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.

 

 

Devotional 137: I Must Decrease

John 3:22-31

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

We have, as a nation, exalted ourselves in being things and having traits we had nothing to do with. We so desire to label G-d, to have him be more like us than to rise to His standards, that we minimize the teachings of Chris to fit our political views, suit our emotional needs, and justify our besetting sin.

Yet John the Baptist embodies the humility of serving as Christ’s herald.

His disciples, however, viewed it as something of a competition. “…all are coming to Him!”

John deftly guides them out of the spiritual minefield of competition and pride. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  What an attitude of servitude!

Jesus and John, up until the time John was in prison, were for the most part affirming each other. (John 5:16-30)

If we could only stay so humble, so unaware of ourselves because we’re focused on the Gospel gaining traction and being taken to all nations, how different would our churches be today? How powerful would the impact be on the current state of things?

How much different would the church look to faithless mockers if we served with godly focus and attitude, ministering truth in love?

How much more fulfilled would our own lives be?

The problem is that even in the midst of revival, the serpent enters again to plant seeds of doubt and fear.

John came to such a crossroads, and so do we, eventually, even seeing the signs and wonders for ourselves, attributing them to ‘nature’ rather than the Father’s control. Nature was created by Him.

Since He cannot look on sin, and hates pride, the earth’s next judgement will have to be by fire. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth created, with no hell attached below us, no sin, no evil, and above us not just sky, but the presence of the Living G-d, and a world full of worship and fellowship.

Most importantly, there will be no death. (Luke 20:27-38)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

The borders of darkness are shrinking, and the shrill cries of the prideful, the unbelievers, the sinful, and the faithless grow louder around us, and we are called to deny You before men. 

Keep our spirits bold, and give us what we should say in the hour we are called to testify to the Truth You gave us. (Matthew 10:19)

Let us maintain  pure hearts and contrite spirits before You, and humble ourselves in Your presence, to Your glory and that of the Father.

Forgive us when we take the wrong paths at spiritual crossroads, and call to us, Good Shepherd, that we might once again be under Your protection, for You’ve said none will be snatched from Your hand.

Let us discern rightly the signs of the times, as the sons of Issachar did, and know what to do. Give us the pure and powerful worshipful faithfulness of the Levites, and sanctify us, cleansing us from unrighteousness. 

As we watch the prophecies unfolding, and see the acceleration and increase of the Gospel alongside the acceleration and increase of immorality, let us decrease, that Your light in us be revealed. May it heal, and bring to faith, and may they see us respond in love, compassion, mercy, and grace, but always in truth, that they may see our good works and glorify G-d.

May it be done to us, Lord, as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 131: The Commandments of Men

Mark 7:1-13

Defilement Comes from Within

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”

He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother,“Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Rituals can provide a sense of comfort. We speak of the ‘morning routine’ as we prepare our households for the new day, whatever that might entail.

The weekends have theirs also, as we seek out the activities that time does not allow us to participate in during the week.

In this 24/7/365 economy we live in, especially here in America, people are sleep deprived, stressed, and getting into debt trying to ‘do’ things, and there are those who know that such a reliance on the desire for doing those things allows them to exploit workers, for we have stopped honoring the concept of the Sabbath a long time ago, and G-d Himself came shortly after.

The appeal of eastern religions is in large part their ritualistic nature: ‘Do this to achieve this state of higher being.’

Portals to false worship are open when this happens, because to the mind of humanity repentance is not appealing, and grace must be earned by ‘doing good,’ by ‘just being a good person.’ Yet the Bible tells us that our own righteousness, on our best, most pious day, is as filthy rags in the Father’s sight (Isaiah 64:6)

Some churches no longer use Bibles, teach of sin, repentance, and grace, have replaced the teachings of Christ with the words of Paul (who, by the way, always cautioned pastors and church leaders against making that grave mistake). It’s become about the music, celebrity speakers, worship bands that sell tickets, and the world’s comforts at supposedly spiritual conferences.

Contrast that to the atmosphere of the church meeting in Nehemiah 8:

Ezra Reads and Explains the Law

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

The Word of the Lord was at the center, revered by the people, and it struck their hearts with conviction. The ministers took on the work of explaining and comforting those who were not learned, so their ears were opened, and day of sorrowful conviction turned into a day of great joy, for in spite of everything they’d been and were going through, they felt the presence of G-d with them.

Yes, we can enjoy such comforts as we have, for the Lord has blessed us with the ability to have them. What we must not do is place them on the altar as the center of what we’re about.

Celebrity preachers, politicians, the rich and powerful,  the highly skilled musicians, the venues in which we gather and their trappings are never to replace our Christ as the center of all things, for His obedience was such that the Father gave Him all authority  to judge all the nations.

The Father tells us that to honor Him with only our lips is not to honor Him at all. It is vain worship, and He will close Himself off from it.

Be sure that today, the place where you gather to pray is not placing ritual at the center, and calling it worshiping G-d. There is only one way to worship the Father, and that is to believe in and worship the Son, who is the only Name under heaven by which men must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Even as we watch that which You prophesied unfold, as witnesses to the Truth of Your glory and power made manifest in our lives, it is tough to watch the falling away of so many of Your messengers, turning away from Truth to replace it with ritual, marketing themselves as they gather the grain of mammon into their barns, forgetting that one day their lives will be required of them, and there will be an accounting.

Let us ever be mindful that even as the rituals of our gatherings provide us a framework of order, that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings the presence of Your shekinah glory to all the people, not the building. 

Let the Spirit, then, bring us discernment, separating the Gospel of G-d from ritualistic traditions of men. 

Let there once again be a reverence in placing Your Word above ourselves, not the messenger who brings it.

Let our churches return once more to the Gospel of repenting of sin, believing in You, loving each other, and doing good in the world to everyone in it. 

Revive our hearts, that our lips do not offer vain and unpleasing praise, fruitless and unheard by You.

Let our songs once again give due honor to Your longsuffering, mercy, and goodness, rather than the stories of our own struggles, for it is written that in You we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

Let the works we do through faith in Your Name bring the glory of G-d to the unfaithful, and may they stand the fire of Your testing, and point to the Father, so that the new believer may declare His mercy to all they encounter.

Grant that we make no one twice as much a son of hell by telling them in error that rituals and pastors, books and music, missions and growth of our would-be ventures that we say are for your glory, are in fact the way to redemption. These things not only glorify ourselves, but can make us idols that block the view of You.

Help us to keep our focus on the commandments of the Father, for it is only by doing His will, or not, that we are brought to judgement.

(Matthew 7:21-28) (John 2:17)

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 130: Sons of Light

John 12:27-36

Jesus Predicts His Death on the Cross

27 “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”

29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”

30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 And I, if I am [a]lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.

34 The people answered Him, “We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?”

35 Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you.Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them.

We, the unworthy, are indeed blessed to not only have the light, but the Light of the World.

Yet, we obscure His presence, His brilliance, whenever we backslide or doubt, whenever we say, “I’ll repent later.” Whenever we stray further from His Light, the darkness reaches out to us, and calls us from the strongholds, the weak spots, and the vulnerability of our minds to trigger our feelings, so that we ask, once more,

“Did G-d really say….?”

Who among us would not want to be known by the Messiah as a son / daughter of Light?

Yet how many times did the Father reveal Himself to Israel, dealing with their constant rejection, fear, and backsliding? So he sent them what they asked for, and told them of the price: True prophets they did not listen to, kings that oppressed them, and priests that profaned their office, all bringing calamity to the people who sought them to rule instead of the One who delivered them.

Through it all, His message was the same: Repent, return, and remain faithful.

But His mercy came with a caveat: “If you…”. So we can’t profess to love and serve Him if we are not meeting the conditions, for then we are lying before the Throne.

And yes, His mercies are new every morning, and His grace is sufficient for our weakness, but let us be mindful that as we seek the light, the day of His vengeance is coming.

There comes a time in every kingdom where the King must confront and deal with those who would have his throne, or steal the kingdom’s peace. But as we name our G-d ‘Almighty,’ isn’t His victory assured?

We’ve basked long in the year of His favor, seen His work in our lives through the atoning work of the Son and the power of the Holy Spirit, so as we see Christ’s prophecies unfolding we can be assured of this as well: the day of the Father’s wrath is imminent.

Jesus tells us that all authority has been given to the Son to judge, and He, by extension, has specifically named Moses, the Apostles, and the Queen of Sheba. (John 5:45),(Matthew 19:28),  (Matthew 12:42) as those who will assist in the accusations of the faithless and unrepentant.

He also tells us His judgments are true (John 8:16); let us then be mindful that there will be no defense we can mount against Him that is not His blood shed for our salvation. In these closing days, let us remember that the time of the Lamb of G-d is past, and the time of the Lion of Judah awaits us, coming at an hour we don’t know, on a day that will be seemingly ordinary. (Matthew 24:36-42)

Let us take special heed to the words that while we have the Light, and there is yet time, we plead His blood, turn from evil, remain faithful, and endure to the end. If we do, we may yet be hidden from in the day of the Father’s anger. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The people regarded You a prophet. How could He who known to the Father before the world began be anything else?

Time and again, you admonished Israel to take heed, but they would not, and so You extended the Father’s grace to us as well to remove His wrath from our sinful souls. As He made one blood for all nations, so too will He redeem and renew all creation, even a new Earth, to remove the stench of the prince of this world from it, and refresh Heaven as well.

So as we give thanks and praise to the Father for You, who are one in will, spirit, and purpose, we again cry out that You help our unbelief and strengthen us.

Do not harden our hearts and stop up our ears, that we may no longer believe and be cast into the outer darkness with the faithless, for the Word tells us that the hearts of men will be resistant even during the harvest (Revelations 16)

We seek You while You may be found to abide in You, that we have peace and enter into the Father’s rest. Rekindle us, that we may once again be salt…and light.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.