Tag Archives: Devotion

The Third Night

A question was posed to me a few weeks ago that I have been pondering ever since.  Do you ever have those biblical questions that you just want to sit on for a while and contemplate, wondering what it really means.  You think you know, but you are not sure, so you seek the Holy Spirit to guide you to an answer because it is He that will guide you into all truth.  You ask God for wisdom and your faith doesn’t waver so you know He will give you the wisdom you asked for.  This was one of those questions.  I gave my friend a quick thought, and the more I ponder it, the more I think the Holy Spirit spoke tome in an instant and gave me those words I shared with him.

In Matthew 12:38 the Pharisees come to Jesus and ask Him to show them a sign.  I found this a little funny, since he has already been ministering for over a year, healing the sick, opening blind eyes, making the lame to walk and the dumb to speak. Certainly they had heard of these deeds and maybe, upon giving them the benefit of the doubt, they had never been present to witness one of these miracles.  They wanted to see for themselves, much like Thomas did the night of His return from the dead.  After all, it would be much easier to believe Him if they could see and actual sign!

Jesus knows their hearts though. He tells them an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.  WOAH!  Wait a minute!  How often do we seek signs?  How often do we need a miracle to happen in our lives in order for us to believe he is the good and merciful God we have heard about?  I hear a lot of people praying to God for miracles all the time and when they don’t get them, they question God.  They wonder if He really hears their prayers, if He really cares about them.  Even though His word tells us He does, they still question.  Does that make us an evil and adulterous generation?  We should worship God for who He is, not for what He will do for us.  There is a huge difference there, and we should make sure we are praising Him for the right reasons.  That way our praise can be unceasing and our love will never die.  But that is not the point I am writing this about.

The next thing Jesus says is even more intriguing.  In Matthew 12:40, He says:

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 

Let me check my math here.  Jesus died on Good Friday and rose on Easter Sunday, right? Friday, Saturday, Sunday – that’s three days.  But Friday night and Saturday night are only two nights, right?  He says three nights.  My friend misquoted the verse by saying Jesus was three days in the heart of the ground.  But it says earth here.  So, what happened to the third night?

I think Thursday night was the third night – the night of the Last Supper and the Garden, the several trials also.  It was then that He gave Himself up, that he was no longer a man of this earth.  How could any earthly man endure the suffering he went through?  How could anyone not want to atop Jonas from leaving the upper room and betraying Him?  How could any man not call upon all the power He had to dispel the Roman guards that came to take Him away?  How could He face the Sanhedrin and Pilate without defending Himself before the sun even came up?  My thought is that no living human could.  Only a person who had fully died to himself could go through this chain of events that happened Thursday night into Friday morning.  For all intents and purposes, Jesus really died Thursday night.  His power, His anointed preaching, His ability to call on His Father – all gone.  From that moment on, nothing could kill Him because he had already consigned himself to death.  Three nights in the heart of the earth.

We can learn a valuable lesson from this.  This world is going to come at Christians more and more in these last days.  We are seeing it now and will continue to see the persecution rise.  It started back in the 70’s, with the Bible and prayer being taken out of our schools.  But today it is so much worse.  Today, there is an all-out assault on the church by the LGBTQ+ coalition.  They are splitting churches wide open and are perverting the scriptures with their misinterpretation.  They are winning even the dearest of saints over to their side and indoctrinating our children even as young as kindergarten age.  Free speech will be next as they seek to stop us from reading certain parts of the Bible.  Oppression will hit us all eventually, and we must be prepared.

In my mind, the only way to be prepared is to die to ourselves.  We are supposed to crucify this flesh, let it die, so the Spirit can live within us in this world.  We are supposed to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  If my body can be offended and made weak by the attack of the enemy, what good will I be to the Kingdom of God?  We cannot allow ourselves to be offended, but rather to stand on the word of God when the enemy comes roaring in like a lion.  And he will come, you can depend on that.  He came against Jesus!  He certainly has no fear coming against us.  If we react in the flesh, we are doomed.  But if we react in the Spirit, as Jesus did, we will be victorious every time.  Jesus trusted God in the middle of the assault, and we should as well.   The third night shows us that.  It was in the third night, which actually came first, that all the enemy’s arsenal was used against Jesus.  He did not flinch.  He did not get offended. He did not complain.  He just did what God called Him to do.  And we should do the same!

The Year of Our Lord

I got to thinking about our calendar today.  We are here in the year 2022 A.D., with A.D. signifying “Anno Domini” or “the year of our Lord.”  It’s interesting to me that the3 calendar dating system is based on the birth of Jesus rather than His death, which was much more significant for us.  After all, we derive very little from His birth other than some wonderful stories and a rich Christmas tradition.  But from His death and resurrection, we are blessed with Salvation healing, deliverance and eternal life.  We are also blessed with the ability to become a new creation in Christ, putting away that old man in order to take on the new man that Christ will form within us as we grow and mature.  His death brings new life to whoever accepts this great sacrifice that He made.

It was not pretty, that’s for sure.  First, His best friends couldn’t even stay awake to pray with Him.  To give them a little credit, it was around 1 in the morning when they arrived in the garden.  But he had told them He was going away, and was going to die.  Certainly, that would keep them awake, wouldn’t it?  Then he was betrayed by a kiss from one of His closest disciples.  The Roman soldiers led Him to the Sanhedrin, where He was slapped and ridiculed by many.  Then top Pilate’s court, where he was ordered to be beaten with many stripes.  They ripped open His back with cat-O-Nine tails and it was oozing with blood when they out a purple garment on Him and a crown of thorns, which dug deep into His head.  They mocked Him and spit on Him before pulling the robe back off, opening again the stripes on His back.  He was rejected by the crowds that so eagerly welcomed Him just 4 days earlier, and they cried out to have Him crucified.  Through all this, He never protested or complained.  Then they made Him carry His cross uphill to Calvary, where they nailed Him to that cross, putting spikes through His hands and feet. 

Isaiah 53:7 says He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He gave up His life – they did not take it from Him.   The ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  The sinless Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.  This was foretold by John the Baptist (John 1:29).

He was placed in a borrowed tomb and a stone was rolled over the opening and sealed with a Roman seal.  Guards were placed at the door.  But three days later, the stone rolled away and he came out alive!  Alive for all to see.  Alive for you and me!  Alive to bring us the promise of eternal life.  What a glorious day that was.

I started to wonder why the calendar was not set to that date – the date he rose from the grave.  After all, that is the day we gained new life, a new beginning.  Why is that not the day we began a new era?  After all, all things were made new, right?  Jesus Christ had given the ultimate sacrifice so we could be free from this earthly life and all its entanglements.  God had given His only Son just so we could have a way to eternal life with Him, and a life free from condemnation here on this earth.  Shouldn’t this be the day we set as ground zero on the time line before and after Christ?

Then I started thinking about the other sacrifice Jesus gave.  We think about the sacrifice of the cross often.  But what about that sacrifice He made to come to earth in this place To give up His royal standing to come to earth as a mere mortal man.  He was used to unlimited power, yet he became powerless.  He was used to the praise of angles, yet he came to the praise of mere shepherds.  He was used to having dominion over all things to being dependent for everything.  He went from creator to created, from all knowing to knowing nothing, from being all places to being restricted to a mothers manger, from a throne to a stable.

When I think about these two sacrifices that Christ made, I think the first one was the more difficult decision for Him.  Giving up heaven for an earthly existence was harder then giving up earth for a heavenly existence.  I start to consider the humility it took to come here in the first place and realize that is a much deeper humility than the humility of the cross.  And I realize that new life began in the cradle, not in His rising from the grave.  If He had not decided to humble himself to the lowly human life he would face, He would never have found the strength to humble Himself to the cross.

Can I even begin to find this humility for my life?  Can I find a way to come down out of the clouds in areas like my financial state, or job expertise, or the vast knowledge I possess or wisdom I have gained?  Can I put aside the thought that I did some of this on my own, without God’s help?  Or thinking that this was just a fluke and filled with luck?  Can I bring myself to realize that I am nothing without Him, and all things I have accomplished I have done so because of Him.  He has guided and directed me to this point in my life, and I should not take the credit for any of it.  Instead, I should realize this new life that I have attained through His sacrifice is His plan, His wisdom, His guidance and His influence on my life.   I cannot come to this place of understanding except by humbling myself.  Humbling myself to new life being formed in me, just like it was formed in a manger tow thousand the twenty-two years ago.  He brought new life with Him when he humbled Himself in the manger, and allowed me to partake of it when he humbled Himself to the cross.  This is why the calendar says 2022 instead of 1983 today.

Called Of God

Hebrew 5:1-4

For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins:

Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.

And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.

And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron

The writer of Hebrews now starts to explain the role of the High priest.  This is essential to our understanding of our salvation.  God’s plan started way back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned.  It was not just a haphazard thing God threw together as He went along. In the garden, God had to cover Adam & Eve with the skin of an animal, and sin has had to be covered by a blood sacrifice ever since.  Abel offered from the flock and his sacrifice was accepted.  Cain did not and his was not.  Abraham offered sacrifices to the Lord, and was willing to give his son if God required him too.  Moses listened to God in the wilderness and set in motion the reason for and type of sacrifices at God’s command.  The book of Leviticus spells this out.  But even before that, God required a blood sacrifice to keep the death angel from destroying the Israeli first born during the first Passover.

Once the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, God gave Moses the design for the temple and the types of sacrifices needed.  The book of Leviticus spells these out in great detail.  The burnt offering, the sin offering, the trespass offering, the peace offering and the meat offering were all required from the people.  I won’t go into detail on these, but it would be good for you to read about them if you have not.  The first 10 chapters of Leviticus are hard to read, but so fundamental in our understating of the price Christ paid.  Jesus fulfilled all of these sacrifices for us on the cross.  What a Savior!

Then Moses gave instructions for the high priest, his garments, his anointing.  This was Aaron at the time.  His job was to oversee all the sacrifices given, and there were plenty.  It was a bloody place all the time, and the aroma of the sacrifices went up through the camp at all times.  He had the rest of the priests and the Levites to help him carry out this task.  These priests were chosen out of the tribe of Judah because the firstborn was spared in the land of Egypt.  God required the firstborn, yet He allowed the Israelites to offer the Levites instead of their firstborn.  Thus, the tribe of Levi became the priests and servants of the temple.   This was there calling from the day they were born until the day they died.  And one man was chosen high priest, for he was the one who would offer that special offering on the day of atonement, which we will discuss at length in a future study.  The duty of the priest was to have compassion on all and to accept their sacrifice to God for whatever reason they were giving it.  He offered for all the people and for himself.

This position was not one that the priest just one day decided he would take up.  It was a calling from God.  In Old Testament times, the priest was from the tribe of Levi.  Today, the priesthood is a calling from God as well.  In fact, any ministry is a calling from God.  We tend to look at some ministries as les important than others, but God only looks at faithfulness to what He has asked us to do.  Are we doing what he asks us to do?  This was the duty of the [priest then, and it is the duty of every Christian today because Peter tells us we are a royal priesthood.  It is our duty to bring the gospel to others, and to let them know their sins have been forgiven by the bold of Christ.  As we continue through Hebrews this whole picture will unfold. What are you called to do?  Some are sowers of seed, and pass out tracks, and witness endlessly.  Some are worship leaders, or Sunday School teachers or VBS helpers.  Some are janitors, or cooks, or dishwashers.  Some sell, some make things, some fix things, some observe things.  No matter what your calling is, you were given the ability and the desire by your creator, and should always keep that in mind when carrying out your duties.  We could do nothing without Him.  The more we can tune into His voice, the more He can show us the way through the problems and adversities that will come up while we carry out our calling.  They are bound to come.  Jesus told the disciples that in this world they would have tribulation.  He knew they would face difficulties and would be rejected and laughed at.  But then He said that He has overcome the world, and that we should not be afraid to do what He asks us to do.  What am I waiting for?

Be Sound in the Faith

Titus 1:10-14

10 For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

11 Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.

12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, the Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies.

13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith;

14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

Does all this sound familiar?  Paul sent a similar warning to Timothy just a few lessons ago, and now he is warning Titus about false teaching.  We can surmise from this that false teaching was as prevalent, if not more so, in Paul’s day as it is today.  It’s a but amazing to me that this is true.  This is only a few years after Jesus died and rose again.  Only a few years after all the amazing events during His lifetime took place.  It sure did not take long for people to start making up their own doctrines based on their own ideas, and straying from the solid teaching of the disciples and Paul.  What Paul was hearing about were men teaching things that were just deceitful and alluring.  After all, Paul writes that whole houses were subverted by these teachings.  Certainly, we don’t see this happening today!

Oh, how I wish that were true.  In these days, which many of us believe are the last days, Jesus said even the very elect will be deceived.  Even those who are learned in the faith will be lured into false teaching that is not Biblically based.  How can this happen?  How can those who have been following Jesus be lured away?  How will the enemy accomplish this travesty?  My own feeling is that he will do it by calling upon our pride.  He will bring forth doctrines that sound good to our itching ears, telling us lies that sound so close to the truth they will fool even the most learned of scholars.  The enemy of our souls is a wily old lion.  He roars all the time, making us think he is close and our lives will be disrupted if we don’t pay attention. 

So, we turn our heads to hear where the roar is coming from and find ourselves enchanted by it instead of afraid of it.  The roar is sweet to our ears as it tells us what we want to hear.  Come here, he says, grace is free and there is no cost to you.  Come here, he says, claim your victory right now because God owes it to you.  Come here, he says, follow your heart as it knows what is best for you.  Come here, he says, and hear how much God must serve you.  It all sounds so good, so biblically correct, so full of promise.  I can claim whatever I want because God says if I pray, He is obligated to answer when I want Him to answer and the way I want Him to answer. I can do what I want, act the way I want and say what I want because His grace is already given to me and there is no one who can take it away.  No matter what I do I will still be saved – I can’t lose that!  This is what he is roaring all the time.  And every statement I just made is a lie from the enemy.

One such movement that is sweeping the globe, and infiltrating our churches, is the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  This fast-growing group is said to desire setting up a new denomination, not protestant or Catholic, but new.  I am not going to get into a whole list of the problems with the NAR.  I will let you check it out for yourselves.  But one thing that is frightening about this “church” is the fact that they teach apostles must be appointed in this day and age, and that these apostles can give new spiritual instruction and revelation which does not necessarily match up to Biblical truth.  It’s scary to think that sop many are falling into this belief system.  Another of their beliefs is post-millennialism.  They teach the rapture will not occur until after the tribulation, and they also teach that we will set-up God’s Kingdom on this earth.  There is no scriptural basis for any of these beliefs, but this group is so caught up in man’s wisdom that they refuse to hear God’s.  That is just one group that is moving away from sound doctrines.

In all this, we forget something that is very important.  That roaring lion may be toothless, as the old adage goes, but he is still seeking whom he may devour. He is still out there coming to steal, kill and destroy.  He is always wanting to turn us aside from the truth so that we will follow man’s ways or our own.ways instead of God’s ways.  He tries to get us to turn to wealth, fame, power or glory instead of the source of those things – God!  He tells us we should receive the glory instead of God. He draws us into his web and the just waits until we are stuck, ready to pounce on us at any moment.  We feel hopeless to escape the web and walk away from what he has lured us into.  There is only one way out – on our knees.  Not crawling, but praying. All the time we are thinking about how to get ourselves out of this mess, God is waiting for us to simply ask, in humble submission, for His help.  He will answer in His time.  He will answer when He feels we have learned our lesson, not before.  We may figure out a way to escape on our own but surely, we will fall back into the web of deceit if God is not the answer.  You see, what our enemy has not learned yet, after all these years, is that everything he throws at us is an opportunity for us to grow in faith!  God turns the enemy’s ploy to our good.  Every time. As we go through these dark times, we must remember that God is always at work in the background. His plan is always unfolding.  It may seem the enemy is advancing but the gates of hell will never prevail against the true church.  Those of us who are sound in the faith will stand through these times and show the way to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ.  I adjure you to make sure you are a true witness, as Paul says he is.  Stay the course. Fight the good fight.  The reward will come to the overcomer!

Could I Be a Bishop?

Titus 1:5-9

For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee:

If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly.

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate;

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Paul left Titus in Crete for a specific purpose.  He was to get the church in order so it could minister effectively to the people. Crete had been a stopping point on the way to Italy, the last harbor they left before they were shipwrecked many days after.  We don’t read of any revival or preaching that Paul did in Crete, but there must have been a church there and, if so, Paul must have had some influence on that island.  It seems everywhere Paul went, he left behind the gospel.  Oh, how I wish I was more life that.  Always telling people about Jesus and about the salvation only he can bring

I was listening to a radio program yesterday and heard the story of a Muslim man who converted to Christianity.  He told about his disgust for the Muslim religion because it had been taken over be zealots who were giving it a bad name, and he was tired of the hypocrisy of the whole religion.  In fact, he decided he wanted no religion at all if this is what religion is.  He was going to become and atheist, but then he heard about something different., He heard the story of a Savior who came to set all people free.  That Savior wanted a relationship with all people, and it was as simple as asking Him.  This was not a religion; it was a relationship.  This is what His heart longed for, and this is the story Paul told to all those people he met in his travels.  This is what I need top be better at sharing.

How better to share than to live a life that shows people who Jesus is, and how much He loves them?  To be a light in their darkness, a voice in their wilderness, a way in their loneliness and a peace in the storm.  We can be all those things to others if we show them the way to have this relationship.  How better to show them then to live a life that points to Jesus and exemplifies what Jesus wants for them?  How do I do this?  Simple! I live the life of an elder and deacon, described above.

It is intriguing to me that the first characteristic he lists is blameless.  I have not looked up this word but want to give you what I see as the definition of blameless.  To me, it means that no one can point to me and say “There is a sinner, a mocker, a backbiter, a gossiper, a slanderer, a thief.  There is someone who murmurs and complains all the time.  There is someone who is not happy with life but is always spreading sorrow and tears.  There is someone who does not have their life together, who walks in pride and arrogance, who thinks he is better than me.”  Blameless on all counts.  Blameless of having a negative effect on people.  Blameless in doing anything that would cripple my testimony for Christ.  I can understand why Paul puts this qualification first.  This is the first thing people see.  They see our demeanor and disposition.  They see how we live our lives, react to situations and walk through storms.  They see us at out best and at our worst.  They draw conclusions on what they see.  If we are not blameless, they blame us for their lack of interest in Christ.  They see our hypocrisy and want no part of it.  We Must be blameless!

My family life must be in order.  Polygamy must have ben a thing back then, so Paul says a man must only have one wife to qualify.  Many use this verse to say a man cannot serve as a bishop if he divorces and re-marries. I do not read it that way.  It simply says he should have one wife now, and that his family must run effectively and spiritually.  There should not be a riotous atmosphere or unruly children.  I failed miserably here and am so thankful God keeps His word about our children – that they will return to the teachings of their youth.  My children were very unruly, but God forgives and forgets, and so should I. If God will lovingly take His children back when they have sinned and done Him wrong, how much more should I do the same?  It’s time for fathers to stand up and do what is right, and reconcile their families.

Third, he should not be self-willed.  I should not let pride run my life.  I did this for many years and hope I never return to that lifestyle.  I don’t want to be self-willed.  I want to be God-willed.  God centered.  God minded.  I want the fruit of the spirit running through my veins and overflowing in my life.  I need peace and joy not anger.  I need temperance, not drunkenness, or violence or greed.  These lifestyle choices are mine to make and I should make them wisely.  They affect my testimony.  They affect everyone around me.  Instead, I must be hospitable, holy and just.  I need to like people and have a desire to see the best for them. Lastly, and most importantly, I must make sure I am following sound doctrine and I have a good grasp of scripture.  After all the goal here is to be a bishop and a bishop, I must be a good witness, and must be able to answer questions about the faith. I must make sure I am teaching sound doctrine and not running after false teaching.  There is a multitude of false teaching out their right now, and we must do our best to show people the right way, and they only way, to God.  It is my responsibility to know why I love Jesus and what that has done for me.  As Paul said in our last lesson, God has committed these things to us so we can share them with others.  Let us now be weary in well doing!