Devotional 72: Not With a Loyal Heart

2 Chronicles 25:1-2

Amaziah Reigns in Judah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is that all there is? they ask.

Where is your G-d?  they ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

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

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

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

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

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

I ask it, believing I’ve already received. 

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 71: Your Redemption Draws Near

Luke 21:25-28

The Coming of the Son of Man
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

One of the titles rarely discussed about our Lord is the title ‘Prophet.’ He was known primarily as a teacher, and outside of prophesying His own death and resurrection, we’re only told about the temple he said would be destroyed (and it was), and the end times, though He goes out of His way to tell us that only the Father knows when that will be.

It is the nature of prophecy, unless the Father reveal it, not to get into dates and timelines; the prophet tells us what will happen, and the mark of whether or not they’ve heard from G-d is this: the event comes to pass, or it does not.

Jesus’ prophecies, handed down to us,  tell us what will happen, and while I know there’s a lot more that goes with it, it would be a mistake to say we’re not beginning to see these signs. A lot of the weather events have been called unprecedented.

The aftermath is tragic, awful, hard to look at, and heart-wrenching, and yet even with that, people are making dumb and hateful remarks at the leaders as well as the victims, and tensions and emotions are running high all over the place.

In the midst of this, our Lord would have us look in another direction; it’s the one He’s been emphasizing since His ministry began. We are not to gather earthly treasures, or put our trust in men, nor do good deeds or give to receive our reward in their praises.

If we’ve placed our trust in Him, let us understand the times: He will not be proven a false prophet, for if all was made by His hand, all will be taken by Him, and by Him, judged.

He’s told us few will find the road to life.

He’s told us the world will hate us if we are of Him, and we can expect hatred and persecution from those closest to us.

He’s told us to go into all the world to preach the Good News, and when that is completed, the end will come, but the hour will be unexpected; we must be like the wise virgins on the hill who came prepared to go into the wedding because they had enough oil for their lamps.

He tells us to confess Him before men, that we might be confessed to the Father, and the consequences of not doing so. That means, for some, they must be ready to die in that moment. But He tells us not to fear those who can only kill the body.

This is the prophet in whom we’ve placed our faith and trust, our Lord and King, who lives at the right hand of G-d, and has told us He will raise us up on the last day.

These are the words He’s spoken to us through the ages, and we say, ‘I believe.’

Will you, when the rubber of your faith meets the road of reality? When the blade is at your throat, and the fires rage around you? When your loved one looks at you with absolute hatred in their eyes, and curses you?

I read where a preacher said: “If you believe in G-d, why do you ask if missions your children undertake will be ‘safe? ‘”

Certainly none of the disciples’ missions ended well, yet we’re told they’ll judge the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom.

If our Lord called and chose us to be out of the world, and testified that its works are evil, and a new earth will be created because Satan has corrupted this one, and G-d will not look on sin, and all these other things, are we looking at all these signs and asking ‘Where’s G-d?’

If you haven’t heard the unrepentant and unbelieving say it yet, you will, and soon. But remember, the signs were already spoken of in this ‘outdated, irrelevant’ book, which is the Father’s sword that will save souls even as it divides nations and households.

He punished the world once, and spared no one but Noah, because Noah’s heart was faithful to Him. Remember everyone laughed, until it rained from above, and the ground opened up beneath them.  The rainbow was His promise not to destroy it again, but only by water.

A new earth will not co-exist with an old, and good cannot co-exist with evil, and the saved and faithful will not be cast out with the unbeliever and the unrepentant.

Our Lord has said it to us, and we must believe His prophecies, like His promises, are yes, and amen.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We would be like the sons of Issachar, who understood their times and knew what to do.

Let our faith be strong, our peace even stronger, though our hearts are heavy, because we know what we’re seeing around us is what You’ve prophesied.

You’ve said we come to You only through the will of the Father, that we might be reconciled back to Him through You, and that eternal life will be our reward for doing His will. Therefore, Lord, in the aftermath of the disasters, let us do what we can, where we can.

We pray Your spirit move among those who’ve had to go toward the sites, and pray Your protection over them. Anoint the ministers who move among the afflicted, and give them the words to say, that souls may be redeemed.

We pray for this nation, rife with hate, corruption, and greed, serving mammon instead of You, though it honors You only with its lips, and not its heart.

Give us a bold spirit when they ask us where You are, for they haven’t read Your Word, and reading, liken it to the superstitious imagination of men that made up pagan theologies, foolish with philosophy and meaningless rituals. Their mouths say prayers You don’t hear, sing songs You don’t listen to, and though you reject their offerings, they remain blind.

We ask that in the days to come, we would know Your voice among the rise of many false Christs to come. We would endure to the end, not being fooled by signs and wonders that fool even the elect.

Let us abide in You, Lord Jesus, knowing that apart from You, we can do nothing, and without faith in You, we will become nothing, our souls separated for damnation, and destruction when Hell is destroyed. Help us keep our eyes on the hem of Your garment, and follow the narrow way, in faith believing.

Let such light as we have be a guide for those who’ve placed their faith in Your word through us, as we do the Father’s will at Your command, and through Your love, leading them from earthly calamity and tears to heavenly peace and glory.

I ask in faith, believing I’ve received. 

Amen

Devotional 70: Great Multitudes Followed Him

Jesus Heals a Great Multitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many times are we?

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Devotional 69: No Sign Will Be Given

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen

Devotional 68: Let This Cup Pass

Matthew 26:36-41
The Prayer in the Garden
36 Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” 37 And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. 38 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
39 He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
40 Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

We know that as believers, we are going to suffer trials. Our Lord told us this in no uncertain terms. (John 16:33)

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

In knowing all that He knew, from the time He declared His ministry, the horror of the moment was coming near, and while He didn’t panic and abandon His mission, He yet asked the cup be taken from Him, if there was another way.

Often, if we’re honest, we don’t see the reason why He’d allow Himself to suffer the pain, anymore than those standing didn’t understand that if He was who He claimed to be, He could just come down and spare Himself the trouble, This included one of the thieves hanging next to Him, who mocked Him even as the other came to faith in that moment.

His death was quick because He’d pretty much been bleeding out from the time of His ‘trial’ until He actually died. They wouldn’t stop beating and torturing Him for hours, and the Romans, as we know, had some creative ways to induce suffering and pain.

“But He’s Jesus, and that was His mission. Why should we suffer if He did the work? If he took our sins, why not our pain?”

It’s because when you declare yourself to be part of something that testifies to the world that its works are evil, you are marked, and have become a target of everything from close scrutiny to persecution. You don’t even necessarily have to be a Christian for that to be so, but it’s amplified once you say you are.

This is why I say we’re more like Peter than Christ: if you can ask that question, you claim a stronger connection than you actually have. Peter boasted he would stay even if the others left. When Jesus told him what would happen when the moment came, that’s exactly what Peter did. It was such a heinous thing that the angel made a distinction when he told Mary to tell the disciples. (Mark 16:6-7)

6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”

Indeed, does not our Lord command us to take up our crosses? In His response to the young ruler we read: (Mark 10:20-22)

21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”      (italics mine)

So yes, He felt the pain when He could have numbed Himself, He endured the beating because to strike back would have unleashed legions of angels, who I’m sure were brandishing swords of fire, itching for a fight. In the midst of His suffering, He begged forgiveness for those who made Him suffer.

Our bruised and battered Savior, ‘the Man who would be King’ allowed all to happen that was supposed to, so that, as He told John the Baptist, all righteousness would be fulfilled. (Matthew 3:13-15)

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

Any deviation would have nullified the work, so it was important that Jesus not only drink the cup of condemnation, but that He drain it.

Can we, should we, as believers who claim to follow the Way, the Truth, and the Light, do any less, suffer any less? For if we do, how much less will be our glory with Him? How tightly are we really connected? How closely do we really follow? Or do we, like Peter, get lost in the crowd until the morning, rebuking those who say, “You were with Him.”

Do we, like the young ruler, turn away in sorrow, go back to our great possessions, and lose our souls?

Do we, like John the Baptist, say no, I need to come to You, when Jesus needs us in the moment to do that which He asks of us?

Do we fall asleep in the Garden, when our Lord would have us pray?

Or do we, when we realize we must drink the cup of suffering that will not pass from us, say “Not my will, but Yours, be done.”?

Therefore I pray:

Lord, You tell us that You are the vine, and we are the branches, and that apart from You, we can do nothing. (John 15:5)

We boast, as Peter, that we will never abandon You. We boast, like the Sons of Thunder, that we are able to drink from Your cup.

And yet, You asked if there was another way. So too, do we, but unlike You, we are not as sure of our willingness to follow through. We’ve had it easy and comfortable, for the most part, and our churches have become whitened sepulchers.

I ask of You to bring to mind that we are to be out in the world, but not of it. That we are called to minister the Gospel, “and if necessary, use words.”(St. Francis).

Let us be reminded that You called us out, and it was our choice to return back through the press of the crowd, calling Your name out to have mercy on us, and reconcile us to G-d.

Help us to honor You by not waiting to be asked to open the gates of that which we are able to provide in abundance, and to honor you by giving our two mites in the times when abundance is absent, and there is no cattle in the stalls, no fruit on the vine, or whatever our modern day equivalent of that may be.

Remind us that we are not only to take up our crosses, but crucify our flesh in the times of temptation.

Let our peace return to us from those who will not hear, and let us pray for their hardened hearts, that You might turn that soil, and grow whatever seed we may have planted in Your name.

And let us, above all, remember, that Your suffering was beyond earthly agony, because the Father turned His face from You with a dark sky, for He cannot look on sin, and You, Lord Jesus, took on the sins of the entire world, for all eternity. You endured the horror of the cross that we deserved, so that we, through grace, would only know the Father’s mercy, and not His wrath.  For who among us could stand before that and live, but You.

Help us to stand, and watch, and pray, so when the cup is passed to us, to drink our portion along with You, and do the Father’s will.

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

Amen

 

Devotional 67: You are My Witnesses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer of Hebrews further encourages us:

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

We do not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen.

Devotional 66: ‘I Am Not Like Other Men’

Luke 18:11-15
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Remember the tee shirt that had: ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ on it? I thought for sure lightning would strike. What familiar arrogance in that statement, worn by the most un-Christian people you’re likely to never meet in Hollywood. Their desire is to reduce the Son of God to the Age of Aquarius.

As Paul says in Romans 6:15: What then? Shall we sin because we not under law, but under grace? May it never be.

I add, may it never be so with us! Christ tells us He has called and chosen us out of the world. In that regard, we are not like others, but we are not to keep such status to ourselves. He also commands us to tell others.

If we’re honest, though, there are times we’ve felt a little more held together than those around us, keeping our composure in the midst of the madness, watching others get caught up.

I don’t know if any of us have prayed such as this Pharisee in our Lord’s parable, but we’ve certainly felt the seed of it grow at certain times. That, in and of itself, is not an evil thing, as long as we remember Paul’s admonition:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of G-d, 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’ 

In the watches of the night, we are confronted with our own stock and store of how we’ve handled the day’s events and those G-d has brought across our path, how we’ve performed before our cloud of witnesses, and whether or not we were role models for how to behave and perform under pressure.

And again, if we’re honest, most times we come up short.

But let’s always remember that in fact, with enough time and circumstance, we are equally capable of performing the most reprehensible act as anyone in solitary confinement under the worst jail in the world.

We have it easy here. Need water? Buy a bottle, or turn on the tap.

What if we had to walk miles, with hundreds of others, to a drying pool of it in the middle of a hot, putrid rainforest, on muddy roads runny with sewage?  I’ll not belabor the point: your imagination and self-knowledge will fill in what you’re capable of.

Stay humble before G-d, and penitent. And thankful, realizing that we are all, in fact, just like everyone else. Were it not for the graces and gifts, the blessings and favor, and the delivery from trials by the hand of our Father, and the mercy of His Son, anchoring ourselves in the Spirit and Truth of His Word, it could always be us in solitary confinement, under the jail.

Imagine the darkness, the silence, the exposure to vermin and weather, the stench of your unwashed body, and the reek of sin on your unclean soul.

Will you not ask for mercy? He is faithful and just to forgive.

Since He sees in the darkness as we see in the light, which He created, He knows exactly where you are, and what you’d do.

Would you not be justified before Him?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Your Son tore the veil, that we may approach the heavenly throne without fear of death. Your Word says to approach boldly, but some have taken it to mean with an arrogance and familiarity they would not show a powerful earthly man, but have no problem displaying it before a divine King.

Even in our anger, our limited scope of Your plan for us and the lives of our loved ones, Your hand giving and taking according to Your will, let us pour out all that’s in our hearts in humility.

We would not be arrogant, for the very next breath we take is by Your pleasure.

Let us remember that Jesus died for the Pharisee as well as the tax collector, and has left the choice to follow and believe to every person who has heard His words.

Let us remember that you, O G-d, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and it is Your desire that all would come to repentance.

You sent Your Son to prepare the narrow path, and we are grateful, but we can also hoard the grain of Your truth in our hearts, that we might feel justified before You.

Help us to know, Father, that in those moments it is we who are not like the tax collector, justified before Heaven, and forgiven in Your sight.

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

Amen.

Devotional 65: The Right Hand of the Power

Matthew 26:62-64
62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Our Lord tells us that G-d is spirit, (John 4:24), and we are told that in the new Heaven there will be no sun, only the Light of G-d. In our human minds, what is brighter and more life sustaining than the sun?

Yet, the power of the sun burns by the power of G-d, our Creator.

As faith was the key to the working of miracles (“According to your faith, let it be done to you.” Jesus told them), so to do sinfulness, unrepentance, and faithlessness grant power to the influence of sin and the grave, which is also spoken of as having power of its own. If it didn’t, there would have been no need for Jesus to break it.

What we know as believers are two things:

  1. We will all rise to spend eternity somewhere, either in the presence of G-d, or separated from Him. Jesus’ tells us there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth at the time of the harvest separation.

2.  Every knee will bow, and tongue confess, that Jesus is Lord, including the knees                 and tongues of those who will die in their sins.

As Charles Stanley once said, for some it will be a submission done in joy, and for others in angry, fearful resentment and sadness.

In this verse, this is the only time Christ names G-d as Power, though he spoke of it earlier to the Sadducees regarding the resurrection and marriage in the afterlife. (Matthew 22:29)

 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. 

For me, the most telling thing about that very power takes place when before Jesus came out, at the moment of His death, graves were opened. Stones were rolled away from tombs all over the place. (Matthew 27:50-54)

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

They came out afterward, that Jesus might be called the firstfruits of our redemption.

Imagine the joy of those families who the dead returned too, the sense of wonder, the questions and testimonies, the buzz throughout the community that echoed Mary’s own question: How could this be?

This is why I can’t get caught up in the modern crazy.

Yes, these men have power, and we are under authority, but let us remember the words of Jesus to Pilate: John 19:11
11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

Yes, we are to pray for them, but G-d is sovereign in these things, and brings down one to bring up another. In that instance, as Peter tells us:

17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear G-d. Honor the king. 

We are to honor the king, but we are to fear G-d, as Jesus tells us not to fear men who can only kill the body, but fear the One who can cast both into hell. (Matthew 10:28)

G-d will not compromise; He is not winking at sin, and the authority He’s granted to His Son will not be revoked, and is not a thing to be trifled with; we do so to the peril of our own souls.

There is a reason, Brothers and Sisters, we refer to Him as ‘The Almighty.’  He will be the source of light for the new earth, shining from the new heaven, and the sun won’t even be a memory.

He holds the universe together, He has named all the stars,  He watches the sparrows, and He lovingly redeems the faithful souls of His creation.

That is Power indeed.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

You are the source of my life, health, and strength. No weapon formed shall prosper, but You did not say it would not be formed. Living in the world of Your enemy, who is ours also, as we are Your sons and daughters, we ask that through Your power and will to defeat him for You strengthen us as well.

Your Son has said to us that Heaven suffers violence, and it is taken by force.

Give us spirits of bold violence, Lord, to stand in the face of Your enemies and declare Your Son to the trembling demons, to bring down their strongholds, to disarm them of their weapons, and to plant seeds that will bring them to Your throne.

The full armor is hard to bear for this soldier, Lord. Often, he stumbles and falls under its weight. He does not take care of it as he should, and leaves openings for the fiery darts that pierce him and cause him to stray, to run, to give up, to desert the fight.

And You send Your Son to me to show me His hands and remind me that the victory is won, and all I need to do is call upon Him to save me. He tells me the truth:  You are faithful and just to forgive an this errant knight once again, restore him to his senses,  hand him back his weapons and say, “Go here.”

And he goes, in the grace of His redeemer, but by the Power of Your will.

We engage the day’s troubles anew, knowing that You are watching over us, and in reverent fear, we thank You for the strength to overcome it, through the power of our Lord and Savior, given to us by the power of Your love.

Thank You, Almighty  G-d, for favor, blessing, glory, and honor. May we return it all to you with interest, as the good servant in the parable of the talents pleased his master.

In the Name of Your Son, Jesus, I ask it.

Amen.

Devotional 64: The Day is Far Spent

Luke 24:28-35

The Disciples’ Eyes Opened
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Imagine walking with Jesus, receiving essentially a master class on all that concerned Him regarding the Scriptures, yet not knowing it was Jesus, at least by sight, but having your heart respond during His lessons, and realizing in hindsight you’ve been given the greatest gift there is: to walk with the Lord as He taught.

We see this over and over again, though doubtless some in the crowd just came to be healed, and fed. Who’s to say whether or not they went on to turn their hearts to Him in faith and obedience, or having received the desires of their hearts, went back to their earthly existences.

The tax collectors (a special breed of sinners, because they always separated the two: ‘tax collectors and sinners’), the sinners, the prostitutes, the downtrodden, all repeatedly followed Him to receive the message over and over again that they had value to their Father, that there was a better life waiting, that they were worthy of respect because of their humanity, not their theology or finances.

And Cleopas and his companion, their hopes of a new way of thinking and living dashed with the crucifixion, flee the center of the chaos to mourn quietly and return to their homes, when in fact they were on their way to a divine appointment.

So this learned traveler walks with them, joins their conversation, and rebukes the news of the faithlessness expressed to Him, and He begins to teach.

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

There is no hurry now, or thought of discomfort, or even worry about the future. There is only the silence of the surrounding countryside, and the compelling voice that has touched hearts, revived spirits, changed lives, and saved souls in this intimate moment.

And Jesus, knowing He’ll soon depart, sees them to their destination, but they invite Him to stay, “for the day is far spent.”

Not knowing Him, they know the night roads are dangerous and unsafe for solitary travelers. They would not see the innocent harmed, so they offer the shelter of their dwelling for the night.

It is when He breaks bread with them that their eyes are opened, and it’s only then that He leaves.

32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

And on the same roads unsafe and dark roads they wouldn’t see Him travel, they went back as soon as He left them to tell the news.

I remember being that excited once. If I’m to be honest, it’s not the case any longer on most days. I do it as discipline and ritual, in a spirit of duty rather than joy. My heart, once burning for the Word, is now merely, barely, a warming flame.

My fruit is unripe, my offering unacceptable, my obedience resentful as I rely on my own strength to do my own thing in my own way.

Is it any wonder Jesus calls me foolish?

I know better: I’m to show myself approved, to always have an answer for my hope, to be assured of my calling, to work within my capacities and giftings to spread the Gospel to every nation, doing my part to hasten the end.

  (Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

One thing is certain: My end is assured, and for the time I have left I need a rekindled heart, a revived spirit, and a changed life.

Be careful in your walk, brothers and sisters, lest the day be far spent and He does not abide with you.

Therefore I pray:

   Lord Jesus, 

    Walk the road with me, teach me, and open my eyes.

    Break bread with me, and open my heart as You open the Scriptures to me once again.

    Reveal Yourself to me in my sadness, my darkness, and my time of need, that I might remember You spoke of all things that concerned You, and told me that as Your disciple I would undergo them too, both suffering and glory.

    My days are far spent, and I draw closer to the shining light of the kingdom, not grieving with Cleopas, but rejoicing with David in the knowledge my Redeemer lives,  my King forgives my debt, my Shepherd protects me, my Master’s yoke is easy, and my Savior breaks the chains of sin and the power of the grave.

   Let me shout from the housetops what is whispered in my ear.

   Let my burning heart be the light on the hill, filled with oil for the bridegroom’s wedding feast. Let me drink the new wine with You in the Kingdom of G-d.

   Let me humble myself to receive my crown, and place it at Your feet.

   Let my praise reflect my gratitude and joy for all You’ve done, as You bring Your good work to completion in me, never leaving or forsaking me, sticking closer than a brother.

   Breathe the Spirit of Truth back into my soul, Lord, for I would seek deeper truth and mysteries of You, preparing the answers for my hope, and to let my light shine before men that they may glorify the Father.

   I place this life You’ve given me in Your hands once more, to ripen the fruit, to take the plank from my eye, to dry the tears, and ease the loneliness, to cleanse the stains of sin, and to pierce the heart to grieve them, not the Holy Spirit, and  to repent before Your throne.

   I ask by the power of Your Name, believing I’ve received by the mercy of  Your holy hands.

   Amen.

 

Devotional 63: They Might Also See Lazarus

John 12:9-11

The Plot to Kill Lazarus
9 Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.

Dead four days, and no Christ to speak Life to him.

When Jesus did arrive, Martha, lacking the centurion’s faith, not-so-gently rebukes Him.

Jesus cautions her on doubting His ability, and restores her to a path of faith in Him, and shortly after, her brother is resurrected, unbound, and restored to her and Mary.

The Pharisees, chained in the grave of laws of their own making, infamous for their hard hearts and earthly concerns, don’t rejoice, but plot to murder a man and friend of Jesus, simply because people believed on Him after that miracle, and slipped from their control and influence.

Lazarus was a daily reminder and testimony to the authority, power, and life changing ministry of Jesus: a life restored by the power of the Holy Spirit through the Promised One.

Are we also daily reminders and living testimonies to the hard-hearted?

Are we willing to be?

Once dead in our sins, now restored to Life with the seal of the Spirit on our souls, which we must now guard against the desires of the flesh for earthly things.

We are the called, and no one takes us from his hand, but we can wriggle free if we want.  We can stray from the path at any moment. We grieve the G-dhead daily, if not hourly, and our hearts are reminded in the watches of the night that the darkness is harder to walk in than the light.

Sin by daylight, repent by starlight? No, brothers and sisters, cling to Him always, in all things, and when temptations come, and weariness assails, and doubt soils our songs of praise, and our offerings are unacceptable to Him, consider this:

There was only one way out of the grave, and Christ has revealed it to us. His ‘great shout’, I believe, is the “Come forth!” on the last day, when those who’ve built their house on the Rock of Heaven, and follow the Lamb of G-d, will reign with the Prince of Peace in an eternal Kingdom with no sin, and our sun shall be the light of the Father, with a new Heaven and a new Earth, restored to purity, with Hell and evil and faithlessness, and all manner of sin destroyed.

Even through his grave clothes Lazarus saw, and stumbled toward the Light….

Let those of us who say we see and know walk in it, as we work out our salvation, and bear good fruit.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I struggle with my building on Your commands. Doubt creeps into my prayers, and Your delay in answering my prayers kindle in me a quiet resentment. “If you were here, my __________ would not have died.”

Help me to know that “Even now, He will grant You whatever You ask.”

Help me to be a daily reminder and living testimony to the glory and power of Your atoning work, that hearts may soften, minds will change, and people will see You in me, as I strive in my earthly heart to see You in them.

I would not struggle and fight to love my fellow man, Lord Jesus. I would not lay charges against those who curse and wrong me. I would pray for those who wish me harm and use me. I would have my rewards stored in heavenly places.

I would claim my crown to throw at Your feet, and live in the center of the Father’s will, doing the work I’ve been called to do.

Only abiding in You is it possible, for with G-d, all things are. 

Keep me from wriggling out of Your hand, pierced for the redemption of my soul, restoring me to You as my Brother, and walking with You as my friend, and serving You as my Messiah and King, for the Father has given all into Your hand.

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

Amen.