Devotional 204: What to Do

Grace and divine love does not mean we are not to make an effort to please the Father.

John Preaches to the People (Luke 3: 7-15)

Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?”

11 He answered and said to them, “He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise.”

12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?”

13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than what is appointed for you.”

14 Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, “And what shall we do?”

So he said to them, “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.”

15 Now as the people were in expectation, and all reasoned in their hearts about John, whether he was the Christ or not,16 John answered, saying to all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

The baptism ‘unto repentance for the remission of sins’ implies that it’s easier for the work of the Atonement to cover less than more. To clarify: it’s not that the blood is incapable of covering any and all sin through faith in Jesus, just that the walk goes quicker and smoother for us when there’s not so much sin to cover.

And just like putting a disease into remission, there must also be action on the part of the believer to eradicate sin from their life and do our part to heal.

John’s prophesy and proclamation of Christ’s coming gives the people listening to him an opportunity to get their hearts right. The Spirit’s anointing of the message was convicting and different people from all walks of life stepped forward to be baptized and asked an important question: “What must we do?”

In his response, John isn’t lofty. He gives them such practical advice that it seems like it should have been common sense, but at the essence of it was this: Do better.

The advice was in their realms of expertise, and spoke to the troublesome hearts of men. Stop being corrupt. Stop being violent and intimidating unnecessarily. We are not to become better versions of ourselves, we are to become more like Jesus.

In order to do that, He commands us: Come to me.

In the performance of His miracles, there was effort: “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.” (John 5:29)

In the giving of grace, there is effort: “Go, and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

Today, believer, as you rise to give thanks and praise, and count your blessings, and walk to victory through your trials, remember to seek His guidance. Remember also, have faith in the silence, remembering you are in His hands.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We give You thanks for the covenant of grace through the agony of Calvary, and the grafting in of the unchosen and unworthy. We are reminded of Your words that those who do the Father’s will are the ones who will enter His rest, and that the strictest standards are for those who are called out of the world.

Let us be mindful that faith without works is dead (James 2:26), and works without faith will not stand the refining fires of the harvest (1 Cor 3: 12-15)

Thank You for the purification, reconciliation, and deliverance of our souls back to the Father, that we may live in a new earth purged of evil, praising in the presence of the Father’s light, in His kingdom ruled by the Son.

Every day, let those of us You chose to reveal to the Father reflect You more, and like John the Baptist, be ever aware that we must decrease.

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

Amen.

Devotional 201: Promises to the Faithful

Luke 2:25-32

Simeon Sees God’s Salvation

25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:

29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

Other than this story, which is impactful enough as it stands, we know nothing of Simeon outside of this passage. As with some others, nowhere does it say ‘This was the same man who…’ We are told he was just and devout. We are not told he was without sin, or flaws, or what his walk with G-d was like.

What we can piece together from here is that G-d certainly knew who he was, and that sometime in his life he felt Israel’s persecution so keenly, perhaps even suffered some himself, that he asked to know the promises he heard in his youth of Israel’s Consolation were true.

And the Father not only honored his request, but he was among the first to hold His Son, and to deliver a powerful prophesy over him, no doubt bewildering to Jesus’ earthly parents.

Do you ever wonder, believer, if Mary recalled these words, if all that Simeon said came together for her as she watched her son suffer and die, with spiritual demons mocking and cavorting around Him as His holy blood covered our souls to blot out the evil in them from His Father’s sight.

Have you ever wondered if, with all that Jesus suffered, the Father removing him from His sight as he took the penalty of our sins, was more painful than the nails and thorns?

Have you prayed in your own youth, wondered if G-d heard, and later in life saw that He delivered the desire of your heart into your hands?

From this passage we’re told that Simeon held on to that promise, but that the Holy Spirit was sent to assure him, and after it was fulfilled, Simeon was at peace with leaving this world.

That same Holy Spirit was sent to us after we accepted G-d’s Son as our Friend, Brother, Shepherd Lord, Savior, King, and Judge.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

There are none righteous here on the earth that You should deliver us from sin’s hold. We are only worthy of the destruction of the world, as in the times of Noah.

But in Your love, mercy, and grace, remembering we are clay as we live, and the dust of clay when we perish, You would yet see our souls reconciled to You, to see us rejoice in the rewards of our faith in Your promises You have spoken through Your Son, Jesus, as yes and amen.

As we stumble, fall, backslide, run off, disobey, and return to our personal Egypts, remind us through the Holy Spirit that the promise of redemption is sealed to us, for as You sent the Spirit to Simeon, so did Jesus tell His disciples the Spirit would come to them, and give to them more of the revelation and strength of the Christ.

May we blot from our sight the ways of this world, repent, and live such a life of faith before You as we hold on to the promise of eternal life, and bless the Son as we hold on to the reassurances he gave us in Your Word, that You may remember us, as You remembered Simeon in the appointed hour.

Grant to us also that we never waver in our belief we will one day meet Simeon and rejoice with him forever, in the presence of our Consolation along with Your people Israel, grafted into the Branch by Your covenants of mercy and grace.

Today, we humbly, gratefully, reverently, fearfully thank You for sealing Your promises to us through the power, counsel and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and that no matter how much time passes, You will keep them all.

We ask this in Jesus’ Name, believing we’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 199: Known to G-d

Acts 15:18 18 

“Known to God from eternity are all His works.

Genesis 22: 38

3  So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.”

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”

And he said, “Here I am, my son.”

Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.

Psalm 65: 1-3

65 Praise is awaiting You, O God, in Zion;
And to You the vow shall be performed.
O You who hear prayer,
To You all flesh will come.
Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

When one has been elected to receive, believe, and obey the G-d’s Word, it becomes more difficult to unravel using the logic of men, who cannot, as the Word tells us, fathom what G-d has done from beginning to end. (Ecc: 3:11)

If indeed He knew us before He formed us, the number of our days, and the hairs on our heads, He is not one to be outwitted by the very souls He created to be redeemed from the power of His rebellious angel and those he took with him.

And though we are exhorted not to, we do grow weary of doing well, we don’t pray for those who abuse us, we want earthly, mortal revenge, and to call down heaven’s fire on our enemies. (Luke 9:54 – 56)

Yet Jesus, even as He remained focused on His journey back to Jerusalem, rebuked the disciples who wanted to put on a show for themselves and whoever was watching, and it tainted the purpose of their walk.

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.

He confirmed with His prayer for those who demanded His death rather than hear Him preach that sinners could get back to the Father through faith and repentance. (Luke 23:34)

Even so, He must remind us of our calling out of the world because of our refusal to deny our own will and replace it with His, and that as there is a spiritual war in the heavens, if the kingdom of G-d is within us, so too, is the sin of rebellion disguised as knowledge, pride, possessions, and the need for approval of men.

Add in the immediate needs of practical living: food, clothing, and shelter, then we can see the potential to fall into the traps the enemy of G-d has in store for us. Did G-d indeed say…? (Genesis 3:1)

In spite of today’s unfolding of Christ’s prophecies, we are called to endure until the end with obedience, faith, humility, devotion, steadfastness, prayer, discernment, and most of all, LOVE.

Abraham, before he knew G-d would provide a ram, told those who waited for him …’we will return to you.’ As such, G-d provided for Abraham and spared him seeing the blood of Isaac on his hands.

He did not do the same for Himself, but neither did He also slay His Son, for as Isaac was the child of promise to Abraham for Israel, so too was Jesus the child of promise to us to redeem us back to the Father, pure and holy. It is only then, when those souls who’ve declared for Christ have been redeemed, God will purge the heavens and earth of His enemies. Indeed, He will create them anew.

Get to know Him, for He knows you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

The days you foretold so long ago begin to overtake the land, of brother against brother, nation against nation, and house within house, falling before the scythes of spiritual sickness.

This nation has placed itself on a path to perdition with the idols and vices of wealth on one side, and the idols and vices of self on the other.

False teachers and prophets defile our churches and twist the Father’s Word to the unlearned for their own purposes, as did the Pharisees of your day. They tickle unrepentant ears with soft thorns, proclaiming themselves and those who follow them to be sinless, if they speak of sin at all, not only in your sight but before Heaven’s throne, from which you will judge all the people from all the nations.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…” as noble a sentiment as it sounded, has not, does not, and cannot apply to all, administered as it was by the hearts of spiritually sick men. In contrast, you say to us : I AM the way, the TRUTH, and the Light. (John 14:6), and there is no plurality in you regarding the Father’s will (John 10:30).

Today, get to know your heavenly Father again, and turn your back on the world which is headed for destruction, and remove yourself and your house from people puffed up with their definitions of themselves, who are headed for destruction.

Declare for Jesus, and the Word of G-d, which He holds higher than his Name, which is already above all other names. Do it while there is yet time or hear the saddest, most heart-wrenching of words He will ever say, which He also prophesied:

Depart from Me. I never knew you.

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 191: Lovers of This World

The Abandoned Apostle

Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.

Demas, like the disciples of Jesus, saw Paul do hard teaching, with hard concepts for the hedonistic, polytheistic people he ministered to understand. And he made a tragic, fatal decision to backslide, indeed, desert, the teachings of Jesus under the covenant of grace, casting his lot with the world.

Those of the flock that abandons the leadership of the Good Shepherd and his hand-picked ministers (and Paul was definitely hand-picked) are prone to attack, to theft, and to death.

Doubtless the persecution Paul suffered and the constant threat of death helped Demas decide he had no heart to persist in Kingdom mission work, and wasn’t willing to give his life for it. He traded his eternal soul for worldly trinkets and counterfeit comfort.

As Jesus tells us no one who undertakes the work and turns back is fit for Kingdom service. (Luke 9:62)

They cut themselves off from the promises of an unchanging, faithful Father to take comfort in the lies of a would-be usurper who will cull the souls of the gullible, skeptical, and unrepentant.

One is well reminded that the prince of this world, as powerful as he may be, is still subject to the almighty King of the universe, maker of Heaven and Earth, the seen and the unseen. In this, we are advised by our Lord not to fellowship with darkness.

John 14 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me.

But he does in the rest of us, in matters of degree, in aspects of our lives where we don’t realize he’s operating. It is only through faith in Christ our enemies’ weapons will not prosper, and our sinful souls and corrupt flesh restored and reconciled to enter into our Father’s rest forever.

In pursuing this, we are admonished to love our Father with all of our being, and fear His power to cast soul and body into hell. (Matthew 10:28)

Much like the multitudes followed Jesus at first only because He healed them, the modern multitudes fill the churches when disaster strikes, but they quickly leave when the floodwaters recede and the wildfires are put out. They treat Heaven as an earthly safety net, and not as their eventual fate.

They will know nothing of living on the new Earth in the light of G-d’s glory. (Rev 21:1)

But G-d will not be mocked, and His eyes are open to their motives; it is to their eternal peril, and not by His glory and honor, that they shall be judged. The covenant of grace is not a safety net for the faithless, and there will be no salvation for the followers of Demas back into the groaning, waiting world.

Choose, this day, whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

It is to You the Father has given all things (John 5:22), including the Throne of Judgment, for You have proven worthy to the Book of Life, to call your faithful out of the world once more (John 15:19), call us to repentance and obedience, that we might not be cast out into the unquenchable fire, feasted on by the immortal worm.

I confess, Lord Jesus, the times I have been tempted to follow Demas and renounce the promise of grace through Your sacrifice on Calvary, giving Your last moments to give that grace to repentant thief and to pray forgiveness for Your persecutors.

In those times, help my unbelief and strengthen me to do likewise, for I know that to love my enemies and pray for them is not in me, not in my own strength, and not in my own will. Nor is it in me to walk the extra mile, and turn my cheek.
I know what You say to do, but it is a command I find myself unwilling to obey. It is, as those who turned back from You said, a hard teaching.

Give my prayers the power then to help me do the Father’s will, in fellowship with the power of the Holy Spirit, to love my neighbor as myself.

In the midst of the world’s clamoring for my attention, give me discernment to hear Your voice, and to follow You back through the windblown crowds chasing all manner of false doctrine. Let me turn my back to the backsliders, and yield to You so that I return in joy to the safety of Your unyielding hands.

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

Amen.

Devotional 189: Remove Your Foot From Evil

Proverbs 4:

27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
Remove your foot from evil.

While the entire proverb warns us and addresses how to walk the Narrow Path to salvation, it is true that for most of us, all things considered, the length of earthly years can make it difficult, and we often find ourselves straddling two states of being: Spiritual and Carnal.

It is the line between corrupting flesh that fights the spirit seeking Christ’s salvation through grace. The Apostle Paul reminds us this is going to be a lifelong battle (Gal 5:17)

We would likely answer, “But Lord, we’re only human….”

The Lord would answer He remembers that (Psalm 103:14)

What is given to us to remember is that we are spiritual beings, souls that will be returning reconciled from sin, under the blood covenant of mercy and grace that we entered into with Jesus, who sealed it with His sacrifice by taking our place and punishment on Himself.

In that, the Son reminds us that we are beholden, and should fear He who is able to cast the soul as well as the body to be consumed in the void. (Matthew 10:28)

Our feet may straddle two worlds for a variety of reasons, such as an immediate way out of bad circumstances, monetary rewards based on your silence, sexual favors for advancing careers….etc.

In those moments, we can waver and compromise, even backslide, in our service like the sleeping disciples of Gethsemane. We can view it as when the Word says Satan left Jesus ‘until a more opportune time.’ (Luke 4:13)

Today, let us repent of the earthly sin that creates such opportune times for demonic spiritual conditions that bring us both drama and tragedy in the world, and rebukes from the Throne of Grace that will one day be the Throne of Judgment.

If we stand with Christ and fellow believers, keeping one foot in the world is a conscious choice we are making to choose curses over blessings, for there is no compromising with sin for our Father. He can’t look at it, and He will never forget it without the blood of His Son covering us.

Such is His heart toward us.

Let us remove our feet from evil, rededicate our hearts, guard our mouths, rethink our choices, and consider the motives of our actions as we return to the Narrow Path to follow the Good Shepherd, who possesses the only Name under heaven by which we can be salvaged, reconciled and blameless, to our Father as we dwell in the presence of His glory forever.

Therefore I pray:

Even now, Father, we may stand in sin before You as You turn away, waiting to hear our confessions, our pleas for Your mercy, help, and judge the sincerity of our hearts towards You.

Before men, You affirmed Your Son, once among a multitude when He was baptized, and once again in the midst of Moses and Elijah, in the presence of His closest disciples.

It is, indeed, good for us to be here with Him as well. Today, we open the door to his knock, and prepare our hearts to receive the Gospel, repenting for the Kingdom of Heaven at hand.

I repent of using grace for license, for procrastinating in blessing others when I have time and resources and means, for compromising in my service like an unprofitable servant. I would not be cast into the outer darkness, weeping. Today, I ask that You not blot my name from the Book of Life, and help me not to corrupt the seal of my sinful spirit to your Holy Spirit.

Today, O Lord, through the power and might of the Name of Jesus, I remove my foot from evil, and turn neither to the right nor left, not looking on wickedness and giving rein to deceitful, perverse lips.

Receive me once again into the fold of Your flock, Father, and deliver me from evil. I remove my foot, and set my face to once more follow Jesus, loving You and Him with all my heart, body, mind, and soul.

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

Amen.

Devotional 188: So the People of Nineveh Believed G-d.

Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah Preaches at Nineveh

3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, [a]a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The People of Nineveh Believe

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

As believers we must not mistake mercy and grace for permission. The reluctant, rebellious prophet who went in the opposite of G-d’s direction, even in his disobedience, was made to point people to the Father.

The mariners, to their credit, did not immediately wish to throw Jonah overboard. Surely in such seas, as far as they knew, Jonah was going to drown.

Still, Jonah’s rebellion was so strong that it forced them to find out through pagan means why their voyage was placed in holy peril. Fortunately, G-d was merciful to them in their innocence of Jonah’s crime.

When they did as Jonah requested, and the sea began to calm down, the power of G-d was seen in the natural to the point where the sailors took oaths and made a sacrifice; whether they maintained those oaths is not known, but in the moment, they knew who the true ruler of the seas was, despite whatever other gods they sought in their native prayers. The power of the G-d was revealed to them in the natural world.

In Nineveh, which dealt violently with the prophets of its day, Jonah’s prophecy was short, but it says that he cried out. There was no meeting or gathering for him to preach to an assembly as such.

He cried out, and the important distinction here is that they did not spurn Jonah, but they believed G-d. How did a land so sinful come so quickly to a collective mode of repentance, from the greatest to the least, and even among the animals?

G-d imbued the words with the power of His Spirit, so that it penetrated every heart. Given the short time the Ninevites had, there was no time for a process, or for anyone to think about whether or not they wanted to repent; the power of G-d’s Word proclaimed by Jonah was such that none could refute it. The power of the Spirit-filled word had to pierce hearts and unstop ears that before had been resistant to the Father’s mercy. A disobedient rebel was used to convert the hearts and minds of disobedient rebels, and put a right spirit within them.

Jesus told His disciples such: (Luke 12:11)

11 “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And although Nineveh eventually fell because they failed to pass along the values of faith, repentance, and obedience, we have an example of the Father withholding his punishment for those who willing to do His will and live under His covenant of grace, including Jonah, who was actually angry that G-d followed His word and did not destroy the land.

Let’s note then, that although the prophet still desired in his heart to see the city destroyed despite his prophecy, the Lord provided for him until he could see mercy manifested on people he believed the worst of sinners.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

As You have revealed Yourself to us by the power of the blood of Your Son, and called us to also minister to a faithless, mocking, wicked, and adulterous generation while dealing with our own doubt, reluctance, and rebellion, we ask that You also imbue our words and deeds with the power of the Spirit, so that You are revealed to those we tell about you.

May it be so in the natural, as it was with the pagan mariners, and in the spiritual, as it was with the Ninevites.

We ask also for the Spirit’s discernment, that we not cover Your truth in the veil of our politics and self-righteousness, for all fall short of Your glory, and none are blameless before the throne save through the power of Calvary’s atoning work. Forgive us if we have done so, and bring it to mind if we backslide the next time we speak of the goodness of Your Name among those we have been called to prophesy and evangelize.

We thank You also, Father, for protecting and providing for us, that we may see Your mercy manifested among the worst of sinners so that they glorify You and bear more of salvation’s fruit in Jesus’ name.

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 185: Let Us Die with Him

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

It was a noble sentiment Thomas expressed, in fact, it was seemingly shared by the rest, but not one that he was ultimately committed to following through. From the time of the beginning of His ministry, Jesus referenced ‘my hour’ as impending.

He didn’t say it would be theirs, but His, and His alone, for He was the only one the Father sent to substitute for us, and the only one counted worthy of doing so, withstanding Satan’s temptations to have the bitter cup of our collective sins set aside for another way within the Father’s will.

But it wasn’t within G-d’s will to find another way, and Jesus gave Himself over to it: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22: 42)

Jesus did speak of the sacrifices they would make in ministering to the world, just not alongside Him. (John 21:18)

And in the Lord’s mercy, when Thomas openly declared his lack of belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, though he’d witnessed the rise of Lazarus, his faith was sealed in the recognition of Jesus’ divinity:

John 20:27-28 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

I don’t know how many of us were taught that Thomas did put his hand in Jesus’ side, but the text doesn’t state that. It would have been highly familiar and disrespectful to a King in full manifestation of His heavenly glory, and the mustard seed of faith that was yet buried in Thomas’ spirit checked him from doing it, and responded to the Holy Spirit abiding in Jesus, giving Him his due.

So how are we called to die with Him? The good news is this: We aren’t.

Our sins, doubts, fears, and rebellion are called to die. Our sin natures are called to die. We who are grafted into the Vine are called to live like Christ and to minister to those around us, pointing the way to G-d as His priests, ministers, disciples, servants, friends, brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters of the Most High G-d, leading them to the Throne of mercy and grace, that they too, like Thomas, will become believing, and on their knees cry out to Him: “My Lord and My God!”

Come out of the graves of the world, and rejoice that despite your many sins, you are still counted among the chosen to live with Him forever in a world free of evil, counted worthy to live in the light of the presence of the living G-d Almighty without fear of death for all eternity, for the blood of our Savior will forever erase the multitude of our mortal sins.

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

Amen.

Devotional 184: Who Did the Will of His Father?

Matthew 21:28-32

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

We live as servants to the Lord in our life’s purpose. Once chosen, called, redeemed, and reconciled to the Father in spite of our many sins and wayward walks, our Lord commands us to tell others so they may also come to repentance, seeing the goodness of G-d in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Jesus admonishes us to be about the work, not about the intentions to work; there is such a thing as too much counsel. There are also those who feel a sense of superiority in the fact that they’ve been chosen, and allow pride to ruin and otherwise sidetrack them from the simple, yet most difficult of commands: Love one another.

Harlots and tax collectors were considered to be the worst kinds of sinners, separated from G-d by their sin, and then John the Baptist came preaching with zeal and passion, telling them that G-d still loved them, and wanted them, but they had to stop what they were doing and come to Him in spirit and truth. Abandoned by the chosen ones whose hands were available to help, but only threw more spiritual stones of condemnation at them, their hearts and spirits responded to the message.

Jesus told them in this parable that if the worst of sinners could respond to the Gospel, what was it in the hearts of the chosen that kept them back when they saw what was happening?

Certainly Paul, the most cynical and prickly of the Apostles, who didn’t even walk with Christ, and persecuted the church, as he says, ‘with zeal,’ knows what he’s saying when he tells us that ‘knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1)

In contrast, John, the disciple Jesus loved, tells us that we cannot claim to love G-d whom we haven’t seen, if we hate our brothers and sisters we see all the time. (1 John 4:20)

Jesus Himself tells us that if we are to be with Him in the Father’s presence, we must do the Father’s will. (Matthew 12:50).

Let us reflect today on which of the two sons we truly follow: the one who repents and obeys, or the one who speaks willingness, and leaves his work undone. If we are not among those we deem the worst of sinners, and they’re getting in ahead of us because they receive the message of forgiveness, repentance, and obedience, we will have our answer.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

There are days I feel energized, excited, and fully capable to perform all that the Father asks of me. I am a beacon of light in those times: enthusiastic, excited, happy, and even patient and understanding with those who resist me, forgiving those who stand against me, and in those mountaintop experiences, I praise You with a song of ascent.

My faith feels firm, sealed to my spirit as I go about doing the work I was called to in Your Name, to the Father’s glory, and for awhile I really do believe all things are possible.

There are other days, Lord Jesus, when I feel like the Father should be grateful I’m even speaking to Him. Something or someone has battered my spiritual armor, and got past my guard. They spoke a word, or did a deed, or both, that shook me, angered me, and made me want to call down the Father’s holy fire in such a manner that they would never think to do so again.

You tell me in those moments that I don’t know the type of spirit I’m letting in (Luke 9:55). I get sullen, and prideful, and don’t ask forgiveness. I wonder if the Gospel is nothing but a cosmic hoax sent not by the King and Creator, but merely a divine jester and puppet master. I attribute the behavior of wicked men to a holy G-d, and walk in foolish fearlessness of Him who is able to cast my soul and body into eternal fire, and to wipe it out in an instant.

Today then, I stop, and give heed to the voice of my Father, and ask His forgiveness once again. I regret my rebellion, and remind myself that when I walk in His will, all that He has is mine, and as I fulfill my calling to bring glory and honor to His Name, He will sustain and protect me in all that I do. And I am reminded that Satan has no power over me, save that which in my flesh, I give him, as Adam gave him dominion once he disobeyed the will of his Father by not obeying His command.

Today then, let me be the repentant one who quietly goes and does their Father’s will, that I might be reconciled to Him once more through Christ, who bore my punishment and the Father’s wrath, that I might come to know His eternal love for me when I dwell in His presence forever, praising as I serve.

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

Amen.