Persistent Faith

9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Matthew 12:9-14

The religious leaders were never shy about approaching Jesus and confronting Him on what offended them.

Unfortunately for them, they were dealing with the Son of the Living God. They would lose every battle they engaged with him in. When someone is consistently healing people and gaining favor with the people, you’d think that they would get it that they were in a no win situation. They came after relentlessly until He was finally hanging on a cross.

They were clearly no match for the Son of God.

No one is.

Even when others are discussing the faith with you, hopefully you’re planting seeds and the praying that the Holy Spirit would water them generously. Be not weary when those seeds don’t bloom overnight or even over the next month.

It has been said that when growing the Chinese bamboo tree, it does not break through the ground for the first 4 years. You don’t know if it’s growing so you have to rely on others who have said this will happen. You have to have faith to keep watering it throughout those four years.

Praying for people is also like this Chinese bamboo tree. You never know how God will work in this person’s life, but you have to trust that He will.

Think of the missionaries who have gone to foreign lands for twenty or thirty years or more without any apparent “fruit.” Someone comes in after them and reaps a vast harvest (often after the first missionary has passed away).

That’s the kind of persistent faith we need when praying for those who are not Believers.

No one is a match for the Son of God. 

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Tasting the Salt

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.”

3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” Matthew 12:1-8

In just a few short verses, Jesus gave the Pharisees – and by extension those listening – a masterclass in mercy.

The Pharisees were so blinded by their narrow view of the law. They took so many precautions not to break the Sabbath that they forgot what it mean to have mercy. Of course Jesus used King David as an example of someone who broke the Sabbath, which probably infuriated them more.

As we read these accounts, we think, “Why didn’t the Pharisees get it? Why didn’t they figure out that no matter what barrier or obstacle they threw at Jesus, He would counter and win the argument? Every single time.” They didn’t get it because they were steeped in their own tunnel-like focus. The hundreds of laws they made to protect the Law actually worked against them. It gave them no leeway or wiggle room.

If we’re not careful we can put on similar blinders. Here’s what I mean.

We live in a constantly changing world. Whether we like the direction it’s going is immaterial. Sadly, morality, lawlessness, and rebellion seems to be getting worse.

But there are still plenty of opportunities to show mercy. Forget the violence and anarchy you see on the news as well as the politicians who pander or are outraged.

Millions of people are hurting.

Hundreds or thousands of people in your area are hurting.

People in your neighborhood are hurting.

They may be hiding behind their pride, not wanting to know that they’re in trouble, but they are in jeopardy nonetheless.

I daresay people reading this post are hurting.

Old Steve Camp lyrics to a “Do You Feel Their Pain” comes to mind,

Do you feel their pain
Has it touched your life
Can you taste the salt
In the tears they cry
Will you love them more
Than the hate that’s been
Will you love them back
To life again

Ministry is hard.

Working with people is hard.

You have to get close enough to be vulnerable.

And that’s hard.

If you get close enough, you can get hurt and be used, so you don’t want to be vulnerable again.

But God renews His mercy for us every day.

Every single morning a fresh helping of mercy awaits us.

Borrowing from yesterday’s devotional, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

His mercy awaits us today

And tomorrow.

And the next.

He has mercy on us so we might have mercy on others.

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Lay It Down

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:27-30

We cannot know God without Christ. He is central to the Christian religion and relationship with the Father. Some may think that our faith is exclusive when they read verse 27 because it certainly does sound exclusive.

Then comes verses 28-30.

The invitation is open to all.

The simplicity of the Gospel still amazes me. After you’ve had enough of yourself, come to Him.

But it doesn’t stop there.

That invitation is open and valid today as it was when we first came to Christ.

As my professor used to say, “We carry burdens we were never meant to carry.”

He gives us rest, if we let Him.
He lightens our load, if we let Him.
He is gentle, if we let Him.

Don’t carry your burdens any longer. Leave them at the foot of the cross.

The anger.
The hurt.
The bitterness.
The disappointment.
The doubt.
The strife.
The injustice.
The confusion of life.

Lay these burdens down.

Today.

For he said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Take Him up on it.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. Matthew 11:25-26

God was pleased to reveal the things of Heaven to little children, people who are dependent and helpless. The wise and learned can reason their way out of heaven. As an older generation might say, “They’re too smart for their own good.” They are their own salvation.

But the “little children” have to have God lift the veil of truth to see wonders never before seen and to experience God Himself.

Brothers and Sisters, rejoice in the truth of the simple Gospel message. He’s hidden it in plain sight but the highly educated won’t bother looking for it because they’ve found their own enlightenment, that is, until crisis comes. Then who do they turn to for help, for counsel, for wisdom?

Though we live in troubling times, we rest in the knowledge that one day God will call us to Himself. It could be today or it could be 50 years from now. Then the whys of this life will be answered as only He can answer them. We don’t know why terrible things continue to happen but we know that He is not unaware of them.

Lift up your heads for your redemption is nigh!

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Unrepentant Hearts

20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.” Matthew 11:20-24

John and Jesus both preached in those cities. The cities welcomed and probably applauded Jesus for the great things He had done, but they did not repent.

Repentance is a fundamental precept in the Gospel message, taught both by Jesus and John the Baptist. Healing the sick, casting out demons, and giving generously to the poor are all great works to be seen and experienced, but they do not alter the observer’s spiritual emptiness. If the observer merely says, “That was great, wasn’t it?” he is still as lost as he ever was.

First comes the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. 1 John 1:9 states “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Repentance is turning away from your sins. Earlier in the Book of Matthew, “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 ESV

If you are reading this and have never experienced the forgiveness of God and repentance from your sins, write me. Let’s have a conversation about it.

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