Devotional 129: A Rift in Ministry

Acts 15:36-41

Division over John Mark

36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

From what we are told and not told, Barnabas and Paul never ministered together, or quite possibly, ever even met again. We are told that Mark left them, but not why. As Paul’s missions were extensive and difficult, but critical to the spreading of the Gospel, whenever Mark left them to return to Jerusalem was likely an inopportune time, and made an already difficult task that much more difficult.

Barnabas, however, was still willing to give Mark another chance, but Paul was not.

As an alternative seemed to be available, we’re not sure why it got to the point of a such an argument, but perhaps Barnabas at this time had seen and heard enough of Paul, and knew enough of Mark, to launch out on his own. We are not told that was the case, but very often, when G-d splits a ministry amid chaos and strife, it still ends to His glory.

The Book of Acts itself came after the church was persecuted and its members and missionaries forced to run for their lives, if not their freedom.

We don’t have any books written by Barnabas that chronicle his time with Mark and the work they did in Cyprus.

But we do have this, later, from Paul:

2 Timothy 4:9-11

The Abandoned Apostle

Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Alone and in prison, perhaps Paul had received word of all that Mark did in Cyprus to assist Barnabas. We are told that Demas made his decision to return to worldly things, and the others left for their own reasons. But now, he tells Timothy to get Mark, and bring him to help Paul during his last days, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”

This, like Paul’s conversion, is a complete 180 from where he was when Barnabas took Mark away. How very lonely even the tone of Paul’s letter is, where after having preached to millions, he only has Luke.

Yet even so, that was one more than Jesus had when ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’

And as Christ restores Peter, so Paul restores Mark, even if indirectly, back into the ministry of the Gospel. Mark, however, in contrast to Demas, never truly left.

We have the words of John:

(1 John 2:18-20)

Deceptions of the Last Hour

18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.

Let us be thankful that we yet have the grace and mercy of our Father, who has imparted it to the Son, who has encouraged us to stay the course. For Christ says of those who turn back: (Luke 9:62) 

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In the course of our walking, there are days it is not in us. As Mark returned to Jerusalem to get back on familiar footing, with maybe some fear of such a pagan and polytheistic culture, so we too seek comfort zones even in our missions. 

Paul took some hard, long, and difficult journeys, but as You sustained him, so You sustain us. 

Paul’s faith and trust in You was absolute, more often than not. His communication and obedience were shining examples of what our own walks could, and should be. 

Yet even when we are Mark, we yet serve. Forgive us when we take the lowly place not in humility, but in fear, discomfort, doubt, and anger. 

It is in the matters of Your sovereignty, and in Your will for our lives and the pleasures of this world come into conflict, that we ask You for Paul’s resolve, but Barnabas’ compassion. As we minister to the next generation, of new believers in all nations, and look to those who have run the race for guidance to take their mantles with fear and reverence, let us remain connected to You. 

And when and where we fall, let us rise to once again be useful in ministry, being refreshed, restored, and reconciled to You, to Your glory, and abiding in Your will.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen. 

Devotional 126: His Own Word

John 4:39-42

The Savior of the World

39 And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of His own word.

42 Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The woman at the well had already spoken to Him, and Jesus had revealed Himself to her, as her heart was seeking Him, and her life certainly needed Him. While the text doesn’t specifically say she was something of an outcast, she was certainly alone, but something in her was so different the people who heard her were curious enough to see for themselves who this man was that had the woman so fascinated.

And their lives changed as well.

What they found was someone who was supposed to be the enemy of their people, two cultures that despised one another, and yet they too, were open to His words, looked on Him, and most importantly, listened. 

Throughout Christ’s ministry, His words always got past the layers, broke the walls,  stripped away the veneers, and got to the heart of the problem, the real question, and the true need.

His teaching had carried an authority that had been amazing not only to the people, but to the rabbis in the temple from the time He was missing as a child.

The Boy Jesus Amazes the Scholars (Luke 2:41-47)

41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. 43 When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; 44 but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. 45 So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. 46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.

Our Savior says to us, even today:

John 10:24-27

24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.

Yet we have among us false Christs, false teachers and prophets, and those calling themselves apostles who are not. Caught up in the world, their true trust is in their riches, and the belief that Jesus does not, in fact, mean what He says about all nations being gathered to Him.

They walk with hate in their hearts, and arrogance, exuding airs of exclusivity, mocking those who are different from themselves, and placing trust of their eternity in the hands of false shepherds who are focused on riches, favors, politics, and gimmickry.

I once debated, almost daily, with a man who held a different view, and when I showed Him from the Scriptures where his error lay, it shook him. We parted ways due to circumstances, and kept in touch for a short while, but way lead on to way, and I trust he held onto the truth, as he also believed the Word of G-d was unerring. His claim, however, was that his faith required teachers who studied and rose through the church ranks to reveal the word to the flock, and he believed that they were the most accurate. Until I showed him the error of his belief that there was no hell, that Jesus Himself spoke of it, so it could not be a metaphor.

The most disturbing thing he told me was how many Christians they angered because those Christians didn’t read their Bibles. I imagine that’s how they got most of their converts, showing them in the Scriptures what they wanted them to see, and convincing them, because they had no spiritual voice of their own, neither connecting with Christ or the Holy Spirit.

Believers, we have the Word in our own hands, and to neglect it is to be led astray. While study is necessary, reading it is also required. Jesus tells us that even hearing it is not enough, we must act on it.

There is only one path back to the Father, only one true G-d, but His enemy does have power and influence. In fact, he is called the prince of this world. Let us give thanks that we have the King of kings, the Most High, and the Almighty G-d, whose power is greater than he who is in the world.

Acts 17:10-18

Ministering at Berea

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

The Word of our Father is such that, even in a polytheistic pagan society, men and women came to faith in the Savior of the world.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We are losing sight of our Shepherd, Your Son, who came to reveal the truth of Your existence, the honesty of Your Word, and the love that You bear for His errant, straying, ever-rebellious, ever-doubting flock, for He tells us that You have given all over to Him regarding our righteousness as well as our judgement.

Counted worthy to be among the flock, we have the power within us to not make the Shepherd work harder than He needs to, but we are incapable of withstanding temptation, of doubt, of cleansing ourselves from sin.

Daily, the Shepherd must wash us clean again.

We are grateful to Him, Father, that He tells us You are faithful and just to forgive, and that You would see us reconciled to be with Him in the kingdom, and that the memory of this sinful world will be no more.

We humbly submit ourselves today back under His hand, back into Your favor, back into Your grace, back into Your presence.

As we search our Word, let us also search our hearts, minds, and motives. Let us deny ourselves, take up the cross, count the cost, and follow Him through the valleys of the shadow of death on either side of the narrow path, that we might find the Way, the Truth, and the Light, and live forever.

Until then, may we no longer be like the sin-filled pagans among us, who believe all manner of things that require no change within themselves. Let us not put our trust in the created, and in men who love the praises of men, or who call ‘good’ that which you call ‘evil.’

Let the Holy Spirit close our eyes to false teachers, prophets, and Christs; they are tares the enemy has sown among the wheat.

Let us come out to hear You for ourselves, Father, that we might believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and that You have told Him all He should say to us concerning You. Let us affirm that our search for the Savior of the World is over, because now we ourselves have heard His own word, and know Him by His voice.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 119: No Man Common or Unclean

Acts 10:24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

When we understand that G-d means to graft us in through the covenant of grace, the act of holding onto our own salvation without sharing the good news takes on a different kind of disobedience.

We understand the Jews were chosen, as Moses said:

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.

But under the New Covenant, Christ tells us: (John 10:14-16)

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Paul affirms this again (Romans 9:22-26)

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

We should be joyful that we who believe are no longer under the wrath of G-d, but we are not to keep silent. We are to tell the Good News, and it is up to Holy Spirit to open the ears and hearts of those who would listen.

Cornelius thought to gather his relatives and close friends ahead of Peter’s arrival. They were expecting something great to happen in the presence of the most volatile disciple who had finally come to a more steadfast faith, to the point where he was standing up in the midst of assemblies to proclaim the divine glory of someone he once vehemently denied to the point of cursing.

And he says to them:

Acts 10:34-35

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.

If the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, and all who dwell on it, how then, in His presence, can anyone be unclean? Through faithlessness,  doubt, denial,  unbelief, backsliding,  compromise, and willful and presumptuous sin without repentance.

We cannot find the Narrow Way without faith, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and works.

In the current times when xenophobia and racism are at a fever pitch, not just here, but all across the world (as Christ foretold, ‘brother against brother, and nation against nation’) we are not to consider the ‘other’ as an unclean thing unworthy of salvation.

As Paul told the Corinthians,

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

So while there is no partiality, it is not a license to continue sinning, for without repentance and faith in Christ there is no remission of sin, and the wrath of the Father remains.

We are not called to judge, but tell, and let the Spirit do His work. He may be content to leave the seed for the moment, and water it another time, but we must remember always that it is G-d who brings the increase.

In the meantime, we work out our own salvation, and take the planks from our eyes, living righteous lives and worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, loving G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one another as Christ loved the Church.

In these times, it’s a daunting task, but we have the words of our Savior: (Matthew 19:26)

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

You have invited us to the wedding feast, ragged and unworthy to stand before G-d, worthy of judgement and the outer darkness. Thank You for giving us a way to be reconciled to our Creator without sin, and that is through faith in the atoning work you did for us, that we might escape the tribulation of the days to come, and inherit the kingdom along with You.

We thank you, Good Shepherd, for the grace you’ve given us, for sustaining us in the valleys of trials and temptations, for bringing us out, for healing us by Your stripes, for granting us Your peace, and for showing us the Father.

We thank You for providing us a Comforter who guides us into all truth, and convicts us of sin. He is the seal and approval of our salvation, when You’ll call us forth from the grave with a great shout.

We thank You for interceding for us, the unchosen, before Heaven’s throne, and not condemning us as we continue to strive for Your example, growing in favor with G-d and man. Continue to speak to us while we’re enduring the scorn of Your enemies as proof we are indeed the sons and daughters of the living G-d, as we contend in the gates with those who would silence us. Fill our mouths with Truth no one can speak against, and give us what we should say.

Help us to speak truth to power, and truth in love, proclaiming You before men that we might also be proclaimed by You to the Father.

Give us the strength, in our trembling, to stand in the midst of the assembly, and by the power of Your Spirit preach the Gospel to all who cross our path, that they may see and know we are Christians, and glorify G-d as You claim them for the kingdom.

Open our hearts, our eyes, our spirits to rejoice with the angels when souls are redeemed from all nations, not just with those who look, act, and believe as we do.

From this day forth, help us to know that it is the Father’s will that all should come to repentance and faith in Christ, and no one should perish, but to also tell them that there will be a day of judgement, and in that day the Covenant of Grace is void.

May the grace, peace, and power of  the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 117: To the Unknown God

Acts 17:22-32

Addressing the Areopagus

22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

TO THE UNKNOWN GOD

Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.

It’s interesting to note that in such a polytheistic society that put the wisdom of man and the study of human nature above at the center of the universe, there was still a blind spot, but still a longing of the spirit.

The list of Greek gods in comprehensive, and their attributed powers were formidable, but in their natures and emotions they were as capricious and prone to error as the flesh they ruled over, and were indeed, sometimes jealous of human beauty or strength, and visited terrible affliction on the objects of their wrath.

Yet in the midst of all the paganism stood an altar that spoke to the void in their hearts,  a G-d they felt might be there, but one they didn’t know, because they didn’t create Him, He created them. And there was Paul, the Lord’s messenger, to finally proclaim Him, remove their ignorance, and give them fulfillment.

And yet the passage concludes:

3So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

Not everyone who heard Paul that day came to the faith.

G-d is never not worshiped by those He reveals Himself to, He is only unknown by those who choose not to believe.

And so it is today. G-d is proclaimed, the message of salvation is shared more rapidly, more internationally now than ever before, and yet there are still those who mock, and those who put it off until later, if they decide at all.

Like Paul, we are not to lose heart, we are not to stop working, we are not to turn aside because our words don’t reach the rich and powerful, or the mockers who place creation above the created, or those who feel the tug in their spirits of a greater calling, and run because it means they’ll have to change their lives to meet G-d’s standard, and not the other way around.

Do we know people like this?

Pastors read volumes on growing churches, and seem no longer content to preach the Word, but put on showcases, and events, and grand conferences, and wonder why nothing is happening.

It is G-d who gives the increase, the anointing, the blessing, and the silver and gold is His, also the land. We are to stay humble, and keep planting.

Luke 17: 1-10 Faith and Duty

And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”

So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’? But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not. 10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”

The implication is that they did not do more than their service required, in their own strength, and of their own will.

How far in our service are we willing to go? What are we willing to do? Who are we willing to love as Christ would love? What are we willing to give to show that we serve Him, and keep His commandments, building our heavenly homes on rock, and not sand?

Or are we the rich young ruler, who leaves and was sad because he had great possessions? Are we afraid to approach the unlovely, the different, the scary?

Not every ministry is for every temperament, granted, but there is a temperament for every ministry, and there is an altar carved with the Unknown God on its heart in the spirits of our fellow man.

Are we proclaiming that G-d to them?  “What I tell you in secret, proclaim from the rooftops.”

Will we?  “If they will not hear you or receive you, let your peace return to you.”

When?  “The time is coming, and now is….”

It is what we unprofitable servants are called to do, not in our own strength, or of our own will.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Your most headstrong apostle outside of Peter used the fire of his zeal that persecuted You to then proclaim You to others who were like himself before You encountered him. 

He then confounded those learned men with the same vast knowledge, only with a difference: You had opened His eyes to see You as the Father’s emissary to mankind, that we might be reconciled, and in the middle of a land that had gods for everything, he found the one altar set aside to the Father, but they did not know Him.

Such was the longing in their spirit, such was the power of creation’s testimony, that even in their explaining it away with emotional gods, they knew there was yet another presence, but had blinded themselves to it by creating gods in man’s image.

And again, so it is today; they know, but they are waiting until later, and mocking the resurrection, the gift of eternal life. They see the proliferation of evil, and the rise of hatred, the frenzied greed of the wealthy, and the needless death and destruction we are constantly visiting on each other as countries, as people, and say to us: “There is no G-d.”

If we are honest, Lord, though You said these things must be and come to pass, it is hard to look at, and defend. And yet, it’s not at its worst point, and You did not command us to give up. 

As You are coming at an unknown hour, in a day where mankind will be living normal lives before the sign is revealed, I ask for all who hear Your voice, that You strengthen us as You did Paul to stand before the mobs, and when they tell us

“There is no G-d,”

to answer them in love, truth, and steadfast faith,

“The kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Repent, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved from the Father’s wrath to come, for He will purge the earth and heaven of his enemies. Believe, and live.”

Strengthen us, Lord, for we are unprofitable servants, doing as we are commanded.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 112: The Jesus Whom Paul Preaches

Acts 19:11-

Miracles Glorify Christ

11 Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. 13 Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.” 

At some point, as believers, we’ve walked into places and felt a presence, either of the Holy Spirit, or something else, an ‘off’ feeling, or an outright feeling of malevolence. What is fortunate is that the powers Jesus imparted to His disciples weren’t just given to the twelve, or to the seventy, but to all who put faith in His Name that He empowers to preach the Gospel.

Paul and the itinerant Jewish exorcists were not of the Twelve, yet the Word states that the miracles performed through them by G-d’s power were unusual in and of themselves. People were healed by inanimate objects that were in Paul’s possession, anointed with holy power in that the Spirit abided on them, and did the work He was supposed to perform on the afflicted where Paul preached.

Jesus Himself said to the Twelve,

Jesus Forbids Sectarianism

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

39 But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is on our side.

It stands to reason that if we are grafted into the Branch, we are not forbidden to carry on His work. In fact, He expects that, and calls to account those who don’t as unprofitable servants.

The work of the Kingdom supersedes all, and the work must be carried out by the faithful, for that’s the only way the power of the Spirit can work.

John 14:12 The Answered Prayer

12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

But He also cautioned the disciples He sent out: Luke 10:19-20

19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

More, as we understand it, is not given in greater measure to one than another, Paul says:  (1 Corinthians 12:4-6)

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.

If the gifts were of diverse gods, or diverse paths to G-d, there would be no need to preach the Gospel to every nation.

The Christ Paul preached is the same one we hear about on Sundays, and read about in our Bibles, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, until He comes again in His fearful glory, ready to vanquish His enemies and judge His people, to be redeemed to the Father, or separated forever.

G-d did not spare Christ from His absence when He took our sins to the cross to the point where Jesus physically felt Himself forsaken; how then, are we spared His wrath?

Let us, like the itinerant priests of Israel, be steadfast in the unity and consistency of our faith as we drive out the darkness while we pray, sow, and reap by the power of the Holy Spirit, done in the Name of Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The veil tore not only the barrier between man and the Father, but between the Chosen and the unworthy, the Jew and Gentile, and we who are now grafted in through grace now know, too, that the joy of salvation is ours through faith in You.

We have sometimes taken grace for granted, and put You in a human box of tolerance and acceptance of that which G-d did not allow. Those You forgave, You also told to repent. It is a hard calling to deny our flesh, take up our crosses, and follow a narrow road to unseen glory. Sin feels good, and we justify our evil by twisting the Word to our purposes, by putting repentance on a schedule, and by continually removing ourselves from G-d’s presence.

Suffering with You is better, but not desirable, and when You tell us that to find our lives with You we must lose the earthly one, seeds of doubt sprout in the heart.

As we spiral downward toward tribulation, increasing our own sorrows, we who believe will continue to pray and intercede, as You did for your disciples, sent out as sheep among wolves, trusting You to fill us with the power of the Gospel for present times.

Yet Your love and power converted one of your most staunch detractors into the most powerful ministry of the Gospel, and he reminds us that You are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that the Father is not a man that He should lie, and that we must suffer to attain the promises.

We want redemption on our terms, but that is being lukewarm water, unfruitful, unprofitable, tasteless salt, and a dim lamp indeed if on our best days, our righteousness is as rags in the Father’s sight.

Strengthen us, Lord, to continue on with You as the days grow dark, and the signs of the end You spoke of manifest themselves through the evil hearts of powerful people who do not know You, and the beauty of the grace You offer. You tell us they have their reward, and there will be none to be found on the new earth, or in the Kingdom of G-d.

I would not be among that company, Lord. Rekindle in me the love and reverent fear of the Father, who will not compromise and make exceptions for me, having revealed You to me, for the life I now live, and the parts of it I do not, will not, give to You. Help my unbelief, but complete my submission as well, for my heart is hard, and my head is filled with earthly concerns so that my focus is not on You, or the Narrow Road.

Without You, Lord, I will fall, and stumble, and embrace the darkness, believing it light.

Without You, I am only fit to be burned out of existence, never knowing peace, and never entering into my Father’s rest.

You are the Christ whom Paul preaches, even now, reaching down to strike me from my pedestal, and newly open my eyes, continually. Let what miracles You manifest through me, if any, always give the Father greater glory, as You have done.

And with a grateful heart, I thank You.

May it be done to me 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 101: He Sent Me

Jesus is not ‘cool’ with things the Father isn’t.

John 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

I heard of a painting where the Father and Son are looking at the world, and they see the people are lost, and Jesus says, “Let me go to them.” That is a very moving, powerful, thought, but it isn’t true, and this was not Jesus’ first time saying He was sent.

Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s command to go and preach His will for repentance, and came at the Father’s command to offer Himself as the focal point for salvation and the redemption of our souls from eternal separation and ultimate destruction, which is why He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not the seed of man.

Jesus also tells us (John 8:51)  51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

The reason he is able to say this is because it is not, in fact, His word:  (John 12:49)

49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.

and again, when He admonishes Philip:

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

There is a modern notion that Jesus somehow separated from the Old Testament G-d of judgment who seemed to constantly be smiting and hating His own creation, but we who are called know that G-d hates sin, not us, and that He grieved and flooded the world while He still had one righteous man to start over, because the world loved sin.

As Satan captured Eve’s imagination through her senses so that she disobeyed G-d and Adam surrendered the world’s dominion to G-d’s enemy, so too, does he do so now. We are told that we’re happy when our wants are satisfied, not just our needs met, and this puts us in the path of temptation, making us prone to not only sin, but backslide. And sometimes even turn away.

Christ calls us out of the world to a greater reward, a greater comfort, and indeed not only to a better life, but an eternal one. In the delay of that gratification, we are told that we have to suffer with Him first, and crucify the lust of the flesh on the daily, pray and stay faithful, and remember that this is not our home.

We have the Word of G-d to keep us on the narrow path. We speak of Jesus’ miracles, but we forget that G-d also raised the dead, healed, calmed storms and made them, cast out demons, delivered in miraculous fashion, appeared to His servants, called a select few His friend, and performed signs in the heavens, even stopping the earth so the sun could shine as Israel finished fighting (Joshua 10:13). 

Jesus tells us that His own miracles were of the Father’s power (John 9:4)

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

There is also the modern notion that Jesus would ‘be cool’ with things the Father is not. Again, we who have been called realize that we are under grace, but grace does not give us a sin license, and to call good that which G-d calls evil. In our pride, we gainsay G-d and say He is at best outdated, and at worst, dead.

But He is eternal, and therefore can be neither, and there will be a judgment day.

In that we would be well to remember the one thing Jesus said that reminds us they are inseparable concerning the Father’s will and our eternal souls:

John 10:22-30

The Shepherd Knows His Sheep

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Yes, we have been given to Jesus (John 6:44)

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

G-d has done all He is going to do to redeem us, because he loves us. The rest is up to us, and the choice is ours to make.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

As long as we dwell here to preach and live out the Gospel, let us call to mind Your own words that point back to the Father’s sovereignty in all things, at all times, concerning every aspect of our lives. 

You tell us to let our lights shine so that men may see our works and glorify the Father.

When the Apostles continued Your work, glory was given to the Father. (Acts 3:6-8)

Thank You for being obedient, that we might be saved, reconciled, and redeemed, dwelling with You in the kingdom by faith instead of being eternally punished for our faithlessness and pride.

Thank You for being obedient in understanding that while we are frail, hard of heart, doubting, ungrateful, and yet sinful, You must set the Father’s standards before us before the Day of the Lord comes. 

And thank You, Father, for revealing the Son to us that we might be called Your sons and daughters, given the privileges and rights of the King’s children. We thank You for the ears to hear.

It is a dark world for shining a light of faith, but we have the Light of the World on our side, obedient, loving, and compassionate, but reminding us that the Harvest comes with a dread and ultimate purpose: the purging of the tares, the burning of the unfruitful, the separation of the unfaithful and lawless, who are cut off without remedy, and misunderstand our Savior’s meekness, and that if He is for us, none can stand against us.

Let us call to mind that He will not return as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah, in all of Your glory, His angels with Him, in an instant. 

Father, let my soul be among those raised in the last day. Help me to endure to the end, that I might be saved, praising You always, living on the New Earth, as Your Son reigns over us, in eternal obedience to Your guiding hand.

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 89: Spirits in Prison

Christ’s Suffering and Ours

18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, 19 by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison20 who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited, in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. 21 There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him.

We are bound by flesh, a prison of the senses, subject to sin in order to gratify them.

As believers, we sometimes convince ourselves that indulging in a little compromising, a little backsliding, will remove the barriers that tempt us, and we’ll be forgiven and continue with our walk.

This is not supported by Christ’s example, and it is affirmed by His most volatile, mercurial disciple. Did not the Lord himself tell us to count the cost of following Him, (Luke 14:28), and to take up our crosses on a daily basis (Luke 9:23 ) and that if we look back we are not worthy of the kingdom of G-d? (Luke 9:62)

How then, will we excuse ourselves for lapsing? Had Christ done so, His work would have been unfinished, and in vain, and we’d die in our sins as reprobate as we’ve lived, as if He’d never come at all.

Still, under the covenant of grace, let us rejoice and give thanks for a Savior who showed us by example, through praying for His enemies (Luke 23:34) that He understands we are weak and prone to error and foolishness. He has provided a way of return for us to the Father, and to the kingdom, through His mercy.

Jesus well understands, and indeed instructed the Apostle Paul to write under the power of the Spirit that our battle is in the realm of that which returns to G-d through faith in Him.

Ephesians 6:12

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

The evil days are many, as are the persecutions that come with it.

But we have been set free, called out, chosen, forgiven, and reconciled, though we are presently disobedient daily as well, we are convicted and allowed to begin again. Our lights can shine as brightly from a dungeon as on a hill.

25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison, awaking from sleep and seeing the prison doors open, supposing the prisoners had fled, drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28 But Paul called with a loud voice, saying, “Do yourself no harm, for we are all here.”

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

It was Paul and Silas who sang, but those in their presence were also released.

Like the Psalmist, we know where our help comes from:

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Be free, and enter into His joy.

Therefore I pray:

Lord forgive us, for sometimes we lay these things at the altar and pick them up again, sometimes we forget, sometimes persecution causes us to compromise, and temptation to backslide. 

In those moments, in the night watches of our suffering souls, we thank You for tearing the veil, that we approach the throne, and throw ourselves on the mercy of our Creator, who is longsuffering, but not eternally so.

Bring to mind there will be a day of reckoning, of final and irrevocable judgment, and help us endure to the end, still wearing the whole armor of G-d, still trusting in You, still moving in the Spirit, still claiming the promises, as the servant who does his work not knowing when the Master will return.

Bless us that we may enter into Your joy with good consciences, steadfast hearts, and childlike faith, claiming the work You gave us to do is finished. Guide us so that the talents of our ministries increase and bear good fruit that withstands the testing of Your holy fire.

Let our hearts and lips be constantly in prayer, no matter what we suffer, that our day of deliverance draws nearer. Open the doors of our spiritual prisons, and free us in such a way those around us not only see, but we bring them with us down the Narrow Way carrying reaped sheaves of everlasting joy.

We ask it in Your Name, believing we’ve received.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 80: They All Said Likewise

Mark 14:27-31

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:

‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’

28 “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”

29 Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.

30 Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”

31 But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”

And they all said likewise.

It is in the struggle of the day to day that as we strive to be more like Christ, we reveal ourselves to be more like Peter when Jesus was captured. We are sincere in our hearts and minds, but what doesn’t bear us out are the actions.

The Parable of the Sower is quoted so often because it is so true, and speaks to not only the heart, but our spirit nature as well. Because it dwells within a mortal frame, and the mortal frame seeks its own comfort, we find that we, like the Apostle Paul, do that which we don’t want to do.

There are books aplenty on how to focus during prayer, how to pray more powerfully, more earnestly. There are books on fasting, and connecting with our spirit. There are books and cds and podcasts all dealing with the issue of being more devout because as we go about our earthly existence, we are not, in most cases, working out our salvation and heeding the Holy Spirit’s call to our own spirit.

It’s about achieving levels of consistency that keep us in Jesus’ presence, and yet, we have this story: a simple fisherman, selected by Christ Himself, as passionate and mercurial a man as could be found, a man whose fate was so fearful to Satan that he asked Jesus to sift Him, made a vow he believed to be true, and wasn’t worth the air it took to breathe it.

Luke 22:  31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”

Peter then proceeds to fall asleep in Gethsemane’s courtyard, and in waking, cuts off a soldier’s ear. And we all know as the night proceeds, Jesus’ prophecy comes true, causing Peter to weep.

And as Jesus is arrested, we are told these devout disciples, whose passionate claims of loyalty were still in their hearts, broke apart like hammered stones.

Mark 14:50 Then they all forsook Him and fled.

Jesus knew, for we are told He knows what’s in the hearts of men; He tells us that out of the heart, the mouth speaks.

But He also knows that if we stray, if we have a mustard seed of faith, that we will return. And when we do, we must strengthen our brethren.

Are we hiding in the crowd today? Are the soldiers watching, waiting for those who’d point the way to you and say, “There they are.”?  Are we vehemently denying to the prince of this world’s servants, with a curse, that we don’t know the Man?

Are our hearts bitterly weeping when we come back to ourselves when we’re alone?

No, believer, not for us the Field of Blood, but Calvary, always. Jesus has prayed for us, and tells us that all who the Father gives Him will not be taken away. He tells us He does not in any way cast out those who seek Him. The Father tells us that if we return to Him, He will return to us, in His longsuffering and desire to forgive and restore us.

There is yet time, and there is yet grace.

Jesus will get us alone and ask: “Do you love me more than these?”

He asked Peter three times, to remove each denial, until Peter was cut to the heart and grieved that the Lord would question him, though I believe in his spirit he knew what was taking place.

It is a wonderful thing to see that after the Ascension, we read these words:

Acts 2:14

Peter’s Sermon

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words.

Be encouraged then, brothers and sisters, in the covenant of His mercy and grace; He’s prayed for us, and waits for our return. He restores us in body and soul, and we are once again in the fold of our Good Shepherd.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us that if we deny You before men, You deny us to the Father.

Yet we know that You sighed in Your spirit, You marveled at the centurion’s faith, You wept for Lazarus, You drove out the money lenders, and rebuked the very ones You called for their hardness of heart when they were told You had risen.

You asked for another way to avoid the pain of the Cross, seeing the agony ahead, and as the Apostle Paul tells us, despising the shame. 

What we do not read is that You were afraid, and did not deny the Father, though Satan himself tempted You in a moment where the angels had to minister to You.

Let us remember that when our faith appears dead, and our hearts fearful, and our spirits silent, You speak to us as to the man whose daughter died, and they told him not to trouble You.:

Mark 5:36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

Today, we gather together to sing Your praises, to thank You for your sacrifice in reconciling us, in calling us, revealing the will of the Father for us through the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth, and convicts us of sin.

Today, we return to You, and ask that you strengthen us for the days ahead.

Gird us up as we stand with other believers, and amid the enemy’s servants, to say in word and deed: “Heed my words.”

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.