Devotional 162: Where Two or Three Gather…

Matthew 18:18-20

18 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

19 “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

If indeed, the Father has handed over all to the Son, who has proven Himself worthy on Calvary, in the times we cannot gather in unity to praise and worship in corporate fellowship, we can still yet gather, like vineyard clusters, and still have Him move among us.

If we hold by faith to the tenet that He is omnipresent, how then, especially now, can we neglect to ask for heavenly intercession to bind our earthly suffering?

We became for a long time a proud, indulgent nation full of self-righteousness and hatred for our brothers and sisters, enjoying mocking of the faithful, believing in the demon’s call to kill based on skin color and languages;  even now, our Asian brothers suffer slings and arrows, both verbal and physical, through the tongues and hands of ignorant people.

Let’s not neglect to pray for them, as well as each other.

Let us turn our eyes, thoughts, hearts, words, and deeds to Heaven, that we might bind up the suffering, give strength to the struggling, peace to the dying, and light to the spiritually blind, and when they finally look to the hills, let it be our light surrounding His that they see, that they might glorify G-d. (Matthew 5:16)

Let us take heart in the fact that our Father has already seen the fruits of the ending of this plague, and let us go about doing the work in faith, the former and the latter thing, for such work pleases Him, and makes us profitable to the Kingdom. (Matthew 23:23)

The end will come, both the end to this plague, and the end of all things.

We, His hands and feet, His tongue and heart, must remain steadfast in our service, and consistent in our beliefs, though the accuser throws the last of hell’s storehouses at all we hold dear, for there is an end to him and his kingdom as well. It will be renewed, cleansed, and purified by the light of the G-d Himself, for the earth is His, and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

      We are afflicted, for You have allowed it to be so by Your sovereign will. Your creation suffers, and wonders, and grieves, and flares up in bursts of anger and fear, but Your Children, the grafted in and the chosen, are also in the world, and afflicted, for You have not spared them, calling them out of the world to rest and come home.

     We who remain cry out to You to bind the enemy’s workings, that we might be a healed land who once again acknowledges that the earth, and all in it, and the silver and gold, are Yours. 

     We plead the Blood of Jesus over the spiritual strongholds of hate and pride that grip this land in a gory fist of hellfire, that our wounds and diseases might be healed, our hearts burn within us with holy fire, and our eyes opened to the Truth, and Your promises to Your people, for You are not a man that You should lie.

     Reveal Your presence to the gathering clusters of believers who still seek Your face, and ask once more for mercy, grace, and love that we are not worthy to receive, but You still bestow upon us. 

     Forgive us for our pride, and thinking we have done all this in and of ourselves, not realizing that we even breathe but by Your will, until our appointed days are fulfilled. 

    Let us now run the race with an urgent joy, that we might see Your people saved, and once again humbly seek Your presence to start anew, and serve one another down to the least, who is the greatest in Your kingdom. (Matthew 23:11)

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

    Amen.

 

 

Devotional 161: See That You are Not Troubled

The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age

Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

I was going to title this devotional, “The Beginning of Sorrows,” for such, it seems, is the present time we live in with the pandemic. But having seen pictures and postings that feed fear and hysteria, panic buying, and extreme politics as each party blames the other for allowing this virus to slip through the cracks, so to speak, I thought it would be better to strengthen us as believers.

So many times, our Lord tells us not to be afraid,  as the Father spoke to Joshua when he lead the Israelites after Moses’ died. He also says that if we believe in Him and His work as the only way to salvation we shall see G-d, because by believing in Him, we believe in the Father who sent Him. (John 12:44)

It is the nature of prophecy to say what will happen, not when. But as the technology we now possess allows for further saturation at an ever faster pace around the world,  we watch the turn of events in nature, governments, finances, and the church itself as it grows cold, political, and falls away from His teaching, and perceive, like the woman at the well, that He is a Prophet.

Let us then continue to look for opportunities to tell others about Him, and why the peace we possess, while it is beyond their understanding, is not beyond their reach, for whoever calls on His Name will not be cast out. (John 6:37)

So today, Believer, take Him at His word and be at peace, take care of yourself, and by your patience, possess your soul, and peace of mind, body, and spirit will refresh you in the vine that sustains us all. (John 15:5)

Watch, pray, tell, and rejoice, then having done all you can, stand back and see what G-d will do.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Your Son has declared Heaven is Your throne and earth is Your footstool, so we are not to swear by it, for You are faithful to provide us Your bread for our and reward us for faithful service. (Matthew 5:33-34)

We ask, as voices in the wilderness preaching to a dying world, that we maintain possession of our souls, our peace, our families, and our earthly things. We pray hedges of protection around those we hold dear, for You value the people we do, the ones that You have given us to show your Light, share Your knowledge, and put them under Your anointing to do the Kingdom work to which they are called.

Let us take time out from the noise and tugs on our clothes that demand our attention, as the crowd pressed around You on every side, to remember that all You spoke will come to pass, and that it may be the Lord G-d will hide us in the day of His wrath as He deals with the faithless. (Zeph 2:3)

Abide in us, Lord, Your fruitless servants who seldom live up to even the basic standards, doing what is only our most basic duties. Cleanse and prune us once again to bear much fruit in Your Name, and to the Father’s glory.

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

Amen.

 

Devotional 160: Keep My Commandments

John 14:21

21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

Our Lord’s words are never spoken lightly, for if it’s the heart of mankind that’s evil, it must be to that heart He speaks. If, as He tells us, His doctrine of grace, repentance, forgiveness, and restoration are not His (John 7:16), and if in all that He did and still does in our lives, He shows us the Father’s will and heart for us (John 14:9), how is that we neglect to keep His commandments?

The Son never presented Himself as an alternative path to G-d, separate from the Father’s plans and will. He’s been deemed worthy by the Father of judging all the nations, and if they are One in will and spirit, how much more brightly will the filthy rags of our self-proclaimed righteousness burn as it consumes the rewards we might have received walking in humility and obedience, and added to our faith as we planted its seed in others?

Our Savior tells us to keep His commandments, not follow His suggestions, or take His advice, that we might be blessed unto redemption of our souls.

If we are not to obey and humble ourselves, the rituals we perform are but for men only, and He tells us that in those things we have the praises of men as our reward, but not the Father’s blessing.

We fast, pray, and present our spotted souls to Him so that He might cleanse our sins, refresh our spirits, restore our hearts, and increase our faith, that we may follow Him more closely.

Today, let the dead faith of hearing only be resurrected by the doing of His will for us to have a more abundant life as we serve others, telling them of what we have seen and heard and know, that they might follow us along the Narrow Way to redemption, and life everlasting.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

It is not an easy thing to follow a doctrine so contrary to the human heart, living under the dominion of the enemy’s manipulation. He is the ever present serpent who tells us it is impractical, and indeed, stupid, to love and pray for your enemies, and if our lives are but a vapor, or wilting flowers, there are delights the world has to offer us that we should enjoy, if we will only bow down to him.

As trials and tribulations assail our mortal forms, the human spirit that’s disconnected from the Holy Spirit will find this almost preferable than to obey what seems to them illogical at best, and foolish at worst.

You forgave the thief next to You even as You prayed for the Father to forgive the ones who crucified You, not knowing what they did even as they gloried in Your suffering.                                                                               

Yet it is through You alone that salvation of the soul comes, and the decision to live and reign with You, suffer with You, and inherit the crowns of glory we we’ll cast at Your feet, is ours to make.

Among Your own You were rejected, and to those not of You, You call through us as we consecrate our lives to You.

We would be better servants, Lord, bringing souls with us into the harvest that were formerly lost, the seekers of Truth, the listeners, the lonely, the cut-off, the isolated.

We would be all things to all people, that we might save some.

So we keep the faith, sowing good will among the people, doing all things well, as we continue to study Your example. Help us to remain grafted in to You, watching and praying in the Spirit as You work through us by our faith in You, and the promise of what You tell us the Father says, that we may be reconciled to Him.

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

Amen.       

Devotional 157: A Greater Witness

John 5:31-36

The Fourfold Witness

31 “If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the burning and shining lamp, and you were willing for a time to rejoice in his light. 36 But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

John’s burning for Christ, the brightness of his passionate preaching, had prepared the people for the Messiah to come, but He came in a way they did not expect, doing what they did not expect.

A king was not born in poverty to obscure parents. A king did not associate with harlots, tax collectors, lepers, Samaritans, and sinners. A king did not go about having to tell people that he was a king.

So while they rejoiced for a time in John’s light as he prepared the way for the Messiah, the coming of the actual Messiah was anti-climactic in the unfolding of its events, and the works that Jesus did, to the point where even John had to ask if He was the one they sought, or was there another. (Matthew 11:3)

As prophecy predicts what, but not when, John’s words spoke to the second coming, but we must also remember that the teaching methods of Christ also produced division, and Jesus said He did not come to bring peace, but a sword, to divide the faithful from the unfaithful even within the same house. (Matthew 10:34-36)

It was also not the kind of war they were used to seeing, because it takes place in the spiritual realm, and we are not designed to see them with our eyes, and Satan goes about the work of blinding our hearts, stopping our ears, and planting tares among the vulnerable fields of churches whose foundations are not built on the Gospel’s rock, and don’t have Christ as their capstone. (Psalm 118:22)

 When He returns, it will not be as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah, and He will cleanse the world of His Father’s enemies for all eternity. The first will be last, the least will be greatest, the humble exalted, the merciful forgiven, and the repentant heart redeemed.

Let us be careful then, that we are not rejoicing just for a time in the greater witness and brighter light of our Lord. The novelty of John’s ministry probably appealed to many, and they came to hear him; while his words were convicting enough to see many baptized to repentance, it’s Jesus’ ministry that is the core of our souls’ redemption. It began with Him revealing the Father to us when we called, and sending us the Holy Spirit, and it will end with Him at the judgment, where our works will be tested, we give account, and our souls weighed to enter forever into our Father’s rest, or the outer darkness.

Let us choose then, today, to rejoice for eternity.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

      As we enter into Your presence today, let us be mindful to not only offer thanks for our blessings, however few, and praise to the Father for You giving us eternal life, but to get our spiritual houses in order, reaffirming our love of all things holy.

      We ask that the Spirit purge from us all earthly chains of doubt, temptation, and rebellion against that which we know to do, for we would not have a greater darkness in us. (Matthew 6:21-23)

      As we honor You, and give over the ways of our earthly affairs to Your wisdom and guidance, let our fellowship continue beyond the hours of assembly today into all that we do, mindful that You are with us, watching over us, and that none of the accuser’s minions may take us from Your hand.

     Let us rejoice that You see us, wherever we are, gathered in twos and threes, agreeing with You as we walk, as You set our hearts burning within us with the fire of the Father’s Word, all of which points to You, our living Redeemer.

     Creation is groaning, governments are falling, believers are persecuted, people are dying in their sins,  and the prophecies You spoke are coming to pass. We are fearful, though we do not have a spirit of fear. We are saddened, though You tell us to rejoice. As much as we would like to stop the end from coming, we can’t, so strengthen and embolden us as go about doing the work You have given us to save the souls of mankind.

    Let us, like Paul, become all things to all, that whoever hears the call may be saved.

    Let our lives reflect John’s as bright and burning lamps on the hillside, doing works that glorify, and give greater witness to, our Heavenly Father.

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

     Amen.

Devotional 155: A Price for Pride

2 Chronicles 26:1-5

Uzziah Reigns in Judah

26 Now all the people of Judah took Uzziah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king instead of his father Amaziah. He built Elath and restored it to Judah, after the king rested with his fathers.

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-two years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jecholiah of Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He sought God in the days of Zechariah, who had understanding in the visions of God; and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper

2 Chronicles 26:16-21

The Penalty for Uzziah’s Pride

16 But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God by entering the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. 1So Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him were eighty priests of the Lord—valiant men. 18 And they withstood King Uzziah, and said to him, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron, who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed! You shall have no honor from the Lord God.”

19 Then Uzziah became furious; and he had a censer in his hand to burn incense. And while he was angry with the priests, leprosy broke out on his forehead, before the priests in the house of the Lord, beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest and all the priests looked at him, and there, on his forehead, he was leprous; so they thrust him out of that place. Indeed he also hurried to get out, because the Lord had struck him.

King and Priest were separate, one to rule over the nation with godly counsel, the other to minister before the throne to keep G-d’s eyes and ways focused on His children. One was set apart to G-d, the other to the people. They were not supposed to cross the boundary the Lord had set, yet Uzziah, in his pride, did so and abruptly paid for defiling the calling of those set aside to  minister and receive on behalf of the people to Israel’s glory..

This is the reason that Peter reminds those in his letter to make our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10)

With our competitive spirits, see what our own pride stirred in the midst of our calling as we go about our lives: church splits, feuding pastors, misappropriating tithes and offerings, sexual abuse, and a turning away from the words of Jesus to the words of anyone else in the Bible who doesn’t remind us that we are but sanctified sinners, and convict us to repentance.

In our humanity, the church doesn’t influence the outside world, but as a result of losing out focus on the Gospel, the outside world is influencing the Church. And while Jesus did prophesy that a falling away would happen, it’s no less heartbreaking to see it.

While the Word tells us men who are skilled in their work will not do it for men of obscurity, we must remember that humility is the key. When we train our successors, we are to interfere only to the point of guidance, and to let them find their own ways of doing things. We should abide by the following: Patience, Service, Guidance, Correction, repeat, and let go.

Scripture is full of prideful examples that started well and ended in devastation, out of favor with the Lord, and bringing calamity on their people.

Let us, when we are lifted up, remember the words of Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9

Two things I request of You
(Deprive me not before I die):
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.

Request your daily bread, and fulfill the duties of your own ministry, no matter how obscure. The Lord sees in secret, and rewards openly.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

When we seek You in all that we do, we remain humble for we are reminded that our very breath is by Your grace. If you make us prosper, it is well, and if not, it is also well.

As You order our steps, let us not run blindly ahead and lose sight of You, neither let us tarry too long once we have been told to go. 

We would not lose Your blessing and favor, therefore keep us in a spirit of grateful humility, for Your servant tells us that every good thing is from above (James 1:17). 

We ask then, for the overflow of Your storehouses as we stay in faith, serve with joy, guide with authority, correct in love, and let go that we might receive from You anew.

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

Amen

Devotional 152: Seeking Redemption

Luke 2:36 – 38

Anna Bears Witness to the Redeemer

36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served G-d with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

The first evangelists were the shepherds of Bethlehem, another was Simeon, whom the Father promised wouldn’t see death until he’d seen the Hope of Israel.

Anna’s words are not recorded, but her evangelism was one of consolation. There was a presence in the land now, a feeling of hope, however misguided later when Jesus began His ministry.

Even then, they were coming to Him, but had no idea of the impact of Simeon’s prophecy: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against….that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2: 34-35)

But Anna’s words didn’t speak to the power of His ministry in taking on the religious leaders of His day, but to the hearts of the multitudes that would follow Him to hear once again that the Father loved them, and saw them in their wretched moral, mortal states and wanted to bless them, be kind to them, show them mercy, and ultimately save them from the things they couldn’t see that kept them in spiritual bondage.

Even then, there were those in the temple seeking to get right with G-d, seeking forgiveness of sins, seeking justice from being wronged, and petitioning the Father’s throne with rites and rituals according to the Law He’d given them, but here was a new and better way.

As we enter into a season that has all but forgotten the Way and the importance of our heavenly Redeemer, let us hold fast to His Word that we are still loved, seen in our present state, and He is yet merciful and kind, wanting to bless us.

But let us not forget that He is also coming again, not as the Lamb of G-d but the Lion of Judah. While it is our pleasure to give Him thanks for ourselves, we, like Anna, are to prophesy and comfort those still looking for redemption.

That is how we are to serve Him, worshiping in spirit and truth, speaking with authority, ministering in love, and moving always in compassion.

We need not be temple prophets; our temples are wherever He is in the midst of us.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today, let us recapture the joy of the shepherds who preached all over the place, all night, blessing the Father that You were sent to us to redeem us to Him, for we were, and are, too weak and sinful to stand in His presence. As your most intrepid Apostle said, ‘I do the things I don’t want to do.’(Romans 7:15)

As the season of giving corrupts itself as we prosper, let the remnant of us keep still and silent as You search the thoughts of our hearts, and purge that which is not of You, not like You, and not through You. 

We remember today that our very lives, much less our blessings, are received from Heaven by the Father’s will, which You have shown us.

We remember today the miracles You’ve performed on our behalf, the grace and mercy You’ve shown us by not condemning us, the love You show by continuing to abide with us, giving thanks and breaking bread with our souls that the Scriptures might be open to us.

We remember today not to turn away so that the lamps of our bodies remain good, and our hard hearts looking for redemption become broken, penitent, and new as they burn with Your light through the power of the Holy Spirit.

We remember today to bless the Father, that He’s done a new thing in our lives, and that we are assured in You, through Calvary, that the greatest gift of all is the chief end of man: to glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

50 But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?”

Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.

Look at the greeting Jesus uses for His betrayer, whom He already knew was going to do this through the power of Satan (Luke 22:3-5). 

Why would He use such a term to describe such a man? We aren’t told much about the calling of Judas, but we do know that he’s the Apostle who was, ultimately, the weakest. He’d been privy to all of the teaching, all of the miracles, the signs, and walked among the rest of them, but his heart wasn’t rocky soil, and he fell off the path.

Jesus told them:  15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. (John 15:15)

He was watched by the others as well, and wasn’t above stealing. When he rebuked the pouring out of the fragrant oil on Jesus, and protested that it might be used for the poor, John tells us: John 12:6 

This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

His eyes were ever on this world. Perhaps he saw traveling with Jesus as a way to avoid work and still survive without begging. But his next to final act was an ultimate rejection of all his experiences, and a turning away from the faith to such an extreme degree that there was no way for Him to repent of it once it was done.  (Matthew 27:4)

As Jesus had taught, those who heard and saw Him, and still did not believe, would come under greater condemnation, and Judas, with that kiss, sealed his eternal fate.

I imagine Jesus’ greeting was sad, and heavy with pity in that He saw one who was falling away, and because he was being used as an instrument that Satan said would he would use at a more opportune time (Luke 4:13) there was nothing Jesus could do to stop it as the Father was allowing it. (John 17:12)

As we go through our days, our routines, the seasons, the passing years, and the trials of our  lives, are there times we betray our Lord? Times when our faith is a rootless mustard seed? There are always those moments where the crossroads come, where the rubber of our faith meets the road of the world’s evil, and we find ourselves with a choice.

In our weak moments, our hearts are as vulnerable to the accuser’s whispers as Judas’ heart. We are likely to deny Him (Matthew 26:72), to become frustrated with our lack of understanding things that He says tells us to do. (John 6:50 – 60) 

We are prone to turning to self (1 John 2:18 – 20), and to being deceived (Matthew 24:23-25). And Paul tells us that the war between spirit and flesh is for life (Galatians 5:16-18)

We are told to believe, be steadfast, bold, fearless, at peace with others, to forgive, to do good works that glorify G-d and not ourselves. We are told we’ll be raised on the last day to one of two possible eternal fates: one to life, one to damnation. (Matthew 25:31-46)  depending on the choice we make.

Yet our savior calls us always, when we falter even under grace, to return, repent, and follow once again. It is not without conditions, however. He will meet us where we are, but once we’ve committed, we can’t, as Judas did, turn back. He tells us we are not worthy of His work if we do so (Luke 9:62).

Today,  let us, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves that He might see what we’re doing in His Name, to the Father’s glory, that we might rise to eternal life and be fit for service in His kingdom as we use our allotted gifts and talents to pray, sow, and reap.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You tell us to abide in You, but how long we stay is up to us, and us alone. In the days we don’t ask, seek, and knock, we are vulnerable to all that happens to those who fall away, and indeed, to those who never come.

We ask today, in these times, that You help our unbelief and increase our faith, that we might be counted among those raised to life, knowing even now in our wretched state, that the Father will do all that You ask.

We ask for clean hearts, renewed spirits, stronger voices, and deeper love for You and the Word of the Father, as we continue to partake of the flesh of His grace, and the Blood of His mercy, imparted to us in Your atoning work on Calvary and the glory of Your Resurrection.

We remember that You tell us all that the Father has is Yours, and that which He’s given You is now given to us: Eternal life serving in the kingdom of G-d, in the Presence of G-d, forever.

Keep us from putting our hand to the plow, from going away sad, from spurning hard teachings, from stealing, from betraying our faith to false christs and fake prophets, that we might be deceived and let astray.

Help us to know Your voice, and to endure to the end, that we might be truly saved by Your hand reaching out to us in the storms You’ve prophesied would surely come, having told us beforehand what to watch out for.

We look for the sign of the Son of Man in the heavens that heralds the coming of the Lion of Judah, continuing to do the work of preaching the gospel to all nations until the last one is reached.

Let us be fruitful servants, focused plowmen, joyful believers, steadfast teachers, pure in heart and motive, and unified in our love for You and our fellow man. Let us go about doing greater things, faith hand in hand with works, as we point to the Father and give thanks for glorifying our good works, that those who see may glorify Him.

We would not be the sons and daughters of perdition. Let us always keep the joy of our salvation before us, enduring the mocking scorn of the lost and faithless, ministering to them in love.

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 145: The Restoration of All Things

Acts 3:13-21

13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. 14 But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses. 16 And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all…

17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 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.

The formula for tragedies, in the classics, is that they’re not something that occurs as a result of happenstance, as we misapply the term today, but are decision based, and the events that unfold from those decisions eventually culminate to a climate that results in a purging, and then there’s the restoration of order, with someone who takes charge of reimposing.

Consider the ending scene of Hamlet for example, who instead of challenging his uncle man-to-man, decides to use subterfuge, resulting in the death of his girlfriend, her father, his own mother, and himself.

Or Macbeth, who decides to follow his wife’s advice to cut a bloody path to the crown, and loses everything.

Tragedies are preventable. Drivers get into an accident while being distracted by any number of things behind the wheel because they decided that thing was more important at the moment.

They occur because our enemy holds out the promise of something greater, but it never is, and we indulge our selfish desires to our soul’s peril, and the peril of others.

In the day-to-day of our living for and abiding with Jesus, our enemy attempts to stir in us that which would cause us to doubt, backslide, stop praying, and neglect staying in the Word of G-d that we might remain in His favor as we do His will.

The sins of our past replay in our strongest spiritual moments, our happiest times, our most productive years. Yet because we are not without sin, the Accuser points his finger at us from below and says, “Look at this one. Did they really say they love You?”

As this ‘one nation under G-d’ honors Him with their lips, tries to function without His words, works to separate the Son’s teachings from His will, speak of Him with no reverence or fear, it is for those decisions we find the roots of sin, hate, and rebellion taking hold.

Since they hold hatred in their hearts when the faithful won’t compromise or comply with the wills of wealthy, influential religious leaders, the secular rich, the politically powerful, and the corrupt regimes of the day, it is for deciding to remain strong that we may find ourselves in dire circumstances, being sued or even physically assaulted.

Jesus tells them all to whom they belong.  (John 8:37-47)

We are not just a nation, but a world, building to a tragic climax brought on by decisions of leaders who claim a form of godliness that has no holy power behind it, or gospel truth in it (2 Timothy 3:5) 

They’ve given over the dominion of their souls to a world that isn’t theirs, accumulating possessions they can’t take, and fruitlessly hoarding that which the Father has said to freely share, since it’s all His anyway (Psalm 24:1, Haggai 2:8)

We were given the strength, power, and intelligence to subdue the Earth, but we were also to be stewards. We decided to be wasteful, negligent, and exploitative.

Yet it was prophesied to us by Jesus that these things not only will be, but must be.        We were never supposed to be separated from the Father in the first place, and as He loves us, there has to be a restoration of order from the human tragedy.

It was no accident Dante named his book “The Divine Comedy.”  In a comedy, in the classic sense, all turns out well in the end; there is joy, laughter, and relief from strife.

Jesus tells us there will also be renewal, and no more separation. (Rev 21:1-4)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

      As the time draws near, the assailants of the faith come from the pit to surround us once more with their taunts, their mockery, their scorn, their temptations, and their faithlessness.

      The serpent shouts at night and thrashes about to destroy the fruit of our gardens, for he knows his own time draws near.

    In our frailty, like Peter stepping out of the boat, we sometimes take our eyes from You as we look in fear at the swelling of the tidewaters that threaten to turn us over and send us to the bottom of ourselves once more.

   We increasingly engage one another in hate, fear, misunderstanding, and selfishness to preserve our own ways, our own beliefs, even our interpretations of what You’ve told us, and blindness takes root in our spirits so we can’t see we are not, in fact, following the Narrow Way at all.

    We take for granted that You will say to us, “Well done, ” and not “Depart from me.” And yet You’ve warned us, in no uncertain terms, this will not be so. (Matt:7:21)(Rev 22:14)

   Our decisions do not align with our confessions, our proclamations, or even our actions. Restore us once more, Lord, that we may have hearts of wisdom, spirits of discernment, works that bear fruit and glorify the Father, eyes that don’t look on wickedness, and minds that are stayed on You.

   We confess and repent of the tragedies that were caused by us, forgetting who we were in You, and disregarding that we are. and will be, held accountable.

  We present our fallen beings before Your holy presence for the cleansing of our sins, the refreshing of our spirits, the renewing of our minds, for receptive hearts of good soil,  boldness to proclaim the Gospel to every nation, and strong hands to sow, plant, and water as the Holy Spirit leads.

   We ask that you again intercede for us to the Father for the wrong we’ve done to ourselves and others. We receive again, in humility and reverent fear, the covering of Your blood under the covenant of grace.

   Restore us to all things concerning the kingdom of Heaven, and to Him who made and loves us all, Our Father.

    May it be done to us as You have said.

    Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotional 135: Abide in Me

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

It seems appropriate as we prepare to celebrate 243 years of independence from Britain, that we be reminded as believers that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, on it, and under it. (Psalm 24:1)

But we have mistaken independence from man’s rule to mean that we are sovereign, and that it’s the Father’s obligation to honor us, not punish us, as we engage and indulge in pride and faithlessness. Indeed, we expect  no form of rebuke, consequences, or even judgment to be passed on us.

We have become one nation under a symbolic and ineffective ‘god’  who is presumed to have only blessed the wealthy, as he punishes the poor.

We have relegated the Messiah to be all-forgiving because He ‘hung out’ with sinners, forgetting that He never held them guiltless, told them to repent, and blessed them in their faith. Consider this story:

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The man was paralyzed, so how could he sin? We are told that it is what comes out of people that makes them evil. Our thought life is connected to our spiritual life, and our thought life reflects the condition of our heart toward G-d. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We can trust that although we aren’t told what the sins of the man were, that Jesus knew he had them, and because of the faith put into action by his friends, a form of intercession, he was forgiven of them and healed.

We keep G-d at a distance, relegating Him to the Old Testament, seen by some as judgmental, hypocritical, contradictory, and false, up to and including even His existence. We assume a familiarity with Jesus we don’t have, who is the only way to be forgiven by G-d, forgetting, to our eternal peril, that He tells us in no uncertain terms: “I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) 

How can they be One if the Father is greater? They are One in will, purpose, and thought. Jesus never refuted the edicts of G-d, and in fact was commanded by G-d to come and save us. (John 6:38)

As we celebrate independence from a bad king, let us hold fast to the King of Kings, our High Priest and Good Shepherd, who sustains us and sees to it that we bear good fruit through His atoning sacrifice, once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us through all things concerning revelation of the Gospel’s truth, convicting us of sin, and leading us to repentance, for He is the promised seal of our salvation.

We may respect the authorities placed over us, and honor our kings, but we are to keep a reverent and holy fear of G-d. (1 Peter 2:17)

In these hedonistic times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest themselves, let us remember that ever good thing comes from above and to be independent of Christ is to be under G-d’s wrath. There will come a time when grace shall cease, and the harvest begin.

May the Lord keep before our hearts the words of Joshua: (24:15)

“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In this nation, in our prosperity, we have become prideful, irreverent, arrogant, loud, hateful, and evil.

Your people have been divided among themselves, and shepherds lead their flocks astray, twisting the words of the Father, as the Pharisees did, to their profit and own well being, not realizing they are losing their souls as they gain the world, forgetting that their condemnation will be greater for rending the flock the sons and daughters of hell. (Matthew 23:13-15)

We have forgotten our first love. Our churches capitulate to growing numbers and political agendas, and no longer to Truth.

Let those of us who yet have ears to hear discern the absence of the Father’s will when those who would lead us speak falsely, their hearts revealed. Give us ears to follow Your voice.

Renew our hearts, revive and refresh our flagging, misguided spirits, and have us respond once more to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Replicate in our nation the church of the Book of Acts, where none wanted, and all who had provided gladly for all who didn’t, and all were blessed accordingly.

Pour out Your Spirit on us, and let us repent, that our land may be healed.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 128: He Has Shown You What is Good.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?

What we must come to understand about the words, “It is finished.” which Jesus said before He died, is that as far as the Father’s part in providing us salvation is concerned, it is indeed over.

There is no Father without the Son, no G-d without Christ, and those who say otherwise have heard but have not listened.

Christ tells us:

Matthew 16:4

4 “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”And He left them and departed.

Throughout His ministry he admonished the religious leaders stuck on ritual and outward appearances, status and wealth, political power and regional control, that He would not perform miracles just for the sake of the faithless. They had seen Him perform them, and still asked for a sign.

 

Matthew 21:23-27

Jesus’ Authority Questioned

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

And once again, here, in the parable of the vine dressers, He concludes with a frightening rebuke: (Matthew 21:43)

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

This is consistent with another constant reminder that it is those who do the will of the Father that are His family, and that not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…?” will be part of the kingdom. In those matters of who belongs, the King is sovereign.

As we yet abide in the covenant of His grace, granted to us by the Father through the events of this day, let this be a day of joy, lifting songs of praise and thanks for His mercy.

(Matthew 26:27-32)

27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

Today then, let us purge the doubt and fear that daily assaults our faith, and acting on His promises, fulfill our own callings and finish our own work in this age of mocking scorn. It is only His prophecies that we are seeing come to pass, for even in this age, though they asked for a sign, don’t believe it, as it was in His own day.

Matthew 27:41-45

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

Remember, these were the leaders who believed their salvation assured because they were the sons and daughters of Abraham, yet, when the sky grew dark and the earth shook, it was the pagan Roman centurions who cried out. (Matthew 27:54)

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, 

“Truly this was the Son of God!”

Yet even in the midst of the wickedness, corruption, destruction, hatred, and evil of today’s world, we can yet take comfort in the words of our Savior, if we endure to the end, not fear, and not lose heart.

John 6:40

40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

There is yet time, so seek Him while He may be found so that when the harvest comes we may be reconciled to the Almighty, who has given the Son all authority over all things, and we too, shall have a day of resurrection.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have shown us what is good, right, just, and holy. You have shown us how to live as Christians among demons and rebellious spirits, and how to live as brothers and sisters among ourselves.

We are joyful that You were obedient, and thankful that You finished the work the Father gave You, yet like the maverick apostle Peter, we have taken our eyes off You and find ourselves drowning with the concerns of earthly life, and the battering of our spirits by the walls of resistance and unbelief by those to whom we testify that the works of the world are evil.

There are indeed days where our own spirit falters, and earthly reason replaces faith, and earthly practicality replaces Heaven’s promises in our lives.

But you don’t relax the Father’s standards for us, nor compromise His Word that we might not be convicted, for as a good shepherd keeps to the path, so too, must missionaries complete their mission.

So send us times of refreshing, Lord, and let us begin to look to that day when as believers, as workers in the reaping of the harvest, as gleaners of the fallen ones, we will no longer ask any questions.

Today, then, we say in fearful wonder and joy, along with the centurions who saw the sky darken and felt the earth shake as You turned away from the wretched sins we cast on You as You died and rose again, for our sake.

Truly, this is the Son of G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.