Devotional 191: Lovers of This World

The Abandoned Apostle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 190: Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 5:1-10

The Beatitudes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

Devotional 188: So the People of Nineveh Believed G-d.

Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah Preaches at Nineveh

3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, [a]a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The People of Nineveh Believe

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

As believers we must not mistake mercy and grace for permission. The reluctant, rebellious prophet who went in the opposite of G-d’s direction, even in his disobedience, was made to point people to the Father.

The mariners, to their credit, did not immediately wish to throw Jonah overboard. Surely in such seas, as far as they knew, Jonah was going to drown.

Still, Jonah’s rebellion was so strong that it forced them to find out through pagan means why their voyage was placed in holy peril. Fortunately, G-d was merciful to them in their innocence of Jonah’s crime.

When they did as Jonah requested, and the sea began to calm down, the power of G-d was seen in the natural to the point where the sailors took oaths and made a sacrifice; whether they maintained those oaths is not known, but in the moment, they knew who the true ruler of the seas was, despite whatever other gods they sought in their native prayers. The power of the G-d was revealed to them in the natural world.

In Nineveh, which dealt violently with the prophets of its day, Jonah’s prophecy was short, but it says that he cried out. There was no meeting or gathering for him to preach to an assembly as such.

He cried out, and the important distinction here is that they did not spurn Jonah, but they believed G-d. How did a land so sinful come so quickly to a collective mode of repentance, from the greatest to the least, and even among the animals?

G-d imbued the words with the power of His Spirit, so that it penetrated every heart. Given the short time the Ninevites had, there was no time for a process, or for anyone to think about whether or not they wanted to repent; the power of G-d’s Word proclaimed by Jonah was such that none could refute it. The power of the Spirit-filled word had to pierce hearts and unstop ears that before had been resistant to the Father’s mercy. A disobedient rebel was used to convert the hearts and minds of disobedient rebels, and put a right spirit within them.

Jesus told His disciples such: (Luke 12:11)

11 “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And although Nineveh eventually fell because they failed to pass along the values of faith, repentance, and obedience, we have an example of the Father withholding his punishment for those who willing to do His will and live under His covenant of grace, including Jonah, who was actually angry that G-d followed His word and did not destroy the land.

Let’s note then, that although the prophet still desired in his heart to see the city destroyed despite his prophecy, the Lord provided for him until he could see mercy manifested on people he believed the worst of sinners.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

As You have revealed Yourself to us by the power of the blood of Your Son, and called us to also minister to a faithless, mocking, wicked, and adulterous generation while dealing with our own doubt, reluctance, and rebellion, we ask that You also imbue our words and deeds with the power of the Spirit, so that You are revealed to those we tell about you.

May it be so in the natural, as it was with the pagan mariners, and in the spiritual, as it was with the Ninevites.

We ask also for the Spirit’s discernment, that we not cover Your truth in the veil of our politics and self-righteousness, for all fall short of Your glory, and none are blameless before the throne save through the power of Calvary’s atoning work. Forgive us if we have done so, and bring it to mind if we backslide the next time we speak of the goodness of Your Name among those we have been called to prophesy and evangelize.

We thank You also, Father, for protecting and providing for us, that we may see Your mercy manifested among the worst of sinners so that they glorify You and bear more of salvation’s fruit in Jesus’ name.

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

Amen.

Devotional 187: The Lord Looked at Peter…

Getting the Lord’s attention leads to conviction, repentance. and eventually, the joy of salvation.

Luke 22:55-62

55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”

57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.”

But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”

59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”

Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 6And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Our earthly goal to model and emulate Jesus looks more like Peter’s walk; full of good intentions, strong words, many stumbles, and on occasion, a heart not up to the task.

It says in G-d’s Word that His eyes roam the earth, looking for remnants of faith, obedience, righteousness, and steadfastness. Indeed, Jesus asks that when He returns, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)

Jesus says of the Roman Centurion that his faith in Him to just speak the words of healing over his servant was unmatched, even in Israel.

Yet Peter was part of the ‘inner circle,’ and we also, as His missionaries, have been called out to a higher standard. Jesus came to seek us out, to reveal the Father to us that we might be reconciled through Him.

The only disciple to walk on water, the one whose passion made him cut off a soldier’s ear, the one who repeatedly told Jesus he would stand beside Him when the others fled, the one who stood up in the midst of an assembly and delivered a powerful sermon of deliverance, had, in this moment, realized he only looked to preserve himself. His fighting spirit was as steadfast as gelatin, and just as quick to dissolve in a moment of persecution.

It is no different with us; Jesus knows we will backslide and transgress. He sees us doing so, over and over, willfully and otherwise. It is then on us to repent, confess, and entreat once more to be under the covenant of grace. He indeed sees our hearts, and knows our thoughts towards Him.

Repentance gets the Lord’s attention as well, as does faith, prayer, and obedience to do the Father’s will, for Jesus Himself does nothing apart from it.

If we are to emulate our Lord, then, we can do no less, and do it with no less devotion and godly focus. And when we have sinned, we must repent with the godly sorrow that leads back to salvation’s narrow road. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

As Jesus then restored Peter, peeling back the layers of his love with the same question asked three times, (Peter, do you love Me?) blotting away each of the denials from Peter’s ledger, so too will He restore us to fellowship with Him. (John 21:15-17)

Let us willingly partake of His sacrifice, count the cost, and carry our crosses to be reconciled once more to the Father’s eternal love, lifting those around us as we go.

Ask yourself today: Am I the centurion, outside of the circle, but recognizing the majesty of who Jesus truly is, or am I Peter, inside the circle, yet denying Him in my spirit knowing full well that I bear witness to the impact of His power in my own life?

Then do what you need to do, in order to be able to say truly in your heart:

“Lord, you know that I love You.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

It’s undeniable that when I abide in You, in Your presence, in the Gospel as God’s plan to redeem me, in His Word that will not pass away, I am at my best in every aspect of this earthly life, feeling the best I ever do.

To walk in the Father’s favor is to have the best of everything, but because I don’t stay in fellowship, the enemy slithers up to me at a more opportune time, and consumes me. In that moment, bring to mind that if I never resist him, he will never flee. (James 4:7)

Having been called out of the world, I would not serve two masters. Indeed Lord, You tell me I cannot.

So this day, I once more choose salvation, redemption, forgiveness, and the mercy and grace of the New Covenant, covered by the blood You shed in my place for the remission of my sins. Because of You, though I am one day closer to the dread Day of the Lord, I do not fear it.

As my faith vacillates between that of the foreign centurion who believed, and the fearful rock who denied You, look on me too with love and restore me to Your side once more.

Give me boldness to stand up in the midst of the assembly, humble myself, and point those in my presence to the Father’s throne, and change the world.

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

Amen.

Devotional 186: He Is Not Here

Matthew 28:6

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.

The earthly celebration of the Lord’s rising in victory over sin and death is past, but we are to ever hold these words of comfort in our hearts as we abide until his return: He is not here.

How many times did He say to those He ministered too, and therefore to us, down through the ages, “I tell you the truth…” and “Assuredly, I say to you…”?

Even the angel sitting on the stone confirms Him: “He has risen, as He said.”

So too, He says He will do the same for us who remain in faith (John 6:40)

The faithless mockers would keep Him in the grave, and blaspheme that He is ‘zombie Jesus,’ but they do so because their spirits are attuned to dead things that only appear alive, as Jesus told the Pharisees that the tombstones, though whitened outside, still contained death and corruption within them. (Matthew 23:27)

As our Lord would do, we pray for them, that they come to repentance, faith, and obedience, and if they are within the sound of our voice, we are to speak Truth in love.

We must remember that as He was not of this world, we have also been called out of it, chosen by the Father’s mercy to have the truth of Him revealed to us, grafted in among His people by grace, partaking in the New Covenant given to all nations. We could not come to Him except through the presence of Christ in our lives. (John 14:6)

Having been called out to minister to the lost with our gifts and talents, being called HIs people who were once not His people, let us also declare that where our Lord is not, we are not.

We will not stay on this Earth of sin, but on a new one, purged of all evil. We will not stay in the grave. We will not stay in sin, doubt, pain, and sorrow, no matter our circumstances. He will heal our pain, bind our wounds, and dry our tears.

Certainly there will be times in this life where we will be afflicted, tested, tempted, attacked, and suffering, but let us keep in mind the words of faith in our Heavenly deliverance, even if we don’t experience an earthly one: But if He does not….(Daniel 3:17-19)

In those times, let us proclaim Him all the same, and all the louder, because He’s gone before us to prepare our place, as He will come to meet us, as He went into Galilee to present Himself to His disciples, being revived by the Spirit of the living G-d, which He imparts to us in love, through faith in Him.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Every generation that believes on You and the One who sent You, marvels that You would make such a painful sacrifice, putting right the Father’s plan that seemed so easily replaced, a field of wheat sown with the enemy’s tares.

It is beyond our understanding, but He tells us in His Word, and through You, that His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and only for our good,

The faithless mockers, putting their faith in this world, like Demas, turn and leave You behind in the grave. The sinners and doubters are in need of signs to bring them to faith and bolster it, as those who proclaimed they’d believe if You delivered Yourself from the cross, not bothering to seek G-d to reveal You to them.

We pray for them, as You prayed for us.

If indeed, our hearts and treasures are to be of Heaven, then we must be present where You are, and bring it into the midst of wherever two or more are gathered.

In this life, as You said on the cross, we too will feel the Father has forsaken us and left us to die in a dark place. We ask then, that You send the Comforter to remind us of our times of refreshing, of deliverance when there seemed to be none. We ask that He help our unbelief, and remind us that we are sealed in righteousness, for the seals of the tombs of sin and death, separated and irreconciled to our Creator, have been eternally broken.

We only need to come out of the grave into the light of His presence, by Your command, and to the Father’s glory, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 185: Let Us Die with Him

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

It was a noble sentiment Thomas expressed, in fact, it was seemingly shared by the rest, but not one that he was ultimately committed to following through. From the time of the beginning of His ministry, Jesus referenced ‘my hour’ as impending.

He didn’t say it would be theirs, but His, and His alone, for He was the only one the Father sent to substitute for us, and the only one counted worthy of doing so, withstanding Satan’s temptations to have the bitter cup of our collective sins set aside for another way within the Father’s will.

But it wasn’t within G-d’s will to find another way, and Jesus gave Himself over to it: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22: 42)

Jesus did speak of the sacrifices they would make in ministering to the world, just not alongside Him. (John 21:18)

And in the Lord’s mercy, when Thomas openly declared his lack of belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, though he’d witnessed the rise of Lazarus, his faith was sealed in the recognition of Jesus’ divinity:

John 20:27-28 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

I don’t know how many of us were taught that Thomas did put his hand in Jesus’ side, but the text doesn’t state that. It would have been highly familiar and disrespectful to a King in full manifestation of His heavenly glory, and the mustard seed of faith that was yet buried in Thomas’ spirit checked him from doing it, and responded to the Holy Spirit abiding in Jesus, giving Him his due.

So how are we called to die with Him? The good news is this: We aren’t.

Our sins, doubts, fears, and rebellion are called to die. Our sin natures are called to die. We who are grafted into the Vine are called to live like Christ and to minister to those around us, pointing the way to G-d as His priests, ministers, disciples, servants, friends, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters of the Most High G-d, leading them to the Throne of mercy and grace, that they too, like Thomas, will become believing, and on their knees cry out to Him: “My Lord and My God!”

Come out of the graves of the world, and rejoice that despite your many sins, you are still counted among the chosen to live with Him forever in a world free of evil, counted worthy to live in the light of the presence of the living G-d Almighty without fear of death for all eternity, for the blood of our Savior will forever erase the multitude of our mortal sins.

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

Amen.

Devotional 183: The Tithe of Everything

2 Chronicles 31:5-6

As soon as the commandment was circulated, the children of Israel brought in abundance the firstfruits of grain and wine, oil and honey, and of all the produce of the field; and they brought in abundantly the tithe of everything. And the children of Israel and Judah, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, brought the tithe of oxen and sheep; also the tithe of holy things which were consecrated to the Lord their God they laid in heaps.

Because the king was strong for G-d and did not hold himself from doing the things he asked of his subjects, the people also grew strong for G-d and pleased Him with their offerings and tithes.

There was no holding back of anything, and no secret attempt to hold onto or set aside any money as with those the Holy Spirit struck down in the presence of Christ’s disciples.

The Israelites brought in the secular as well as the consecrated, for if the Earth is His and everything in it, we have nothing save that which He grants us anyway. (Proverb 24:1-3) He allots to us the portions we receive.

Hezekiah was following the Lord’s example then, in that he gave out of his own portion as king (2 Chronicles 31:3), honoring the Law of G-d. How then, can we do less?

Believers of many things, established in paganism and polytheism, worshiped for eons, found themselves adrift when the one true G-d drove out the many, and their works could not stand save for those who rejected his New Covenant. Yet even so, the nations of men, flooded with deadly, grievous, relentless sin, were still granted grace, that we might come to know Him through the strong work of His Son, who took our rightful fate of damnation, that we might share in His glory before the Father’s presence.

Christ tells that all the nations will be gathered before Him (Matthew 25:32), and everyone will give account (Romans 14: 10-12), every motive judged, and thought revealed (Ecclesiastes 12:14), and everyone will rise to an eternal fate (John 5:16-30).

So while we live, let us give Him with glad hearts the tithe of everything, as it may that this night our very lives will be required of us (Luke 12:20), or if not, see His blessing hand pour out over You all that He wants for you, that you will not be able to contain as he delivers you, and places your feet on the rock of His salvation.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

As a child of faith, unable in my own strength to live by Your words and keep Your commands, unable in my own thoughts and flesh to align my spirit to fully to Your will, I plead the blood of Jesus over my sin, doubt, greed, and backsliding.

Help my unbelief, and grant that I not desire to seek a hiding place in the day Your wrath destroys the wretched and arrogant who question Your very existence, Your ways, and the Truth of Your Word.

Thank You for supplying my needs during this dire time, for sustaining me in the midst of this plague, and blessing me with health and strength in the days to come.

I place my trust in You, Lord, with nothing held back, partially offered with a selfish heart. I do it in reverent fear of You, and in faith and gratitude for the salvation You brought to me when I truly sought You, wanting nothing more to keep me from You, that we might meet, and that Your hand would touch me, and put my lowly name in the Book of Life.

I know the fate I deserve, and know, even now, that You keep it from me when I am in my sins. You rebuke the unclean until I come to myself, and restore our fellowship once again.

So today, Father, I place it all in Your Son’s hand, that He might remove my reproach, that I might dwell in Your house, giving you the tithe, offering, and outpouring of all You require: honor, praise, glory, obedience, thankfulness, righteousness, faith, and joy.

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

Amen.

Devotional 182: …But Who Are You?

Acts 19:11-20

Miracles Glorify Christ

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.

15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

1Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

This is a study in contrasts. Here we see that Paul doesn’t have to speak a word to the demons, but the items he touched and used had enough anointing on them to drive out to heal, and drive out evil spirits, and then we have those who used Paul’s name to invoke Christ, and then the sons of Sceva.

These others who invoked Jesus’ power through Paul were likely honored in their requests for their tertiary faith, whether they had the doctrine of Christ or not: “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”

We don’t have a written record of their success rates, but we do have the record of the spectacular failing of Sceva’s sons. They seemingly had the numbers and credentials to do great work as sons of a devout chief priest. Whoever sought them out would have likely taken comfort in such, and while we don’t know the exact reason for their failure, the demon who challenged them did.

One could imagine the chill that went through them as they heard its question: “… but who are you?”

Perhaps it was as Paul says (2 Corinthians, 5:12) 12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.

What we have to remember is that even as Christ looks at the heart, so too, do his enemies.

Were the sons of Sceva after a reputation, money, or power? Were they prideful or boastful from a successful exorcism? The text doesn’t say, only that they failed, and that it became widely known, which would have been a shame to their father as well. They seemed to have brought nothing of Heaven’s anointing, only themselves, that they were so thoroughly, shamefully put to flight.

Today, during this holiday season unlike any other, be careful to look within and ask if the demon’s challenge is true of us as well. Does he know you as a child of G-d? Is he gone, or will he beset you and put you to flight, abandoning all you know of Him who wrote your name in the Book of Life?

Today, make time to boast in the heart, trust in the Name, and receive the anointing of Christ to speak to your mountains, and drive out your demons.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our frailty, this year has been harder than most for a lot of us. With losses on every side of loved ones, finances, help, and fellowship, we ask Your forgiveness for our lapses in faith, and in the Father’s goodness.

As we prepare to transition to a new year, new leaders, and new circumstances, let us hold fast to the hand of our Shepherd, who assures us no one can snatch us from His hand.

Increase our faith, help our unbelief, and gird up our legs that we might stand where we would fall. Renew our hearts, refresh our spirits, and speak to us in the watches of the night, that we might know You are with us and for us.

We thank You for bringing us to this moment in time, as some have gone on to eternity. We pray for our nation, that it be preserved after hearts of sinful men are done with striking it a blow, according to Your will, that we might turn to You and realize that the signs You spoke of about the end of the age are now truly upon us.

We would be redeemed and reconciled to our Father through You, that we might not falter in the days to come. You tell us that night is coming, where no man can work. Let us follow Your light to the narrow path, that we might enter into our Father’s rest. But while we are here, let us do as You did, and go about doing all things well to the Father’s glory, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, and faithfully speaking all that You tell us to say, that none may refute us.

In this holiday season, so detached from the divine nature it once knew, may we honor You in righteousness, peace, and joy.

Amen.

Devotional 181: The High Places Not Torn Down

2 Kings 15:1-4 Azariah Reigns in Judah

15 In the twenty-seventh year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Azariah the son of Amaziah, king of Judah, became king. He was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done, except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. Then the Lord struck the king, so that he was a leper until the day of his death; so he dwelt in an isolated house. And Jotham the king’s son was over the royal house, judging the people of the land.

2 Kings 18:4 Hezekiah Reigns in Judah

18 Now it came to pass in the third year of Hoshea the son of Elah, king of Israel, that Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.

4 He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.

Most of the high places were tucked away in the shadowed recesses of the mountains, and used by the Canaanites as well for worship to false gods and feasting.

The pattern of man’s willfulness regarding G-d’s word is that no matter how longsuffering, merciful, and giving G-d is, staying His hand as it regards our rightful punishment, we manage to find His commands too restricting and create compromises and loopholes to do that which He says we should not. The high places, as they were used by Israel, were such. They essentially were hedging their faith that Yahweh was the only true G-d, despite all He’d done for them.

In this way, to our shame and peril, we crucify Christ repeatedly.(Hebrews 6:4)

Since the 2000’s began, we have been hard at work maintaining unholy strongholds and building new high places of the heart, even as the hand of G-d strikes the earth with the first wave of His signs, and reigns in our indulgences with a plague.

The high places of the heart are as collective in a nation as they are personally private: racism, injustice, greed, holding onto power that’s ultimately transitory, hoarding wealth at the expense of helping others while forgetting the lessons of charity, compassion, and love that Jesus taught us as we neglect repentance as something for ‘others’ to do.

Examine today in your own spirit where the high places are in your life, and rest assured of two things:

1-They were planted there by your enemy, so even as you may use it as a place of worship, he comes behind you to defile it to the corruption of your soul, for if you keep focused on the mountainside where your high place is, you will not look up to Heaven and the Father’s hand for your blessings.

2-The second thing is that on the day of your judgement, the rocks and shadows will provide no hiding place for the unrepentant, the nonbeliever, and the faithless, heartless, and prideful. (Isaiah 2:19, Rev 6:16)

Today, remove the blasphemous clutter of your high places, wherever and whatever they may be, before the Lord comes to tread on them (Micah 1:3) and find fault in you.

Build an altar to Him, and let Him set them on fire to purify you once again for Kingdom service.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We have walked in the shadows of our high places because we were foolish enough to believe they were loopholes to our obeying Your every word. Indeed, they were a source of comfort and ease, recalling pleasant times in the flesh when we did not know Your wrath was upon us, or if we did, we simply didn’t care.

But the covenant Your Son struck with us through You, and through the holy power of His Name and the spilling of His holy blood, we are now bound fast to Heaven, chosen and set apart, far above the high places we have built, rebuilt, and insist on keeping. We keep them because to let them go means we have no more illusion for the excuse of disobeying You.

“You made me this way” is as poor an excuse as when Adam said, ‘The woman You gave me….” You did not, and You offered me a way out that cost You dearly, and hurt You deeply.

Today then, Father, use whatever is to be my coal to seal this vow to my unclean lips, even as Your finger writes it on my heart: I will tear down the high places of my spirit, my house, my family, so that all may be exposed, for there are no secrets from omnipresence, and Your Spirit surrounds me wherever I go.

I confess that my high places are wood, hay, chaff, tares, and stubble, suitable only for burning, and tasteless salt to be thrown out, before I myself am cast into the outer darkness by Your irrevocable Word, and my soul loses its one chance at redemption to live eternally in the light of Your glory.

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

Amen.

Devotional 178: Spoken Against Everywhere

Paul’s Ministry at Rome

17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

21 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

Matthew 7:28

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 24:35

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

A new teacher, a new covenant, a new way including new people to join in on the salvation granted to the Jews, the Father’s chosen, whom He protected, loved, rebuked, punished, and restored since the foundation of the world.

He gave to us, through them, the Son of Salvation, and the man who had the largest missionary calling of them all, the one who started with zero faith and one hundred percent hate. The Lord took every skill he’d used to persecute the church and turned it upside down to spread the Father’s message that all mankind was invited to dwell in His kingdom, but only through faith in His Son.

When Simeon had seen Jesus, he said to Mary and Joseph that the child’s life and ministry would reveal the thoughts of many hearts. As Jesus grew to find favor with G-d and man, Simeon’s prophecy was borne out.

We stand in such a moment now, where the thoughts of many hearts have been revealed, and in whom they place their trust; we who count ourselves among the faithful must be vigilant that we not only honor Him with our lips.

We live in the “land of the free,” up to a point.

We live in the “home of the brave,” where unarmed men and women can be shot in the back, brutalized, and summarily executed with no consequences for the offenders.

We say justice is blind, but only the rich and powerful go free.

We say all men are equal, but we love one and hate the other.

Where do our ministries find us in those moments? Where does the Lord find our hearts? Is he filling our mouths with bold words, or are our hearts trembling within us? Are they hearts of flesh, or stone? Are our ears tickled and deaf, or open to a new teaching that changes the course of our history, and heals our land?

Hatred will not result in good fruit. Cruelty will not be justified before the throne. Blindness will not be claimed by those the Lord healed of blindness, both physical and spiritual, yet we now live out the words: “Seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not understand.”

The parable of The Wheat and Tares is among us, the harvest is maturing, and soon, the culling will begin. I believe it’s already started, if the West Coast fires are any indication.

Where will the angels’ scythe find you? In the sheaves of wheat being brought in with rejoicing, or the furnace, to be destroyed with no remedy?

“Choose this day…”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We look to You now, to whom all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given, to guide us into all Truth in this moment through the conviction of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Our spirits grieve within us, our hearts fail, and our boldness grows silent as we flee the blades and bullets of our enemies because we did not seek You to go before us.

We seek you now, from the hiding places, and ask that You forgive us and grant us mercy. We stand now to be fully seen in robes of white, standing in the gap and pleading Your blood to stay the Father’s wrath.

We repent of our cowardice and pride, we repent of our own self-righteousness, we repent of our own self-reliance and sense of importance. We repent of forgetting this is not our home, and that Your words will not pass away. We repent of not speaking with power and authority, speaking truth to power, to sinners, doing both with love and compassion for the lost.

You told us this faith would come at a price, and that if we testify to the world, as You did, that its works are evil, we would be hated, as You were. The question you put before us now is, Will we also turn away?

Strengthen us, Lord. We would not be the disciples of Gethsemane, but the Apostles of the Book of Acts, praying, preaching, and manifesting the Father’s love among the faithless.

We ask that You give us the strength to withstand the onslaughts of the hateful, the sexually confused, the ‘spiritually free’ who are in fact in bondage, and those who place their faith in the sands of science, which will never be fathomed from the infinite mind of G-d.

We speak Your Word to stand against evil, and do not bend to call it good.

We speak Your Word, and let the Spirit call those appointed to receive it.

We speak Your Word, and love without judgment, for judgment is in Your hands.

We speak Your Word, and don’t seek vengeance, because that belongs to the Father.

But we do ask for mercy if we fail in the midst of oppression, for those lapses that come to us when we say, like Peter, “I do not know the Man!” because to share in Your glory, we must share in Your trials.

Seek and restore us, Lord Jesus, when we are lost in darkness. Bring us back to the light of Your grace, and wash us clean in the blood of the New Covenant you’ve bestowed to a people who were not Yours, grafted in by grace.

We would be profitable, fruitful, faithful servants in the darkest hours, and it is night in this nation. You have told us to let our works so shine, that mankind may see them, and glorify the Father, worthy of all praise now and forever. We ask that You search our hearts, and test the work we do, that it may be found worthy of Heaven, and please our Father’s heart.

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

Amen.