Devotional 109: In Everything Give Thanks

1 Thessalonians 5

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

We’re already reading the same headlines, but our takeaways are different due to worldly influences, experiences, family, beliefs, and attitudes that have evolved over the years to bring us to our present state.

Some have changed so that cycles and generational curses are broken, others have persisted and grown deeper roots.

If any Apostle is the epitome of this, it’s the unconverted and faithless Saul, who went from taking Christians in chains to prisons, and was literally knocked to the ground and blinded from the power of the call of Christ to use the same zeal, education, and power of reason to speak to every type of believer in the most apostate places of the known world.

He was feared among the populace, and doubtless pleased the Pharisees who saw him as  a crowning achievement in quenching the case for Christ.

And then he wasn’t.

But whatever they dare to boast about—I’m talking like a fool again—I dare to boast about it, too. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. 24 Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. 26 I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. 27 I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm.

28 Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is led astray, and I do not burn with anger?

How many of us are inconvenienced so for preaching the Word made flesh, that we might be reconciled to G-d.

We set aside a day to give thanks for the founding and establishment of a new nation that could have been established with fellowship, but wasn’t, yet endured because of the grace of G-d, and we have lost that focus.

We lament the coming of certain family members, and stress over recipes, clean and decorate our dwellings, and then the corporations have now trained their customers and blackmailed or bribed their workers to go out and consume more.

It’s up to us, ultimately, how far we connect with this training. In the whole of the WWJD fad, were we really asking ourselves (if we were in Christ then) what would He actually do? Jesus was about humility, not pageantry, even down to riding a donkey in his kingly march through the gates.

When Jesus gave thanks, He gave it to the Father for the things the Father did for Him: keeping the disciples safe, giving Him the souls of the lost, opening the ears of sinners, concealing the truth from the legal and the hard-hearted, for imparting the Spirit of understanding to His followers, and He yet gives thanks for us.

John 6:37

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Let us be thankful for the new covenant of grace, for the grafting in, for the ability to freely abide in the vine, for the year of the Lord’s favor, and let us rejoice in the day He’s made, and for deliverance not from circumstances, but for the redemption of our souls to be reconciled, spotless and blameless, to dwell for ever in the Father’s presence eternally in the kingdom of Heaven, becoming like the angels, now and forevermore.

Father in Heaven,

On this day, we thank You for the gift of life. We rejoice and offer the fruit of our lips, the sacrifice of praise, and our obedient hearts, open ears, and joyful spirits.

Paul tells us that in as far it’s with us, to dwell in peace with all men. 

Let this season of peace on earth be a time of reflection, as well as revelation to the deeper truths of Your word. 

Keep us anchored in Your spirit as mankind gives indulgence to their emotions, bad thoughts, self-righteousness, hatred, lust of the eyes and flesh, and pride.

Forgive us, Lord G-d, and accept our confession that we have done the same, and repent in the power of the Spirit, pleading the blood of Your Son to make us once again spotless and blameless before You, for You will not look on sin, but You will pardon it, and we have no righteousness of our own to redeem us.

Let us praise You not only in song, but in deed, and our let our lives be a reflection of the change within us that could only have come about through the imparting of Your Spirit.

We thank you, Father, for all things, in all things, and everywhere.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Devotional 108: The Other Prophesied King

The purging of our heart’s strongholds is long, hard work.

1 Kings 13:1-5

The Message of the Man of God

13 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ 

2 Kings 23:1-3

Josiah Restores True Worship

23 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.

Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.

The only king prophesied by name in the Bible other than Jesus was destined for righteousness and fellowship with G-d.  A good king recognized that the process of purification for the sins of his people began with him, and was a reflection of him. What the king does, the people will follow.

Josiah did a lot of work, tearing down the hedged bets of shrines, high places, altars of human and child sacrifice, unholy objects and idol figures that were a plague on the land, built by his forebears in case the G-d of Abraham was not who He claimed to be.

It is amazing how much of our human attributes we ascribe to G-d’s ability to achieve, never knowing that even our highest possible achievement is our limited way of expressing love to Him, and even prone to error, as when David first moved the Ark of the Covenant, if not done without His permission, guidance, or assistance. These are works of the flesh, burned to stubble in the testing by holy fire.

That being said, we too, were prophesied to be the children of G-d.  Our days were planned before one of them came to be, and now, we live in the fruition of that summoning. Are we willing and able to remove the rebellious items in the high places of our own houses? Are we willing to consent to G-d’s sovereignty in His calling on our lives? Are we willing to put our pride and will aside, and empty ourselves of who we think we are, in order to be who the Father called us to be, and do what He’s asked us to do?

Are we ready to leave all?

Luke 5:27-32 

Matthew the Tax Collector

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

To give up the one thing keeping us from the Kingdom?

Mark 10:21

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

The Father’s call supersedes anything and everything else, and demands obedience if we are to be His servants, discipline if we are to be His disciples, and faith if we are to be in His presence.

It was said of Josiah:

2 Kings 23:25

25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.

Compare that to this:

1 Samuel 15:11

11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.

What will be said of us, as the children of the living G-d, called through grace, partaking of His mercy?

It’s up to us.

Therefore I pray:

We thank You, Father, for the mercy of Your calling, for bringing us out of the world to reveal the truth of Your Son through the power of Your Spirit. 

Let disobedience and perverse things be far from us, and let our eyes be pure lamps so the light that enters us brings no stains of darkness to our souls.

Help us to hold fast to Your statutes, obey Your commandments, and allow the purification of our fellowship with You, and the conviction, confession, and remission of our sin to reconcile us to You again, by the Spirit’s prompting.

We would not grieve you with our faithlessness, erecting high places in the worship of the created instead of the Creator, handing our fates over to false gods, and trusting in fables of the stars and zodiac, and put before the doing of Your will the enjoyment of our possessions that Your hand has freely given us, to provoke Your anger.

We would abide in Your love and not Your wrath, for You are jealous for our souls, and have given us salvation that we might be reconciled to You. We will not treat it as a common thing. Bring to mind, when we fall into temptation to backslide, and sin, that we were bought with a price that cost You everything, and the You bestowed the gift to us alongside Your chosen people.

Father, we cry out to You today, to restore good and righteous leaders to us, to break the spiritual choke hold Your sworn enemy has the world in now. Bring our leaders to godly repentance. Convict them, O Lord, and open their eyes to the strife their words and actions create, the pain and the worry, the loss of life You’ve given to all men, not just to one nation, the elite, and the wealthy.

We pray Josiah’s spirit of mind be with us as peg down our tents in new territory, and if it is not, O Lord, Your will still gets accomplished. 

May our deeds withstand the testing fire, that we might claim our reward, and depart from those who would see us hurt, or dead, before our work is done.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 107: Her Sins are Forgiven

Luke 37-50

37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

So he said, “Teacher, say it.”

41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”

And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

48 Then He said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 And those who sat at the table with Him began to say to themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”

Women were not supposed to be of consequence, subject to the will of their husbands, however cruel. Left without choices, without education, without options, some turned to harlotry and crime.

As such, they could be equal to men in hardness of heart, infirmity of will, subject to temptation, and as prone to immorality and downfall as any of their male counterparts.  Condemned under the Law, they had no chance at redemption, until the Son of Man came to tell them otherwise.

The Pharisee said of Jesus:  “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”

Jesus replies: 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.

How would He know her sins were many if He was not a prophet of G-d?

The Songs of Ascent in the Old Testament was for the men of Israel to go to the mountain to seek the Lord, but G-d was not above using women to accomplish His purposes when men could not, or would not, step forward.  Abigail, in saving her foolish husband, became the wife of a king. Deborah told Barack he would get no glory if she went with him, but she obeyed the Father’s calling when he wouldn’t go without her.

It was no less true in the ministry of Christ.

Luke 8:1-3

Many Women Minister to Jesus

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.

Even His disciples were surprised that He would minister to them as individuals.

John 4:25 – 27

25 The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When He comes, He will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.  27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”

It was the women who first came to His tomb. (Luke 23:55-56)

55 And the women who had come with Him from Galilee followed after, (*Joseph of Arimathea carried Jesus body to the tomb)* and they observed the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and fragrant oils. And they rested on the Sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 24:1-3

He Is Risen

24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

And again in verse 10:

10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.

And while it was true He didn’t condemn the adulteress brought to Him by the Pharisees, He did not exonerate her from her guilt:

John 8:10-11

10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

He never said she didn’t commit the sin.

It is our calling as husbands, fathers, and brothers, and even as sons, to minister to the souls of our female family members, and our wives in particular as life partners. As the body, we are to pray for our Sisters in Christ, edifying them and coming alongside them in the ministry of the Gospel, being careful to observe all of the Lord’s ordinances of treating them with proper respect.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We thank You for our sisters in Christ, co-workers of the harvest, the Ruth’s and the Rahab’s, working in faith to spread Your Word, show Your love and compassion, and be fruitful branches of the Kingdom work that leads to life everlasting. 

We thank You for our help-mates, the mothers of our children, the brides of our youth who make our homes into sanctuaries that protect us from the outside world, and give us havens of worship and family unity.

We thank You for the elder Mothers of our ancestry, who raised us in the fear and reverence of Your Word, seeking Your presence and intercession on our behalf, that we might be sustained and prosper in Your favor as we seek Your face.

We thank You for our daughters, raised to be strong women of G-d, helpmates to their own husbands, and ministering to their own families with what they’ve been taught. We beseech You on their behalf that their men seek always to pray, and not lose heart, and know they have steadfast life partners at their side, as You ordained marriage to be.

We pray for the single woman, that she fulfill Your calling according to Your will, and that if she needs a partner, You will send her one worthy of a king’s daughter, but if You do not, bring to mind that she is not the daughter of a king, but of the King of Kings. Let her not lose heart, nor succumb to the world’s values that to be alone somehow reduces her worth and negates her purpose, that not having children renders her null in Your eyes.

We ask that You strengthen them all: the mother and the barren, the young and the old, the single and the married, the lost and the confident. Let us minister to them in Your love, with Your compassion, patience, and mercy when they also fall into sin, and make them accountable for keeping to Your precepts if they stray.

Bring to mind that they are as essential to Your ministry as we are, and they are as responsible for the Great Commission as we are, and that they are to give of their gifts and talents, as we are. 

Help us to support one another, keeping each other in prayer, believing the best of each other, and loving them as Christ loved the church, which He sacrificed His life for, submitting His will while seeking the face of the Father, unwavering in faith.

Together, let us build our houses on Your foundation, that nothing may destroy our unions, and no man can sunder what G-d has joined.

Lord Jesus, build our houses, enter them, and dine with us.

We will open the door when You knock.

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 104: Everyone’s Chains were Loosed

Acts 16:25-34

The Philippian Jailer Saved

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.

Beaten for driving out a divining spirit, and ruining the profits of a servant girl’s masters, not only Paul, but his companion Silas, suffered ‘many stripes’ for doing so. In Rome, facing great resistance, Paul continued his steadfast preaching, unwavering and uncompromising, setting the Jewish leaders on fire with jealousy as the people gathered to hear the words Christ gave Paul to speak.

Silas was a prophet of G-d, (Acts 15:32), so He would have been acquainted with the teachings of Christ as well, and was under the anointing by his proximity to Paul. They made a dynamic team, going to the churches of Syria and Cilicia after parting with Barnabas over Mark.

In the midst of their affliction and the loss of their freedom they began to praise G-d, and where praise is, His presence is in the midst of where two are gathered in His name. This pleased the Father to the extent that even though it was Paul and Silas who suffered, He freed everyone, though Paul didn’t intercede for them directly. It says, however, that the prisoners were listening, and are we not told that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word? (Romans 10:17)

Yet, so caught up were they that even though their chains were loosed, no one had the presence of mind to run, but stayed near where the Lord’s presence was strong. “We are all here,” Paul tells the anxious jailer, who is so fearfully reverent that he asks the question every Christian witness longs to hear: “What must I do to be saved?”

More often than not, in these times, we are told to keep silent; unfortunately, the powers that be in the places that can negatively affect us are in agreement. Bibles, prayer groups, praying over meals, and especially witnessing,  are severely discouraged, and going against it comes with dire consequences that may involve our livelihood if we are found out.

Yet when those around you are in crisis, have you not received a private, personal request to pray? I have, on more than one occasion. Maybe to themselves, they’re ‘hedging their bets,’ like those who go to church on Christmas and Easter, ‘just in case,’ but if you’ve professed yourself a believer, they know who to find when they’re really in need.

Understand that when you present yourself to the Lord, it is not just for You alone, and when you praise G-d in the midst of your afflictions, people are not only watching, they are listening. Are you steadfast, bold, unwavering, and uncompromising in your faith, believing you and your household saved through the atoning work of the Son?

Have you been freed from the chains of sin, and delivered out of bondage?

Have you driven out the spirits who come against you in the places you inhabit, and have you suffered for it?

Be assured, you are in the Father’s favor, the Son’s hands, and the Spirit’s power, and all the glory goes to Him who delivered not only you, but everyone around you, for it seemed good in His sight, and to his glory, to do so.

Therefore I pray:

In the midst of receiving my spiritual and earthly stripes, Father, I praise you in the midst of those who don’t understand what I do, and why I do it. Let it be as a seed, Lord, planted in fertile soil so that I may glorify You when they ask of me: “What shall I do to be saved?”

Let me always have an answer for seekers, a light for the blind, a rebuke and purging of diviners, and shield me from such, for I’m weak, and likely to entertain them, making them equal to prophets, when they are in fact demons that would see me persecuted.

Let the Spirit fill me with what I should say, and use my gifts and talents as Jesus used all of Paul’s scholarly gifts, and Barnabas’ ability to encourage and see beyond fault, and Timothy’s charisma and courage. I would be fruitful to the Vine into which I’ve been grafted through the covenant of grace.

As I pray, and intercede, and stand in the gap, let those who are watching see the movement of Your hand, and touch those souls that would be ignited through the work You would have me do, and let me not stumble or do anything that would turn them away. 

I would finish the race, and receive the crown, to Your honor and glory Lord, that I may rest and live forever in the Power’s light, in Your eternal Kingdom full of peace, praise, and love everlasting, now and forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 102: In That Day…

Luke 17:26-31

26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

    The final day and hour unknown by all, even Jesus.
(Mark 13:32) 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    What we do see is the acceleration of the world’s technology, and the continued use of the word ‘unprecedented’ as it pertains to natural events, the ‘chipping’ of employees by their companies, the continued exploitation of people for cheap labor, and the siphoning of wealth and natural resources to those who can afford to pay.
    What we do see are homeless cities in the shadows of luxury buildings that may or may not be filled.
    What we do see is the decline of education, the return and rise of prison slave labor, and  detached and unresponsive, self-serving governments.
    What we do see is a press dedicated to fear-mongering, and creating a sense of ‘other.’
    And it is all of G-d, who has not abandoned His throne, and even now does not share His glory, and even now, is in control.
    We keep thinking there’s going to be a sign, or a warning, where if we got it wrong or walked away, somehow we’d be able to get back. Jesus warns us of being lukewarm, doubtful, and unfruitful. We don’t get those days back, and that’s why He tells us to count the cost before we commit.
    His plan is one of salvation of our corrupted souls, not our earthly flesh. His plan is one of forgiveness and the purging of sin through the blood of Christ, not to wink at it and let it slide because it’s legal under man’s law, and popular in public opinion. His plan is to create a new Heaven and a new earth, not leave us on a planet made dead through the works of His enemy. His plan is destroy evil forever, and let us be under the rule of He who is without sin, our Good Shepherd, Friend, Brother, Judge, King, and Savior, who will come again as Lion, not Lamb.
    But the signs are already here, it’s just that no one believes them to be related to the Word of the Lord. We are witnessing, as signs, only the inexorable, incremental fulfilling of Christ’s prophecies.
    It will be an unprecedented ordinary day, in the context of whatever ‘ordinary’ looks like at that point.
    In the meantime, we move slowly forward, like a celestial iceberg, toward the day of our titanic reckoning. (Matthew 24:3-14)

The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The Great Tribulation

14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought notthen let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!18 And pray that your flight may not be in winter.19 For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

21 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

Everyday events will be ongoing, and then eternity will impose itself on time, and the law, judgment, and will of G-d will supersede the fragile and compromised dominion of men.

In the meantime, the suffering of those of us who will not renounce His Name in order to continue to exist will also increase. We must hold fast to the fact that this is not our permanent home, and the rubber of our faith will meet the road of reality when the pain of their torture hits, and we are confronted with our own mortality, and He does not deliver us in spectacular fashion, as with the Hebrew children, but we become one of the ‘others’ delivered up, and cut in two.

We have, to our peril and on a global scale, disregarded the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

And if our righteousness on our best day is as filthy rags before the Father, how much more then should we heed Christ, and prepare the way of the Lord?

Therefore I pray: 

Lord Jesus,

As we strive in a fallen world to hold fast to its polar opposite, and do the Father’s will, that we may be reconciled to Him in word and deed, and live with You in eternity, give us a bold spirit to endure to the end that we might be saved.

We ask this so that we might not hold onto the Truth as a selfish thing, for You tell us none can come to You unless the Father grants it. We ask that You put the seeds in us to plant, and call us to where they’re needed, which You have said is not already among the righteous.

A lot of churches have become culture clubs that don’t serve their communities, that do outreach like Pharisees, seeking their rewards among men, patting sinners on the head, and saying ‘Keep warm and well fed,’ while providing no coat or food. The minds of their shepherds are on earthly pleasures even as they preach. They seek power they can’t keep in a world where they can’t stay, and don’t honor You with their hearts.

The tares are planted, and the wolf and serpent stalk and slither among the flock, seeing to their own profit and posterity like Simon the Sorcerer, who sought Holy Spirit’s power as a magic act. They have forgotten Your words: ‘They have their reward.’

Yet we are tried, mocked, tempted, grow weary, and even now as the prophecies of unfold, we are doubtful if any of this will come to anything resembling what You’ve told us.

In those times, remind us to seek You, that we might be comforted, given rest, and imbued once more with power from on high; let us seek times of refreshing, and let our peace return to us.

Bring to mind the Psalms and Proverbs of Your two greatest kings, for one teaches us how to do business with G-d, and the other, with man.

I would endure to the end, Lord, that me and my house, and the ones that You’ve given me as I sow will be saved.  I ask that You grant this also to my Brothers and Sisters around the world, that it will be as You have said:

Mark 13:27

27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

and (Matthew 24):

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In that day, we will ask You no more questions, there will only be unspeakable joy, and the memory of this fallen world will be washed away forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 95: To Purge, Purify, and Punish

Matthew 3:7-11

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 1And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Within the Word of G-d, fire has three roles:

The first is to clear the waste of that which is not the work of the Kingdom. The waste itself is part of the harvest, and it is always separated from that which isn’t the Father’s will.  Jesus spoke of these fates to end the parable of the wheat and tares:

29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” 

As people enter the faith and leave it, the harvest will reveal all, but the fire will reveal those of us who’ve remained true to the Lord.

The second is to purify. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of G-d’s Word to us, convicts us of sin, and leads us to repentance, but also instills within us a desire to share with others the Good News. That which we do unto the Lord, our works, as such, are also tested. Paul tells us this in 1st Corinthians 3:11-15

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

As Paul speaks of being saved, that brings us to the third role of fire: to punish:

John’s admonition to the crowd, and in particular to the religious leaders, speaks of this:

12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Isaiah prophesies to its existence: (Isaiah 66:23-24)

23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Jesus affirms it when He speaks of removing that from our lives which causes us to sin:

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 [where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

 

The fire that punishes can’t be put out, and is eternal.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Let us be ever conscious of the roles of fire in our walk with the Lord, and let us work to eliminate that which is unfruitful, that our works may stand, and that which will make Him tell us to depart from His presence.

Let us, instead, seek to be purified, that we won’t need to dismember ourselves to enter into Life, and to remain under the covering of the covenant of grace, in all that we do.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I thank You for the purification of holy fire, holy truth, and salvation.

I thank you for imparting to me the Holy Spirit, that I might remain reconciled to the Father through You. I ask that You give me discernment to do that which is the Father’s will, in all things. I would like to see my tested works of blessing remain, and not suffer loss (though I know I will). 

I would have You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and not be saved with my clothing smoking, or worse yet, to depart.

Help me to know that my willful rebellion is recorded for the Day, and that I will be called to account for my thoughts, and every idle word. Help me to remember that my backsliding means a greater darkness because I claim to be Yours, and that I crucify You again to my shame, which means I abide once again under Your wrath, and not in Your mercy.

You have set me apart, and called me out of the world, and revealed the Father’s will for me through Your teaching, and Your sacrifice. 

I would not cheapen that, or take it lightly, nor for granted. 

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for the times that I do all these things, and let the Spirit have its way in me. Help me to attune to the still, small voice that guides me to the Narrow Way, that I might be in Your presence, praising G-d forever more.

I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 92: Grasshopper Eyes

Numbers 13:30-33

30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The Lord had promised them freedom from slavery, which He delivered in a spectacular fashion; they’d all witnessed the power and favor of Jehovah first hand, in ways that no other people of the earth had before, but just before claiming the promise, they replaced His vision with their own, their doubt for His assurance, and His good pleasure to deliver them into a land of no lack with a desert experience full of hardship and death.

They are not alone. Example after example is offered to us that when we are called to do the work of the Living G-d, we do not often give Isaiah’s reply, but rather that of Moses.

Exodus 4:10

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Or Gideon’s:

Judges 6:14-15 

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Or the army of Israel:

1 Samuel 17:8-11

Then (Goliath) stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

It is now no less fearful for us, whom the Savior has now called out of the world to finish the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, to do the will of the Father, which hasn’t changed, and to enter in to rest, rule, and reign with Him in the work of praising the Father forever, and dwelling in peace among ourselves.

Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t work for that? Who wouldn’t we tell about that, so they could come with us?

But we have an enemy, and our flesh doesn’t desire that which makes it uncomfortable, for as we have a Savior who has chosen us for Kingdom work, He paid a terrible cost, as did His disciples, even to this day. But the suffering had an end, and He now sits in inconceivable power and glory at the Father’s right hand.

We must go through one to get to the other, so our Teacher tells us to count the cost, deny ourselves, die to ourselves, take up a daily cross, and follow Him down the Narrow Way.

Our Savior reassures us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

So too, did G-d reassure His servants, telling them He would fill their mouths, be with them, instruct them, guide them, and answer them. The phrase, as it pertains to actual fear, and not the reverence of the Lord, occurs 103 times.

G-d knows what He created, and well does he know our hearts, spirits, and minds. How could it not be so, if the hairs on our heads are numbered, and the length of our days set from the beginning.

If, as the Word says, we are wilting flowers, withering grass, vapors, breaths, fleeting, and our spirits not reconciled to G-d, we are better off trusting and accepting that which God will do through us by faith.

We are marked men and women, and the call is irrevocable. It is we who turn back, run away, and hide from it in our frailty.

G-d would have it that you answer the call, and enter into His rest through faith in the atoning work of His Son, who tells us there is already space:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

A house that contains mansions…. the G-d we serve, and love, and worship, is bigger than that.

Don’t make yourself small in His sight.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

I confess today, I have not always stepped forward with Isaiah’s desire to be sent to do Your will. My response has been one of fearful doubt, or I pretend not to hear, and go blithely on until I reach the dead end, crouch down at the end of the alley, and wait for darkness to hide me from Your sight. I hope the whole time it isn’t true that You see at midnight as You do at noonday, though I know it is.

Create in me a renewed heart of flesh, and not stone. Make my spirit right, make it as fertile soil where Your word takes root. Give me ears to hear, and in hearing, a will and heart to understand. 

I would not be tossed into the sea as Jonah, or given over to my enemies like Sampson, or give another my glory like Barack.

Replace my quavering spirit with Yours, my fast-beating, fearful heart with Yours, my hating, angry emotions with Your peace, my compromising with Your steadfastness, my backsliding with Your resolve to drink from the cup.

I lay my life down to You today, right now, as an imperfect fleece, dry and knotted, full of spots and stains and blemishes, and I say to You today, right now, water it with the dew of Heaven, and purify it for Your glory, and to Your purposes. 

I would like to say that on the peak of this mountain, where You see a mighty warrior imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, I will not have to ask again, but I know I will.

And the beauty of knowing You is that You know it too, and will answer when I call.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 91: A Mother’s Heart

2 Kings 4:12-25

1Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’”

She answered, “I dwell among my own people.”

14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?”

And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.”

And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!”

17 But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

18 And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “My head, my head!”

So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.”

There is a lot in this story left untold: we are not told the woman’s name or status, only that she was notable, so she wasn’t poor, and that she’d set aside a space for Elisha after recognizing he was G-d’s prophet.

G-d honored her faith in her dealings with Elisha by granting her a son, but then it seems her faith was tested, and the son was taken.

She didn’t turn to her husband, who’d proven rather useless in this matter; either he didn’t know what to do, or didn’t care, but what we know is he didn’t even take the boy in himself. She didn’t even tell him the boy had died.

She knew the source to go to, however. Not being an Israelite, she had no access to G-d except through the prophet. Her attitude was that of Martha’s at the tomb of Lazarus: “But even now I know that whatever You ask of G-d, He will give You.” (John 11:22)

Since the man of G-d prophesied her conception, but not the death, of her son, she would go to him to fix the problem.

I can imagine the rush of emotions going through her that run through us all when the Father grants something and seemingly snatches it away: anger, doubt, questions, frustration, and a sense of resolve in that if the Father wants it to be, He’ll fix it.

We’re not told her age, but in calling for the carriage to take her the prophet’s house, she told the driver not to slacken the pace. The journey through the country was likely arduous, but she bore the pain and pace through the heart stopping terrain to reach Elisha before it was  too late.

The thought of it being too late never occurred to her, and she confronted the prophet, putting the onus on him to intercede. He does, but needs to persist; the Father did not render this an easy task even for the prophet, but in the end, her son is given back to her to care for her in the days when she’ll be dependent on him.

A child grows near the mother’s heart, takes comfort from its rhythm, and becomes a part of the mother’s own biology; that is a bond fathers will never know. Her love for her son drove her to do things a ‘notable’ woman didn’t necessarily have to do.

She humbled herself, and went to the prophet, she did not summon him to her.

She kept her counsel, staying in control, not telling anyone what happened; she was not going to speak death over her son, not even to Elisha’s servant. She was going to deal directly with the source who had access and would know what to do.

She held onto her faith that the prophet’s G-d would honor the word that He gave to His servant, and He did.

I remember being in a mall once, and a mother had lost her child. I was around 220, and no lightweight, and she came walking very fast, her face like flint. She bumped me out of the way and I almost fell. Confronting the person who had her daughter by the hand, she stood in the woman’s way and challenged her.

The woman, a grandmother herself, informed her that she’d found the child wandering and they were looking for her, and gave the little girl back as she rebuked the mom for losing the child in the first place, so the story had a happy(?) ending. But I remember the force of that bump. She’d have pushed me over if I’d been directly in her path.

Let’s honor our G-d-fearing mothers today, with prayers and gifts, with our presence (if we can), with a call, with a reverent awe for their sacrifice, and a heart of gratitude that when they knew we were coming, they said to the Lord: It is well.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Let’s pray:

Father in Heaven, we thank you for the courageous hearts of our mothers, for the protection, wisdom, and insight they’ve imparted to us. We thank You for giving them hearts of unconditional love, hearts that we’ve broken from time to time, but were never missing that love.

We thank You for gifting them to us, for we would not be able to stand today without them. We thank You for making them willing to sacrifice for us, that they may see us grow and prosper, and do better in the world.

And for my own mom, who now dwells above with You,  I thank You for holding her in Your arms, and bringing her into Your kingdom. I long to see her again, but I know that has its own time, and today, I am content with the memories of her gentle wisdom, her smile, her singing voice, and the love that emanated from her heart even in her anger.

I have yet to plumb the depths and reach the heights of all she gave to me, but there are new paths of discovery ahead, and I know she walks them with me in spirit.

In Your name, I pray blessings and peace to all the mothers of the world who nurture, sacrifice, and love as You have loved. Comfort the suffering, rebuke the negligent, and sustain the family through them.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 90: A True and Faithful Witness

Jeremiah 42:5-6 New King James Version
5 So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. 6 Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

The issue with calling on G-d to witness a pact is that since the heart of man is inclined to sin, evil, treachery, and disobedience, is that we are admonished not to make a vow to Him that we are not willing to keep.

Ecclesiastes 5:5  Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

The Israelites were walking by sight, and forgot that time and again when they beseeched the Lord and turned from their sin, they were forgiven and restored.

The Father , however, was not above culling the sinful from their midst. They wanted to return to Egypt where they believed the conditions of bondage was better for them than the sovereignty of G-d. On the pretense of being obedient, they turned to Jeremiah to bring them the word of the Lord, but they also vowed to do whatever the Lord said, even if it was displeasing.

The prophet fulfilled his part, but here’s what the people responded:

43 Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, all these words, 2 that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ 3 But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”

They not only broke their vow, they did so in their self-importance, and thereby doomed the people who they were supposed to lead.

These days, our hearts are no less proud and defiant, and many have said by way of indulging themselves, “Only G-d can judge me.” And where that should frighten them, the implication is that G-d will not judge them harshly, because they don’t understand the nature of G-d. He is faithful, yes, and true, yes, but he is also just, which means that His punishments are as deserved as His blessings. His sovereignty in the final decision regarding the fate of your eternal soul will therefore not only be irrevocable, but it will be the right one.

This is why the faithless stand no chance, the unbeliever has signed his own death warrant, and the unrepentant backslider who’s renounced the atoning blood of Jesus is a son of hell.

Our own Savior tells us He does the Father’s will in such matters:

John 5:30-32 
30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

In order for the Father and Son to be of one mind and will, the Son came under obedience. Judgment is not a casual matter, but it is harsh and frightening, and the defiant will find their tongues to be silent as they tremble. The Apostle John tells us Jesus said more than once: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Let us be mindful that if judgement starts with the Chosen of G-d, it will likely be harsher because the Son came to them first. What chance then, for us as imperfect believers? There is no chance for the unbeliever, but they have chosen for themselves.

There’s an ad on Facebook where secularists, atheists, skeptics, and agnostics can come together; it is described as a place for ‘happy godless people’ who think they’re going to get a chance to mouth off, flip off, and mock. Here is what the disciple who Jesus loved had to say on meeting Him:

Revelation 1:17

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

‘…happy godless people.’

Jesus would say to us: “I tell you the truth, they have their reward.”

There are times as well when G-d assures of victory; let us not in an excess of emotion add vows to that which he told us, for He will test the truth of our words, and it may cost us dearly: (Judges 11:29-40)

Jephthah’s Vow and Victory
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith—twenty cities—and to Abel Keramim,[a] with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
Jephthah’s Daughter
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”
36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”
38 So he said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. 39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man.
And it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Jephthah didn’t need to make the vow, as the Lord had already set things in motion for his victory by the fact that the people came to him to deliver them.

None will escape the judgement of Heaven; don’t treat it lightly.

It is perfect, final, and to be greatly feared.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, let Your Spirit ever convict me, putting a guard on my heart, and over my mouth. Let my soul be steadfast in Your presence, for you have given me the strength and wisdom to run this race, and the mercy and grace to continue fighting until my work is done.

You understand that I can’t comprehend why You love me, or why You deemed me worthy of knowing the Truth, but I am thankful that You did.  You understand my limitations, but You’ve also called me to a higher standard.

You delivered me when I made my vow, and there are days in my life I have not honored it, falling under Your righteous judgment. I vow anew, in the spirit of sorrowful repentance, to fulfill it once more, and dedicate myself to serving You in the time that remains, for You have continued to bless and sustain me.

Refresh my spirit, heal my heart, and quicken my light, that I may guide the lost to You through the work You’ve given me, that they may glorify my Father in Heaven, through faith in You.

Help me to love as You love, to see that which the Father sees in all men, and fill my hands with such seeds as You would have me plant, or give me living water to pour where You would have me water.

To the Father I would bring honor and glory, rejoicing with those whom I’ve brought to faith, that they may be delivered from justice, cut off without remedy.

I ask in faith, believing I’ve received.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 89: Spirits in Prison

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited, in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

We are bound by flesh, a prison of the senses, subject to sin in order to gratify them.

As believers, we sometimes convince ourselves that indulging in a little compromising, a little backsliding, will remove the barriers that tempt us, and we’ll be forgiven and continue with our walk.

This is not supported by Christ’s example, and it is affirmed by His most volatile, mercurial disciple. Did not the Lord himself tell us to count the cost of following Him, (Luke 14:28), and to take up our crosses on a daily basis (Luke 9:23 ) and that if we look back we are not worthy of the kingdom of G-d? (Luke 9:62)

How then, will we excuse ourselves for lapsing? Had Christ done so, His work would have been unfinished, and in vain, and we’d die in our sins as reprobate as we’ve lived, as if He’d never come at all.

Still, under the covenant of grace, let us rejoice and give thanks for a Savior who showed us by example, through praying for His enemies (Luke 23:34) that He understands we are weak and prone to error and foolishness. He has provided a way of return for us to the Father, and to the kingdom, through His mercy.

Jesus well understands, and indeed instructed the Apostle Paul to write under the power of the Spirit that our battle is in the realm of that which returns to G-d through faith in Him.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The evil days are many, as are the persecutions that come with it.

But we have been set free, called out, chosen, forgiven, and reconciled, though we are presently disobedient daily as well, we are convicted and allowed to begin again. Our lights can shine as brightly from a dungeon as on a hill.

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

It was Paul and Silas who sang, but those in their presence were also released.

Like the Psalmist, we know where our help comes from:

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Be free, and enter into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord forgive us, for sometimes we lay these things at the altar and pick them up again, sometimes we forget, sometimes persecution causes us to compromise, and temptation to backslide. 

In those moments, in the night watches of our suffering souls, we thank You for tearing the veil, that we approach the throne, and throw ourselves on the mercy of our Creator, who is longsuffering, but not eternally so.

Bring to mind there will be a day of reckoning, of final and irrevocable judgment, and help us endure to the end, still wearing the whole armor of G-d, still trusting in You, still moving in the Spirit, still claiming the promises, as the servant who does his work not knowing when the Master will return.

Bless us that we may enter into Your joy with good consciences, steadfast hearts, and childlike faith, claiming the work You gave us to do is finished. Guide us so that the talents of our ministries increase and bear good fruit that withstands the testing of Your holy fire.

Let our hearts and lips be constantly in prayer, no matter what we suffer, that our day of deliverance draws nearer. Open the doors of our spiritual prisons, and free us in such a way those around us not only see, but we bring them with us down the Narrow Way carrying reaped sheaves of everlasting joy.

We ask it in Your Name, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.