Devotional 173: The Pride of Your Heart

Obadiah 1:2-4

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 172: Be Strong

1 Chronicles 19:10-13

10 When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the Syrians. 11 And the rest of the people he put under the command of Abishai his brother, and they set themselves in battle array against the people of Ammon. 12 Then he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the people of Ammon are too strong for you, then I will help you. 13 Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people and for the cities of our God. And may the Lord do what is good in His sight.”

Joab finds himself in battle because David did an act of kindness, but the ruler to whom he extended the kindness listened to his council, and shamed David’s emissaries culturally to the point where they couldn’t return from their mission. David would not see them shamed for their own sake; he told them to stay elsewhere until their beards grew back, so they had to live apart from their homes and families until they could be restored. No doubt they endured the scorn of the people of the city until that time.

Now we are here.  It has been a tumultuous year, and the normally tranquil passing of winter into spring has become like the pot of the three witches of Macbeth, adding all manner of foul things to it in order to deceive those prone to temptation and pride, destroying everything good around them to capture a moment in time for their own greed and glory. By giving in, they lose the very thing they sought, and are brought down to great sin and shame.

It will be hard for any believer worth the title to deny that in this time of pandemic, international chaos, and filial hatred, we are in the midst of a battle. As believers called out of the world to minister the Gospel to it, this is not a time to hide. Jesus tells us no one who starts to plow and looks back is fit for kingdom service. (Luke 9:62)

In order to be effective, and see what the harvest would yield, we must be strong not just for our sakes, but for the places where we live, work, and play. We must be strong for those around us having a difficult time keeping it together. We must set aside differences, knowing that the kingdom will be made up of all nations. More importantly, we are not to try to display such strength in our own might. The church, if it does not act in this hour, insulating itself and calling for earthly, flawed, and sinful men to lead us out of that which they helped create, will be found wanting and judged accordingly.

So like Joab, we prepare for battle and go out. We must be prepared to fortify one another wherever needed or we face certain defeat. We are still to do acts of kindness in the midst of the fight if and when we can, even if we are shamed for it. If we believe we suffer ill for the kingdom, the Lord assures us it will be to our credit as profitable servants. (Matthew 5:11)

Our enemy is not weak. He is busy, prolific, and makes those who give in to him defile their flesh as he devours their souls. (1 Peter 5:8)

So let us stand together and pray, above all, that the Lord do what is good in His sight.

If He is good, faithful, just, righteous, and true, then when we call on His Name and seek His hand to deliver us, He will respond. The earth is His, after all, and everything that dwells on it. He will respond to contrite hearts and upright spirits. (Psalm 51:17) He will respond to those who earnestly seek Him in the midst of their despair. (Luke 18:15) He has set before us blessings and curses, and told us to choose. We are, in our freedom, bound by His commandments, statutes, and conditions. We are ultimately subject to His will, whether we deny, qualify, or believe in His very existence.

So let us not fight in our own strength, but pray His will upon the battle. Let us not be wise in our own eyes, lest we shamed. Let us fortify each other and go where we are needed to seek and save the lost, our works shining before men that they may see and we can point them to G-d, that they too might come to glorify Him through the Son, and save their souls through faith in Him.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Forgive us, for we have been a wicked and adulterous nation, serving money and pride as we honored You with our lips, but not our hearts. Our love grew cold and covered over as we corrupted Your Word to suit our purposes, that we might pursue the pleasures of flesh under the guise of heavenly servitude.

But You, Father, see as clearly in the darkest night as You do in the noonday sun.

Our hearts were hard soil, and our ears would not hear.

You have again scattered Your church as You did after Pentecost when those who walked with Jesus became complacent ministering among their own, and enjoying the time, but t were not in the field sowing. And so You struck them with persecutions to make them flee and go where You needed them.

It is no different now, and we must heed the call as the prophecies of Christ unfold. But let us glean wisdom from Your Word, and help us to set aside that which would keep us from working together to prepare once more the way of the Lion of Judah, and not the lamb of G-d. We must move swiftly, for lions are faster than lambs.

As Joab prepared his warriors, let us prepare. As he exhorted them, so let us exhort one another. And as he surrendered the battle to Your sovereign will, let us do likewise.

We place our times in Your hand as we go out to make war, to do work, to guard the supplies, to tend the animals in our care, and minister to the children and elders under our watch that You gave into our hands, whether they be of our blood or not.

And above all, Father, we pray that in the midst of this fight, as seek Your face, as we ask, trust, and believe no matter how it looks to us, You will gather the saved  from the harvest fields, and do what is good in Your sight.

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

Amen.

Devotional 169: I Feared the People

1 Samuel 15:20-24

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

22 So Samuel said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 167: Blessed is She Who Believed (Mother’s Day)

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.”

Your Mother believes for you, ponders things in her heart about you, thinks and dreams about who you’ll be and what you’ll become, and yes, worries about what happens to you when she leaves this world.

It doesn’t matter if she’s your biological mom, though that would be the best case scenario. We all know that even Jesus said family isn’t always defined by blood, but by those who do the Father’s will.

Whoever she turned out to be for you, whoever she may be that poured into you for all she saw in you that could do well in the world, and be good for the world, remember her.

Honor her memory if she’s no longer here, and be with her in whatever way you can if she’s still here. Treasure the time. It doesn’t come back.

Happy Mother’s Day.

 

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven: 

     Bless the mother’s who believed by faith in Your promises for the children, 

and bless the ones you’ve called to be in the lives of those whose mother’s rejected them.

      Bless their hands, hearts, minds, and grant them rest from worry. 

      Fill them with Your peace, and reassure them with Your presence.

     Bless and sanctify the works of their hands, and the words of wisdom and love they impart to their children.

     Bless them as they stand in the gap, interceding for the wayward, praying for their redemption and return to home, and to You.

     Bless the ones who’ve lost their children, and comfort them especially. Dry their tears, heal their hearts, and strengthen them according to their need.

    Bless the mothers of the nations of the world, that we might know a more tender side to a harsh existence, even though there are spiritual swords that pierce their spiritual souls. 

    Let them be honored the way Christ honored Your chosen one.

   We ask this in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

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

   Amen.

Devotional 158: Because You Have Done This

So the Lord God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You are cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.
And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing.
    We are to ever be in the scale of the Father’s favor, but in our mortal, human frailty and in our compromised souls, there are times we find ourselves in the one that rebukes and chastens us, that we might return and be restored to Him.
    As we seek G-d, let us be mindful that in doing so we court His attention. He waits to see what it is we will do, and in the doing of it we completer our task, achieve our goal, or however it’s manifested, and like a child turning to their Father for approval, we turn to G-d and ask Him if we did well?
     His answers to our needs can go either way depending on what it is we’re asking, and the kind of attention we’re desiring. It is our responsibility to seek Him in all things, but it also our condition that if all goes well we are to give Him the glory for the blessing as well.
     Be mindful that He sees all, and what we do for ourselves and each other, serving and honoring Him in the process,  and the motives behind it will be revealed as a testing of works. Our rewards, if they stand the fire, will be given to us; if not, they will burn up.
Watch and pray, for at any moment the Lord may send a traveler into your midst that will say, “Because you have done this…” What follows is up to you, but know that the Blood of Christ still intercedes for you before the Father’s throne.
You’ve believed in the Son, and thereby the Father who sent Him.
Because you have done this, your Lord and Savior says to You….
Therefore I pray.
Lord Jesus,
     You admonish us to think of ourselves as unprofitable servants, doing only what we should, merely going the second mile to give the extra cloak to our Brothers and Sisters, as we were told to do. (Luke17:7-10)
     Indeed we are, to ourselves and one another. And You called us out of the world to reveal the Father to us as we minister globally that there’s only one way to be saved.
     As we follow You with our mustard seed faith, fearful hearts, worldly eyes, hard heads, stiff necks, and willful spirits, You speak peace to our souls, and tell us once again to come home to the Father’s love, and receive eternal life through faith in You and the horror you endured on Calvary for our sake, taking that which was rightfully ours so we could share in what’s rightfully Yours.
    Because You have done this for us, Lord, today we recommit ourselves to follow closer, faster, and steadfastly. Let the clouds of dust we stir with our feet in the world be as the cloud of witnesses above giving testimony to our obedience to You because of our love for You.
     Because You have done this for us, Lord, today we take hold once more of the promise that at the end of the age we come to You, knowing the sound of the great shout of Your voice as You redeem us from death and hell to drink wine anew with You in our Father’s place.
     Because You have done this for us, Lord, we repent of our sins, fast for Your presence, hold back nothing from the tithes and offerings, rejoice in our fellowship with one another, and sing glory, honor, and praise to our heavenly king.
     Because You have done this for us, Lord, Your servants can depart in peace and leave behind the suffering, trials, pains, persecutions, misunderstandings, violence, fear, and self-loathing.
     Because You have done this for us,  Lord, we will go in with joy and gladness, entering into our Father’s rest.
     In righteousness, peace, and joy, may we honor You.
     Amen.

How Can This Be?

To all who’ve read these devotionals throughout the year, G-d bless you and continue to grow your faith, both in His Son, and in each other.

believer55

Luke 1: 18-20

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

The angel Gabriel made two visitations, and got the same response, but issued two very different outcomes.

It actually seems a bit unfair on the face of it: Zacharias is muted, and Mary gets an explanation.

Zacharias, as priest, had been serving for a long time, had no doubt read the Torah through countless times, studied at the…

View original post 794 more words

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 143: The Price of Admission

Acts 14:21-27

Strengthening the Converts

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

There are times when even as believers, no matter how devout, we lose energy, direction, focus, and motivation to walk the narrow path as we follow and work alongside our Lord, but He has prophesied to us that the closer we walk, the further we travel, and the more we work, the harder it will be.

To share in His glory, the Word assures us we will share in His suffering. (John 15:18-20)

So, we have an unseen G-d, a foolish message, a man who claims to be the only way to be redeemed from eternal damnation, and the promise that the more faith we place in it, the world will hate us for it.

Yet we have this:

John 8:28-30

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.

So today, let us measure the strength of our commitment, and continue to exhort and uplift each other in the days ahead. Tribulations are not small things, they are extended,  relentless, disastrous, and spirit crushing. The very origin of the word means a ‘pressing together.’

The Lord would have it so to refine us, to shake out those who are not truly committed, or who haven’t taken stock of the cost. (Matthew 24: 12) (John 2:19)

What’s to come is the reason we must not forsake meeting together, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us. (Heb 10:25)

The fight for our souls is real, and violent, taking place in a realm we can’t see except through divine intervention. It’s a realm we can’t know unless we are willing to seek it, believe in it, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved from the material world’s condemnation in the day of the Father’s wrath.

As salvation has been extended to all nations through grace (Acts 10:34-35), and the prince of this world corrupts weak people with foolish ambitions, people who don’t seem to realize that one day their lives will be required of them, and their plans come to nothing in the grave, evil people who press their will upon the powerless and turn them against each other using their fear as a weapon, he echoes through the ages all that he spoke to Eve in the garden: Did G-d indeed say…? (Gen 3: 1- 4)

So yes, we are to sow, water, and harvest, but it is the Father who provides the increase, and Christ tells us that it will be worse for the places that don’t receive His message in the last days.

Having been called out of the world, we are not to stay in such places physically or spiritually. Indeed, we are commanded to come out. (2 Cor  6:17)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We are thankful that You have widened the circles of Your chosen, that we, appointed to eternal life, have seen the Truth in time for the harvest, and to take part in it, ministering Your Word through the message of Your Son, and through ourselves as His vessels.

There are times we are faithful, but not true, and times we are true, but not faithful. We have our moments, and You understand, but to to dwell in doubt is to backslide, turn away, and fall victim to the perils of this world.

Help us return to godly fear and repentance, restoring our fellowship with You as we seek salvation for ourselves and those we encounter throughout this life You’ve given us. 

May we be salt and light, and may our works stand and remain under the refining fires of judgement. 

May our spiritual fruit be sweet to the taste, and pleasing to You, for without Your Son, we are to be cast into outer darkness if He denies us before You, and says He does not know us.

When we stray, send our Nathan to us to warn us of what’s to come if we continue, send a messenger to say it is not lawful for us to have to give in to the desires of our flesh, and help us make no provision for it.

Let us instead abide under the loving gaze of our Savior, and answer His question: “Do you believe that I can do this?” with, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28) and let us exhort and uplift each other along the way.

When the tribulations come, give us the strength of the voices of Paul and Silas, the power to bring down angels that open doors and break chains through praise, giving all glory and honor to You, Father.

We would endure to the end, holding onto the True Vine, following the Good Shepherd, and working in the peace of the Light of the World, under the protection of the blood of the Lamb of G-d, to be raised on the last day by the Lion of Judah, and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We ask, in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

Devotional 137: I Must Decrease

John 3:22-31

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”

27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. 31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

We have, as a nation, exalted ourselves in being things and having traits we had nothing to do with. We so desire to label G-d, to have him be more like us than to rise to His standards, that we minimize the teachings of Chris to fit our political views, suit our emotional needs, and justify our besetting sin.

Yet John the Baptist embodies the humility of serving as Christ’s herald.

His disciples, however, viewed it as something of a competition. “…all are coming to Him!”

John deftly guides them out of the spiritual minefield of competition and pride. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  What an attitude of servitude!

Jesus and John, up until the time John was in prison, were for the most part affirming each other. (John 5:16-30)

If we could only stay so humble, so unaware of ourselves because we’re focused on the Gospel gaining traction and being taken to all nations, how different would our churches be today? How powerful would the impact be on the current state of things?

How much different would the church look to faithless mockers if we served with godly focus and attitude, ministering truth in love?

How much more fulfilled would our own lives be?

The problem is that even in the midst of revival, the serpent enters again to plant seeds of doubt and fear.

John came to such a crossroads, and so do we, eventually, even seeing the signs and wonders for ourselves, attributing them to ‘nature’ rather than the Father’s control. Nature was created by Him.

Since He cannot look on sin, and hates pride, the earth’s next judgement will have to be by fire. There will be a new Heaven and a new Earth created, with no hell attached below us, no sin, no evil, and above us not just sky, but the presence of the Living G-d, and a world full of worship and fellowship.

Most importantly, there will be no death. (Luke 20:27-38)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

The borders of darkness are shrinking, and the shrill cries of the prideful, the unbelievers, the sinful, and the faithless grow louder around us, and we are called to deny You before men. 

Keep our spirits bold, and give us what we should say in the hour we are called to testify to the Truth You gave us. (Matthew 10:19)

Let us maintain  pure hearts and contrite spirits before You, and humble ourselves in Your presence, to Your glory and that of the Father.

Forgive us when we take the wrong paths at spiritual crossroads, and call to us, Good Shepherd, that we might once again be under Your protection, for You’ve said none will be snatched from Your hand.

Let us discern rightly the signs of the times, as the sons of Issachar did, and know what to do. Give us the pure and powerful worshipful faithfulness of the Levites, and sanctify us, cleansing us from unrighteousness. 

As we watch the prophecies unfolding, and see the acceleration and increase of the Gospel alongside the acceleration and increase of immorality, let us decrease, that Your light in us be revealed. May it heal, and bring to faith, and may they see us respond in love, compassion, mercy, and grace, but always in truth, that they may see our good works and glorify G-d.

May it be done to us, Lord, as You have said.

Amen.

 

She Kept Asking Him (Mother’s Day 2019)

Mark 7:24-30

A Gentile Shows Her Faith

24 From there He arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And He entered a house and wanted no one to know it, but He could not be hidden. 25 For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. 26 The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 But Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

28 And she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.”

29 Then He said to her, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”

30 And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.

This mother had seen enough of her child suffering, and was led to where the Lord Jesus was staying, despite His desire to remain anonymous and hidden. Doubtless because wherever He went, the multitudes followed, whether out of curiosity, or to get their immediate needs yet, or perhaps in faith, bringing a sense of worship to the Son of David, Son of Man, and Son of G-d.

She ignored the fact that He ignored her, because she kept asking. She ignored the fact that He was a rabbi, that He was trying to seek solace and have, as we say, some ‘downtime.’ He was probably tired from traveling, and was looking forward to getting some rest.

She ignored the fact that He implied she had the value of a begging dog, being a foreigner and not one of the Chosen of Israel.

She ignored the fact that she was a woman, and that culturally it was not seemly for her to approach Him, much less be persistent in her request.

And she did it because she was a mother whose child was not only suffering, but had something wicked and unholy inside her that tormented not only her child, but herself.

What would she not have said or done?

She could have gotten angry, discouraged, frustrated, and scornful, even blasphemous.

Instead, she humbled herself, because it wasn’t about her, and to a large extent, it wasn’t about Jesus either. Only her daughter mattered, and she had to see to it that her daughter was made well, by any means necessary, so this man she’d heard of was her last chance to make her daughter well.

And she recognized that although He told her He was exclusively ministering to House Israel, it was worth the risk that having recognized His divinity and royalty, there was still a possibility He might, as He didn’t turn her away.

Her profession of faith in His goodness, mercy, grace, and compassion got her the desired result as she pushed past all the obstacles and odds against her and said she’d be willing to take the crumbs He had to offer.

Jesus himself tells her of his decision: “For this saying…”

A mother’s heart beats in sync to that of her children, and beats for them.

It’s not only a rhythm, but takes on a harmony as well. It is a bond that we, as fathers, will never physiologically know and understand, but we recognize, as sons, that it is something special, beautiful, and unique, for it is the first rhythm we ever heard in the world, and we are all the better for its music.

Happy Mother’s Day, to all moms everywhere.

Keep the faith. It will be rewarded.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

      We thank You for the vessels You chose to bring us here to do Your will. Some did not always nurture, and some even did harm, but You delivered us from their snares, and healed us. 

       We ask that You help us to forgive them.

        We thank You for the Mothers who were good, strong, positive, and embraced the challenge of parenting, sometimes alone, to raise us well and teach us about the lives You would have us live. 

       We thank You for the Mothers to be, that they may feel the love of their children in the way You feel love for us, without bounds, and taking care of all our needs, securing our futures even as You allow us to choose to follow Your teaching, and keep Your Word before us in all things.

     We pray You grant Your peace to those Mothers who’ve lost their children, no matter the method. They will be hurting this day, and if there’s a divine appointment we need to keep, reveal it to us, and let us go to it, that they might be comforted through Your presence in us, and be saved.

     We pray that You heal the hearts of hurting children whose Mothers are no longer here, for whatever reason.

     We thank You for the wives that continue our houses, and help to finish the work You gave us to do.

     May it be done to them as You have said, and today especially, let every household rise together, and call Your blessings on and over our Mothers who are here with us today, and those who are always with us in spirit.

Proverbs 31:

      27 She watches over the ways of her household,
And does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”

  Amen.