“Standing in the Way of Sinners”

“In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you [teaching] in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.

Matthew 26:55

It is truly revealing when you really ponder on the Biblical fact that it was truly not the sinners Jesus sat with, nor the Gentiles who had received His words & wonders of His divine supremacy (of whom we might expect), but it was the religious ones, the “churched” ones, the teachers, the leaders, and the the elders of His day that were the culprits of crucifixion.

The church in many ways today, are like that of the temple’s congregants then, who crucify Jesus by the purposeful and intentional stifling of the moves of His Spirit. When God wants to move, He doesn’t force Himself. He comes to those who actually want and believe Him. (See Matthew 13:58)

Sadly because of this, the people in large part will miss what “could have been” when they go to feed spiritually in churches of empty “cupboards.” They themselves “stand in the way of sinners” becoming the very stumbling block Jesus warned about instead of being the launch-pad for His will and ways.

Why in the world and how can this happen?! This is the church we are talking about, right? Well, I’ve been in ministry my whole life, currently in ministry with my wife of whom the same to be said of her, and from our experience, sadly, pastors in many ways today have become drunk with power and notoriety that they end up quenching any opportunity for the Holy Spirit to truly move: in themselves or in others (especially of little to minimal ‘societally-perceived’ significance) in the body of Christ.

“For he [Pilate] knew that for envy they had delivered him.”

Matthew 27:18

A lustful envy in the church is a cancer of sorts that is deeply rooted in pride. It says, “I deserve this” or “It should be me” We find ourselves pulling others down as the momentum & leverage to climb to the “top.” This unfortunately is undoubtedly a backsliding of sorts as it depicts the church in this category. For you see, the crucifixion itself is due to our sin, and when we fall away in this manner, we are literally as was the religious ones of Jesus’ day, crucifying Him all over again.

“If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify [to themselves] the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.”

Hebrews 6:6

The key of notation in Hebrews 6:6 is that we must repent after having backslid. The blood is shed, no less thanks to our rebellion, but we must receive of it in the same way we received of it when we first were born again: in humility and repentance.

The conclusion of the opening passage shows that when Christ was taken away by the very leaders that should’ve supported and celebrated Him, a devastating consequence ensued:

“…Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled.”

Matthew 26:56

In conclusion, no doubt there is mercy for the humble and repentant, but there is only judgment for those who remain in their envy & pride. Today we must reflect on where each of us are and see if we are standing in the way of His Spirit to move. It’s not about us, me, or you; it’s about Jesus, for His glory! That all might come and find rest, healing, and restoration! We are His body, jointly fit together! In Jesus’ Name!

Patient in Tribulation

“…Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord giveth, and the Lord hath taken away, but blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Job 1:21

Job is the most highlighted example, but literally all of the great patriarchs of scripture faced immense trial while on the path God had for them.

In our first-world churches, it can be difficult to connect our Christian lifestyle with intense trial and persecution, but that’s exactly what Biblical Christians endure. Most of them faced certain death for the decisions they made staying faithful to God. Trial has a unique way of teaching us dependence on God, as well as testimonies birthed of His provision keeping us reminded of His faithfulness for future trial.

Lord teach your church today to wait and pray. Whether in life or in death that You would be glorified! Counting it ALL joy!

“Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;”

Romans 12:12

“To Them…”

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – Romans‬ ‭8:28‬

It was at a very early age, I feel deeply in love with God.

Everything God was, I adored.

Everything He had for me, I wanted.

Every Word He spoke, I was listening.

All things God, His sovereignty, His omnipotence, His love & mercy, even and especially His discipline & chastisement, I learned early to reverence, long for, and respect.

Growing deep into His Word, both spoken in personal quiet time, and His written Word (the Bible), I consumed all…

The more I matured in it over the years, and especially here and now in ministry, the more I began to see many “areas of opportunity” for the church to align completely with HIS Words, not our desires.

It is an unfortunate reality, but so often times we mistakenly see things that make us feel better, without taking it all into proper context. Namely, the conditions His Word lays out for us to obtain such blessing.

This opening scripture is just a “single grain of sand” in the “beach” of examples we can so easily miss and overlook scripturally. Take note of the title of this devotional, as it is to emphasize the nature of the specific audience that “all things will work together” for: to them who love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Does God love and desire the BEST for us? Of course… But those things that make us better spiritually, are the same things that will require our complete surrender of ourselves, or better: To Die. Christian living is not meant to make us “better;” it’s meant to “start completely over”

“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a NEW creature: old things are passed away; behold, ALL things have become new.” – ‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” – Luke‬ ‭9:23-24‬

To summarize, we have to take “the good” WITH the “sacrificial” All His promises are true, but they are usually not inclusive, usually they are exclusive. My father-in-law, our senior pastor and overseer, always says to “count the ‘if’s’ in the Bible” Salvation in and of itself is a HUGE example of these “conditional” verses:

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” – Luke‬ ‭13:3‬

FORGIVENESS:

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew‬ ‭6:14-15‬

LOVE:

If ye love me, keep my commandments.” – John‬ ‭14:15‬

DISCIPLESHIP:

“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;”. – John‬ ‭8:31‬

And there are so many countless examples of this, all throughout the scriptures.

God loves us, yes, and is merciful, but even mercy given to the woman caught in adultery, Jesus’ exhortation revealing the expectation was “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11) God’s mercy and love are designed to lead us to repentance, which leads to everlasting life.

Of course dear reader, you can neverearn” that salvation, but when He freely gives that precious eternal gift by way of grace & faith, we are to walk in the life of sacrifice that holiness would require. (1 Peter 1:16)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me if I have overlooked or misused Your Word. Let me not be presumptuous of Your Word to fit my desires, but may my desire become Your Word!

“He Calls Us His Own”

There can be no greater privilege than His sonship. But there is a responsibility that must be embraced if we want God to favor our life and ministry beyond our salvation, for His favor requires continuous surrender to His Lordship.

I have had many discussions with people on the question if Jesus can be Lord and not our Lord. Can He save us without being Lord over ALL of our life?

He is the Lord God of the Universe. He is who He is, whether we recognize Him as such or not. But to be Lord over OUR life requires our total submission to Him. His Lordship increases in our eyes and in our lives, even though He has never been less Lord.

I have found by my own life’s journey that the more I surrender in obedience to His Lordship through my personal abandonment of my rights to myself, and then to start trusting Him more deeply, the more I see who He is as Lord of the Universe, and as well, MY Lord and MY God.

This process leads to His objective for me, which is His favor and approval: “This is my beloved son” Years ago, my repentant prayer of rededication to God was, “Lord, I just want you to be proud of me again…” I began to realize that it is not what He is preventing that keeps His favor away from me, but rather what I was doing or not doing that prevented it.

“By whom we have received GRACE and apostleship, FOR OBEDIENCE to the faith among all nations, for HIS Name:” Romans 1:5

“Remember”

“And having a high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Hebrews 10:21-22

Jesus was not kidding when he declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18)

He occupies the highest throne of authority! Remember:

He called a coin out of the mouth of a fish.

He stopped the waves with a word.

He spoke, and a tree withered.

He spoke, and a basket became a banquet.

He spoke again, and demons fled, sickness was healed, and even a battalion of soldiers collapsed instantly!

Economy, Meteorology, Botany, Food supply, Governments,… “All things have been handed over to me by my Father” (Matt. 11:27)

So when we pray, we need to remember just who it is that hears us! Taking all things He is and has done should stir a faith and peace in our valleys when we call out to Him!

So pray! Since God works, prayer works. Since God is good, prayer is good. Since you matter to God, your prayers matter in heaven. You’re never without hope because you’re never without prayer. And on the occasions you can’t find the words to say, just call on His name. He is near to the brokenhearted and they of a contrite spirit.

Going forward, when you spend your time with Jesus in prayer, just as with communion, do it in remembrance!

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell;”

Colossians 1:16-19

Why Jesus?

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” – 1 Peter‬ ‭3:15‬‬

The spiritual “market” in the world today “has options.” You have Buddhism, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism, and many other minor religions. When I grew up with sales training as my vocational direction professionally, the one thing you have to answer to be successful is, “Why your product?” Or “Why your service?” If you cannot confidently and precisely answer those basic questions, you will find your level of success in sales will be severely lacking.

So, Christian, I ask you,

“Why Jesus?”

If you’ve been Biblically “born again” (John 3), you DO have an answer.

The clean man answers the addict, “He delivered me from addiction!”

The courageous man answers the fearful, “He filled me with unwavering faith!”

The overcomer answers the failing, “He filled me with His power!”

The faithful man answers the adulterer, “He filled me with His love and faithfulness!”

The hopeful man answers the hopeless, “He brought me through my valleys!”

As Christians, we should always have an answer as to, “Why Jesus?” If you don’t have an answer for the inquiring, respectfully, you may have to wonder have you actually met the King of Kings. When He touches its felt! When He delivers, it’s public! When He heals, it’s apparent! When He breaks the chains of bondage, it’s heard! It’s seen! When a life has been transformed, it’s obvious!

If you’re reading this and you really haven’t experienced the “2 Corinthians 5:17 Christianity”, then you haven’t really experienced JESUS. Some have gone through the motions, while others are IN MOTION with Jesus! If you haven’t, call out to Jesus today to be transformed from the inside out!

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:17‬‬

If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” – John‬ ‭8:36‬‬

If that IS you,

get out there and unashamedly proclaim the goodness of your God! Think of this question,

“What has Jesus done for you?”

The answer, …is YOUR answer!

So why Jesus?

Because He CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!!

“Purged”

“If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:” – Psalms 66:18

That’s a tough pill for us all to swallow. Everyone thinks that God hears us at any point and time, but the truth is if we harbor sin willingly in our heart, God turns a deaf ear.

“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” – Isaiah 59:1-2

And here’s John’s account affirming this theological truth:

“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, AND doeth his will, him he heareth.” – John 9:31

Sin is not only intended to be forgiven of but removed and abandoned or we can say purged. “To Purge” simply means, “to remove.”

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth AND forsaketh them, shall have mercy.” – Proverbs 28:13

“Forsaking” your sin is what it means to “repent.” Not just a “change of mind,” but also a change of heart or lifestyle. Pretty hard right? Well, that’s what being born again looks like. It’s more commonly referred to as us becoming a “new creation”

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

This is also what God’s grace is for. Its not just a fancy religious word or a hymn we sing, but it’s to help us walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh.

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” – Titus 2:11-12

Simply said that when we choose to repent as a declaration of faith, God’s grace will come in to forgive, purge us of sin, and impart His divine influence (grace) to equip us for this “good fight of faith”

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” – 2 Peter 1:3-4

Why is all of this important? Because there is a great number of people in the church today that are deceived into thinking they do not have to choose to turn away from their sinful lifestyle. “I’m only human.” you hear. Yes we are, but that’s why Jesus said we “must be born AGAIN” or we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Confession without repentance is dangerous theology to stand upon because it is abundantly clear in scripture that if you stay in willful sin, God not only does not forgive us, but he also does not hear us.

“For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” – Hebrews 10:26

In summary, if this day you find yourself living in willful sin, it’s time to repent! It’s time to (as I was told as a child), “recklessly abandon” your sin for His grace! Choosing God’s grace also means rejecting our sin.

“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” – James 4:8

Prayer:

“ Lord I realize that the only prayer you hear from a sinner is the prayer of confession of faith and repentance. I’m asking you now to forgive me of my sin and give me your grace that equips me to overcome it day to day! Give me a new heart, and a new mind that serves see you for the rest of my life! Lord, I realize that you are faithful, but help me to be as faithful to you as you are to me. In Jesus name, AMEN!”

“If God is not King, …Then He is not Savior”

“In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” – Judges 21:25

Since I was a child, I’ve heard it said, “Many want Jesus as Savior, but not Lord.” An old but very relevant point today. Reading this passage this morning, this verse stood out at the conclusion of chapter 21.

Without a king, there is no “rule” of the people whether corporately or individually. Inadvertently people will pursue their own lusts or desires if there is no ruler or law keeping them accountable to a will other than their own.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” – Proverbs 12:15

Historically, Israel was to remain a “theocracy” (ruled by God) and not a “monarchy” (ruled by a king), but they wouldn’t have it. They demanded of Samuel the prophet to give them an earthly king. Ultimately, we all have a king; the question is who? Whether the Spirit unto life? Or sin unto death?

“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” – Romans 6:16

The salvation of Jesus we speak of is a “saving” FROM sin because of its “end game,” death. The “Kingship” of our Lord Jesus is to reference our “sanctification” as to “maintain” that position of our saving. Him being ruler, and us being servants to obey.

Whether you believe this or not, we all have choices in life that dictate a consequence that can either be positive or negative. A parent tells a child what they should do, but ultimately the child chooses whether to obey mom & dad, or disobey. This is simply no different with God: A choice given from God to mankind of whether to surrender & serve Him, or not.

“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” – Romans 6:13

If you don’t want Jesus as your King (ruler), then you can’t have Him as Savior… They go hand-in-hand.

Jesus our Savior pulls us out of the pit, and Jesus our King keeps us from the pit!”

“Cleaving Without Motive”

“And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother’s house: the Lord deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me. The Lord grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people. And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Turn again, my daughters, go your way; for I am too old to have an husband. If I should say, I have hope, if I should have an husband also to night, and should also bear sons; Would ye tarry for them till they were grown? would ye stay for them from having husbands? nay, my daughters; for it grieveth me much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord is gone out against me. And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her. And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law. And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

Ruth 1:8-17

Naomi having two daughters-in-law that lost their husbands, entreated them to return to their people and land because there was nothing she had left to offer them. You can feel the emotion in this passage that it was a hard thing to do. They all wept, Oprah had kissed Naomi, …but Ruth did not let go; she cleaved. She was clinging to love, not personal gain. I really want to see this picture pretty clearly. After having expressed that there was nothing left that she could offer Ruth and Orpah, Ruth still held on because of the deep love she had for Naomi.

While I realize that God himself has so much to offer, and already offered everything in the form of His only son who became flesh and an atonement for our sins, I want us to take an assessment of our hearts and see if (Naomi being the type of Christ; us being one of two daughter-in-laws) we could respond to God in the same way Ruth did; without carnal motives. Choosing to cleave with no expectation or even desire for personal gain!

In the gospels, you’ll find that after feeding the 5,000 with the loaves and fishes, many continued to follow Jesus, but only because of the food. It’s sad, but true that many people pursue a relationship with God for selfish motivations other than a sincere relationship. You can find the evidence of this all throughout tel-evangelism in modern “American Christianity” using God as a means for wealth, success, and notoriety. This however, is “doctrines of devils” and a complete blasphemous usage of the Word of God. Biblical standards teach us to take the lowest seat, to go without script or purse, to not seek after worldly gain but Godly gain, to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth.

In reading this passage, I feel my heart cry, “Lord give your church the heart of Ruth!” A heart that says, “Lord, even if you don’t do anything for me, I will still cleave to you!” I heard a pastor years ago say something that really stuck with me. He said, “Lord, if you don’t do anything else for me, you saved me!” And that really got me thinking to focus in on the appreciation of my salvation, that if God ever grants any other blessing outside of that it is just a bonus! If you are saved, and have escaped the fires of an eternal hell, it’s time to cleave without any other motive than love!

Speaking AND Listening

“Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.” – Ecclesiastes 5:1-2

We’re all guilty of this at one point or another. In prayer, it is imperative that we balance our speaking to God with “listening” to Him. As much as we’d like to think that’s just how prayer works, we can miss so much in our communion with Him if we’re not listening to what He is saying. Jesus said, “My sheep are my people and they know my voice…”

You’ll never “know anyone’s voice” unless you listen to them. I know my earthly father’s voice because I’ve listened to him for years, as to be expected of anyone you have listened to for years. This is no different with God.

Attributes:

His voice is specific. His voice is felt and heard. His voice will never contradict His written Word. He speaks with PURPOSE so when He has spoken, don’t take it lightly. If He has spoken to you, abide and walk in His Words of direction.

I just finished teaching and preaching a 4 part series at our church called, “Let Us Pray” and it has been very rewarding spiritually for many and at very least, myself. It is imperative that we build on our prayer life; wherever you are in it, there IS room for growth! Don’t stop pursuing or as David the Psalmist put it, “running ‘hard’ after thee.”