Devotional 96: Take Possession

Deuteronomy 1:8

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 7:7

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking

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

And again:

Matthew 7:24

Build on the Rock

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

And once more: (Matthew 11)

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

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

Revelation 3:20

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

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

Luke 22:37

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

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

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

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

Go open the door, while He yet tarries.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let my life therefore reflect my faith in You.

Let it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 93: The Old Wine

Luke 5:34-39

34 And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

36 Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. 39 And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.’

Last time I wrote about making ourselves small in G-d’s eyes, looking, so to speak, through the eyes of grasshoppers; this brings us to the second thing we do after we’ve made ourselves small: we turn back.

Israel, on the brink of taking the land promised them, saw the giants and quailed, though the Father had already proven His faithfulness. It rendered void their plea for deliverance from Egypt, and as much as it angered Moses, (Psalm 106:33)  it really angered G-d.

David recounts their faithlessness in Psalms 78 and 106.

G-d already told them He was giving them the land, and their victory was assured. What should have been a time of rejoicing turned into decades of purging, for G-d wouldn’t allow that generation He delivered from slavery to occupy a new land in faithlessness.

 

Consider this from Luke 9:61-62

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go bid them farewell who are at my house.”

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

So, back to the wineskins. Why is the old wine better?

The appeal of the old wine is the process is behind us, and success, in whatever degree, is evident in front of us. The thought of doing it again with the new grapes in the hot Israeli sun was not appealing: gathering, hauling, storing, making the wine, then pouring it into the wineskin itself so it doesn’t spill.

But it had to be done.

Yet consider again what Jesus says at the end:  they don’t immediately desire the new. We don’t like ‘suddenly’ unless its favorable. A sudden increase in pay, or the gifting of a need unexpectedly met.

But Job and his family also had a ‘suddenly’ experience, didn’t they? What now?

It comes down to a matter of trust: Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him. (Job 13:15)

Our Lord tells us in Matthew 6:31-34

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

So if He is: faithful to keep His promises, the author and finisher of our faith, our living Redeemer, and we trust and hope in Him to deliver us from the grave, then how are we walking that out in our lives?

Do we really trust this? Did G-d really say…? The serpents never stop crawling; don’t isolate yourself in spiritual gardens of solitude.

We hold His Word in our hands, and He tells us His Word is higher than His Name, and there is nothing greater than that.  Let us be assured by the words of the Apostle who experienced the greatest highs and lows of all G-d had to offer:

13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

You have said to us that You are united to the Father in will, deed, and intentions toward us, and the Father Himself tells us His plan is to give us a hope and a future.

Yet we are to suffer with You in order to share the glory of Heaven with You, and forsake our very lives and loved ones when You call us to do the work of the kingdom. It is a life of obedience under a light yoke with a heavy price.

Our grasshopper eyes and nostalgic hearts look back, and Your light is calling to us from a strange place we’ve never seen and don’t understand. The way is fraught with perils and trials, and we read over and over again these assurances:

Don’t be afraid. Trust and believe. I am with You always. I will deliver you. I forgive you. No one can snatch you out of my hands. I call you friends. I go to prepare a place for you. If it were not so, I would have told you. Do not worry. Do not doubt. Believe in G-d, believe also in Me. Assuredly, I say to you…

We know that one day we shall want the new wine, and it will be better than that which You prepared at the wedding feast. Strengthen us, Lord, to keep our eyes focused on You, and not to be like Israel, provoking You to wrath, but let us answer the call as did Your disciple Matthew, with no hesitation, and no regrets.

Luke 5:27-28

27 After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” 28 So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

I ask it in Your Name.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 88: I Am Not of This World

John 8:21-30

Jesus Predicts His Departure

21 Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin. Where I go you cannot come.”

22 So the Jews said, “Will He kill Himself, because He says, ‘Where I go you cannot come’?”

23 And He said to them, “You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

25 Then they said to Him, “Who are You?”

And Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been saying to you from the beginning. 26 I have many things to say and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him.”

27 They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father.

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.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated that we are not physical beings having a human experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience.

Placed in physical bodies, in a world where all was provided, because of disobedience we earn our bread, as it were, by the sweat of our brows. We have to deal with other fallen people in our homes, workplaces, even our churches.

We live in a sensory world, prone to its dangers and imbalances, its physical impositions, and the ability of nature to disabuse us at any time of the notion that we can control it.

And then Jesus calls us to a higher standard of living, to take the long view that this practical, dirty, bloody, sinful, yet beautiful earth, is but a temporary home, and that where He goes is a better place. He also tells us that through repentance, faith, and grace, we will be with Him there forever.

“But Lord…”  “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” “Let me go back to bury…”

“Can a man be born again…?” “By whose authority…?” “He turned away with great sorrow…” “At that time, many left Him….”

Yet He calls down through the ages: “I tell you the truth…” “Do not be afraid…” “If it were not so, I would have told you.” “You believe in G-d. Believe also in Me.” “Your faith has made you well.” “I have chosen You.” “I have called you out of the world.” “The Son of Man will return in all His glory.” “I have prepared a place for you.” “Confess Me before men.”

What the faithless don’t understand is that with Christ’s words, “It is finished,” the Father did all He was going to do to reconcile us to Him. Jesus was obedient to the work assigned Him at great cost, even though He knew it was temporary. G-d could not look on sin, and as Jesus died on the cross, our sins, all of them, were given to Him. That’s why the sky darkened, and Jesus cried out in His sense of abandonment, for He was blotted out from the Father’s sight.

Today, our sins are forgiven but we are still called to confess, and repent. He will bring it to light regardless, under His righteous judgment. There is no such thing as a ‘secret society’ to a G-d who is all-seeing, and all-knowing. There will be no hiding places, and our shame will be unfurled like a scroll before us, as we face Him alone in the moment that determines our eternity. (Luke 12:5)

 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

But Solomon tells us this, and it is true: (Ecclesiastes 8:11)

11 Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

We hear them ask the same question today that they asked of Moses, of David, of the Prophets, and even as they mocked Jesus on the cross:  Where is your G-d?

Let us be steadfast in that the next time G-d manifests Himself, it will be the day of His vengeance, for the year of His favor has an end.

The prophet Amos warns us: (Amos 5)

18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!
For what good is the day of the Lord to you?
It will be darkness, and not light.
19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion,
And a bear met him!
Or as though he went into the house,
Leaned his hand on the wall,
And a serpent bit him!
20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light?
Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it?

And even though it was proclaimed to Israel, we are told by Peter: (1 Peter 4:17-19) 

17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now

“If the righteous one is scarcely saved,
Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

19 Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator.

Our Creator is faithful, and sent us a Savior to reveal His will to us, to forgive and establish us, and receive our praise as He grants us eternal life in His presence. In a sensory world, it sounds unbelievable, but faith was the trigger of Christ’s miracles, and as He speaks to us, unwavering in His message, you see that at the end of the Scripture, as He rebuked the Pharisees for their persistent doubt and hostility, ‘As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.’

Do we believe? Do we, really? Do we, even now?

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

I thank You for calling me out of the world, for revealing the truth of Heavenly things, for bringing me to the Father, for choosing me for the kingdom, for not casting me away in the sinfulness of my youth.

I thank You for the glories of age, and wisdom, and for delivering me out of all my troubles. I thank You for the covenant of grace that grafts me in with Your people Israel, and for putting my name in the Book of Life.

As the centurion asked, and left it up to You how his servant would be delivered, so help me to leave what I ask of You in Your hands, believing I’ve already received, according to the Father’s will.

I backslide, I forget, I doubt, and I rebel, and yet You bless me and come to me.

Help me in all things, and at all times, to remember I’ve been brought with a price, my body is the temple of Your Spirit, and that I owe a debt I can never repay.

It’s hard to think of Heaven in the wind and rain, in the disasters, the tragedies, and the sinful, selfish wallowing of indulgence in this world by those who think themselves powerful and immortal. 

It’s difficult to resist when temptations come in pleasing packages that overwhelm the senses, and the snake sneaks into our gardens asking, “Did G-d really say…?”

I don’t want to pray for my enemies, for the blasphemers, mockers, faithless, and bigoted, but then I hear the Apostle say to me: “And such were some of you.” And I remember I was once a skeptic, holding on to a mustard seed of faith, and You watered it by the power of Your Spirit.

And yet I am still as capable of the worst sin, of the worst man, in the worst jail, but for You. And I know too, that if even he reaches out to You, he will be with You in paradise.

It is a humbling thing to be chosen and favored by a King, and a frightening thing to fall into the hands of an angry G-d. 

I will rejoice in the year of the Lord’s favor, that I may be delivered from the day of His vengeance, for You tell me none can snatch me from Your hand. I return today to the fold of the Good Shepherd, who anoints me in his atoning blood with new mercies every morning, and who will raise me up on the last day through faith in Him, redeeming my life from damnation and the grave.

Let it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 86: Praise from Stones

Luke 19:32-40

32 So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. 33 But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?”

34 And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” 35 Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. 36 And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road.

37 Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, 38 saying:

“ ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

39 And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

40 But He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.”

It’s been written that whenever Jesus performed a miracle publicly, the recipient went and declared what was done, and the people glorified G-d. All He did pointed back to the Father, and He requests that we do likewise. (Matthew 5:16)

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Look at what they say of Him: Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord.

While Jesus tells us that all authority in Heaven and earth has been given to Him (Matthew 28:18): the revelation of G-d, the authority to forgive sins, to impart the Holy Spirit,  to provide grace through His atoning work, and to execute the coming judgment, all of it is reconcile to Him who has the ability to cast soul and body into Hell, that is, our Father in Heaven.

Had Jesus not been faithful and obedient, had He given in to temptation, we would have no hope. He was fully man, and subjected to the same desires of the flesh we are. So determined are some to de-deify Him, there are people who say He was married to Mary Magdalene, or that He was only a teacher and good man, or that He was a creation of men’s councils in order to control the masses.

But why would they make up stories about a man they couldn’t control who claimed He received His authority from G-d?  A man who came down to forgive sins, when the Councils themselves were exploiting such things and using them to deal with political enemies?

They also try to stir up queries about the Agnostics and the Lost Books? If none of them have the story of salvation, of what use are they outside of study, or casting doubt?

Today, we hear the cries of Pharisees among the faithless and those who’ve turned away. They want us to stay silent and go away, but Jesus said “He who has ears, let Him hear.”

We sow, and plant, but it is G-d who gives the increase, and as such, our praises to Him, the fruit of our lips, the sweet aroma, sacrifice of praise, aligned with the love in our hearts, is so vital to Him that if we cease, rocks will cry out in our place.

As the Pharisees claimed Abraham as their source, look at what John the Baptist said in rebuke: (Matthew 3:7-10)

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think 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 if we believe the Father is, in fact, Almighty, Jesus’ words confirms John’s statements.

Yet, we are also told this by Peter: (1 Peter 2:4-5)

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

It is the characteristic of stones to be unwavering, to not be easily moved. Effort is required to throw even the smallest one. They endure all manner of abuse and elemental assaults. Sometimes they draw blood, but they also provide shelter (rocks). They can cause a person to stumble and fall, or even slip, if they’re small enough (gravel). They can drop us into the sea, if they’re heavy enough (millstones). They can kill, if they fall on us (boulders).

They are sturdy enough that the Israelites used them to cross rivers and mark the places where G-d had brought them through a trial.

We all have them; some are physical, and some spiritual, but I say all that to say this:

Look back on your stones, but open your lips, and let G-d fill your mouth with His praise.

Therefore I pray:

Let us be living stones today, on this holy day of blessing the Lord Jesus Christ, as we once again celebrate the completion of His earthly ministry.

Let there be praise, thanksgiving, and joy.

Let there be humility, love, and increased faith.

Let there be steadfastness of heart, and renewing of our spirits to endure to the end, and to bring those He’s put in our path, whether to plant, water, or increase. Out of these rocks, let Living Water flow.

Let us keep in our hearts the words of the Psalmist who said: (Psalm 86:11-12)

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord;
I will walk in Your truth;
Unite my heart to fear Your name.
12 I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And I will glorify Your name forevermore.

Lord Jesus, we praise Your name, and glorify the Father’s work through You in our lives, faithful to complete that which He’s begun, and to keep all His promises.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 85: Repentance and Remission

Luke 24:44-49

The Scriptures Opened

44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise[a] from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And you are witnesses of these things. 49 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

We’ve met the unbeliever who tells us of the contradictions between the Old and New Testaments, but since they don’t have the Holy Spirit, to reveal the truth of the Word, they read it with no understanding and no guide; they are indeed reading a language that’s foreign to them, so they point to the Councils, to Rome, to the frailty of error-prone, sinful men, to colonizing races who created the Bible for purposes of control, and overall  dismiss it as another variation on international myths.

But under the Spirit’s guidance and prompting in writing this blog, I tend to connect verses that line up. It is not a matter of picking and choosing that which agrees with my subject, it is because the Word of the Father is consistent, and reinforces itself.

While we may not understand it all in some matters of G-d’s sovereignty (and yes, we are free to ask about it), if we need any more proof to know that agreement in what’s written across the years is Spirit led, He confirms it with His own words: The Law, Prophets, and Psalms all speak of His work here on earth.

It is now our work, and the churches of America have found themselves adrift because so many are not preaching the repentance and remission of sins, they’re making G-d into some kind of magic genie.

The Prayer of Jabez, written years ago, was being used like an enchanted talisman as the prosperity gospel gained a following; people increased their offerings so their material and financial blessings would increase as well.

G-d knows our hearts, and as He sees in the night the same as the noonday (Psalm 139:12) that is the reason our sins will find us out. There’s no such thing as a secret organization, and there will be no such thing as a hidden sin. We confess and repent (sin no more), and then forgiveness.

It is of those who don’t confess and repent that Jesus speaks of when He says,

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

While we have been chosen and called out of world, and while we are called to minister the Gospel,we are yet capable of sinning.

Remission is a return to an unaffected state, where we are free of the influences of sin.

Jesus tells us to take up our cross, and Paul tells us to crucify the flesh. This is so we remain in a state of spiritual purity in spite of being bound by earthly things. The covenant of grace is for the remission as we repent, but we are cautioned (Matthew 6:22-23)

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

We cannot claim we follow Christ living worldly existences, but if all fall short, then all will attempt it, and all will fail. It’s just a matter of time and degree. We are blessed indeed to have a cloud of witnesses that encourage us to continue fighting  (Hebrews 12:1) and an Intercessor constantly before the Father on our behalf  (Luke 23:34)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

If  our faith is as filthy rags before You on our best days, our effort to repent is likely worse. Crucifixion was a harsh, painful, bloody process, and with the exception of the Resurrection, a permanent condition.

It is not so with us, Lord. Our sins are constantly taken down and reused, even enjoyed, though the times in between may grow longer. Blessed are those whose hearts have been truly changed, and who follow the command to sin no more.

I have not guarded my heart, stilled my tongue, or made a covenant with my eyes. I ask for Your help to do these things,  but when I feel the tug of Your staff, or hear the still, small voice of the Spirit checking me, I pull away. I am a rebellious, tempestuous sheep who will not stay inside the fence of Your protection.

My purity is hopelessly soiled until I get on my knees and submit to Your cleansing hand, washing me in the holy blood of Your sacrifice until I once again am guiltless before the Almighty.

I thank You for new mercies, for endless grace, for long-suffering love, and for coming after me in spite of my sinful nature.

Today, O Lord, I ask that You receive me: I confess my sins to You, and I repent of all that I’ve done to grieve you in the year of G-d’s favor. I am sorry that I’ve broken fellowship. I’m sorry for the days when the Father is as abstract to me as the math of astronomers. It is knowledge too wonderful that I can’t attain, and therefore spurn.

I’m sorry when I’m as faithless as those to whom I’m supposed to minister, and they see no difference, for then I am denying You before men, and practicing lawlessness.

I beseech You, once again, that I not go on sinning so grace may abound, but I know that even today, if I fall, You will receive me again if I return.

Strengthen me, Lord, and restore me so that when I return, I may strengthen my brothers and sisters.

I ask it by the power in Your Name.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 79: Not His Doctrine

John 7:14-18

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

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

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

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

John 3:10-13

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 14:9

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

May it be to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 77: The Forbidden Name

Acts 4:13-17

The Name of Jesus Forbidden

13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. 15 But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, 16 saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.”

Have people been hostile to your witness? It will increase.

Is His name forbidden in your workplace? It will increase.

The demons are busy, and immorality is described as progress. You are bigoted and intolerant if you actually practice the tenets of your faith, and crime is low because nothing’s illegal.

But our Lord tells us we can’t serve two masters; we will love one and hate the other, and that G-d and money can’t be served at the same time.

As the unfaithful and unrepentant gather around us with their own stones, we must take stock and ask what we are willing to lose, for our Lord tells us there is a cost to follow, and that we, being servants, will be subject to like treatment.

Matthew 10: 24-26

24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! 26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.

Let us be reminded that Simeon said in the temple:

Luke 2:34-35

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

The hearts of men have been hardened toward G-d since the fall, since the Flood, since the Exodus, but one day we will give an accounting of our own hearts.

The world would have us believe the Rolling Stones in the song Sympathy for the Devil:

‘And I was ’round when Jesus Christ/ had his moment of doubt and pain

‘Made damn sure that Pilate/ washed his hands and sealed His fate.’

This is why we need to read our Word. Jesus asked that the cup pass, but He never doubted. Pain, undoubtedly. Doubt? Never. And He said to Pilate,

John 19:11

11 Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

The Pharisees too thought His fate had been sealed, and thinking they put fear in the hearts of the Apostles, (who’d already had their moment of doubt Mark 14:50) didn’t realize they’d have to continue with an even more rapid spreading of the Gospel than before. But they recognized the source of it: the power in the Name of Jesus, so they forbid it to be spoken.

In today’s world, we have our mockers as well. They would have us keep it to ourselves, and take pride in the things they should be ashamed of, but as Paul says, for it is in Him we live, move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

From within, we have prosperity preachers, and believers who will not study and hand their teaching completely over to their pastors, who are now themselves preaching false doctrines and substituting the Apostle Paul for Jesus, forgetting the Apostle himself admonished against this: 1 Corinthians 4-6

For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal?  Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.

Let us remember our enemy is subtle with his power, and that his light still seduces into pride and falsehood, for he became the father of lies in Eden, and has not strayed from his mission.

Let’s not stray from our own, and remember, as this man,  to cry out all the more: mercy for ourselves…(Luke 18)

39 Then those who went before warned him that he should be quiet; but he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

And forgiveness for others: (Matthew 18)

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. 

If we are not pure and sure in our own hearts, our witness won’t reach even those who have good soil to receive it.

Therefore I pray:

Rekindle my fire to spread Your word, Lord, with a pure heart, a right spirit, and fill me with the boldness and power of Your Holy Spirit, that I may speak the goodness of Your name in fearlessness and power.

The signs are gathering together, the day is far spent, the hour is late, and the love of many is growing cold, and the elect are being deceived.

I would have that You strengthen me to endure to the end, for I would be saved, and have those you’ve sent to me endure with me, and enter into Your rest. As a temple, a living stone, and Your creation, I would be reconciled to the Father through You, and fear not those who can only kill the body, but rather He who can cast my soul into hell.

Help me, in this new year, to draw closer to You, to abide in You, to believe in You, and know that Your promises are true, and Your prophesies concerning me shall come to pass. Help me to keep in mind that there will be a judgment, where I will give account for the time You allotted me, the talents You’ve given me to use to Your glory, and the provision You’ve sustained me with along the way.

Let Your Name increase, and mine be as nothing, for it is through Your will that I draw my next breath, and by Your grace that all my faculties are yet mine to possess. 

I thank You for life as I know it, health as I have it, and strength as You’ve given me. Let me have a heart of joyful thankfulness, and a fearless spirit to confess You before men, as You confess me, even now, to the Father. 

Thank You, Lord Jesus. 

May it be to me as You have said. 

Amen.

Behold, I Make All Things New

Revelation 21

All Things Made New

21 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

The year departs, and with it, we’ve lost that which we always lose: people who are close to us, time, money, opportunities that came our way that we didn’t see as advantageous at the time.

The danger in losing these things is not to deny their loss, or our failures, but that we lose ourselves, for they’re what comprises our daily life here on earth. But doesn’t our Lord tell us not to have treasures here? 

(Matthew 6:19-21)  Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

We are to save souls, and even there we sometimes fail by being afraid or uncertain, and again letting opportunities go, or setting bad examples, or just slipping up.

Guarding our hearts, minds, and tongues in these days is hard. People, like Martha, are concerned and passionate about many things which did, in fact, need to be done. But like Martha, we are reminded through our Lord that He is to take precedence in those things, and that Mary’s abandonment of preparation to sit at His feet was better.

(Luke 10:38-42)  41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Our Lord’s rebuke of prioritizing earthly concerns rings through the ages:

Matthew 12: 39-42

39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

It’s fine to be excited for the New Year,  a chance to start fresh, to do new things, or start over and try again. It’s a clean slate, a sloughing off of habits and people that held us back from doing all that we could, and from being the person He wants us to become.

But 12 months is a long time, and most people, myself included, have difficulty after that initial burst of enthusiasm and adrenaline.

The beautiful thing about having the covenant of our Lord is that through repentance, the kind that produces sorrow, we don’t need to wait for a solstice change or a spin of the earth to get that start. We are ever cleaned, refreshed, renewed, forgiven, and the ink of our names in the Book of Life gets a fresh coat, so to speak.

And through Him, if all things are possible with G-d, as He tells us, we need not turn to the calendar for steadfastness, for His works aren’t incomplete. That which we leave behind, we won’t turn back for. If you’ve been delivered, you’ll stay delivered.

Let us be mindful though, that for now, we are constrained by time and mortality, and our earthly works have an ending date. Don’t be found wanting. Doubt delays blessing, and fear is crippling.

If we are resolved to do anything for the year, if you seek the Lord and make your vow, keep it. We are told it is better not to vow to G-d, than to vow and break it.

(Ecclesiastes 5)

Fear God, Keep Your Vows

Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.

Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.
For a dream comes through much activity,
And a fool’s voice is known by his many words.

When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it;
For He has no pleasure in fools.
Pay what you have vowed—
Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there is also vanity. But fear God.

Our hearts are to be where our treasure is: with the atoning work of salvation of our souls through  Jesus.

Our priority is to sit still and listen, and know that He brings to us the words of our Father’s heart towards us.

Our vows to Him are to be as steadfast and faithful as His covenant of grace is to us.

Let us rejoice, in this New Year, that we are new creations, and that He will make all things new.

(2 Peter 3:13)  13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Let it be to us as He has said.

Happy New Year

 

Of Stars and Wise Men

Matthew 2:1-12

Wise Men from the East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be to us as He has said.

Merry Christmas.

Devotional 76: The Hired Man’s Rest

Job 14:1-6

14 “Man who is born of woman
Is of few days and full of trouble.
He comes forth like a flower and fades away;
He flees like a shadow and does not continue.
And do You open Your eyes on such a one,
And bring me[a] to judgment with Yourself?
Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?
No one!
Since his days are determined,
The number of his months is with You;
You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass.
Look away from him that he may rest,
Till like a hired man he finishes his day.

 

I think it’s true that it’s when G-d moves in sovereignty, entrusting us with His silence, that we have our crises of faith. But we are encouraged to remember this:

18 “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (Acts 15:18)

Job, in the midst of his affliction, asks G-d to look away so that a man can rest. For him, it would be a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ If He doesn’t look on us, we can rest from the kingdom labor to which we’ve been called as believers.

These days, we’re certainly being tried and tested, as our once-sacred holiday season crumbles into  fits of mass hysteria and greed.

But we are yet called to remain as salt and light, yet to be light on the hill, and yet maintain our peace beyond understanding in circumstances that drive others to act emotionally and make bad decisions.

We are reminded in the Gospel of Luke by our Savior: ” “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

And again: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

We now live in prophesied times, where it was said that what was done in the darkness will come into the light, and men who thought they held power forever are being toppled.

Increasingly, we’ve heard major natural disasters being described as ‘unprecedented.’

Our Lord tells us that these are the beginnings of sorrow as we leave the year of the Lord’s favor, and enter into the day of his vengeance.

And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all[a] these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. (Matthew 24: 4-10)

We know in hindsight that although Job thought it was G-d who afflicted him, it was Satan, and what he saw as the one thing that kept Job connected to G-d was in fact not, although it was a barrier.

In the end, it’s Job who claims:

Job 42:4-6

Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You.
Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”

There is nothing left for the enemy to use as a wedge against Job, and so it must be with all of us.

In the aftermath of our own afflictions, can we counted on to keep our integrity in the face of such affliction?

Remember that although He gives us the desires of our hearts, He also gives us over to our sins, should we persist in our willful rebellion.

(Romans 1:24-28)

24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

 

Neither did G-d spare His chosen, whom He handed over to their enemies on multiple occasions as they forgot Him and sold themselves, being brought back to repentance in the lands of their captivity.

Let there be no barriers, no potential weaponry of idolatry to give the enemy. In the days ahead, seek always to be mindful, prayerful, and peaceful.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I would have no barriers between us, though there are times my thoughts and my heart toward you are full of frustrated emotions, and I act out in the short term instead of the eternal perspective.

Daily You examine me, and hold up for me the standard of Your Word, which is higher than Your name, and the words of Your Son, who shed His holy blood to turn Your wrath from me, and reconcile me to You as sinless, that I may enter into His joy in worshiping You eternally, in the light of Your presence shining on the new earth.

Help me to remember that although Your judgment isn’t swift in coming, it is no less terrible for the delay, for you tell us that vengeance is Yours, and You will repay.

We stand in the gap for our brothers and sisters with no voice, and are hated. Embolden our quailing spirits in the face of a secular population that no longer celebrates the season, but litters it with the luxurious garbage of the world, even purging the name of Your Son’s title from its celebration. Let us return to spirit and truth, and purge it also of its pageantry and pagan symbols.

We remember that He told us these days would come, and the love of many would grow cold.

It is a cold season in which we live now, so we ask, Father, for You to rekindle the flame of our first love within us, and like the star of Bethlehem, be an oddity among the things of the world, a one of a kind, unique, and shining wonder, brighter than any hillside lantern, shouting from the rooftops what You’ve whispered to us.

“This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” For faith comes by hearing the Word of the Lord, and one day, we will see You too, as Job did, with no filter between us, as it was meant to be before Adam, asking not, like the prodigal, that You make us as hired men for sinning against You, but as true sons of the kingdom, grafted in by Your mercy and grace.

And we ask that, like Job, our latter days be blessed with more fruit than the former, as new creations to Your glory.

In His name I ask, believing I’ve received. 

Amen.