Devotional 72: Not With a Loyal Heart

2 Chronicles 25:1-2

Amaziah Reigns in Judah

25 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a loyal heart.

The Chronicles, if nothing else, testify to man’s inner heart when he comes to power and prospers, when he leads others, and when or if he follows the Lord, as the Kings of Israel were supposed to do, but with Amaziah, there’s a different shading.

In His compassion, the Father granted the Israelites their desire not to deal directly with Him, as they sent Moses up the mountain, when G-d would have addressed them all. It grieved Him, but He did it, even though He also said everything the bad kings would cause them to do, and suffer.

The kings seemed cases of extremes, swinging Israel and Judah on the pendulums of their egos first one way, then the other, but with Amaziah, we see a difference: he did right, but not with a loyal heart.

How is that possible, to serve G-d doing good, but not with loyalty?

What, then, was in Amaziah’s heart: fear? Probably, for he saw what happened to the maverick kings, and he would not invite the Father’s wrath through his personal indulgence in all the potential debauchery a king could engage in.

Perhaps it was a sense of duty, obligations and rituals to be carried out, and he observed them along with the people, but did so with no joy or reverence.

As king, it could be said he carried out the letter of the Law, but had no spirit for it.

We call it ‘going through the motions,’ like people who hedge their bets by going to church on Christmas and Easter, like they’re keeping a foot in the door. They don’t want i to close, but they don’t want to come all the way inside to experience the Lord.

Perhaps he went through the motions during the day, and publicly, and indulged himself ‘a little bit’ privately.

We’ve had those days, those emotions, perhaps even today. We go through the day the Lord has made with no thought of Him other than ‘getting that out of the way,’ and coming back to the daily milling wheels He has us push around in seemingly pointless circles, to an audience of mockers and scoffers.

Is that all there is? they ask.

Where is your G-d?  they ask.

or, as they said to a pastor I know: ‘Oh, you’re one of those.

As I write this, it’s raining here, and I thought about how my day’s plans are now ruined, yet I have no idea if the sun is coming out later today.

Yet, I’m out of the rain, and I can write this on a pretty neat machine that allows me to do it quickly and share it with you, while having my coffee. By those standards, if my plans have to wait on the weather, should I not be assured that what I need to do will get done, just not on my schedule? By those standards, am I not blessed and provided for by His hand? Has He not told me not to worry on these things, because in His eyes I’m worth more than the birds that He also provides for?

And I remember I’m told to let my light shine before men, and that in this hostile climate of the nation I’m not allowed to hate my brothers, that I’m set apart and called to a higher standard, and I’m to serve and praise in spirit and truth, and keep the statutes and commandments passed on to us through the Son, confess Him before doubting, sinful, earthly minded people, and abide in Him, because I’m incapable of doing all of that without Him.

I say this to tell you that the first I focused on this morning was me, even as I got up and prepared to write this. So you see these are as much for me redirecting that focus as they are for anybody else.

Believers, we are told to guard our hearts for a reason; it is as possible to do good in the flesh as it is to do evil, yet our Savior tells us that if we do that, we have our reward, and to not let our left hand know what our right is doing.

In times of trial, grief, and loss, when our hearts are heavy, and reasons for them aren’t present, we can turn tearful eyes and angry hearts to Heaven, and like the rich young ruler, walk away with great sadness, having made our choice.

May the Lord’s voice be gentle in your ear: ‘Will you also go away?’ Like the unsteady, passionate Peter, let us answer: ‘To whom shall we go? You have the words of life.”

It is the reason G-d says Israel  ‘honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matthew 15:8)

There is a reason why it’s first in the list when Jesus says, ‘Love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’ (Luke 10:27)

And to not let them be troubled by our fear: ‘Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’ (John 14:27)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We lift our hearts to You today, to do that which You need to it, for change, for cleansing, for softening so that Your words are fall into fertile spiritual soil that delights to do Your will.

Let our hearts be quiet within us when calamity comes, when the outside world is scornful and full of men scrambling for power they can’t keep, in a world they can’t stay in.

Let our hearts be steadfast within us when moments of doubt come, when the foolish wisdom of men and their philosophies seems to contain a form of godliness, but lacks the truth.

Let our hearts rejoice within us today at the reading of Your Holy Word, in the praises of our singing, and in the works of our hands as we minister and serve in Your Name, and to Your Glory. 

We thank You for this day, whatever the weather may be, whatever our plans are, and we will rejoice in it with grateful hearts of fear, reverence, and love as we gather to praise You, or meet with You in the quiet places of our souls as we speak to You alone. 

Replace the hearts of stone with those of flesh, tender, receptive, and discerning, as we turn them back to you, reconciled in the work of Your Son, to Your glory, and redemption of our souls.

I ask it, believing I’ve already received. 

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 67: You are My Witnesses

Isaiah 43:10-13
10 
“You are My witnesses,” says the Lord,
“And My servant whom I have chosen,
That you may know and believe Me,
And understand that I am He.
Before Me there was no God formed,
Nor shall there be after Me.
11 
I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no savior.
12 
I have declared and saved,
I have proclaimed,
And there was no foreign god among you;
Therefore you are My witnesses,”
Says the Lord, “that I am God.
13 
Indeed before the day was, I am He;
And there is no one who can deliver out of My hand;
I work, and who will reverse it?”

There have been many who cried out “These are the last days,” but there are things to come yet that haven’t happened, even now, to prove that; events are unfolding, but we are nowhere near the last days.

In these times, however, is where the rubber of our faith meets the road of reality: blasphemers, conspiracies, endorsers and co-signers of Nicea, atheists, false teachers, corrupt preachers, lying prophets, and the advance of mediums, Wiccans, and all things occult will advance.

Pr. David Jeremiah once said in his book, The Invasion of Other Gods, is that the appeal of Eastern religions is that you have something to do.

We can do nothing to earn grace, or buy our way into heaven, as the church once sold Heavenly assurances to the earthly rich regarding their salvation. It makes no sense to fill our granaries, when possibly this very night will require our lives.

Truly, as John the Baptist claimed, we will be voices crying in the wilderness.

Yet our Lord says, “He who has ears, let him hear.”

For all the marvels mankind has put their collective minds too, for evil as well as good, we are unable to reverse the will and work of G-d. The prophecies of Christ, and the Book of Revelation will come to pass.

In the inexorable passing of time towards those days, we are to be living stones, and bold witnesses to the existence of the living G-d, who has proclaimed all through the Son, and given all to the Son, and who will pour out His Spirit.

Remain steadfast in the face of all this, Brothers and Sisters, and be encouraged that the G-d we serve is the creator of all. He gives, and raises up, and delivers, but He also takes away, puts down, and casts out. This is no time to be agnostic, for that is being lukewarm, and we are all familiar with what our Lord says about that:

Revelation 3:15-17
15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot,[a] I will vomit you out of My mouth.

The act of vomiting, spewing, or whatever genteel synonym you’d rather use, is still this: a violent expulsion of waste.

The writer of Hebrews further encourages us:

Hebrews 13:8-9
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. 9 Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them.

As our Lord tells us the Father has given all things into His hands, we can count on Jesus’ accountability to be faithful and just, and as He is the Deliverer, we can trust His words.

As our Father says He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked and unrepentant, we know that He will punish the unbelievers, no matter what form their faithlessness takes.

Paul admonishes us to take heed when we think we’re standing, lest we fall, but as we stand as witnessing stones of remembrance, let us keep this always in mind: the wheat and the tares are growing together, and we are as capable of being deceived and falling away as anyone else when we are tried.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We thank You for Your consistency in dealing with Your children. Rebellious, wayward, stubborn, and angry, we question and challenge Your authority in our own lives when we should be pointing at You and telling others, “He is where Your help comes from, and Your source of all You need.”

We do not.

We are told by powerful men to live in fear of their wealth and depravity.

We are told by the media to worship the vain and stupid.

We are told love exists only in mansions, and that true love doesn’t involve modesty and covenant bonds of fidelity and spiritual submission.

We are told to sign off on confusion and perversion, or we are seen as intolerant bigots.

Yet our Lord tells us that the path is narrow, so if we are to find it focusing on the kingdom, must we not be ‘narrow’ minded if we are to dwell in the house of the Lord forever? If we are to endure to the end, and suffer with Him that we may be glorified by the Atonement to live with You, must we not be willing to stay the course?

Let it be so with us, and fill us with Your Spirit to do that which You require to make hearts burn, to plant seeds in rich soil, to forgive the blasphemers, to heat up the lukewarm, and to shake the dust off our feet at the hard hearted, praying for their souls while they yet live.

We would be fruitful and faithful servants, Father. We would be focused and bold, unwavering in our devotion, unshakeable in our belief that You, and You alone, are the One True G-d.

Let us confess our own sins, and restore fellowship with You.

Bless us in our weakness, and help our unbelief, then use us to Your glory.

May we approach Your throne in humility and fearful reverence, for You have redeemed our souls from the grave in grace and mercy through the blood of Your Son. Help us to remember:  (Hebrews 10:26-27)

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

Purify us, O G-d, that we may not be adversaries, for the battle is one-sided, and Your victory assured.

Though we are living stones, we ask for hearts of flesh.

We subject our will to Yours, and offer up our lives back to You even as we are endure, glorify, testify, teach, learn, and seek Your face while fellowshipping with You and each other here on earth, as it will be eternally in the Kingdom of the One True, Living, and the Most High G-d, now and forevermore.

Amen.

Devotional 62: This is Man’s All

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

I have come to accept that our society in America has decided to serve mammon rather than G-d, yet Jesus tells us this as a sign of the end times, that the evil men will do to each other will increase not just between nations, but within households.

We can pray, and do well, and keep faith and obedience, but as much as we don’t like to think about it, there’s going to be an end to this, just as in the days of Noah. All that we’ve come to know and love in this life will be destroyed, but rebuilt without the evil that pervades it.

It’s been explained like this in a sermon I once heard the late Myles Munroe preach:

G-d gave man dominion over the earth, but by listening to the serpent, and being disobedient, Adam, in not rebuking Eve and blaming G-d,  gave dominion to Satan. Since G-d doesn’t take back that which He gives, prayer is seeking G-d for divine intervention in earthly affairs.

Whether you agree with it or not isn’t the issue, but it’s clear that in the hearts of men today someone else is holding sway, and people are doing and saying things they wouldn’t ordinarily.

Paul’s oft-quoted verse reminds us we aren’t battling flesh and blood, but waging war in heavenly places and demonic strongholds.

We have a fear inducing media, that plays both sides using different balls, and our representatives (not leaders) grow increasingly insulated and disconnected as they pack their granaries with more illicit grain.

The news is rife with conspiracy theories, the Illuminati, the Masons, and all the little subdivisions thereof taking place at night in basements and caves and isolated places.

People are speaking things that sound deep but aren’t, and talking heads with opposing viewpoints are so busy shouting down each other that nothing is heard.

So what do we do, dear Believer? We fear G-d, and keep His commandments.

The evil that men do in secret is known to Him. There are no secret societies hidden from Him. There are no sacred rituals that drive out His presence. There are no men whose names are on the letterheads of these societies that have the final say over Him. He sees them and their deeds as we see each other on the street at noon, vibrant and full of life and color, and His vengeance is stored up for their sins.

We are told that the wicked prospered even in the days of King David, yet David’s son tells us they will be cut off with no remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

As we know the road to life is narrow, and the travelers few, we must hold fast, and tight, to the knowledge we possess of the reality of G-d, and His power. Jesus says not to fear those who can kill the body but destroy the body and soul (Matthew 10:28)

We are told over and over again, as we see mounting atrocities, idolatries, cold churches, colder people, disconnected wealthy people making ‘backroom deals’ (which, by the way, G-d also sees), that His vengeance and judgment are being stored up.

I emphasize we are in the year of the Lord’s favor, as Jesus quoted in Isaiah when He first declared what His ministry was to be, but let us be reminded Jesus did not continue that verse:

‘And the day of vengeance of our G-d.’

We are reminded in the parable of the vineyard workers that everyone received their due at the end of the day when the work was finished.

Again:  Ecclesiastes 8:11-12
11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 

Continue to pray for our representatives, do good to others, spread the Gospel in love, and keep faith and obedience as the scales that will balance your life before Him.

To quote ‘Julian of Norwich’:  It behooved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

      We are surrounded by Your enemies on every side, and therefore, Lord G-d, they are our enemies too. Yet Your will for them is that we love them, and pray for them, and do good to them as Your ambassadors, that their hearts might soften and turn to You. This is what Your Son commanded of us through You.

      It’s a difficult thing You ask of us, for our human inclination is to avoid them, indeed, to hide from them, if not ignore them. We are much like the Pharisee who stood next to the sinner, thanking You he was not like that man. But these sinners are unapologetic, unrepentant, and indeed glory in their wickedness, in their prosperity, in their ability to keep others from gaining what they themselves have, and cutting off their means to attempt it.

     We ask of You that which the Apostles asked Jesus:

     ‘Should we call down holy fire upon them?’ 

     Let us be reminded that there is a harvest, and that choices against You in the year of Your favor can still be reversed until the day of judgment. Until then, we are to keep Your commandments, and leave the rest to You, in spite of our inclinations to do otherwise.

     I myself have been forgiven much, but I have trouble forgiving others. I don’t want to leave it on the altar, though the weight is terrible. Yet I’m told if I don’t forgive, I won’t be forgiven by You. 

     Help me in this, Lord. I’m getting better, but I’m far from over a lot of things that should be dead and buried. I walk by the hole, and look in, and say, ‘I remember that,” but I don’t fill the hole.

     You’ll have to help me do that, Lord. I want to keep Your commandments, I don’t want to sin, and I can do far more than I have been, in Your strength, and by Your will.

     Help me to fight the temptation of disobedience over that which you’ve given me dominion, to keep my integrity, to labor as unto You, bearing fruit to Your glory, for this is my all, and the all of my brothers and sisters. 

     I ask it in the Name of Jesus, believing I’ve received. 

     Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 59: I Delight to do Your Will

Psalm 40:8-9

I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.

 

The googled definition of delight is to 1: please someone greatly  2: to take great pleasure in.

Do we, as believers, delight to do G-d’s will? Do we really?

The Lord says that the greatest among us will be the servant of all, that He himself came to serve, and not be served.

It’s one thing to do the Lord’s will when we are the centerpiece, and quite another to do it in obscurity among the ungrateful, or for only a brief period, or even to the point of martyrdom, where no one knows you or will bother to remember you. What about when your body, quite possibly, will never be found?

Delight?

How can one take delight in such circumstances to the do the will of an unseen G-d?

We must, in all things, take caution to make sure we are hearing from G-d, and listening (they are not the same) to what He has called us to do. There’s doing what we think is His will, and then there’s being in the center of it.

Yes, there’s delight. There’s also fear, doubt, reluctance, hesitancy, excuse-making. It’s all there, right alongside courage, faith, resolve, rejoicing, and immediacy.

Let delight be at the center, for this is not our eternal home.

Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Dr. King, Elie Wiesel, these are some of my heroes who demonstrated true courage in the face of intense adversity, whose faced down their beliefs in the darkness, and set their faces like flint as they picked up their crosses, flaws and all.

But there’s no delight in beatings, imprisonment, watching comrades die, and staying among the filth and stink of dying lepers.

Yet we are reminded of the ‘others’ in Chapter 11 of Hebrews, who took their stand on their way to death and persecution.

(end of v. 35) Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[f] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

Delight? The Messiah tells us this:

John 15:18-25

The World’s Hatred

18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. 21 But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. 25 But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’[a]

Delight? Yes, dear brothers and sisters. Take heart, and be resolved in your minds to delight in doing His will. In the end it shall be: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ (Matthew 25:23)

For the Lord takes delight in our service, whatever it is, wherever it may be, for however long the time. He takes delight in our purpose fulfilled, our lives fruitful, and our service rewarded in in the proper place and time.

He will sing over you, and anoint you with the oil of rejoicing.

Yes, delight.

 

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

In our trembling humanity, help us to count the cost of loving our neighbors in a hateful, selfish world. 

Let our hearts be resolved, our motives pure, our desires for fleshly praise extinguished.

Let our hands be helped by like-minded brothers and sisters who come alongside and aid us when we falter, and if necessary, send angels to minister to us in our gardens of stone and beauty if we begin to look for another cup, surrounded by satanic spears, traitors, and the wrathful faithlessness of Your enemies.

Let our minds not be entrapped by the foolishness of the many tangents Your Word fosters among us: How old is the earth? What animals were on the ark? What was Jesus’ skin color? Hymns over secular sounds? What version of Your Word is the best? 

It is the work of Satan planting tares among wheat, and unleashing his wolves among flocks. 

The best version of the Bible is the one that has the story of Your Son’s death and the power of His Resurrection. Like the Apostle Paul, let us determine to know nothing among this fickle populace except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. 

Let us delight in obscurity and persecution if it is the center of Your will.

Let us be ready to embrace death when the proverbial sword is at our necks and we hear the words of man say: Renounce your Savior. 

With delight, let us open our mouths for the Spirit to fill, not worrying what we shall say, and pour ourselves out, embracing our fate, since You have determined it since before the foundation of the world, and revealed Yourself to us through Your Son and Your Word to us through the power of Your Spirit.

Let us always please You, and take great pleasure in doing it, as we delight in each other having one will through the Son, us in Him, and Him in You.

In the Name of Jesus I ask it, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 58: A Book of Remembrance

Malachi 3:16-18  A Book of Remembrance

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.

17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
18 Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

 

The year of 2017 is half over. It is a good time to reflect and look back at the anticipation of the first month, and what we offered to the Father for the sacrifice of praise.

What were our petitions?

What were our sins and backslidings?

What were our gains and losses?

And where does our faith in His providence stand today?

If a person shall fall seven times and rise eight, are you standing? (Prov 24:16)

New Year’s Day is much like the wedding, a splashy, extravagant affair of public celebration, extravagant dressing, feasting, and wishing each other all the best.

And then there is the marriage: the commonality of the day to day, the taking out of trash, the washing of dishes, the stress of parenting, the stress of taking care of self.

But in the midst of it all, when you forget the celebratory times, there is a book of remembrance: The Wedding Album. You go back to it, and remember, reminisce, and recapture those feelings. Hopefully, if this is you, those feelings are reinforced by your spouse in the day to day grind that leads to anniversaries, fidelity, partnership, and lifelong commitment.

Yet, sadly, it is not so between us and G-d. Indeed, in the verses before these, the people have judged G-d as not worthy of being served since the wicked prosper in the midst of the righteous. (Mal 3:13-15)

It’s still true today.

A prayer is not answered, a miracle of healing not given, a child not conceived, a financial blessing not received in time, no food, no means of transportation, and what little you have is seized by greedy oppressors under the guise of the law.

Your faith is tested, and the serpent slithers through the weed ridden garden of your life, its eyes on yours, and its sibilant question as it opens its mouth is always this:

“Did G-d really say…?”

Let us remember: the coin of gold the serpent offers for ease and quick riches is counterfeit. When the Lord brings wealth, He adds no trouble to it  (Proverbs 10:22)

The coin for your taxes, the cost of serving Christ, is in the mouth of the fish; you have to go find it, under the guidance of the Lord Jesus, being obedient to His commands, using that which you are called to do. As Peter used his fishing skills to serve, so too, you will use your own gifts. (Matthew 17:24-27)

One coin falls out at your feet, and the price is your soul; the other you must work to get out, and the reward is salvation.

In the Book of Remembrance we call the Word of the Lord, go there to see what G-d really said:

His Word says His promises are ‘yes and amen.’ It says the wicked shall be punished, the unrepentant condemned, and the dead who have faith in the atoning work of the Son of G-d shall be redeemed from the power of the grave, and live eternally in the presence of the Father, under the rule of the Son, and all will be empowered by the Spirit to give thanks and praise, doing the work of the Kingdom.

If need be, enhance His Word with a book of remembrance of your own making: a journal, a blog, a notebook and pen.  I don’t remember who said the following, but I remember the quote:

The dullest pencil is clearer than the brightest memory.’

If there is no access to these things, simply offer a prayer of thanks, or put a marker in a special place where something good happened. It can be a small stone, or you can build an altar of special items. The Father understands that in our spiritual walk, we need material reminders to bring to mind all the good things He’s done for us. Be careful of idolatry, however, and always seek to add to your book, whatever form it takes.

Maintain gratitude, remain faithful, and be obedient to Him in the face of adversity? It sounds like the stupidest thing to do. 

It isn’t. It will be rewarded. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

He promised, and He is not a man that He should lie. (Num. 23:19)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven

Today we praise you for all the good things You’ve done in our lives, for all that You will do until we are called home. Help us to complete that to which we’ve been called.

Increase our faith, and help our unbelief.

In our obscure service, let us sings songs of joy.

In our failed missions, let us give thanks and praise.

In our spiritual irresponsibility, let us meditate on Your love and willingness to restore us to fellowship with You.

As You are the Author and Finisher of our faith, so too, be the Author of our books of remembrance, and let them reflect You in us, as we stand as ambassadors of the Way in a nation that has lost it, living among people who don’t want it, and navigating a world that rejects it; for that also is according to Your Word.

You tell us that narrow is the path, few are the travelers, and yet, we ask that You strengthen our hands, enlarge our territory, and give us a spirit of boldness not worrying what we will speak, for we know the Spirit will fill us in that moment, as You have said.

And let us stand for You, remembering always, that one day we will be with You. Not because we deserve it, but because You loved us first.

In Your Name, I ask it. 

Amen.

Devotional 53: Wash and Be Clean

2Kings: 9-14 Namaan’s Leprosy Healed

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Arenot the Abanah[a] and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Namaan was highly esteemed and a man of titles, used to a certain level of pomp in his presence, yet he was humbled at the house of the prophet Elisha. Indeed, he was insulted at the affront of not even getting a personal greeting.

To make matters worse, he was told to do something so simple that it also affronted him even though he was told it would heal his leprosy: Go take a bath.

There is within us that which refuses to believe that that it’s not about works and rituals and ‘doing.’ Pr. David Jeremiah in his book The Invasion of Other Gods points out that the appeal of Eastern religions is that the level of human involvement gives a sense of control, of being deserving of the favor of those gods by doing that which pleases them.

It’s an ancient conditioning of the human mind: From early on in life we are told that hard work, submission to authority, and obedience to rules are how we are rewarded in life, and by life. Productivity and frugality secure our futures, and sense of personal responsibility allows us to live civilly (for the most part) with each other.

We work to secure our legacies and security for the days we are no longer able to work. Inheritances are passed down, added to, and passed down again, and nothing is accrued unless the work is done to amass them.

Yet for those of us who believe, serve, and follow the Lord this is a paradox, for we are told not to worry about such things.

Or is it?

Let’s keep in mind that work was given to us a curse for Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating from the Tree of Knowledge:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

That being said, we are told in Proverbs 22:9 that a man skilled in his work will not serve obscure men, but kings. We have this example in the workmanship of Solomon building the House of the Lord.

We are also admonished by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:22-25

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

In other words, being in bondage is no excuse to sin.

The point of this seemingly rambling post is that it is often the simple things, not the grand, where we find the Lord’s blessing.

Namaan was hoping for a public spectacle that would reinforce his sense of greatness, yet he felt insulted by being told to just go bathe.

There were no wars for him to fight, no conditions attached, no rituals to perform, and until the gentle rebuke of his servants, he was angry. But it wasn’t until he obeyed the prophet’s message that he received his healing.

There’s a saying that’s popular in some Christian circles: ‘Lord, don’t move the mountain, just give me the strength to climb.’

Sounds noble, doesn’t it? You don’t wish to trouble the Lord with something so trivial as moving a mountain out of your way.  In fact, it’s as egotistical and foolish as Namaan wanting to do something more difficult to cure himself.

See, here’s the thing:  the Lord didn’t say He would move it, he said, ‘Speak to the mountain in faith, believing it will move, and it will be cast into the sea.’

Why would you want to struggle to ascend a difficult path the Lord would flatten, and straighten, and make smooth without obstructions? The view of your destiny is not only clearer when that happens, but faster.

There is no need for false heroism; life is hard enough, isn’t it? Just do the task before you, or as Oswald Chambers puts it, ‘the task that lies nearest to hand,’ and receive your blessing. Stop complicating that which the Lord would make easy for you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, I thank You that the grandiose egos of men count as nothing under the covenant of grace. Let me not block my own way through sin and rebellion. Let me not be cast down because of pride and make my blessing void.

Help me to be ever mindful that You are the One who raises and puts down, that Your mercy is for the repentant, that Your love is everlasting, and that Your will is for me to thrive in whatever I do, wherever I am.

Let the works of my hands please You. Bless them, increase them, and let them find the ones who need it. Let my integrity be intact not only when the rulers watch, but when no one’s around. 

Keep me from a false sense of self-sacrifice, looking for strife where You have given peace. Let me discern the still, small voice from the pompous, empty grandiosity of earthly recognition and platitudes.

Bring to mind that I am in the year of Your favor, that I may consecrate my life to You, and You alone, and that always, You hear my prayer of faith in my affliction:

Be removed, and cast into the sea.

I ask it by the Power of Your Holy Name, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 52: All the People Stood Up

Nehemiah 8:5-6

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

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

Purification takes place through fire or water. As the sins of man were washed away symbolically by water and blood, the Lord promises fire for the next time.

It has always interested me that the Lord will use what we view as opposites to achieve the same purpose: our works tested by fire, and the unbelieving, unrepentant souls cast into it along with the unfruitful servants, in contrast to the Great Flood.

But putting that aside, let’s consider the fact that when the work we do for the Lord is of the Lord, we get a deeper sense of connection to Him, joy in Him, and a sense of reverence and holy fear.

The Holy Spirit moved on the gathering the day Ezra had come to rededicate the hearts of the people and strengthen Nehemiah. The Spirit exposed their hearts in the midst of rebuilding the wall that they were still prone to greed and lust through the acquisition of foreign wives and their fortunes.

By the time Ezra gave the reading, their hearts were ripe, and the Spirit gave them the strength to stand all day as He worked. With broken hearts and contrite spirits they could not look toward Heaven, worshipping with tears and their faces to the ground.

In such assemblies, there was always preaching by the leader, then dissemination and exposition by those of understanding who went out among the crowd to answer questions and explain passages, as Phillip did with the Ethiopian, and as the Apostles did after Pentecost.

Reassured that G-d was pleased with their rededication to obey the Law and honor the Lord, it became a time of rejoicing. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Opposites achieving the same end: rededication to our G-d.

So from the Water Gate we have tears of sorrow, then of joy as the children of Israel returned to the Father.

Will we, as believers, stand up for the Word in unity and purpose, tearing down strongholds as we rebuild the walls of our spirits and put back the boundary stones on our faith, so that we don’t come down to the enemy. Let’s rededicate ourselves in the Covenant of Grace and place ourselves back in the hands of the Living G-d.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Daily we are prodigal at some point; a stray thought, a random flash of anger, a harsh word, a grumbling against something You haven’t brought to pass yet. Since judgment is not swift in coming, the boundaries of our faith begin to crumble, the walls of our sanctuaries become curtains, and we get a random peek at the opulence of a sick and dying world, reveling in its hedonism as it says You are a product of ancient history, and a figment of our imagination.

Hourly we are tested by those closest to us, who have their own thoughts and opinions, their own ways of relating to the world that are not ours, and we are commanded to love, forgive, and if possible, restore them.

Clothed in mortal flesh, we fight against moral urges. We are admonished to crucify it, deny its desires for ease and comfort, and to count the cost, walk the talk, and fight the fight.

We are admonished to limit the rudders of our eager tongues to lash, to speak love and not judge.

And we are told by Your Son that with man it is impossible, but all things are possible through You.

So Father, we beseech You for strength in rebuilding these things, in setting up guards around them, in establishing partnerships that will reinforce them when we forget to turn to You. We ask for Nathans in our lives to deliver warnings, Ezras to remind us of Your Word, Davids to put songs in our hearts, and Christ above all, to strengthen the work of our hands as we strive to live by His example.

Let us also be mindful to heed the Spirit, whether it comes as a mighty wind, a still, small voice, or a bird flying in the direction we should go.

We thank You, Father, for people of understanding You’ve sent across our paths to guide us out of the dark places. Let us always be mindful of that You’ve said Your Word is higher than Your Name, and if Yours is the Name above all Names, the pinnacle cannot be attained under our own power.

But having done all we can, when we bring Your Word to mind, let us remember to stand up.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 49: Strengthen Our Hands

Nehemiah 6:5-9

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written:

It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”

For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

The attacks and harassment came from everywhere: the enemy physically lurked about and taunted as the work of restoration was being done on the walls of Jerusalem. Protected by one king, the threat of the king where Nehemiah went  to work among his people to restore them was no less real.

The accusations followed:    It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their  king.

They sought to wear him down and delay the work of restoration with the threat of physical harm and and psychological weakness.

Through it all, Nehemiah , like David, took comfort in the Lord his G-d, and guided by the Holy Spirit, he thwarted them. He strengthened Nehemiah’s hand to answer five times, “I am doing a great work. Why should  the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

Notice the direction Nehemiah had to go to reach them?

As persistent as their enemies’demands were, his focus was equally clear; the wall was not just to put Jerusalem right, but it was to the glory of G-d to have His people do it as an act of loving service.

There are other ways to strengthen hands besides giving them the ability to lift heavy objects. During the holidays I was getting cash back from a machine that gave me $60 of the $100 I asked for; the cashier went to get the manager who didn’t look to see the screen had already given me $60. She counts off $100 and gives it to me; we’re the only two there a the machine and no one there between the time it was my turn and the time the manager came back, and I could have had $160 to spend ….

He can strengthen our hands not to steal.

There are men (and a rising number of women) alone at night in front of their computers, and the ‘adult only’ email slides like Eden’s serpent into the Inbox…

He can strengthen our hands not to give in to temptation.

And in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior, knowing the pain and forsaking to come, clasps his hands together and entreats His Father to take the cup…

He can strengthen our hands to pray.

Pray, Brothers and Sisters, that He strengthen your hands to complete the task He’s set for you, to His glory and your sanctification.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We see them coming from a long way off when we are high on the ladder of the center of Your will. 

We hear their mocking whispers and veiled threats as clearly as if they’d said them in our ears.

We see their smug smiles of doubt and their frowns of frustration.

We see the ill intent in their eyes.

We see their bravado, for they don’t know You’re in the midst of us.

And in our humanity our hands would strike back, our tongues would give flight to our anger, and our reason would flee the faster for our warming blood.

Let us take comfort in You, Father. Let us see You in them, even as we rebuke them, even as they seek  to turn us from the task You appointed us to do. And by faith, let us remember to turn to You. Let us behold Your smile and loving touch as we answer by the power of Your Spirit: I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.

I ask it by the strong, nail pierced hands of our Savior, hands You strengthened to bear my sin and put on the altar of His all consuming sacrifice, to Your glory and my sanctification, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 43: You Shall Recover All

1 Samuel 30:1-8

David’s Conflict with the Amalekites

30 Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Then David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, “Please bring the ephod here to me.” And Abiathar brought the ephod to David.

So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I pursue this troop? Shall I overtake them?”

And He answered him, “Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.

Losses come in two forms: the first is through attrition and time, when we lose our ancestors, and the loss is felt more keenly the more we know and love them. This is why great-grandparents hold such esteem among us, and is considered a title and age to be honored by their descendants.

The second is through the nature of man: greed and the love of money, jealousy, hatred, and we don’t understand why, if we’re good people our Lord will not always shield us from such.

But Jesus tells us the world hates us because it hated Him first, and it hates Him because He testifies that its work are evil.

Yet the plan of the Father is redemption, and so was here with David, and so it shall be with us. The one thing that was consistent with David was that whenever he was victorious, he sought the Lord first. Coming home to find all you’ve loved, worked and fought for taken from you by an enemy is a crushing thing, and David, flaws and all, was as human as the lowliest soldier in his army.

David returns home after being rejected by the Philistines to find the city burned and everything stolen. He weeps with his people, and when that’s over, his people talk of killing him because he led the men from home and they weren’t there to protect their own.

He was the king, and he’d left their gates open to the enemy. Like true thieves, the Amalekites came when no strong man was there, they captured the weak, and took what  belonged to the king and his people.

This was an indictment against David, who had a reputation of being strong and might, feared, and a brilliant strategist. If ever there was a moment for a man to despair, this was it, but David knew where his help came from.

v6 But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.

Do we believe God is control of our circumstances, even if we suffer loss? Do we believe he reins in what Satan is allowed to do to us? Consider, this is the only time we’re told that there was a raid with no slaughter, just thievery. Everyone they lost was still alive. Who kept them all safe, that David would recover all?

How odd that an Egyptian would fall sick and be left behind, and in the countryside, just happens to come across the king looking for the men who attacked his home, and this man just so happens to know where the troops are…

When we seek G-d first for answers, He honors our faith.

When we are told to pursue, we get what He’s set aside for us to have; it has been preserved for us, but we must take action. G-d did not put a change of heart in the Amalekites to suddenly come back with everyone and drop them off. David still had to go, though he was sad, tired, and angry.

When we too are done shaking our fist, grinding our teeth, and rending our garments in times and moments we don’t understand, surrounded by people who are out to destroy us from within and without, we must still go.

And the Father promises, we shall surely recover all, with increase for our faith. David took back what belonged to Him, and the Amalekites. Moses led the Hebrews out with increase after all those years of slavery.

Nothing will ever be missing, or dead, when we recover all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, if I am to pursue according to Your word, give me the strength to pursue. As your servant David said, ‘I am poor and needy,’ and I am of little faith. 

You are the G-d of eternity who redeems our times when we’ve gone astray, and You keep and preserve all that You have for us until we are found ready to receive, or worthy of the prize. 

When my works are tested, I will weep at the loss of reward for I know that among them is stubble, good for nothing, and times of fruitlessness where I was cursed. I know that I have not only grieved Your Spirit, but I’ve broken the heart of the Son, and made You turn Your eyes, for You cannot look on sin.

Yet You see the end of my days, and my future is a memory to You. So I ask that You walk with me as I pursue, and help me to perceive the signposts, my Egyptians, my markers of stone, my altars, my pillars of cloud and fire, that I may finish the work You’ve called me to do.

And in so doing, I shall recover all that was mine and the enemy’s by the power of Your right hand.

In the Name of Jesus I ask it, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

 

Christmas Lights

Luke 2:9

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.”

A light from Heaven suddenly overtakes you.

In your world, this has never happened. It’s night time, and you’re outside, and suddenly….

We have the gift of hindsight, but the shepherds were afraid. Greatly afraid.

Did they cry out, shield their eyes, maybe even start to run? Yet, the light was not hurting them, or blinding them, or burning them. It was just sudden.

He is the God of “suddenly.”

Remember the conversion of Saul? In Acts 9:3 we read:

“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” 

We are admonished to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (John 1:7)

May the light of God surround you with peace, and change your life, your heart, with the news of the blessed birth of our Savior. It really doesn’t matter what day, it matters that it happened.

“The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters.