Devotional 132: If You are the Son of G-d

Luke 4

Satan Tempts Jesus

  Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

And the devil said to Him,  If you are Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ 

Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

And Jesus answered and said to him, ]“Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ 

Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:

‘He shall give His angels charge over you,
To keep you,’

11 and,

‘In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

12 And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ 

13 Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time.

 

Satan and his demons, fallen angels, and minions know that Jesus is who He proclaims to be (Luke 4:34), (Luke 10:18)  but it was mankind that Jesus had to convince, because it is the souls of mankind that are at stake.

Here was an opportunity to show everyone in the city that He was under the Father’s protection. Here was a chance to publicly remove all doubt, without all the rigors of ministry, the unwashed multitudes clamoring for healing, with only a few giving thanks to G-d for their blessings and miracles.

At the end of a 40 day fast, our Lord, being fully man, was tired, weak, hungry, and hot in the desert sun. He likely looked every bit of it, and now, the Father allows the enemy to assail Him, to see if His obedience was worthy of the times to come, and it is in this moment that the very salvation of man is on the line, because if the Messiah gives in, His death on the cross is no longer necessary, and we die in our sins with no chance of repentance, no grace or mercy, with our filthy righteousness reeking in G-d’s nostrils.

So the Accuser engages the Christ in a war of words, of the Father’s Word, no less, using the Father’s prophet’s own words to get Jesus to fall. The third temptation is most like the one Jesus endured when He was finally crucified. Indeed, the words are almost identical:

Matthew 27:39-43

39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ”

This was the opportune time, and though Satan wasn’t physically there, his spirit was moving among the crowd, among the religious leaders, as Jesus, this time dying as He hung and bled, once again resists the temptation to deliver Himself from the pain.

Indeed, He’d already sought to ask. (Matthew 26:39)  

Does He not tell us that all things are possible with G-d? It was entirely possible to find another way, but then, we’d have no one to stand before the throne and intercede for us, we’d have no holy blood to plead, and no grace to operate in. And while, as Gentiles, we’d not be under the law, we’d certainly be under His wrath, which is the fate of unbelievers.

It is through faith, praise, thanks, and obedience that our Lord operates, and He will not put on a show for the unfaithful. (Matthew 16:4)

He also refrained from acting on that which Satan quoted to Him earlier about being kept by the angels. (Matthew 26: 50-53) though it was confirmed for us earlier that what Isaiah prophesied was true (Matthew 4:11)

Let us be glad then, that we have a Savior who moves in, and is sustained by, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let us give thanks, praise, and obedience to a Son who has pleased His Father, and obeyed him in all things concerning our salvation.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus,

We can’t hold fast to the promises by faith. Even as You ministered, and with all the miracles You performed in the power of the Holy Spirit they said to You: “Help my unbelief,” “Increase our faith,” “Teach us to pray,” “Show us the Father,” and other such phrases that probably wearied Your own spirit. 

Our hearts are hard, and our spirits feeble. We are a wobbly lot, and yet we have Your words to not be afraid, or worry, for we are of value to the Father who knew us before the womb, and would see us reconciled through You, our Savior, Brother, Friend, King, and ultimately, Judge. 

If we are to ask anything in Your Name, You have said that the Father will do it, and with all that we ask, from the big to the small, we ask this above everything: We never doubt that You are the Son of G-d, that You are the only Name under Heaven by which we are saved, that You are the Way, Truth, and Light, and that there will be weeping and unquenchable fire for the unfaithful and disobedient.

Let us never tempt the Father to put on a show for the sake of ourselves, for we have no power in ourselves that does not come through, and from, the Holy Spirit and His grace to us through Your sacrifice.

You have said to us that we will perform greater works, but like Your disciples, we really don’t understand this saying, or we would act on it to do better than we are. Bring it to mind when we are struggling in our own abilities to be more like You, and let us be still before You as we gather strength from You through prayer. 

We ask, also, that You come to us at the opportune times we give so often to our enemy to remind us that as You withstood temptation, we also must stand, abiding in You that we might resist the devil, and have him flee from us, as He did from You, as it is our sake that You bought us at a steep and awful price. 

Let us prove ourselves, in You, through You, and by You, worthy of the cost.

May it done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 131: The Commandments of Men

Mark 7:1-13

Defilement Comes from Within

Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”

He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

‘This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’ 11 But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother,“Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, 13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Rituals can provide a sense of comfort. We speak of the ‘morning routine’ as we prepare our households for the new day, whatever that might entail.

The weekends have theirs also, as we seek out the activities that time does not allow us to participate in during the week.

In this 24/7/365 economy we live in, especially here in America, people are sleep deprived, stressed, and getting into debt trying to ‘do’ things, and there are those who know that such a reliance on the desire for doing those things allows them to exploit workers, for we have stopped honoring the concept of the Sabbath a long time ago, and G-d Himself came shortly after.

The appeal of eastern religions is in large part their ritualistic nature: ‘Do this to achieve this state of higher being.’

Portals to false worship are open when this happens, because to the mind of humanity repentance is not appealing, and grace must be earned by ‘doing good,’ by ‘just being a good person.’ Yet the Bible tells us that our own righteousness, on our best, most pious day, is as filthy rags in the Father’s sight (Isaiah 64:6)

Some churches no longer use Bibles, teach of sin, repentance, and grace, have replaced the teachings of Christ with the words of Paul (who, by the way, always cautioned pastors and church leaders against making that grave mistake). It’s become about the music, celebrity speakers, worship bands that sell tickets, and the world’s comforts at supposedly spiritual conferences.

Contrast that to the atmosphere of the church meeting in Nehemiah 8:

Ezra Reads and Explains the Law

Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.

So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam. And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.

Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law; and the people stood in their place. So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.” For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the Law.

10 Then he said to them, “Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions to those for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

11 So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” 12 And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.

The Word of the Lord was at the center, revered by the people, and it struck their hearts with conviction. The ministers took on the work of explaining and comforting those who were not learned, so their ears were opened, and day of sorrowful conviction turned into a day of great joy, for in spite of everything they’d been and were going through, they felt the presence of G-d with them.

Yes, we can enjoy such comforts as we have, for the Lord has blessed us with the ability to have them. What we must not do is place them on the altar as the center of what we’re about.

Celebrity preachers, politicians, the rich and powerful,  the highly skilled musicians, the venues in which we gather and their trappings are never to replace our Christ as the center of all things, for His obedience was such that the Father gave Him all authority  to judge all the nations.

The Father tells us that to honor Him with only our lips is not to honor Him at all. It is vain worship, and He will close Himself off from it.

Be sure that today, the place where you gather to pray is not placing ritual at the center, and calling it worshiping G-d. There is only one way to worship the Father, and that is to believe in and worship the Son, who is the only Name under heaven by which men must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Even as we watch that which You prophesied unfold, as witnesses to the Truth of Your glory and power made manifest in our lives, it is tough to watch the falling away of so many of Your messengers, turning away from Truth to replace it with ritual, marketing themselves as they gather the grain of mammon into their barns, forgetting that one day their lives will be required of them, and there will be an accounting.

Let us ever be mindful that even as the rituals of our gatherings provide us a framework of order, that it is the power of the Holy Spirit that brings the presence of Your shekinah glory to all the people, not the building. 

Let the Spirit, then, bring us discernment, separating the Gospel of G-d from ritualistic traditions of men. 

Let there once again be a reverence in placing Your Word above ourselves, not the messenger who brings it.

Let our churches return once more to the Gospel of repenting of sin, believing in You, loving each other, and doing good in the world to everyone in it. 

Revive our hearts, that our lips do not offer vain and unpleasing praise, fruitless and unheard by You.

Let our songs once again give due honor to Your longsuffering, mercy, and goodness, rather than the stories of our own struggles, for it is written that in You we live, and move, and have our being. (Acts 17:28)

Let the works we do through faith in Your Name bring the glory of G-d to the unfaithful, and may they stand the fire of Your testing, and point to the Father, so that the new believer may declare His mercy to all they encounter.

Grant that we make no one twice as much a son of hell by telling them in error that rituals and pastors, books and music, missions and growth of our would-be ventures that we say are for your glory, are in fact the way to redemption. These things not only glorify ourselves, but can make us idols that block the view of You.

Help us to keep our focus on the commandments of the Father, for it is only by doing His will, or not, that we are brought to judgement.

(Matthew 7:21-28) (John 2:17)

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 121: Not Far from the Kingdom of G-d

Mark 12:28-34

The Scribes: Which Is the First Commandment of All?

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

But after that no one dared question Him.

One of the scribes was beginning to think for himself, as Nicodemus, a Pharisee, did when he came at night to speak to Jesus.

The scribe’s answer lines up with what the Father had to say about Israel placing too much value on ritual rather than obedience.

1 Samuel 15:22

22 So Samuel said:

“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.

There are days, brothers and sisters, where we go through the motions; our lips, and not our hearts, ‘honor’ Him. He does not inhabit that praise, because it isn’t really praise.

There are earthly experiences that bring us to the precipice of turning away, of cooling our love, silencing the call, and extinguishing the divine gifts.

What then, when taking up your cross, counting the cost, and following a Savior whose face is set like flint toward the glory of G-d seems almost foolish, if not worthless.

Yet Jesus tells us this for our excuses: (Luke 9:61-62)

61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and 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.”

The fate of Lot’s wife dramatically illustrates this for us.

If we are not far from the Kingdom, and if we endure to the end we are saved, and if He is in the midst of our prayers for doing or seeking the Father’s will, and He goes to prepare a place for us, and we are sealed to salvation by the presence of the Holy Spirit, believing He will raise us with a great shout on the last day, we can believe Him when He says “Assuredly, I say to you…”

It is indeed a blessed assurance, a resting comfort, and a heavenly peace.

We are to abide in faith in a world of prophesied turmoil and evil, for it belongs to the prince of this world.

It is the reason a new earth will be created for us to dwell eternally in the Father’s light, spotless and blameless, in a world free from sin and evil. It is something to be feared and desired that we are counted worthy, not because we deserve it, but because He has grafted in those who are not His people through grace, and grace alone.

Though the Father’s wrath abides on the faithless and lawless, His love and mercy daily, and eternally, surround those of us who have placed and confessed our faith in the atoning work of His Son, our Lord and Savior.

And Jesus, given all authority to judge, forgive, and draw us into His Father’s presence, tells us that in doing the Father’s will, and keeping His commandments, we are not so very far from His Kingdom at all.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

I am a base and unprofitable servant. 

There are days my corruption, laziness, and sinful rebellion are paraded before Your holy eyes in defiance of Your rules for me to live a long, fruitful life, finishing the work You gave me to do.

There are days when I would be content to have the rocks sing my praise to You, even though it would grieve You.

There are days I set down my cross and indulge my flesh, telling myself I’ve done nothing wrong.

But neither have I drawn closer to You, even though I desire to return.

The Good Shepherd walks the path before me. In Him, You are pleased, and implore me to listen to Him. It is up to me to listen and to know His voice, which ministers Your purpose. I thank Him for coming to find me when I go astray. I thank Him for restoring me to the fold, under Your protection, and not leaving me to the outer darkness. 

Thank You for sending Him to overcome Death and Hell for my soul’s sake; unworthy though it may be, You would not see it burned as chaff in the unquenchable fire set for those who hate You.

I’m humbled that my King thinks so highly of this unfruitful, unprofitable servant, who struggles to do even that which he is supposed to do. Though I have less time to walk in the Narrow Way, I thank You for the rewards to come, if there are any. If not, the Kingdom in and of itself is more than I deserve, however humble my place in it.

Such is Your love, Almighty G-d, that You would send Jesus to draw me near once more, and be with You, praising You and giving You all glory and honor, forever and forever.

May it be done to me as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 114: A Legacy of Obedience

Jeremiah 35:1-14

The Obedient Rechabites

35 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, “Go to the house of the Rechabites, speak to them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”

Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, his brothers and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door. Then I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups; and I said to them, “Drink wine.”

But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’ Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; nor do we have vineyard, field, or seed. 10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians.’ So we dwell at Jerusalem.”

12 Then came the word of the Lord to Jeremiah, saying, 13 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction to obey My words?” says the Lord14 “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandmentBut although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me.

We, as believers, have to begin to believe that the matter with G-d is settled. That despite all the mysteries, discoveries, epiphanies, setbacks, and new beginning, the war between good and evil was always our own.

The forbidden Tree of Knowledge was willingly plundered of its beautiful fruit by pointing out what was good about it. The consequence of disobedience was made light of, and doubt was planted about the meaning of the Father’s command.

Skillfully, the serpent reduced the Almighty to being fearful Adam and Eve would be usurpers, for once they had His knowledge, they would seek His place, too.

And so now, we have the knowledge, and the choice, but we also have the ultimate weapons to fight: The Word of G-d, the covenant of redemptive grace, and the revelation and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

In these days, the enemy has grown more powerful, and seems to be putting more wins in the column as emotions get ‘triggered’, and excuses and scorn are bandied about like troops of chimps playing tennis.

It is the job of godly parents to bring up their children in G-d’s ways, but it is also the duty of the children to hold onto those ways, and to grow in their own knowledge of the Lord.

Nineveh stood for a time after hearing Jonah, but fell again because the future generations could not stand.

Solomon fell, though his father David sought the Lord constantly in almost all things, and even then, Uriah’s murder was the one stain on his earthly ledger. Yet it was David’s line through which Christ came.

Throughout the books of Kings, we see the contrasting examples of those who did what was right in the sight of G-d, and those who turned away, and what happened to them, and the people who went along, and the grief and peace of the kingdoms they ruled.

In this New Year, let the matter be settled in our hearts and minds that victory belongs to the Lord, that redemption is ours to claim, that the Father loves us and wishes to be reconciled, and the the circumscription of His rules is to keep and protect us from evil and harm.

Let it be settled, as it was when Abraham took Isaac to the mountain, as it was when the Hebrew boys defied Nebuchadnezzar’s decree, and as it was with the generations of Rechabites, who heeded their earthly father to the degree that G-d said of them,

18 And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, 19 therefore thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever.” ’ ”

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven, 

Your Son tells us that our foundation on Him will withstand the storms of this world, and that we are always to watch and pray, we are always to believe and abide, and we most importantly, we are always to obey Your Word, as He did, even unto death.

Yet our earthly faith is a defective mustard seed, our understanding placed in the box of flesh, and we shoot tethered arrows to the heights of the Babel tower to bring You here. But Your thoughts and ways are higher than ours, and we, like the Rechabites, are but sojourners here.

Unlike them, we have been disobedient, relying on the atoning work of Your Son to excuse us, but not coming to godly repentance that produces tears, not understanding that grace is not license, and that not one word of the law will be discounted.

As we have received the gift of the Holy Spirit as well as the New Covenant, let us take comfort in the words of our Savior in these days of mocking, lying spirits that now infect the children of men with confusion, filling them up with emotions and irrational thoughts, believing You to be a vague-shaped power as they indulge their pride in their sins:

John 14:1-3 

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

We hear, O Lord, and believe. And obey.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

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