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 144: Who Then Can be Saved?

Matthew 19:23-28

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the previous section, Jesus had just told the rich young ruler that only one thing stood between him and heaven, and told him to give what he had to the poor. The ruler, thinking Jesus meant his possessions, now had a choice to make, and chose wrongly.

Jesus was talking about his heart toward G-d by committing to what he said he wanted to do: follow Him. It says he went away sad, but Jesus neither persuade him any further, nor pursued him.

Turning the encounter into a lesson, He let the disciples in on the reason why one can’t serve G-d and money. As common men, they likely thought that wealth brought some degree of assurance with it, for surely a rich man is blessed by G-d, or in the case of tax collectors, prospered through usury and crooked means.

Upon Jesus’ revelation, it says they were astonished at this.

Let’s look at another encounter:

Luke 19:1-11

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were ‘especially heinous’ in the eyes of the people, but because there sins were great, when Jesus spoke, their spirits were convicted and their hearts turned.

Jesus said to the Pharisees that the people they viewed as the most irredeemable were in fact getting into the kingdom ahead of them. (Matt 21:28-32)

Zacchaeus repented openly, in Jesus’ presence, and restored more than he’d taken to those he’d victimized through his position. In that moment he received Jesus’ words of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Wouldn’t we all breathe a sigh of relieved joy to hear those words spoken to us?

But even before he got to this moment, it says that he received Jesus joyfullyHe so wanted to see the Lord that even though he was short, he put in the effort to climb a tree in order to make that happen.

People likely laughed at him as he made his way up, but once he was ‘out of the world,’ Jesus noticed him, and salvation was given to him and his house. The Lord tells us every good thing comes from above, including financial wealth, but it’s never to be hoarded, because it gets in the way of serving G-d.

Let’s ask ourselves today if we’re hoarding any earthly thing that stands between us and the kingdom of G-d. It doesn’t have to be money, but maybe a talent we have, or a service we’d like to perform for others, but for whatever reason we don’t move forward to do it.

Why are we holding back? Likely, someone will laugh, make snide comments, tell you why it won’t work, say you’re not the one to do it, and so on…

But what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?

We have a choice to make now, too: do we turn sadly back to our earthly possessions, passing on the chance to store up treasure in Heaven, or release them with a joyful spirit of repentance, being reconciled to G-d in the presence of our Savior?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As Zacchaeus restored over and above that which he’d taken, so too, do You restore to us over and above that which the enemy has stolen. Indeed, he can’t stay in Your the presence of Your holiness, which is why we call to mind Your words to be holy as You are holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

The Father has imparted gifts and talents to be shared with the world, but the persecutions that come with taking up our crosses have driven us back, and some have been driven away.

We would not stand in that assembly, and so we ask that when the moment comes, You strengthen us, reminding us of the joy that awaits us, the salvation we gain, when we receive You with right hearts and clean spirits, covered by Your blood for the remission of sins.

Forgive us for splitting our service between earth and heaven, for being lukewarm in our commitment, for having hard hearts and deaf ears, lured by the idols of the world from the narrow way to Life everlasting, for being seduced by our possessions.

Today, we renew our efforts to climb back out of the world, so that as the Father’s eyes roam to and fro seeking a righteous person, we can, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves, and like the prophet Isaiah, say boldly, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Today, we release our imparted gifts anew, doing the work of the kingdom, preaching the Gospel to all nations, that they too, might receive Your words of salvation, mercy, and grace.

We go out in boldness, proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, and the irrevocable fate of life everlasting, one in the kingdom of light, the other of darkness.

In our humanity, help us with our own unbelief; we would not be poor ambassadors.

We give thanks to the Father for grafting us into the Vine, releasing our gifts to the poor in spirit with joy, speaking the Gospel Truth in love.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 135: Abide in Me

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

It seems appropriate as we prepare to celebrate 243 years of independence from Britain, that we be reminded as believers that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, on it, and under it. (Psalm 24:1)

But we have mistaken independence from man’s rule to mean that we are sovereign, and that it’s the Father’s obligation to honor us, not punish us, as we engage and indulge in pride and faithlessness. Indeed, we expect  no form of rebuke, consequences, or even judgment to be passed on us.

We have become one nation under a symbolic and ineffective ‘god’  who is presumed to have only blessed the wealthy, as he punishes the poor.

We have relegated the Messiah to be all-forgiving because He ‘hung out’ with sinners, forgetting that He never held them guiltless, told them to repent, and blessed them in their faith. Consider this story:

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The man was paralyzed, so how could he sin? We are told that it is what comes out of people that makes them evil. Our thought life is connected to our spiritual life, and our thought life reflects the condition of our heart toward G-d. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We can trust that although we aren’t told what the sins of the man were, that Jesus knew he had them, and because of the faith put into action by his friends, a form of intercession, he was forgiven of them and healed.

We keep G-d at a distance, relegating Him to the Old Testament, seen by some as judgmental, hypocritical, contradictory, and false, up to and including even His existence. We assume a familiarity with Jesus we don’t have, who is the only way to be forgiven by G-d, forgetting, to our eternal peril, that He tells us in no uncertain terms: “I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) 

How can they be One if the Father is greater? They are One in will, purpose, and thought. Jesus never refuted the edicts of G-d, and in fact was commanded by G-d to come and save us. (John 6:38)

As we celebrate independence from a bad king, let us hold fast to the King of Kings, our High Priest and Good Shepherd, who sustains us and sees to it that we bear good fruit through His atoning sacrifice, once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us through all things concerning revelation of the Gospel’s truth, convicting us of sin, and leading us to repentance, for He is the promised seal of our salvation.

We may respect the authorities placed over us, and honor our kings, but we are to keep a reverent and holy fear of G-d. (1 Peter 2:17)

In these hedonistic times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest themselves, let us remember that ever good thing comes from above and to be independent of Christ is to be under G-d’s wrath. There will come a time when grace shall cease, and the harvest begin.

May the Lord keep before our hearts the words of Joshua: (24:15)

“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In this nation, in our prosperity, we have become prideful, irreverent, arrogant, loud, hateful, and evil.

Your people have been divided among themselves, and shepherds lead their flocks astray, twisting the words of the Father, as the Pharisees did, to their profit and own well being, not realizing they are losing their souls as they gain the world, forgetting that their condemnation will be greater for rending the flock the sons and daughters of hell. (Matthew 23:13-15)

We have forgotten our first love. Our churches capitulate to growing numbers and political agendas, and no longer to Truth.

Let those of us who yet have ears to hear discern the absence of the Father’s will when those who would lead us speak falsely, their hearts revealed. Give us ears to follow Your voice.

Renew our hearts, revive and refresh our flagging, misguided spirits, and have us respond once more to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Replicate in our nation the church of the Book of Acts, where none wanted, and all who had provided gladly for all who didn’t, and all were blessed accordingly.

Pour out Your Spirit on us, and let us repent, that our land may be healed.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 88: I Am Not of This World

John 8:21-30

Jesus Predicts His Departure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

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

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

The prophet Amos warns us: (Amos 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.