Devotional 90: A True and Faithful Witness

Jeremiah 42:5-6 New King James Version
5 So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. 6 Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

The issue with calling on G-d to witness a pact is that since the heart of man is inclined to sin, evil, treachery, and disobedience, is that we are admonished not to make a vow to Him that we are not willing to keep.

Ecclesiastes 5:5  Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

The Israelites were walking by sight, and forgot that time and again when they beseeched the Lord and turned from their sin, they were forgiven and restored.

The Father , however, was not above culling the sinful from their midst. They wanted to return to Egypt where they believed the conditions of bondage was better for them than the sovereignty of G-d. On the pretense of being obedient, they turned to Jeremiah to bring them the word of the Lord, but they also vowed to do whatever the Lord said, even if it was displeasing.

The prophet fulfilled his part, but here’s what the people responded:

43 Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, all these words, 2 that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ 3 But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”

They not only broke their vow, they did so in their self-importance, and thereby doomed the people who they were supposed to lead.

These days, our hearts are no less proud and defiant, and many have said by way of indulging themselves, “Only G-d can judge me.” And where that should frighten them, the implication is that G-d will not judge them harshly, because they don’t understand the nature of G-d. He is faithful, yes, and true, yes, but he is also just, which means that His punishments are as deserved as His blessings. His sovereignty in the final decision regarding the fate of your eternal soul will therefore not only be irrevocable, but it will be the right one.

This is why the faithless stand no chance, the unbeliever has signed his own death warrant, and the unrepentant backslider who’s renounced the atoning blood of Jesus is a son of hell.

Our own Savior tells us He does the Father’s will in such matters:

John 5:30-32 
30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

In order for the Father and Son to be of one mind and will, the Son came under obedience. Judgment is not a casual matter, but it is harsh and frightening, and the defiant will find their tongues to be silent as they tremble. The Apostle John tells us Jesus said more than once: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Let us be mindful that if judgement starts with the Chosen of G-d, it will likely be harsher because the Son came to them first. What chance then, for us as imperfect believers? There is no chance for the unbeliever, but they have chosen for themselves.

There’s an ad on Facebook where secularists, atheists, skeptics, and agnostics can come together; it is described as a place for ‘happy godless people’ who think they’re going to get a chance to mouth off, flip off, and mock. Here is what the disciple who Jesus loved had to say on meeting Him:

Revelation 1:17

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

‘…happy godless people.’

Jesus would say to us: “I tell you the truth, they have their reward.”

There are times as well when G-d assures of victory; let us not in an excess of emotion add vows to that which he told us, for He will test the truth of our words, and it may cost us dearly: (Judges 11:29-40)

Jephthah’s Vow and Victory
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith—twenty cities—and to Abel Keramim,[a] with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
Jephthah’s Daughter
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”
36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”
38 So he said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. 39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man.
And it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Jephthah didn’t need to make the vow, as the Lord had already set things in motion for his victory by the fact that the people came to him to deliver them.

None will escape the judgement of Heaven; don’t treat it lightly.

It is perfect, final, and to be greatly feared.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, let Your Spirit ever convict me, putting a guard on my heart, and over my mouth. Let my soul be steadfast in Your presence, for you have given me the strength and wisdom to run this race, and the mercy and grace to continue fighting until my work is done.

You understand that I can’t comprehend why You love me, or why You deemed me worthy of knowing the Truth, but I am thankful that You did.  You understand my limitations, but You’ve also called me to a higher standard.

You delivered me when I made my vow, and there are days in my life I have not honored it, falling under Your righteous judgment. I vow anew, in the spirit of sorrowful repentance, to fulfill it once more, and dedicate myself to serving You in the time that remains, for You have continued to bless and sustain me.

Refresh my spirit, heal my heart, and quicken my light, that I may guide the lost to You through the work You’ve given me, that they may glorify my Father in Heaven, through faith in You.

Help me to love as You love, to see that which the Father sees in all men, and fill my hands with such seeds as You would have me plant, or give me living water to pour where You would have me water.

To the Father I would bring honor and glory, rejoicing with those whom I’ve brought to faith, that they may be delivered from justice, cut off without remedy.

I ask in faith, believing I’ve received.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 88: I Am Not of This World

John 8:21-30

Jesus Predicts His Departure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The prophet Amos warns us: (Amos 5)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

Behold, I Make All Things New

Revelation 21

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The year departs, and with it, we’ve lost that which we always lose: people who are close to us, time, money, opportunities that came our way that we didn’t see as advantageous at the time.

The danger in losing these things is not to deny their loss, or our failures, but that we lose ourselves, for they’re what comprises our daily life here on earth. But doesn’t our Lord tell us not to have treasures here? 

(Matthew 6:19-21)  Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We are to save souls, and even there we sometimes fail by being afraid or uncertain, and again letting opportunities go, or setting bad examples, or just slipping up.

Guarding our hearts, minds, and tongues in these days is hard. People, like Martha, are concerned and passionate about many things which did, in fact, need to be done. But like Martha, we are reminded through our Lord that He is to take precedence in those things, and that Mary’s abandonment of preparation to sit at His feet was better.

(Luke 10:38-42)  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Our Lord’s rebuke of prioritizing earthly concerns rings through the ages:

Matthew 12: 39-42

39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

It’s fine to be excited for the New Year,  a chance to start fresh, to do new things, or start over and try again. It’s a clean slate, a sloughing off of habits and people that held us back from doing all that we could, and from being the person He wants us to become.

But 12 months is a long time, and most people, myself included, have difficulty after that initial burst of enthusiasm and adrenaline.

The beautiful thing about having the covenant of our Lord is that through repentance, the kind that produces sorrow, we don’t need to wait for a solstice change or a spin of the earth to get that start. We are ever cleaned, refreshed, renewed, forgiven, and the ink of our names in the Book of Life gets a fresh coat, so to speak.

And through Him, if all things are possible with G-d, as He tells us, we need not turn to the calendar for steadfastness, for His works aren’t incomplete. That which we leave behind, we won’t turn back for. If you’ve been delivered, you’ll stay delivered.

Let us be mindful though, that for now, we are constrained by time and mortality, and our earthly works have an ending date. Don’t be found wanting. Doubt delays blessing, and fear is crippling.

If we are resolved to do anything for the year, if you seek the Lord and make your vow, keep it. We are told it is better not to vow to G-d, than to vow and break it.

(Ecclesiastes 5)

Fear God, Keep Your Vows

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.

Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity,
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.

Our hearts are to be where our treasure is: with the atoning work of salvation of our souls through  Jesus.

Our priority is to sit still and listen, and know that He brings to us the words of our Father’s heart towards us.

Our vows to Him are to be as steadfast and faithful as His covenant of grace is to us.

Let us rejoice, in this New Year, that we are new creations, and that He will make all things new.

(2 Peter 3:13)  13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Let it be to us as He has said.

Happy New Year