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 142: The Ministries of Mary

Matthew 28:1-10

He Is Risen

28 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

The Women Worship the Risen Lord

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

At some point we’ve learned throughout the years that women were not credible witnesses because of cultural and sexist matters to extensive to get into here, but what we do know is that where these women sought Jesus, He wasn’t there, and it was He who found them.

Isn’t that just like Him? He is a shepherd seeking the lost after all. (Luke 19:10)

Those who have doubts, questions, fears, and feelings of unworthiness, does He not tell us to come to Him? (Matthew 11:28)

Before the tomb, there  was yet another Mary (the sister of Lazarus)  involved. (John 12:1-7)

Then the trio of Mary Magdalene, another Mary, (the mother of the disciple James), and Salome, brought spices. Before this, Mary Magdalene and Mary had seen Jesus put into the tomb. (Matthew 27:57-61)

To what extent they heard Him prophesy His resurrection, we don’t know. Likely they hadn’t, since these came on the third day to find the angel there, and the Lord risen. Or if they did, had no more understanding of it than the disciples. But the angel tells them it was as Jesus said, and they depart from the tomb with ‘fear and great joy.’

In modern times, there is a rebellion against patriarchy, but it was G-d’s system for provision and protection of women and children. It was the men called to go up the mountain to meet with G-d in the Songs of Ascent. It was, unfortunately, also men who turned the system into one of abuse and disenfranchisement of their helpmates, but it was not intended to be that way.

Jesus turned the matter of dealing with women on its head because He ministered to them even to the point of revealing Himself to a people considered the enemies of Israel. (John 4:10,John 4:27) (Luke 10:41-42) tested their faith, (Matthew 15:21-28) praised them for that which they did which was in the Father’s will, (Matthew 26:12) healed them (Mark 5:30-34) and forgave them, but He did not hold them guiltless of sin. (John 8:10-11)

Today, if at all possible, let us as followers of G-d and heads of households bless the nurturers of our children and the caretakers of our homes. We are admonished to love them as Christ loved the church. (Ephesians 5:25-28)

Christ will meet them on the road, and they will rejoice.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We are thankful, indeed, humbled, that You bother to look for us in our wretched states to present us to the Father as blameless for indulging in sin of all kinds, sometimes willingly. 
We thank You for bringing us the helpmates we need beside us, committed to us in heart as they are to You in spirit, blessing us in the establishing of our houses and legacies.

Today, we repent and ask Your forgiveness if we have twisted Your Word to make unwilling slaves and objects of those who have pledged their love to us, believing in faith that we told them we have found what is good.

We ask a special blessing of strengthened union. Help us to minister to them as You did, when they need us. Help us not to hold them guiltless, and to not forsake ministering of their needs as we provide and protect. 

As we ascend in prayer to commune with the Father, impart to us Your strength to carry out His will for our lives, and that of our families.

Let us follow Your example of love, mercy, grace, and respect as we live out our days together, letting no enemy through the gates to tear apart that which G-d has joined together through love, commitment, and faith in You. Let us not be breakers of vows, or swearers of oaths, lest we be proven liars before the judgment throne.

Let us rejoice that You are in the midst of us, departing with fear and great joy from that which would entomb us in sin with Your enemies.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen

 

Devotional 141: He Wrote About Me

John 5:39-47 

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

From the second book of the Bible, from the time of the Passover Lamb sacrificed in its perfection, the coming of Christ was foreshadowed.

From the hanging of a scarlet thread in the window of a prostitute’s house, the safety of those inside and those outside was assured (Joshua 2:8-22)

The people of Nineveh heard the shortest sermon ever recorded, and the entire city had a revival. (Jonah 3:4)

The Queen of Sheba ran into a man with a fragment of G-d’s knowledge, and a spirit of skepticism was subdued. How much more foolish then, for the people who claimed G-d, to doubt the one who said, “One greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:38-42)

The missionary work of Saul of Tarsus, the ‘Pharisee of Pharisees,’ was so thorough in proving Christ was throughout the Scriptures that he confused and angered them to the point where they sought his death. (Acts 9:20-22)

In modern days, those who don’t like what the Bible says ascribe to the Lord a ‘laid back’ disposition because He ‘hung out’ with sinners. What they miss is that He never left them as they were, and admonished them to repentance, and not to backslide. (Luke 5:32)

Those He ministered to were not right with G-d and headed for damnation, for he mentions greater sins and worse things befalling those who do.

As faith was required to believe all things pointed forward, up until the fulfilling of the Father’s Promised One, so too, must we believe now that all things lead back to Him, for He is in the center of all that’s to come. (Luke 24:30-32)

As we have been grafted in through the Father’s will to grant us mercy and grace, we must now have faith in His promises, trust in His prophecies, and obedience to His commands, for He tells us they came from the Father, and those who hear and do the Father’s will shall be victorious.

We have to believe the atoning work, symbolized by the spotless lambs of Exodus in the year of the Lord’s favor, will be sufficient for the forgiveness of sins to be passed over by the Lion of Judah in the day of the Father’s wrath.

Let us pray it may be so. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Let us hold to the fact that You are, in fact, the scarlet thread that runs all through Scripture, that before the foundation of the world You were destined to be sent to redeem the sins of man.

We pray for an attitude of reverence for the words you spoke, that the grace You imparted in the grafting in of the Unchosen is not a license to sin, but a call to flee from sin, even in matters of the mind and heart. 

Let us focus on that which tells us to do the Father’s will in loving one another and praising Him in spirit and truth, loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Let us use our gifts to increase the harvest of redeemed souls through the power of the Holy Spirit to the Father’s glory.

We humble ourselves in gratitude that You have revealed the Father to us, that we might enter into His kingdom and rest, secure from evil forever in word, thought, and deed.

Help our moments of unbelief, increase our faith, and remind that when we believe on You, we believe in Him who sent You, and He will remember our sins no more.

We ask in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 140: The Gift of Christ’s Revealing

Luke 10:21-25

Jesus Rejoices in the Spirit

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”

We have professed our belief, but what ensues after that is the enemy trying to see in which kind of soil the seed was planted; the persecutions and temptations that follow do all in their power to dislodge that seed.

This is why our Lord emphasizes not only the hearing, but the doing, of the Father’s will. It is why James tells us faith without works is dead (James 2:17)  We put distance between ourselves and our accuser when we manifest our faith in the covenant we’ve entered into: that we believe in the atoning work of the Son, that we may dwell eternally in the Kingdom of G-d.

At one time, our lives were such that we turned seek G-d, but the Father granted authority to the Son to reveal Him to those who sought Him.

YOU were chosen to be given the truth that buried doubt, subdued sin, granted you peace, answered your questions as to G-d’s very existence, and removed you from the impending judgment of the Father’s coming wrath.

What it does not remove us from is the enemy’s grasping attempts to pry us loose:

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.

33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”

34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”

Satan not only asked, but Jesus granted him permission. The most volatile of the Apostles, the one whom Jesus called the Rock on which He’d build His church, would deny Him in His hour of need.

Here we see the power of our Lord’s prophecies at work again: He knew Peter would return, because He said ‘when,’ not ‘if.’ Peter then went on to deliver some of the most searing sermons ever preached, but he went through a time of sifting by Satan, and indeed, had a broken heart and contrite spirit.

Hard soil was tilled. Peter was the only disciple who went into Jesus’  tomb to make sure it was, in fact, empty. He was the only one who stepped out of the boat when Jesus called him.

Have we treated the revelation and gift of salvation, given to us by the Father and revealed to us by Christ, as the gift it truly is? Have we contemplated remaining in faith, repentance, obedience, and works that we might be granted eternal life.

Jesus said to His disciples, when they returned from their missions,

 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Are we rejoicing in our spirits today?

Psalm 118:24

24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

There are days we have taken for granted the gift of the Son’s grace to reveal the Truth of of Your word to us. We ask through the power of Your Son’s holy blood that You forgive us for treating it as a common thing.

We would not crucify our Lord again. 

Today, we pause to give thanks for all You’ve provided, for seeing us through our trials, for delivering us from the sifting of our enemies, for as Paul tells us, we contend in a world of warring spirits for the value of our souls. 

Today, we reflect on the grace of our Shepherd to bring us into the light and green pastures of Your peace, the bloody wrath of Your impending day sparing those of us who believe in the only Name under heaven by which we are saved.

Today, we rejoice that we have made our Lord rejoice in His spirit, that our own unworthy names are written in Heaven, in the Book of Life. Let our works shine before our unbelieving brethren, that they may come to believe and glorify You, Father. 

Today, let our spirits be renewed to not only hear, but do, Your will, abiding in Jesus, for we can do nothing apart from Him, that we might bear fruit that withstands the testing fires.

We rejoice that we too, will be raised up on the last day, to dwell in Your house, and in Your presence, now, and truly forevermore.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 139: New Hearts, Right Spirits

Ezekiel 36:26

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

What we consistently fail to understand about the Father’s will to cleanse us is that it is as uncompromising as it it unwavering, though it does not come without requirements.

People who claim the Word is contradictory have been blinded, given hearts of stone, and ears that cry out for tickling, adapting the infinite, glorious, majesty of G-d to their limited knowledge and puffy intellects.

They place Creation under the tangible but cloudy lenses of ‘Science’ and ‘Evolution’, which has theories it takes just as much, if not more faith, to believe in. But the know there’s no G-d. They are, at best, houses built on shifting sand, and such believers in it are willing to go with it as their source.

And yes, they have their time and place, for He gave us a mind to establish dominion over the earth and subdue it, but they don’t replace Him. It is simply that they can’t fathom the mind of G-d, but the Father is not inconsistent in dealing with His creation.

The matter of hearts and spirits is like a ‘pop-up’ ad throughout Scripture, perhaps the most known of them being this verse:

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    Repentance is the cornerstone of renewed fellowship with G-d, just as faith was the cornerstone of Christ’s miracles manifesting themselves in the lives of those who sought Him.

G-d is not ignoring our sins because we make them legal, and nothing is being done unseen before His eyes. Those things He’s called abominations have only morphed into more forms of spiritual confusion and deception.

The tide of faithlessness is rising, and the current of persecution disguised as legislation moves more swiftly, yet the questions remain the same: “Where is your G-d?”  “Why doesn’t He just save us/ purge evil?”   “You really believe that nonsense?”

Yet Christ tells us:  We will suffer for our faith (Matt: 24:9) The love of many will grow cold (Matt: 24:12) False christs shall rise (Matt: 24:24) He will come at an hour we don’t expect (Matt: 24:44) Not all who call on His name will enter into His rest (Matt: 7:21)

Right hearts and renewed spirits, then, have become things we can’t do without in these times. Peter tells us:

Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 

Are we prepared for the unexpected?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

It is no small thing to walk behind our Shepherd through the valley of death’s shadow.

The path is narrow and steep, and the unholy line both sides of it, waiting for the weak to fall, the foolish to stray from under the protection of His rod and staff, for the inattentive to lose their way, the tired for fall behind, and the fearful to turn back.

Our enemy speaks to us, as he did in Eden, of the fleshly good of Your creation, tempting us with pretty things, and planting seeds of doubt about what You’ve said to us: Did G-d really say…?

He proclaims to us in moments of spiritual fatigue and moments of crisis: All these things I will give to you…

So Father, today we repent of our sins, we confess them to You that we may be cleansed of all unrighteousness, all doubt and uncleanness, all fear and sorrow. Renew our hearts, Lord G-d, and refresh our spirits.

Restore us to fellowship with You, and each other.

Keep us from invoking Your heavenly Name to justify our earthly evils.

We present ourselves before the throne of grace and judgment. We come to You in our filth, with wretched hearts, weak flesh, tired minds, blind eyes, and hard hearts, that You might send the Son to us again to bring us back to You.

We say to Him today, in Your sight and by Your grace:

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 136: Prince of Peace

Matthew 10:34-39

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

As the Lamb of G-d, we call him the Prince of Peace, and yet His own words tell us that was not His purpose. Consider when John the Baptist speaks of the harvest (Matthew 3:1-12) 

The harvest is a violent time of axes and fires, cutting down and throwing away, threshing and cleaning. It will not be a peaceful time, for it will be the wrath of G-d dispensed on His enemies for the last time. As the Father has given us grace through His Son, the unrepentant and unbelieving, having had the opportunity to repent and believe, have sealed their own eternal fate.

Throughout the Word, it says the wicked will be cut off. In Proverbs, it says they will be cut off without remedy.

Proverbs 2:21-22

21 For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.

Proverbs 29:1

Happy Is He Who Keeps the Law

29 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

Jesus tells us this:

22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

If the Father’s wrath still abides on His Chosen during the harvest, how much worse will it be for those under the covenant of grace? (Matthew 11:20-24)

We often stumble, as did John the Baptist, over the question of the exact nature of Jesus’ mission: It was to spread the gospel of grace, but it was also to lead man to repentance and spare Him on the day of judgment, so that the soul would be redeemed to the Father who created it. As Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Think of how precious a soul must be, that G-d and the Devil both fight for it.”

We have in the story of Exodus how the sprinkling of the blood of a spotless lamb saved the Israelites. It was the same calling on the Lamb of G-d, who was also the Son of G-d.

But John the Baptist spoke of Jesus not only as the Lamb of G-d (John 1:29-34), but the Lion of Judah (Matthew 3:12)  To him, it was all going to happen, but it was only the first part that Jesus came to fulfill in John’s lifetime.

As he saw Jesus healing and doing signs and wonders, preaching repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, and wreaking spiritual havoc among the teachers of Israel who corrupted the Word to secure their own wealth, power, and influence, he also lost heart.

Matthew 11: 2-6

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Jesus’ own cousin, in fact, turned out to be one of ‘the others’ referred to in Hebrews that was not delivered from death by human capriciousness, vanity, and hate.

The difficulty for all of us who wait upon the Lord is that we live in the times between those manifestations. We have the first part recorded for us to refer to, but we are living in the times Jesus spoke of  regarding the unraveling of man’s faith in G-d and his obedience to the Word.

The peace we speak of is after the enemies of G-d have been purged. The Word tells us we will look for those who’ve contended with us, and with G-d, and they will not be found. (Isaiah 42:12)

Our Lord was a prophet, but it is that nature of prophecy to only say what will happen, not when.  As His word came to pass on the temple in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:1-3), so too, will all that He’s told us that the disciples have written to us, come to pass as well.

We would also do well to remember that even non-believers of matters heavenly held Him to be a prophet as well. (John 4:19)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In the time that I have walked with You, been delivered, prophesied, moved in my gifting, increased the influence of my ministry, seen my family grow and prosper and give thanks to the Father for blessing me through Your hands, as He has given You authority in all things,  I have stumbled in my humanity in misunderstanding, and not understanding, the things of Heaven that you speak. 

There are times I am as baffled as the Apostles and the crowds You spoke to so frequently.

And yet, in matters of the spirit, like the two men You spoke with on the road to Emmaus, my heart burned within me as the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of the Gospel to me, convicted me of my sin, and sealed me for salvation by leading me to godly repentance. Until that point I was a believer, but not a follower, and certainly not a servant.

The Holy Spirit even now still reveals to me, for I myself war between flesh and spirit, and Your disciple Paul speaks of the Word as two-edged sword that cleaves the two.

Help us to remember that even as the Holy Spirit comforts us now, Heaven will be taken by force, for the enemy will make one last bid for dominion over it as well as the earth through his own agents of faithlessness, immorality, and scorn.

Help us to follow Your voice, and keep to the Narrow Way. 

We see even now the signs You give in the heavens and earth, cloaked beneath ‘science,’ which sets itself above You, devoid of the purpose of fulfilling Your Word. 

Lord, as we’re surrounded, let us too bring the sword of Your Word to bear, let our works shine before men that they glorify the Father, let our blessings be such that none are in need among us, or because of us, and let it be in such abundance that we overflow in our spirit and need not ask:

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 

May it be that You always answer us, “Assuredly, I say to You…”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 134: His Blood Be On Us

Matthew 27: 21-26

 21 The governor answered and said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release to you?”

They said, “Barabbas!”

22 Pilate said to them, “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?”

They all said to him, “Let Him be crucified!”

23 Then the governor said, “Why, what evil has He done?”

But they cried out all the more, saying, “Let Him be crucified!”

24 When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.”

25 And all the people answered and said, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

26 Then he released Barabbas to them; and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered Him to be crucified.

What a powerful curse the people called down on themselves! If not for Jesus interceding, even as He was dying, the Father’s wrath may have well been visited on Israel’s misguided religious leaders and the Roman empire. (Luke 23:34)

Yet our loving Lord, forsaken by the very source of His glory who darkened the heavens because He could not look on the worldly sins gathering like vultures at the cross, asked forgiveness, his holy blood already spilling to cover the most heinous sinners in the crowd.

This world, which thrives on quid pro quo and being one-up on each other, can’t conceive of that kind of love.

The sons of Abraham and Moses would have doomed themselves for generations to defy the Son of G-d with such an oath. It is because of this that when we return to our sin, backsliding in moments of temptation, doubt, and anger that our Father says if we return to Him, He will return to us. (Zechariah 1:3)

It’s only through this intercession that our names remain in the Book of Life, and the only means through which He’ll not remember our sins. (Hebrews 10:16-17)

His blood is on us, and hopefully on our children, not as a curse, but a blessing, and through our faith, the only path through which our souls are redeemed. We have these words from our Savior to sustain us:

Matthew 26:27-28

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Our sins are not covered over now, they are removed, as if they’d never happened, and forgotten, as if we never did them. If that isn’t cause to give thanks and praise, nothing else comes close. If that doesn’t merit worship in spirit and truth, nothing does.

John 1:29

The Lamb of God

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,

“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Judas, when filled with remorse and confronting the men who paid him, did not say he betrayed an innocent man, but innocent blood. (Matthew 27:3-4)

Pilate would not pass the death sentence on Christ, heeding the warning of his wife (Matthew 27:19) and washed his own hands to symbolically claim his unwillingness to be part of the bloodthirsty mob, echoing the words of the religious leaders to Judas, “You see to it.”  (Matthew 27:24) Make no mistake, Pilate was a worldly man, fully a part of a hedonistic empire, but the words of Jesus disturbed him. (John 19:10-11)

10 Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?”

11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Today, let us be thankful His blood is upon us, over us, around us, and hopefully, over our progeny not as a curse, but a blessing, shed for the remission of sin, so that we might be together, now and forever.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The cleansing is daily, as brief as the days are, and as fleeting as life is.

We fail over and over, and like the good shepherd You are, You wait, and help, and heal us, and bless us again with fresh anointing from the Spirit, with renewed hearts, and yet our most iron resolve to repent crumbles almost as soon as we’re granted forgiveness. 

We are weak and lost without You, condemned to eternal punishment, and yet You interceded even for those who lurked and plotted in the night to see You die. Barrabas was the first to benefit from Your sacrifice, the thief on the cross was the second, and down through the ages, here we are from every nation praying for another day that we not be cut off, our names blotted from the Book of Life, our works worthy to withstand the judgment fires.

Today, on this Father’s Day, let us return once more to our Father in Heaven, who we can only give the scraps of our worship, the uncertainty of our thanks, the ravages of our righteousness, the lukewarm love of our hardened hearts, and our wavering faith.

Thank You for letting us know that You will never cast out those who seek You in earnest longing to be reconciled to the One who sent You.

Thank You for letting us know that You and the Father are One, though He is greater than You. (John 14:8)

Let us, today, turn to our Father and speak these words directly to Him, as no man other than the Son of God is worthy to intercede for us:

“Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 133: Who Touched Me?

Luke 8:40-48

A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed

40 So it was, when Jesus returned, that the multitude welcomed Him, for they were all waiting for Him. 41 And behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue. And he fell down at Jesus’ feet and begged Him to come to his house, 42 for he had an only daughter about twelve years of age, and she was dying.

But as He went, the multitudes thronged Him. 43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

45 And Jesus said, “Who touched Me?”

When all denied it, Peter and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’ ”

46 But Jesus said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.” 47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.

48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

This was not a new miracle, (Mark 6:56), but this specific recording is significant because it tells us that when we seek the Lord in faith for our needs, power comes out of Him for provision and resolution.

The woman, whose name we don’t know, was part of another nameless, faceless, pressing throng as Jesus walked through the crowd. He did not see her until after her healing took place. Indeed, with the surge of power that came out of Him, it was such that it compelled Him to stop and ask.

Her fear was such that she merely slipped back into the crowd, seeking renewed anonymity. She did not rejoice, or say anything to anyone. But this was Jesus asking, and she was probably feeling, in some way that she was going to be, and deserved to be, reprimanded for being sneaky, as some would have judged her.

He waited, and watched her trembling as she told Him her story, and its result.

But what He tells her is something unexpected, something kind and merciful, and encouraging: “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Why her, and not others? Were there not other sick people there who bumped into Him?

Likely, but here’s what Jesus tells us, and this is why faith continues to be the key that brings the miracles to us:

Luke 4:23-30

23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

28 So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 29 and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff. 30 Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way.

From the very beginning of His ministry, the evil in the hearts of men were stirred to kill Him because they got convicted by the presence of the holiness in their midst, but it wasn’t His time. Their minds were on material wealth, political control, and a smug attitude that because they were the Chosen, their entrance into the afterlife was automatic.

Jesus cautioned them it wasn’t. (Matthew 21:28-32)

It is only through faith, obedience, humility, fear, and patience that we see our blessings manifest. The healed woman had been broke, powerless, without family (that we know of), and was likely suffering the culture’s judgment on her life as having a ‘special’ kind of sin that so cursed her life. Her affliction had been with her for twelve years, and she’d probably given up hope.

She had a choice to make. Go to Jesus, or stay afflicted, and she actively moved through the crowd to get close enough…

Are we going to turn to Jesus as believers, or stay in afflicted, conflicted silence on the sidelines, with a nameless, faceless, pressing mob that came out to see what was going on, but not really being a part of it?

Would Jesus stop to call you from the crowd if You turned to Him today?

Search within, be honest, and then choose. He longs to say to you,

“Be of good cheer, your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Keep us mindful of being fearful, humble, patient, faithful and obedient servants of the Kingdom as we seek the Father’s will through You for our lives, for you’ve said to us that if we’ve seen You, we’ve seen the Father.

Let the light of the Gospel shine at our feet, as the lamps our bodies read it, and the temples of our bodies perform it, in faith believing, in repentance of besetting sins, in renouncing of spiritual strongholds where our enemy contends strongly, and repeatedly, against us. 

Unite us, that we may be stronger together. Bless us, that we may be a blessing to others. Let us spiritually touch You, that power, boldness, peace, and love quicken us to speak of You, unashamed and unafraid, to the mob that seeks to throw us from the cliffs.

As Your people, we ask that You speak to us, that we may know Your voice, and abide in You, under Your protection as we go out wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, and let us enter with rejoicing into our Father’s realm and rest, to be with You forever, free from spiritual and physical afflictions, every tear dried, every question answered, and redeemed in the sight of the Father through Your blood.

Let us be ready, in fear and trembling, as You call us out of the crowd to give the reason why we sought Your presence in our lives by faith, and give an accounting of what we’ve done. May it stand the test of fire in the day of judgment, that it would be good in the Father’s sight. 

Thank You, Lord Jesus.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 132: If You are the Son of G-d

Luke 4

Satan Tempts Jesus

  Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

And the devil said to Him,  If you are Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ 

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, ]“Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ 

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’

11 and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ 

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

 

Satan and his demons, fallen angels, and minions know that Jesus is who He proclaims to be (Luke 4:34), (Luke 10:18)  but it was mankind that Jesus had to convince, because it is the souls of mankind that are at stake.

Here was an opportunity to show everyone in the city that He was under the Father’s protection. Here was a chance to publicly remove all doubt, without all the rigors of ministry, the unwashed multitudes clamoring for healing, with only a few giving thanks to G-d for their blessings and miracles.

At the end of a 40 day fast, our Lord, being fully man, was tired, weak, hungry, and hot in the desert sun. He likely looked every bit of it, and now, the Father allows the enemy to assail Him, to see if His obedience was worthy of the times to come, and it is in this moment that the very salvation of man is on the line, because if the Messiah gives in, His death on the cross is no longer necessary, and we die in our sins with no chance of repentance, no grace or mercy, with our filthy righteousness reeking in G-d’s nostrils.

So the Accuser engages the Christ in a war of words, of the Father’s Word, no less, using the Father’s prophet’s own words to get Jesus to fall. The third temptation is most like the one Jesus endured when He was finally crucified. Indeed, the words are almost identical:

Matthew 27:39-43

39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

This was the opportune time, and though Satan wasn’t physically there, his spirit was moving among the crowd, among the religious leaders, as Jesus, this time dying as He hung and bled, once again resists the temptation to deliver Himself from the pain.

Indeed, He’d already sought to ask. (Matthew 26:39)  

Does He not tell us that all things are possible with G-d? It was entirely possible to find another way, but then, we’d have no one to stand before the throne and intercede for us, we’d have no holy blood to plead, and no grace to operate in. And while, as Gentiles, we’d not be under the law, we’d certainly be under His wrath, which is the fate of unbelievers.

It is through faith, praise, thanks, and obedience that our Lord operates, and He will not put on a show for the unfaithful. (Matthew 16:4)

He also refrained from acting on that which Satan quoted to Him earlier about being kept by the angels. (Matthew 26: 50-53) though it was confirmed for us earlier that what Isaiah prophesied was true (Matthew 4:11)

Let us be glad then, that we have a Savior who moves in, and is sustained by, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us give thanks, praise, and obedience to a Son who has pleased His Father, and obeyed him in all things concerning our salvation.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

We can’t hold fast to the promises by faith. Even as You ministered, and with all the miracles You performed in the power of the Holy Spirit they said to You: “Help my unbelief,” “Increase our faith,” “Teach us to pray,” “Show us the Father,” and other such phrases that probably wearied Your own spirit. 

Our hearts are hard, and our spirits feeble. We are a wobbly lot, and yet we have Your words to not be afraid, or worry, for we are of value to the Father who knew us before the womb, and would see us reconciled through You, our Savior, Brother, Friend, King, and ultimately, Judge. 

If we are to ask anything in Your Name, You have said that the Father will do it, and with all that we ask, from the big to the small, we ask this above everything: We never doubt that You are the Son of G-d, that You are the only Name under Heaven by which we are saved, that You are the Way, Truth, and Light, and that there will be weeping and unquenchable fire for the unfaithful and disobedient.

Let us never tempt the Father to put on a show for the sake of ourselves, for we have no power in ourselves that does not come through, and from, the Holy Spirit and His grace to us through Your sacrifice.

You have said to us that we will perform greater works, but like Your disciples, we really don’t understand this saying, or we would act on it to do better than we are. Bring it to mind when we are struggling in our own abilities to be more like You, and let us be still before You as we gather strength from You through prayer. 

We ask, also, that You come to us at the opportune times we give so often to our enemy to remind us that as You withstood temptation, we also must stand, abiding in You that we might resist the devil, and have him flee from us, as He did from You, as it is our sake that You bought us at a steep and awful price. 

Let us prove ourselves, in You, through You, and by You, worthy of the cost.

May it done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 129: A Rift in Ministry

Acts 15:36-41

Division over John Mark

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

From what we are told and not told, Barnabas and Paul never ministered together, or quite possibly, ever even met again. We are told that Mark left them, but not why. As Paul’s missions were extensive and difficult, but critical to the spreading of the Gospel, whenever Mark left them to return to Jerusalem was likely an inopportune time, and made an already difficult task that much more difficult.

Barnabas, however, was still willing to give Mark another chance, but Paul was not.

As an alternative seemed to be available, we’re not sure why it got to the point of a such an argument, but perhaps Barnabas at this time had seen and heard enough of Paul, and knew enough of Mark, to launch out on his own. We are not told that was the case, but very often, when G-d splits a ministry amid chaos and strife, it still ends to His glory.

The Book of Acts itself came after the church was persecuted and its members and missionaries forced to run for their lives, if not their freedom.

We don’t have any books written by Barnabas that chronicle his time with Mark and the work they did in Cyprus.

But we do have this, later, from Paul:

2 Timothy 4:9-11

The Abandoned Apostle

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

Alone and in prison, perhaps Paul had received word of all that Mark did in Cyprus to assist Barnabas. We are told that Demas made his decision to return to worldly things, and the others left for their own reasons. But now, he tells Timothy to get Mark, and bring him to help Paul during his last days, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”

This, like Paul’s conversion, is a complete 180 from where he was when Barnabas took Mark away. How very lonely even the tone of Paul’s letter is, where after having preached to millions, he only has Luke.

Yet even so, that was one more than Jesus had when ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’

And as Christ restores Peter, so Paul restores Mark, even if indirectly, back into the ministry of the Gospel. Mark, however, in contrast to Demas, never truly left.

We have the words of John:

(1 John 2:18-20)

Deceptions of the Last Hour

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Let us be thankful that we yet have the grace and mercy of our Father, who has imparted it to the Son, who has encouraged us to stay the course. For Christ says of those who turn back: (Luke 9:62) 

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In the course of our walking, there are days it is not in us. As Mark returned to Jerusalem to get back on familiar footing, with maybe some fear of such a pagan and polytheistic culture, so we too seek comfort zones even in our missions. 

Paul took some hard, long, and difficult journeys, but as You sustained him, so You sustain us. 

Paul’s faith and trust in You was absolute, more often than not. His communication and obedience were shining examples of what our own walks could, and should be. 

Yet even when we are Mark, we yet serve. Forgive us when we take the lowly place not in humility, but in fear, discomfort, doubt, and anger. 

It is in the matters of Your sovereignty, and in Your will for our lives and the pleasures of this world come into conflict, that we ask You for Paul’s resolve, but Barnabas’ compassion. As we minister to the next generation, of new believers in all nations, and look to those who have run the race for guidance to take their mantles with fear and reverence, let us remain connected to You. 

And when and where we fall, let us rise to once again be useful in ministry, being refreshed, restored, and reconciled to You, to Your glory, and abiding in Your will.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.