Devotional 198: A Two-Way Filter

As G-d cannot look on sin, we would do well to remember the reverse is also true. It’s why many won’t believe, but accountability is inevitable. So are the consequences.

Genesis 3:6-8

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was  pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Exodus 20:18-19

The People Afraid of God’s Presence

18 Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. 19 Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”

Luke 5:6-8

And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

As believers, we know we serve a holy G-d who cannot look on sin in any form, no matter how small, no matter our own rationale for performing it outside of the fact that we allowed something other than the Holy Spirit to guide us away from that which tempted us to fall.

G-d walked freely with Adam. How that looked, we have no idea, but the word says nothing of veiling His presence from the first man until his mate fell to the serpent’s temptation, and he followed suit. It was only when they covered themselves that G-d stopped walking with them, and veiling and the shedding of blood became necessary (to make the skins that covered the rest of them).

The Israelites, whom G-d actually chose, were so prone to sin and backsliding that they left it to Moses to go speak to G-d rather than collectively stand in His presence, as they saw Him making thunder in the mountains.

Peter, after the great haul of fish that almost broke their nets, asked that Jesus depart from his sinfulness, as his own mercurial nature got convicted in the presence of Christ’s steadfast holiness.

Again, we see it when the demons asked Jesus if He was there to torture them before the appointed time. (Matthew 8:29) They also know there will be a day and time for their own end, regardless of their master’s power.

The witch of Endor rebuked Saul when he told her to bring forth Samuel. (1st Samuel 28:9-19)

James tells us blessings, praise, and curses shouldn’t issue forth from the same mouth. (James 3:10).

But they do, and more often than not. It’s the very reason we must plead the blood of Christ over us, for there’s no withstanding His judgement if we don’t. Think on this: if G-d put dark clouds around His Son as he took on our sins while on the cross, how much more will He condemn the enemies of the Kingdom who don’t believe they are sinners, and accept the message of forgiveness before Christ comes again in glory?

Yet there are those who say that in their humanity they’ll stand before G-d, hurling accusations and questions. And there are those believing He is only all love for love’s sake, and will not hold them accountable for their sins. Indeed, they seek preaching that reinforces unaccountability. More likely, they will be like John, falling at His feet as though dead. But unlike John, they will be cut off, to use Solomon’s phrase, ‘without remedy.’ (Proverbs 29:1)

As holiness cannot abide sin, sin can not abide with holiness. In us, it may move faith aside, but never replace it. It can cause us to stumble, but never to fall. It can break off our fellowship, but not destroy it outright. We’re under the covenant of grace, written by the Almighty, signed by the Son, and sealed by the Spirit. Let us remember to rejoice in the day, to walk in the light, and to seek the Lord while He may be found. He will not cast out any who come seeking.

Shine your light in a dark place today, take the outstretched hands, and lead them as far as they wish to walk. Let the Spirit of G-d do the rest.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As we reread and study the horrible manner of your death in our place, we cannot begin to imagine the pain of being cut off from the Father’s sight, whom you’ve always known and never been without until that moment you took our sins, and He could not look and still be G-d.

Forgive us, Lord, that we continue to call on You for mercy, grace, understanding, compassion, and power, while we continue to fall into sins of rebellion, backsliding, compromise, and spiritual dullness.

As the prince of this world has no part in you, may we too, with your guidance and power, send him away from us and all those we hold dear in like manner: by the power of the Father’s word.

Let us respond in love to Him, who knew us long before He formed us, knowing we were weak, knowing we would suffer when we were called as you, Lord Jesus, revealed Him to us.

If we must be in rebellion, let it be toward the darkness that seems ever ready to snatch us off the path of righteousness and cast us into the darkness of sinful pleasure or the panic of frantic desperation, taking our eyes off you to indulge in worldly behaviors.

We are disobedient, but yet You walk with us.

We are fearful of G-d’s thunder, but You take us by the hand to come toward Him, knowing He is good.

We are sinful and treacherous, but You look on us with love, and don’t leave us to our unrighteousness. (Luke 22:54-62)

Today, in Your presence, we, like Zaccheus, call Your attention to what we have done to cast out the darkness in us. (Luke 19:1-10) In so doing, we return (once more) to reconcile with the One who loves us for all eternity. Even so, to share it with us as we continue to weave a three-strand cord of righteousness, holiness, and purity.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 187: The Lord Looked at Peter…

Getting the Lord’s attention leads to conviction, repentance. and eventually, the joy of salvation.

Luke 22:55-62

55 Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. 56 And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “This man was also with Him.”

57 But he denied Him, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.”

58 And after a little while another saw him and said, “You also are of them.”

But Peter said, “Man, I am not!”

59 Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, “Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are saying!”

Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. 6And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” 62 So Peter went out and wept bitterly.

Our earthly goal to model and emulate Jesus looks more like Peter’s walk; full of good intentions, strong words, many stumbles, and on occasion, a heart not up to the task.

It says in G-d’s Word that His eyes roam the earth, looking for remnants of faith, obedience, righteousness, and steadfastness. Indeed, Jesus asks that when He returns, will He find faith on the earth (Luke 18:8)

Jesus says of the Roman Centurion that his faith in Him to just speak the words of healing over his servant was unmatched, even in Israel.

Yet Peter was part of the ‘inner circle,’ and we also, as His missionaries, have been called out to a higher standard. Jesus came to seek us out, to reveal the Father to us that we might be reconciled through Him.

The only disciple to walk on water, the one whose passion made him cut off a soldier’s ear, the one who repeatedly told Jesus he would stand beside Him when the others fled, the one who stood up in the midst of an assembly and delivered a powerful sermon of deliverance, had, in this moment, realized he only looked to preserve himself. His fighting spirit was as steadfast as gelatin, and just as quick to dissolve in a moment of persecution.

It is no different with us; Jesus knows we will backslide and transgress. He sees us doing so, over and over, willfully and otherwise. It is then on us to repent, confess, and entreat once more to be under the covenant of grace. He indeed sees our hearts, and knows our thoughts towards Him.

Repentance gets the Lord’s attention as well, as does faith, prayer, and obedience to do the Father’s will, for Jesus Himself does nothing apart from it.

If we are to emulate our Lord, then, we can do no less, and do it with no less devotion and godly focus. And when we have sinned, we must repent with the godly sorrow that leads back to salvation’s narrow road. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

As Jesus then restored Peter, peeling back the layers of his love with the same question asked three times, (Peter, do you love Me?) blotting away each of the denials from Peter’s ledger, so too will He restore us to fellowship with Him. (John 21:15-17)

Let us willingly partake of His sacrifice, count the cost, and carry our crosses to be reconciled once more to the Father’s eternal love, lifting those around us as we go.

Ask yourself today: Am I the centurion, outside of the circle, but recognizing the majesty of who Jesus truly is, or am I Peter, inside the circle, yet denying Him in my spirit knowing full well that I bear witness to the impact of His power in my own life?

Then do what you need to do, in order to be able to say truly in your heart:

“Lord, you know that I love You.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

It’s undeniable that when I abide in You, in Your presence, in the Gospel as God’s plan to redeem me, in His Word that will not pass away, I am at my best in every aspect of this earthly life, feeling the best I ever do.

To walk in the Father’s favor is to have the best of everything, but because I don’t stay in fellowship, the enemy slithers up to me at a more opportune time, and consumes me. In that moment, bring to mind that if I never resist him, he will never flee. (James 4:7)

Having been called out of the world, I would not serve two masters. Indeed Lord, You tell me I cannot.

So this day, I once more choose salvation, redemption, forgiveness, and the mercy and grace of the New Covenant, covered by the blood You shed in my place for the remission of my sins. Because of You, though I am one day closer to the dread Day of the Lord, I do not fear it.

As my faith vacillates between that of the foreign centurion who believed, and the fearful rock who denied You, look on me too with love and restore me to Your side once more.

Give me boldness to stand up in the midst of the assembly, humble myself, and point those in my presence to the Father’s throne, and change the world.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 173: The Pride of Your Heart

Obadiah 1:2-4

“Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You shall be greatly despised.
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
You who dwell in the clefts of the rock,
Whose habitation is high;
You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’
Though you ascend as high as the eagle,
And though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.

 

The fall of a nation is better remembered than its glory and achievements, especially if the reasons for its collapse come from within. The prophecy of Obadiah over the kingdom of Edom should serve as a cautionary tale, as G-d will often send prophets to warn of the wrath to come, and the reasons for it. It is no accident that the eagle is mentioned, and no guessing as to what G-d’s intention is to nations who think they are as high and lofty.

Above all, the Biblical maxim remains true: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” (James 4:10) But it seems we have lost sight of the Lord and taken pride in the land that belongs to Him, claiming dominion over things with no sense of stewardship.

We are now a proud nation for all the wrong reasons, and the Accuser feasts on the spiritual rot, nourishing the heart with false pride over things we had no hand in creating in and of ourselves: looks, skin, how we pray, how we feel, how we act, and how we relate to the world around us, and to the Creator Himself.

Seeking that which G-d desires for all humanity: “And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) 

To hoard those things and dispense them unfairly, inconsistently, and on whims of the heart’s deceitful vices and the mind’s equivocating tricks, will bring the day of judgement closer much faster, if we remain on the current path we’re on, refusing to see the damage we cause for what it is. The prophets of the day seem to be either mute, or politically aligned with worldly desires, or in pursuit of the world’s material comfort and the approval of man.

We would do well to heed our Lord and Savior in this hour when He tells us that we see without seeing, and that we hear, but don’t understand. (Matthew 13:13)

This is a nation that holds itself up as a bastion of freedom, but oppresses and silences those who see flaws in its systems, sin in its practices, greed in its wealth, and pride in the hearts of oppressors. We can no longer keep wiping off the pustules of ignorance and hate, unheeding and unrepentant,  but rather cut away down to the wounds that have caused them, clean it out with the love of the Father, and be made whole, reconciled to one another and to G-d.

The choice is ours, and while there is yet time to make it, let us do so. Will we add our voices to the assembly of saints telling the demons to go, or look on the day of our brother’s calamity, and wash our hands of his blood?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We have shown ourselves weak in Your sight. We have no strength left to fight, because the armor of Your Word has been broken, twisted, dented, and bent to suit the kingdoms of world. 

Even so, even now, the Devourer consumes us, speaking vile things with his mouth full. He has given the pride of his heart free reign to curse, spit, revile, belittle, and strike those in his path that testify to him that his works are evil.

He has infiltrated our institutions of power as well as our streets, our souls as well as our flesh, our minds as well as our hearts, and because we have turned from You we can no longer resist him.

We have become proud and boastful, wicked and adulterous, fools that speak words having a hint of truth, but in fact, lead the hearer astray.

As we witness the prophecies of Christ unfolding, let us hold fast to all that is good in You, and each other, as we are yet called to be Your servants, priests, ministers, and prophets. Let the wheat be separated from the chaff among these, that hearts may be turned, ears opened, minds changed, and spirits renewed, refreshed, and rejoicing.

We know by faith that You will answer prayers that seek Your best will for us. and equip us to go where we are needed, speaking the Truth of Your Word to power boldly, as You give us what to say, so that none are refuted or can find fault in us or our words. Do not make this nation a byword, that when the world looks on its ruins says among themselves, “How great was its fall,” and marvel at our folly.

You uphold us by the strength of Your right arm, nor let our words fall to the ground as we give You the honor and glory due Your majesty, remembering that we are but dust and only inherit eternal life through Your mercy and grace.

Deliver us from this hour, Father, and restore our hearts as we repent, humbled hearts and contrite spirits, that You may make us new.

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.