Devotional 166: Uneducated and Untrained

Acts 4:13-17  The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

The Word of G-d is full of story after story about how the attempts at oppression, in all of its forms of ugliness, tries to keep the words of the Gospel, the Atonement, and the Resurrection from spreading,  but Jesus has already told us that His words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35) and that He speaks that which the Father has told Him to say (John 7:16).

Let us be reminded, particularly, of the story of Bartimaeus, who cried out all the more when the crowd tried to stop him. He was so loud that he actually got Jesus’ attention, and was healed on the spot. (Mark 10:46-52).

In this hour of wretchedness and disease, the human need to control things, combined with faithlessness and false worship, has stirred the hearts of men to frustration, fear, despair, anger, hate, defiance, and rebellion.

Their faith has been placed in those who haven’t the knowledge, skill, or motivation to seek wisdom in counsel to plan or lead. Their hearts are made weak and their minds fearful by agenda driven programming, and in the meantime the crisis at hand continues to exact its price among them.

Let those of us who claim to hold fast to faith now manifest it, let those of us who have heard and received the Word in faith now go forward and do the work it has called us to do, for we are told faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Let us be as the sower of seeds, in truth, boldness, and faith. For those who can, let us be in the makeshift pulpits of our surroundings, at our keyboards or on stage, and sow that into the fields to let the Holy Spirit bring to the Father those He has called out of the world.

For those who have no such training, ask G-d for boldness to be a light on a  hill where you are to those around you having restless, fearful, and angry spirits. Cry out all the more when they come against you, and having done all you can, stand in faith on the promises of the living G-d (Ephesians 6:13) Bring to mind, should you see yourself a grasshopper in your own eyes, these Apostles, uneducated and untrained, taught by a Rabbi who never studied, yet astounded them with His teaching.

It is He who will give you a mouth and wisdom (Luke 21:15)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In this, the hour of our visitation, let us be stirred to be one of accord, rejoicing in faith and not fear that You have given us this opportunity to be sowers of the seed of Your salvation, that we might be reconciled to the Father before His restoration of all things in the new heaven and new earth.

Before the throne, we humbly ask to speak the Word with boldness before a wicked, adulterous, perverse generation that mocks, scorns, and falls away. Let us follow fast our Shepherd, that we will not be stand in the presence of the ungodly, scornful sinners. 

Today, we seek Your presence Lord, that we might fellowship with You in a time of refreshing. The path to the other side of a dark hour is emerging, but is not finished yet. 

We are but flesh, seeing what we want to see, hearing what we want to hear, believing what we want to believe, but You have told us the Father’s Word is truth. We are not only to hear it,  not only obey it, but manifest it in love among ourselves and to a dying world.

But we too, are sometimes frail of heart, timid of will, and shouted down. Help our unbelief, Lord, and strengthen us. Stretch out  Your hand to save us from the distractions and destroyers of our faith that allows us to step out and come to You in the midst of the storm.

It is good that we are uneducated, untrained, and unfruitful, so that when Your power is manifested through us, we can’t boast of our own strength and wisdom. Our legacies of ministry, however humble, however obscure, belong to You. They will be the only works that withstand the power of the testing fire in the day of judgement.

Until then, we abide here, witnessing the coming of a new age, watching Your prophecies begin to come to pass, and we pray that we are counted worthy to be profitable servants in whatever way You would have us share the message of salvation, that we might enter into our Father’s rest.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 157: A Greater Witness

John 5:31-36

The Fourfold Witness

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John’s burning for Christ, the brightness of his passionate preaching, had prepared the people for the Messiah to come, but He came in a way they did not expect, doing what they did not expect.

A king was not born in poverty to obscure parents. A king did not associate with harlots, tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, and sinners. A king did not go about having to tell people that he was a king.

So while they rejoiced for a time in John’s light as he prepared the way for the Messiah, the coming of the actual Messiah was anti-climactic in the unfolding of its events, and the works that Jesus did, to the point where even John had to ask if He was the one they sought, or was there another. (Matthew 11:3)

As prophecy predicts what, but not when, John’s words spoke to the second coming, but we must also remember that the teaching methods of Christ also produced division, and Jesus said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, to divide the faithful from the unfaithful even within the same house. (Matthew 10:34-36)

It was also not the kind of war they were used to seeing, because it takes place in the spiritual realm, and we are not designed to see them with our eyes, and Satan goes about the work of blinding our hearts, stopping our ears, and planting tares among the vulnerable fields of churches whose foundations are not built on the Gospel’s rock, and don’t have Christ as their capstone. (Psalm 118:22)

 When He returns, it will not be as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah, and He will cleanse the world of His Father’s enemies for all eternity. The first will be last, the least will be greatest, the humble exalted, the merciful forgiven, and the repentant heart redeemed.

Let us be careful then, that we are not rejoicing just for a time in the greater witness and brighter light of our Lord. The novelty of John’s ministry probably appealed to many, and they came to hear him; while his words were convicting enough to see many baptized to repentance, it’s Jesus’ ministry that is the core of our souls’ redemption. It began with Him revealing the Father to us when we called, and sending us the Holy Spirit, and it will end with Him at the judgment, where our works will be tested, we give account, and our souls weighed to enter forever into our Father’s rest, or the outer darkness.

Let us choose then, today, to rejoice for eternity.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

      As we enter into Your presence today, let us be mindful to not only offer thanks for our blessings, however few, and praise to the Father for You giving us eternal life, but to get our spiritual houses in order, reaffirming our love of all things holy.

      We ask that the Spirit purge from us all earthly chains of doubt, temptation, and rebellion against that which we know to do, for we would not have a greater darkness in us. (Matthew 6:21-23)

      As we honor You, and give over the ways of our earthly affairs to Your wisdom and guidance, let our fellowship continue beyond the hours of assembly today into all that we do, mindful that You are with us, watching over us, and that none of the accuser’s minions may take us from Your hand.

     Let us rejoice that You see us, wherever we are, gathered in twos and threes, agreeing with You as we walk, as You set our hearts burning within us with the fire of the Father’s Word, all of which points to You, our living Redeemer.

     Creation is groaning, governments are falling, believers are persecuted, people are dying in their sins,  and the prophecies You spoke are coming to pass. We are fearful, though we do not have a spirit of fear. We are saddened, though You tell us to rejoice. As much as we would like to stop the end from coming, we can’t, so strengthen and embolden us as go about doing the work You have given us to save the souls of mankind.

    Let us, like Paul, become all things to all, that whoever hears the call may be saved.

    Let our lives reflect John’s as bright and burning lamps on the hillside, doing works that glorify, and give greater witness to, our Heavenly Father.

     In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You. 

     Amen.

Devotional 135: Abide in Me

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

It seems appropriate as we prepare to celebrate 243 years of independence from Britain, that we be reminded as believers that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, on it, and under it. (Psalm 24:1)

But we have mistaken independence from man’s rule to mean that we are sovereign, and that it’s the Father’s obligation to honor us, not punish us, as we engage and indulge in pride and faithlessness. Indeed, we expect  no form of rebuke, consequences, or even judgment to be passed on us.

We have become one nation under a symbolic and ineffective ‘god’  who is presumed to have only blessed the wealthy, as he punishes the poor.

We have relegated the Messiah to be all-forgiving because He ‘hung out’ with sinners, forgetting that He never held them guiltless, told them to repent, and blessed them in their faith. Consider this story:

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The man was paralyzed, so how could he sin? We are told that it is what comes out of people that makes them evil. Our thought life is connected to our spiritual life, and our thought life reflects the condition of our heart toward G-d. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We can trust that although we aren’t told what the sins of the man were, that Jesus knew he had them, and because of the faith put into action by his friends, a form of intercession, he was forgiven of them and healed.

We keep G-d at a distance, relegating Him to the Old Testament, seen by some as judgmental, hypocritical, contradictory, and false, up to and including even His existence. We assume a familiarity with Jesus we don’t have, who is the only way to be forgiven by G-d, forgetting, to our eternal peril, that He tells us in no uncertain terms: “I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) 

How can they be One if the Father is greater? They are One in will, purpose, and thought. Jesus never refuted the edicts of G-d, and in fact was commanded by G-d to come and save us. (John 6:38)

As we celebrate independence from a bad king, let us hold fast to the King of Kings, our High Priest and Good Shepherd, who sustains us and sees to it that we bear good fruit through His atoning sacrifice, once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us through all things concerning revelation of the Gospel’s truth, convicting us of sin, and leading us to repentance, for He is the promised seal of our salvation.

We may respect the authorities placed over us, and honor our kings, but we are to keep a reverent and holy fear of G-d. (1 Peter 2:17)

In these hedonistic times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest themselves, let us remember that ever good thing comes from above and to be independent of Christ is to be under G-d’s wrath. There will come a time when grace shall cease, and the harvest begin.

May the Lord keep before our hearts the words of Joshua: (24:15)

“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In this nation, in our prosperity, we have become prideful, irreverent, arrogant, loud, hateful, and evil.

Your people have been divided among themselves, and shepherds lead their flocks astray, twisting the words of the Father, as the Pharisees did, to their profit and own well being, not realizing they are losing their souls as they gain the world, forgetting that their condemnation will be greater for rending the flock the sons and daughters of hell. (Matthew 23:13-15)

We have forgotten our first love. Our churches capitulate to growing numbers and political agendas, and no longer to Truth.

Let those of us who yet have ears to hear discern the absence of the Father’s will when those who would lead us speak falsely, their hearts revealed. Give us ears to follow Your voice.

Renew our hearts, revive and refresh our flagging, misguided spirits, and have us respond once more to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Replicate in our nation the church of the Book of Acts, where none wanted, and all who had provided gladly for all who didn’t, and all were blessed accordingly.

Pour out Your Spirit on us, and let us repent, that our land may be healed.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 127: Good Works Glorify G-d

Matthew 5:14-16

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The works that we do in His name are not to call glory to ourselves. What work we do in faith is through the power of the Holy Spirit, but all of it points back to the source, the Father, and therefore He gets the glory.

Here’s another example:

Matthew 9

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house.

Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified G-d, who had given such power to men.

And once more:

Matthew 15:29-31

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

2Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

They did not glorify Jesus, but the Father. As Nicodemus stated:

John 3

The New Birth

There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

It was Jesus’ mission to preach the Father’s will to us, and to tell us that the Father is here to help us in our fallen state, sending His Son to redeem us, to reconcile us back into the kingdom.

But it has to be our choice to believe. No one will be standing next to anyone else in the day of judgment and blame another for not having a relationship with our Lord and Savior. The Word says what it says, and none can add to it or take away from it, and as Jesus prophesied, it will not pass away.

John 14:7-9

The Father Revealed

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

And later, after the Lord had ascended back to the Father’s right hand, we have this:

Acts 3

A Lame Man Healed

Now Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, “Look at us.” So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 

Many who were once mighty leaders in teaching, seeking His will, and preaching the Word of the Lord fell by the wayside and were cut off because they attributed their blessings to their efforts, and began to compromise their G-d-given authority from the pulpits with the values of the world. They sought its wealth by which they could live well and exercise control as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day controlled their own people for profit and the praises of men like themselves.

Let us be mindful of our calling, and who we serve, as we work out our salvation and finish the work of our earthly ministries, that His kingdom may be made known, and through our works, the Father is ever glorified. It’s only through His Spirit that we are able to be successful in all that He has given us to do.

The True Vine

15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We are called to walk in the light as Your Son is in the light, for He tells us that a time of darkness is coming, where no one can work (John 9:4).

As the day is far spent, the harvest plentiful, and the workers few, let us then be diligent in our work and sure of our calling before that hour comes.

All that we do is for You, and through You, the giver of grace through the obedience of Your Son, our Shepherd, to whom You have given all authority to justly decide who will enter into Your rest, and who will be cast into the outer darkness, for in that day it will be too late to seek Your face and know Your will.

So Father, today we submit ourselves, whether it be the first time, or the thousandth, to the gentle yoke of hard obedience through faith as we follow the Narrow Way behind our Shepherd.

May we reflect His light as He reflects Your glory, for He says of You:

“I and the Father are One.”  (John 10:30).

We ask to give us the strength to abide in Him, as He abides in You, now and forever.

We ask in faith, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us according to our faith, and as You have said.

Amen