Devotional 102: In That Day…

Luke 17:26-31

26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.

    The final day and hour unknown by all, even Jesus.
(Mark 13:32) 32 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
    What we do see is the acceleration of the world’s technology, and the continued use of the word ‘unprecedented’ as it pertains to natural events, the ‘chipping’ of employees by their companies, the continued exploitation of people for cheap labor, and the siphoning of wealth and natural resources to those who can afford to pay.
    What we do see are homeless cities in the shadows of luxury buildings that may or may not be filled.
    What we do see is the decline of education, the return and rise of prison slave labor, and  detached and unresponsive, self-serving governments.
    What we do see is a press dedicated to fear-mongering, and creating a sense of ‘other.’
    And it is all of G-d, who has not abandoned His throne, and even now does not share His glory, and even now, is in control.
    We keep thinking there’s going to be a sign, or a warning, where if we got it wrong or walked away, somehow we’d be able to get back. Jesus warns us of being lukewarm, doubtful, and unfruitful. We don’t get those days back, and that’s why He tells us to count the cost before we commit.
    His plan is one of salvation of our corrupted souls, not our earthly flesh. His plan is one of forgiveness and the purging of sin through the blood of Christ, not to wink at it and let it slide because it’s legal under man’s law, and popular in public opinion. His plan is to create a new Heaven and a new earth, not leave us on a planet made dead through the works of His enemy. His plan is destroy evil forever, and let us be under the rule of He who is without sin, our Good Shepherd, Friend, Brother, Judge, King, and Savior, who will come again as Lion, not Lamb.
    But the signs are already here, it’s just that no one believes them to be related to the Word of the Lord. We are witnessing, as signs, only the inexorable, incremental fulfilling of Christ’s prophecies.
    It will be an unprecedented ordinary day, in the context of whatever ‘ordinary’ looks like at that point.
    In the meantime, we move slowly forward, like a celestial iceberg, toward the day of our titanic reckoning. (Matthew 24:3-14)

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.

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

The Great Tribulation

14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought notthen let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!18 And pray that your flight may not be in winter.19 For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.

21 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.

Everyday events will be ongoing, and then eternity will impose itself on time, and the law, judgment, and will of G-d will supersede the fragile and compromised dominion of men.

In the meantime, the suffering of those of us who will not renounce His Name in order to continue to exist will also increase. We must hold fast to the fact that this is not our permanent home, and the rubber of our faith will meet the road of reality when the pain of their torture hits, and we are confronted with our own mortality, and He does not deliver us in spectacular fashion, as with the Hebrew children, but we become one of the ‘others’ delivered up, and cut in two.

We have, to our peril and on a global scale, disregarded the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.

And if our righteousness on our best day is as filthy rags before the Father, how much more then should we heed Christ, and prepare the way of the Lord?

Therefore I pray: 

Lord Jesus,

As we strive in a fallen world to hold fast to its polar opposite, and do the Father’s will, that we may be reconciled to Him in word and deed, and live with You in eternity, give us a bold spirit to endure to the end that we might be saved.

We ask this so that we might not hold onto the Truth as a selfish thing, for You tell us none can come to You unless the Father grants it. We ask that You put the seeds in us to plant, and call us to where they’re needed, which You have said is not already among the righteous.

A lot of churches have become culture clubs that don’t serve their communities, that do outreach like Pharisees, seeking their rewards among men, patting sinners on the head, and saying ‘Keep warm and well fed,’ while providing no coat or food. The minds of their shepherds are on earthly pleasures even as they preach. They seek power they can’t keep in a world where they can’t stay, and don’t honor You with their hearts.

The tares are planted, and the wolf and serpent stalk and slither among the flock, seeing to their own profit and posterity like Simon the Sorcerer, who sought Holy Spirit’s power as a magic act. They have forgotten Your words: ‘They have their reward.’

Yet we are tried, mocked, tempted, grow weary, and even now as the prophecies of unfold, we are doubtful if any of this will come to anything resembling what You’ve told us.

In those times, remind us to seek You, that we might be comforted, given rest, and imbued once more with power from on high; let us seek times of refreshing, and let our peace return to us.

Bring to mind the Psalms and Proverbs of Your two greatest kings, for one teaches us how to do business with G-d, and the other, with man.

I would endure to the end, Lord, that me and my house, and the ones that You’ve given me as I sow will be saved.  I ask that You grant this also to my Brothers and Sisters around the world, that it will be as You have said:

Mark 13:27

27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.

and (Matthew 24):

42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

In that day, we will ask You no more questions, there will only be unspeakable joy, and the memory of this fallen world will be washed away forever.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 96: Take Possession

Deuteronomy 1:8

See, I have set the land before you; go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—to give to them and their descendants after them.’

They had the Father’s promise they would be delivered and be given good land, and after all He’d performed to deliver them from Egypt in spectacular fashion, they took their eyes off Him, and turned them not only downward, but inward, and became as grasshoppers in their own eyes.

If we profess to be faithful to a G-d unseen, yet all powerful, how is it we limit ourselves? Why do we limit ourselves? Usually, a whole host of earthly reasons that have nothing to do with G-d not doing what He said. (Numbers 23:19)

19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent.
Has He said, and will He not do?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

If deliverance and salvation were valuable enough that Jesus should come down to die for our sins that we might be raised to life, what is its value to us?

Grace is undeserved, Love is unconditional, but Salvation is going to cost. There has to be some effort on our part to attain that which we claim to believe.

Matthew 7:7

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

And again:

Matthew 7:24

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.

And once more: (Matthew 11)

28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart,and you will find rest for your souls.

We still have to go meet Him, though He’ll meet us where we are. We have to ask for Him to come in; He’ll not do so otherwise.

Revelation 3:20

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

When there are altar calls, or if someone is just crying in the dark at their worst hour, and their final moment of despair, there has to be some effort extended. He’s at the door now, but He won’t always be there.

Luke 22:37

37 For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.”

And though He was speaking here of the crucifixion, it is no less true for when He comes again. There is the day of G-d’s wrath, where He will deal with the unbelievers and the rebellious.

We must take possession of G-d’s promises, repeat His Word back to Him, for even He tells us it’s higher than His name, and His name is above all. Imagine G-d, holding His Bible over His head, then go back to when Moses was weary, and his officers lifted up His arms, or when the serpent staff was lifted, and the Israelites were healed.

When Christ was lifted up, we were all healed. Do we receive that? Do we believe it?

Go open the door, while He yet tarries.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Today I take possession of all that is in Your hand for me,  Your good plans to give me a hope and a future through the atoning work of Your Son.

I take possession of my salvation, walking it out with reverent fear.

I confess to You that it was not always so, nor is it still. There are times when I’ve left the door closed, and stayed silent when the mocking began. I was a coward and a backslider, as Peter was among the Jews when Paul rebuked him. There are times, to my shame even now, when I am still those things.

I take possession then, of the covenant of grace, of the chance to repent, and receive Your gracious restoration when You look at me and ask if I love You, and You give me beauty for ashes, even as You dry my tears, renewing me in heart and spirit.

I take possession of the joy of Your love, the promise of eternal life, and deliverance from death and hell.

Anoint me again, Father, with the oil of righteousness, the balm of forgiveness, and the incense of praise that pleases You. 

I would confess my Christ boldly before men, that He may confess me to You,  so I may be saved. 

Let me remember that like the workers in the vineyards, Your will is sovereign, and I am rewarded for the work I complete, tested to see if it will stand. Help me to build it on spiritual rock, that it would not be toppled, or consumed by Your testing fires. Help me to seal it against he who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. 

I take possession today, not only of the promise of cross, but of the stone that was rolled away to reveal that my soul’s redemption was so valuable, You sent Your Son to receive it by faith in me. 

Let my life therefore reflect my faith in You.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 84: A Manner of Spirit

Luke 9:51-56

A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.

It happens most days, doesn’t it?

The slights, insults, dirty looks, unkindness, rudeness and disrespect as society deflates in the absence of G-d increases in frequency and intensity every time we look at the media, or even step outside.

Dave Barry the humor columnist once wrote an article on how playing the Mario Bros. video game was a lot like life: you’re walking down the street on a sunny day minding your business, and hostile forces gather to randomly attack you.

But we know those forces aren’t random.

We are told to minister the Gospel, we are not told to pound it into the heads of those who reject it. They’ve heard, and those whose hearts are ready to receive will do so; it is up to Jesus to reveal the Father to them (Luke 10:22) 

It is then the job of the Holy Spirit to revel the Truth behind the Word.

As this Samaritan village rejected Him, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus stayed with that village for two days. (John 4:39-42)

The question that was asked, however, was not about salvation, but annihilation. James and John didn’t just want the city burned, but consumed. The spirit in which it was asked was not in anger, or even in defense of Jesus, but a spirit of pride; there is no question they would have bragged of this deed for the rest of their lives.

Even more erroneously, they would have believed themselves to be in Elijah’s company as prophets.

We are now in an age of persecution from without, but we are also watching the love of many grow cold. Prophets give no dates, they just reveal events, and as the woman at the well perceived Jesus to be a prophet first, let us remember that He came to us in like manner to tell us to repent, for the days of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven is only through faith in Him.

I saw an article about people who  brought their guns to church to be blessed: they so desperately want to hold on to their man-made traditions, they will co-opt G-d’s name to sign off on things that have nothing to do with His will for us.

And if you drive a car at all, there are days you’ve wanted to call down fire. Just remember, there are those who would call down fire on you. What manner of spirit is that? Yours is holy, and theirs isn’t? We are not told what Jesus said to them in rebuke, but Jesus never dealt with the surface of emotions, it was always the heart.

It’s okay (Well, it isn’t, but it’s done).  We’ve all felt it, and Jesus Himself told the Pharisees as they mocked Him on the cross that He could call down legions of angels to deliver Him and slaughter the enemies of G-d right then and there. But he’d already had His test by Satan, and He passed, delivered at the moment of His greatest vulnerability outside the Garden of Gethsemane, when the angels came to minister and restore Him.

As for the rest, they now await His command, and there will be no sparing. As He is the only one worthy to open the Book, to read the scroll, to judge the nations, to forgive sins on earth, and to lead the angels of harvest, so too, let us leave the calling down of G-d’s divine justice to Him.  He has done all things well, according to the Father’s will.

Well did King David ask: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) regarding the only thing he did wrong in G-d’s sight. (1 Kings 15:5)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I thank You for covenant of grace, for ministering to me in the year of the Lord G-d’s favor. I thank You for revealing the Truth of Your work, the Truth of G-d’s Word, and sealing me with the power of the Holy Spirit.

I thank You also, that even under that covenant, we are not given free reign to do as we please, for we would do that which does not please You. Our bodies are not our own, and our wills are subject to Yours if we would see this through to the end. Indeed, our very souls are subject to Your unerring judgment, according to that which we’ve done and said to Your glory.

We forget, for our flesh is easily led astray by a powerful enemy.  Sometimes we forget that he’s defeated. Sometimes we forget he has no power save that which we give him. And sometimes he’s asked You to sift us, and You’ve allowed it, only to bring us back to You, as Job in his righteousness was still able to grow in his understanding of the Father.

As we subject our spirits to the desires of our flesh, we sometimes use Your name to justify our rebellion, and impose our own beliefs over the Word’s truth. 

Lord, You’ve called us friends, and in the Word it says wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses;  You always tell Your disciples, “Assuredly, I tell you the truth…”

Continue to check our spirits, Lord; renew them for Your service, and to Your glory, that those who see us may glorify our Father in heaven.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 82: A Chosen Vessel

 

Acts 9:11-15

11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”

13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

The art of selection, depending on what you’re looking for, and why, is largely a matter of outward appearance: quality, sturdiness, appearance (decor, if you prefer),  your perception of whether or not the item you’ve chosen meets the criteria to do the job you require.

The Father doesn’t work with appearances that way, and he surely didn’t work that way in the life of the most ardent, unlikely disciple: Saul of Tarsus, arguably the most legalistic and zealous Pharisee of his day, to the point where he had a fearsome reputation among those who followed Christ as a cruel man who embarrassed believers by leading them off in chains.

If nothing else, the Word is full of the unlikely, the lowly, and the outcast standing before the mighty, the powerful, the rulers, and proclaiming the even more fearsome Word of the Lord.  It was to their own peril, and the peril of those around them, if they focused on the outward appearance of the man instead of the selection of the G-d who sees, and tests, our hearts.

This goes back as far as Joseph, the runt of the litter, but the favored of his father.

This goes back as far as Samuel, who immediately went for the tallest and strongest among those who would be king over Israel, until the Lord checked him, and led him to inquire about David, the shepherd, regarded as the least likely of Jesse’s sons to do anything great, much less rule.

It goes all the way through to Amos, a tree gardener, with no credentials in the clergy at all, a man on the periphery of an already obscure service.

It’s in the humble birth of Jesus, born to poor parents in a humble setting, for an event as simple as gathering for a census count.

It happens again when the thief on the cross, after a life given over to sin, receives salvation in the last hours of his life, through a simple statement of faith.

But not so for Paul; his educational credentials were unimpeachable, and he admonished men to show themselves approved of their callings (2nd Timothy 2:15)

The spectrum continues on in us, called of Christ, confirmed by the Spirit, chosen by the Father to do the mission work of the Kingdom in pointing lost souls to the Way.

We fail along the Way ourselves, but we are chosen vessels all the same. The Lord repairs us with times of refreshing, and only bids that we open our mouths, and through faith let Him speak to the needs of those who are standing before us, before Him, in the hope that they have ears to hear.

We are sowers, church builders, teachers, living sacrifices, living stones, priests, kings, gods (John 10:34) prophets, healers, and artists and craftsman of every stripe.

And so it was with Paul: the same zeal he had to persecute the Church was the very same zeal he used to defend it, to the point where it says he ‘confounded’ the Jews by proving Christ was written of in what we now call the Old Testament.

Jesus told them: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about Me.” (John 5:46)

Out the billions born since then, we too are chosen vessels, made to His purposes, filled with His will, for the Gospel of Christ and the salvation of all nations, and to the Father’s glory.  Such zeal as we have, and such persecutions as we suffer for our faith, let us not waver, even unto death.

He chose us before the foundation of the world, and ordained us to his purpose, giving us the gifts to fulfill them, shaping us that we may withstand the tests and trials to come, and tells us: “Be of good cheer,” and “Do not be afraid.”

He knows, and He will bring the work to completion.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

You say no ones come to You unless the Father draws them, and the Spirit will come to reveal the Truth of the Word to those whom the Father chooses. 

You tell us no one can snatch us from Your hand, but You never said we could not wriggle out.  I fear sometimes that I may fall of my dark volition, my unrepentant desire to walk in two worlds, when You tell me I too, at the peril of my eternal soul, must choose You over all. (Luke 9:24-25)

Yet Your disciple, Paul, tells us that Your message is foolishness to those who are perishing. (1 Corinthians, 1:18)  You tell us that persecution and the delivering up to faithless authorities is our earthly reward, but that to lose our lives is to gain the kingdom. 

Paul tell us also, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

We ask, in these times, that You gird us, and help our unbelief. Give us new hearts, and a spirit of boldness. Give us a mustard seed of faith to speak to our mountains, and let us abide in You, that our fruit may be good as well as abundant. 

Let us rejoice in the trials that beset us, and keep our eyes focused on You, with the Word of G-d as a lamp, held higher than His Name to light our paths that lead to the Narrow Road, through the torn veil, to Your throne at G-d’s right hand, and to the Kingdom of Heaven in His presence forever.

Let the dark glass of the world be cleansed, that we may finally see, and understand, as You wipe the tears from our eyes, and bid us enter into Your rest, having fulfilled our purposes as Your vessels.

We would hear, “Well done.”

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

Devotional 79: Not His Doctrine

John 7:14-18

14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?”

16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. 18 He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.

In all things, and throughout the four Gospels, Jesus never wavers in His proclamations of where He came from, and to whom he belongs.

In our desire to understand the Heavenly in earthly terms, let’s recall the words He said to Nicodemus:

John 3:10-13

10 Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? 11 Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.

Admittedly, it was hard to understand then, and nothing has changed. But we can rest in this, that Jesus over and over again tells us He speaks the will of the Father for us, and indeed, came down to not only tell us, but to do the work that seals the covenant.

Nicodemus had the credentials, the inherent intelligence, and the pious zeal to become a Pharisee. They were at the top of the religious food chain, giving themselves over to studying that which bolstered their faith.

Then Jesus came to tell them that Moses had written of Him (John 5:46), and David also, (Matthew 22:41-45) and that children of Israel could be raised from stones (Matthew 3:9).

Somewhere along the line, as people began to defer to them as the leaders and teachers of Israel, they began to love the trappings of power and the accumulation of exponential wealth, which they gladly shared in showy displays, while their greed allowed them to pillage the poor at will.

Jesus told them it was the temple that sanctified the gold, and the altar that sanctified the gift (Matthew 22:16-20)

He told them that sinners, through faith, were getting into the kingdom ahead of them (Matthew 21:31)

We also fall for the trappings, some more than others: Megachurches with climate control, coffee bars, ‘dynamic’ preachers, worship bands, worship styles, ‘sensitive’ sermons, being in the pastor’s inner circle, the influence of the ‘heavy wallets’ in setting policy, and the decreasing mention of sin and repentance, and religious leaders are led by their politics instead of their relationship to G-d.

Yet Jesus tells Philip, who walked with Him and witnessed the miracles and the crowds,

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Everything our Lord said and did pointed everyone He ministered to back to G-d. (Luke 18:43) and we too, are called to do the same.(Matthew 5:16)  Can we say the same to that which we have been called, in our imperfection? Will we make the attempt? If not now, when?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Thank You for reminding us to see in the Father in You, as we strive to see the Christ in each other.

You are the Good Shepherd of all nations, not just the ones that look like us. We get so caught up in the smallness of a big world, that we don’t take time to understand what You truly represent, and what You’ve truly done for us. 

Help us to not follow You because we ate of the loaves, and were filled, but to seek You as the Bread of Life. In the Middle Ages, it was the lords who were responsible to see to it that everyone had bread, though some were as corrupt and lured away from their duties as they Pharisees. But You are the Lord of lords; You see to it that all are filled, and as the King of kings, You see to it that all who come to You know that it is of the Father’s will, and it is His good pleasure to lead us to the Truth through the power of His spirit, and a faith in Your atoning work on Calvary.

As a new spring approaches, and new life begins to bloom and grow anew, refresh our spirits also, Lord, as we rededicate ourselves to take care of not only our spirits, but our bodies which belong to You as well. 

Let us seek more fellowship with You, and learn that the Father’s doctrine You tell us will not only come to pass, but is true, yes, and amen as His will for us all.

May 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

 

He Comes to Us

Luke 1:39-45

Mary Visits Elizabeth

39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Through the echoes of time, Jesus has said He is with us, always, and that to apart from Him is to founder, fail, and fall away as a believer.

He was sent of the Father, to reconcile man to his Creator, back to purity.

By the laws of the see, if one is to salvage, as in rescue, a ship, one must ask permission to board even though the ship to be salvaged is in peril. During these times, are we giving permission for Jesus to come to us, to rescue us.

By His very presence He brings the power of the Holy Spirit with Him. John recognized this even in the womb, as he rejoiced as much in the confined space of his mother’s belly, and Elizabeth, who was barren, was now filled with the child that took away her reproach, and the Spirit who had her confirm that which the angel told her, which would be sealed to her heart later by the words of Simeon in the temple.

We’ve come to understand that the presence of Christ will come to us, but will not invade us. He comes to us and walks among us, and those who would partake of Him must move toward Him in faith. Blind Bartimeus, the men who lowered their friend through the roof of someone’s house, the bleeding woman, the Gentile who would have her daughter healed, the 10 lepers, and many others all took a step in faith. They shouted for Him, they pushed through crowds, they acknowledged Him as the Messiah and the Son of David, and when He’d forgiven their sins and healed them, instructed them, and blessed them, they testified to the Father’s glory of the work He did in them.

It is years later that John the Baptist will echo his mother’s words to Mary, but under different circumstances:

Matthew 3:13-17

John Baptizes Jesus

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He[a] saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Are you in the Lord’s presence this Christmas season? Then rejoice, for He has come to You to lead you back to the Father, under the covenant of mercy and grace, and asks you to follow Him, and tell others, and do good to people, and intercede for them, and help them, and pray over them, and bless them whether they deserve it or not.

But remember that You must ask, seek, and knock. You must watch and pray.

You must guard your heart, your eyes, and your tongue.

You must seek. You must answer. You must love. You must testify.

You must acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior.

But most importantly, You must believe in Him, and in His promises, and that He tells us the truth about all things concerning Him doing the Father’s will, and how we are to seek, live, and enter into the kingdom of G-d, where it is as He said, He is always with us.

Brothers and sisters, this Christmas season, He comes to you, and calls for you.

Answer Him while He may yet be found, in this, the year of G-d’s favor, for He desires to be with you.

Revelation 3:20

20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas

 

Of Stars and Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-12

Wise Men from the East

 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’[a]

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Admittedly, and to the peril of our understanding, we’ve narrowed this tale down to three kings because of the three gifts. The truth of the matter is, while it was probably more, the text doesn’t specify, and certainly all of them didn’t fit inside the house.

We also know that it wasn’t the same night the shepherds went evangelizing, otherwise there would be no reason for what follows. Journeys weren’t swift undertakings, but regardless of the logistics, it was certain that the wise men were following a supernatural sign. Granted, it was more subdued than the one given the shepherds, but no less spectacular, for it was visible in the daylight hours as well, and moved more dynamically than any other.

There are some who hold the star was an invention of Satan, since it led these men to Herod to announce the birth, and the resulting slaughter of innocent children, but Matthew ties it back to the prophet Jeremiah.

Truth be told, I don’t know why G-d would cull innocent souls in response to the birth of His Son, who gave His life for the rest of us, but this is where the sovereignty of the Father makes us question, and that’s okay. We can’t know.

We do know that the wise men didn’t return to tell Herod anything. In a dream they were told by the angel not to return, and to a man, they obeyed. None sought to curry favor or riches with the king.

When they got to the house (though all Nativity scenes place them at the manger), they worshiped Him (not Mary), and gave them gifts out of their treasures. While we’re not told if these men were specifically Jewish, they certainly would have heard of the prophet and Magi Daniel, who dwelt in their land, faithful to G-d even in His captivity, and delivered by the hand of G-d Himself.

This Christmas season, romanticized or not, we rejoice with our Persian brothers and sisters of the faith in welcoming  our Lord to the earthly stage. He certainly set it on a different path, and by calling us to Him, set us on one as well.

Let us honor Him with our own gifts, but mostly the gift of time, as we reflect on His mercy and grace, and the peace He imparts to us that passes earthly understanding.

Let us return that which we treasure to Heaven, where thieves can’t break in, and honor Him with the first fruits of our labor and our praise.

He is our divine dream, our Heavenly King, and the Redeemer of our lowly souls, G-d’s gift to us in our poor and wretched stats. Let us worship with exceedingly great joy, as the wise men did, for being extracted out of the world through the truth of His ministry, and remember that He is, indeed, G-d with us.

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas.

Devotional 75: Friend, Go Up Higher

Luke 14:7-11 

Take the Lowly Place

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. 11 For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

For a number of years, I played bass for worship bands. One of the most constant admonishments I heard was, ‘Turn it up.’ The reason I started out low was because the bass, although supportive in nature, can be extremely annoying at loud volumes. It is sparingly played, but can pretty much drown out everything else and cut through if it’s loud enough.

I could then find a comfortable volume that wasn’t overwhelming for the room. We respected the house we were playing in, if we were guests in another church. I was once told, “You’re the first bass player we’ve had to tell to turn up!”

But then too, I started playing bass in my 30’s, so the urge to ‘rock out’ was behind me. I was more mature, and more or less learning the instrument on the fly. And also, the reasons I started playing was to give a gift I’d neglected back to the Lord for saving me under the covenant of grace. We occupy a unique place as players. A bassist, for me, is the bridge between the rhythm and melody: we have to lock in step with our drummers, and keep up with the melodic instruments and singers, basically outlining what’s being played. It’s more challenging than it sounds, but it’s rewarding when done well. It’s a matter of yielding to the Spirit as well, because when His presence hits, there are deep places you go that weren’t planned.

I was honored that my worship leaders considered me good enough to use me, and doubly honored to play before my Father. It was humbling to be used as a vessel to lead people into worship. I didn’t take it lightly, or for granted.

So it is with G-d, and through our Lord He continued to send a message to those who were proud of heart and prideful of place.

“Humble yourself.”

We are, it seems, living in times of prideful overabundance. Everyone is marching for themselves, and protesting the pride of others. Don’t get me wrong, there are times to speak out against things we know are wrong that some justify (and sometimes through the Bible), but among all the marching, the air reeks of pride, self-righteousness, anger, arrogance, and hate.

It’s a powerful thing to be a champion, and a heady feeling to ‘strike a blow’ for something you care deeply about. But that’s where the thistles grow, and if we’re not careful, we forget to listen the way our Lord listened, and He listened to everyone who entreated Him.

He had compassion on us, even when He was tired, or needed to be alone.

The disciples He called couldn’t understand Him, or were afraid to ask Him things, or related heavenly matters to earthly things,”It’s because we don’t have any bread,” and “Who among us will be the greatest,” and “Should we call down fire from Heaven?”

We are admonished in Proverbs not to praise ourselves. (Proverbs 27:2)

Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.

We are told by Jesus not to put on a show. (Matthew 6:2)

Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

Indeed, we’re commanded to love our neighbors. (Matthew 22:34-40)

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

And beyond that, to pray for our enemies and those who take advantage of us. (Luke 6:28)

28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

How then, are we here, when even standing for right causes we get a sense of pride in ourselves at being selfless.

We have all kinds of pride parades now, and the slow descent into lawlessness under the guise of ‘rights’ is a clever, deadly trick of the enemy.

We celebrate the evil dead under the guise of ‘fun’ at Halloween.

We celebrate solstices under the guise of ‘freedom from religion.’

We celebrate gluttony on Thanksgiving, then, after we allegedly give thanks for what we have, go right into greedy consumerism at Christmas.

As believers, we are voices in a new wilderness. We should cry out all the more, from the lowly places. Let us also not be afraid, for G-d will exalt us, and lead us to those who have ears to hear.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

By the very act of coming to us, to tell us we are worthy of saving grace, you’ve humbled yourself more than anyone. A servant-king is an oxymoron to us. We have mistaken having dominion for ruling without stewardship of our world, ourselves, and each other.

The one to whom Adam handed dominion now blinds us with his own sins of pride, self-exaltation, and open rebellion against You.

Let us, in these haughty times, remember that the Father resists the proud, and brings them low.

We would be lifted up by You, Lord, longing to enter into Your rest, willing to take the lowly place to do the Father’s will. It’s a hard thing to do in an age of opulence, for we give no thought to the source of our comforts these days. 

Even the day that we celebrate Your arrival has become a mockery, but you were never about pageantry Lord, born in a manger, riding colts through the gates to topple an empire on its spiritual ear.

Help us to remember it is the Father who raises up and sets down. 

It is only through Your testimony of us before the throne that He does so, so we will continue to speak the goodness of Your name from the alleys and rooftops of our lives. We would call attention to ourselves shining Your light from a hilltop, turning neither left nor right.

Our reward is with You, our home is with You, and all that we have was made possible through You, who saw Satan fall like lightning for seeking equality with G-d. 

Let us remember Your words, that apart from You we can do nothing, but all things are possible with G-d. 

We humbly thank You for choosing to reveal Him to us, for reconciling us to Him, for our names in the Book of Life. While no one can take us from Your hand, let not our pride make us wriggle out of it, and walk our own path back to the darkness, in our own strength. Let us be ever reminded: there will be no refuge for the proud in the day of His vengeance.

I ask in Your Name, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 74: Rejoice in the Spirit

Jesus Rejoices in the Spirit (Luke 10:21-22)

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Part of the sovereignty of kingship is that the King gets to pick who belongs in the kingdom, and who doesn’t. I’ll admit that seeing this verse, particularly verse 22, gave me pause because in my youth, though I believed in G-d, I did not serve Him, and I wasn’t interested in following Christ.

After all, like so many others say, “I wasn’t hurting anyone.” But I wasn’t helping anyone, either. I was an unfruitful branch, dormant, empty, like the cursed fig tree when my Lord needed me to fulfill an earthly need. My life was undisciplined, spent doing what I wished, not planning for the future, and pretty much coasting and drifting with a jumbled set of ambitions, up to when I had my first child.

Fast-forward to my first day of Pentecost, when the Spirit opened my eyes to all that G-d was and meant to me on a new level, and all that He wanted to do for me and through me.

That brings me back to verse 22. Christ, in His mercy, sent the Spirit to reveal Himself to me, and through Him, reveal the Father. I was a basket case for a few hours, kept asking why, kept feeling His presence all through me. It was a glorious day I’ll never forget.

Fast forward again: No longer a husband, a father of adult children on their own, and I find myself again being able to do what I want, when I want, if I want.

I still don’t always stick to the path and do what I know,  yet again Christ in His mercy, through the Word, tells us this (Luke 9:23-26)

23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 

Self-denial, aka ‘crucifying the flesh,’ is a requirement, not an option. Professing to be a follower when I’m not damages both our reputations, and I again become unfruitful.

Paul reminds us in Romans:

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.

And the writer of Hebrews says this: (Hebrews 10:26-29

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.[ And again, “The Lord will judge His people. 

Will we backslide? Of course. But we must repent as soon as we’re aware of it. It’s not something we should build up before we do. Again in Hebrews we read: (Hebrews 10:14-16)

14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.

Hold Fast Your Confession

19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.

And lastly, the words of Christ:(Luke 9:26)

26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 

If I don’t confess Him before men, I can’t evangelize effectively. More importantly, He will not confess me before the Father.

I, for one, don’t want to fall into the hands of the living G-d if I’m covered in sin.

Do you?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Let today be a day of praise and thanksgiving for Your mercy toward us, for taking our mustard seed of faith and planting it with the promise of eternal life to come, in Your presence, as we worship the Father in Your Kingdom.

We thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who has revealed the Truth of the Father’s word to us, a word that He holds higher than His name, sending You to fulfill it so we are reconciled back to Him, spotless and blameless.

Bring to mind, Lord, that it is only through You we come to the Father, and only because You were willing to put our names into the Book of Life. We would not have them blotted out Lord, by foolishly making Your covenant with us a common thing, lest the Father’s wrath be on us in the day of the His vengeance on His enemies.

You tell us that no one can take us from Your hand, but let us also seek Your face, and know Your voice, holding fast to our confession of You in all that we say and do.

We thank You for redeeming us, for trusting us to do greater works in boldness, proclaiming the drawing near of Your kingdom. Help us to discern the times we live in, and know what to do. Help us not to go down when the enemy would call us from the work. 

And let us, like You, when our days here are done, be able to say: “It is finished,” and enter into Your joy in being with the Father also.

I ask in Your name, believing I’ve received.

Amen