Devotional 78: A Family Comes to Faith

Mark 3:20-21

A House Divided Cannot Stand

20 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

Mark 3:31-35

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

31 Then His brothers and His mother came, and standing outside they sent to Him, calling Him. 32 And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers[a] are outside seeking You.”

Acts 1:12-14

The Upper Room Prayer Meeting

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey. 13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James. 14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

What we essentially have in these three passages is a crisis of faith that was resolved after Christ was crucified.

We have scattered disciples, a fearful church, and the emotional letdown of Jesus not delivering the Jews from the Romans, because despite everything else He said and did, they still thought that was included. He told them to have hope, but it wasn’t in that; human nature being what it is, they hoped anyway.

With His absence came uncertainty, for until Peter took charge after being restored, no one was really leading, though they were in corporate prayer.  And now, with all  of those who followed in Jesus’ footsteps, were His family, right alongside, also in prayer.

Things had changed. Dynamics had shifted, and the things Mary once pondered in her heart now became clear. The questions the disciples had been afraid to ask Him about, content to be in His presence and not wanting Him to leave

We have our own crises when we’re disconnected from Jesus, when He’s gone from us because we’ve moved. We too feel uncertain, like a kid told to sit there on the bench at the train station while his dad goes to get them something to eat.

This is the reason the book of Acts reinforces the idea of fellowship with other believers, and in seeing our faith on display, people respond when they see someone who strongly believes in something be consistent with it. Even if they hate it, as the Apostle Paul once did, they pay attention to it. This is true even in the Old Testament, where time and again because they saw faith in action, enemies came against Nehemiah’s leadership.

It’s important to note that while the multitude may have followed Jesus for their own reasons, and dispersed when they’d received what they wanted, there were likely some that came to real faith, since the miracle couldn’t be denied.

And so it was with Mary and Jesus’ brothers. All that He spoke came to pass, and they couldn’t deny His divinity any more.

With that, when Peter took his mantle the persecution began, and from the unity of the gathering in the Upper Room, the church was scattered throughout the world.

Stay encouraged by the words of the writer of Hebrews:  (v.23-25)

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We thank You that we get the chance to assemble freely and praise Your Name.

As the persecution mounts through our government from the top, and the faithless from every side, let us remember that we live in the times You prophesied, and that we must endure to the end.

While we may, let us read and study to show ourselves approved, so that we may recognize the false teaching and compromise that creeps into the pulpits and leads astray as they break Your commandment not to add or subtract from the Word of G-d as they twist it to profit, and to their own glory, serving self and mammon instead of You.

We too, because of our faith in You, are told we are out of our minds; but as we live our lives devoted to You, as beacons on hillsides, as salt, living sacrifices, and  fruitful branches, they too will see us, and come to glorify the Father in Your name, no longer able to deny Your divinity as it works through us to heal a broken, hurting world.

Strengthen our hands as we continue Your work. Help us keep focused on the truth of Your word, awaiting the fulfillment of Your promises in our lives. Keep us in a right spirit and sound mind, helping us to speak with boldness the reasons for our faith, so that when the enemy says to stop  so they can give us their terms, we can say to them like Nehemiah,  (6:3)

So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

As Your faith family gathers once more to seek, honor, praise, and thank You for reconciling us to the Father, help us to find the narrow path, finish the work, bear worthy fruit, and go out to minister in Your name with boldness, and in gladness.

Let it be to us as You have said, and done to us according to our faith.

Amen.

He Comes to Us

Luke 1:39-45

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Through the echoes of time, Jesus has said He is with us, always, and that to apart from Him is to founder, fail, and fall away as a believer.

He was sent of the Father, to reconcile man to his Creator, back to purity.

By the laws of the see, if one is to salvage, as in rescue, a ship, one must ask permission to board even though the ship to be salvaged is in peril. During these times, are we giving permission for Jesus to come to us, to rescue us.

By His very presence He brings the power of the Holy Spirit with Him. John recognized this even in the womb, as he rejoiced as much in the confined space of his mother’s belly, and Elizabeth, who was barren, was now filled with the child that took away her reproach, and the Spirit who had her confirm that which the angel told her, which would be sealed to her heart later by the words of Simeon in the temple.

We’ve come to understand that the presence of Christ will come to us, but will not invade us. He comes to us and walks among us, and those who would partake of Him must move toward Him in faith. Blind Bartimeus, the men who lowered their friend through the roof of someone’s house, the bleeding woman, the Gentile who would have her daughter healed, the 10 lepers, and many others all took a step in faith. They shouted for Him, they pushed through crowds, they acknowledged Him as the Messiah and the Son of David, and when He’d forgiven their sins and healed them, instructed them, and blessed them, they testified to the Father’s glory of the work He did in them.

It is years later that John the Baptist will echo his mother’s words to Mary, but under different circumstances:

Matthew 3:13-17

John Baptizes Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He[a] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Are you in the Lord’s presence this Christmas season? Then rejoice, for He has come to You to lead you back to the Father, under the covenant of mercy and grace, and asks you to follow Him, and tell others, and do good to people, and intercede for them, and help them, and pray over them, and bless them whether they deserve it or not.

But remember that You must ask, seek, and knock. You must watch and pray.

You must guard your heart, your eyes, and your tongue.

You must seek. You must answer. You must love. You must testify.

You must acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.

But most importantly, You must believe in Him, and in His promises, and that He tells us the truth about all things concerning Him doing the Father’s will, and how we are to seek, live, and enter into the kingdom of G-d, where it is as He said, He is always with us.

Brothers and sisters, this Christmas season, He comes to you, and calls for you.

Answer Him while He may yet be found, in this, the year of G-d’s favor, for He desires to be with you.

Revelation 3:20

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas

 

Of Stars and Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-12

Wise Men from the East

 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’[a]

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Admittedly, and to the peril of our understanding, we’ve narrowed this tale down to three kings because of the three gifts. The truth of the matter is, while it was probably more, the text doesn’t specify, and certainly all of them didn’t fit inside the house.

We also know that it wasn’t the same night the shepherds went evangelizing, otherwise there would be no reason for what follows. Journeys weren’t swift undertakings, but regardless of the logistics, it was certain that the wise men were following a supernatural sign. Granted, it was more subdued than the one given the shepherds, but no less spectacular, for it was visible in the daylight hours as well, and moved more dynamically than any other.

There are some who hold the star was an invention of Satan, since it led these men to Herod to announce the birth, and the resulting slaughter of innocent children, but Matthew ties it back to the prophet Jeremiah.

Truth be told, I don’t know why G-d would cull innocent souls in response to the birth of His Son, who gave His life for the rest of us, but this is where the sovereignty of the Father makes us question, and that’s okay. We can’t know.

We do know that the wise men didn’t return to tell Herod anything. In a dream they were told by the angel not to return, and to a man, they obeyed. None sought to curry favor or riches with the king.

When they got to the house (though all Nativity scenes place them at the manger), they worshiped Him (not Mary), and gave them gifts out of their treasures. While we’re not told if these men were specifically Jewish, they certainly would have heard of the prophet and Magi Daniel, who dwelt in their land, faithful to G-d even in His captivity, and delivered by the hand of G-d Himself.

This Christmas season, romanticized or not, we rejoice with our Persian brothers and sisters of the faith in welcoming  our Lord to the earthly stage. He certainly set it on a different path, and by calling us to Him, set us on one as well.

Let us honor Him with our own gifts, but mostly the gift of time, as we reflect on His mercy and grace, and the peace He imparts to us that passes earthly understanding.

Let us return that which we treasure to Heaven, where thieves can’t break in, and honor Him with the first fruits of our labor and our praise.

He is our divine dream, our Heavenly King, and the Redeemer of our lowly souls, G-d’s gift to us in our poor and wretched stats. Let us worship with exceedingly great joy, as the wise men did, for being extracted out of the world through the truth of His ministry, and remember that He is, indeed, G-d with us.

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas.

Israel’s Consolation

**For the month of December, all posts will be related to the Christmas holiday.**

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, 

that mourns in lonely exile here,

until the Son of G-d appears.

Luke 2:25-26
Simeon Sees God’s Salvation
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.

Simeon was no prophet, or seer. He worked no miracles, saw no angels. He was not in the fields when the angel appeared to the shepherds.

He was simply this: just, and devout.

We meet him here, at the end of his life, holding Jesus in his arms and blessing G-d.

G-d honored the devout heart of his servant, and likely beyond his expectations, for in the Spirit he was told he would see the Messiah, not hold Him. G-d keeps His promises to His people.

Israel was in need of consolation, but clearly the Lord shared with His servant that the net of grace would be expanded to those though beyond hope of redemption, despised as pagans, and shunned and barred from society as sinners.

Simeon was also in need of consolation, having seen the persecution of his people under Roman rule. The Holy Spirit revealed to he would not die until he saw G-d’s promise fulfilled not just to him, but to all the people, including the reprehensible Gentiles.

As Simeon was facing his own end, the Father gave him a vision of the divine plan for salvation, and he knew that the body he held would later save the lost and shake the empire with His ministry, a body one day broken and bloody, a body that took our place.

Is your heart in need of consolation? Mine is. My elders are all gone, with the exception of one aunt, and family gatherings with future generations has proven unreliable in planning and levels of commitment, so they’re largely a thing of the past. I’ve had to make my peace with that, and I thank G-d for the memories I do possess.

Life these days is fragmented, compartmentalized, fast-paced, uncertain, and scary.

Our representatives, as well as those who hold them to account, seem devoid of integrity and morality.

As believers, we are buffeted on every side by dismissive mockery and the unsubtle gutting of what used to be a sacred time.

The giving of gifts with thought and love behind them has become a feeding frenzy in an effort to save what amounts to pennies, and civility and common sense fade with the fall leaves.

We trot out the poor and homeless like a forgotten box of decorations and put them back on January 2nd.

The stores have trained us to value things so much,  we are willing to scratch and claw our fellow humans to get to them because they keep convincing us we never have enough, and tell us that we don’t have the power to disconnect.

Neither is true, and the power of the decision lays with you; we can be frugal, and good stewards of our finances, but we need not be mindless and heedless of our humanity about it.

This Christmas, be at peace with yourselves, and with one another.

Therefore I pray:

Let us be consoled that we’re on the narrow path, consoled in His word, consoled in His mercy and grace, consoled that the light to the Gentiles is bright and high and clear. Let us be consoled, by faith the Lord of All lifts us up to be with Him.

Let us be consoled we are no longer under the Father’s wrath, consoled that the carpenter who lay in the wood of the manger was willing to lift the wood of His cross, for our sake, and in our place.

Let’s be consoled in our devout and fallen hearts that He honors His promises to His servants, and elevates them to sons and daughters.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Merry Christmas

 

 

Devotional 76: The Hired Man’s Rest

Job 14:1-6

14 “Man who is born of woman
Is of few days and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue.
And do You open Your eyes on such a one,
And bring me[a] to judgment with Yourself?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
No one!
Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with You;
You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.
Look away from him that he may rest,
Till like a hired man he finishes his day.

 

I think it’s true that it’s when G-d moves in sovereignty, entrusting us with His silence, that we have our crises of faith. But we are encouraged to remember this:

18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (Acts 15:18)

Job, in the midst of his affliction, asks G-d to look away so that a man can rest. For him, it would be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ If He doesn’t look on us, we can rest from the kingdom labor to which we’ve been called as believers.

These days, we’re certainly being tried and tested, as our once-sacred holiday season crumbles into  fits of mass hysteria and greed.

But we are yet called to remain as salt and light, yet to be light on the hill, and yet maintain our peace beyond understanding in circumstances that drive others to act emotionally and make bad decisions.

We are reminded in the Gospel of Luke by our Savior: ” “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

And again: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

We now live in prophesied times, where it was said that what was done in the darkness will come into the light, and men who thought they held power forever are being toppled.

Increasingly, we’ve heard major natural disasters being described as ‘unprecedented.’

Our Lord tells us that these are the beginnings of sorrow as we leave the year of the Lord’s favor, and enter into the day of his vengeance.

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[a] these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24: 4-10)

We know in hindsight that although Job thought it was G-d who afflicted him, it was Satan, and what he saw as the one thing that kept Job connected to G-d was in fact not, although it was a barrier.

In the end, it’s Job who claims:

Job 42:4-6

Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”

There is nothing left for the enemy to use as a wedge against Job, and so it must be with all of us.

In the aftermath of our own afflictions, can we counted on to keep our integrity in the face of such affliction?

Remember that although He gives us the desires of our hearts, He also gives us over to our sins, should we persist in our willful rebellion.

(Romans 1:24-28)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

 

Neither did G-d spare His chosen, whom He handed over to their enemies on multiple occasions as they forgot Him and sold themselves, being brought back to repentance in the lands of their captivity.

Let there be no barriers, no potential weaponry of idolatry to give the enemy. In the days ahead, seek always to be mindful, prayerful, and peaceful.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I would have no barriers between us, though there are times my thoughts and my heart toward you are full of frustrated emotions, and I act out in the short term instead of the eternal perspective.

Daily You examine me, and hold up for me the standard of Your Word, which is higher than Your name, and the words of Your Son, who shed His holy blood to turn Your wrath from me, and reconcile me to You as sinless, that I may enter into His joy in worshiping You eternally, in the light of Your presence shining on the new earth.

Help me to remember that although Your judgment isn’t swift in coming, it is no less terrible for the delay, for you tell us that vengeance is Yours, and You will repay.

We stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters with no voice, and are hated. Embolden our quailing spirits in the face of a secular population that no longer celebrates the season, but litters it with the luxurious garbage of the world, even purging the name of Your Son’s title from its celebration. Let us return to spirit and truth, and purge it also of its pageantry and pagan symbols.

We remember that He told us these days would come, and the love of many would grow cold.

It is a cold season in which we live now, so we ask, Father, for You to rekindle the flame of our first love within us, and like the star of Bethlehem, be an oddity among the things of the world, a one of a kind, unique, and shining wonder, brighter than any hillside lantern, shouting from the rooftops what You’ve whispered to us.

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” For faith comes by hearing the Word of the Lord, and one day, we will see You too, as Job did, with no filter between us, as it was meant to be before Adam, asking not, like the prodigal, that You make us as hired men for sinning against You, but as true sons of the kingdom, grafted in by Your mercy and grace.

And we ask that, like Job, our latter days be blessed with more fruit than the former, as new creations to Your glory.

In His name I ask, believing I’ve received. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 75: Friend, Go Up Higher

Luke 14:7-11 

Take the Lowly Place

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For a number of years, I played bass for worship bands. One of the most constant admonishments I heard was, ‘Turn it up.’ The reason I started out low was because the bass, although supportive in nature, can be extremely annoying at loud volumes. It is sparingly played, but can pretty much drown out everything else and cut through if it’s loud enough.

I could then find a comfortable volume that wasn’t overwhelming for the room. We respected the house we were playing in, if we were guests in another church. I was once told, “You’re the first bass player we’ve had to tell to turn up!”

But then too, I started playing bass in my 30’s, so the urge to ‘rock out’ was behind me. I was more mature, and more or less learning the instrument on the fly. And also, the reasons I started playing was to give a gift I’d neglected back to the Lord for saving me under the covenant of grace. We occupy a unique place as players. A bassist, for me, is the bridge between the rhythm and melody: we have to lock in step with our drummers, and keep up with the melodic instruments and singers, basically outlining what’s being played. It’s more challenging than it sounds, but it’s rewarding when done well. It’s a matter of yielding to the Spirit as well, because when His presence hits, there are deep places you go that weren’t planned.

I was honored that my worship leaders considered me good enough to use me, and doubly honored to play before my Father. It was humbling to be used as a vessel to lead people into worship. I didn’t take it lightly, or for granted.

So it is with G-d, and through our Lord He continued to send a message to those who were proud of heart and prideful of place.

“Humble yourself.”

We are, it seems, living in times of prideful overabundance. Everyone is marching for themselves, and protesting the pride of others. Don’t get me wrong, there are times to speak out against things we know are wrong that some justify (and sometimes through the Bible), but among all the marching, the air reeks of pride, self-righteousness, anger, arrogance, and hate.

It’s a powerful thing to be a champion, and a heady feeling to ‘strike a blow’ for something you care deeply about. But that’s where the thistles grow, and if we’re not careful, we forget to listen the way our Lord listened, and He listened to everyone who entreated Him.

He had compassion on us, even when He was tired, or needed to be alone.

The disciples He called couldn’t understand Him, or were afraid to ask Him things, or related heavenly matters to earthly things,”It’s because we don’t have any bread,” and “Who among us will be the greatest,” and “Should we call down fire from Heaven?”

We are admonished in Proverbs not to praise ourselves. (Proverbs 27:2)

Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.

We are told by Jesus not to put on a show. (Matthew 6:2)

Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

Indeed, we’re commanded to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:34-40)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

And beyond that, to pray for our enemies and those who take advantage of us. (Luke 6:28)

28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

How then, are we here, when even standing for right causes we get a sense of pride in ourselves at being selfless.

We have all kinds of pride parades now, and the slow descent into lawlessness under the guise of ‘rights’ is a clever, deadly trick of the enemy.

We celebrate the evil dead under the guise of ‘fun’ at Halloween.

We celebrate solstices under the guise of ‘freedom from religion.’

We celebrate gluttony on Thanksgiving, then, after we allegedly give thanks for what we have, go right into greedy consumerism at Christmas.

As believers, we are voices in a new wilderness. We should cry out all the more, from the lowly places. Let us also not be afraid, for G-d will exalt us, and lead us to those who have ears to hear.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

By the very act of coming to us, to tell us we are worthy of saving grace, you’ve humbled yourself more than anyone. A servant-king is an oxymoron to us. We have mistaken having dominion for ruling without stewardship of our world, ourselves, and each other.

The one to whom Adam handed dominion now blinds us with his own sins of pride, self-exaltation, and open rebellion against You.

Let us, in these haughty times, remember that the Father resists the proud, and brings them low.

We would be lifted up by You, Lord, longing to enter into Your rest, willing to take the lowly place to do the Father’s will. It’s a hard thing to do in an age of opulence, for we give no thought to the source of our comforts these days. 

Even the day that we celebrate Your arrival has become a mockery, but you were never about pageantry Lord, born in a manger, riding colts through the gates to topple an empire on its spiritual ear.

Help us to remember it is the Father who raises up and sets down. 

It is only through Your testimony of us before the throne that He does so, so we will continue to speak the goodness of Your name from the alleys and rooftops of our lives. We would call attention to ourselves shining Your light from a hilltop, turning neither left nor right.

Our reward is with You, our home is with You, and all that we have was made possible through You, who saw Satan fall like lightning for seeking equality with G-d. 

Let us remember Your words, that apart from You we can do nothing, but all things are possible with G-d. 

We humbly thank You for choosing to reveal Him to us, for reconciling us to Him, for our names in the Book of Life. While no one can take us from Your hand, let not our pride make us wriggle out of it, and walk our own path back to the darkness, in our own strength. Let us be ever reminded: there will be no refuge for the proud in the day of His vengeance.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 74: Rejoice in the Spirit

Jesus Rejoices in the Spirit (Luke 10:21-22)

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

Part of the sovereignty of kingship is that the King gets to pick who belongs in the kingdom, and who doesn’t. I’ll admit that seeing this verse, particularly verse 22, gave me pause because in my youth, though I believed in G-d, I did not serve Him, and I wasn’t interested in following Christ.

After all, like so many others say, “I wasn’t hurting anyone.” But I wasn’t helping anyone, either. I was an unfruitful branch, dormant, empty, like the cursed fig tree when my Lord needed me to fulfill an earthly need. My life was undisciplined, spent doing what I wished, not planning for the future, and pretty much coasting and drifting with a jumbled set of ambitions, up to when I had my first child.

Fast-forward to my first day of Pentecost, when the Spirit opened my eyes to all that G-d was and meant to me on a new level, and all that He wanted to do for me and through me.

That brings me back to verse 22. Christ, in His mercy, sent the Spirit to reveal Himself to me, and through Him, reveal the Father. I was a basket case for a few hours, kept asking why, kept feeling His presence all through me. It was a glorious day I’ll never forget.

Fast forward again: No longer a husband, a father of adult children on their own, and I find myself again being able to do what I want, when I want, if I want.

I still don’t always stick to the path and do what I know,  yet again Christ in His mercy, through the Word, tells us this (Luke 9:23-26)

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 

Self-denial, aka ‘crucifying the flesh,’ is a requirement, not an option. Professing to be a follower when I’m not damages both our reputations, and I again become unfruitful.

Paul reminds us in Romans:

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

And the writer of Hebrews says this: (Hebrews 10:26-29

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. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.[ And again, “The Lord will judge His people. 

Will we backslide? Of course. But we must repent as soon as we’re aware of it. It’s not something we should build up before we do. Again in Hebrews we read: (Hebrews 10:14-16)

14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Hold Fast Your Confession

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.

And lastly, the words of Christ:(Luke 9:26)

26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 

If I don’t confess Him before men, I can’t evangelize effectively. More importantly, He will not confess me before the Father.

I, for one, don’t want to fall into the hands of the living G-d if I’m covered in sin.

Do you?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Let today be a day of praise and thanksgiving for Your mercy toward us, for taking our mustard seed of faith and planting it with the promise of eternal life to come, in Your presence, as we worship the Father in Your Kingdom.

We thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has revealed the Truth of the Father’s word to us, a word that He holds higher than His name, sending You to fulfill it so we are reconciled back to Him, spotless and blameless.

Bring to mind, Lord, that it is only through You we come to the Father, and only because You were willing to put our names into the Book of Life. We would not have them blotted out Lord, by foolishly making Your covenant with us a common thing, lest the Father’s wrath be on us in the day of the His vengeance on His enemies.

You tell us that no one can take us from Your hand, but let us also seek Your face, and know Your voice, holding fast to our confession of You in all that we say and do.

We thank You for redeeming us, for trusting us to do greater works in boldness, proclaiming the drawing near of Your kingdom. Help us to discern the times we live in, and know what to do. Help us not to go down when the enemy would call us from the work. 

And let us, like You, when our days here are done, be able to say: “It is finished,” and enter into Your joy in being with the Father also.

I ask in Your name, believing I’ve received.

Amen

 

Devotional 73: The Wisdom of G-d

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”[a]

20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks[b] foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

The modern world insults the intellect of the believer, but here in Paul’s letter we read they did the same in the ancient one.

Jesus took a learned man in dramatic fashion to preach a foolish message that did not bring him fame and riches, but put him before the kingdom courts of that world to preach the Gospel and get imprisoned, beaten, and eventually killed. Yet His impact on the Gospel has been enduring, and influential beyond question.

I love that with the same zeal Paul went after the church, the Lord used that to His purposes, and with the same zeal Paul preached, and once convinced, never wavered, even calling out Peter when he tried to return to popularity among the Jews! (Galatians 2:11-13)

The problem with all of them, the Pharisees and other religious street gangs of the day, is that they kept looking for the man-made in Heavenly things. Jesus whole birth was simple, with no adornment, indeed, in a place where you’d expect an outcast to be born, not a king.

And Paul reminds us that G-d is not a man. Jesus tells us He is spirit.

Jesus was homeless, He rode on donkeys, not horses, He taught in the deserts and mountains as well as the synagogues, and He died a criminal’s death.

That’s why He tells us the road is narrow, for who would believe this to be the story of a king, much less an eternal ruler?

Paul didn’t, at least not at first, but who would still be an unbeliever after an experience like that on the Damascus road? He suffered, and the impact of his writing still anchors us in the Gospels today. Do we think to be spared if we’re to bear fruit?

All of the Apostles, save John, were martyred. Do we think we couldn’t be?

I’m reminded of the scene in one of those Indiana Jones films when the soldier picks the cup he thinks is the Holy Grail, and it’s gold and studded with precious gems, and it’s the wrong one. It was the simple cup made of clay.

Where are we looking for G-d? Who is it we think makes us worthy of salvation?

Matthew 23: 16-22

16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it. 17 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold? 18 And, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it. 19 Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it. 21 He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells[b] in it. 22 And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it. (letters in bold for emphasis).

See, the wood and stones of a building in and of themselves, we don’t consider valuable, and the wood or stone of an altar in and of itself, is not considered valuable. But when it is used to the purposes of G-d, and is sanctified by those He’s called through Christ, then, indeed, are we not standing on holy ground? The sanctuary is therefore a sacred place, and is profaned when churches devolve into performance, and defiled when ungodly messages are preached.

It is Christ who makes us worthy, and His message is simple: You believe in G-d, believe also in Me.

Let our words be few: Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Today, O Lord, I lay my gifts on the altar of Your grace and mercy, seeking forgiveness if I’ve misused and neglected them. Sanctify them, and use them for Your glory. Take what I have and increase it, according to Your will.

Forgive me for letting the clamoring of the world distract me from Your purpose for my life.

Keep me from falling into enemy hands, and enemy work. I would not enter that kingdom, which You have marked for destruction and everlasting separation, where my very soul will wink out of existence, and my life forgotten, even by You, though You take no pleasure in my death.

There are days I bend under the burden, smile grimly at the storm clouds, thinking of them as my portion according to Your will,  and  panic at the emergencies that occur, then question Your love for me.

And yet, I’ve heard You speak to me through those clouds, and in the quiet moments, and I feel Your presence, sense Your touch, and remember that You set a table before me in the presence of my enemies, and restore my soul.

Even Pilate, not knowing what He wrote, proclaimed You as King.

Help me to keep my vows to G-d, whether I take an oath or not, and let me remember that Your family is those who do His will. (Mark 3:31-35)

Let me abide in You, that I may accomplish the work You’ve given me to do, remembering to give thanks in all things, and be content in all circumstances, lifting my eyes to where my help comes from. Let me remember to bless Your Name in the quiet moments, where nothing opulent and grand is happening, and let my praise be pleasing to You, that I may enter into Your joy, and life everlasting, reconciled to my Father, praising Him forevermore.

I ask in Your name, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 70: Great Multitudes Followed Him

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him—from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

At some point, brothers and sisters, we made a decision to follow.

Something in His message drew us, reached us, and changed us, and while it may not have changed everything all the time, we are nonetheless aware of it when we choose to do that which we shouldn’t out of human frailty, and that is what confession and repentance are for, (and that is between you and the Lord).

Some in the multitude followed in the immediacy of the moment:  to get healed,  because others were going,  they had nothing better to do…

Others followed because they needed the reassurance of the Father’s love, and that they were valued by Him, because they simply could not live up to the criteria and conditions their religious leaders placed on them.

Still others followed to have their spirits healed through the power of grace.

The beauty of our Lord is in this statement: (John 6:37)

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

Throughout His ministry, as wide and fiery and controversial as it was, the decision was made by those who followed, for whatever reason, to go to Him. It was the first act of faith on our part, and we all came at various stages in our lives, for whatever those reasons were.

But in the quiet of your heart, wherever you made your decision, you had to leave that place, and go.

Yes, we’ve strayed, backslid, compromised, held our peace, left without helping, took shortcuts, made mistakes, and messed up all over the place. And as angry and doubtful as we may become, as rebellious and shameful as we may act, that seed is rooted, and in the quiet of your heart, eventually, you look around again, and see Him standing right there, waiting for you to, as the prodigal did, come to your senses.

We’ve seen the power of G-d at work in our lives, and know the truth of Him. His existence is not a question for us, even though sometimes His plan is. The truth of His word has called to our spirits, and we’ve responded. I’ve told you the story of my own experience, which I still recall with awe, after all these years.

We’ve seen His goodness in our blessings, we have His Son to dispense grace to us in the year of His favor, but is that because we want to please Him, or do we just not want His wrath on us.

Hebrews 10:31  tells us it is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the living G-d.

We’ve read of His judgment as well, and how thoroughly He cuts off the wicked; He will also stir them to agitate His blessed when they stray. How many times was Israel called to repent, and given into the hands of invaders?

How many times are we?

Yet rejoice, brothers and sisters. We’ve seen the headlines. The signs are gathering, and Jesus never made an inaccurate prophecy, nor one that never came to pass.

Let us follow Him, growing in the knowledge and love of Him, abiding in Him to achieve the Father’s purpose for us, for we are in Him, and He is in the Father. If we follow Him, let it be down the narrow road.

And in the quiet of your heart, and the watches of the night, He will heal you, for though you are part of a great multitude, He knows your name.

It’s written in the Book of Life, and He is the Author and Finisher.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In these tumultuous times, let our eyes continue to be on You, to focus on Your will, being reminded that our time of persecution is coming, and indeed, now is.

The sifting to follow will be great, and dark, so we will need Your light more than ever, that we may continue to follow You, and not turn back.

Strengthen us with Kingdom power, O Lord, and let the Holy Spirit fill us with bold reverence, and tell us how to respond to those who will come to us and ask, ‘Why are you at peace? How can you be at peace?” 

Send us back to the river stones, the path markers, the books of remembrance, when our own strength fails us and we forget. 

No matter where we live, no matter the distance we travel, no matter our trials and tribulations, no matter our grief, no matter our occupation, something You’ve said to us reached us, and the Father has seen fit to grant us to be in Your presence; you’ve said no one can come to you unless it be granted by Him. (John 6:44)

We would be reconciled to Him through Your blood. Help us to remember that grace and honor has been granted us, and it is a fearsome thing, not to be held common, that the wrath of the Father be on us once again.

In the quiet of our hearts, we made the decision to come. Help us to resolve there also, and make the decision to follow, for You’ve told us that the path narrows, the hour is coming, the day is far spent, and night is here.

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

Amen

Devotional 69: No Sign Will Be Given

Matthew 12:38-42
The Scribes and Pharisees Ask for a Sign
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Two major themes regarding faithlessness and doubt run through the Word:  “Where is your G-d?” and “Give us a sign.”

The truth is that the spirit of man is attuned to the Spirit of Heaven, Throughout the ages, men have looked at the sky and made stories of gods, and they’ve looked at creation and made stories of gods (I’m including goddesses in the generic term). Now we fight over which continents gods were ‘first’, and which ones were more ‘powerful’ and what color they were, and how they ALL have a god whose story parallels that of Jesus.

Like the Israelites who requested Moses go up the mountain rather than have G-d come to them, the will of man has subdued the spirit of man, in fear of confronting the glory of G-d, whether they’re conscious of it or not.

“Higher power,” “Universal Energies” ‘Something out there.’ ‘Somewhere out there,’ and my personal favorite, “The Big Man in the Sky.” In John 4:24, Jesus clearly tells us:

G-d is Spirit, and those who worship Him must do it in spirit and truth.

and King David tells us in Psalms 19: 1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.

We are the only planet with an atmosphere that sustains a variety of natural forms, the only planet that has human life, we are far enough from the sun that we don’t burn or get pulled in by its gravity, and far enough away from the moon so that the tides are proper.

We go from that to a G-d who numbers the hair on our heads, and knows when His sparrows die.

Paul tells us that men are without excuse for their idols when they come into the knowledge of G-d.

God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.

My point is this: the signs are all around us, just as it was with those who asked Jesus for a sign. The unbelievers, mockers, and scoffers will always put the burden of proof on the believer, and use the Ayn Rand quote: “You can’t prove a non-existence.”

We need to be able to defend our faith, yes, but we don’t have to defend G-d. We don’t have to prove His existence, because the evidence of such is all around every one of us. They neither truly seek G-d or want to believe because they’d be confronted with something greater than themselves, and even if you were to perform a miracle, they’d attribute it to part of science yet undiscovered. Jesus raised dead people, and healed a man’s blindness who they knew, and they still asked Him by whose authority was He doing these things, and for a sign that He was from G-d.

For the most part, men have chosen their lot according to what they desire most. The earth is transitory, as is power and wealth, and because they chalk the Bible up to being error-prone, outdated, old-fashioned, and imaginary, they never read that their plans come to nothing. They die in their sin and unbelief, for Jesus tells us that by our words we’ll be justified, and by them, condemned. (Matthew 12:37)

Therefore I pray: 

Let us not stumble before the onslaught of Your enemy’s soldiers, Lord.

Let us hold fast to eternal truth, and not transitory arguments. Let us not meander down dark roads of useless philosophy, and forms of godliness with no kernel of truth, the foolishness of man’s wisdom. You’ve said even the elect will be fooled by signs and wonders performed by false Christs, but You also tell us Your sheep know Your voice, and that if we endure to the end, we’ll be saved.

Help us to remember that You help the downtrodden, speak truth to power, and maintain Your connection to the Father, glorifying Him in all things, and every work You do. As we follow, help us to copy Your example.

Let us remain grounded in the Word of the Father, whose anointed spoke and wrote of You, the Savior of the world, the Redeemer of all nations, our eternal King, and our final Judge.

We would not scatter abroad, Lord. When we backslide, let us touch the hem of Your garment, and rise again, spotless, blameless, and reconciled. We would be worthy, faithful disciples.

Today, let me consider all You’ve made in the simple things you’ve surrounded my life with, and the grand things you’ve done in the earth. I pray for those in distress by the power of nature, even so, still guided by Your hand. Deliver them, bless them, and restore them according to Your will. Let there be among them those who would point to You, that new souls chosen before the foundation of the world be redeemed to the Father. Speak peace to the natural storms, and peace to the spiritual storms that will follow.

By the power of Your holy name, I ask it.

Amen