when.

 

So it was with John, who prophesied the events of the day of vengeance, and so grew disillusioned when Jesus, from what he heard, was going around doing good instead, and didn’t attempt to get John freed.

 

We’re not told if John was comforted, or encouraged by Jesus’ answer, but it was all he was going to get before his death.

We’re not told if his faith was restored, and if he died despairing of hope.

 

John, if he doubted Christ, was not condemned for this moment; Jesus said the least in the kingdom is greater than John, so we know that John is there, leaping again in the presence of his Lord and Savior.

 

And for all of us steeped in the Word of the Lord, it’s all we’re going to get as well, yet God says He will pour out his Spirit on all men, and we will know that we know.

And it will be wonderful to see.

 

Therefore I pray:

 

 Lord Jesus, I praise and thank You for adding this unworthy servant’s name to the Book of Life.

Thank You for finding me in the year of the Lord’s favor.

Thank You for loving me enough to let no one and nothing snatch me from Your holy hand.

Thank You for not only breaking the sin chains, but dissolving them as well.

Pour out Your Spirit on me, O Lord, so that I may walk in white, with Your righteousness before me so I will not die, an old man, will dream dreams again with Your power and favor anointing them.

  

By faith I receive Your mercy, in fear I reverence Your truth, desiring to flee the wrath to come.

 

Therefore, Lord, give me dreams wrapped in faith, mercy, love, joy, peace, understanding, and fill me with divine though and strength for all that You would have me to say, do, think, or imagine. 

 

As I carry out and further the herald’s missive, to prepare the way of the Lord, grant me bolder power, favor, and discernment, that I may disciple all nations for Your Name and to Your everlasting glory, before the throne of God.

 

I ask in faith, believing I have already received.

 

Amen.