Devotional 149: Take Heed to Yourselves

Luke 21: 34 –

The Importance of Watching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

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

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

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

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

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

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 136: Prince of Peace

Matthew 10:34-39

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; 36 and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

As the Lamb of G-d, we call him the Prince of Peace, and yet His own words tell us that was not His purpose. Consider when John the Baptist speaks of the harvest (Matthew 3:1-12) 

The harvest is a violent time of axes and fires, cutting down and throwing away, threshing and cleaning. It will not be a peaceful time, for it will be the wrath of G-d dispensed on His enemies for the last time. As the Father has given us grace through His Son, the unrepentant and unbelieving, having had the opportunity to repent and believe, have sealed their own eternal fate.

Throughout the Word, it says the wicked will be cut off. In Proverbs, it says they will be cut off without remedy.

Proverbs 2:21-22

21 For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.

Proverbs 29:1

Happy Is He Who Keeps the Law

29 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

Jesus tells us this:

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!’

If the Father’s wrath still abides on His Chosen during the harvest, how much worse will it be for those under the covenant of grace? (Matthew 11:20-24)

We often stumble, as did John the Baptist, over the question of the exact nature of Jesus’ mission: It was to spread the gospel of grace, but it was also to lead man to repentance and spare Him on the day of judgment, so that the soul would be redeemed to the Father who created it. As Charles Spurgeon wrote: “Think of how precious a soul must be, that G-d and the Devil both fight for it.”

We have in the story of Exodus how the sprinkling of the blood of a spotless lamb saved the Israelites. It was the same calling on the Lamb of G-d, who was also the Son of G-d.

But John the Baptist spoke of Jesus not only as the Lamb of G-d (John 1:29-34), but the Lion of Judah (Matthew 3:12)  To him, it was all going to happen, but it was only the first part that Jesus came to fulfill in John’s lifetime.

As he saw Jesus healing and doing signs and wonders, preaching repentance, forgiveness, and redemption, and wreaking spiritual havoc among the teachers of Israel who corrupted the Word to secure their own wealth, power, and influence, he also lost heart.

Matthew 11: 2-6

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”

Jesus’ own cousin, in fact, turned out to be one of ‘the others’ referred to in Hebrews that was not delivered from death by human capriciousness, vanity, and hate.

The difficulty for all of us who wait upon the Lord is that we live in the times between those manifestations. We have the first part recorded for us to refer to, but we are living in the times Jesus spoke of  regarding the unraveling of man’s faith in G-d and his obedience to the Word.

The peace we speak of is after the enemies of G-d have been purged. The Word tells us we will look for those who’ve contended with us, and with G-d, and they will not be found. (Isaiah 42:12)

Our Lord was a prophet, but it is that nature of prophecy to only say what will happen, not when.  As His word came to pass on the temple in A.D. 70 (Matthew 24:1-3), so too, will all that He’s told us that the disciples have written to us, come to pass as well.

We would also do well to remember that even non-believers of matters heavenly held Him to be a prophet as well. (John 4:19)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

In the time that I have walked with You, been delivered, prophesied, moved in my gifting, increased the influence of my ministry, seen my family grow and prosper and give thanks to the Father for blessing me through Your hands, as He has given You authority in all things,  I have stumbled in my humanity in misunderstanding, and not understanding, the things of Heaven that you speak. 

There are times I am as baffled as the Apostles and the crowds You spoke to so frequently.

And yet, in matters of the spirit, like the two men You spoke with on the road to Emmaus, my heart burned within me as the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of the Gospel to me, convicted me of my sin, and sealed me for salvation by leading me to godly repentance. Until that point I was a believer, but not a follower, and certainly not a servant.

The Holy Spirit even now still reveals to me, for I myself war between flesh and spirit, and Your disciple Paul speaks of the Word as two-edged sword that cleaves the two.

Help us to remember that even as the Holy Spirit comforts us now, Heaven will be taken by force, for the enemy will make one last bid for dominion over it as well as the earth through his own agents of faithlessness, immorality, and scorn.

Help us to follow Your voice, and keep to the Narrow Way. 

We see even now the signs You give in the heavens and earth, cloaked beneath ‘science,’ which sets itself above You, devoid of the purpose of fulfilling Your Word. 

Lord, as we’re surrounded, let us too bring the sword of Your Word to bear, let our works shine before men that they glorify the Father, let our blessings be such that none are in need among us, or because of us, and let it be in such abundance that we overflow in our spirit and need not ask:

“Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” 

May it be that You always answer us, “Assuredly, I say to You…”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 135: Abide in Me

John 15:5

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

It seems appropriate as we prepare to celebrate 243 years of independence from Britain, that we be reminded as believers that the Earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, on it, and under it. (Psalm 24:1)

But we have mistaken independence from man’s rule to mean that we are sovereign, and that it’s the Father’s obligation to honor us, not punish us, as we engage and indulge in pride and faithlessness. Indeed, we expect  no form of rebuke, consequences, or even judgment to be passed on us.

We have become one nation under a symbolic and ineffective ‘god’  who is presumed to have only blessed the wealthy, as he punishes the poor.

We have relegated the Messiah to be all-forgiving because He ‘hung out’ with sinners, forgetting that He never held them guiltless, told them to repent, and blessed them in their faith. Consider this story:

Mark 2

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The man was paralyzed, so how could he sin? We are told that it is what comes out of people that makes them evil. Our thought life is connected to our spiritual life, and our thought life reflects the condition of our heart toward G-d. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)

We can trust that although we aren’t told what the sins of the man were, that Jesus knew he had them, and because of the faith put into action by his friends, a form of intercession, he was forgiven of them and healed.

We keep G-d at a distance, relegating Him to the Old Testament, seen by some as judgmental, hypocritical, contradictory, and false, up to and including even His existence. We assume a familiarity with Jesus we don’t have, who is the only way to be forgiven by G-d, forgetting, to our eternal peril, that He tells us in no uncertain terms: “I and the Father are One.” (John 10:30) 

How can they be One if the Father is greater? They are One in will, purpose, and thought. Jesus never refuted the edicts of G-d, and in fact was commanded by G-d to come and save us. (John 6:38)

As we celebrate independence from a bad king, let us hold fast to the King of Kings, our High Priest and Good Shepherd, who sustains us and sees to it that we bear good fruit through His atoning sacrifice, once for all, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, who guides us through all things concerning revelation of the Gospel’s truth, convicting us of sin, and leading us to repentance, for He is the promised seal of our salvation.

We may respect the authorities placed over us, and honor our kings, but we are to keep a reverent and holy fear of G-d. (1 Peter 2:17)

In these hedonistic times, as the prophecies of Christ manifest themselves, let us remember that ever good thing comes from above and to be independent of Christ is to be under G-d’s wrath. There will come a time when grace shall cease, and the harvest begin.

May the Lord keep before our hearts the words of Joshua: (24:15)

“As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord.” 

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In this nation, in our prosperity, we have become prideful, irreverent, arrogant, loud, hateful, and evil.

Your people have been divided among themselves, and shepherds lead their flocks astray, twisting the words of the Father, as the Pharisees did, to their profit and own well being, not realizing they are losing their souls as they gain the world, forgetting that their condemnation will be greater for rending the flock the sons and daughters of hell. (Matthew 23:13-15)

We have forgotten our first love. Our churches capitulate to growing numbers and political agendas, and no longer to Truth.

Let those of us who yet have ears to hear discern the absence of the Father’s will when those who would lead us speak falsely, their hearts revealed. Give us ears to follow Your voice.

Renew our hearts, revive and refresh our flagging, misguided spirits, and have us respond once more to the calling of the Holy Spirit.

Replicate in our nation the church of the Book of Acts, where none wanted, and all who had provided gladly for all who didn’t, and all were blessed accordingly.

Pour out Your Spirit on us, and let us repent, that our land may be healed.

Let it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

Devotional 84: A Manner of Spirit

Luke 9:51-56

A Samaritan Village Rejects the Savior

51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”

55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them. And they went to another village.

It happens most days, doesn’t it?

The slights, insults, dirty looks, unkindness, rudeness and disrespect as society deflates in the absence of G-d increases in frequency and intensity every time we look at the media, or even step outside.

Dave Barry the humor columnist once wrote an article on how playing the Mario Bros. video game was a lot like life: you’re walking down the street on a sunny day minding your business, and hostile forces gather to randomly attack you.

But we know those forces aren’t random.

We are told to minister the Gospel, we are not told to pound it into the heads of those who reject it. They’ve heard, and those whose hearts are ready to receive will do so; it is up to Jesus to reveal the Father to them (Luke 10:22) 

It is then the job of the Holy Spirit to revel the Truth behind the Word.

As this Samaritan village rejected Him, we have the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, and Jesus stayed with that village for two days. (John 4:39-42)

The question that was asked, however, was not about salvation, but annihilation. James and John didn’t just want the city burned, but consumed. The spirit in which it was asked was not in anger, or even in defense of Jesus, but a spirit of pride; there is no question they would have bragged of this deed for the rest of their lives.

Even more erroneously, they would have believed themselves to be in Elijah’s company as prophets.

We are now in an age of persecution from without, but we are also watching the love of many grow cold. Prophets give no dates, they just reveal events, and as the woman at the well perceived Jesus to be a prophet first, let us remember that He came to us in like manner to tell us to repent, for the days of eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven is only through faith in Him.

I saw an article about people who  brought their guns to church to be blessed: they so desperately want to hold on to their man-made traditions, they will co-opt G-d’s name to sign off on things that have nothing to do with His will for us.

And if you drive a car at all, there are days you’ve wanted to call down fire. Just remember, there are those who would call down fire on you. What manner of spirit is that? Yours is holy, and theirs isn’t? We are not told what Jesus said to them in rebuke, but Jesus never dealt with the surface of emotions, it was always the heart.

It’s okay (Well, it isn’t, but it’s done).  We’ve all felt it, and Jesus Himself told the Pharisees as they mocked Him on the cross that He could call down legions of angels to deliver Him and slaughter the enemies of G-d right then and there. But he’d already had His test by Satan, and He passed, delivered at the moment of His greatest vulnerability outside the Garden of Gethsemane, when the angels came to minister and restore Him.

As for the rest, they now await His command, and there will be no sparing. As He is the only one worthy to open the Book, to read the scroll, to judge the nations, to forgive sins on earth, and to lead the angels of harvest, so too, let us leave the calling down of G-d’s divine justice to Him.  He has done all things well, according to the Father’s will.

Well did King David ask: “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10) regarding the only thing he did wrong in G-d’s sight. (1 Kings 15:5)

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

I thank You for covenant of grace, for ministering to me in the year of the Lord G-d’s favor. I thank You for revealing the Truth of Your work, the Truth of G-d’s Word, and sealing me with the power of the Holy Spirit.

I thank You also, that even under that covenant, we are not given free reign to do as we please, for we would do that which does not please You. Our bodies are not our own, and our wills are subject to Yours if we would see this through to the end. Indeed, our very souls are subject to Your unerring judgment, according to that which we’ve done and said to Your glory.

We forget, for our flesh is easily led astray by a powerful enemy.  Sometimes we forget that he’s defeated. Sometimes we forget he has no power save that which we give him. And sometimes he’s asked You to sift us, and You’ve allowed it, only to bring us back to You, as Job in his righteousness was still able to grow in his understanding of the Father.

As we subject our spirits to the desires of our flesh, we sometimes use Your name to justify our rebellion, and impose our own beliefs over the Word’s truth. 

Lord, You’ve called us friends, and in the Word it says wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses;  You always tell Your disciples, “Assuredly, I tell you the truth…”

Continue to check our spirits, Lord; renew them for Your service, and to Your glory, that those who see us may glorify our Father in heaven.

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.