Devotional 154: Having Never Studied

John 7:14-19

14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”

16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”

The son of an obscure carpenter, poor, and from the bad side of town where the rabble lived, came Jesus sitting in the midst of the structure of power and influence among the Jews, teaching with such power and authority that the people who heard Him ‘marveled’ at His style, yet continued to place Him back in their own earthly boxes despite all the works He’d performed in their streets and temples.

Remember when He rebuked Nicodemus for his question, “How can these things be?” when He spoke to him of being born again. (John 3:7-10), and His rebuke of the Pharisees and how they taught the people of Israel (Matthew 23:15).

As a child even in the temple, when He sat in the midst of the rabbis they were also amazed at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:41-52). When He sent out the disciples, also unlearned men, He told them not to worry about what they would say. (Matthew 10:19), and in a wry twist of divine comedy, His most steadfast and learned disciple was once one of His fiercest opponents who not only repented, but planted international churches through tremendous victories and demonic opposition who went on to write most of the New Testament (Phillipians 3:1-7)

We join churches, follow pastors, radio preachers, and ministries where we find like-minded believers, but we are not to surrender the unique power the Holy Spirit, who was so graciously given to guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)

Being His disciples here in the modern day then, we must not be irresponsible and neglectful in reading G-d’s Word. It matters, the Word says, that we study and show ourselves approved (2 Timothy, 2:15). Though it’s primarily for Timothy stepping into his new role as a pastor Paul founded, it still resonates down to the ages that when we fail to ground and center ourselves in the foundation of all things related to our salvation, we surrender that power to others and become slaves to egos that fall into temptation, believing themselves to be the voice of a god and not of a man. Remember what befell Herod before the crowds issuing this deadly flattering phrase: ‘The voice of  a god and not of a man.’

We are to point others to the glory of G-d, not share it, and definitely don’t proclaim that we are human divinity, for though the kingdom of G-d is within us, it certainly doesn’t mean attempting to ascend to the Almighty’s throne.

What Jesus said of the disciples could also be true of us: (Matthew 11:24-26)

Jesus Gives True Rest

24 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

So yes, we may rest in His power, but we must also read, study, speak, and most importantly, live in such a way that we might have an answer for everyone who asks of us (1 Peter 3:15):

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

    As Your enemies gather in strength, growing louder in opposition, and those who once sowed and plowed with You have turned back, proving not fit for the Kingdom of G-d, subtle and flashy in their deception among those who surrender the power of Your word to serpents and wolves in sheep’s clothing who lead astray, heedless of the greater condemnation to come, we pray that You gird us up to speak by faith in boldness.

    As Peter caved under the pressure of the moments that heralded Your death, denying You out of fear for his own life after vowing to be by Your side as others fled, we too, are subject to this frailty.

    We are untried, untested, and though You count us worthy as the Father has granted You to reveal Him to us, we count ourselves as unworthy because of all the earthly things we’ve done, denying You in the moment out of fear and a desire to see the results of our emotions manifesting themselves in our flesh, and in the lives of those around us.

    Forgive us, Lord, and once again grant us the grace of the New Covenant under Your blood to start anew, as we once again attest our love for You in godly sorrow and repentance. (John 21:15)

    As we begin this new year, strengthen us to increase our faith and be obedient to the calling we have under Your commission to preach the gospel to every man, and as St. Francis gently admonishes us, ‘If necessary, use words,’ in the time that remains to us.

    May it be done to us as You have said.

   Amen.

 

Devotional 137: I Must Decrease

John 3:22-31

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How much more fulfilled would our own lives be?

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

 

Devotional 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.