Devotional 98: Unending Dominion

Daniel 7:13-14

13 “I was watching in the night visions,
And behold, One like the Son of Man,
Coming with the clouds of heaven!
He came to the Ancient of Days,
And they brought Him near before Him.
14 Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
Which shall not pass away,
And His kingdom the one
Which shall not be destroyed.

In the beginning, the Father trusted His new creation with the stewardship of the earth.

Genesis 1:26

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

But His new creation, in spite of the fact that his mate gave in to the serpent’s wiles, still had a chance to save it. Sadly, for all of us, he did not.

Genesis 3:17

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

“Cursed is the ground for your sake;
In toil you shall eat of it
All the days of your life.

Hate Mondays? ^^^^

Don’t. Be glad you have a place to go, and be glad you can get there.

Adam didn’t rebuke Eve, but blamed G-d:

Genesis 3:12-13

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

As the saying goes, ‘You had one job…” But the blame game had started, and from that point there was no going back. Man had given his dominion to the enemy of G-d not only on the earth, but within his own spirit.

As a result, we’ve been in rebellion ever since, doubting G-d’s promises ever since, and allowing ourselves to be repeatedly, (and sometimes willingly) deceived if it pleased our ears and fit our agenda, seeing the lie for what it was, and going along anyway.

Dr. Myles Munro described prayer as seeking G-d’s divine intervention in earthly affairs, because G-d doesn’t take back what He gives, and the heart of men is set toward doing evil.

Fortunately, G-d does new things, and is a G-d of restoration: when the smoke and fires of tribulation and judgement are quenched, the power of the grave cut off, and the destruction of sin is thoroughly final, our Savior takes over, restored to His rightful place. He has already withstood the temptation of the evil one, not exchanging His kingdom to come for immediate acclaim of the masses who would see him dead, though He suffered greatly in the desert. It was so intense that the angels had to minister to Him.

As a result, He has not given over His dominion, not handed the scepter to the serpent, and intimately understands the sovereignty of His Father’s plan in ways and to levels we cannot yet understand. The apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 13:12)

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

How are we known? We were fashioned in the womb by the Father’s hands. I think it’s safe to say then that our confusion will be cleared up in the most wonderful way, and the parts will be made whole.

In that we will be able to trust in our Lord, dominion, like us, won’t ever be taken from His hand. For that, (and Mondays where we can go out to earn our daily bread), let us be  truly thankful.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

From the beginning, we have shown ourselves unworthy and incapable of complying with Your commands, of holding You in reverent fear and honor. 

And from the beginning, You had a plan to reconcile us to You. Yet you also tell us that even in the end, there will be a harvesting of unbelievers, and we as Your ambassadors, are to be about the kingdom work of calling them to repentance.

As the lost slink further into the shadows, the mockers grow louder, the self-righteous twist Your Word to suit political ends of power, control, and money acting like the very Pharisees You denounced and constantly rebuked, let us stand firm against the onslaught.

As we ourselves tremble when we face the mob, stones of science and the wisdom of men in their books and in their mouths ready to fly at us, give us the boldness of the Holy Spirit, the conviction of the Truth we are about to speak, and let us rejoice, whatever the outcome, that we have declared Your Son before men, that He might declare us before You. Indeed, let us confound them as Paul confounded the Jews in Damascus. (Acts 9:22)

And let those who have ears among the crowd hear, and receive in good soil the restoring love and enduring faith of the Gospel message as balm over the serpent’s sting, looking to the second Tree of Life where our Savior spilled His blood to present us before You, that we might not die in Your presence. 

Set for us divine appointments among the seekers, and let us open their understanding with Your words as we walk with them along the way, leaving their hearts afire for You when we go.

Help us to remember the day is far spent, and the weeping and gnashing of teeth echoes on the horizon as the angels gather once more to reap, one final time, and strip us of the corrupted dominion we’ve practiced. Let us dwell under Your light as You shine forth from the new Heaven, as we enjoy the new and unpolluted, sinless earth You will give to Your Son, our Savior, Shepherd, Brother, and Lord King, now and forevermore.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 96: Take Possession

Deuteronomy 1:8

See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’

They had the Father’s promise they would be delivered and be given good land, and after all He’d performed to deliver them from Egypt in spectacular fashion, they took their eyes off Him, and turned them not only downward, but inward, and became as grasshoppers in their own eyes.

If we profess to be faithful to a G-d unseen, yet all powerful, how is it we limit ourselves? Why do we limit ourselves? Usually, a whole host of earthly reasons that have nothing to do with G-d not doing what He said. (Numbers 23:19)

19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

If deliverance and salvation were valuable enough that Jesus should come down to die for our sins that we might be raised to life, what is its value to us?

Grace is undeserved, Love is unconditional, but Salvation is going to cost. There has to be some effort on our part to attain that which we claim to believe.

Matthew 7:7

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

And again:

Matthew 7:24

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And once more: (Matthew 11)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.

We still have to go meet Him, though He’ll meet us where we are. We have to ask for Him to come in; He’ll not do so otherwise.

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.

When there are altar calls, or if someone is just crying in the dark at their worst hour, and their final moment of despair, there has to be some effort extended. He’s at the door now, but He won’t always be there.

Luke 22:37

37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

And though He was speaking here of the crucifixion, it is no less true for when He comes again. There is the day of G-d’s wrath, where He will deal with the unbelievers and the rebellious.

We must take possession of G-d’s promises, repeat His Word back to Him, for even He tells us it’s higher than His name, and His name is above all. Imagine G-d, holding His Bible over His head, then go back to when Moses was weary, and his officers lifted up His arms, or when the serpent staff was lifted, and the Israelites were healed.

When Christ was lifted up, we were all healed. Do we receive that? Do we believe it?

Go open the door, while He yet tarries.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Today I take possession of all that is in Your hand for me,  Your good plans to give me a hope and a future through the atoning work of Your Son.

I take possession of my salvation, walking it out with reverent fear.

I confess to You that it was not always so, nor is it still. There are times when I’ve left the door closed, and stayed silent when the mocking began. I was a coward and a backslider, as Peter was among the Jews when Paul rebuked him. There are times, to my shame even now, when I am still those things.

I take possession then, of the covenant of grace, of the chance to repent, and receive Your gracious restoration when You look at me and ask if I love You, and You give me beauty for ashes, even as You dry my tears, renewing me in heart and spirit.

I take possession of the joy of Your love, the promise of eternal life, and deliverance from death and hell.

Anoint me again, Father, with the oil of righteousness, the balm of forgiveness, and the incense of praise that pleases You. 

I would confess my Christ boldly before men, that He may confess me to You,  so I may be saved. 

Let me remember that like the workers in the vineyards, Your will is sovereign, and I am rewarded for the work I complete, tested to see if it will stand. Help me to build it on spiritual rock, that it would not be toppled, or consumed by Your testing fires. Help me to seal it against he who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. 

I take possession today, not only of the promise of cross, but of the stone that was rolled away to reveal that my soul’s redemption was so valuable, You sent Your Son to receive it by faith in me. 

Let my life therefore reflect my faith in You.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 95: To Purge, Purify, and Punish

Matthew 3:7-11

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 1And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Within the Word of G-d, fire has three roles:

The first is to clear the waste of that which is not the work of the Kingdom. The waste itself is part of the harvest, and it is always separated from that which isn’t the Father’s will.  Jesus spoke of these fates to end the parable of the wheat and tares:

29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” 

As people enter the faith and leave it, the harvest will reveal all, but the fire will reveal those of us who’ve remained true to the Lord.

The second is to purify. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of G-d’s Word to us, convicts us of sin, and leads us to repentance, but also instills within us a desire to share with others the Good News. That which we do unto the Lord, our works, as such, are also tested. Paul tells us this in 1st Corinthians 3:11-15

11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

As Paul speaks of being saved, that brings us to the third role of fire: to punish:

John’s admonition to the crowd, and in particular to the religious leaders, speaks of this:

12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Isaiah prophesies to its existence: (Isaiah 66:23-24)

23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.

24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

Jesus affirms it when He speaks of removing that from our lives which causes us to sin:

43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 [where

‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’

 

The fire that punishes can’t be put out, and is eternal.

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:

Let us be ever conscious of the roles of fire in our walk with the Lord, and let us work to eliminate that which is unfruitful, that our works may stand, and that which will make Him tell us to depart from His presence.

Let us, instead, seek to be purified, that we won’t need to dismember ourselves to enter into Life, and to remain under the covering of the covenant of grace, in all that we do.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I thank You for the purification of holy fire, holy truth, and salvation.

I thank you for imparting to me the Holy Spirit, that I might remain reconciled to the Father through You. I ask that You give me discernment to do that which is the Father’s will, in all things. I would like to see my tested works of blessing remain, and not suffer loss (though I know I will). 

I would have You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and not be saved with my clothing smoking, or worse yet, to depart.

Help me to know that my willful rebellion is recorded for the Day, and that I will be called to account for my thoughts, and every idle word. Help me to remember that my backsliding means a greater darkness because I claim to be Yours, and that I crucify You again to my shame, which means I abide once again under Your wrath, and not in Your mercy.

You have set me apart, and called me out of the world, and revealed the Father’s will for me through Your teaching, and Your sacrifice. 

I would not cheapen that, or take it lightly, nor for granted. 

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for the times that I do all these things, and let the Spirit have its way in me. Help me to attune to the still, small voice that guides me to the Narrow Way, that I might be in Your presence, praising G-d forever more.

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

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 94: He Marveled

 

Mark 6:4-6

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.” Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching.

To marvel implies a much greater sense than to be ‘surprised.’ Here’s a working definition:  to be filled with wonder or astonishment.  

It is both a verb and a noun, yet when we see it applied to Jesus in the form of a verb, we know then that He was truly in one of two places: one where faith was strong, or one where it was not.

How could the Messiah, who came from the Father to deliver us from evil, be made to marvel at our faithlessness? If He in fact knew what was in a man, and never wavered from His mission, and seen the heart of the people toward Him, why would He be surprised?

Verse 4 tells us He already knew that, but Verse 6 seems like He didn’t.

I suggest it was quiet, more like a silent grief. Who wouldn’t choose salvation of their soul, redemption from the grave, and eternal life? Who would choose separation from an omnipotent and loving Creator? Having lost our earthly fathers, who would choose to not be with their Heavenly Father?

Here was the Promised, at the height of His ministry, in the midst of His own, doing signs and wonders and miracles, turning sinners to G-d and reaching the lost, willing to give of Himself to the point of death to atone for sins He never committed, and yet…

“He marveled at their unbelief.”

We live in a world of beauty. Who would willingly leave Eden? The vistas of our planet, the power of its nature, the temperateness and variety of its climes, and the comforts of life blind us to the Truth that there is something better.

We also live in a world of evil: we use words like ‘exclusive’, and ‘illegal.’ We worship mammon, forgetting the treasure is the King’s. (Haggai 2:8), we enslave and slaughter, and give over to the lusts of our flesh, and that which G-d has allowed us to have dominion over, we have used to replace Him. Science is used as an argument against an infinitely creative G-d, though we have not fathomed the depths of His universe. Even Neil deGrasse Tyson, who is an atheist, titled his series: The Inexplicable Universe. He mocks G-d and Christians, yet the title speaks for itself. (As Pilate said, ‘What I have written, I have written,” not knowing the truth of it).

The unbelieving claim a morality with no compass; it is as selective and subject to imperfection as sectarian faith, and in fact, leads to a belief that one’s own goodness is sufficient, so there is no need to refocus, repent, or return to anything other than their own center. The appeal is in the ritual, the mantra, the chanting, the incense, the doing of things.

Grace requires nothing, and is undeserved, and claims a true and lasting forgiveness that allows us to stand blameless before the Father on the day of judgment.

Who wouldn’t choose that?

And then we have the story of the centurion:

Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.

When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

A pagan’s humility and faith in the Son of G-d made Jesus marvel. He found Himself in a place where faith was strong.

Do we really want the Son of G-d to come to us, cleanse us, reveal our hearts, renew our minds, and put right spirits within us?

Then let us humble ourselves, and believe, and give the Prophet honor among us.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In the times we forget Your promises, let us remember that judgment starts with the children of G-d, and that many who say to You ‘Lord, lord,’ will be denied, and that some who have never uttered Your name will be grafted in, because they have proven to be worthy workers by doing the Father’s will. 

It is those, You tell us, who are Your brothers and sisters (Matthew 12:50)

Your power and love were such that it touched the heart of pagans, and cleaved the heart of Pharisees.

We are but sheep, and sheep are easy to pick off, easy to deceive, easy to kill, and we have an enemy in the fold.

But You are the Good Shepherd, and assure us no one can snatch us from Your hand.

I ask also, Lord, that You keep us from leaping out of Your grasp.

Forgive me for the times when the faith of pagans outstripped my own, where the praises of rocks replaced my own, and I have placed an idol on the altar where the Father’s Word should be.

Let us remember that prophets don’t speak of time, but events, and the events we see now are the events You foretold, and You tell us Your word is truth (John 17:17).

We would be sanctified by it, and live in the year of the Lord’s favor, saved by faith in You from the day of the Lord’s wrath. 

In the days ahead, Lord Jesus, I would have You marvel at my turnaround, and rejoice in my repentance. Anoint me once more, and sing over me, and purify me, that I may be redeemed from the power of the  grave, and live eternally with You.

Only say the word, Lord, and I shall be healed.

I would be a sign, a wonder, and a testimony to the Father’s will, that all who see my light through You will marvel at it, and turn to G-d, giving Him the glory.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 88: I Am Not of This World

John 8:21-30

Jesus Predicts His Departure

21 Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”

22 So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”

23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

25 Then they said to Him, “Who are You?”

And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”

27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated that we are not physical beings having a human experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

Placed in physical bodies, in a world where all was provided, because of disobedience we earn our bread, as it were, by the sweat of our brows. We have to deal with other fallen people in our homes, workplaces, even our churches.

We live in a sensory world, prone to its dangers and imbalances, its physical impositions, and the ability of nature to disabuse us at any time of the notion that we can control it.

And then Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living, to take the long view that this practical, dirty, bloody, sinful, yet beautiful earth, is but a temporary home, and that where He goes is a better place. He also tells us that through repentance, faith, and grace, we will be with Him there forever.

“But Lord…”  “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” “Let me go back to bury…”

“Can a man be born again…?” “By whose authority…?” “He turned away with great sorrow…” “At that time, many left Him….”

Yet He calls down through the ages: “I tell you the truth…” “Do not be afraid…” “If it were not so, I would have told you.” “You believe in G-d. Believe also in Me.” “Your faith has made you well.” “I have chosen You.” “I have called you out of the world.” “The Son of Man will return in all His glory.” “I have prepared a place for you.” “Confess Me before men.”

What the faithless don’t understand is that with Christ’s words, “It is finished,” the Father did all He was going to do to reconcile us to Him. Jesus was obedient to the work assigned Him at great cost, even though He knew it was temporary. G-d could not look on sin, and as Jesus died on the cross, our sins, all of them, were given to Him. That’s why the sky darkened, and Jesus cried out in His sense of abandonment, for He was blotted out from the Father’s sight.

Today, our sins are forgiven but we are still called to confess, and repent. He will bring it to light regardless, under His righteous judgment. There is no such thing as a ‘secret society’ to a G-d who is all-seeing, and all-knowing. There will be no hiding places, and our shame will be unfurled like a scroll before us, as we face Him alone in the moment that determines our eternity. (Luke 12:5)

 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

But Solomon tells us this, and it is true: (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

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.

We hear them ask the same question today that they asked of Moses, of David, of the Prophets, and even as they mocked Jesus on the cross:  Where is your G-d?

Let us be steadfast in that the next time G-d manifests Himself, it will be the day of His vengeance, for the year of His favor has an end.

The prophet Amos warns us: (Amos 5)

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
For what good is the day of the Lord to you?
It will be darkness, and not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him!
Or as though he went into the house,
Leaned his hand on the wall,
And a serpent bit him!
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light?
Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

And even though it was proclaimed to Israel, we are told by Peter: (1 Peter 4:17-19) 

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now

“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Our Creator is faithful, and sent us a Savior to reveal His will to us, to forgive and establish us, and receive our praise as He grants us eternal life in His presence. In a sensory world, it sounds unbelievable, but faith was the trigger of Christ’s miracles, and as He speaks to us, unwavering in His message, you see that at the end of the Scripture, as He rebuked the Pharisees for their persistent doubt and hostility, ‘As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.’

Do we believe? Do we, really? Do we, even now?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I thank You for calling me out of the world, for revealing the truth of Heavenly things, for bringing me to the Father, for choosing me for the kingdom, for not casting me away in the sinfulness of my youth.

I thank You for the glories of age, and wisdom, and for delivering me out of all my troubles. I thank You for the covenant of grace that grafts me in with Your people Israel, and for putting my name in the Book of Life.

As the centurion asked, and left it up to You how his servant would be delivered, so help me to leave what I ask of You in Your hands, believing I’ve already received, according to the Father’s will.

I backslide, I forget, I doubt, and I rebel, and yet You bless me and come to me.

Help me in all things, and at all times, to remember I’ve been brought with a price, my body is the temple of Your Spirit, and that I owe a debt I can never repay.

It’s hard to think of Heaven in the wind and rain, in the disasters, the tragedies, and the sinful, selfish wallowing of indulgence in this world by those who think themselves powerful and immortal. 

It’s difficult to resist when temptations come in pleasing packages that overwhelm the senses, and the snake sneaks into our gardens asking, “Did G-d really say…?”

I don’t want to pray for my enemies, for the blasphemers, mockers, faithless, and bigoted, but then I hear the Apostle say to me: “And such were some of you.” And I remember I was once a skeptic, holding on to a mustard seed of faith, and You watered it by the power of Your Spirit.

And yet I am still as capable of the worst sin, of the worst man, in the worst jail, but for You. And I know too, that if even he reaches out to You, he will be with You in paradise.

It is a humbling thing to be chosen and favored by a King, and a frightening thing to fall into the hands of an angry G-d. 

I will rejoice in the year of the Lord’s favor, that I may be delivered from the day of His vengeance, for You tell me none can snatch me from Your hand. I return today to the fold of the Good Shepherd, who anoints me in his atoning blood with new mercies every morning, and who will raise me up on the last day through faith in Him, redeeming my life from damnation and the grave.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 86: Praise from Stones

Luke 19:32-40

32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?”

34 And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” 35 Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. 36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.

37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:

“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

It’s been written that whenever Jesus performed a miracle publicly, the recipient went and declared what was done, and the people glorified G-d. All He did pointed back to the Father, and He requests that we do likewise. (Matthew 5:16)

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Look at what they say of Him: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.

While Jesus tells us that all authority in Heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18): the revelation of G-d, the authority to forgive sins, to impart the Holy Spirit,  to provide grace through His atoning work, and to execute the coming judgment, all of it is reconcile to Him who has the ability to cast soul and body into Hell, that is, our Father in Heaven.

Had Jesus not been faithful and obedient, had He given in to temptation, we would have no hope. He was fully man, and subjected to the same desires of the flesh we are. So determined are some to de-deify Him, there are people who say He was married to Mary Magdalene, or that He was only a teacher and good man, or that He was a creation of men’s councils in order to control the masses.

But why would they make up stories about a man they couldn’t control who claimed He received His authority from G-d?  A man who came down to forgive sins, when the Councils themselves were exploiting such things and using them to deal with political enemies?

They also try to stir up queries about the Agnostics and the Lost Books? If none of them have the story of salvation, of what use are they outside of study, or casting doubt?

Today, we hear the cries of Pharisees among the faithless and those who’ve turned away. They want us to stay silent and go away, but Jesus said “He who has ears, let Him hear.”

We sow, and plant, but it is G-d who gives the increase, and as such, our praises to Him, the fruit of our lips, the sweet aroma, sacrifice of praise, aligned with the love in our hearts, is so vital to Him that if we cease, rocks will cry out in our place.

As the Pharisees claimed Abraham as their source, look at what John the Baptist said in rebuke: (Matthew 3:7-10)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

And if we believe the Father is, in fact, Almighty, Jesus’ words confirms John’s statements.

Yet, we are also told this by Peter: (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

It is the characteristic of stones to be unwavering, to not be easily moved. Effort is required to throw even the smallest one. They endure all manner of abuse and elemental assaults. Sometimes they draw blood, but they also provide shelter (rocks). They can cause a person to stumble and fall, or even slip, if they’re small enough (gravel). They can drop us into the sea, if they’re heavy enough (millstones). They can kill, if they fall on us (boulders).

They are sturdy enough that the Israelites used them to cross rivers and mark the places where G-d had brought them through a trial.

We all have them; some are physical, and some spiritual, but I say all that to say this:

Look back on your stones, but open your lips, and let G-d fill your mouth with His praise.

Therefore I pray:

Let us be living stones today, on this holy day of blessing the Lord Jesus Christ, as we once again celebrate the completion of His earthly ministry.

Let there be praise, thanksgiving, and joy.

Let there be humility, love, and increased faith.

Let there be steadfastness of heart, and renewing of our spirits to endure to the end, and to bring those He’s put in our path, whether to plant, water, or increase. Out of these rocks, let Living Water flow.

Let us keep in our hearts the words of the Psalmist who said: (Psalm 86:11-12)

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

Lord Jesus, we praise Your name, and glorify the Father’s work through You in our lives, faithful to complete that which He’s begun, and to keep all His promises.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 85: Repentance and Remission

Luke 24:44-49

The Scriptures Opened

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise[a] from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

We’ve met the unbeliever who tells us of the contradictions between the Old and New Testaments, but since they don’t have the Holy Spirit, to reveal the truth of the Word, they read it with no understanding and no guide; they are indeed reading a language that’s foreign to them, so they point to the Councils, to Rome, to the frailty of error-prone, sinful men, to colonizing races who created the Bible for purposes of control, and overall  dismiss it as another variation on international myths.

But under the Spirit’s guidance and prompting in writing this blog, I tend to connect verses that line up. It is not a matter of picking and choosing that which agrees with my subject, it is because the Word of the Father is consistent, and reinforces itself.

While we may not understand it all in some matters of G-d’s sovereignty (and yes, we are free to ask about it), if we need any more proof to know that agreement in what’s written across the years is Spirit led, He confirms it with His own words: The Law, Prophets, and Psalms all speak of His work here on earth.

It is now our work, and the churches of America have found themselves adrift because so many are not preaching the repentance and remission of sins, they’re making G-d into some kind of magic genie.

The Prayer of Jabez, written years ago, was being used like an enchanted talisman as the prosperity gospel gained a following; people increased their offerings so their material and financial blessings would increase as well.

G-d knows our hearts, and as He sees in the night the same as the noonday (Psalm 139:12) that is the reason our sins will find us out. There’s no such thing as a secret organization, and there will be no such thing as a hidden sin. We confess and repent (sin no more), and then forgiveness.

It is of those who don’t confess and repent that Jesus speaks of when He says,

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

While we have been chosen and called out of world, and while we are called to minister the Gospel,we are yet capable of sinning.

Remission is a return to an unaffected state, where we are free of the influences of sin.

Jesus tells us to take up our cross, and Paul tells us to crucify the flesh. This is so we remain in a state of spiritual purity in spite of being bound by earthly things. The covenant of grace is for the remission as we repent, but we are cautioned (Matthew 6:22-23)

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

We cannot claim we follow Christ living worldly existences, but if all fall short, then all will attempt it, and all will fail. It’s just a matter of time and degree. We are blessed indeed to have a cloud of witnesses that encourage us to continue fighting  (Hebrews 12:1) and an Intercessor constantly before the Father on our behalf  (Luke 23:34)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If  our faith is as filthy rags before You on our best days, our effort to repent is likely worse. Crucifixion was a harsh, painful, bloody process, and with the exception of the Resurrection, a permanent condition.

It is not so with us, Lord. Our sins are constantly taken down and reused, even enjoyed, though the times in between may grow longer. Blessed are those whose hearts have been truly changed, and who follow the command to sin no more.

I have not guarded my heart, stilled my tongue, or made a covenant with my eyes. I ask for Your help to do these things,  but when I feel the tug of Your staff, or hear the still, small voice of the Spirit checking me, I pull away. I am a rebellious, tempestuous sheep who will not stay inside the fence of Your protection.

My purity is hopelessly soiled until I get on my knees and submit to Your cleansing hand, washing me in the holy blood of Your sacrifice until I once again am guiltless before the Almighty.

I thank You for new mercies, for endless grace, for long-suffering love, and for coming after me in spite of my sinful nature.

Today, O Lord, I ask that You receive me: I confess my sins to You, and I repent of all that I’ve done to grieve you in the year of G-d’s favor. I am sorry that I’ve broken fellowship. I’m sorry for the days when the Father is as abstract to me as the math of astronomers. It is knowledge too wonderful that I can’t attain, and therefore spurn.

I’m sorry when I’m as faithless as those to whom I’m supposed to minister, and they see no difference, for then I am denying You before men, and practicing lawlessness.

I beseech You, once again, that I not go on sinning so grace may abound, but I know that even today, if I fall, You will receive me again if I return.

Strengthen me, Lord, and restore me so that when I return, I may strengthen my brothers and sisters.

I ask it by the power in Your Name.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 84: A Manner of Spirit

Luke 9:51-56

A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.

It happens most days, doesn’t it?

The slights, insults, dirty looks, unkindness, rudeness and disrespect as society deflates in the absence of G-d increases in frequency and intensity every time we look at the media, or even step outside.

Dave Barry the humor columnist once wrote an article on how playing the Mario Bros. video game was a lot like life: you’re walking down the street on a sunny day minding your business, and hostile forces gather to randomly attack you.

But we know those forces aren’t random.

We are told to minister the Gospel, we are not told to pound it into the heads of those who reject it. They’ve heard, and those whose hearts are ready to receive will do so; it is up to Jesus to reveal the Father to them (Luke 10:22) 

It is then the job of the Holy Spirit to revel the Truth behind the Word.

As this Samaritan village rejected Him, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus stayed with that village for two days. (John 4:39-42)

The question that was asked, however, was not about salvation, but annihilation. James and John didn’t just want the city burned, but consumed. The spirit in which it was asked was not in anger, or even in defense of Jesus, but a spirit of pride; there is no question they would have bragged of this deed for the rest of their lives.

Even more erroneously, they would have believed themselves to be in Elijah’s company as prophets.

We are now in an age of persecution from without, but we are also watching the love of many grow cold. Prophets give no dates, they just reveal events, and as the woman at the well perceived Jesus to be a prophet first, let us remember that He came to us in like manner to tell us to repent, for the days of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven is only through faith in Him.

I saw an article about people who  brought their guns to church to be blessed: they so desperately want to hold on to their man-made traditions, they will co-opt G-d’s name to sign off on things that have nothing to do with His will for us.

And if you drive a car at all, there are days you’ve wanted to call down fire. Just remember, there are those who would call down fire on you. What manner of spirit is that? Yours is holy, and theirs isn’t? We are not told what Jesus said to them in rebuke, but Jesus never dealt with the surface of emotions, it was always the heart.

It’s okay (Well, it isn’t, but it’s done).  We’ve all felt it, and Jesus Himself told the Pharisees as they mocked Him on the cross that He could call down legions of angels to deliver Him and slaughter the enemies of G-d right then and there. But he’d already had His test by Satan, and He passed, delivered at the moment of His greatest vulnerability outside the Garden of Gethsemane, when the angels came to minister and restore Him.

As for the rest, they now await His command, and there will be no sparing. As He is the only one worthy to open the Book, to read the scroll, to judge the nations, to forgive sins on earth, and to lead the angels of harvest, so too, let us leave the calling down of G-d’s divine justice to Him.  He has done all things well, according to the Father’s will.

Well did King David ask: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) regarding the only thing he did wrong in G-d’s sight. (1 Kings 15:5)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I thank You for covenant of grace, for ministering to me in the year of the Lord G-d’s favor. I thank You for revealing the Truth of Your work, the Truth of G-d’s Word, and sealing me with the power of the Holy Spirit.

I thank You also, that even under that covenant, we are not given free reign to do as we please, for we would do that which does not please You. Our bodies are not our own, and our wills are subject to Yours if we would see this through to the end. Indeed, our very souls are subject to Your unerring judgment, according to that which we’ve done and said to Your glory.

We forget, for our flesh is easily led astray by a powerful enemy.  Sometimes we forget that he’s defeated. Sometimes we forget he has no power save that which we give him. And sometimes he’s asked You to sift us, and You’ve allowed it, only to bring us back to You, as Job in his righteousness was still able to grow in his understanding of the Father.

As we subject our spirits to the desires of our flesh, we sometimes use Your name to justify our rebellion, and impose our own beliefs over the Word’s truth. 

Lord, You’ve called us friends, and in the Word it says wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses;  You always tell Your disciples, “Assuredly, I tell you the truth…”

Continue to check our spirits, Lord; renew them for Your service, and to Your glory, that those who see us may glorify our Father in heaven.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 83: Appointed to Eternal Life

Acts 13:44-48

44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God. 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy; and contradicting and blaspheming, they opposed the things spoken by Paul. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, “It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us:

‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’[a]

48 Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.

Paul’s missionary journeys ran the the gamut from natural, spiritual, and physical threats no matter where he went, and he indeed suffered for the Lord’s Name. He found in his own ministries patterns that were similar to those of Christ’s when confronting the religious leaders: the size of the crowds equaled the effectiveness of their ministry, and the number of converts added to their coffers, which for them reflected the favor of G-d, though they weren’t concerned with Heavenly things.

Like Christ, Paul taught with authority, but guided by Christ, Paul spoke to their spiritual needs and drove them into rages by his ability to prove, consistently, that Christ was the Promised One from the original scriptures they so loved to use to control the masses under the Law. (Acts 9:22)

22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ.

As Peter serves us as an example of our spiritual volatility, Paul serves as an example of what it can be in its constancy. He even challenged Peter when Peter began to compromise with those who weren’t willing to let grace be sufficient. (Galatians 2:18 – 21)

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.

14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?

In this particular instance in the Book of Acts, we are told that as Paul ministered in Antioch, those who were appointed to eternal life believed. As was with the multitudes that followed Christ, not all were converted to faith, but those on the fringes of the crowd who dared to hope that G-d might yet find something in them worth redeeming would come closer as words of  G-d’s love, redemption and grace drew them in.

The King, in his sovereignty, gets to decide who is part of his kingdom, and when his messengers go out, they don’t pass its borders. Yet we have a High King, who loved us before the foundation of the world. We have an Overlord, who takes care of us, for the lord of the land was to see to it that all under his rule had bread.

And He is the Bread of Life.

As we celebrate the coming season of our Risen Lord, let us give thanks that we have been marked as a divine appointment to be part of the Kingdom of G-d. We are the chosen of Christ, grafted in with the Chosen of Israel, our calling and election assured and sealed by the Holy Spirit through our faith in His redemptive work at Calvary.

The appointment is over. Where we go and what we do next is no less subject to His will.

It may not be as dramatic as building churches around the world, but it has no less impact if it is the center of His will, and part of His eternal plan for our eternal lives.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I approach the throne today not in a spirit of boldness, but reverent fear that You deem one such as me, in my wretched, unclean state, to be sanctified and cleansed, rendering me guiltless before Him who is able to cast my soul and body into hell.

Paul told those who countered him with contradictions and blasphemies, who denied the Truth in their lust for earthly comfort and the praises of men, that they marked themselves as unworthy to receive the gift.

Let it not be so with me, Lord, for You tell us all who come to You will not be turned away. When I speak of You, let those who stand on the fringes of the crowd come close, that they too may be appointed for the work You will begin and complete in their lives.

Let me not take on undue burdens, that I may compromise the Father’s Word, and deny You before men. You’ve appointed me as an ambassador for You, and anointed me with talents and gifts to be used for Your glory, according to the those things You have spoken over my life.

I pray for integrity in all things, and strength in the face of the trials and persecutions You tell us are the price of obedience and ministry. Send appointments across my path, that I may sow and pray, rejoicing with them that You have called them to life everlasting in Your kingdom.

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 81: Do Not Forbid Him

 

Mark 9:38-41

Jesus Forbids Sectarianism

38 Now John answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”

39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side. 41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.

And yet, do we not have sectarianism among us?

We are unified in Christ, and through our faith in the cross and resurrection, so whether we see the differences in what we believe to be true about that as vast or negligible, it is because of our hard hearts and tender spirits, for as the writer of Hebrews tells us, He did it once, for all.

We are indeed fortunate to have a Savior who understands that we are but human, and incapable, without Him, of setting aside these things. We fight with over the irrelevant with other believers, pitting leaders’ ambitions against each other.

There are even choir competitions: singing the praises of G-d has for prize money. There is a time for splendor, and playing skillfully, and singing well, but what should be a celebration to the glory of G-d has become a contest for who has the better robes, choir director, and worship band.

The late Pastor Adrian Rogers once said that if Satan can’t get us to do evil in the flesh, he can make us do good in it: our works, therefore, are for self-aggrandizement, even if  only we know about it.

It is not doing for the least out of love for our brother, but doing for the least so that our ‘bases are covered.’ I feel that way about the special reminders to give to the poor and feed the homeless during the holidays, as if they were a box of neglected decorations that we get to put back after New Year’s Day. They are like the people who attend church on Christmas and Easter, ‘just in case.’

As Chris Rock said: “I’m sure (the homeless) are just as hungry on President’s Day.”

In America, our churches are mostly segregated, and there’s strife even about man-made doctrine and church policies, music styles, preaching styles, and all the other things that become relevant when the focus is taken off Christ.

We all would do well, especially among the leadership, to bring to mind the words of the Apostle Paul: (1 Corinthians 2: 1-5)

Christ Crucified

And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

And if we have studied at all, we know there was no more worldly place than Corinth.

This is not to say that pastors, leaders, and believers should not become involved in each other’s lives, form friendships, and such; even Jesus had an inner circle.  But as we minister we are to continually remind ourselves and each other of this: the focus is Christ, the mission is the Gospel, and all that we do is to be done in love, and to the glory of G-d.

Matthew 15:29-31

Jesus Heals Great Multitudes

29 Jesus departed from there, skirted the Sea of Galilee, and went up on the mountain and sat down there. 30 Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them. 31 So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus did the healing, but the glory went to G-d.

Yet our Lord tells us that no one who works a miracle in His name can speak ill of Him, and it need not even be a miracle, but a cup of water.

All that we do in love need not be grand, or spectacular, or on display.

Let your act of kindness, no matter how small, be to His glory, and if your neighbor does a different one, our Lord commands that you not rebuke them because they don’t believe the same as you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

We give thanks today that the Father is long-suffering, and merciful.

We thank You for being our Shepherd, for the flock is amazingly vast, and incredibly impulsive.

Like the disciples, we don’t always understand, and we don’t always believe; there were those who doubted they saw You after the resurrection.

But our hearts are for the kingdom, and You tell us You are here to help us, and have sent the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the truth in all You told your disciples, and G-d has preserved His word for those He called to You through that power.

We pray today for the lost in the churches who’ve placed the doctrine of men over the Word of the Lord, and in their error and pride, give status and prestige to pastors and leaders and entertainers; we ask that the Spirit convict us if we are of such, for the Father doesn’t share His glory, and is the only one worthy of our praise. As You tell us of those who do their deeds for the praises of men, they have their reward.

Let us abide in You, that we may be reminded to go about doing good, and preaching the Gospel, and ministering to the least with as little as a cup of water. Let us study to show ourselves approved, and know when we are being led astray.

Let our faith be child-like, our zeal like Paul’s, and our focus on the kingdom and the Father like Yours, unwavering in the face of all the worldly opposition, and even the temptations of Satan.

Help us to keep in mind, above all, that You’ve said this about sectarianism:  

“Apart from Me, you can do nothing.”

May it be to us as You have said. 

Amen.