Devotional 168: The Years of My Pilgrimage

Genesis 47:5-10

Then Pharaoh spoke to Joseph, saying, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you. Have your father and brothers dwell in the best of the land; let them dwell in the land of Goshen. And if you know any competent men among them, then make them chief herdsmen over my livestock.”

Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?”

And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” 10 So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.

Here’s a short definition of pilgrimage: “A trip to a sacred place for religious reasons.”

The Earth was once sacred, but dominion was handed over to its enemy by Adam, and we came under the Lord’s rebuke, our days now few and evil. But the Lord redeemed sinner Jacob, and changed his name, for nothing can remain the same under the hand of G-d.

We await the arrival of the new earth we are to dwell in, by the light of G-d, under the Savior’s rule, for eternity.

Today, with all that’s going on globally, with all the losses of the sureties we came to rely on, we are reminded with a heavenly certainty that those things were in fact, never sure at all, and that we are here for a time and then no more. A life that’s a vapor.

Our relationships within our homes, and in our communities, and spreading out to the world newly consider our relationship with the Word: the commandments, the conditions, (If you do this…), all of Christ’s prophecies, and all of the Father’s promises.

This plague, which ravaged us without even reaching the point of plagues past, should make us reflect on our most important relationship, the one we have with the One who will judge our works, hold us to account for all that we’ve done and said, and welcome us into the kingdom or cast us out.

In the midst of our enemy using all the vices of the flesh that corrupt the human spirit, we are to be mindful to not walk in fear, but to not be wise in our own eyes. There is a saying:

 “Call on G-d, but row away from the rocks.”

We are given the oars and the boat because we can’t walk on water, stop its flow, or calm it down.

Today, in your pilgrimages, wherever they may take you, bless those within it when you enter and when you leave, as Jacob did Pharaoh.

Our days are few and evil, and likely will not attain even to Jacob’s years, but the Lord our G-d will advance us to where that we may finish the work He called us to, if we are faithful and patient to keep possession of our souls.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

          We come before Your throne today under the covering of Christ’s blood, to thank You for giving us the strength to make it through the past few weeks as the plague that came upon us cut its path through Your creation, and is still at work.

        The daily routines of our lives were shattered, and while the faithless rail and panic, and the false invoke You as they threaten harm, we use this time to pray and draw closer to You not in hiding, but in rejoicing that You are Jehovah-jireh, our Provider.

       We place the blood of Your Son over our hearts, and pray healing for the afflicted, salvation for those taken in His name, mercy for those who died in their sins, and unity in the Gospel amid a lost and dying culture.

      Impart to us the mercy and grace of the Son’s new covenant once more where we have failed to live up to His image, and to give You glory.

     We are reminded today that the Earth, and everything in it, is Yours, and You knew all of all Your work before its creation. (Psalm 24:1, Acts 15:18)

     Bring us through this time to emerge on the other side as better than we were, closer to You, and one another. Purify us, Father, and keep us by the power of Your Spirit, doing greater works that reveal deeper truths as we move from glory to glory, sanctified and justified, spotless and blameless, on our pilgrimage to redemption.

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

   Amen.

Devotional 166: Uneducated and Untrained

Acts 4:13-17  The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

The Word of G-d is full of story after story about how the attempts at oppression, in all of its forms of ugliness, tries to keep the words of the Gospel, the Atonement, and the Resurrection from spreading,  but Jesus has already told us that His words will not pass away (Matthew 24:35) and that He speaks that which the Father has told Him to say (John 7:16).

Let us be reminded, particularly, of the story of Bartimaeus, who cried out all the more when the crowd tried to stop him. He was so loud that he actually got Jesus’ attention, and was healed on the spot. (Mark 10:46-52).

In this hour of wretchedness and disease, the human need to control things, combined with faithlessness and false worship, has stirred the hearts of men to frustration, fear, despair, anger, hate, defiance, and rebellion.

Their faith has been placed in those who haven’t the knowledge, skill, or motivation to seek wisdom in counsel to plan or lead. Their hearts are made weak and their minds fearful by agenda driven programming, and in the meantime the crisis at hand continues to exact its price among them.

Let those of us who claim to hold fast to faith now manifest it, let those of us who have heard and received the Word in faith now go forward and do the work it has called us to do, for we are told faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

Let us be as the sower of seeds, in truth, boldness, and faith. For those who can, let us be in the makeshift pulpits of our surroundings, at our keyboards or on stage, and sow that into the fields to let the Holy Spirit bring to the Father those He has called out of the world.

For those who have no such training, ask G-d for boldness to be a light on a  hill where you are to those around you having restless, fearful, and angry spirits. Cry out all the more when they come against you, and having done all you can, stand in faith on the promises of the living G-d (Ephesians 6:13) Bring to mind, should you see yourself a grasshopper in your own eyes, these Apostles, uneducated and untrained, taught by a Rabbi who never studied, yet astounded them with His teaching.

It is He who will give you a mouth and wisdom (Luke 21:15)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In this, the hour of our visitation, let us be stirred to be one of accord, rejoicing in faith and not fear that You have given us this opportunity to be sowers of the seed of Your salvation, that we might be reconciled to the Father before His restoration of all things in the new heaven and new earth.

Before the throne, we humbly ask to speak the Word with boldness before a wicked, adulterous, perverse generation that mocks, scorns, and falls away. Let us follow fast our Shepherd, that we will not be stand in the presence of the ungodly, scornful sinners. 

Today, we seek Your presence Lord, that we might fellowship with You in a time of refreshing. The path to the other side of a dark hour is emerging, but is not finished yet. 

We are but flesh, seeing what we want to see, hearing what we want to hear, believing what we want to believe, but You have told us the Father’s Word is truth. We are not only to hear it,  not only obey it, but manifest it in love among ourselves and to a dying world.

But we too, are sometimes frail of heart, timid of will, and shouted down. Help our unbelief, Lord, and strengthen us. Stretch out  Your hand to save us from the distractions and destroyers of our faith that allows us to step out and come to You in the midst of the storm.

It is good that we are uneducated, untrained, and unfruitful, so that when Your power is manifested through us, we can’t boast of our own strength and wisdom. Our legacies of ministry, however humble, however obscure, belong to You. They will be the only works that withstand the power of the testing fire in the day of judgement.

Until then, we abide here, witnessing the coming of a new age, watching Your prophecies begin to come to pass, and we pray that we are counted worthy to be profitable servants in whatever way You would have us share the message of salvation, that we might enter into our Father’s rest.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 165: This Jesus…

Acts 2:32-36

32 This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. 33 Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.

34 “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
35 Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” ’

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.

He is Lord, Christ, Savior, Shepherd, Friend, Brother, Judge, and King of Kings.

He is Son of David, Son of G-d, Son of Man, Bread of Life, Living Water, and the True Vine.

He is the Lamb of G-d and the Lion of Judah.

Yet all of these titles and honorariums will pale in comparison to His coming in glory with His angels. Having been burdened with the sins of those who would strive to be saved and enter into eternal life, He will come again in glory to rid the heavens and earth of the G-d’s enemies in word, deed, heart, and thought.

When John, the encounters the Christ of his Revelations, he tells us that he, the disciple whom Jesus loved, who reclined against his chest at the Last Supper, who was charged from the cross with taking care of Mary after Jesus was gone, fell like a dead man at Christ’s feet. (Rev 1:17).

Gone was the physical, casual familiarity of the close fellowship between Master and disciple, this was an encounter between holy divinity and humanity, and humanity cannot, and never will, prevail in its presence.

This was King Jesus in transcendent glory, and John in his wretched, fragile mortality.

We speak and listen to the Lord through the medium of prayer, yet here Jesus still reached out to touch and reassure His beloved apostle. John says He reached out and placed His right hand on him, and told Him not to be afraid.

Often we discuss the blessing of His blood and the horror of the cross, but not the power of the resurrection and what it truly means for believers.

Jesus tells that when He comes again in glory with His angels, it will be a day of calamity and darkness, unexpected, and those who are the enemies of G-d will be weeping and hiding, or raging and defiant to the last.

Every hidden thing will be revealed, whether good or evil, (Luke 8:17)  every work tested by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13) , accounts of our lives given, accounts for our idle words spoken (Matthew 12:36-37) and thoughts and desires still rooted in the wanting to be in and of a hedonistic world, having faith with no works,  will be balanced by His divine and just judgment. (John 5:30)

We will enter into rest, or be cast into outer darkness.

Let us hear when He says to us to do the will of the Father, keep His commandments, stay faithful, possess our souls through patience, keep aligned with Him through repentance, and seek after life for the sake of the Gospel of redemption and reconciliation.

We can rest assured, as He tells us, that we all will rise to the everlasting life of the ones we chose to serve. (Matthew 25:46)

In this hour of our visitation, let’s prepare ourselves and do what must be done, that when we rise to the great shout of ‘Come forth!’, we enter with Him into eternal life.

Fast, pray, and repent, then plant, sow, and reap, right where we are, to whomever we can.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today let us become increasingly assured in faith that it is only through Your revelation of the Father to us, that we are called to dwell among His Chosen in Your eternal kingdom by the cleansing of our sins through the power of Your blood.

We repent of our backsliding, fear, doubt, and worry, for You tell us the Father is aware of what we need before we ask. (Matthew 6:8) Nevertheless, we approach the throne boldly as sons and daughters, but in reverent fear and humility in the presence of G-d’s holy glory imparted to You.

Today, we declare this Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we are saved. (Acts 4;12)

This Jesus will not out cast out those who come to Him with questions, feelings of unworthiness, in godly sorrow and moral wretchedness, with sin-stained hearts, enslaved minds, broken spirits, and burdened souls (John 6:37)

This Jesus will not give up on us if we sin, and will exhort us once again to choose and not compromise, for we aren’t allowed to walk in two worlds, but to be eternal fruitful and profitable kingdom servants giving light to a mortal, dark, and faithless world. (Rev 3:15-17)

This Jesus, who receives sinners, has our names written in the Book of Life, so let us lives that rise to the calling, that we may be salt and light, pointing others to the Father’s glory by following the path trod by the Son, and multiply the flock of His chosen through the works of the Holy Spirit that dwells in us.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 148: Growing Faint in Battle

2nd Sam: 21:15-18

2 Samuel 21:15-18

Philistine Giants Destroyed

15 When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. 16 Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. 17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”

G-d did not tell David not to fight, but allowed him to grow faint in his last battle against the Philistines. Had it not been for Abishai, David would have met his end since he’d grown too old to be out there fighting.

His men perceived this, and told him he would no longer come out, as his role at that point was to continue to be ‘the lamp of Israel.’

It is a time we will all face. Having had many health challenges this year, I now find myself viewing my mortality from my peripheral vision. One day it will stand in front of us, and one day, it will put its cold, skeletal hand on our shoulders and guide us away from the spiritual battle.

Our only recourse to redemption at that point will be our faith in Christ raising me up on the last day with a great shout, as He awakened Lazarus.

In the time that remains, a lot has been shed so that I might move forward faster, as time is no longer a friend, marching relentlessly on to its own inevitable ending where it will give place to eternity.

I wonder if David found it difficult to hear, recognizing the whole latter part of their statement as a polite way of telling him that because of his weariness he might have cost them the victory. Certainly they would have been disheartened if he fell.

Even Jesus said, ‘The things concerning me have an end,’ as far as His earthly ministry was concerned, because He’ll reign over His people forever.

There will come a time when our own work will be winding down to completion, and we find ourselves faint in battle. The lamps of legacies we leave behind will testify to the work we did for the kingdom, and the rest cast out as dross.

We are warrior- priests, servant-leaders, sons and daughters, reaping harvesters, planters, water-bearers, and seed-sowing sheep all united under one Shepherd who leads the way back to the Source who created us: our Father, who is in Heaven, His Name forever hallowed as we dwell, worship, work, and live in His divine light brighter than the sun.

We will no longer cry (Rev 21:4), we will no longer have any questions (John 16:23), no longer die (Luke 20:46) we will be spotless, blameless, and pure, and there will be no more battles to fight as we live, move, and have our being for all eternity (Acts 17:28), sharing in the work where we won’t grow faint (Isaiah 40:31), now and forever.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,
    As we abide in You, please give us the strength to do greater works through Your power imparted to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, to do the impossible with G-d, for G-d.
     Your prophecies manifest themselves with growing frequency and intensity, and we, like Israel, would not have a quenched lamp or a feeble warrior on the field to fight to where we need to be, that we might recover all. (1 Samuel 30:8)
    As we age, checking off the list of declines listed in Ecclesiates 12:1-8, let us hold ever faster to the hem of Your robe, that we might be made well.
    We would not be like the sons of Eli, neglecting Your house for our own, abusing the privilege of servants to the people to our own gain.  Be with us Lord, and help us to feel Your presence even closer in these perilous times; keep us close to You, as we are prone to wandering.
      May we hear and know Your voice as You lead us to do greater work, and bless those who give and speak life by the power of Your will.
    May it be that as we grow weary, His strengths are given us to do greater signs and wonders, not to deceive, but that those who see our works will glorify G-d, and join the family to carry on the work of the harvest, for we must all decrease before your holy power and sovereign will.

    May it be done to us as You have said.

    Amen.

Devotional 143: The Price of Admission

Acts 14:21-27

Strengthening the Converts

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

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

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

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

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

Yet we have this:

John 8:28-30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ask, in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

Devotional 141: He Wrote About Me

John 5:39-47 

39 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

41 “I do not receive honor from men. 42 But I know you, that you do not have the love of God in you. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive. 44 How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you—Moses, in whom you trust. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”

From the second book of the Bible, from the time of the Passover Lamb sacrificed in its perfection, the coming of Christ was foreshadowed.

From the hanging of a scarlet thread in the window of a prostitute’s house, the safety of those inside and those outside was assured (Joshua 2:8-22)

The people of Nineveh heard the shortest sermon ever recorded, and the entire city had a revival. (Jonah 3:4)

The Queen of Sheba ran into a man with a fragment of G-d’s knowledge, and a spirit of skepticism was subdued. How much more foolish then, for the people who claimed G-d, to doubt the one who said, “One greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:38-42)

The missionary work of Saul of Tarsus, the ‘Pharisee of Pharisees,’ was so thorough in proving Christ was throughout the Scriptures that he confused and angered them to the point where they sought his death. (Acts 9:20-22)

In modern days, those who don’t like what the Bible says ascribe to the Lord a ‘laid back’ disposition because He ‘hung out’ with sinners. What they miss is that He never left them as they were, and admonished them to repentance, and not to backslide. (Luke 5:32)

Those He ministered to were not right with G-d and headed for damnation, for he mentions greater sins and worse things befalling those who do.

As faith was required to believe all things pointed forward, up until the fulfilling of the Father’s Promised One, so too, must we believe now that all things lead back to Him, for He is in the center of all that’s to come. (Luke 24:30-32)

As we have been grafted in through the Father’s will to grant us mercy and grace, we must now have faith in His promises, trust in His prophecies, and obedience to His commands, for He tells us they came from the Father, and those who hear and do the Father’s will shall be victorious.

We have to believe the atoning work, symbolized by the spotless lambs of Exodus in the year of the Lord’s favor, will be sufficient for the forgiveness of sins to be passed over by the Lion of Judah in the day of the Father’s wrath.

Let us pray it may be so. (Zephaniah 2:3)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Let us hold to the fact that You are, in fact, the scarlet thread that runs all through Scripture, that before the foundation of the world You were destined to be sent to redeem the sins of man.

We pray for an attitude of reverence for the words you spoke, that the grace You imparted in the grafting in of the Unchosen is not a license to sin, but a call to flee from sin, even in matters of the mind and heart. 

Let us focus on that which tells us to do the Father’s will in loving one another and praising Him in spirit and truth, loving Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength.

Let us use our gifts to increase the harvest of redeemed souls through the power of the Holy Spirit to the Father’s glory.

We humble ourselves in gratitude that You have revealed the Father to us, that we might enter into His kingdom and rest, secure from evil forever in word, thought, and deed.

Help our moments of unbelief, increase our faith, and remind that when we believe on You, we believe in Him who sent You, and He will remember our sins no more.

We ask in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 139: New Hearts, Right Spirits

Ezekiel 36:26

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

What we consistently fail to understand about the Father’s will to cleanse us is that it is as uncompromising as it it unwavering, though it does not come without requirements.

People who claim the Word is contradictory have been blinded, given hearts of stone, and ears that cry out for tickling, adapting the infinite, glorious, majesty of G-d to their limited knowledge and puffy intellects.

They place Creation under the tangible but cloudy lenses of ‘Science’ and ‘Evolution’, which has theories it takes just as much, if not more faith, to believe in. But the know there’s no G-d. They are, at best, houses built on shifting sand, and such believers in it are willing to go with it as their source.

And yes, they have their time and place, for He gave us a mind to establish dominion over the earth and subdue it, but they don’t replace Him. It is simply that they can’t fathom the mind of G-d, but the Father is not inconsistent in dealing with His creation.

The matter of hearts and spirits is like a ‘pop-up’ ad throughout Scripture, perhaps the most known of them being this verse:

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    Repentance is the cornerstone of renewed fellowship with G-d, just as faith was the cornerstone of Christ’s miracles manifesting themselves in the lives of those who sought Him.

G-d is not ignoring our sins because we make them legal, and nothing is being done unseen before His eyes. Those things He’s called abominations have only morphed into more forms of spiritual confusion and deception.

The tide of faithlessness is rising, and the current of persecution disguised as legislation moves more swiftly, yet the questions remain the same: “Where is your G-d?”  “Why doesn’t He just save us/ purge evil?”   “You really believe that nonsense?”

Yet Christ tells us:  We will suffer for our faith (Matt: 24:9) The love of many will grow cold (Matt: 24:12) False christs shall rise (Matt: 24:24) He will come at an hour we don’t expect (Matt: 24:44) Not all who call on His name will enter into His rest (Matt: 7:21)

Right hearts and renewed spirits, then, have become things we can’t do without in these times. Peter tells us:

Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 

Are we prepared for the unexpected?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

It is no small thing to walk behind our Shepherd through the valley of death’s shadow.

The path is narrow and steep, and the unholy line both sides of it, waiting for the weak to fall, the foolish to stray from under the protection of His rod and staff, for the inattentive to lose their way, the tired for fall behind, and the fearful to turn back.

Our enemy speaks to us, as he did in Eden, of the fleshly good of Your creation, tempting us with pretty things, and planting seeds of doubt about what You’ve said to us: Did G-d really say…?

He proclaims to us in moments of spiritual fatigue and moments of crisis: All these things I will give to you…

So Father, today we repent of our sins, we confess them to You that we may be cleansed of all unrighteousness, all doubt and uncleanness, all fear and sorrow. Renew our hearts, Lord G-d, and refresh our spirits.

Restore us to fellowship with You, and each other.

Keep us from invoking Your heavenly Name to justify our earthly evils.

We present ourselves before the throne of grace and judgment. We come to You in our filth, with wretched hearts, weak flesh, tired minds, blind eyes, and hard hearts, that You might send the Son to us again to bring us back to You.

We say to Him today, in Your sight and by Your grace:

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

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 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.