Devotional 173: The Pride of Your Heart

Obadiah 1:2-4

“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You shall be greatly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
You who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Whose habitation is high;
You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’
Though you ascend as high as the eagle,
And though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.

 

The fall of a nation is better remembered than its glory and achievements, especially if the reasons for its collapse come from within. The prophecy of Obadiah over the kingdom of Edom should serve as a cautionary tale, as G-d will often send prophets to warn of the wrath to come, and the reasons for it. It is no accident that the eagle is mentioned, and no guessing as to what G-d’s intention is to nations who think they are as high and lofty.

Above all, the Biblical maxim remains true: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) But it seems we have lost sight of the Lord and taken pride in the land that belongs to Him, claiming dominion over things with no sense of stewardship.

We are now a proud nation for all the wrong reasons, and the Accuser feasts on the spiritual rot, nourishing the heart with false pride over things we had no hand in creating in and of ourselves: looks, skin, how we pray, how we feel, how we act, and how we relate to the world around us, and to the Creator Himself.

Seeking that which G-d desires for all humanity: “And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) 

To hoard those things and dispense them unfairly, inconsistently, and on whims of the heart’s deceitful vices and the mind’s equivocating tricks, will bring the day of judgement closer much faster, if we remain on the current path we’re on, refusing to see the damage we cause for what it is. The prophets of the day seem to be either mute, or politically aligned with worldly desires, or in pursuit of the world’s material comfort and the approval of man.

We would do well to heed our Lord and Savior in this hour when He tells us that we see without seeing, and that we hear, but don’t understand. (Matthew 13:13)

This is a nation that holds itself up as a bastion of freedom, but oppresses and silences those who see flaws in its systems, sin in its practices, greed in its wealth, and pride in the hearts of oppressors. We can no longer keep wiping off the pustules of ignorance and hate, unheeding and unrepentant,  but rather cut away down to the wounds that have caused them, clean it out with the love of the Father, and be made whole, reconciled to one another and to G-d.

The choice is ours, and while there is yet time to make it, let us do so. Will we add our voices to the assembly of saints telling the demons to go, or look on the day of our brother’s calamity, and wash our hands of his blood?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We have shown ourselves weak in Your sight. We have no strength left to fight, because the armor of Your Word has been broken, twisted, dented, and bent to suit the kingdoms of world. 

Even so, even now, the Devourer consumes us, speaking vile things with his mouth full. He has given the pride of his heart free reign to curse, spit, revile, belittle, and strike those in his path that testify to him that his works are evil.

He has infiltrated our institutions of power as well as our streets, our souls as well as our flesh, our minds as well as our hearts, and because we have turned from You we can no longer resist him.

We have become proud and boastful, wicked and adulterous, fools that speak words having a hint of truth, but in fact, lead the hearer astray.

As we witness the prophecies of Christ unfolding, let us hold fast to all that is good in You, and each other, as we are yet called to be Your servants, priests, ministers, and prophets. Let the wheat be separated from the chaff among these, that hearts may be turned, ears opened, minds changed, and spirits renewed, refreshed, and rejoicing.

We know by faith that You will answer prayers that seek Your best will for us. and equip us to go where we are needed, speaking the Truth of Your Word to power boldly, as You give us what to say, so that none are refuted or can find fault in us or our words. Do not make this nation a byword, that when the world looks on its ruins says among themselves, “How great was its fall,” and marvel at our folly.

You uphold us by the strength of Your right arm, nor let our words fall to the ground as we give You the honor and glory due Your majesty, remembering that we are but dust and only inherit eternal life through Your mercy and grace.

Deliver us from this hour, Father, and restore our hearts as we repent, humbled hearts and contrite spirits, that You may make us new.

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

Amen.

Devotional 171: My Times are in Your Hand

Psalm 31:12-15

12 I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind;
I am like a broken vessel.
13 For I hear the slander of many;
Fear is on every side;
While they take counsel together against me,
They scheme to take away my life.

14 But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in Your hand;
Deliver me from the hand of my enemies,
And from those who persecute me.

 

The Pastor with who brought me to the Lord for safekeeping used to have a phrase for his sermon’s application: “This is where the rubber of your faith meets the road of reality.” It was a play on the saying, Where the rubber meets the road…’ as the surface of tires contacts the road.

But what happens when that happens? The tire is strong, but the road is stronger. The tire itself must be made well in order to withstand the resistance pushing back on it, and still move freely to go the distances required of it. The tire is vulnerable to whatever might be on the road that could damage it.

It’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure to take care of the and keep it out of harm’s way if possible. The difference between the driver and G-d is that sometimes that’s not possible, but in as much as the driver can prepare the tire and keep it from harm, they should do all they can. Prevention is always better than repair.

As our Lord is allowing Satan and his minions to frolic and play, the wound of racism is being cleansed. When cleaning a wound, the ugliness surrounding it has to be cleared away for the caretaker to see.

So as believers, what should our response be in this hour:

If we are to be like Christ, we must do what Christ did in these times: He walked the roads among the people, and listened to them. He asked them questions that revealed the conditions of their spirits, the desires of their hearts, and how far they were willing to go to change their lives forever. To do likewise we must be prepared in our spirits, armed in the Word, and willing to answer the call Who will go for us? (Isaiah 6:8)

Go where you are called, and if it’s not to the center of the fray, sow in the hearts of those closest to you. Do what Christ did, and minister in love without compromise. Speak from the Word and the Lord will fill your mouth with what to say (Luke 21:15)

Pray that the eyes of those who will not see are opened, their ears unstopped, their lives changed, and their spirits reconciled, even if you just plant a seed. It may be the birds come to pluck it, or it may be that another waters the seed. Pray that G-d keeps them, and gives the increase to His glory.

Our nation is hurting, and we are called to go out into it. Let us prepare the tires of our faith, and be caretakers at the nearest scenes of spiritual disasters taking place around us. Let us help clean the wounds of our brothers and sisters, withstanding the stench and ugliness, as Christ did for us on the cross. Let us ask for grace and mercy so that we might emerge from Satan’s work a better nation, a better people, and prove worthy to be counted a profitable servant to the Lord, worthy to send and prepare our people and ourselves for the roads to come. As the tire’s care is in the hands of the driver, and the wound in the hands of the caretaker, so too are our times in the hands of G-d.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

In this hour we pray for strength, patience, understanding, and compassion. 

You have struck the nation, Lord, as we have turned away to idols that replace You, and fill us with a serpent’s pride that they could do in our lives what You refused to do.  We have abandoned Your Word for man’s wisdom, which is foolishness, and out of it came the fertile soil which the enemy is now reaping.

To our shame we have been silent, fearful, and seeing ourselves as grasshoppers to those who oppose us. As we go to our prayer closets today, Lord, wherever they may be, or gather together in unison, let us earnestly seek Your face with open and sincere hearts, contrite spirits, and a willingness to do what You will call our hands to do.

Let us be as the sons of Issachar, discerning the signs of the times. Help our unbelief and increase our faith. Enlarge our territories and let us do no harm. Give us boldness and wisdom to speak to the weak of heart and the rebellious of spirit. Let us encourage those who would reach out to one another in understanding, and seek Your blessing on it that they find You and Jesus in the midst of them, One in will and purpose. 

Let us emerge from this not a united states but a united people, working together for the common good so that no one is in need, everyone has their fill, and there is justice and compassion in the land.

Let the healing bring rejoicing, that You may be glorified through the works of Your servants who point to You always, in all things giving thanks for the good, and standing in the gap to intercede and bind the plans of this world’s prince as we go before our King, preparing His way.

Bless us, Lord, in this time, and preserve us as we call minister to those whom our Savior would bring to You, for no one comes to You but through Him. (John 14:6)

Our times are in Your hands, and into them we commit our spirits.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 169: I Feared the People

1 Samuel 15:20-24

20 And Saul said to Samuel, “But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21 But the people took of the plunder, sheep and oxen, the best of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.”

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
He also has rejected you from being king.”

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.

In the military there are chains of command that must be adhered to if there’s to be order in the camp. If one is to move up in the ranks apart from his peers, one must be prepared to take the criticism and be able to handle the one who will eventually rebel, either out of jealousy, pride, or genuine dislike.

In battle, those same qualities must be displayed if there is to be victory.

G-d placed on Saul a mission of genocide to be done with the Amalekites troubling Israel and being an unfruitful branch of His creation. Saul’s problem was the he loved the adoration of the people, and was unable to say ‘no’ to them even when he was commanded by the Lord to do something that involved standing against his own.

Christ himself warned us of such displays when He told the disciples to beware of doing good things and making an outward show of piety to receive the praises of men.

 “They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:1-2)

A look at any modern day trend of pop culture reflects the fickle shallowness of the human heart.

The politics of the day also reflect this trend: the voice of ‘the people’ based on all manner of things can cower a leader into fearful compromises that please the few but are not in the best interests of all, and as long as that continues to be the case, the figurative shepherd is being pastured by the flock.

We are commanded, then, to pray for our leaders, that they don’t succumb to this temptation. In that, however, we ourselves are tempted to pray for the leaders we agree with, that they might contend with the ones we don’t. That isn’t the solution.

G-d is not small, and if we pray in faith, we must ask for what would seem to be an impossible change in having our leaders work in their gifts, but be of one accord: to serve and make a difference for those under their leadership, to give respect and honor to each other, and glory for all good things to G-d.

The land needs healing, revival, and fellowship under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth and convicts us when we go astray and are tempted to backslide.

In these times, common ground is not only possible to find, but necessary. So is being of one accord. If we are obedient to do this, G-d will give the increase. (1 Corinthians 3: 1-10) 

Today, let us look for ways to start over, make an impact, and be the faithful but uncompromising servants of the Lord according to our callings.

Let us start from where we are and begin, not fearing the people, but our Father in Heaven, with reverence and holy obedience to do that which He has commanded of us: to love one another, as He loves us.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We consider it no small, light thing to be called by You to lead. Mankind’s Deliverer was Himself hated and despised for it, but endured all that was prophesied of Him so that we might be reconciled to You.

You are unrelenting regarding us walking in two worlds: to obey is better than sacrifice, we cannot serve You and money, and we are not to be lukewarm in our faith in Christ and the way of Your salvation, that we might be reconciled to You in the age to come.

But the voices of the people are many, loud, and shrill, and breath out murderous threats against those who would testify that their works are evil, and will not receive the truth in love.

We embrace the barriers and run to the spiritual strongholds that bind us as the prince of this world battles the Lord of the Universe. Give us fresh eyes, clean hearts, and right spirits to destroy those barriers. Let our works shine before men so they glorify You, and You only.

We would be fruitful harvesters, smart investors of our talents, and good servants that we might enter into our Father’s rest, the prodigal sons and daughters that are the works of Your hands.

Comfort us today, O G-d, that we are remembered in the Book of Life, and that we are to pray for our enemies, heaping coals on them.

Remind us to give, pray, and fast in secret, be angry and not sin against ourselves and each other as we rejoice openly with those who rejoice, and grieve with those who grieve.

We thank You, Father, in spite of our circumstances whether good or bad, for every good thing. We rest in Your promise of deliverance from the bad, and rescue from the evil sent to do us harm.

Placing our faith and love in the Son, we look to the hills for our help in this time, being still, knowing that You are G-d, and that we are well loved by You so that we need not fear, and we are not ashamed of the Gospel.

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

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 168: The Years of My Pilgrimage

Genesis 47:5-10

Then Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock.”

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” 10 So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Here’s a short definition of pilgrimage: “A trip to a sacred place for religious reasons.”

The Earth was once sacred, but dominion was handed over to its enemy by Adam, and we came under the Lord’s rebuke, our days now few and evil. But the Lord redeemed sinner Jacob, and changed his name, for nothing can remain the same under the hand of G-d.

We await the arrival of the new earth we are to dwell in, by the light of G-d, under the Savior’s rule, for eternity.

Today, with all that’s going on globally, with all the losses of the sureties we came to rely on, we are reminded with a heavenly certainty that those things were in fact, never sure at all, and that we are here for a time and then no more. A life that’s a vapor.

Our relationships within our homes, and in our communities, and spreading out to the world newly consider our relationship with the Word: the commandments, the conditions, (If you do this…), all of Christ’s prophecies, and all of the Father’s promises.

This plague, which ravaged us without even reaching the point of plagues past, should make us reflect on our most important relationship, the one we have with the One who will judge our works, hold us to account for all that we’ve done and said, and welcome us into the kingdom or cast us out.

In the midst of our enemy using all the vices of the flesh that corrupt the human spirit, we are to be mindful to not walk in fear, but to not be wise in our own eyes. There is a saying:

 “Call on G-d, but row away from the rocks.”

We are given the oars and the boat because we can’t walk on water, stop its flow, or calm it down.

Today, in your pilgrimages, wherever they may take you, bless those within it when you enter and when you leave, as Jacob did Pharaoh.

Our days are few and evil, and likely will not attain even to Jacob’s years, but the Lord our G-d will advance us to where that we may finish the work He called us to, if we are faithful and patient to keep possession of our souls.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

          We come before Your throne today under the covering of Christ’s blood, to thank You for giving us the strength to make it through the past few weeks as the plague that came upon us cut its path through Your creation, and is still at work.

        The daily routines of our lives were shattered, and while the faithless rail and panic, and the false invoke You as they threaten harm, we use this time to pray and draw closer to You not in hiding, but in rejoicing that You are Jehovah-jireh, our Provider.

       We place the blood of Your Son over our hearts, and pray healing for the afflicted, salvation for those taken in His name, mercy for those who died in their sins, and unity in the Gospel amid a lost and dying culture.

      Impart to us the mercy and grace of the Son’s new covenant once more where we have failed to live up to His image, and to give You glory.

     We are reminded today that the Earth, and everything in it, is Yours, and You knew all of all Your work before its creation. (Psalm 24:1, Acts 15:18)

     Bring us through this time to emerge on the other side as better than we were, closer to You, and one another. Purify us, Father, and keep us by the power of Your Spirit, doing greater works that reveal deeper truths as we move from glory to glory, sanctified and justified, spotless and blameless, on our pilgrimage to redemption.

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

   Amen.

Devotional 114: A Legacy of Obedience

Jeremiah 35:1-14

The Obedient Rechabites

35 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”

Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door. Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine.”

But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’ Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; nor do we have vineyard, field, or seed. 10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians.’ So we dwell at Jerusalem.”

12 Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying, 13 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction to obey My words?” says the Lord14 “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandmentBut although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me.

We, as believers, have to begin to believe that the matter with G-d is settled. That despite all the mysteries, discoveries, epiphanies, setbacks, and new beginning, the war between good and evil was always our own.

The forbidden Tree of Knowledge was willingly plundered of its beautiful fruit by pointing out what was good about it. The consequence of disobedience was made light of, and doubt was planted about the meaning of the Father’s command.

Skillfully, the serpent reduced the Almighty to being fearful Adam and Eve would be usurpers, for once they had His knowledge, they would seek His place, too.

And so now, we have the knowledge, and the choice, but we also have the ultimate weapons to fight: The Word of G-d, the covenant of redemptive grace, and the revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

In these days, the enemy has grown more powerful, and seems to be putting more wins in the column as emotions get ‘triggered’, and excuses and scorn are bandied about like troops of chimps playing tennis.

It is the job of godly parents to bring up their children in G-d’s ways, but it is also the duty of the children to hold onto those ways, and to grow in their own knowledge of the Lord.

Nineveh stood for a time after hearing Jonah, but fell again because the future generations could not stand.

Solomon fell, though his father David sought the Lord constantly in almost all things, and even then, Uriah’s murder was the one stain on his earthly ledger. Yet it was David’s line through which Christ came.

Throughout the books of Kings, we see the contrasting examples of those who did what was right in the sight of G-d, and those who turned away, and what happened to them, and the people who went along, and the grief and peace of the kingdoms they ruled.

In this New Year, let the matter be settled in our hearts and minds that victory belongs to the Lord, that redemption is ours to claim, that the Father loves us and wishes to be reconciled, and the the circumscription of His rules is to keep and protect us from evil and harm.

Let it be settled, as it was when Abraham took Isaac to the mountain, as it was when the Hebrew boys defied Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, and as it was with the generations of Rechabites, who heeded their earthly father to the degree that G-d said of them,

18 And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.” ’ ”

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Your Son tells us that our foundation on Him will withstand the storms of this world, and that we are always to watch and pray, we are always to believe and abide, and we most importantly, we are always to obey Your Word, as He did, even unto death.

Yet our earthly faith is a defective mustard seed, our understanding placed in the box of flesh, and we shoot tethered arrows to the heights of the Babel tower to bring You here. But Your thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and we, like the Rechabites, are but sojourners here.

Unlike them, we have been disobedient, relying on the atoning work of Your Son to excuse us, but not coming to godly repentance that produces tears, not understanding that grace is not license, and that not one word of the law will be discounted.

As we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the New Covenant, let us take comfort in the words of our Savior in these days of mocking, lying spirits that now infect the children of men with confusion, filling them up with emotions and irrational thoughts, believing You to be a vague-shaped power as they indulge their pride in their sins:

John 14:1-3 

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

We hear, O Lord, and believe. And obey.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 92: Grasshopper Eyes

Numbers 13:30-33

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

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

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

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

Exodus 4:10

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

Or Gideon’s:

Judges 6:14-15 

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

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

Or the army of Israel:

1 Samuel 17:8-11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t make yourself small in His sight.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 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 it 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.