Devotional 173: The Pride of Your Heart

Obadiah 1:2-4

“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You shall be greatly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
You who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Whose habitation is high;
You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’
Though you ascend as high as the eagle,
And though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.

 

The fall of a nation is better remembered than its glory and achievements, especially if the reasons for its collapse come from within. The prophecy of Obadiah over the kingdom of Edom should serve as a cautionary tale, as G-d will often send prophets to warn of the wrath to come, and the reasons for it. It is no accident that the eagle is mentioned, and no guessing as to what G-d’s intention is to nations who think they are as high and lofty.

Above all, the Biblical maxim remains true: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) But it seems we have lost sight of the Lord and taken pride in the land that belongs to Him, claiming dominion over things with no sense of stewardship.

We are now a proud nation for all the wrong reasons, and the Accuser feasts on the spiritual rot, nourishing the heart with false pride over things we had no hand in creating in and of ourselves: looks, skin, how we pray, how we feel, how we act, and how we relate to the world around us, and to the Creator Himself.

Seeking that which G-d desires for all humanity: “And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) 

To hoard those things and dispense them unfairly, inconsistently, and on whims of the heart’s deceitful vices and the mind’s equivocating tricks, will bring the day of judgement closer much faster, if we remain on the current path we’re on, refusing to see the damage we cause for what it is. The prophets of the day seem to be either mute, or politically aligned with worldly desires, or in pursuit of the world’s material comfort and the approval of man.

We would do well to heed our Lord and Savior in this hour when He tells us that we see without seeing, and that we hear, but don’t understand. (Matthew 13:13)

This is a nation that holds itself up as a bastion of freedom, but oppresses and silences those who see flaws in its systems, sin in its practices, greed in its wealth, and pride in the hearts of oppressors. We can no longer keep wiping off the pustules of ignorance and hate, unheeding and unrepentant,  but rather cut away down to the wounds that have caused them, clean it out with the love of the Father, and be made whole, reconciled to one another and to G-d.

The choice is ours, and while there is yet time to make it, let us do so. Will we add our voices to the assembly of saints telling the demons to go, or look on the day of our brother’s calamity, and wash our hands of his blood?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We have shown ourselves weak in Your sight. We have no strength left to fight, because the armor of Your Word has been broken, twisted, dented, and bent to suit the kingdoms of world. 

Even so, even now, the Devourer consumes us, speaking vile things with his mouth full. He has given the pride of his heart free reign to curse, spit, revile, belittle, and strike those in his path that testify to him that his works are evil.

He has infiltrated our institutions of power as well as our streets, our souls as well as our flesh, our minds as well as our hearts, and because we have turned from You we can no longer resist him.

We have become proud and boastful, wicked and adulterous, fools that speak words having a hint of truth, but in fact, lead the hearer astray.

As we witness the prophecies of Christ unfolding, let us hold fast to all that is good in You, and each other, as we are yet called to be Your servants, priests, ministers, and prophets. Let the wheat be separated from the chaff among these, that hearts may be turned, ears opened, minds changed, and spirits renewed, refreshed, and rejoicing.

We know by faith that You will answer prayers that seek Your best will for us. and equip us to go where we are needed, speaking the Truth of Your Word to power boldly, as You give us what to say, so that none are refuted or can find fault in us or our words. Do not make this nation a byword, that when the world looks on its ruins says among themselves, “How great was its fall,” and marvel at our folly.

You uphold us by the strength of Your right arm, nor let our words fall to the ground as we give You the honor and glory due Your majesty, remembering that we are but dust and only inherit eternal life through Your mercy and grace.

Deliver us from this hour, Father, and restore our hearts as we repent, humbled hearts and contrite spirits, that You may make us new.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.

Devotional 172: Be Strong

1 Chronicles 19:10-13

10 When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. 11 And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, and they set themselves in battle array against the people of Ammon. 12 Then he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

Joab finds himself in battle because David did an act of kindness, but the ruler to whom he extended the kindness listened to his council, and shamed David’s emissaries culturally to the point where they couldn’t return from their mission. David would not see them shamed for their own sake; he told them to stay elsewhere until their beards grew back, so they had to live apart from their homes and families until they could be restored. No doubt they endured the scorn of the people of the city until that time.

Now we are here.  It has been a tumultuous year, and the normally tranquil passing of winter into spring has become like the pot of the three witches of Macbeth, adding all manner of foul things to it in order to deceive those prone to temptation and pride, destroying everything good around them to capture a moment in time for their own greed and glory. By giving in, they lose the very thing they sought, and are brought down to great sin and shame.

It will be hard for any believer worth the title to deny that in this time of pandemic, international chaos, and filial hatred, we are in the midst of a battle. As believers called out of the world to minister the Gospel to it, this is not a time to hide. Jesus tells us no one who starts to plow and looks back is fit for kingdom service. (Luke 9:62)

In order to be effective, and see what the harvest would yield, we must be strong not just for our sakes, but for the places where we live, work, and play. We must be strong for those around us having a difficult time keeping it together. We must set aside differences, knowing that the kingdom will be made up of all nations. More importantly, we are not to try to display such strength in our own might. The church, if it does not act in this hour, insulating itself and calling for earthly, flawed, and sinful men to lead us out of that which they helped create, will be found wanting and judged accordingly.

So like Joab, we prepare for battle and go out. We must be prepared to fortify one another wherever needed or we face certain defeat. We are still to do acts of kindness in the midst of the fight if and when we can, even if we are shamed for it. If we believe we suffer ill for the kingdom, the Lord assures us it will be to our credit as profitable servants. (Matthew 5:11)

Our enemy is not weak. He is busy, prolific, and makes those who give in to him defile their flesh as he devours their souls. (1 Peter 5:8)

So let us stand together and pray, above all, that the Lord do what is good in His sight.

If He is good, faithful, just, righteous, and true, then when we call on His Name and seek His hand to deliver us, He will respond. The earth is His, after all, and everything that dwells on it. He will respond to contrite hearts and upright spirits. (Psalm 51:17) He will respond to those who earnestly seek Him in the midst of their despair. (Luke 18:15) He has set before us blessings and curses, and told us to choose. We are, in our freedom, bound by His commandments, statutes, and conditions. We are ultimately subject to His will, whether we deny, qualify, or believe in His very existence.

So let us not fight in our own strength, but pray His will upon the battle. Let us not be wise in our own eyes, lest we shamed. Let us fortify each other and go where we are needed to seek and save the lost, our works shining before men that they may see and we can point them to G-d, that they too might come to glorify Him through the Son, and save their souls through faith in Him.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Forgive us, for we have been a wicked and adulterous nation, serving money and pride as we honored You with our lips, but not our hearts. Our love grew cold and covered over as we corrupted Your Word to suit our purposes, that we might pursue the pleasures of flesh under the guise of heavenly servitude.

But You, Father, see as clearly in the darkest night as You do in the noonday sun.

Our hearts were hard soil, and our ears would not hear.

You have again scattered Your church as You did after Pentecost when those who walked with Jesus became complacent ministering among their own, and enjoying the time, but t were not in the field sowing. And so You struck them with persecutions to make them flee and go where You needed them.

It is no different now, and we must heed the call as the prophecies of Christ unfold. But let us glean wisdom from Your Word, and help us to set aside that which would keep us from working together to prepare once more the way of the Lion of Judah, and not the lamb of G-d. We must move swiftly, for lions are faster than lambs.

As Joab prepared his warriors, let us prepare. As he exhorted them, so let us exhort one another. And as he surrendered the battle to Your sovereign will, let us do likewise.

We place our times in Your hand as we go out to make war, to do work, to guard the supplies, to tend the animals in our care, and minister to the children and elders under our watch that You gave into our hands, whether they be of our blood or not.

And above all, Father, we pray that in the midst of this fight, as seek Your face, as we ask, trust, and believe no matter how it looks to us, You will gather the saved  from the harvest fields, and do what is good in Your sight.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.

Devotional 164: The Time of Visitation

Luke 19:41-44

Jesus Weeps over Jerusalem

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

Our Lord wept over Jersualem because of the relentless resistance, faithlessness, and rebuke of the religious leaders who relied on scholarly knowledge and loved the praises of man.

As we our now shut in, we see the pockets of resistance to something we’ve never encountered before that has hindered us, and in our earthly arrogance would think to throw off the chains it has placed around us.

In the midst of this, pastors are testing G-d, and some are even asking for donations of personal stimulus checks.

This could be the very hour Jesus comes to visit us not as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah. We misread the signs of the times to our peril, and must be more discerning like the sons of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32)

It is time to be silent before the Lord, to be obedient and practice wisdom that protects ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. There will be a renewing of our souls as well as the land if we can stay obedient to the call of not moving ahead of G-d’s will; it will not ever be superseded by the will of man. (Zephaniah 1:7)

Let us use this time to spend with our Lord, and recognize this as a time of visitation from Him to reset ourselves, repent of our sins, renew our faith, and renew our commitment to the narrow path that leads to life everlasting, even as we mourn with those who mourn, and rejoice with those who rejoice, not becoming wise in our own opinion. (Romans 12:15-16)

Let us not have Jesus weep over our arrogance, keeping in mind His warning that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord…” will enter into Heaven’s rest with Him. (Matthew 7:21) 

As we cannot know the hour of His return, let us at least discern the hour of His visitation.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

   The hard teachings have now come to the fore during hard times. As Your followers, disciples, missionaries, ministers, artists, and those to whom You have revealed the Father in order that we might serve the kingdom, we ask that You grant us discernment to come to You and see what You would have us do, how to use our gifts, to point the faithless to the Father as they see our good works, and perceive our love for them and for each other. 

   We would not have this hour pass us by in idleness and distractions. Keep our lamps pure and clear, that we set nothing wicked before our eyes, and let us walk uprightly in our homes. (Psalm 101:2-3)

    We rejoice in the days we are yet given, if not the circumstances we find ourselves in at this time. Let us continue to offer praise to You and the Father, seeking through the Holy Spirit to remain connected to the True Vine. 

    Don’t leave us or forsake us, Lord. Forgive us our backsliding and lapses of faith. We would keep our hands on the plow, and not look back, and not turn back, for then we will not be fit for the Kingdom of G-d. (Luke 9:62) 

    It is a dark hour across the world, and we ask that You reach down to us to keep us in Your presence, lifted above the things of the world that hates us. Like Peter, in this hour we cry out, “Lord, save me!” and acknowledge, as He also did, that You are the Son of G-d to whom all authority has been given by the Father.

    We bow our knees, confess with our tongues, and rededicate ourselves to You in service, obedient to the calls on our lives as You finish the work You began in us.

     In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

     Amen.

Devotional 160: Keep My Commandments

John 14:21

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Our Lord’s words are never spoken lightly, for if it’s the heart of mankind that’s evil, it must be to that heart He speaks. If, as He tells us, His doctrine of grace, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration are not His (John 7:16), and if in all that He did and still does in our lives, He shows us the Father’s will and heart for us (John 14:9), how is that we neglect to keep His commandments?

The Son never presented Himself as an alternative path to G-d, separate from the Father’s plans and will. He’s been deemed worthy by the Father of judging all the nations, and if they are One in will and spirit, how much more brightly will the filthy rags of our self-proclaimed righteousness burn as it consumes the rewards we might have received walking in humility and obedience, and added to our faith as we planted its seed in others?

Our Savior tells us to keep His commandments, not follow His suggestions, or take His advice, that we might be blessed unto redemption of our souls.

If we are not to obey and humble ourselves, the rituals we perform are but for men only, and He tells us that in those things we have the praises of men as our reward, but not the Father’s blessing.

We fast, pray, and present our spotted souls to Him so that He might cleanse our sins, refresh our spirits, restore our hearts, and increase our faith, that we may follow Him more closely.

Today, let the dead faith of hearing only be resurrected by the doing of His will for us to have a more abundant life as we serve others, telling them of what we have seen and heard and know, that they might follow us along the Narrow Way to redemption, and life everlasting.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

It is not an easy thing to follow a doctrine so contrary to the human heart, living under the dominion of the enemy’s manipulation. He is the ever present serpent who tells us it is impractical, and indeed, stupid, to love and pray for your enemies, and if our lives are but a vapor, or wilting flowers, there are delights the world has to offer us that we should enjoy, if we will only bow down to him.

As trials and tribulations assail our mortal forms, the human spirit that’s disconnected from the Holy Spirit will find this almost preferable than to obey what seems to them illogical at best, and foolish at worst.

You forgave the thief next to You even as You prayed for the Father to forgive the ones who crucified You, not knowing what they did even as they gloried in Your suffering.                                                                               

Yet it is through You alone that salvation of the soul comes, and the decision to live and reign with You, suffer with You, and inherit the crowns of glory we we’ll cast at Your feet, is ours to make.

Among Your own You were rejected, and to those not of You, You call through us as we consecrate our lives to You.

We would be better servants, Lord, bringing souls with us into the harvest that were formerly lost, the seekers of Truth, the listeners, the lonely, the cut-off, the isolated.

We would be all things to all people, that we might save some.

So we keep the faith, sowing good will among the people, doing all things well, as we continue to study Your example. Help us to remain grafted in to You, watching and praying in the Spirit as You work through us by our faith in You, and the promise of what You tell us the Father says, that we may be reconciled to Him.

In righteousness, peace, and joy may we honor You.

Amen.       

Devotional 159: In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1

The History of Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1

The Eternal Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      We’ve been given the gift of life for an undetermined time, and in that time, we make our choices and mistakes, leave a legacy and inheritance, and return to G-d.

Our Lord and Savior tells us we shall rise to eternity, but where we spend it will be determined by how we spend our days. He alludes to the fact that it would be better in those days if we never heard Him than it is to ignore Him.

As we watch His prophecies unfold and our youth walk the roads of self-righteousness along the road to hell in the pride and licentiousness, we are to continue to cry out as voices in the wilderness, and live in such a way as to make an impact that points the sinners, onlookers and naysayers to G-d. (John 8:50 – 56)

Time and again we are given the opportunities to start over and become more like Him in the way we think about, serve, and treat others. (Matthew 23:11)

As we grow ripe for the harvest and faint in the battle, we aren’t to grow weary in doing good, and continue to set an earthly example of the Father’s will for all people of every nation.

Yet the air we breathe today reeks from words of hate, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Still we are to rejoice in faith and tell, and let people make their choices and the Holy Spirit do His work. It grows more imperative then, that we use these new beginnings to tell others of the new life to come under the new covenant of our Lord Jesus, who tells us of a new beginning that will have no end.

 Therefore I pray:

In these times, enemy grows strong, and instills pride in the spirits of the lost and confused. They gather in swarming mobs with voices that let us know that have already chosen, and will not be ruled by Your love. So today, Lord, we ask for a double portion of bold insistence to tell them Your words are spirit and life, and You are the truth and the singular Name under Heaven that all who call on it won’t be turned away.

You will also judge all according to their words, works, and motives of the heart.

Today, then, we have another chance for a new beginning.

Quicken our spirits to watch and pray, sow and reap, and give thanks and praise in all things, holding on to our faith.

In righteousness, peace, and joy, we honor You.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 156: The Hour is Coming

John 4:20-24

A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus tells her that she too, will worship the Father neither on the mountain or in the city, because when the hour comes for our redemption, we will all be in the presence of the Son at the judgment, and the purging of the Father’s enemies will begin.

As of this moment, this woman, whose people were the mortal enemies of the Jews of that time, is included in the gathering.

This, for her, is a personally confirming statement that aligns with what Jesus said about the Father calling those ‘His people’  who were not. That is, they are not of the Jews, but they believe in the Son, and His titles as Christ, Messiah, Son of G-d, and Son of Man. As the savior, judge, and king of the faithful, He tells us all the nations will be gathered before Him, and all will be judged by Him to eternity in the kingdom of G-d, and the outer darkness so many embrace.

The raging fires, warm ocean temperatures, poisoned soil, rise of immorality, rise of the occult, breakdown of family, greed of the wealthy,  the blurry concepts of gender and sexuality, the drug epidemic that continues to ravage generations, the neutralization of  the emphasis of men, all point us back to the prophecies of Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

Jesus tells us to be discerning of the times. (Matthew 16:1-4)

What we must remember is that this Earth is under Satan’s dominion, given to him by Adam, (Matthew 4:9), and the Tribulation is yet to be. Of that, Jesus speaks to us here: (Matthew 24:1-31)

In the days ahead, in the decade to come, we must be diligent in our work, more focused on Christ than ever before and turning more to the Word of G-d as the worldly trappings of tech, luxury, the rise of AI, the proliferation of corruption and vice begins to unravel the fabric of this nation’s people and economy.

Christ tells them they already have their reward.

Let us be found as the servant who was doing his work when his master returned.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today, we remain still in Your presence, receiving times of refreshing, that our joy may be renewed, our faith strengthened, and our souls sanctified and found worthy to stand before You unashamed.

Forgive us our doubts and lapses when we have grown weary in battle, and pour out Your grace on our misunderstanding of all that You came to do for us, and with us. Forgive us for confining You and the Father to our mortal, limited parameters, as beings of myth and imagination, as jinn who fulfill our wishes with no guidance or accountability on our part.

We ask that you intercede for us to the Father to prepare our hands for war, and for a boldness to finish the work for which You revealed the Father to us, and gave us the Holy Spirit to seal the new covenant of Your atoning blood that redeems us from the grave.

Help us to continually discern the signs that tell us this world is transitory, our journey is not yet complete, and our way is narrow on the holy path as we follow You.

Increase our faith, help our unbelief, and let our praise reflect our joy as we head for eternity with You as our King forever, in the light of the Father’s presence, holy and whole, in spirit and truth.

In righteousness, peace, and joy, may we honor You.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 155: A Price for Pride

2 Chronicles 26:1-5

Uzziah Reigns in Judah

26 Now all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king rested with his fathers.

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper

2 Chronicles 26:16-21

The Penalty for Uzziah’s Pride

16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 1So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”

19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him.

King and Priest were separate, one to rule over the nation with godly counsel, the other to minister before the throne to keep G-d’s eyes and ways focused on His children. One was set apart to G-d, the other to the people. They were not supposed to cross the boundary the Lord had set, yet Uzziah, in his pride, did so and abruptly paid for defiling the calling of those set aside to  minister and receive on behalf of the people to Israel’s glory..

This is the reason that Peter reminds those in his letter to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10)

With our competitive spirits, see what our own pride stirred in the midst of our calling as we go about our lives: church splits, feuding pastors, misappropriating tithes and offerings, sexual abuse, and a turning away from the words of Jesus to the words of anyone else in the Bible who doesn’t remind us that we are but sanctified sinners, and convict us to repentance.

In our humanity, the church doesn’t influence the outside world, but as a result of losing out focus on the Gospel, the outside world is influencing the Church. And while Jesus did prophesy that a falling away would happen, it’s no less heartbreaking to see it.

While the Word tells us men who are skilled in their work will not do it for men of obscurity, we must remember that humility is the key. When we train our successors, we are to interfere only to the point of guidance, and to let them find their own ways of doing things. We should abide by the following: Patience, Service, Guidance, Correction, repeat, and let go.

Scripture is full of prideful examples that started well and ended in devastation, out of favor with the Lord, and bringing calamity on their people.

Let us, when we are lifted up, remember the words of Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

Request your daily bread, and fulfill the duties of your own ministry, no matter how obscure. The Lord sees in secret, and rewards openly.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

When we seek You in all that we do, we remain humble for we are reminded that our very breath is by Your grace. If you make us prosper, it is well, and if not, it is also well.

As You order our steps, let us not run blindly ahead and lose sight of You, neither let us tarry too long once we have been told to go. 

We would not lose Your blessing and favor, therefore keep us in a spirit of grateful humility, for Your servant tells us that every good thing is from above (James 1:17). 

We ask then, for the overflow of Your storehouses as we stay in faith, serve with joy, guide with authority, correct in love, and let go that we might receive from You anew.

In righteousness, peace, and joy, may we honor You.

Amen

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 143: The Price of Admission

Acts 14:21-27

Strengthening the Converts

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

There are times when even as believers, no matter how devout, we lose energy, direction, focus, and motivation to walk the narrow path as we follow and work alongside our Lord, but He has prophesied to us that the closer we walk, the further we travel, and the more we work, the harder it will be.

To share in His glory, the Word assures us we will share in His suffering. (John 15:18-20)

So, we have an unseen G-d, a foolish message, a man who claims to be the only way to be redeemed from eternal damnation, and the promise that the more faith we place in it, the world will hate us for it.

Yet we have this:

John 8:28-30

28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

So today, let us measure the strength of our commitment, and continue to exhort and uplift each other in the days ahead. Tribulations are not small things, they are extended,  relentless, disastrous, and spirit crushing. The very origin of the word means a ‘pressing together.’

The Lord would have it so to refine us, to shake out those who are not truly committed, or who haven’t taken stock of the cost. (Matthew 24: 12) (John 2:19)

What’s to come is the reason we must not forsake meeting together, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us. (Heb 10:25)

The fight for our souls is real, and violent, taking place in a realm we can’t see except through divine intervention. It’s a realm we can’t know unless we are willing to seek it, believe in it, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved from the material world’s condemnation in the day of the Father’s wrath.

As salvation has been extended to all nations through grace (Acts 10:34-35), and the prince of this world corrupts weak people with foolish ambitions, people who don’t seem to realize that one day their lives will be required of them, and their plans come to nothing in the grave, evil people who press their will upon the powerless and turn them against each other using their fear as a weapon, he echoes through the ages all that he spoke to Eve in the garden: Did G-d indeed say…? (Gen 3: 1- 4)

So yes, we are to sow, water, and harvest, but it is the Father who provides the increase, and Christ tells us that it will be worse for the places that don’t receive His message in the last days.

Having been called out of the world, we are not to stay in such places physically or spiritually. Indeed, we are commanded to come out. (2 Cor  6:17)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We are thankful that You have widened the circles of Your chosen, that we, appointed to eternal life, have seen the Truth in time for the harvest, and to take part in it, ministering Your Word through the message of Your Son, and through ourselves as His vessels.

There are times we are faithful, but not true, and times we are true, but not faithful. We have our moments, and You understand, but to to dwell in doubt is to backslide, turn away, and fall victim to the perils of this world.

Help us return to godly fear and repentance, restoring our fellowship with You as we seek salvation for ourselves and those we encounter throughout this life You’ve given us. 

May we be salt and light, and may our works stand and remain under the refining fires of judgement. 

May our spiritual fruit be sweet to the taste, and pleasing to You, for without Your Son, we are to be cast into outer darkness if He denies us before You, and says He does not know us.

When we stray, send our Nathan to us to warn us of what’s to come if we continue, send a messenger to say it is not lawful for us to have to give in to the desires of our flesh, and help us make no provision for it.

Let us instead abide under the loving gaze of our Savior, and answer His question: “Do you believe that I can do this?” with, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28) and let us exhort and uplift each other along the way.

When the tribulations come, give us the strength of the voices of Paul and Silas, the power to bring down angels that open doors and break chains through praise, giving all glory and honor to You, Father.

We would endure to the end, holding onto the True Vine, following the Good Shepherd, and working in the peace of the Light of the World, under the protection of the blood of the Lamb of G-d, to be raised on the last day by the Lion of Judah, and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We ask, in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

Devotional 138: Of Such is the Kingdom

Mark 10:13-16 Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

What’s interesting to note is that Jesus was greatly displeased when He saw the disciples not letting the children through. Often he was frustrated at their lack of understanding, but every teacher knows that learning is a process, and as they were uneducated men for the most part, Jesus was patient. Here, it says He was displeased, the word ‘greatly’ implying that perhaps He was even angry.

The Apostles had succumbed (as they often did) to thinking their role was to protect Jesus from the world, and had a sense of exclusivity (which was partly the reason He was frustrated. (Mark 9:38-40) (Luke 9:50-55) 

What’s also of interest is that unbelievers will often use this verse, if they’ve read it or heard it, to point out why the idea of faith is ridiculous to them. They believe we somehow become stupid once we declare it, as if all the intellect in us suddenly vanishes, and all we’ve done up until that point is rendered null and void. They tell us in no uncertain terms that we’ve lost their respect and / or admiration.

In debates they are quick to point out their intellect and the value of science.

“The Bible was written by men.” But so were science books. Our quest for knowledge does not invalidate the Bible, but science invalidates ‘known’ information all the time, though they refer to it as ‘adding on.’  What was ‘true’ for science as it existed in the past has now either been disproved, debunked, or added to, but the Word of the Lord is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. And He is the reason they will never fathom how the universe works. Our knowledge is of good and evil, science and art, and doing what we need to survive.

NASA has done wonderful things, but light-year space travel continues to elude us, and probably always will.

It is bothersome to be summarily dismissed, but the truth is we need G-d more than we need their earthly respect and admiration, since they’re aligned on relying on earthly matters.

But our Lord did not mean the kingdom would be full of childish people(1 Corinthians 13:11) but to be child-like in matters that please G-d,  and continue to do His will despite the circumstances where we find ourselves. 

Children are: trusting, sharing, capable of feeling great love and compassion. They are quick to forgive and have a desire to please. They get excited about giving and receiving, they are inclusive and will expand their circles with no questions asked  (Do we not respond when a child we don’t know waves at us or greets us?)

Children seek comfort when things are not right with them. They tell you everything  that happens to them, and everything they feel. Even when they’re angry, they are quick to forgive and restore fellowship.

They don’t hate. They smile, laugh, and dance freely. They offer to help, or sometimes just start without even offering. They apologize (sometimes). They love to hug.

They are, in fact, most like themselves while they are children.

And then we teach them…

Compare the atmosphere of our country now to this: (Acts 4)

Sharing in All Things

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We ignore to our soul’s peril these words:  “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 

We keep believing, to our soul’s peril, that it’s a nice sentiment, and not a mandate.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, we can’t restore our innocence, having the seed of the Tree of Knowledge in us, we are born in sin from Adam’s legacy, yet we are redeemed in You, but lose our way as the enemy works his own plan among us, in our thoughts, hearts, and deeds.

All that You’ve prophesied is unfolding, and You tell us that if we endure to the end,  we shall be saved.  Endurance means we must retain the hearts of children while experiencing and pushing through a world full of evil and sin.

We hold onto Your words: See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:25)

Let us today take comfort, like children, in the knowledge that You have redeemed us, and though we are buffeted  on every side, no one can snatch us from Your hand. Help us to follow Your voice in the wilderness, and to keep to the Narrow Path of righteousness, holiness, and the truth of the Gospel of Grace and Redemption.

Restore to us a child-like desire to please our Father in Heaven, and trust Him fully in all things, for all things, and to see us through all things.

Lay Your hands on us today, Lord Jesus, and speak blessings to us once again.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.