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 92: Grasshopper Eyes

Numbers 13:30-33

30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”

The Lord had promised them freedom from slavery, which He delivered in a spectacular fashion; they’d all witnessed the power and favor of Jehovah first hand, in ways that no other people of the earth had before, but just before claiming the promise, they replaced His vision with their own, their doubt for His assurance, and His good pleasure to deliver them into a land of no lack with a desert experience full of hardship and death.

They are not alone. Example after example is offered to us that when we are called to do the work of the Living G-d, we do not often give Isaiah’s reply, but rather that of Moses.

Exodus 4:10

10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Or Gideon’s:

Judges 6:14-15 

14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”

15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”

Or the army of Israel:

1 Samuel 17:8-11

Then (Goliath) stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

It is now no less fearful for us, whom the Savior has now called out of the world to finish the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, to do the will of the Father, which hasn’t changed, and to enter in to rest, rule, and reign with Him in the work of praising the Father forever, and dwelling in peace among ourselves.

Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t work for that? Who wouldn’t we tell about that, so they could come with us?

But we have an enemy, and our flesh doesn’t desire that which makes it uncomfortable, for as we have a Savior who has chosen us for Kingdom work, He paid a terrible cost, as did His disciples, even to this day. But the suffering had an end, and He now sits in inconceivable power and glory at the Father’s right hand.

We must go through one to get to the other, so our Teacher tells us to count the cost, deny ourselves, die to ourselves, take up a daily cross, and follow Him down the Narrow Way.

Our Savior reassures us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

So too, did G-d reassure His servants, telling them He would fill their mouths, be with them, instruct them, guide them, and answer them. The phrase, as it pertains to actual fear, and not the reverence of the Lord, occurs 103 times.

G-d knows what He created, and well does he know our hearts, spirits, and minds. How could it not be so, if the hairs on our heads are numbered, and the length of our days set from the beginning.

If, as the Word says, we are wilting flowers, withering grass, vapors, breaths, fleeting, and our spirits not reconciled to G-d, we are better off trusting and accepting that which God will do through us by faith.

We are marked men and women, and the call is irrevocable. It is we who turn back, run away, and hide from it in our frailty.

G-d would have it that you answer the call, and enter into His rest through faith in the atoning work of His Son, who tells us there is already space:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)

A house that contains mansions…. the G-d we serve, and love, and worship, is bigger than that.

Don’t make yourself small in His sight.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

I confess today, I have not always stepped forward with Isaiah’s desire to be sent to do Your will. My response has been one of fearful doubt, or I pretend not to hear, and go blithely on until I reach the dead end, crouch down at the end of the alley, and wait for darkness to hide me from Your sight. I hope the whole time it isn’t true that You see at midnight as You do at noonday, though I know it is.

Create in me a renewed heart of flesh, and not stone. Make my spirit right, make it as fertile soil where Your word takes root. Give me ears to hear, and in hearing, a will and heart to understand. 

I would not be tossed into the sea as Jonah, or given over to my enemies like Sampson, or give another my glory like Barack.

Replace my quavering spirit with Yours, my fast-beating, fearful heart with Yours, my hating, angry emotions with Your peace, my compromising with Your steadfastness, my backsliding with Your resolve to drink from the cup.

I lay my life down to You today, right now, as an imperfect fleece, dry and knotted, full of spots and stains and blemishes, and I say to You today, right now, water it with the dew of Heaven, and purify it for Your glory, and to Your purposes. 

I would like to say that on the peak of this mountain, where You see a mighty warrior imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, I will not have to ask again, but I know I will.

And the beauty of knowing You is that You know it too, and will answer when I call.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 62: This is Man’s All

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

I have come to accept that our society in America has decided to serve mammon rather than G-d, yet Jesus tells us this as a sign of the end times, that the evil men will do to each other will increase not just between nations, but within households.

We can pray, and do well, and keep faith and obedience, but as much as we don’t like to think about it, there’s going to be an end to this, just as in the days of Noah. All that we’ve come to know and love in this life will be destroyed, but rebuilt without the evil that pervades it.

It’s been explained like this in a sermon I once heard the late Myles Munroe preach:

G-d gave man dominion over the earth, but by listening to the serpent, and being disobedient, Adam, in not rebuking Eve and blaming G-d,  gave dominion to Satan. Since G-d doesn’t take back that which He gives, prayer is seeking G-d for divine intervention in earthly affairs.

Whether you agree with it or not isn’t the issue, but it’s clear that in the hearts of men today someone else is holding sway, and people are doing and saying things they wouldn’t ordinarily.

Paul’s oft-quoted verse reminds us we aren’t battling flesh and blood, but waging war in heavenly places and demonic strongholds.

We have a fear inducing media, that plays both sides using different balls, and our representatives (not leaders) grow increasingly insulated and disconnected as they pack their granaries with more illicit grain.

The news is rife with conspiracy theories, the Illuminati, the Masons, and all the little subdivisions thereof taking place at night in basements and caves and isolated places.

People are speaking things that sound deep but aren’t, and talking heads with opposing viewpoints are so busy shouting down each other that nothing is heard.

So what do we do, dear Believer? We fear G-d, and keep His commandments.

The evil that men do in secret is known to Him. There are no secret societies hidden from Him. There are no sacred rituals that drive out His presence. There are no men whose names are on the letterheads of these societies that have the final say over Him. He sees them and their deeds as we see each other on the street at noon, vibrant and full of life and color, and His vengeance is stored up for their sins.

We are told that the wicked prospered even in the days of King David, yet David’s son tells us they will be cut off with no remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

As we know the road to life is narrow, and the travelers few, we must hold fast, and tight, to the knowledge we possess of the reality of G-d, and His power. Jesus says not to fear those who can kill the body but destroy the body and soul (Matthew 10:28)

We are told over and over again, as we see mounting atrocities, idolatries, cold churches, colder people, disconnected wealthy people making ‘backroom deals’ (which, by the way, G-d also sees), that His vengeance and judgment are being stored up.

I emphasize we are in the year of the Lord’s favor, as Jesus quoted in Isaiah when He first declared what His ministry was to be, but let us be reminded Jesus did not continue that verse:

‘And the day of vengeance of our G-d.’

We are reminded in the parable of the vineyard workers that everyone received their due at the end of the day when the work was finished.

Again:  Ecclesiastes 8:11-12
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. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 

Continue to pray for our representatives, do good to others, spread the Gospel in love, and keep faith and obedience as the scales that will balance your life before Him.

To quote ‘Julian of Norwich’:  It behooved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

      We are surrounded by Your enemies on every side, and therefore, Lord G-d, they are our enemies too. Yet Your will for them is that we love them, and pray for them, and do good to them as Your ambassadors, that their hearts might soften and turn to You. This is what Your Son commanded of us through You.

      It’s a difficult thing You ask of us, for our human inclination is to avoid them, indeed, to hide from them, if not ignore them. We are much like the Pharisee who stood next to the sinner, thanking You he was not like that man. But these sinners are unapologetic, unrepentant, and indeed glory in their wickedness, in their prosperity, in their ability to keep others from gaining what they themselves have, and cutting off their means to attempt it.

     We ask of You that which the Apostles asked Jesus:

     ‘Should we call down holy fire upon them?’ 

     Let us be reminded that there is a harvest, and that choices against You in the year of Your favor can still be reversed until the day of judgment. Until then, we are to keep Your commandments, and leave the rest to You, in spite of our inclinations to do otherwise.

     I myself have been forgiven much, but I have trouble forgiving others. I don’t want to leave it on the altar, though the weight is terrible. Yet I’m told if I don’t forgive, I won’t be forgiven by You. 

     Help me in this, Lord. I’m getting better, but I’m far from over a lot of things that should be dead and buried. I walk by the hole, and look in, and say, ‘I remember that,” but I don’t fill the hole.

     You’ll have to help me do that, Lord. I want to keep Your commandments, I don’t want to sin, and I can do far more than I have been, in Your strength, and by Your will.

     Help me to fight the temptation of disobedience over that which you’ve given me dominion, to keep my integrity, to labor as unto You, bearing fruit to Your glory, for this is my all, and the all of my brothers and sisters. 

     I ask it in the Name of Jesus, believing I’ve received. 

     Amen