Devotional 101: He Sent Me

Jesus is not ‘cool’ with things the Father isn’t.

John 8:42-45

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me.

I heard of a painting where the Father and Son are looking at the world, and they see the people are lost, and Jesus says, “Let me go to them.” That is a very moving, powerful, thought, but it isn’t true, and this was not Jesus’ first time saying He was sent.

Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:8  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus was obedient to the Father’s command to go and preach His will for repentance, and came at the Father’s command to offer Himself as the focal point for salvation and the redemption of our souls from eternal separation and ultimate destruction, which is why He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, and not the seed of man.

Jesus also tells us (John 8:51)  51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”

The reason he is able to say this is because it is not, in fact, His word:  (John 12:49)

49 For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.

and again, when He admonishes Philip:

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’?

There is a modern notion that Jesus somehow separated from the Old Testament G-d of judgment who seemed to constantly be smiting and hating His own creation, but we who are called know that G-d hates sin, not us, and that He grieved and flooded the world while He still had one righteous man to start over, because the world loved sin.

As Satan captured Eve’s imagination through her senses so that she disobeyed G-d and Adam surrendered the world’s dominion to G-d’s enemy, so too, does he do so now. We are told that we’re happy when our wants are satisfied, not just our needs met, and this puts us in the path of temptation, making us prone to not only sin, but backslide. And sometimes even turn away.

Christ calls us out of the world to a greater reward, a greater comfort, and indeed not only to a better life, but an eternal one. In the delay of that gratification, we are told that we have to suffer with Him first, and crucify the lust of the flesh on the daily, pray and stay faithful, and remember that this is not our home.

We have the Word of G-d to keep us on the narrow path. We speak of Jesus’ miracles, but we forget that G-d also raised the dead, healed, calmed storms and made them, cast out demons, delivered in miraculous fashion, appeared to His servants, called a select few His friend, and performed signs in the heavens, even stopping the earth so the sun could shine as Israel finished fighting (Joshua 10:13). 

Jesus tells us that His own miracles were of the Father’s power (John 9:4)

I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.

There is also the modern notion that Jesus would ‘be cool’ with things the Father is not. Again, we who have been called realize that we are under grace, but grace does not give us a sin license, and to call good that which G-d calls evil. In our pride, we gainsay G-d and say He is at best outdated, and at worst, dead.

But He is eternal, and therefore can be neither, and there will be a judgment day.

In that we would be well to remember the one thing Jesus said that reminds us they are inseparable concerning the Father’s will and our eternal souls:

John 10:22-30

The Shepherd Knows His Sheep

22 Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter. 23 And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch. 24 Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.”

Yes, we have been given to Jesus (John 6:44)

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

G-d has done all He is going to do to redeem us, because he loves us. The rest is up to us, and the choice is ours to make.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, 

As long as we dwell here to preach and live out the Gospel, let us call to mind Your own words that point back to the Father’s sovereignty in all things, at all times, concerning every aspect of our lives. 

You tell us to let our lights shine so that men may see our works and glorify the Father.

When the Apostles continued Your work, glory was given to the Father. (Acts 3:6-8)

Thank You for being obedient, that we might be saved, reconciled, and redeemed, dwelling with You in the kingdom by faith instead of being eternally punished for our faithlessness and pride.

Thank You for being obedient in understanding that while we are frail, hard of heart, doubting, ungrateful, and yet sinful, You must set the Father’s standards before us before the Day of the Lord comes. 

And thank You, Father, for revealing the Son to us that we might be called Your sons and daughters, given the privileges and rights of the King’s children. We thank You for the ears to hear.

It is a dark world for shining a light of faith, but we have the Light of the World on our side, obedient, loving, and compassionate, but reminding us that the Harvest comes with a dread and ultimate purpose: the purging of the tares, the burning of the unfruitful, the separation of the unfaithful and lawless, who are cut off without remedy, and misunderstand our Savior’s meekness, and that if He is for us, none can stand against us.

Let us call to mind that He will not return as the Lamb of G-d, but the Lion of Judah, in all of Your glory, His angels with Him, in an instant. 

Father, let my soul be among those raised in the last day. Help me to endure to the end, that I might be saved, praising You always, living on the New Earth, as Your Son reigns over us, in eternal obedience to Your guiding hand.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 99: When the Lord Relents

Jonah 1:10-16

Jonah Thrown into the Sea

10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.

12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”

13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.

Whenever the story of Jonah is preached, we focus on Jonah’s disobedience from the command of the Lord, for he was one of the Chosen, called and sent by G-d to preach to the most murderous, heathen nation in the known world.

Jonah did not want them to hear the Word of the Lord, because G-d had called them to repentance and he didn’t want them forgiven, so he ran.

G-d could have sent someone else and cut Jonah from the fold, but He didn’t. As Jonah thought he could hide and take a ship to go the opposite direction, G-d stirred up the sea, and Jonah confessed, but look at what happened:  Jonah told them how to calm the storm, but they too, relied on their earthly knowledge and tried to row to land anyway.

Through his disobedience, Jonah recognized that innocent people, sailors who had no knowledge of G-d, were going to die, but when he told them how to remedy their situation and get out of danger, they disobeyed Jonah until they realized this was not a race they were going to win.

Our flesh and spirit war the same within us; the flesh rages to fulfill itself, and the commands of the Lord are dropped into the midst of it, quietly: a verse, an admonition, a ‘chance’ encounter, all signs that we can read and know. It is a goad against that which will cause us to sin, but we press on toward gratification of our own desires, hurting our souls and grieving the Spirit in the process.

And Satan smiles…

It is when we come back emptied of our pride, and convicted of our wrong, that we go up to our mountains, into our prayer closets, open our Bibles, return to church, and confess ourselves to other believers, or just to Jesus, and cry out that the Lord not hold our rebellion against us.

And in His mercy,  by His grace, and through His Son’s atoning work on Calvary, we are given another chance to get it right, and we go back to doing that which we were called.

As the Lord admonished his reluctant Apostle, (Acts 9:5)

 “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Iis hard for you to kick against the goads.”

All the resistance, the arresting of believers, the self-righteousness of an overachieving Pharisee who’s reputation struck fear in the hearts of Christians, was only preparation for the most widespread messages of deliverance outside of Christ Himself in the known world of the day, and down through the ages.

We use the phrases ”In G-d’s time, ” and “In His own way,” but there are times we don’t like either, and we rush forward too far, or delay too long. It is then the seas rise up, and we feel the goads prodding us back into the fold. But we only hurt ourselves, and sometimes those around us, when we do this.

Let us be reminded that G-d is sovereign: it is His plan, in His time, the silver and gold is His, and also what it says in Psalm 24:1

The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.

There is no hiding place, so let’s set aside the needless burden and stop delaying to repent, or indeed, as Christ said, ‘Sin no more,’  and get on with the Lord’s work. We will not be rewarded for sin; G-d isn’t winking at it, nor is He ‘letting it slide’ because it’s popular and legal in the eyes of a weak, confused, hard-hearted, broken, prideful, rebellious humanity that says nothing is wrong with anyone, and nothing needs to be repented for, and hell, and even G-d, do not exist.

For those who loosely subscribe, the G-d of love they want to embrace to excuse their sin is also a G-d of judgment who will not, but they ignore the day of the Lord’s vengeance to their peril. As believers we are to scatter our seeds, and let our peace settle or return to us by the will and power of our Heavenly Father, until He tells us we’re finished, and calls us home.

Therefore I pray:

I confess that I have delayed my calling, carried my burdens too long, because they allowed me to lick the wounds of my anger and point at those who wronged me, that I might not forgive them and do good to them, be kind to them, love them, and tell them about You lest they turn to You and be forgiven also.

I fooled myself into thinking I alone was worthy of favor, love, and mercy, and that only those who’ve already gone through their own fires of faith are also worthy of the kingdom.

The mocking, leering, abusive, blaspheming, faithless unbelievers we would just as soon leave to the storms and the outer darkness make us afraid and have no part with us. 

Father, I thank you that our prideful, self-righteous hearts don’t make the final call; we would foolishly pluck the wheat up with the tares, and burn it all in the fire in our uncertainty, then realize we’re going to starve to death.

Forgive me for the times my stumbling rebellion put others at risk because I ignored the Spirit’s voice, and caused them to not do what was right.

In the end, Jonah brought these men to You also when they saw You calm the sea after they were obedient, and then he went on to do the work You called him to in Nineveh, among a heathen people that loved all things worldly, and loved You not at all.

Let my work also bear double fruit, as a matter of letting unbelievers see Your works, even through my moments of repentance from having my own way, coming to recognize that there is no ‘my’ way. 

Let me continue to honor You in the work You’ve called me to do, without burden, without question, and without delay.

May 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 90: A True and Faithful Witness

Jeremiah 42:5-6 New King James Version
5 So they said to Jeremiah, “Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. 6 Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

The issue with calling on G-d to witness a pact is that since the heart of man is inclined to sin, evil, treachery, and disobedience, is that we are admonished not to make a vow to Him that we are not willing to keep.

Ecclesiastes 5:5  Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.

The Israelites were walking by sight, and forgot that time and again when they beseeched the Lord and turned from their sin, they were forgiven and restored.

The Father , however, was not above culling the sinful from their midst. They wanted to return to Egypt where they believed the conditions of bondage was better for them than the sovereignty of G-d. On the pretense of being obedient, they turned to Jeremiah to bring them the word of the Lord, but they also vowed to do whatever the Lord said, even if it was displeasing.

The prophet fulfilled his part, but here’s what the people responded:

43 Now it happened, when Jeremiah had stopped speaking to all the people all the words of the Lord their God, for which the Lord their God had sent him to them, all these words, 2 that Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men spoke, saying to Jeremiah, “You speak falsely! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’ 3 But Baruch the son of Neriah has set you against us, to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they may put us to death or carry us away captive to Babylon.”

They not only broke their vow, they did so in their self-importance, and thereby doomed the people who they were supposed to lead.

These days, our hearts are no less proud and defiant, and many have said by way of indulging themselves, “Only G-d can judge me.” And where that should frighten them, the implication is that G-d will not judge them harshly, because they don’t understand the nature of G-d. He is faithful, yes, and true, yes, but he is also just, which means that His punishments are as deserved as His blessings. His sovereignty in the final decision regarding the fate of your eternal soul will therefore not only be irrevocable, but it will be the right one.

This is why the faithless stand no chance, the unbeliever has signed his own death warrant, and the unrepentant backslider who’s renounced the atoning blood of Jesus is a son of hell.

Our own Savior tells us He does the Father’s will in such matters:

John 5:30-32 
30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

In order for the Father and Son to be of one mind and will, the Son came under obedience. Judgment is not a casual matter, but it is harsh and frightening, and the defiant will find their tongues to be silent as they tremble. The Apostle John tells us Jesus said more than once: “There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Let us be mindful that if judgement starts with the Chosen of G-d, it will likely be harsher because the Son came to them first. What chance then, for us as imperfect believers? There is no chance for the unbeliever, but they have chosen for themselves.

There’s an ad on Facebook where secularists, atheists, skeptics, and agnostics can come together; it is described as a place for ‘happy godless people’ who think they’re going to get a chance to mouth off, flip off, and mock. Here is what the disciple who Jesus loved had to say on meeting Him:

Revelation 1:17

17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,“Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

‘…happy godless people.’

Jesus would say to us: “I tell you the truth, they have their reward.”

There are times as well when G-d assures of victory; let us not in an excess of emotion add vows to that which he told us, for He will test the truth of our words, and it may cost us dearly: (Judges 11:29-40)

Jephthah’s Vow and Victory
29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”
32 So Jephthah advanced toward the people of Ammon to fight against them, and the Lord delivered them into his hands. 33 And he defeated them from Aroer as far as Minnith—twenty cities—and to Abel Keramim,[a] with a very great slaughter. Thus the people of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.
Jephthah’s Daughter
34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, there was his daughter, coming out to meet him with timbrels and dancing; and she was his only child. Besides her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he tore his clothes, and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low! You are among those who trouble me! For I have given my word to the Lord, and I cannot go back on it.”
36 So she said to him, “My father, if you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what has gone out of your mouth, because the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the people of Ammon.” 37 Then she said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me: let me alone for two months, that I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity, my friends and I.”
38 So he said, “Go.” And he sent her away for two months; and she went with her friends, and bewailed her virginity on the mountains. 39 And it was so at the end of two months that she returned to her father, and he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed. She knew no man.
And it became a custom in Israel 40 that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.

Jephthah didn’t need to make the vow, as the Lord had already set things in motion for his victory by the fact that the people came to him to deliver them.

None will escape the judgement of Heaven; don’t treat it lightly.

It is perfect, final, and to be greatly feared.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, let Your Spirit ever convict me, putting a guard on my heart, and over my mouth. Let my soul be steadfast in Your presence, for you have given me the strength and wisdom to run this race, and the mercy and grace to continue fighting until my work is done.

You understand that I can’t comprehend why You love me, or why You deemed me worthy of knowing the Truth, but I am thankful that You did.  You understand my limitations, but You’ve also called me to a higher standard.

You delivered me when I made my vow, and there are days in my life I have not honored it, falling under Your righteous judgment. I vow anew, in the spirit of sorrowful repentance, to fulfill it once more, and dedicate myself to serving You in the time that remains, for You have continued to bless and sustain me.

Refresh my spirit, heal my heart, and quicken my light, that I may guide the lost to You through the work You’ve given me, that they may glorify my Father in Heaven, through faith in You.

Help me to love as You love, to see that which the Father sees in all men, and fill my hands with such seeds as You would have me plant, or give me living water to pour where You would have me water.

To the Father I would bring honor and glory, rejoicing with those whom I’ve brought to faith, that they may be delivered from justice, cut off without remedy.

I ask in faith, believing I’ve received.

May it be done to me 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 62: This is Man’s All

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14
13  Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 
For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

I have come to accept that our society in America has decided to serve mammon rather than G-d, yet Jesus tells us this as a sign of the end times, that the evil men will do to each other will increase not just between nations, but within households.

We can pray, and do well, and keep faith and obedience, but as much as we don’t like to think about it, there’s going to be an end to this, just as in the days of Noah. All that we’ve come to know and love in this life will be destroyed, but rebuilt without the evil that pervades it.

It’s been explained like this in a sermon I once heard the late Myles Munroe preach:

G-d gave man dominion over the earth, but by listening to the serpent, and being disobedient, Adam, in not rebuking Eve and blaming G-d,  gave dominion to Satan. Since G-d doesn’t take back that which He gives, prayer is seeking G-d for divine intervention in earthly affairs.

Whether you agree with it or not isn’t the issue, but it’s clear that in the hearts of men today someone else is holding sway, and people are doing and saying things they wouldn’t ordinarily.

Paul’s oft-quoted verse reminds us we aren’t battling flesh and blood, but waging war in heavenly places and demonic strongholds.

We have a fear inducing media, that plays both sides using different balls, and our representatives (not leaders) grow increasingly insulated and disconnected as they pack their granaries with more illicit grain.

The news is rife with conspiracy theories, the Illuminati, the Masons, and all the little subdivisions thereof taking place at night in basements and caves and isolated places.

People are speaking things that sound deep but aren’t, and talking heads with opposing viewpoints are so busy shouting down each other that nothing is heard.

So what do we do, dear Believer? We fear G-d, and keep His commandments.

The evil that men do in secret is known to Him. There are no secret societies hidden from Him. There are no sacred rituals that drive out His presence. There are no men whose names are on the letterheads of these societies that have the final say over Him. He sees them and their deeds as we see each other on the street at noon, vibrant and full of life and color, and His vengeance is stored up for their sins.

We are told that the wicked prospered even in the days of King David, yet David’s son tells us they will be cut off with no remedy. (Proverbs 29:1)

As we know the road to life is narrow, and the travelers few, we must hold fast, and tight, to the knowledge we possess of the reality of G-d, and His power. Jesus says not to fear those who can kill the body but destroy the body and soul (Matthew 10:28)

We are told over and over again, as we see mounting atrocities, idolatries, cold churches, colder people, disconnected wealthy people making ‘backroom deals’ (which, by the way, G-d also sees), that His vengeance and judgment are being stored up.

I emphasize we are in the year of the Lord’s favor, as Jesus quoted in Isaiah when He first declared what His ministry was to be, but let us be reminded Jesus did not continue that verse:

‘And the day of vengeance of our G-d.’

We are reminded in the parable of the vineyard workers that everyone received their due at the end of the day when the work was finished.

Again:  Ecclesiastes 8:11-12
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. 12 Though a sinner does evil a hundred times, and his days are prolonged, yet I surely know that it will be well with those who fear God, who fear before Him. 

Continue to pray for our representatives, do good to others, spread the Gospel in love, and keep faith and obedience as the scales that will balance your life before Him.

To quote ‘Julian of Norwich’:  It behooved that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

      We are surrounded by Your enemies on every side, and therefore, Lord G-d, they are our enemies too. Yet Your will for them is that we love them, and pray for them, and do good to them as Your ambassadors, that their hearts might soften and turn to You. This is what Your Son commanded of us through You.

      It’s a difficult thing You ask of us, for our human inclination is to avoid them, indeed, to hide from them, if not ignore them. We are much like the Pharisee who stood next to the sinner, thanking You he was not like that man. But these sinners are unapologetic, unrepentant, and indeed glory in their wickedness, in their prosperity, in their ability to keep others from gaining what they themselves have, and cutting off their means to attempt it.

     We ask of You that which the Apostles asked Jesus:

     ‘Should we call down holy fire upon them?’ 

     Let us be reminded that there is a harvest, and that choices against You in the year of Your favor can still be reversed until the day of judgment. Until then, we are to keep Your commandments, and leave the rest to You, in spite of our inclinations to do otherwise.

     I myself have been forgiven much, but I have trouble forgiving others. I don’t want to leave it on the altar, though the weight is terrible. Yet I’m told if I don’t forgive, I won’t be forgiven by You. 

     Help me in this, Lord. I’m getting better, but I’m far from over a lot of things that should be dead and buried. I walk by the hole, and look in, and say, ‘I remember that,” but I don’t fill the hole.

     You’ll have to help me do that, Lord. I want to keep Your commandments, I don’t want to sin, and I can do far more than I have been, in Your strength, and by Your will.

     Help me to fight the temptation of disobedience over that which you’ve given me dominion, to keep my integrity, to labor as unto You, bearing fruit to Your glory, for this is my all, and the all of my brothers and sisters. 

     I ask it in the Name of Jesus, believing I’ve received. 

     Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 53: Wash and Be Clean

2Kings: 9-14 Namaan’s Leprosy Healed

Then Naaman went with his horses and chariot, and he stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ 12 Arenot the Abanah[a] and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

Namaan was highly esteemed and a man of titles, used to a certain level of pomp in his presence, yet he was humbled at the house of the prophet Elisha. Indeed, he was insulted at the affront of not even getting a personal greeting.

To make matters worse, he was told to do something so simple that it also affronted him even though he was told it would heal his leprosy: Go take a bath.

There is within us that which refuses to believe that that it’s not about works and rituals and ‘doing.’ Pr. David Jeremiah in his book The Invasion of Other Gods points out that the appeal of Eastern religions is that the level of human involvement gives a sense of control, of being deserving of the favor of those gods by doing that which pleases them.

It’s an ancient conditioning of the human mind: From early on in life we are told that hard work, submission to authority, and obedience to rules are how we are rewarded in life, and by life. Productivity and frugality secure our futures, and sense of personal responsibility allows us to live civilly (for the most part) with each other.

We work to secure our legacies and security for the days we are no longer able to work. Inheritances are passed down, added to, and passed down again, and nothing is accrued unless the work is done to amass them.

Yet for those of us who believe, serve, and follow the Lord this is a paradox, for we are told not to worry about such things.

Or is it?

Let’s keep in mind that work was given to us a curse for Adam and Eve’s disobedience in eating from the Tree of Knowledge:

“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
Till you return to the ground,
For out of it you were taken;
For dust you are,
And to dust you shall return.”

That being said, we are told in Proverbs 22:9 that a man skilled in his work will not serve obscure men, but kings. We have this example in the workmanship of Solomon building the House of the Lord.

We are also admonished by the apostle Paul in Colossians 3:22-25

22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for[a] you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality.

In other words, being in bondage is no excuse to sin.

The point of this seemingly rambling post is that it is often the simple things, not the grand, where we find the Lord’s blessing.

Namaan was hoping for a public spectacle that would reinforce his sense of greatness, yet he felt insulted by being told to just go bathe.

There were no wars for him to fight, no conditions attached, no rituals to perform, and until the gentle rebuke of his servants, he was angry. But it wasn’t until he obeyed the prophet’s message that he received his healing.

There’s a saying that’s popular in some Christian circles: ‘Lord, don’t move the mountain, just give me the strength to climb.’

Sounds noble, doesn’t it? You don’t wish to trouble the Lord with something so trivial as moving a mountain out of your way.  In fact, it’s as egotistical and foolish as Namaan wanting to do something more difficult to cure himself.

See, here’s the thing:  the Lord didn’t say He would move it, he said, ‘Speak to the mountain in faith, believing it will move, and it will be cast into the sea.’

Why would you want to struggle to ascend a difficult path the Lord would flatten, and straighten, and make smooth without obstructions? The view of your destiny is not only clearer when that happens, but faster.

There is no need for false heroism; life is hard enough, isn’t it? Just do the task before you, or as Oswald Chambers puts it, ‘the task that lies nearest to hand,’ and receive your blessing. Stop complicating that which the Lord would make easy for you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord, I thank You that the grandiose egos of men count as nothing under the covenant of grace. Let me not block my own way through sin and rebellion. Let me not be cast down because of pride and make my blessing void.

Help me to be ever mindful that You are the One who raises and puts down, that Your mercy is for the repentant, that Your love is everlasting, and that Your will is for me to thrive in whatever I do, wherever I am.

Let the works of my hands please You. Bless them, increase them, and let them find the ones who need it. Let my integrity be intact not only when the rulers watch, but when no one’s around. 

Keep me from a false sense of self-sacrifice, looking for strife where You have given peace. Let me discern the still, small voice from the pompous, empty grandiosity of earthly recognition and platitudes.

Bring to mind that I am in the year of Your favor, that I may consecrate my life to You, and You alone, and that always, You hear my prayer of faith in my affliction:

Be removed, and cast into the sea.

I ask it by the Power of Your Holy Name, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

 

Devotional 42: Do Whatever He Tells You

John 2:1-10

Water Turned to Wine

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

There are two ways to think of obedience:

One is to obey out of love, much the way a child does who wants to please their parents, or a student to please their teacher.

Jesus was constrained to obedience in this way, not only in doing the Father’s will, but in honoring His earthly parents as well.

The other way is how we more often think of it: as being under threat, something we must comply with in order to avoid harsh consequences, which are heavier to bear.

Yet with the story of Jesus we are told He was obedient to the Father’s command to come to us ‘…because He loved us first.’ (John 4:19); and that He was ‘obedient even to death on a cross.’ (Philippians 2:8)

But here, as Mary makes her ‘request’ Jesus portentously says to her:

“My hour has not yet come.”

Yet if a mother knows her child, how much more does the one whom all generations call blessed?

By now, Mary has observed Him with people, and surely the event of Him as a boy sitting among the learned rabbis remained a strong memory.

By now, she’s seen His heart of compassion, and yet while His mission is the salvation of the world, the judgment of all nations, and reconciling the hearts of the sinful to the heart of G-d through establishing an eternal Kingdom, His mother is feeling compassion for such a simple thing as running out of wine at a wedding feast.

The beauty of this story lies in the fact that we’re not told why they ran out:

Were there drunkards?

Was there not enough money?

Was this a mistake regarding the number of guests attending?

We are left to figure this out, but this is no mystery to Mary, nor is there uncertainty on her part about what He will do; though she has no way to know the specifics her faith in her Son is such that she considers the matter settled:

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Indeed, she walks away in faith and doesn’t address Him again.

We are told this is Jesus’ first miracle. How then did she know He was able to do anything?

How could Emmanuel, G-d with us, not?

It doesn’t matter why you come to Jesus; it only matters that You come, but if you do,

Be ready to obey whatever He says to you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

I thank You for interceding in the small, finite details of my earthly life.

I thank You for granting me peace past earthly understanding.

I thank You for the people I’ve loved, and the family You’ve redeemed to the Father who no longer dwell here on earth with me.

I thank You for taking my deserved condemnation on Yourself, that I may be in the presence of my Creator’s glory for all eternity as spotless, blameless, and guiltless by the power of Your blood.

I thank You for imparting the Holy Spirit to me, that the truth my be revealed to scaly eyes and a heart of stone softened by the harsh, loving words of the King of Heaven.

Help me also in this: that I lay up treasure in Heaven even as I walk the extra mile in the hot sun, or endure the chill of the evening as I give my coat also, or ignore the offense of personal assault as the pain of life’s slaps and punches mark my cheeks.

In this, I would obey in love and reverent fear of the Lord my G-d, and ask it in Your Name.

Amen.

 

Devotional 35: If It is of God…

Acts 5: 33-42 Gamaliel’s Advice

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them. 34 Then one in the council stood up, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in respect by all the people, and commanded them to put the apostles outside for a little while. 35 And he said to them: “Men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do regarding these men. 36 For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody. A number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was slain, and all who obeyed him were scattered and came to nothing. 37 After this man, Judas of Galilee rose up in the days of the census, and drew away many people after him. He also perished, and all who obeyed him were dispersed. 38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

40 And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His[a] name.42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

The Apostles had been released from prison by an angel of the Lord, who told them to go out and speak to the people. Finding them doing so, the military officers brought them before the enemies of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees, who had ordered them to stop.

The captain had gone with his officers to bring them from the court, but didn’t harm them. Surely men who’d escaped a guarded cell in the middle of the night might have some clout in heavenly realms. Best to be careful when dealing with G-d’s anointed, as David himself took heed, though Saul was out of favor.

But at this point, the Apostles had seen the fulfillment of all that Jesus had taught to them, and indeed, had feasted with Him after He rose, so they defied the council with bold words, in no uncertain terms saying they would not obey man, but G-d, as they, and the Holy Spirit, were witnesses to the Ministry.

Acts: 29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (italics mine).

It is indeed an exhilarating thing to minister under the power of the Spirit, and to be under one who’s preaching or worshiping to bring in His presence.

But title, power, wealth and influence are ever reluctant to let go of earthly things:

33 When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them

None other than Gamaliel, Paul’s mentor, stands to speak a word of caution over the rising tide of anger, and does so eloquently. As he commands the respect of the people as a teacher of the Law, he speaks with authority, and persuades the council to consider what it is about to do.

38 And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; 39 but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.

And that, no matter how dirty you fight, is a losing battle before it begins.

Even in the midst of all the hostility that surrounded Christ, there are those who recognize the hand of the Father in the unfolding of things, as Jesus never spoke a word that didn’t come to pass.

We see it even now, in these times: Nation against nation, brother against brother, rebellious children, broken marriages (there are websites now dedicated to the practice of adultery and fornication), the contamination of our land and water, increasing natural disasters, the breakdown of ecosystems, and the rising defiance in those who would call evil good, and sin, tolerance and freedom. The bestowing of self-rights rather than being our brother’s keeper is the order of the day, and those of us who stand fast in faith in our Deliverer find ourselves increasingly dismissed, insulted, and shunned.

There are those in the faith who have compromised for the sake of being approved by men, and there are those who have left, feeling the Power should compel them to obedience, for they don’t seek the way out of temptation, and failing, turn their backs.

Now more than other, we must seek the hem of His garment, lest we too, be dragged away among the multitude, our voices crying unheeded in the wilderness, that hearing they may neither hear nor understand.

The way is narrow, and few there will be who find it, says the Lord.

Will you be among them, walking the narrow road, following the true Good Shepherd’s voice? I dare ask, will I?

Therefore I pray:

Father, we would be with You, watching the Light of Your glory in the new heaven bathe the new earth, so that no sun is needed, no moon affects the tides, and the lion rests beside the lamb, the two aspects of our Lord reconciled, as we will be to You because of the Atonment.  We long for the day our tears are dry, our pain is gone, and death and hell and sin have no dominion over us.

So let all we do be at Your command, and let us move in obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, so that our work will move the hearts of mankind, and no one will stand against it.

Fill our mouths with praise and Truth, and give us bold hearts, but help us to temper it with mercy and grace to those not yet ready to receive. Bring to mind the wheat and tares, and that we are but seed planters, and You are the One who waters and adds daily to the number.

Set a table before us in the presence of our enemies, that they may see the love of our fellowship, and turn from their worldly ways. Help us also to have discernment of the Judases in our midst, who smile and smile, and yet are villains. 

You have, Lord Jesus, commanded us to be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, but also to shout from the rooftops, and let our peace return to us when not properly received. Let us not have to be scattered, but to willingly go, willing to suffer shame for the Gospel, knowing we have rewards where no man can break in and steal.

In the Power of Your Holy Name, and by the Blessing of the Almighty, I ask it.

Amen.