Devotional 198: A Two-Way Filter

As G-d cannot look on sin, we would do well to remember the reverse is also true. It’s why many won’t believe, but accountability is inevitable. So are the consequences.

Genesis 3:6-8

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was  pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Exodus 20:18-19

The People Afraid of God’s Presence

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Luke 5:6-8

And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

As believers, we know we serve a holy G-d who cannot look on sin in any form, no matter how small, no matter our own rationale for performing it outside of the fact that we allowed something other than the Holy Spirit to guide us away from that which tempted us to fall.

G-d walked freely with Adam. How that looked, we have no idea, but the word says nothing of veiling His presence from the first man until his mate fell to the serpent’s temptation, and he followed suit. It was only when they covered themselves that G-d stopped walking with them, and veiling and the shedding of blood became necessary (to make the skins that covered the rest of them).

The Israelites, whom G-d actually chose, were so prone to sin and backsliding that they left it to Moses to go speak to G-d rather than collectively stand in His presence, as they saw Him making thunder in the mountains.

Peter, after the great haul of fish that almost broke their nets, asked that Jesus depart from his sinfulness, as his own mercurial nature got convicted in the presence of Christ’s steadfast holiness.

Again, we see it when the demons asked Jesus if He was there to torture them before the appointed time. (Matthew 8:29) They also know there will be a day and time for their own end, regardless of their master’s power.

The witch of Endor rebuked Saul when he told her to bring forth Samuel. (1st Samuel 28:9-19)

James tells us blessings, praise, and curses shouldn’t issue forth from the same mouth. (James 3:10).

But they do, and more often than not. It’s the very reason we must plead the blood of Christ over us, for there’s no withstanding His judgement if we don’t. Think on this: if G-d put dark clouds around His Son as he took on our sins while on the cross, how much more will He condemn the enemies of the Kingdom who don’t believe they are sinners, and accept the message of forgiveness before Christ comes again in glory?

Yet there are those who say that in their humanity they’ll stand before G-d, hurling accusations and questions. And there are those believing He is only all love for love’s sake, and will not hold them accountable for their sins. Indeed, they seek preaching that reinforces unaccountability. More likely, they will be like John, falling at His feet as though dead. But unlike John, they will be cut off, to use Solomon’s phrase, ‘without remedy.’ (Proverbs 29:1)

As holiness cannot abide sin, sin can not abide with holiness. In us, it may move faith aside, but never replace it. It can cause us to stumble, but never to fall. It can break off our fellowship, but not destroy it outright. We’re under the covenant of grace, written by the Almighty, signed by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit. Let us remember to rejoice in the day, to walk in the light, and to seek the Lord while He may be found. He will not cast out any who come seeking.

Shine your light in a dark place today, take the outstretched hands, and lead them as far as they wish to walk. Let the Spirit of G-d do the rest.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As we reread and study the horrible manner of your death in our place, we cannot begin to imagine the pain of being cut off from the Father’s sight, whom you’ve always known and never been without until that moment you took our sins, and He could not look and still be G-d.

Forgive us, Lord, that we continue to call on You for mercy, grace, understanding, compassion, and power, while we continue to fall into sins of rebellion, backsliding, compromise, and spiritual dullness.

As the prince of this world has no part in you, may we too, with your guidance and power, send him away from us and all those we hold dear in like manner: by the power of the Father’s word.

Let us respond in love to Him, who knew us long before He formed us, knowing we were weak, knowing we would suffer when we were called as you, Lord Jesus, revealed Him to us.

If we must be in rebellion, let it be toward the darkness that seems ever ready to snatch us off the path of righteousness and cast us into the darkness of sinful pleasure or the panic of frantic desperation, taking our eyes off you to indulge in worldly behaviors.

We are disobedient, but yet You walk with us.

We are fearful of G-d’s thunder, but You take us by the hand to come toward Him, knowing He is good.

We are sinful and treacherous, but You look on us with love, and don’t leave us to our unrighteousness. (Luke 22:54-62)

Today, in Your presence, we, like Zaccheus, call Your attention to what we have done to cast out the darkness in us. (Luke 19:1-10) In so doing, we return (once more) to reconcile with the One who loves us for all eternity. Even so, to share it with us as we continue to weave a three-strand cord of righteousness, holiness, and purity.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 197: Sealed Doors

He promises us eternal life, not eternal grace.

Genesis 7:13-16

13 On the very same day Noah and Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, entered the ark— 14 they and every beast after its kind, all cattle after their kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind, every bird of every sort. 15 And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. 16 So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.

Matthew 25:8-13

And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

We must ever be mindful of the fact that, as Jesus tells us, the things concerning Him have an end. (Luke 22:37). He promises us eternal life, but not eternal grace.

The purging of G-d’s enemies from the Kingdom will be complete, and the wicked cut off, as Solomon wrote, ‘without remedy.’ (Prov 29:1) because the opportunity to repent, receive grace, and rise to salvation was given, but dismissed, doubted, and rejected outright.

There will be no compromise for the unbeliever and the unrepentant, but weeping and gnashing of teeth at the casting out. (Luke 13:28)

There will be no bargaining with fence sitters; the Lord will deal more with you if you’re outside of G-d’s will because He wants your heart, that He might raise your spirit and redeem your soul, than ‘hedging bets’ by attending church on the ‘big days’, holding onto heaven like a gambler who believes they will get to place their final card on the table and reap the winnings.

It took the Almighty to seal Noah in, for panicking humanity and high, terrible waves beat at the door. If Noah had not obeyed and tried to seal it himself, they would not have survived.

It will also be true of the Gates of Heaven, when they’re sealed that no sin, no matter how small, will pass through them for eternity.

These are the things concerning Christ that will end. God’s grace, mercy, generosity, protection from evil, blessings, forgiveness, and most importantly, salvation from hellfire.

There is also ‘no remedy’ for remaining undecided or unbelieving.

We are admonished to arm ourselves with His Word, that we might not fall prey to sin when temptation calls, when doubt creeps in, and when rebellion feels good because the judgment is not swift in coming.

Stay true to your Lord, and faithful to your calling so when the door is finally, irrevocably sealed, you are known by name through the power of the Holy Spirit, and the Name of Jesus, to Father G-d.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

It is said we may boldly approach and petition the throne as sons and daughters of G-d, redeemed by Your blood to the Father’s glory through our confession, repentance, faith, and obedience to the Father’s will, as You have done.

Yet I find that very much like King David, I’m asking’What is man, that You are mindful of him?’ (Psalm 8:4)

However bold my approach may appear, know that behind it there is a reverent fear, immense love, and inexpressible gratitude that this piece of dirt and dust that houses my longing spirit has been found worthy of the revelation of G-d through His Son.

I marvel that my unworthy, compromising, conditionally loving soul has been deemed worthy of forgiveness, grace, and salvation, and all that You ask is that I make this Good News known to others who have fallen, for it is the Father’s will that none should perish. (2nd Peter 3:9)

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for revealing the Father’s will for me, His mercy on me, and His love for me even in my wretchedness, that He sent You to redeem me.

I confess, profess, and glorify You in proclaiming that today I desire to dwell with the bridegroom in the house of the Lord as a fruitful servant of His kingdom. It will be my eternal honor to give Him praise and do the work of Heaven He’s called my redeemed soul to do, knowing that I am sealed inside the door not just by His Holy Spirit, but as Noah was sealed, by His Almighty hand.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forevermore.

Amen.

Devotional 196: Examine and Return

We have an active part to play in the restoration of our fellowship to G-d.

Lamentations 3:40-41

40 Let us search out and examine our ways,
And turn back to the Lord;
41 Let us lift our hearts and hands
To God in heaven.

So very often in the stumbles of our walk to the narrow road and the final judgment, we’ve had to ask forgiveness, but we do say in a way that calls for the Lord to take action in order to restore us.

Purify, renew, take away, strengthen, or whatever variation for whatever sins, we seek His ability to sweep it away. He has promised to do so, but we are not to simply ask, because even though He knows what we’ve done, we ourselves have an active part to play.

In the OT, the Israelites often gathered before G-d and sought His mercy after a period of self examination and confession.

Since the holy G-d cannot look on sin, whenever Israel lost sight of who provided for and protected them, they fell into worldliness to their peril, and opened themselves to the Father’s wrath as He gave them over or punished them, then looked for a faithful remnant to return to Him so He could restore them.

This is a reassuring message, and even under the covenant of grace, He does not excuse our sinning, or let us be passive in the process of restoring our fellowship with Him.

In repentance, Israel had to approach G-d, bringing the offerings He required of them, performing the rituals He commanded of them, and He would hear from Heaven, and restore them to Himself.

If there is any truth to the maxim: ‘Prevention is better than repair,’ it is in this verse from Lamentations. If we claim to love G-d and truly desire to be in His presence when all is said and done, it requires not only faith and obedience.

Faith, obedience, discipline, sacrifice, and prayer are required of us. The sooner we’re convicted of sin and repent of it, the sooner our fellowship is restored and we are back under the Blood of our Savior.

The writer of Hebrews admonishes us to ‘throw off the sin that so easily besets us.’ (Hebrews 12:1)

Jesus tells us to cut off anything of the flesh that causes us to sin rather than imperil our souls. (Matthew 5:29-30)

In our daily walk, the closer we stay to our Lord’s boundaries, we’ll begin to find that keeping ourselves from temptation to sin will keep us from the need to seek grace so often.

The Father himself assures us that if we return to Him, He will return to us, restoring us once more under the covenant of grace, and the wrath of lawlessness will no longer be upon us.

Therfore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As You are the holy, worthy one covering for my sins, when I break fellowship with Heaven I too feel the frightened anguish You did when the Father hid You from view as you replaced me on the cross, that I may be reconciled to enter into my Father’s rest.

Let the Holy Spirit convict me to present myself to You after examining my ways, confessing and repenting of all I did and said that was not of You or the will of the Father.

Let the voice of the Spirit be firm and unrelenting, that I may come before G-d to confess, repent, and be restored to Him as You are at this very hour.

I understand that is on me to initiate the return to my first love, who is never far from me.

Forgive me today, for whatever backsliding licentiousness, of sin I fell prey to, willingly or not, and cause it to depart from and be hidden from me.

I come now to the altar of the Lord to place the crushing burden of my sins on it for holy fire to consume.

Let me seek once more to restore myself beneath the covenant of grace, but I also ask that my own need become less frequent, that You might impart it to others more freely as I learn to walk blameless in the Light of Your salvation.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 195: See and Follow

Jesus Heals Blind Bartimaeus

46 Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called.

Then they called the blind man, saying to him, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you.”

50 And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.

51 So Jesus answered and said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, that I may receive my sight.”

52 Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has [b]made you well.” And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road.

In this condensed telling of the story of Bartimaeus, Jesus uses the catalyst of the beggar’s faith to work his healing. He tells the man that his faith has made him well, then gives him an interesting command.

“Go your way.” But something else happens instead.

After receiving his sight, Bartimaeus follows Jesus down the road, but he’s giving thanks to G-d the Father. When we are called, touched, and healed by Jesus, there is nothing better we can do than follow Him, and as He’s always in the Father’s presence, there is nothing better we can do but glorify the Father for sending Him.

When we understand that Jesus came to deliver us physically and spiritually, our initial response is to keep Him in our sight, but as time passes and the healing remains, other things begin to fill thoughts and vision, and we stray from following Him back to the narrow gate.

Jesus tells us though, that when we are called out, touched, and healed, our light is to so shine before men, that they see it and glorify G-d. Luke adds that as Bartimaeus followed Christ, that’s exactly what happened. (Luke 18:42-43)

42 Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.

In these tense times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest, increasing in frequency and intensity, we are called on now more than ever to live out the Gospel’s truth, and not our own (my truth, as the popular phrase goes).

Know that there are not many who will throw off their garment and come seeking, but we are not to be concerned with the numbers, only that we speak.

It will be Jesus who chooses who He reveals the Father to, and under which circumstances. The Holy Spirit awaits His command, but we are to plant seeds or reap the newly faithful.

In speaking the Gospel, we obey our Father’s will, and He will reward us openly if we do it in secret. It may well come to that.

Let’s not lose sight of Jesus.

Having received our spiritual sight, there’s no one else we need to walk with, and nothing of higher value than to dwell eternally in the Kingdom of G-d.

Therefore, I pray,

Lord Jesus,

As I go my way, I ask is that You watch over my life, and supplant my will with G-d’s. Don’t let my soul languish among whitened sepulchers.

I want to follow you and glorify God, rejoicing that I will dwell in His house forever with You.

May your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 194: A G-d of Totality

Isaiah 49:6

Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth
.’ ”

Our Father is partial to us who believe in His Son. In nothing else does He show partiality. If we claim to love Him, we must fully commit to Him with all our heart, soul, and mind. (Matthew 22:36 – 38)

His wrath abides on all others, and He can’t, and won’t, compromise with sinners if He holds His Word higher than His Name.

He who created the whole universe, and the whole world, and had us replace His rebellious angels, one of whom was made to worship Him and named for light itself.

Like them, He gave us free will to obey Him, and love Him, and keep His commandments, but Adam and Eve were likewise easily deceived, and rebelled against His commandments at the prompting of the one who used to be light, but whose pride made him darkness.

And so we joined the rebellious, the sinful, the outcasts, and the hell-bound. Our wills superseded His, and our pride in our own achievements replaced the fact that our next breath comes from Him, in His mercy.

Yet He provided a way out, first for His chosen of Israel, then in His mercy, for the rest of us.

It’s written, “The Father has given all judgment to the Son.” (John 5:22)

It’s written, “All nations will be gathered before Him.” (Matthew 25:32)

It’s written, “All that the Father gives to me shall come to me, and he that comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6:37)

It’s written, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

We would be wise to choose to be committed; we are not permitted to straddle spiritual fences. He knows we will weaken and fail, but we must get back up again, and restore our fellowship. In time, the sins may be different in one’s age than in one’s youth, but sin is ever constant.

Paul says it’s a battle we’ll fight to the grave. (Romans 8:5-39)

Let us then, today, even now, confess, repent, restore our fellowship with the One Name under Heaven by which we all shall be saved.

Therefore I pray,

King Jesus,

I give You thanks for your sacrifice on my behalf, that all of my sins are forgiven, and I’m spared from all the debt and wrath incurred by doing them.

Like Paul, I sin when I want to do right, and like Peter, I’m impulsive and backsliding and mocking. But also, like both of them, I feel safe and secure in Your hand when I repent, our fellowship is restored, and the enemy leaves me in Your peace.

My journey back to the Father is only completed by modeling my walk not after theirs, but Yours. I am not sinless, but the Father, in His wisdom, who deals with whole things, has given You as a light to my darkness. As one who is outside of His chosen, Your light shines the greater in my darkness.

I would live in such a way that the enemies of G-d dare not ask to sift me as wheat.

I open my ears and heart today to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, who You told us will give to us what is Yours, ignite our gifts and callings, convict of us of our sins, and guide us back to the Gospel’s truth. He does so that we may be redeemed and delivered from the light that became darkness of his own accord.

In this new year, and this new season, let me be whole.

Heal me of all affliction, physical and spiritual, that I may bear good fruit and be a light and a blessing, not a hiss and a byword.

In faith, I know that whatever challenges You allow to reach me, You will give me the weapons to fight and be victorious, for as Your child, I know that You, and You alone, are All-mighty G-d.

Help me to walk in faith and obedience, keep Your commandments, and do my Father’s will.

Amen.

Devotional 193: He Will Rejoice Over You with Singing

Zephaniah 3:1717 

The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save;
He will rejoice over you with gladness,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing.”

At this time of year, with all that’s happening in the world to that which is taking place under our own rooftops, standing right in front of us, let us take a moment to reflect on the birth of Christ and what it means to us.

Indeed, what it means for us.

As those who place our faith in the grace and power of our Lord’s redemptive work to be reconciled to our Creator as the sons and daughters of G-d, all that we know, we inherited from the Father.

As we glorify Him in spirit and truth, thanking Him for our salvation, singing our hymns and carols, we are told that He also sings to us. Indeed, He sings over us, with rejoicing.

Think on it! Our Father, who knew us by name before He formed us in our mothers’ wombs, the One who chose to reveal Himself to us through the Gospel, sending His Son as our worthy emissary to intercede for our sins and bring us back to the source of everything, sings over us.

A baby in a cradle, upon hearing their parent’s voice as they approach, may smile when they see a familiar, loving face speaking words of love over them. And at night they’re comforted when the parent sings over them as they lay the child to rest.

When they are lifted up from the cradle in sure hands, their own hands will explore their parent’s face, and when pulled close, they rest their heads against their parent’s heart.

So today, as we lift up the Name of our Lord and Savior with rejoicing, so too does our heavenly Father lift up His children in our spirits, flesh, and soul with times of refreshing. He lifts up our countenance to see where He dwells, and sings over us with rejoicing to gladden our hearts.

Take a moment then, to lift your hands to Heaven and explore His face.

Grow still in His arms as He draws you closer to Him.

Rest in His presence as He holds you with an everlasting love, even as it grows dark, knowing He watches and sings over you to bring you through, or to dispel the dark so you might see Him rejoicing in You, and be assured that you are loved.

Therefore I pray:

In this season of early darkness, material emphasis, and pagan worldly rituals, let my focus be above the carols and bells, the commercial and false spirit of giving so that corporate profits are steep, and be fully undivided on the true meaning of Christmas.

A worthy Redeemer was sent and tested, and proved Himself worthy to judge me fit to enter the Kingdom of G-d, sinless and blameless, as He is himself.

I would enter into the Father’s rest only by His decree, to dwell forever in His presence to worship and glorify Him.

Great is the calling on my life as His servant. I too must be tested and proven worthy.

The consequences of my compromise, backsliding, rebellion, doubt, and unrepentance is eternal separation from him, in damnation, with the ultimate destruction of my very soul, as if I’d never been.

The testing is that the judgement is not immediate, but when it comes, it will be swift, just, and final, after I give an account for my actions.

My work in His name will also be tested, and those that withstand the refining fire of holiness will see me crowned and rewarded. Those that do not will see me deprived, as my falling short deprives the kingdom of greater glory.

This Christmas, as we feel the kingdom of Heaven at hand, and time drawing near, think on our legacies.

I long to hear, above all the bustle of this mortal, finite, existence:

“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter into your Father’s rest.”

I would have him sing over me that day, with rejoicing.

Let Your holy Word be sealed to my heart, and in my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Devotional 192: The Kingdom of Heaven at Hand

Matthew 3:2 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

Matthew 4:17 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

First came John, the Nazarene hermit, who leapt for joy in his mother’s womb in the presence of the Promised One. As he began to fulfill his purpose, he warned of the wrath to come for the unbelieving as well as the unrepentant, and he let them know the time was close. He told them what needed to be done, there would be no compromise, and the consequences of remaining irreconciled.

As Jesus grew and found favor with His Father, and among men, astounding the rabbis in His youth and preaching a different message in a different style from the religious leaders of His say, he was no less emphatic in stating what needed to be done, that there would be no compromise, and the consequences for remaining irreconciled.

Today we see the Lord’s prophecies unfolding on the world stage, and indeed, many of us are taking part in it whether we want to believe it or not. Reading about the end times was interesting, but seeing it come to pass is frightening.

We are watching humanity try, as the Pharisees did, to ascribe spiritual conditions to earthly things. Wealth makes you important, certain politics give a moral high ground, and the faithless and unrepentant take pride in their intelligence and mock the Pharisees of our day as hypocrites, yet don’t seek G-d for themselves.

Their first mistake and most fatal mistake is that they keep describing Him as an ‘invisible man in the sky.’ We are doomed to failure by making G-d in our image, and even some in the church use this description as the messages they preach lessen the emphasis on sin and repentance as the way to inheriting the Kingdom.

Jesus tells us G-d is Spirit. (John 4:24)

The OT tells us G-d is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. He keeps the Word He’s spoken to us. (Numbers 23:19)

This is the time of division the Lord spoke of bringing, where members of the same house will be against one another. Repent, that you might inherit the kingdom at hand.

These times are the heralding of times to come, where two will be working side by side, and one will be taken and the other left. Repent, that you might inherit the kingdom at hand.

We, as believers, will not share exclusively in Kingdom glory without the suffering through our own persecutions the power of His Name brings to bear on our lives. Are we truly willing to die for our faith? Are we committed to abiding in Him, that we might remain fruitful and spotless, reconciled to G-d without fear?

These and whatever such questions apply to your lives, begin to search yourselves and ask them, then repent of your sins.

The kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Through the power of your blood I am blameless before the Father, yet here on the earth, the temptations come, and sometimes I yield in frustration. I have given in to feelings of anger, loneliness, and doubt, and tempted in the moment, I backslid.

Yet the Father still entreats me to return, and sends You to look for me as the father did his prodigal, and you embrace me, admonish me, and forgive me.

But help me to keep in mind that the Father is long suffering, but not eternally so. He is sending You again to purge the Kingdom of Heaven of all of His enemies, without remedy.

There will be no vestige of sin, no matter how secret, even if the size of a mustard seed, visible to His eyes. I thank You, Lord, for Your willingness to redeem me, for having the Father reveal You to me, for calling me out of the world to do His will to His glory, even as I honor You with the quality of my service.

Remind me that the ten-talent servant worked much harder than the one talent, who didn’t work at all, and was deemed unprofitable in his master’s eyes and cast out.

Strengthen me, and send the Holy Spirit to grant me discernment that the Kingdom of Heaven is near my hand, but I must set out and follow the signs to attain it, enduring to the end of my race, that I might be saved.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 191: Lovers of This World

The Abandoned Apostle

Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Demas, like the disciples of Jesus, saw Paul do hard teaching, with hard concepts for the hedonistic, polytheistic people he ministered to understand. And he made a tragic, fatal decision to backslide, indeed, desert, the teachings of Jesus under the covenant of grace, casting his lot with the world.

Those of the flock that abandons the leadership of the Good Shepherd and his hand-picked ministers (and Paul was definitely hand-picked) are prone to attack, to theft, and to death.

Doubtless the persecution Paul suffered and the constant threat of death helped Demas decide he had no heart to persist in Kingdom mission work, and wasn’t willing to give his life for it. He traded his eternal soul for worldly trinkets and counterfeit comfort.

As Jesus tells us no one who undertakes the work and turns back is fit for Kingdom service. (Luke 9:62)

They cut themselves off from the promises of an unchanging, faithful Father to take comfort in the lies of a would-be usurper who will cull the souls of the gullible, skeptical, and unrepentant.

One is well reminded that the prince of this world, as powerful as he may be, is still subject to the almighty King of the universe, maker of Heaven and Earth, the seen and the unseen. In this, we are advised by our Lord not to fellowship with darkness.

John 14 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

But he does in the rest of us, in matters of degree, in aspects of our lives where we don’t realize he’s operating. It is only through faith in Christ our enemies’ weapons will not prosper, and our sinful souls and corrupt flesh restored and reconciled to enter into our Father’s rest forever.

In pursuing this, we are admonished to love our Father with all of our being, and fear His power to cast soul and body into hell. (Matthew 10:28)

Much like the multitudes followed Jesus at first only because He healed them, the modern multitudes fill the churches when disaster strikes, but they quickly leave when the floodwaters recede and the wildfires are put out. They treat Heaven as an earthly safety net, and not as their eventual fate.

They will know nothing of living on the new Earth in the light of G-d’s glory. (Rev 21:1)

But G-d will not be mocked, and His eyes are open to their motives; it is to their eternal peril, and not by His glory and honor, that they shall be judged. The covenant of grace is not a safety net for the faithless, and there will be no salvation for the followers of Demas back into the groaning, waiting world.

Choose, this day, whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

It is to You the Father has given all things (John 5:22), including the Throne of Judgment, for You have proven worthy to the Book of Life, to call your faithful out of the world once more (John 15:19), call us to repentance and obedience, that we might not be cast out into the unquenchable fire, feasted on by the immortal worm.

I confess, Lord Jesus, the times I have been tempted to follow Demas and renounce the promise of grace through Your sacrifice on Calvary, giving Your last moments to give that grace to repentant thief and to pray forgiveness for Your persecutors.

In those times, help my unbelief and strengthen me to do likewise, for I know that to love my enemies and pray for them is not in me, not in my own strength, and not in my own will. Nor is it in me to walk the extra mile, and turn my cheek.
I know what You say to do, but it is a command I find myself unwilling to obey. It is, as those who turned back from You said, a hard teaching.

Give my prayers the power then to help me do the Father’s will, in fellowship with the power of the Holy Spirit, to love my neighbor as myself.

In the midst of the world’s clamoring for my attention, give me discernment to hear Your voice, and to follow You back through the windblown crowds chasing all manner of false doctrine. Let me turn my back to the backsliders, and yield to You so that I return in joy to the safety of Your unyielding hands.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 190: Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 5:1-10

The Beatitudes

5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The result of earthly devotion to Christ is tagged on each end of His sermon by the same one: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

As servants, we are given gifts and talents by the Master to use to His benefit while He is away from us. In the parable Jesus tells, some are gifted more than others, but all are gifted. The proper use of them brings increase, but not using them, indeed, hiding them, not only results in decrease, but in the Master’s wrath and the loss of position in His service.

Let’s be clear: G-d does not need our money (Haggai 2:8), nor our gifts, for He is the one who imparts them, and we call him Almighty for a reason.

He desires our gifts be put into service to help and bless, coming alongside fellow believers in ministry who are gifted in ways we are not, but all working toward the kingdom’s goals. As we use them, G-d will give the increase, and we will bear fruit for our faith as well as our labor and sacrifice.

The cost comes in trying to live by the spirit in a world of flesh and sin. Paul reminds us this will be a lifelong battle, dividing us within and affecting those around us (2 Cor: 3-11) as we are persecuted for speaking truth to the devil’s power, such as we give him over our lives. The pressure to be silence, and the spirits that work evil around us, can be such that like Paul, we also despair of life.

David, in a show of great strength, even prays for mercy toward his enemies who mock his faith in that they not be slain, just brought down and scattered. (Psalm 59:11)

fIs this a strength, an integrity of spirit, a fast holding to a teaching to love our enemies, that we can honestly say we possess? If struck for the Gospel, or worse, will we count ourselves worthy like Peter and the Apostles? (Acts 5)

Would we have it in us to rejoice for being persecuted in ways that hurt us, interrupted us, incapacitated us, for preaching the Gospel? Or would we renounce Him for comfort, hoping that He will forgive and know our hearts, knowing that He says if we don’t confess and proclaim Him before men, He will not do so before the Father?

As the tides of immorality and turning away from Christ’s teachings unfold around us, under the guises of tolerance and politics, masking sin as rights, freedoms, and patriotism, let more sober minds and holy tempers pray our officials take heed of the words of Zechariah (7:9 -10)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.’

He will turn a deaf ear to our cry of “God bless America” if we do not in turn bless Him as one nation truly under one G-d, while we yet have freedom to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We are living in an empire unraveling, borne of sin, yet prospered and protected by Your hand, for the Father allowed it to flourish in spite of its evils, according to the His will and plan.

We honor You now with cold lips, hard hearts, and unrepentant prideful spirits that You are giving us license to act upon because we say Your Name to sanction that which we do of our own will, and not from a desire to live according to Your teaching, and to the Father’s glory.

Devotional 189: Remove Your Foot From Evil

Proverbs 4:

27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.

While the entire proverb warns us and addresses how to walk the Narrow Path to salvation, it is true that for most of us, all things considered, the length of earthly years can make it difficult, and we often find ourselves straddling two states of being: Spiritual and Carnal.

It is the line between corrupting flesh that fights the spirit seeking Christ’s salvation through grace. The Apostle Paul reminds us this is going to be a lifelong battle (Gal 5:17)

We would likely answer, “But Lord, we’re only human….”

The Lord would answer He remembers that (Psalm 103:14)

What is given to us to remember is that we are spiritual beings, souls that will be returning reconciled from sin, under the blood covenant of mercy and grace that we entered into with Jesus, who sealed it with His sacrifice by taking our place and punishment on Himself.

In that, the Son reminds us that we are beholden, and should fear He who is able to cast the soul as well as the body to be consumed in the void. (Matthew 10:28)

Our feet may straddle two worlds for a variety of reasons, such as an immediate way out of bad circumstances, monetary rewards based on your silence, sexual favors for advancing careers….etc.

In those moments, we can waver and compromise, even backslide, in our service like the sleeping disciples of Gethsemane. We can view it as when the Word says Satan left Jesus ‘until a more opportune time.’ (Luke 4:13)

Today, let us repent of the earthly sin that creates such opportune times for demonic spiritual conditions that bring us both drama and tragedy in the world, and rebukes from the Throne of Grace that will one day be the Throne of Judgment.

If we stand with Christ and fellow believers, keeping one foot in the world is a conscious choice we are making to choose curses over blessings, for there is no compromising with sin for our Father. He can’t look at it, and He will never forget it without the blood of His Son covering us.

Such is His heart toward us.

Let us remove our feet from evil, rededicate our hearts, guard our mouths, rethink our choices, and consider the motives of our actions as we return to the Narrow Path to follow the Good Shepherd, who possesses the only Name under heaven by which we can be salvaged, reconciled and blameless, to our Father as we dwell in the presence of His glory forever.

Therefore I pray:

Even now, Father, we may stand in sin before You as You turn away, waiting to hear our confessions, our pleas for Your mercy, help, and judge the sincerity of our hearts towards You.

Before men, You affirmed Your Son, once among a multitude when He was baptized, and once again in the midst of Moses and Elijah, in the presence of His closest disciples.

It is, indeed, good for us to be here with Him as well. Today, we open the door to his knock, and prepare our hearts to receive the Gospel, repenting for the Kingdom of Heaven at hand.

I repent of using grace for license, for procrastinating in blessing others when I have time and resources and means, for compromising in my service like an unprofitable servant. I would not be cast into the outer darkness, weeping. Today, I ask that You not blot my name from the Book of Life, and help me not to corrupt the seal of my sinful spirit to your Holy Spirit.

Today, O Lord, through the power and might of the Name of Jesus, I remove my foot from evil, and turn neither to the right nor left, not looking on wickedness and giving rein to deceitful, perverse lips.

Receive me once again into the fold of Your flock, Father, and deliver me from evil. I remove my foot, and set my face to once more follow Jesus, loving You and Him with all my heart, body, mind, and soul.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.