Devotional 162: Where Two or Three Gather…

Matthew 18:18-20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Amen.

 

 

Devotional 159: In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1

The History of Creation

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

John 1:1

The Eternal Word

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

      We’ve been given the gift of life for an undetermined time, and in that time, we make our choices and mistakes, leave a legacy and inheritance, and return to G-d.

Our Lord and Savior tells us we shall rise to eternity, but where we spend it will be determined by how we spend our days. He alludes to the fact that it would be better in those days if we never heard Him than it is to ignore Him.

As we watch His prophecies unfold and our youth walk the roads of self-righteousness along the road to hell in the pride and licentiousness, we are to continue to cry out as voices in the wilderness, and live in such a way as to make an impact that points the sinners, onlookers and naysayers to G-d. (John 8:50 – 56)

Time and again we are given the opportunities to start over and become more like Him in the way we think about, serve, and treat others. (Matthew 23:11)

As we grow ripe for the harvest and faint in the battle, we aren’t to grow weary in doing good, and continue to set an earthly example of the Father’s will for all people of every nation.

Yet the air we breathe today reeks from words of hate, fear, anger, sadness, loneliness, and depression. Still we are to rejoice in faith and tell, and let people make their choices and the Holy Spirit do His work. It grows more imperative then, that we use these new beginnings to tell others of the new life to come under the new covenant of our Lord Jesus, who tells us of a new beginning that will have no end.

 Therefore I pray:

In these times, enemy grows strong, and instills pride in the spirits of the lost and confused. They gather in swarming mobs with voices that let us know that have already chosen, and will not be ruled by Your love. So today, Lord, we ask for a double portion of bold insistence to tell them Your words are spirit and life, and You are the truth and the singular Name under Heaven that all who call on it won’t be turned away.

You will also judge all according to their words, works, and motives of the heart.

Today, then, we have another chance for a new beginning.

Quicken our spirits to watch and pray, sow and reap, and give thanks and praise in all things, holding on to our faith.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 156: The Hour is Coming

John 4:20-24

A Samaritan Woman Meets Her Messiah

20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”

21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In His conversation with the Samaritan woman, Jesus tells her that she too, will worship the Father neither on the mountain or in the city, because when the hour comes for our redemption, we will all be in the presence of the Son at the judgment, and the purging of the Father’s enemies will begin.

As of this moment, this woman, whose people were the mortal enemies of the Jews of that time, is included in the gathering.

This, for her, is a personally confirming statement that aligns with what Jesus said about the Father calling those ‘His people’  who were not. That is, they are not of the Jews, but they believe in the Son, and His titles as Christ, Messiah, Son of G-d, and Son of Man. As the savior, judge, and king of the faithful, He tells us all the nations will be gathered before Him, and all will be judged by Him to eternity in the kingdom of G-d, and the outer darkness so many embrace.

The raging fires, warm ocean temperatures, poisoned soil, rise of immorality, rise of the occult, breakdown of family, greed of the wealthy,  the blurry concepts of gender and sexuality, the drug epidemic that continues to ravage generations, the neutralization of  the emphasis of men, all point us back to the prophecies of Paul (2 Timothy 3:1-7)

Jesus tells us to be discerning of the times. (Matthew 16:1-4)

What we must remember is that this Earth is under Satan’s dominion, given to him by Adam, (Matthew 4:9), and the Tribulation is yet to be. Of that, Jesus speaks to us here: (Matthew 24:1-31)

In the days ahead, in the decade to come, we must be diligent in our work, more focused on Christ than ever before and turning more to the Word of G-d as the worldly trappings of tech, luxury, the rise of AI, the proliferation of corruption and vice begins to unravel the fabric of this nation’s people and economy.

Christ tells them they already have their reward.

Let us be found as the servant who was doing his work when his master returned.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today, we remain still in Your presence, receiving times of refreshing, that our joy may be renewed, our faith strengthened, and our souls sanctified and found worthy to stand before You unashamed.

Forgive us our doubts and lapses when we have grown weary in battle, and pour out Your grace on our misunderstanding of all that You came to do for us, and with us. Forgive us for confining You and the Father to our mortal, limited parameters, as beings of myth and imagination, as jinn who fulfill our wishes with no guidance or accountability on our part.

We ask that you intercede for us to the Father to prepare our hands for war, and for a boldness to finish the work for which You revealed the Father to us, and gave us the Holy Spirit to seal the new covenant of Your atoning blood that redeems us from the grave.

Help us to continually discern the signs that tell us this world is transitory, our journey is not yet complete, and our way is narrow on the holy path as we follow You.

Increase our faith, help our unbelief, and let our praise reflect our joy as we head for eternity with You as our King forever, in the light of the Father’s presence, holy and whole, in spirit and truth.

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

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 154: Having Never Studied

John 7:14-19

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. 19 Did not Moses give you the law, yet none of you keeps the law? Why do you seek to kill Me?”

The son of an obscure carpenter, poor, and from the bad side of town where the rabble lived, came Jesus sitting in the midst of the structure of power and influence among the Jews, teaching with such power and authority that the people who heard Him ‘marveled’ at His style, yet continued to place Him back in their own earthly boxes despite all the works He’d performed in their streets and temples.

Remember when He rebuked Nicodemus for his question, “How can these things be?” when He spoke to him of being born again. (John 3:7-10), and His rebuke of the Pharisees and how they taught the people of Israel (Matthew 23:15).

As a child even in the temple, when He sat in the midst of the rabbis they were also amazed at His understanding and answers (Luke 2:41-52). When He sent out the disciples, also unlearned men, He told them not to worry about what they would say. (Matthew 10:19), and in a wry twist of divine comedy, His most steadfast and learned disciple was once one of His fiercest opponents who not only repented, but planted international churches through tremendous victories and demonic opposition who went on to write most of the New Testament (Phillipians 3:1-7)

We join churches, follow pastors, radio preachers, and ministries where we find like-minded believers, but we are not to surrender the unique power the Holy Spirit, who was so graciously given to guide us into all truth. (John 16:13)

Being His disciples here in the modern day then, we must not be irresponsible and neglectful in reading G-d’s Word. It matters, the Word says, that we study and show ourselves approved (2 Timothy, 2:15). Though it’s primarily for Timothy stepping into his new role as a pastor Paul founded, it still resonates down to the ages that when we fail to ground and center ourselves in the foundation of all things related to our salvation, we surrender that power to others and become slaves to egos that fall into temptation, believing themselves to be the voice of a god and not of a man. Remember what befell Herod before the crowds issuing this deadly flattering phrase: ‘The voice of  a god and not of a man.’

We are to point others to the glory of G-d, not share it, and definitely don’t proclaim that we are human divinity, for though the kingdom of G-d is within us, it certainly doesn’t mean attempting to ascend to the Almighty’s throne.

What Jesus said of the disciples could also be true of us: (Matthew 11:24-26)

Jesus Gives True Rest

24 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

So yes, we may rest in His power, but we must also read, study, speak, and most importantly, live in such a way that we might have an answer for everyone who asks of us (1 Peter 3:15):

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

    As Your enemies gather in strength, growing louder in opposition, and those who once sowed and plowed with You have turned back, proving not fit for the Kingdom of G-d, subtle and flashy in their deception among those who surrender the power of Your word to serpents and wolves in sheep’s clothing who lead astray, heedless of the greater condemnation to come, we pray that You gird us up to speak by faith in boldness.

    As Peter caved under the pressure of the moments that heralded Your death, denying You out of fear for his own life after vowing to be by Your side as others fled, we too, are subject to this frailty.

    We are untried, untested, and though You count us worthy as the Father has granted You to reveal Him to us, we count ourselves as unworthy because of all the earthly things we’ve done, denying You in the moment out of fear and a desire to see the results of our emotions manifesting themselves in our flesh, and in the lives of those around us.

    Forgive us, Lord, and once again grant us the grace of the New Covenant under Your blood to start anew, as we once again attest our love for You in godly sorrow and repentance. (John 21:15)

    As we begin this new year, strengthen us to increase our faith and be obedient to the calling we have under Your commission to preach the gospel to every man, and as St. Francis gently admonishes us, ‘If necessary, use words,’ in the time that remains to us.

    May it be done to us as You have said.

   Amen.

 

Devotional 149: Take Heed to Yourselves

Luke 21: 34 –

The Importance of Watching

34 But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple, but at night He went out and stayed on the mountain called Olivet. 38 Then early in the morning all the people came to Him in the temple to hear Him.

As believers, we are to lean on the power of Christ’s divinity and sacrifice to be redeemed from sin into the Father’s kingdom, and while it comes with few outlying conditions or duties that we must perform, neither does it come without effort on our part.

After the redemptive truth of the Gospel is revealed and our fealty for Christ declared, we must then expend something to establish it, or as Jesus would say, to ‘settle it in our hearts.’ He told us we would have difficulty doing this, because the world hates Him for testifying that its work are evil (John 7:7) and as His followers, we are called to do the same, and are therefore targets of His enemies, both physical and spiritual.

We are also called to do more than our share  for we are unprofitable to Him if that’s all we do. (Luke 17:10) . The list is daunting: love one another, keep His commandments, give (not sell) to the poor, pray, repent, flee from sin, forgive, and glorify G-d in all we do, say, and think.

How do we accomplish this? By abiding in Him (John 15:5) and by taking heed to ourselves. There are so many pitfalls on the Narrow Path, that even as we follow Him, we are to keep watch over ourselves. This goes to the heart of our mortal pride. Remember the boast of Peter  (Matthew 26:33)  and what came of it.

As Oswald Chambers wrote: “Peter thought he knew where the test would come, and it did not come where he expected it.” (My Utmost for His Highest)

King David asked to set a guard over his mouth (Psalm 141:3) and his son advises us to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23), and so our Lord and Savior reinforces this to us.

Today, let us release that which concerns us and go to Him, because He’s told us that those who seek Him, He will not cast them out. It is up to us, however, to count the cost to follow, and to choose whom we will serve.

If we are to follow then, it is with the understanding that there will be no compromising for our backsliding, no looking the other way.  He will judge us before the throne of His grace, and the works not done for the Kingdom will be cast into the fire, quite possibly alongside us if we are found to be lacking.

Attaining the Kingdom, then, is not a drag-along prospect, but a willing, voluntary following to say to the Father, Son, and Spirit,

‘Yes and Amen. Our spirits align with Yours, and we would enter into our Father’s rest under the reign of the Son, and be filled eternally with the Holy Spirit.’

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

       We rejoice today that You have sent us a comforter, one who reveals to us all the things that are of You and the Father, One in will and purpose, to redeem the souls of unprofitable servants who stumble, backslide, succumb to sin, and frequently need Your mercy and grace to continue on the Narrow Path to salvation. 

       We praise You for letting us know beforehand that we have been deemed worthy to hear Your shout on the last day, and be raised. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

      We abide in You today, Lord, with repentant hearts and contrite spirits, that You may renew us, cleanse us, anoint us, and sing over us once again to restore our tiring spirits in this body that demands to go into the flames of condemnation. 

     Today, and as we abide in You, every day after, we set a guard over our hearts and mouths, we stay in the Word that will not pass away, and we love one another as You love us, edifying the Body, and doing more than our share as we are called to preach to every man, and keep watch.

Lord, we will take heed to ourselves, lest when we think we stand, we fall. (1 Cor 10:12) 

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 147: I Will Give You a Mouth and Wisdom

Luke 21:10-19

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost. 19 By your patience possess your souls.

Called to sow the seeds of the Gospel, we are now at the beginning of the end.
The body of Christ is bravely fighting against the powerful minions of hell. They are legion in number, strong in power, and all arond us not only in the places we live, but in our very homes.
The slings and arrows that come daily with being a family are compounded exponentially when the many attack the few proclaiming Jesus as the Christ.
As we can now minister to the world faster than ever before, reaching vast amounts of people globally in almost instantaneous contact, we now see the rise in persecution of our faith and the falling away of many as the message of Christ is obscured and replaced by modern day ‘alternatives’.
Let us be reminded of Jesus’ words that we are to endure to the end to be redeemed (Matthew 24:13)
The challenge comes when the proliferation of resistance to His message and our insistence on its validity begins to affect our finances, abilities, health, and families.
They become more intense as subgroup after subgroup that don’t align with G-d’s word are given free reign to go after believers in all walks of life.
Jesus tells us these attacks will increase in scope and depth, and we’ll be hated by all, but it will be: all to whom He did not reveal the Father, all who practice lawlessness, all who turn aside, all who walk away, all who will not hear, all who will not repent, all who won’t receive, all who will not seek, and all who will not come to Him.
In the midst of this this He says that as we proclaim Him as the only way, He will give us the words and wisdom to silence them, and perhaps turn them to G-d. This is the setting of tables for us in the presence of His enemies, and therefore ours.
Granted access to each other, we are to share what we have been given by the Lord with them.
The choice, upon hearing, is theirs to make, but whether we sow, plant, or water, it is ultimately the Father who gives the increase (1 Cor 3:6)
We need not fear others, but we are to arm ourselves with the knowledge of the Word. Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer (1 Peter 3:15), but it is Jesus who tells us that He, being greater than Solomon, will give us what we should say, and to settle the matter in our hearts, and trust Him to deliver His message through us in such a way that no one can refute the words we speak, even as the Queen of Sheba ran out of hard questions for Solomon.
Have we settled it in our hearts? Can we? And if so, will we?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

      There are times when the tales of Your daunting ministry to the lost of Israel inspire us to walk farther, but there are other times they overwhelm us with the sheer magnitude of it and the impact it created, as the qualities of our own ministries are to follow Your example.
      Were it not for grace, we wouldn’t be up to the task.
      Were it not for mercy, we’d be cast aside.
      For reasons we don’t always understand, You have found us worthy of revealing the Truth to us, and have called us to put our hands to the plow to begin the work of the Kingdom of G-d, ruled by Your iron will and loving hands.
      As we stand in the midst of those who do not love you, we settle in our hearts that You will do what You say, and that You are who You say.
      We are mindful that this life is preparation for the one to come, this evil world replaced by one of sinless virtue and purity, and we, as Your sheep and the Father’s children, will be forever holy and able to stand in His presence under Your hand and by the power of the Holy Spirit and Your redeeming blood.
      As You judge the nations and our work, let the lost we have ministered to for Your sake bear witness to the motives of our hearts towards them to bring them into the fold, that they too may live eternally to the glory of, and to glorify G-d.

May it be done to us as You have said.
Amen.

Devotional 146: Friend, Why Have You Come?

Matthew 26:47-50

Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We ask it all by the power of Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 145: The Restoration of All Things

Acts 3:13-21

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

17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    May it be done to us as You have said.

    Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Devotional 144: Who Then Can be Saved?

Matthew 19:23-28

With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”

28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the previous section, Jesus had just told the rich young ruler that only one thing stood between him and heaven, and told him to give what he had to the poor. The ruler, thinking Jesus meant his possessions, now had a choice to make, and chose wrongly.

Jesus was talking about his heart toward G-d by committing to what he said he wanted to do: follow Him. It says he went away sad, but Jesus neither persuade him any further, nor pursued him.

Turning the encounter into a lesson, He let the disciples in on the reason why one can’t serve G-d and money. As common men, they likely thought that wealth brought some degree of assurance with it, for surely a rich man is blessed by G-d, or in the case of tax collectors, prospered through usury and crooked means.

Upon Jesus’ revelation, it says they were astonished at this.

Let’s look at another encounter:

Luke 19:1-11

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

19 Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”

And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

The tax collectors were ‘especially heinous’ in the eyes of the people, but because there sins were great, when Jesus spoke, their spirits were convicted and their hearts turned.

Jesus said to the Pharisees that the people they viewed as the most irredeemable were in fact getting into the kingdom ahead of them. (Matt 21:28-32)

Zacchaeus repented openly, in Jesus’ presence, and restored more than he’d taken to those he’d victimized through his position. In that moment he received Jesus’ words of forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Wouldn’t we all breathe a sigh of relieved joy to hear those words spoken to us?

But even before he got to this moment, it says that he received Jesus joyfullyHe so wanted to see the Lord that even though he was short, he put in the effort to climb a tree in order to make that happen.

People likely laughed at him as he made his way up, but once he was ‘out of the world,’ Jesus noticed him, and salvation was given to him and his house. The Lord tells us every good thing comes from above, including financial wealth, but it’s never to be hoarded, because it gets in the way of serving G-d.

Let’s ask ourselves today if we’re hoarding any earthly thing that stands between us and the kingdom of G-d. It doesn’t have to be money, but maybe a talent we have, or a service we’d like to perform for others, but for whatever reason we don’t move forward to do it.

Why are we holding back? Likely, someone will laugh, make snide comments, tell you why it won’t work, say you’re not the one to do it, and so on…

But what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?

We have a choice to make now, too: do we turn sadly back to our earthly possessions, passing on the chance to store up treasure in Heaven, or release them with a joyful spirit of repentance, being reconciled to G-d in the presence of our Savior?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

As Zacchaeus restored over and above that which he’d taken, so too, do You restore to us over and above that which the enemy has stolen. Indeed, he can’t stay in Your the presence of Your holiness, which is why we call to mind Your words to be holy as You are holy. (1 Peter 1:16)

The Father has imparted gifts and talents to be shared with the world, but the persecutions that come with taking up our crosses have driven us back, and some have been driven away.

We would not stand in that assembly, and so we ask that when the moment comes, You strengthen us, reminding us of the joy that awaits us, the salvation we gain, when we receive You with right hearts and clean spirits, covered by Your blood for the remission of sins.

Forgive us for splitting our service between earth and heaven, for being lukewarm in our commitment, for having hard hearts and deaf ears, lured by the idols of the world from the narrow way to Life everlasting, for being seduced by our possessions.

Today, we renew our efforts to climb back out of the world, so that as the Father’s eyes roam to and fro seeking a righteous person, we can, like Zacchaeus, call attention to ourselves, and like the prophet Isaiah, say boldly, “Here I am, Lord. Send me.”

Today, we release our imparted gifts anew, doing the work of the kingdom, preaching the Gospel to all nations, that they too, might receive Your words of salvation, mercy, and grace.

We go out in boldness, proclaiming the truth of the kingdom, and the irrevocable fate of life everlasting, one in the kingdom of light, the other of darkness.

In our humanity, help us with our own unbelief; we would not be poor ambassadors.

We give thanks to the Father for grafting us into the Vine, releasing our gifts to the poor in spirit with joy, speaking the Gospel Truth in love.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 143: The Price of Admission

Acts 14:21-27

Strengthening the Converts

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” 23 So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. 24 And after they had passed through Pisidia, they came to Pamphylia. 25 Now when they had preached the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. 26 From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work which they had completed.

27 Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

There are times when even as believers, no matter how devout, we lose energy, direction, focus, and motivation to walk the narrow path as we follow and work alongside our Lord, but He has prophesied to us that the closer we walk, the further we travel, and the more we work, the harder it will be.

To share in His glory, the Word assures us we will share in His suffering. (John 15:18-20)

So, we have an unseen G-d, a foolish message, a man who claims to be the only way to be redeemed from eternal damnation, and the promise that the more faith we place in it, the world will hate us for it.

Yet we have this:

John 8:28-30

28 Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. 29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” 30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.

So today, let us measure the strength of our commitment, and continue to exhort and uplift each other in the days ahead. Tribulations are not small things, they are extended,  relentless, disastrous, and spirit crushing. The very origin of the word means a ‘pressing together.’

The Lord would have it so to refine us, to shake out those who are not truly committed, or who haven’t taken stock of the cost. (Matthew 24: 12) (John 2:19)

What’s to come is the reason we must not forsake meeting together, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us. (Heb 10:25)

The fight for our souls is real, and violent, taking place in a realm we can’t see except through divine intervention. It’s a realm we can’t know unless we are willing to seek it, believe in it, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way to be saved from the material world’s condemnation in the day of the Father’s wrath.

As salvation has been extended to all nations through grace (Acts 10:34-35), and the prince of this world corrupts weak people with foolish ambitions, people who don’t seem to realize that one day their lives will be required of them, and their plans come to nothing in the grave, evil people who press their will upon the powerless and turn them against each other using their fear as a weapon, he echoes through the ages all that he spoke to Eve in the garden: Did G-d indeed say…? (Gen 3: 1- 4)

So yes, we are to sow, water, and harvest, but it is the Father who provides the increase, and Christ tells us that it will be worse for the places that don’t receive His message in the last days.

Having been called out of the world, we are not to stay in such places physically or spiritually. Indeed, we are commanded to come out. (2 Cor  6:17)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

We are thankful that You have widened the circles of Your chosen, that we, appointed to eternal life, have seen the Truth in time for the harvest, and to take part in it, ministering Your Word through the message of Your Son, and through ourselves as His vessels.

There are times we are faithful, but not true, and times we are true, but not faithful. We have our moments, and You understand, but to to dwell in doubt is to backslide, turn away, and fall victim to the perils of this world.

Help us return to godly fear and repentance, restoring our fellowship with You as we seek salvation for ourselves and those we encounter throughout this life You’ve given us. 

May we be salt and light, and may our works stand and remain under the refining fires of judgement. 

May our spiritual fruit be sweet to the taste, and pleasing to You, for without Your Son, we are to be cast into outer darkness if He denies us before You, and says He does not know us.

When we stray, send our Nathan to us to warn us of what’s to come if we continue, send a messenger to say it is not lawful for us to have to give in to the desires of our flesh, and help us make no provision for it.

Let us instead abide under the loving gaze of our Savior, and answer His question: “Do you believe that I can do this?” with, “Yes, Lord.” (Matthew 9:28) and let us exhort and uplift each other along the way.

When the tribulations come, give us the strength of the voices of Paul and Silas, the power to bring down angels that open doors and break chains through praise, giving all glory and honor to You, Father.

We would endure to the end, holding onto the True Vine, following the Good Shepherd, and working in the peace of the Light of the World, under the protection of the blood of the Lamb of G-d, to be raised on the last day by the Lion of Judah, and hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…”

We ask, in faith believing.

May it be done to us as You have said. 

Amen.