Devotional 56: This Man Receives Sinners

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

15 Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.”

Relinquishing control is perhaps the most difficult thing we do in our lives, but it is quite another to have it taken from you by new ways of thinking. Seldom, if at all, do those established in wealth and power adapt without force of numbers or violence.

But as difficult as it is to give up control, when someone invades our little fiefdom and takes such authority as we possess, real or imagined, it’s hard not to bristle at that.

Standing aside at the pinnacle of where our experience finally synchronizes with our mastery of the given tools to do our jobs, and the recognition and rewards that came with it, is humbling, especially if the invader does a better job, and deep inside, we know it. The effectiveness of our Lord’s ministry was proven by the short time He had to accomplish it, and how quickly and widely it spread, and how lasting it’s been.

This verse in Luke tells us that the men in power complained about Jesus as the sinners and tax collectors (a special breed of sinners, it seems) drew near to hear Him.

He preached to them, and for them, not at them, and He did so in the midst of their uncleanness, with all the dirt and smells attached. He did it despite their ignorance of doctrinal matters and higher ideas. He did it in the midst of their pain and suffering as a Man who had a message from no less of an authority than their Father in Heaven, and He delivered it with great power and compassion, and it resounded in their hearts, went beyond their mortality and hugged their downtrodden spirits, and they drew near.

Let us, in the midst of our own needs and pain, rejoice and praise and worship our Lord in this, the year of His favor.

Let us too, draw near and repent under the covenant of grace, for there will be no more chances under the covenant of judgment.

Let us, in faith, give control of our lives and those of our loved ones, trusting the words and promises of providence and salvation handed down to us through the ages, the words of a Man we’ve never seen, though His presence is all around and within us. (1st Peter: 1:8) Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. (NIV)

And know that our Redeemer lives, and our Deliverer is coming.

In whatever authority we attain, in whatever ministry we guide others into faith in our Lord, let us be mindful of the disciple’s admonishing that we can’t claim to love the unseen G-d by faith, yet hate our brothers and sisters before our very eyes.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We often pray that You be with us, but it isn’t You who moves away, for You tell us that You are always with us, even to the end of the age of man. 

In our mortality, and our inability to wrap our minds around the mind of G-d, we turn to You, who speak the words of Life and Truth, who tells us, “Assuredly, I say to you…”, who tell us, “If it were not so, I would have told You…”

Help us to keep in mind You are the Prophet of Nazareth, and what You say will come to pass. All of it, even to the separation of sheep and goats, wheat and tares, the outer darkness, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, and the misplaced trust in our works and our own ‘goodness.’

And the casting of soul and body into the fire.

Let our repentance be true. Help us to keep our vows to G-d, or put a guard over our mouths so that we don’t renege, for You say it is better not to vow, than to vow and not do it.

As we were bought with the price of Your blood, and nothing can snatch us from Your hand, let us draw near that we may ever be ready for Your use, to Your purposes, if we would bear fruit for the Kingdom of G-d, and even if the world mocks us.

Bear with us on the days we don’t count our sorrows as joy, but bring Your promises to mind that we may bear our sorrows.

Bear with us on the days our rudderless tongues meander to slash and cut, and even to curse. In the quiet of the wreckage that follows, ask us, as You did Peter, do we love You, and let us be restored to those we’ve wounded.

Bear with us in our moments of doubt, when we turn away following the shiny carrots the world dangles before us. Open our eyes, and let us return to ourselves as You come to find us once again, and bring us home under the authority of Your voice, rod, and staff, drawing us near to You, over and over, until we are Home to stay.



Devotional 48: We Are Able

Matthew 20:20-23

Greatness Is Serving

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”[a]

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;[b] but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Their faith in Jesus as the Son of God was not in question, though they still didn’t fully understand. Indeed, the brothers were in His inner circle, as we see references to Peter, James, and John throughout the Gospels.

It is in their humanity and seeming piety that they found they were in error, and Jesus, with compassion, lays it out for them.

Their mother, being part of the ministry of women that followed Jesus, saw an opportunity, and thought to seize on it to elevate her sons. Clearly they discussed and conspired to approach Jesus to do something they thought was possible: to be favored by the leader in a highly visible manner, much like Haman sought to glorify himself through Ahasuerus.

If we’re honest, when the leader favors us in our earthly endeavors, we feel proud of ourselves that the work we’ve done has attracted their notice and we become for a moment the center of attention. Yet the Bible tells us that if we are skilled in our work, we will not serve before obscure men, and Paul admonishes us to work as unto the Lord, and not man. Given that combination, this request is not only overbold, but mires it in earthly things though it targets Jesus’ eternal kingdom: to sit on the Lord’s right and left hand for all eternity!

We know that the placement of one at a table during an event had to do with wealth, prominence, social significance, and the degree of the relationship to the host; the closer you were, the more important you were.

Yet they approach Jesus and kneel before him in false humility.

That they don’t understand what He’s saying about His cup and baptism is evident in the easy confidence of their answer when He asks, ‘Are you able?’ and they reply.

“We are able.”

What we must remember is that they were as much in the dark of the things Jesus spoke of concerning Himself as the rest of us would be. He preached difficult things to unlearned men, and simplicity to the scholarly, and they were both confounded by His speech.

Let us also remember that Jesus already took His cup, tore the veil, spilled His blood, and rose from the grave to return to the Father. That was His cup. At the table of life, we each have our own, and there are days we sip from it, and days when it’s poured over our heads.

And on the days we are baptized with worldly vileness, remember that He has called us out of it, and is preparing our place.

And it is in Him, and only in Him, that we can say, with quavering voices, as we kneel before the Infinite and Eternal G-d, that we are able.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our misunderstanding and misapplication of the many things you spoke concerning Yourself and the kingdom, forgive me for taking my cup lightly, with no reverence of what Yours contained. The wine of my trials is far sweeter than Yours had to be, and it is nothing to speak truth to evil, though I tremble when I see the world gather to stone those who proclaim Your truth.

Help me to remember that the places in Heaven have already been prepared by the Father. Therefore, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and true repentance, I am assured a place through faith in believing I too am redeemed from the power of the inevitable grave.

Through Your love, and by Your mercy, strengthen my hands to lift to my cup, take up my cross, count the cost, and follow You on the Narrow Way, rejoicing in overcoming my earthly trials to exchange it for Heaven’s reward from Your hand, glorifying the Father with You in the Your kingdom.

I thank You now, for making me able through Your sacrifice, and the cup of the covenant of mercy and grace.


Devotional 43: You Shall Recover All

1 Samuel 30:1-8

David’s Conflict with the Amalekites

30 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David.

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?”

And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.

Losses come in two forms: the first is through attrition and time, when we lose our ancestors, and the loss is felt more keenly the more we know and love them. This is why great-grandparents hold such esteem among us, and is considered a title and age to be honored by their descendants.

The second is through the nature of man: greed and the love of money, jealousy, hatred, and we don’t understand why, if we’re good people our Lord will not always shield us from such.

But Jesus tells us the world hates us because it hated Him first, and it hates Him because He testifies that its work are evil.

Yet the plan of the Father is redemption, and so was here with David, and so it shall be with us. The one thing that was consistent with David was that whenever he was victorious, he sought the Lord first. Coming home to find all you’ve loved, worked and fought for taken from you by an enemy is a crushing thing, and David, flaws and all, was as human as the lowliest soldier in his army.

David returns home after being rejected by the Philistines to find the city burned and everything stolen. He weeps with his people, and when that’s over, his people talk of killing him because he led the men from home and they weren’t there to protect their own.

He was the king, and he’d left their gates open to the enemy. Like true thieves, the Amalekites came when no strong man was there, they captured the weak, and took what  belonged to the king and his people.

This was an indictment against David, who had a reputation of being strong and might, feared, and a brilliant strategist. If ever there was a moment for a man to despair, this was it, but David knew where his help came from.

v6 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Do we believe God is control of our circumstances, even if we suffer loss? Do we believe he reins in what Satan is allowed to do to us? Consider, this is the only time we’re told that there was a raid with no slaughter, just thievery. Everyone they lost was still alive. Who kept them all safe, that David would recover all?

How odd that an Egyptian would fall sick and be left behind, and in the countryside, just happens to come across the king looking for the men who attacked his home, and this man just so happens to know where the troops are…

When we seek G-d first for answers, He honors our faith.

When we are told to pursue, we get what He’s set aside for us to have; it has been preserved for us, but we must take action. G-d did not put a change of heart in the Amalekites to suddenly come back with everyone and drop them off. David still had to go, though he was sad, tired, and angry.

When we too are done shaking our fist, grinding our teeth, and rending our garments in times and moments we don’t understand, surrounded by people who are out to destroy us from within and without, we must still go.

And the Father promises, we shall surely recover all, with increase for our faith. David took back what belonged to Him, and the Amalekites. Moses led the Hebrews out with increase after all those years of slavery.

Nothing will ever be missing, or dead, when we recover all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, if I am to pursue according to Your word, give me the strength to pursue. As your servant David said, ‘I am poor and needy,’ and I am of little faith. 

You are the G-d of eternity who redeems our times when we’ve gone astray, and You keep and preserve all that You have for us until we are found ready to receive, or worthy of the prize. 

When my works are tested, I will weep at the loss of reward for I know that among them is stubble, good for nothing, and times of fruitlessness where I was cursed. I know that I have not only grieved Your Spirit, but I’ve broken the heart of the Son, and made You turn Your eyes, for You cannot look on sin.

Yet You see the end of my days, and my future is a memory to You. So I ask that You walk with me as I pursue, and help me to perceive the signposts, my Egyptians, my markers of stone, my altars, my pillars of cloud and fire, that I may finish the work You’ve called me to do.

And in so doing, I shall recover all that was mine and the enemy’s by the power of Your right hand.

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