Devotional 149: Take Heed to Yourselves

Luke 21: 34 –

The Importance of Watching

34 But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. 38 Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.

As believers, we are to lean on the power of Christ’s divinity and sacrifice to be redeemed from sin into the Father’s kingdom, and while it comes with few outlying conditions or duties that we must perform, neither does it come without effort on our part.

After the redemptive truth of the Gospel is revealed and our fealty for Christ declared, we must then expend something to establish it, or as Jesus would say, to ‘settle it in our hearts.’ He told us we would have difficulty doing this, because the world hates Him for testifying that its work are evil (John 7:7) and as His followers, we are called to do the same, and are therefore targets of His enemies, both physical and spiritual.

We are also called to do more than our share  for we are unprofitable to Him if that’s all we do. (Luke 17:10) . The list is daunting: love one another, keep His commandments, give (not sell) to the poor, pray, repent, flee from sin, forgive, and glorify G-d in all we do, say, and think.

How do we accomplish this? By abiding in Him (John 15:5) and by taking heed to ourselves. There are so many pitfalls on the Narrow Path, that even as we follow Him, we are to keep watch over ourselves. This goes to the heart of our mortal pride. Remember the boast of Peter  (Matthew 26:33)  and what came of it.

As Oswald Chambers wrote: “Peter thought he knew where the test would come, and it did not come where he expected it.” (My Utmost for His Highest)

King David asked to set a guard over his mouth (Psalm 141:3) and his son advises us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), and so our Lord and Savior reinforces this to us.

Today, let us release that which concerns us and go to Him, because He’s told us that those who seek Him, He will not cast them out. It is up to us, however, to count the cost to follow, and to choose whom we will serve.

If we are to follow then, it is with the understanding that there will be no compromising for our backsliding, no looking the other way.  He will judge us before the throne of His grace, and the works not done for the Kingdom will be cast into the fire, quite possibly alongside us if we are found to be lacking.

Attaining the Kingdom, then, is not a drag-along prospect, but a willing, voluntary following to say to the Father, Son, and Spirit,

‘Yes and Amen. Our spirits align with Yours, and we would enter into our Father’s rest under the reign of the Son, and be filled eternally with the Holy Spirit.’

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

       We rejoice today that You have sent us a comforter, one who reveals to us all the things that are of You and the Father, One in will and purpose, to redeem the souls of unprofitable servants who stumble, backslide, succumb to sin, and frequently need Your mercy and grace to continue on the Narrow Path to salvation. 

       We praise You for letting us know beforehand that we have been deemed worthy to hear Your shout on the last day, and be raised. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

      We abide in You today, Lord, with repentant hearts and contrite spirits, that You may renew us, cleanse us, anoint us, and sing over us once again to restore our tiring spirits in this body that demands to go into the flames of condemnation. 

     Today, and as we abide in You, every day after, we set a guard over our hearts and mouths, we stay in the Word that will not pass away, and we love one another as You love us, edifying the Body, and doing more than our share as we are called to preach to every man, and keep watch.

Lord, we will take heed to ourselves, lest when we think we stand, we fall. (1 Cor 10:12) 

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 147: I Will Give You a Mouth and Wisdom

Luke 21:10-19

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

Called to sow the seeds of the Gospel, we are now at the beginning of the end.
The body of Christ is bravely fighting against the powerful minions of hell. They are legion in number, strong in power, and all arond us not only in the places we live, but in our very homes.
The slings and arrows that come daily with being a family are compounded exponentially when the many attack the few proclaiming Jesus as the Christ.
As we can now minister to the world faster than ever before, reaching vast amounts of people globally in almost instantaneous contact, we now see the rise in persecution of our faith and the falling away of many as the message of Christ is obscured and replaced by modern day ‘alternatives’.
Let us be reminded of Jesus’ words that we are to endure to the end to be redeemed (Matthew 24:13)
The challenge comes when the proliferation of resistance to His message and our insistence on its validity begins to affect our finances, abilities, health, and families.
They become more intense as subgroup after subgroup that don’t align with G-d’s word are given free reign to go after believers in all walks of life.
Jesus tells us these attacks will increase in scope and depth, and we’ll be hated by all, but it will be: all to whom He did not reveal the Father, all who practice lawlessness, all who turn aside, all who walk away, all who will not hear, all who will not repent, all who won’t receive, all who will not seek, and all who will not come to Him.
In the midst of this this He says that as we proclaim Him as the only way, He will give us the words and wisdom to silence them, and perhaps turn them to G-d. This is the setting of tables for us in the presence of His enemies, and therefore ours.
Granted access to each other, we are to share what we have been given by the Lord with them.
The choice, upon hearing, is theirs to make, but whether we sow, plant, or water, it is ultimately the Father who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6)
We need not fear others, but we are to arm ourselves with the knowledge of the Word. Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15), but it is Jesus who tells us that He, being greater than Solomon, will give us what we should say, and to settle the matter in our hearts, and trust Him to deliver His message through us in such a way that no one can refute the words we speak, even as the Queen of Sheba ran out of hard questions for Solomon.
Have we settled it in our hearts? Can we? And if so, will we?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

      There are times when the tales of Your daunting ministry to the lost of Israel inspire us to walk farther, but there are other times they overwhelm us with the sheer magnitude of it and the impact it created, as the qualities of our own ministries are to follow Your example.
      Were it not for grace, we wouldn’t be up to the task.
      Were it not for mercy, we’d be cast aside.
      For reasons we don’t always understand, You have found us worthy of revealing the Truth to us, and have called us to put our hands to the plow to begin the work of the Kingdom of G-d, ruled by Your iron will and loving hands.
      As we stand in the midst of those who do not love you, we settle in our hearts that You will do what You say, and that You are who You say.
      We are mindful that this life is preparation for the one to come, this evil world replaced by one of sinless virtue and purity, and we, as Your sheep and the Father’s children, will be forever holy and able to stand in His presence under Your hand and by the power of the Holy Spirit and Your redeeming blood.
      As You judge the nations and our work, let the lost we have ministered to for Your sake bear witness to the motives of our hearts towards them to bring them into the fold, that they too may live eternally to the glory of, and to glorify G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.
Amen.

Devotional 138: Of Such is the Kingdom

Mark 10:13-16 Jesus Blesses Little Children

13 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 16 And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.

What’s interesting to note is that Jesus was greatly displeased when He saw the disciples not letting the children through. Often he was frustrated at their lack of understanding, but every teacher knows that learning is a process, and as they were uneducated men for the most part, Jesus was patient. Here, it says He was displeased, the word ‘greatly’ implying that perhaps He was even angry.

The Apostles had succumbed (as they often did) to thinking their role was to protect Jesus from the world, and had a sense of exclusivity (which was partly the reason He was frustrated. (Mark 9:38-40) (Luke 9:50-55) 

What’s also of interest is that unbelievers will often use this verse, if they’ve read it or heard it, to point out why the idea of faith is ridiculous to them. They believe we somehow become stupid once we declare it, as if all the intellect in us suddenly vanishes, and all we’ve done up until that point is rendered null and void. They tell us in no uncertain terms that we’ve lost their respect and / or admiration.

In debates they are quick to point out their intellect and the value of science.

“The Bible was written by men.” But so were science books. Our quest for knowledge does not invalidate the Bible, but science invalidates ‘known’ information all the time, though they refer to it as ‘adding on.’  What was ‘true’ for science as it existed in the past has now either been disproved, debunked, or added to, but the Word of the Lord is unchanging yesterday, today, and forever. And He is the reason they will never fathom how the universe works. Our knowledge is of good and evil, science and art, and doing what we need to survive.

NASA has done wonderful things, but light-year space travel continues to elude us, and probably always will.

It is bothersome to be summarily dismissed, but the truth is we need G-d more than we need their earthly respect and admiration, since they’re aligned on relying on earthly matters.

But our Lord did not mean the kingdom would be full of childish people(1 Corinthians 13:11) but to be child-like in matters that please G-d,  and continue to do His will despite the circumstances where we find ourselves. 

Children are: trusting, sharing, capable of feeling great love and compassion. They are quick to forgive and have a desire to please. They get excited about giving and receiving, they are inclusive and will expand their circles with no questions asked  (Do we not respond when a child we don’t know waves at us or greets us?)

Children seek comfort when things are not right with them. They tell you everything  that happens to them, and everything they feel. Even when they’re angry, they are quick to forgive and restore fellowship.

They don’t hate. They smile, laugh, and dance freely. They offer to help, or sometimes just start without even offering. They apologize (sometimes). They love to hug.

They are, in fact, most like themselves while they are children.

And then we teach them…

Compare the atmosphere of our country now to this: (Acts 4)

Sharing in All Things

32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

We ignore to our soul’s peril these words:  “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” 

We keep believing, to our soul’s peril, that it’s a nice sentiment, and not a mandate.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, we can’t restore our innocence, having the seed of the Tree of Knowledge in us, we are born in sin from Adam’s legacy, yet we are redeemed in You, but lose our way as the enemy works his own plan among us, in our thoughts, hearts, and deeds.

All that You’ve prophesied is unfolding, and You tell us that if we endure to the end,  we shall be saved.  Endurance means we must retain the hearts of children while experiencing and pushing through a world full of evil and sin.

We hold onto Your words: See, I have told you beforehand. (Matthew 24:25)

Let us today take comfort, like children, in the knowledge that You have redeemed us, and though we are buffeted  on every side, no one can snatch us from Your hand. Help us to follow Your voice in the wilderness, and to keep to the Narrow Path of righteousness, holiness, and the truth of the Gospel of Grace and Redemption.

Restore to us a child-like desire to please our Father in Heaven, and trust Him fully in all things, for all things, and to see us through all things.

Lay Your hands on us today, Lord Jesus, and speak blessings to us once again.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 128: The Gathering of Tares

The Parable of the Tares Explained

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!

It is a terrible thing to hear! It will be even more terrible to experience, but what mankind forgets in the seeking of kings is that the king is given sovereignty: he gets to decide who belongs, and who doesn’t, who means him harm, and who doesn’t, who seeks to take his place, and who doesn’t.

There are those who don’t believe in G-d because they don’t understand that belief in the Son is the only way to him. As Dr. David Jeremiah said, the appeal of Eastern religions is that there are things for man to do. There are rituals and  chants to perform that are more active than merely believing.

But what they also don’t understand is that mere belief is not the only tenet of the Christian faith: there are the acts of repentance, of obedience, of giving thanks and praise, enduring mockery, and intolerance, and even death, of taking care of those among us who are less fortunate, of telling others of the way to salvation, of missions, of ministering to our families and neighbors, and using our gifts to herald and advance the Kingdom in truth and love, and to worship in spirit.

Faith is the catalyst. Repentance and salvation are the result of faith.

We are taught that Jesus came to die for us, and that’s true, but it goes one step further:

Matthew 16:21

Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

His death was an active affair. There were people complicit in every aspect of it, but few speak of the horror of crucifixion. He was Christ, so our minds like to relegate His pain to the realm of the abstract, but had He not felt it all, had He not seen the horror of what was  to come, He would not have pleaded for the cup to pass.

He felt all of the abuse heaped on Him, the weight of the wood on His shoulders, the heat of the sun on His parched flesh, the stabbing of the spear, the spit of those who once followed Him in multitudes to be healed.

And He never let go of the Father until G-d turned away as our sins formed the clouds and blocked His vision. That, for our Lord, was the most horrific aspect of all, and the first and only time He spoke of the Father forsaking Him, even though He knew full well that the Father could not look on sin.

So, if as Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 6:20)

19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

And Christ tells us: (Luke 12:5)

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

Yet people rebel: “You made me this way, and you want to burn me for eternity because I am this way?” There are variations on this, and without examination, seems to even make sense.

Yes, we are “that way”, but we don’t have to stay ‘that way,’  for we have been given the power to choose.

There are those who repent of sin, and there are those who fall into it. It is not an easy choice to shed the things of this world and follow Jesus, but it is always, as long as there is the covenant of grace and the precious gift of time, possible.

John 6:37

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.

Seeking Him is active too, and even those of us who claim to believe are called to return, to abide, to rest, to sit at His feet and learn of Him, to pray without ceasing, and to love one another.

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him

46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”

48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Your king is looking for you to be a part of His family, His kingdom, and His eternal life.

Are you looking for Him, or are you content to be a tare in the field, awaiting the dread harvest of His reapers?

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

There are times I don’t know if I am wheat, or weed. I have all the outward appearances of a good servant, but inside, I am a rebel. My pride is all around me, and glory in the blessings I think I’ve received through my own efforts, with no favor from a silent, distant G-d who wants me to believe that the son of a carpenter came to save my soul.

But You are not the son of a carpenter, you are the Son of G-d, and the Son of Man.

Your sovereignty is unchallenged, and Your judgment is just.  Help me to know that every idle word will be held to account, and every secret thing brought to light, whether good or evil.  Then help me to follow the path of righteousness, and believe that You can heal me.

Today, Lord, I lay my sin on the altar for the consumption of Your holy fire, instead of my backsliding soul.

Deliver me from myself, and the whispers of those around me who are agents of the prince of this world. Give me discernment, that I might see what You see inside my own circle of friends and family. 

I would be a light on a hill, pointing them to You, as You point them to the Father.

I don’t believe that I can do greater works than You, for I am not worthy of You. Knowing me fully, yet You still came for me, still revealed Yourself to me, still forgave me and loved me then, as You do now, even though my love for You has wavered, and waxed cold, and rekindled more times than I can count. 

But the hairs on my head are numbered, my days are few, yet You tell me I am worth more than sparrows and lilies to the Father, and He will purge His enemies from His sight.

I would not be burned, Lord. I would be redeemed. Help me to keep a reverent fear of the Father, who has given all authority to judge the hearts of men to You, then let me abide in You, that my sins will be blotted out, and remembered no more by Him who can destroy the essence of my very soul created through Your hands.

I desire to be among the blessed, among those who do His will, among His mother, brothers, and sisters.

I desire to be wheat and not a tare, escaping the harvest’s fires that consume all that wasn’t fruitful, or good, or of use, having used the soil of life to bring forth things of no value the sower, and being destroyed along with he who deceives by planting look-alike seeds of damnation.

Lord, I am blind. I want to receive my sight, and I believe that You, and only You, can do this.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen. 

Devotional 124: Lord of the Sabbath

Luke 13: 

A Spirit of Infirmity

10 Now He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And behold, there was a woman who had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bent over and could in no way raise herself up. 12 But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, “Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.” 13 And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God.

14 But the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, “There are six days on which men ought to work; therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.”

15 The Lord then answered him and said, ]“Hypocrite! Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or donkey from the stall, and lead it away to water it? 16 So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound—think of it—for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?” 17 And when He said these things, all His adversaries were put to shame; and all the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.

The Sabbath day is full of ritualistic ‘don’t’s and ‘can’t’s and ‘not supposed to’s, and that is not to mock it, for the Father set it up as a day of rest for His chosen, and gave them the rules to abide in it, and truly rest. Even when He supplied them manna in the desert, they were not to go out on the Sabbath to collect it if they couldn’t gather it all. Of course, there were those who tried, and suffered the consequences.

What the religious leaders who trailed Christ like sharks on a blood trail failed to realize is that His ministry was eternal in purpose and scope, and while there were times He went away to renew Himself, the work of the ministry was ceaseless because man is ever in a pitiful state, whether it be spiritually, physically, or financially, or all of the above.

They could not rejoice in the miracles Jesus performed over those they wanted to control and manipulate. He hurt their pride, and properly reapplied all their learning to that which they should have been doing, to the point where they were so caught up that every time they tried to trap Him, He’d quiet them with a question or a timely word.

Matthew: 12 Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

12 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”

But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

The common people rejoiced at what Jesus did, and glorified G-d, because this was something new in their midst. They were astonished at His authoritative teaching, His boldness, His wisdom, and His power. Their needs were immediate, but their sins were forgiven forever.

We’d like to believe that those who were healed when on to live a life that continued to glorify G-d, but we can’t possibly know that; that is for the harvesting angels to know. We should ask how often do we, after getting our needs met, turn back to pursuing our wants?

Let us not be like the legalists and miss the point: there is never a time to not do good to someone else. There is no resting from that. In fact, we are called to do it in ways that are contrary to what we’ve been taught as people.

Pray for your enemies? Bless those who curse you? Turn the other cheek when they strike you? Love the sinful, thankless, evil, and faithless, and minister to them?  Forgive them? Love them? Forsake all to follow Him?

Yes, all that and more. He tells us to partake of His body and blood to be like Him, and to do as He does, which is what we pray for but don’t do. The ones who turned away didn’t understand, because their hearts were hard, and the Spirit did not open their ears. The disciples were so used to hearing things they didn’t (yet) understand, that Peter answered for most of us why we ‘stick around.’

John 6:60-68

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

It is the spirit of G-d in us responding to the Spirit in Him.

The Apostle Paul tells us: (1 Corinthians 1:18)

Christ the Power and Wisdom of God

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

Are we resting on Him in faith, this Sabbath day? Are we, like the temple priests, ministering, too?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Within our man made structures, there are rules, orders, laws, and procedures that allow us to do our work in the most efficient way possible, free not only from interruptions, but from dangers within and without. 

Yet You call us to minister to a world of chaos and unbelief, lawlessness and strife,  and preach to them a message that seems so foolish and impossible that it has to be the Holy Spirit who opens their ears, for You say that no one is drawn to You unless it is granted to them by the Father. 

We are to plant seeds, and water if need be, but we are also to live as lights on a hillside, and to walk a narrow road. As Your works pointed those who saw them to glorify the Father working through You, let us also, as You said, do greater works, that the same may be accomplished as the harvest draws nearer, and Your prophecies come to pass. 

Help us not to grow weary in doing good, and to do all things well, growing in favor with the Father and man, that our enemies through our faith in You be silenced, and put to shame. 

And let us be ever mindful to rest not only from our labors, but on Your promises, and on the seal of our salvation to be reconciled, blameless before the Throne, and our works withstand the test of fire as we stand before You, longing for the words to enter into Your rest.

We ask in faith, believing.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 111: Pray to the Lord for Me

Acts 8:18-25

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

From this story, we see that although Peter admonished him to, Simon the sorcerer did not, in fact, repent, but rather asked for intercession. His heart was not ready to repent. He was poisoned by the bitterness of the apostles ‘showing him up,’ so to speak, by performing a wondrous and unparalleled work among the people, something he wasn’t able to replicate, so they’d usurped his status.

He was bound in iniquity for the practice of sorcery, and needed to shed it in order to be reconciled to G-d, but he wasn’t ready for that, either. He thought the imparting of the Spirit was a ‘magic’ act, negating the Spirit’s indwelling as the equivalent of a parlor trick.

And yet, as believers, we are sometimes requested by those outside of the faith to pray for them in times of catastrophe or when they’re in need.

Do you honor such requests? I do, because it means they see a difference in my life, an assuredness in times of confusion or calamity that they may not possess, in short: the peace of G-d. Sure, they may, like Simon, be ‘hedging their bets,’ but we know the true power of our G-d, for whom nothing is impossible.

I dabbled in tarot as a teenager, and once I took the deck to school, but I was really doing it as a joke. Within three weeks I was doing readings before and after school, during free periods, and at lunchtime. The growth was so fast and exponential that had I charged for it I could have had a nice sideline, and people were willing to pay me, including some of my teachers. But my spirit was troubled not only by how quickly my clientele grew, but the things I was saying to them prompted by the images on the cards themselves. My peers were hanging on every word, confirming as they saw fit.

Even then, there was a holy fear in me that I didn’t recognize as such, and though I hadn’t formally received the Holy Spirit, I was so troubled in my own spirit that I stopped doing it, though I held onto the cards for years afterward until I finally threw them away. I never picked up anything else occult and brought it into the house.

We may unknowingly entertain angels, but we may also unknowingly entertain demons, opening ourselves up. I thank G-d for giving me the strength not to backslide, but as long as I kept the cards, the temptation to pick them back up remained.

But I had a strong family that was praying to the Lord for me, and the cycle was broken.

As believers, we serve a mighty, sovereign, jealous G-d who won’t tolerate even toying with the fringes of evil. For example: Halloween, in this country,  has become ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ instead of the lurid day it  actually is. The other side of the coin, All Saints Day, isn’t even acknowledged, much less celebrated. Perhaps it’s just as well.

I once lived in a place that was a nursing home that had been converted to apartments. Lots of elderly died there, and I vouch for the fact there was paranormal activity, and there was nothing fun or sexy about it. It was scary, and I often invoked the name of Jesus to banish said activity, and it always stopped.

Pray for those who request it of you. You never know what chains you might be breaking, what cycles of evil you’re ending, what souls might be saved as a result of your intercession, reluctant though it may be, for just as Simon didn’t repent, Simon Peter didn’t pray for his redemption, as far as we know.

That would be a shame, because though the power of sorcery is real, the power of the holy name of Jesus is stronger.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Thank You for sending a Comforter, a helper who can reveal Truth, convict of sin, and guide in prayer. I thank You that He takes of what is Yours and imparts it to me. (John 16:12 -15)

I thank You for preserving me in the times I did not truly know You, serve You, or follow You, though I believed.

I am grateful too, that You forgave the iniquity of my youth, and allowed me to yet be grafted in under the New Covenant of grace, in this, the year of G-d’s favor. 

Bless the souls who prayed for me during those times I was foolish, thinking myself immune to the enemy. It is the word of Your disciple that says to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Let me not grow prideful in my service, nor lazy and distracted in my praise, nor lukewarm in my reverence and fear of You. Let me not become sleepy with sorrow, that I might miss You.

In faith, I ask for the boldness to continue to confess Your majesty to all men, trusting You through the power of the Holy Spirit to give me the words and spirit that none can turn against me, deny, or confound.

Let me not only hear the Holy Spirit, but obey His commands, for He speaks what You would have Him say, just as You spoke what the Father would have you say. The Father, You, and the Holy Spirit are all in and of each other, with aligned wills and the promise of the gift of eternal life for the repentant and faithful, therefore let me not be hesitant or doubtful of Your Spirit’s presence in my life, guiding me into Your truth, and sealing me into Your hand, and the Kingdom of G-d.

Have me intercede for those who don’t know You, but ask for prayer with broken hearts, contrite spirits, needs only You can fill, and circumstances only You can deliver them from, that they might glorify the Father.

Let it be so for the remainder of my days. I ask, believing I’ve received. 

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 97: Unending Dominion

Daniel 7:13-14

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

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

Genesis 1:26

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

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

Genesis 3:17

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

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

Hate Mondays? ^^^^

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

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

Genesis 3:12-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 87: His Disciples Remembered

John 2:13-22

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

13 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 17 Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.”[b]

18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said.

It took His resurrection to for them to finally understand; until then, though they walked with Him, they seemed to be in a perpetual fog. Jesus understood they were unlearned in the way of study, but they were simple men with a practical understanding of the world, so having no other point of reference, it could only be through faith for them to continue walking with Him.

Verse after verse, we see their failings, doubt, desire for power, and inability to figure out what Jesus actually meant. Occasionally, there were breaks in the clouds (John 16:25-29)

Jesus Christ Has Overcome the World

25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!”

But most of the time, He was teaching above their ability to understand. They were afraid to ask Him questions, or thought He was referencing bread, or water, or again, the practical needs of a mortal man. The key was that they believed He was from G-d, because of what they saw Him doing.

Even when the tomb was empty and He appeared to them, He again had to help their unbelief: (Luke 24:36-40)

Jesus Appears to His Disciples

36 Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” 37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

and again, He opens the Scriptures: Luke 24:44-47

The Scriptures Opened

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

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

The apostle Paul tells us:

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12). 

In the meantime, we have more than the disciples possessed. Indeed, we have their own blessed witness, and the words of the risen Lord himself, to help us abide until He returns.

Until then, let us remember what Jesus said to Thomas (John 20:29)

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Therefore I pray:

We thank You, Lord Jesus, for your atoning work, for choosing us out of the world, for revealing the will of the Father for our lives, and for calling us to bear fruit for the glory of  the kingdom.

Bring to mind that it also brings the persecutions and resistance of Heaven’s enemy, and the closer we walk with You, the stronger they become.

We pray Your protection on us and our loved ones, Lord, and for that which the Father allows to come through to sift us, we ask that You gird us up. 

Let us not be negligent or fearful of our duty to take up the sword of the Word of G-d, that we might not be led astray by false teachers, that no weapon formed against us prospers, that the tongues of those who speak against be brought to shame, and that the very devil himself is forced to flee.

We praise Your holy name today, Lord, in thankfulness and joy that You counted us worthy to reveal the Father’s will to reconcile our sinful hearts. We thank You for encouraging us through our clouds of witnesses, and those loved ones who’ve gone before us.

We believe, though we see through a dark glass. We believe the tomb is empty, and Heaven is full of Your glory. We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit that raised You and others from their graves. We believe You are a fair and just judge, and our only way to Heaven. 

We believe You are sent of the Father to save us, and believe we will dwell with You in His presence, now and forevermore.

And so today, Lord Jesus, we respond in awe and reverence as Thomas did when humbled by Your mercy and gentle rebuke:

My Lord, and my G-d.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.