Devotional 190: Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 5:1-10

The Beatitudes

5 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The result of earthly devotion to Christ is tagged on each end of His sermon by the same one: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

As servants, we are given gifts and talents by the Master to use to His benefit while He is away from us. In the parable Jesus tells, some are gifted more than others, but all are gifted. The proper use of them brings increase, but not using them, indeed, hiding them, not only results in decrease, but in the Master’s wrath and the loss of position in His service.

Let’s be clear: G-d does not need our money (Haggai 2:8), nor our gifts, for He is the one who imparts them, and we call him Almighty for a reason.

He desires our gifts be put into service to help and bless, coming alongside fellow believers in ministry who are gifted in ways we are not, but all working toward the kingdom’s goals. As we use them, G-d will give the increase, and we will bear fruit for our faith as well as our labor and sacrifice.

The cost comes in trying to live by the spirit in a world of flesh and sin. Paul reminds us this will be a lifelong battle, dividing us within and affecting those around us (2 Cor: 3-11) as we are persecuted for speaking truth to the devil’s power, such as we give him over our lives. The pressure to be silence, and the spirits that work evil around us, can be such that like Paul, we also despair of life.

David, in a show of great strength, even prays for mercy toward his enemies who mock his faith in that they not be slain, just brought down and scattered. (Psalm 59:11)

fIs this a strength, an integrity of spirit, a fast holding to a teaching to love our enemies, that we can honestly say we possess? If struck for the Gospel, or worse, will we count ourselves worthy like Peter and the Apostles? (Acts 5)

Would we have it in us to rejoice for being persecuted in ways that hurt us, interrupted us, incapacitated us, for preaching the Gospel? Or would we renounce Him for comfort, hoping that He will forgive and know our hearts, knowing that He says if we don’t confess and proclaim Him before men, He will not do so before the Father?

As the tides of immorality and turning away from Christ’s teachings unfold around us, under the guises of tolerance and politics, masking sin as rights, freedoms, and patriotism, let more sober minds and holy tempers pray our officials take heed of the words of Zechariah (7:9 -10)

“Thus says the Lord of hosts:

‘Execute true justice,
Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.
10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor.
Let none of you plan evil in his heart
Against his brother.’

He will turn a deaf ear to our cry of “God bless America” if we do not in turn bless Him as one nation truly under one G-d, while we yet have freedom to worship Him in spirit and truth.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We are living in an empire unraveling, borne of sin, yet prospered and protected by Your hand, for the Father allowed it to flourish in spite of its evils, according to the His will and plan.

We honor You now with cold lips, hard hearts, and unrepentant prideful spirits that You are giving us license to act upon because we say Your Name to sanction that which we do of our own will, and not from a desire to live according to Your teaching, and to the Father’s glory.

Devotional 182: …But Who Are You?

Acts 19:11-20

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.” 14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.

15 And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

1Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. 17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. 18 And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. 19 Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. 20 So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.

This is a study in contrasts. Here we see that Paul doesn’t have to speak a word to the demons, but the items he touched and used had enough anointing on them to drive out to heal, and drive out evil spirits, and then we have those who used Paul’s name to invoke Christ, and then the sons of Sceva.

These others who invoked Jesus’ power through Paul were likely honored in their requests for their tertiary faith, whether they had the doctrine of Christ or not: “We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”

We don’t have a written record of their success rates, but we do have the record of the spectacular failing of Sceva’s sons. They seemingly had the numbers and credentials to do great work as sons of a devout chief priest. Whoever sought them out would have likely taken comfort in such, and while we don’t know the exact reason for their failure, the demon who challenged them did.

One could imagine the chill that went through them as they heard its question: “… but who are you?”

Perhaps it was as Paul says (2 Corinthians, 5:12) 12 For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart.

What we have to remember is that even as Christ looks at the heart, so too, do his enemies.

Were the sons of Sceva after a reputation, money, or power? Were they prideful or boastful from a successful exorcism? The text doesn’t say, only that they failed, and that it became widely known, which would have been a shame to their father as well. They seemed to have brought nothing of Heaven’s anointing, only themselves, that they were so thoroughly, shamefully put to flight.

Today, during this holiday season unlike any other, be careful to look within and ask if the demon’s challenge is true of us as well. Does he know you as a child of G-d? Is he gone, or will he beset you and put you to flight, abandoning all you know of Him who wrote your name in the Book of Life?

Today, make time to boast in the heart, trust in the Name, and receive the anointing of Christ to speak to your mountains, and drive out your demons.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our frailty, this year has been harder than most for a lot of us. With losses on every side of loved ones, finances, help, and fellowship, we ask Your forgiveness for our lapses in faith, and in the Father’s goodness.

As we prepare to transition to a new year, new leaders, and new circumstances, let us hold fast to the hand of our Shepherd, who assures us no one can snatch us from His hand.

Increase our faith, help our unbelief, and gird up our legs that we might stand where we would fall. Renew our hearts, refresh our spirits, and speak to us in the watches of the night, that we might know You are with us and for us.

We thank You for bringing us to this moment in time, as some have gone on to eternity. We pray for our nation, that it be preserved after hearts of sinful men are done with striking it a blow, according to Your will, that we might turn to You and realize that the signs You spoke of about the end of the age are now truly upon us.

We would be redeemed and reconciled to our Father through You, that we might not falter in the days to come. You tell us that night is coming, where no man can work. Let us follow Your light to the narrow path, that we might enter into our Father’s rest. But while we are here, let us do as You did, and go about doing all things well to the Father’s glory, speaking by the power of the Holy Spirit, and faithfully speaking all that You tell us to say, that none may refute us.

In this holiday season, so detached from the divine nature it once knew, may we honor You in righteousness, peace, and joy.

Amen.

Devotional 178: Spoken Against Everywhere

Paul’s Ministry at Rome

17 And it came to pass after three days that Paul called the leaders of the Jews together. So when they had come together, he said to them: “Men and brethren, though I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered as a prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans, 18 who, when they had examined me, wanted to let me go, because there was no cause for putting me to death. 19 But when the Jews spoke against it, I was compelled to appeal to Caesar, not that I had anything of which to accuse my nation. 20 For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain.”

21 Then they said to him, “We neither received letters from Judea concerning you, nor have any of the brethren who came reported or spoken any evil of you. 22 But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere.”

Matthew 7:28

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Matthew 24:35

35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

A new teacher, a new covenant, a new way including new people to join in on the salvation granted to the Jews, the Father’s chosen, whom He protected, loved, rebuked, punished, and restored since the foundation of the world.

He gave to us, through them, the Son of Salvation, and the man who had the largest missionary calling of them all, the one who started with zero faith and one hundred percent hate. The Lord took every skill he’d used to persecute the church and turned it upside down to spread the Father’s message that all mankind was invited to dwell in His kingdom, but only through faith in His Son.

When Simeon had seen Jesus, he said to Mary and Joseph that the child’s life and ministry would reveal the thoughts of many hearts. As Jesus grew to find favor with G-d and man, Simeon’s prophecy was borne out.

We stand in such a moment now, where the thoughts of many hearts have been revealed, and in whom they place their trust; we who count ourselves among the faithful must be vigilant that we not only honor Him with our lips.

We live in the “land of the free,” up to a point.

We live in the “home of the brave,” where unarmed men and women can be shot in the back, brutalized, and summarily executed with no consequences for the offenders.

We say justice is blind, but only the rich and powerful go free.

We say all men are equal, but we love one and hate the other.

Where do our ministries find us in those moments? Where does the Lord find our hearts? Is he filling our mouths with bold words, or are our hearts trembling within us? Are they hearts of flesh, or stone? Are our ears tickled and deaf, or open to a new teaching that changes the course of our history, and heals our land?

Hatred will not result in good fruit. Cruelty will not be justified before the throne. Blindness will not be claimed by those the Lord healed of blindness, both physical and spiritual, yet we now live out the words: “Seeing, they do not see, and hearing, they do not understand.”

The parable of The Wheat and Tares is among us, the harvest is maturing, and soon, the culling will begin. I believe it’s already started, if the West Coast fires are any indication.

Where will the angels’ scythe find you? In the sheaves of wheat being brought in with rejoicing, or the furnace, to be destroyed with no remedy?

“Choose this day…”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We look to You now, to whom all authority in Heaven and Earth has been given, to guide us into all Truth in this moment through the conviction of our Comforter, the Holy Spirit.

Our spirits grieve within us, our hearts fail, and our boldness grows silent as we flee the blades and bullets of our enemies because we did not seek You to go before us.

We seek you now, from the hiding places, and ask that You forgive us and grant us mercy. We stand now to be fully seen in robes of white, standing in the gap and pleading Your blood to stay the Father’s wrath.

We repent of our cowardice and pride, we repent of our own self-righteousness, we repent of our own self-reliance and sense of importance. We repent of forgetting this is not our home, and that Your words will not pass away. We repent of not speaking with power and authority, speaking truth to power, to sinners, doing both with love and compassion for the lost.

You told us this faith would come at a price, and that if we testify to the world, as You did, that its works are evil, we would be hated, as You were. The question you put before us now is, Will we also turn away?

Strengthen us, Lord. We would not be the disciples of Gethsemane, but the Apostles of the Book of Acts, praying, preaching, and manifesting the Father’s love among the faithless.

We ask that You give us the strength to withstand the onslaughts of the hateful, the sexually confused, the ‘spiritually free’ who are in fact in bondage, and those who place their faith in the sands of science, which will never be fathomed from the infinite mind of G-d.

We speak Your Word to stand against evil, and do not bend to call it good.

We speak Your Word, and let the Spirit call those appointed to receive it.

We speak Your Word, and love without judgment, for judgment is in Your hands.

We speak Your Word, and don’t seek vengeance, because that belongs to the Father.

But we do ask for mercy if we fail in the midst of oppression, for those lapses that come to us when we say, like Peter, “I do not know the Man!” because to share in Your glory, we must share in Your trials.

Seek and restore us, Lord Jesus, when we are lost in darkness. Bring us back to the light of Your grace, and wash us clean in the blood of the New Covenant you’ve bestowed to a people who were not Yours, grafted in by grace.

We would be profitable, fruitful, faithful servants in the darkest hours, and it is night in this nation. You have told us to let our works so shine, that mankind may see them, and glorify the Father, worthy of all praise now and forever. We ask that You search our hearts, and test the work we do, that it may be found worthy of Heaven, and please our Father’s heart.

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

Amen.

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.