Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 31

Matthew 18:15-18…

Three strikes and you’re out…

Jesus had just been speaking about our relation to God as children. We are to be accepting of the hard to accept person (Matthew 18:1-5). We are not to get between God and His loved ones (Matthew 18:6-9). We should treat all believers with care, for they all matter, and God will go the distance to protect His children (Matthew 18:10-14).

Here we are given a procedure for protecting the assembly of His children, the local church. This is about a local setting, and of a limited scope. The more public sorts of sins and widespread damage are dealt with differently (cf. Titus 1:9-13). He isn’t speaking here of resolving differences of opinion, the Bible does that elsewhere (cf. Philippians 4:1-9). There may be wisdom in seeking to communicate with a person privately before doing so publicly, but this would be outside of this passage, not in obedience to it.

For this passage to apply, the sin must be serious enough to warrant expulsion and the situation such that the local church can take effective action. In our desire to do things rightly, we must be careful not to let the pendulum swing too far, from overly casual to overly critical. This isn’t about a person who falls down (Galatians 6:1). This is about a person who stands up in unrepentant, defiant rebellion, with major doctrinal, moral, or schismatic failures (cf. 1 Timothy 1:20 / 1 Corinthians 5 / Titus 3:10).

First, our goal is to warn the person privately and win Him back (James 5:19-20). If that fails, another attempt is made with extra people called for as a witness (2 Corinthians 13:1 / 1 Timothy 5:19). If that still fails, then the church must get involved. If the local body cannot reconcile with this person, if they remain unrepentant, then they are to be removed from the fellowship. The binding and loosing has to do with the disciplinary decisions being made. God vests a certain authority to the church; for the grossly unrepentant it is one, two, three, and you’re out.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 30

Matthew 18:10-14…

They all matter…

God will go the distance to protect His children. If they are lost He finds them. If they are scattered, He will gather them. The Father will not allow the sheep to be mistreated forever. Jesus reminds us that they are always heard about in God’s throne room (Hebrews 1:14). Though they suffer for a little while on earth, this should not give persecutors of the Gospel any comfort. God will rescue His people. If we love God we will love God’s people, and we should not look down on our supposedly lesser brothers and sisters.

As Christians we know we can say good things about God. Therefore we can say good things about our brothers and sisters in Christ, all of them (Romans 12:5 / 1 Corinthians 6:17). Why? Because the most important thing in the universe is God, and the most important thing about you or me or anyone who is a Christian is the same for all of us, the greatest thing about anyone is the greatest thing anyone could have and can have. We have Jesus, God’s Son, resident with us in the power of the Holy Spirit. We have been rescued, ransomed with the most precious thing in the universe (1 Peter 1:18-19).

The Christians who are sick, poor, aged, physically and mentally weak share the same inheritance as those who are healthy, wealthy, strong, productive and capable (1 Peter 1:3-9). Christians are to imitate their Father in heaven by being merciful and kind to those who need help. We are to be joyous helpers as God rescues all His sheep.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 29

Matthew 18:6-9 / Mark 9:42-50 / Luke 17:1-2…

Hell to pay…

God is very concerned about the protection of His children. People will intentionally set traps and woe to those people, whether they are false teachers, false converts, or simply malicious non-believers. Indeed, it will happen, but God will levy heavy punishment on the perpetrators. To purposefully cause a child of God to stumble is exacting worse than a death sentence, it is to submit to an eternal sentence.

You see, annihilationism, the idea that an unsaved person who dies is simply extinguished, may sound less “cruel” to people, but it is not at all what the Bible teaches. In fact, it is the very opposite. Jesus was saying here that it would be better that we should be annihilated than suffer the fate that awaits us if we harm one of God’s children.

Also, we want to be careful not to let our own desires drag us down into perdition. Sin is serious business. Apostates and “make-believers” are in more danger than they may realize. If your destination is heaven, your destiny is holiness (1 Thessalonians 4:7-8). How can we say we have our eyes on heaven when we live like hell?

Don’t get between God and His children. Don’t let anything get between God and you. There is a hell, and it is eternal, and without any rest (Daniel 12:1-2 / Matthew 25:46 / 2 Thessalonians 1:9 / Revelation 14:9-11, 20:10-15). Believe me, and believe the Bible, you don’t want to go there. Believe Jesus, and you won’t have to.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 28

Mark 9:38-41 / Luke 9:49-50…

The question of authority…

This is an occasion for Jesus to discuss His authority and its delegation. The disciples are suspicious of this exorcist who claimed Jesus’ name, whose faith resulted in miracle-working. Yet the exorcist is not using Jesus’ name as a magic spell, but because he knew and believed Jesus. The truth was that those in the immediate company of Jesus were not the only faithful disciples; there were obviously people taking the words of Jesus and putting them into practice.

This is not about unbelievers, or those who think they can take their own path. Jesus is abundantly clear about people who may look right but not actually be right (Matthew 7:24-27). There are people who are not actively opposing Him, but who are not in active fellowship with Him. Jesus is saying this man is not against us because he was teaching the truth. As God, Jesus knew this, or He would not have accepted him (Matthew 12:30). Anyone being kind to a follower of Christ in those times would have to be a believer himself (Hebrews 10:32-34). In Matthew 25:31-46 the Lord told us that the same conditions will prevail at the end of the age.

The person closest to Jesus may not be the person used by Jesus at certain moments and in certain instances. Again, this is about humility. “In Jesus name” is not some magical incantation; it is representative of our being under His authority. You can only exercise authority to the extent that you are under authority. Demons know that; do you (Acts 19:13-16 / James 2:19)?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 27

Matthew 18:1-5 / Mark 9:33-37 / Luke 9:46-48…

The greatness of humility…

We should not think that Jesus is simply speaking about how we might lack the purity of a child’s heart. The words of the Lord here are more radical than that.

In today’s society children are safeguarded and seemingly more valued than in Jesus’ day. When numbers of people were tallied, children were not usually included in the count. The parent was always the model for the child, not the other way around. This isn’t about the purity or sincerity of children but about their lowliness, their humility. The small, powerless child is at the opposite extreme from greatness.

Children know instinctively that they are pretty much powerless unless there is a parent around. They don’t necessarily want to be great; they want to be with someone they can trust. Therefore, they turn themselves over to their parents. That is what God wants, for us to trust and treasure Him, like a child to His loving father or mother.

Submission, servant leadership, and good stewardship are how the mature model this. It is humility, trusting in God despite worldly wisdom and concern (1 Peter 4:19). In the eyes of the world, the greatest is the one who has no one over him. In the kingdom of God, Jesus said that whomever would be the greatest would be the servant of all (Mark 10:43-44).

Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me. Jesus is also speaking of accepting the hard to accept person. Children are dependent, require care, create a burden, and they are a great responsibility. The greatness of humility is about receiving this type of person.

Yes, all this may be difficult, but if we will humble ourselves, the Lord will lift us up (James 4:10 / 1 Peter 5:6). Like a little child in His arms.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 26

Matthew 17:24-27…

Fishing and freedom…

There is no tax on the treasure God bestows upon us in Christ. We are free men (John 8:32 / 2 Corinthians 3:17 / Galatians 5:1), but we must not use this as an occasion of license (1 Peter 2:16). Rather, we are to let love limit our liberty for the sake of others (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Jesus questioned the validity of this particular tax, but He taught His followers to pay the tax anyway (Matthew 22:17-22/ cf. Romans 13:7). Jesus was making a claim. He asserts His divine son-ship, and asserts that He is even freer from taxation than the sons of earthly kings. He was exempt from the temple tax (Nehemiah 10:32-33) because His Father was the Lord of the temple. Jesus was greater than the temple (Matthew 12:6), but He recognizes its place and supports its purpose. He is the ultimate authority yet He serves and does not subvert the principle of authority. How about you?

We live in a world with earthly obligations and influences. Our responsibility to be good citizens and to participate in society is essential. We reflect our commitment to Christ badly if we are not people of integrity. Having the right is not the same as being right. You can have the right to do something but not exercise it properly. It depends on what you’re fishing for, the souls of men, or the satisfaction of yourself.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 25

Matthew 17:22-23 / Mark 9:30-32 / Luke 9:43-45…

Revealed but concealed…

The disciples had been told about the resurrection of Jesus before. Now it was the second time, and Jesus was also warning them ahead of time about the treachery and betrayal that lie ahead. While it had been revealed, to them the understanding of it had been concealed.

They were afraid to ask about that. Sometimes we cannot comprehend what we have heard and so we are afraid to know more. The truth is that bad things are going to happen sometimes, but Jesus knows about them ahead of time, and He is still with you. He often gives us clues that bring us comfort later. He is preparing us for perseverance.

Just because something seems of no immediate use, this doesn’t mean it isn’t important. The significance of some things is like a seed that is to sprout in the future (John 2:22).

So it is with the Word of God. Haven’t you ever had a familiar verse or passage of scripture just all of a sudden seem to burst upon you?

Keep planting. The revelation you need is concealed in the seed. The growth of the mature is harvested in the garden of the mundane. Every second counts with God.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 24

Matthew 17:19-21 / Mark 9:28-29…

Where the power is…

These other disciples who had not gone up the mountain had nevertheless had mountaintop experiences before. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, they had been commissioned by Him to heal the sick, cast out demons and raise the dead, and they had seen and done these things.

Yet they could not accomplish the task at hand. We may be the children of God, and we may be servants of God, and we may have seen ourselves in victorious situations, but nevertheless, there are times when we will suffer temporary defeat.

What is the purpose in all of this? Is it to shake our faith? No, it is to drive us to our knees. Then again, it is to shake our faith, if it needs to be shaken. That is, if we are mostly having faith in ourselves and what we have been given, instead of supreme faith in the one who gave us these gifts. We have to look beyond our calling, our qualifications, our successes, or we will get into a rut of ritual. We can grow mechanical, formulaic, and complacent. God has to shake us to wake us, to take us from our spiritual slumber and into closer communion with Him. Often this is done through defeat. It reminds us that the place of prayer is the place of power.

Often we can get so enamored or desperate that we turn certain prayers, formulas, methods or manuals into our trusted weapons. You think it must be good because it has “worked” for so many and so many times before. Perhaps, but it can be mere gobbledygook, placebo and pragmatism if it is not accompanied by real power, and that through prayer.

You protest, “But I am praying and it isn’t working”. Good, then, God is trying to teach you something. Again you protest, “But I don’t know anything else that works like this”. Yes, that is exactly what I am trying to tell you. Get with God, and beware of clinical and clerical technique. Things aren’t always supposed to “work”.

You want the power back? Get back on your knees for real.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 23

Matthew 17:14-18 / Mark 9:14-27 / Luke 9:37-42…

Help our unbelief…

Peter, James, and John had been on a mountain where they saw Jesus in His glorified state. They also saw Moses and Elijah, and they heard the audible voice of God from above as confirmation. It was a wonderful experience, but as soon as they come down the mountain to meet the other disciples, they walk right into trouble.

The other disciples were being questioned by the scribes about why they could not cast out a demon from a boy. There are many people that need help, but we are often powerless to help them, it seems. Yet it is not that we are helpless to help others; it is that we look to our own power, instead of reaching out in faith to God before we reach out to help others.

Jesus is not saying that whatever we want we can have if we just believe. He was delivering a promise to this particular man. Jesus is saying that the healing of the son is God’s will and that He had the power to do it. What the man needed was faith in that. Our faith should always be based on the clear teaching of the Word of God. If God promises something, we can believe He will do it if we ask by faith (1 John 5:14-15). However, we must learn to rightly interpret the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), so that we don’t try and claim promises that are not really there for us.

Sometimes it isn’t that we don’t believe in God, it is that we don’t believe that we need to study. Great experiences are wonderful but we must come down from the mountain and dive into the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:17-19). Our mountaintop doesn’t exclude us from our study desk.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 22

Matthew 17:10-13 / Mark 9:11-13…

Spirit and power…

The Old Testament closed with a promise (Malachi 4:5-6), and some 400 years later, that hope, God’s promise, is now fulfilled. The one like Elijah has come. After the Transfiguration, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” They had just seen Elijah and wondered about this prophecy. Jesus was saying that the modern “Elijah” is John the Baptist. His preaching was powerful and made many others ready to come to Christ. He comes and ministers under opposition and hatred from the religious leaders, and this modern day Elijah will be the launching pad of Jesus’ ministry.

The angel Gabriel had already announced that John the Baptist was not actually Elijah in person, but in type (Luke 1:17). John denies that he is actually Elijah in person (John 1:21), but Jesus calls him Elijah in spirit (Malachi 3:1 / Isaiah 40:3). John was trying to turn a nation. During the time of Elijah, the people had turned away from the Lord, choosing instead to embrace paganism and a worldly lifestyle. It was the role of Elijah on Mount Carmel to lead the people back to God (1 Kings 18:37-39).

In the same way, John pointed the people to Jesus, “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The spirit of Elijah brings repentance (to make ready a people prepared for the Lord), unity (turn the heart of fathers to children), and intercession (1 Kings 18:41-46 / James 5:17-18). This is the message we need today before the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 21

Matthew 17:1-9 / Mark 9:2-10 / Luke 9:28-36…

The glimpse and the grind…

Jesus sometimes brings us to a “mountaintop experience”, and we see and hear wonderful things. We want to stay there and glory in His presence, yet we must come back down to earth, as it were. When we do we find difficulty again. This is why we didn’t want to come back down in the first place. It is no wonder, the person who meets Jesus as glorious has a taste for heaven. Yet we must bring our bodies back to the natural day to day scene.

However, that is what Jesus wants to do for us, to transfigure our sight, to change our daily lives, to reflect the Light we have seen (Philippians 2:15). We see a true glimpse of the big picture, and we are transformed (2 Corinthians 3:18). Surely we must still go back to the grind, but after a glimpse of glory that light should affect our sight. We see that the grind is actually grand when given this grace (1 Corinthians 15:58).

The Transfiguration shows the glory of Jesus. It gives us a hint of that glorious kingdom that is yet to come. The voice of the Father confirms it. Yet while this great event, this mountaintop experience, this bright shining moment is wonderful, this experience isn’t the goal. It simply prepares us for that other mountain, called Calvary, where Jesus does what He really came to do, die for sinners like us.

The Transfiguration, a picture of glory, actually points us away from such glory to the darkness and scandal of the cross. This is God’s kind of glory, power made perfect in weakness, salvation through suffering, life through death. You must see Jesus on both these mountains to more fully understand what real glory is all about. The glimpse is to help you get through the grind. We will be glorified like Him (Philippians 3:20-21), but by grace we must go through the grind to finally get the full picture (1 John 3:2-3).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 20

Matthew 16:24-28 / Mark 8:34-9:1 / Luke 9:23-27…

If anyone would come after me…

Jesus connects His unique sufferings and death with the life that He expects His disciples to live. In doing so He tells us what we should do and why we should do it.

Discipleship is about self-denial not self-discovery. Denying ourselves means we renounce our passions for power, position, possessions, and prestige. Taking up our cross means we must be ready to bear up under the afflictions God sends our way as discipline to conform us to the image of Christ. Following Jesus means we look to His obedience and example as our pattern for life.

Those whose first interest is their self will never find full satisfaction. Conversely, those who seek the Lord will find Him, and find life (Psalm 37:4 / Matthew 6:33).

No temporal gain can compare to the loss of the soul. If you will not deny yourself now, you have by that very choice denied yourself for eternity. The rewards that are worth having are the rewards to come. Live for today by having an eye for tomorrow.

The Son will judge according to the principle of self-denial. We are not saved because we deny ourselves, salvation is by grace. However, we are rewarded in the next life for obedience in this life (1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 4:5, 9:25 / 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20 / 2 Timothy 4:8 / James 1:12 / 1 Peter 5:4). Naturally we all want to be rewarded now, but we are to delay our expectations. When we are rewarded, it will be greater than anything we could possibly expect. In that regard, Jesus tells them that some will get to see a glimpse of this glory before they die, and a few days later Peter, James, and John see the glorified Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

The principle of spiritual life is self-denial. If you are not going after Jesus, you’re going the wrong way (Galatians 6:7-8).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 19

Matthew 16:21-23 / Mark 8:31-33 / Luke 9:22…

In the line of fire…

Wherever God is moving powerfully, Satan is sure to be there to try and counter. Peter had just been given the great revelation of Jesus as the Christ. Jesus spoke of His resurrection, and how His church would prevail against all opposition. Immediately we see an attack, and it comes from within the inner circle of the disciples. Peter, used by the Father to reveal who Jesus really was, is now being used by the Enemy. Don’t think spiritual triumphs give you a free pass on discernment; on the contrary, they make you a target.

Can we expect to fare any better? How easily we let the circumstances of this world enter into our thoughts of doing God’s work. We must be ever mindful of what God’s plan and purpose is, and not let our own desire to do “right” interfere with our judgment. We must not presume upon the fact that we love the Lord, even when we are in the very presence of God.

Remember, the Devil had tried to get Jesus to avoid His purpose to suffer before (Matthew 4:8-11). Now he was back. How careful, then, must we be today, given these examples? Jesus had to do what He came to do in history, and also in our lives, but how often we want to hinder His work by our own thoughts of how things ought to proceed. The enemy of our souls is waiting to strike, and often it is just after our moments of triumph that he lays the trap. Why then would you think that you might never say or do the wrong thing in spiritual matters?

Don’t let down your guard. Just when you think you’ve won, the Devil is aiming his darts.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 18

Matthew 16:13-20 / Mark 8:27-30 / Luke 9:18-21…

The king and the keys…

Jesus was revealed as Christ, the Son of God, and the Apostles were given the responsibility of founding the early church. Jesus wasn’t simply exalting Peter; He was exalting the fact that His church would prevail no matter what or who the opposition, even from within. This very fact will be proven only moments later.

The keys are the preaching of the gospel. Every preacher uses the keys of the kingdom when he proclaims the person and work of Christ and the terms of salvation.

So what are the gates of hell? Gates are defensive not offensive: to “possess the gate of your enemies” (Genesis 22:17), meant to conquer your enemy. When the gates of the city were breached, the attacking army had conquered; the gates had not prevailed. In Hebrews 2:14-15 we learn that by His death Jesus destroyed the power of the devil which is the fear of death. The fear of death is what the gates of hell are about.

So Jesus is saying that He will build His church, and the gates of hell (fear of death) shall not prevail against it. It is not so much about the assault of the powers of darkness but that the Messiah and His church will never perish. He is predicting His own resurrection, and also the resurrection of all believers (cf. Romans 8:11 / 1 Corinthians 6:14 / 2 Corinthians 4:14). Death cannot overpower the church (1 Corinthians 15:54). The gates of Hell shall not prevail.

Now we represent the King, and we can storm the “gates of hell” and rescue people from the clutches of eternal death, rescuing those who are in fear. Our mission is to act on the truth of Christ’s statement and snatch the captives as “brands from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2 / Jude 23).

Yes this means YOU (1 Peter 2:9).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 17

Mark 8:22-26…

Gradual grace…

These differing instances we see in the gospel accounts point us to the fact that we are to look to Jesus in faith, not look for a formula or method. It is about the relationship that results, not simply the results themselves. To be sure, all saved sinners trust the same Savior, and believe the same gospel. They experience the same grace, but they do not all experience grace the same way.

Do you see anything?” Jesus requires an acknowledgement from the man of both his disability and the deliverance he was experiencing. Most times the work needing to be done is far more extensive than we can readily appreciate. The Great Physician is interested in more than cosmetic surgery. Jesus has to remove the lens of lust (I want it now!) from the eyes of our heart if we are to truly see the depth of our deliverance. He doesn’t just want to heal and deliver us, He wants us to trust and treasure Him. In order to do this, sometimes the works of grace are gradual. Sometimes deliverance is by degrees.

Gradual grace is also a means to keep us from gloating, speaking of our great faith rather than God’s great grace. We wound other tender consciences when we exalt our triumph instead of exalting Christ. Some people are still in the “I see trees” stage.

You see, when we were spiritually dead, the Enemy blinded our spiritual eyes (2 Corinthians 4:4). Then God said “let there be light” and we were born again (2 Corinthians 4:6). Even so, as believers we still don’t see perfectly yet (1 Corinthians 13:12). However, we can increase our spiritual sight as we behold Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). It may take a while to have a mature vision of God (cf. Hebrews 5:12-14). We must keep focusing on Christ and growing in our spiritual sight, or we will become nearsighted and unfruitful (2 Peter 1:9). If that happens we will miss the forest from the trees.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 16

Matthew 16:5-12 / Mark 8:14-21…

Bad bread…

We often make category errors in dealing with God. We are thinking about one thing and Jesus is trying to teach us about another. The physical stuff may seem to be more relevant at the moment, but the spiritual stuff should always be given priority so that both the physical and the spiritual are kept in proper proportion.

We always seem to fret about circumstantial things. We lay all the best plans, but the best laid plans are still in God’s hands. To try and control every situation is to be controlled by every situation. Sometimes it is as if God makes sure we forget something so that He can show up to provide something we didn’t even think of.

Jesus shows us again and again that He will meet our needs. What He wants is for our perception of His provision to be focused on the spiritual. Before we say, “Jesus give me food”, we need to be able to say “Jesus give me faith”. Here is the point: If you put your felt needs first you will be in danger of going after false teaching. What good is it to have all things under control, nice and neat and perfectly suited to our imagined situation, all the while our doctrine is leading us to distraction, deception, and destruction?

It is not right to pit the physical against the spiritual. It is not wrong to be a good steward of our natural things. However, it is not right to allow the physical to obscure our aim for the spiritual. It is not wrong to make sure our proportions and priorities are straight.

It is better to be hungry and holy than to have a full belly and a hard heart.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 15

Matthew 16:1-4 / Mark 8:11-13…

Here’s your sign…

The Pharisees and the Sadducees hated each other, but they hated Jesus worse than that. Hatred makes for strange companions in the fight against truth.

They asked him to show them a sign from heaven. God had already given plenty of evidence. They had seen Jesus perform many miracles before, but they wanted more. They wanted a sign outside of Him, “from heaven”, as if this would prove the truth that was already evident. The truth is that belief is not a matter of evidence; it is a matter of the will.

Jesus tells them that they can read the weather, but they can’t read the signs. He had been fulfilling prophecy right before their eyes, but their eyes were willingly blind. Jesus points to His coming resurrection as proof that they weren’t looking for proof. In essence He says there is no reason to show them some other sign, because they had bad motives, and they couldn’t interpret these things anyway. They were just looking to test Him; they didn’t want to trust Him.

How about you? The Bible gives us many signs along the way, but will we be so blind and dark that we think we don’t need to follow them? Will we then beg for a new sign to redemption road when we are already down on damnation alley? He’s already pointed the way, to both places.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 14

Matthew 15:32-39 / Mark 8:1-10…

Fasting and food…

Jesus was once again showing that He was the answer to our needs, no matter who we are. When He had fed the 5000, it was a Jewish crowd. Yet He was in Gentile country when He feeds the 4000. The grace of God is available to all who humbly believe in Him (cf. Isaiah 57:15).

We have been seeing an interwoven intercession as we have been following along these passages. Jesus draws us to Himself. We go to Jesus on behalf of people; we have tenacity in our trust, a fighting faith (Matthew 15:21-28 / Mark 7:24-30). We bring others to Him in our prayers, hoping He will give them a personal word (Mark 7:31-37). We follow Jesus, and as we walk along we sit at His feet, coming to know our mission experientially (Matthew 15:29-31).

Another facet of this intercession is fasting. The crowds had come to see the healings, and now Jesus had compassion even while they had not been complaining. The people were fasting, and then they were fed. We feel Jesus’ compassion for certain people that are without the spiritual food they need, even before they may realize it. Jesus makes the first move of compassion in our hearts, and we fast as empathy and enter into intercession on behalf of people.

Apparently, the disciples were just not able to make the connection between one miracle (feeding of the 5000) and another. Still, He uses them to meet the needs of the people. It is intimate intercession. The people knew it was Jesus doing the miraculous, but it is the disciples who distribute. Jesus doesn’t just meet their need, He exceeds it with abundance. He does the same for us spiritually. If we spend time with Him we will be spiritually fed and there will be spiritual food left over for us to share with others

Come to Jesus, He will not send you away hungry. He will provide and you will be satisfied, in such a way as to be hungry for more of Him.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 13

Matthew 15:29-31…

At His feet…

Jesus shows us His mission, to embody God’s compassion for the lost and broken as He ministers to their needs. He wants to bless them that they would in turn bless God. This was the pattern. Crowds come, bringing people who need a touch from Jesus. He heals them, the crowd wonders in awe at what they see and experience, and they all glorify God.

This is also our mission. No we don’t have that healing power, but we can bring people to the feet of Jesus in prayer. We can embody the grace and mercy of God through deeds done in the name of Christ. There will be times that we see Jesus heal the broken hearted, where we see Him touch the sick and see them recover, where we can feel His compassion for us and for others. This will bring us to the point of passion for the mission. There will be times where God will use us as His instrument and in turn people will glorify God (Matthew 5:16).

We can always come to Christ at the throne of God by prayer, of course (Hebrews 4:15-16). However, the Spirit of God makes the person of Jesus on the move in the earth as well. Therefore, if we will follow Him in our walk we will know where and in what sense He is moving, we will be at His feet. Then we will be able to know this mission experientially. To be at the feet of Jesus is our mission, and then we can fulfill our commission.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 12

Mark 7:31-37…

A personal word…

People wanted to see this deaf and speech impaired man healed. Jesus agrees to help, but seems to go about things in a rather unusual way. He performs six actions that speak to us before He speaks the word of healing to the man.

It was personal (taking him aside), practical (he put his fingers into his ears… after spitting…touched his tongue), and prayerful (looking up to heaven…he sighed).

When we are bringing someone before God in prayer, we have to be willing to let Him do things His way. It is personal, tailored to meet more than just the needs we see, or think. Jesus wants to work on the whole person. He wants to help them, but He wants more than that. He wants to communicate with them, to let them see just how much He cares. And not just in general, but individually, intimately. He wants to be their God. He wants to speak a word to them.

That is what they need, for Jesus to become real to them, as He is to us. He must touch our spiritually deaf ears to open them up. He must touch our stuttering tongues if we are to be released. He must speak the word if we are to hear and to speak His truth.

Whenever you intercede on behalf of someone, remember, Jesus does all things well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 11

Matthew 15:21-28 / Mark 7:24-30…

Scrapping for scraps…

Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Paul, and all the great people of prayer throughout history have experientially known the truth that sometimes God makes us fight for our blessings. He wants us to prevail in prayer, but He insists we persevere.

This woman was not being insulted by Jesus. He was drawing out her faith. Her answer is wonderful. She had humility with passionate hunger, instead of resentment and anger about her situation. She only knew that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah who came to heal people, and for some reason He was in her town. Christ went into Gentile territory and did this miracle for a Gentile woman who had greater faith than the Jews who were rejecting Jesus.

She had a fighting faith. She had to fight the doubts about why Jesus would want to help her, a Gentile. She had to fight the crowd; it would be very hard to get them to hear her. But imagine having to fight through all that and then to have Jesus act with seeming indifference (But he did not answer her a word). She had to fight the urge to give up, listening to Jesus tell His disciples she wasn’t worth the trouble (I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel), then getting on her knees and Jesus still not seeming to want to help her (It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs).

This woman can teach us a lot about prevailing in prayer. She knew that faith was obediently seeking for the Master, despite a seeming initial rejection of her request. We are not ready to handle every blessing God has for us until we are ready to wrestle and rest at the same time. Jesus wants us to draw near, and it will be worth it, but what it takes is humility, persistence, and worship. We have to be able to say, “I’ll take the scraps if they come from your table!” Just one crumb from the Bread of Life is all we need.

Would you go the distance for someone’s deliverance if Jesus made you fight for it?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 10

Matthew 15:12-20 / Mark 7:17-23…

The subtle error of standards…

The Pharisees added many man-made laws to surround God’s Law. The logic was that if one could keep from violating the added tradition, then one would be kept from violating the Law. But Jesus didn’t validate these traditions, because their laws set up a barrier between God and man. They stopped people from hearing the Word of God and being convicted of their sin.

It was thought that by adding a layer to the Law, it would help people keep it. Instead it kept people from it. By raising the standards, it actually lowered the bar. The traditions were a trap, they kept people thinking that they were able to meet the true standards, and they kept people from feeling the sting of missing the real mark. The Law shows us that no one can actually meet God’s standard, not that we need to add a “higher standard” so that people can rise above it. The Law doesn’t give life, it points to the only one who can.

These higher standards actually set lower standards, and it creates self-righteous people who think all is well with their soul. Many do not see Him because they meet some other standard. Like church attendance, giving offerings, dress codes, praying, or even pastoring. They believe that people can follow the rules and so therefore they don’t actually follow Christ.

It can also make hard hearted libertines with their smug sincerity; people who think that following their own heart is enough. People will read passages on heart based religion and think it means sincerity, instead of spirituality, which can only be given by God. Sincerity is no substitute for truth, and the truth is that we need new hearts.

The true path to Jesus leads us to be broken by the Law, so that we will humbly come to realize that we cannot possible meet the standards given by God, and so we must trust in Christ. No, the sting of the Law must be felt or our feelings will lead us away from God and into the religion of standards and sincerity. When we lower the standard by adding to the Word of God, the precepts we keep are the road to perdition. Profane behavior is a product of the heart.

No law can make men free from themselves. Only the gospel has that power.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 9

Matthew 15:10-11 / Mark 7:14-16…

Outside religion…

Is Jesus saying that those things that we think are bad are not actually bad, and that it doesn’t matter what we put into our bodies and our minds? No, what He is saying is that it is the heart that makes us want bad things in the first place. It is moral uncleanness that defiles a person, not ceremonial uncleanness. The traditions of the Pharisees had no effect on removing the stains of the heart. Some of the stuff that we want is indeed bad and bad for us, but wanting that stuff only shows what is on the inside already.

Jesus is talking about our spiritual health, not our physical wellness. He is saying not to worry so much about the customs and traditions and all that but to be concerned instead about what is going on inside you. Food and drink are not what spiritually defiles you (Romans 14:17). Yes bad food can defile your health but that isn’t what Jesus is talking about here. Washing the outside won’t clean the inside. Jesus is telling them that a lot of people with “good clean religion” are not as pious as they may believe.

Now Jesus isn’t telling you that you can play with fire and not be burned (Proverbs 6:27-28 / 1 Corinthians 15:33). It matters very much what we put into our bodies, and into our spirits (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Watch what you eat, physically and most important, spiritually (Galatians 6:8). What He is telling you is to work on your inside first (Matthew 23:26).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 8

Matthew 15:1-9 / Mark 7:1-13…

Wasted worship…

The religion of the Pharisees makes people hypocritical. A hypocrite is one who pretends to be something that he is not. Many times hypocrites are self-deceived as to this. The Pharisees gave the appearance of holiness, but it was actually haughtiness. It wasn’t humility before God it was simply ritual before man.

The real question with all religious ritual, practice and doctrine is, “Is it of God or of man?” The answer is if it conforms to God’s Word. Jesus said that they were going through motions but their hearts were far removed from God. They compounded the error by teaching these man made precepts as divine doctrine. These problems were serious enough to render their worship vain. We must remember that to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22).

Worship must be in spirit; internally real and not outwardly by ritual alone (cf. Philippians 3:3). Worship must be in truth; not just a projection of our sincerity, or a reflection of culture, but firmly based on the truth of God revealed in the Bible (cf. 1 John 4:5-6).

Many today, as a pretense of honoring God, add to God’s Word. They insist on certain ceremonies and practices that are supposed to give us a deeper devotion, yet Paul says otherwise (Colossians 2:16-23). We can look like good Christians on the outside. We can have a church relationship, follow the church rules, and use the right church words. We can say we love Jesus, but our hearts may be far from Him. God wants us to be real. A humble heart will lead to true holiness, which will work but not pretend that it is something it is not.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 7

John 6:60-71…

The crossroads…

Do you take offense at this? Jesus wasn’t watered down, simply trying to please the people; He was pleasing His Father and proving He was the Messiah. He knew that some would not believe, and that is why He was telling them that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. Many people start out in the Christian life just fine for a season, but then they drop out of sight and nobody seems to know what happened to them. Oh yes, we know where they live and work and play, but they don’t seem to be following Jesus, and are making excuses when we press them on the issue. They won’t submit to the fact that the Triumphal Procession (2 Corinthians 2:14-16) might include physical, mental, financial problems on account of Christ, and they walk the other way. They couldn’t handle difficult doctrine and they have stopped hearing Jesus. Oh sure, they might come and see Him at times, but it is on their own agenda, in their comfort zone, at their own convenience. Following Him came with a price that they were unwilling to pay.

Do you want to go away as well? Who are we listening to? We see here that for most it is the false teaching of the world (Mark 4:18-19 / 1 John 2:16), the flesh (Mark 4:16-17 / 1 Peter 2:11), and the devil (Mark 4:15 / 1 Peter 5:8) that are doing the talking and being listened to. The world feeds it, the devil enflames it, the flesh indulges it. People follow their feelings, away from Jesus.

We have believed…And yet one of you is a devil. In the walk with Jesus, you can’t really know that “we will follow”, it must be that you say “I” will follow, because you can only account for yourself. Many who are following now and who may even seem to be closer to Jesus than you, many of these may not be there at the end. The loss of loved ones, the knowledge that personal relationships may and will suffer is the one place where most “disciples” put down their cross and walk away from Jesus. Will personal relationships cause you to walk away from the one personal relationship that matters above all others (Matthew 10:37 / Luke 14:26)?

Are you following Him? Will problems, persecution, pain, poverty, prison, or personal relationships cause you to go away? Will you stay with Jesus or be like Judas? What happens at the crossroad proves if you’re real.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 6

John 6:41-59…

Soul food…

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. They didn’t understand what Jesus was really saying because their hearts weren’t open. These things are not perceptible by reason, it takes revelation.

And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh. Jesus reiterates that He is indeed the bread of life. He contrasts this with the manna of Moses’ day, and how all those who ate of it were now deceased. He confounds the resisters once again by telling them that He is to be eaten, and that eating and drinking Him leads to eternal life.

How can this man give us his flesh to eat? He is speaking in both physical and spiritual terms. In the physical sense, Jesus is referring to His life and work. The eating and drinking refer to the spiritual aspect of our acceptance of Him and His work. He had referred to Himself before as living water (John 4:10). The point is that whoever believes has eternal life.

For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. The flesh is His sinless life, which makes His blood, in other words His death, the atonement for our sin. If you do not receive His sinless life and believe in His atoning death you will not experience the eternal life He is speaking of. But for those who do believe, who do eat and drink of Jesus, who make Him the substance and sustenance of their lives, they will know that whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.

Jesus, the bread of life, is the only true food for the soul.

The only other alternative is devil’s food cake.

What’s on your menu for today?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 5

John 6:22-40…

More than manna…

You have seen me and yet do not believe. These people were chasing Jesus because they wanted results. Yet Jesus knew they were aiming at the wrong targets. They were looking for Him to give them bread; He wanted them to look at Him as bread.

It is the same with us. We look for Jesus to provide our needs, but Jesus wants us to look at Him as our need. He will provide for us, but He wants us to have the right mindset about it all. We have to ask the right questions, but we must also have the right applications.

It takes a miraculous perception: everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life. This means more than an escape from hell (John 17:3).

It comes by a miraculous presentation: All that the Father gives me will come to me. The Father gives us to Jesus as a treasure. Most people are trying to do everything for God, instead of letting God be everything to them.

It brings a miraculous presence: whoever comes to me I will never cast out. Jesus never lets go of us. We are supposed to work, not to get accepted, but because we are accepted.

It ensures a miraculous protection: I should lose nothing of all that he has given me. Jesus will not lose any of His treasure; He even protects us from ourselves.

It is part of a miraculous plan: this is the will of him who sent me… the will of my Father. People that follow their own will are missing the real prize (Philippians 3:8-14).

It culminates in a miraculous promotion: I will raise him up on the last day. Jesus will bring us with Him into eternity. In Christ we are significant, sufficient, and secure (cf. Ephesians 1:3-9).

Jesus means more than manna. He is trying to get us to live for today by having an eye for tomorrow. His is the voice of vision. The question is how are you seeing Him?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 4

Matthew 14:34-36 / Mark 6:53-56…

Touching the Master…

These people recognized who Jesus was. They knew He was powerful, and they knew He was compassionate. They also recognized that they had needs, needs only He could meet.

So they ran to Jesus and for Jesus. They ran to tell others and they ran to catch Him wherever He went to. They finally had something worth chasing.

Then they reached out for Him. Some of these people knew who He was, but many still needed a personal encounter. You can know who Jesus is, but you must have a personal encounter to actually know Him as He is.

Having taken all these steps, they received – Jesus never failed any miracle that He attempted. There were no incurable diseases, cases, or problems that Jesus couldn’t and didn’t deal with (Acts 10:38). In the presence of Jesus is where change happens. But if they did not recognize, run to, and reach out for Him, it was because they did not believe, and so they were not healed. You have to follow along.

Now Jesus isn’t trying to get you to be busy. He isn’t commanding us to follow Him just so that we will lose all our energy. Jesus is not looking to drain you; He is looking to develop you (John 12:26). You lose your life, you stop chasing things that don’t matter, and start reorienting your life to be moving with Him. Then you will have His energy (1 Corinthians 15:10 / Galatians 2:20 / Philippians 2:12-13 / Colossians 1:27-29).

He can be touched; the question is, will we reach out and try (Hebrews 4:14-16)?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 3

Matthew 14:22-33 / Mark 6:45-52 / John 6:16-21…

Focus on Jesus, not on Peter…

Don’t take this passage and focus on what Peter could have done, or what you think we can do, focus on Jesus and what He is doing and has done. Moses (Exodus 14), Joshua (Joshua 3:14-17), Elijah (2 Kings 2:8), and Elisha (2 Kings 2:13-14) were able to part the waters, but Jesus could walk right on top of them, a testimony to His divinity (Job 9:8). This is not about our faith giving us water walking ability but our faith in a water walking God.

Jesus isn’t calling us to walk on the water; He is calling us to Himself. Sometimes we can seem to do the impossible, but our faith, our trust must finally be in Him alone, for only He cannot fail. I’m not saying don’t attempt great things, I’m saying DO attempt great things, but even if we fail to walk on water, Jesus won’t. Yes, use what God has given you, yes, develop whatever skills you can and use them for the glory of God. Enjoy the good graces that have been bestowed upon you. But walking on water is not our role, and it is not some matter of stirring up our faith so that we can. It is about calling on Jesus who did and who can.

Peter called out to Jesus twice. Like him, we start out by saying, “God help me to rise above my stormy circumstances”, but then sometimes we need to cry out “Lord, save me from the storm, I can’t do it”. Peter cried out, and the Lord saved him. It is not the strength of our faith, but the power of God that saves us.

You don’t have to walk on water, you just walk by faith, and if you do, the waves may get high and the wind might get strong but you will never sink without being able to call on Christ, who will never leave us nor forsake us. We walk by faith, not by sight, and we walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. It is not that Jesus gives us the power to save ourselves; it is that Jesus is the power to save us, and He does save us. That is the essence of the gospel message.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 2

Matthew 14:13-21 / Mark 6:30-44 / Luke 9:10-17 / John 6:1-15…

Grasping for God…

The setting to this passage is important. John the Baptist was beheaded, and so things were getting tough. Jesus had been speaking in parables, healing and delivering people. Now He was going to widen the scope in displaying His power. He was not just the King of the Jews, but Lord over all creation (Colossians 1:16-17 / Hebrews 1:2-3). Jesus was extending His reach, in public. Yes, His reach was infinite, but His current grasp was focused on individuals. Now He would extend that public reach to grasp out groups for the display of His glory.

The disciples were part of the grasp, and the hand that would reach out. Jesus had given them a measure of power and sent them out. They came back wore out. He tells them to find rest, yet suddenly He asks them to go beyond the power He had given before and to reach out for more than they had previously known.

He does the same with us. He calls on us to reach out further than we have. Often, like the disciples, we come with the same report; we don’t have the power, or the provision. But it is because we don’t have the proper person in mind. We think of ourselves or the size of the situation, but Jesus calls us to think of Him, and to bring the thing His way.

We feel like we have no provision, but the provision is always Jesus Himself. He is what we are to feed others on, whether or not we have physical bread. He is the True Bread, and if people eat of Him, they will be satisfied. He will always bring enough to the table, no matter how large the crowd or how little the means.

Jesus gives to us so that we might give to the people. He wants to amaze us, not for us to amaze others. Jesus wants us to be portraits of His grace, not trophies of our own greatness. Knowing that, will you extend the hand and grasp what God is reaching for?

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Daily Gospel Devotional: May 1

Matthew 14:3-12 / Mark 6:17-29...

A supper of sin…

Like Herod, those with a hardened heart might be temporarily kept in check by their fascination with faithful people and by fearing what might happen. However, it will only be a matter of time before the idol factory of their soul invents some justification for what it wants. Some try and maintain some sense of dignity about it all, but underneath are the same dirty deeds. They add sin upon sin, and yet are deceived into thinking that they are morally right for adhering to some other principle when it suits their seared conscience. You know the type; “I may do this, but I would never do that.”

Herod’s idol was lust. It is the reason he had taken his brother’s wife unlawfully, and the reason he had John imprisoned, because the man of God called him out on account of it. The object of lust can change in a moment, because lust is “I want it now”. Now, the idol in his heart reared up and we see him succumb to the ministrations of his own wife’s daughter. Herod’s wife was herself a wicked soul, allowing her daughter to be shamed, and using the opportunity to manipulate Herod for her own will.

Sin multiplies faster than anything on earth. It will trick you into new temptations all your life long if you let it. And it will hurt others, not just you. Allowing one sin is permission for all to enter in. Sin will always take you further than you want to go, for longer than you want to stay, and it will cost you more than you can pay. You wind up on the not-so-merry-go-round of misery and manipulation. It is a progression, from enticed, to entrapped, to enslaved (James 1:14-15). Sin will make you sin more, and you’ll think you have to sin just to stop from hurting the ones you didn’t mean to. At some point, you are just going to have to confess and repent, because you can’t do wrong to get a chance to do right.

You can hide away for now, but be sure your sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23). It may just be that something or someone else will put you in the position where the poison in your soul is served up on a platter.