Devotional 188: So the People of Nineveh Believed G-d.

Jonah 3:1-10

Jonah Preaches at Nineveh

3 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, [a]a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

The People of Nineveh Believe

So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,

Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

As believers we must not mistake mercy for permission. The reluctant, rebellious prophet who went in the opposite of G-d’s direction, even in his disobedience, was made to point people to the Father.

The mariners, to their credit, did not immediately wish to throw Jonah overboard. Surely in such seas, as far as they knew, Jonah was going to drown.

Still, Jonah’s rebellion was so strong that it forced them to find out through pagan means why their voyage was placed in holy peril. Fortunately, G-d was merciful to them in their innocence of Jonah’s crime.

When they did as Jonah requested, and the sea began to calm down, the power of G-d was seen in the natural to the point where the sailors took oaths and made a sacrifice; whether they maintained those oaths is not known, but in the moment, they knew who the true ruler of the seas was, despite whatever other gods they sought in their native prayers. The power of the G-d was revealed to them in the natural world.

In Nineveh, which deal violently with the prophets of its day, Jonah’s prophecy was short, but it says that he cried out. There was no meeting or gathering for him to preach to an assembly as such.

He cried out, and the important distinction here is that they did not spurn Jonah, but they believed G-d. How did a land so sinful come so quickly to a collective mode of repentance, from the greatest to the least, and even among the animals?

G-d imbued the words with the power of His Spirit, so that it penetrated every heart. Given the short time the Ninevites had, there was no time for a process, or for anyone to think about whether or not they wanted to repent; the power of G-d’s Word proclaimed by Jonah was such that none could refute it. The power of the Spirit-filled word had to pierce hearts and unstop ears that before had been resistant to the Father’s mercy. A disobedient rebel was used to convert the hearts and minds of disobedient rebels, and put a right spirit within them.

Jesus told His disciples such: (Luke 12:11)

11 “Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

And although Nineveh eventually fell because they failed to pass along the values of faith, repentance, and obedience, we have an example of the Father withholding his punishment for those who willing to do His will and live under His covenant of grace, including Jonah, who was actually angry that G-d followed His word and did not destroy the land.

Let’s note then, that although the prophet still desired in his heart to see the city destroyed despite his prophecy, the Lord provided for him until he could see mercy manifested on people he believed the worst of sinners.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

As You have revealed Yourself to us by the power of the blood of Your Son, and called us to also minister to a faithless, mocking, wicked, and adulterous generation while dealing with our own doubt, reluctance, and rebellion, we ask that You also imbue our words and deeds with the power of the Spirit, so that You are revealed to those we tell about you.

May it be so in the natural, as it was with the pagan mariners, and in the spiritual, as it was with the Ninevites.

We ask also for the Spirit’s discernment, that we not cover Your truth in the veil of our politics and self-righteousness, for all fall short of Your glory, and none are blameless before the throne save through the power of Calvary’s atoning work. Forgive us if we have done so, and bring it to mind if we backslide the next time we speak of the goodness of Your Name among those we have been called to prophesy and evangelize.

We thank You also, Father, for protecting and providing for us, that we may see Your mercy manifested among the worst of sinners so that they glorify You and bear more of salvation’s fruit in Jesus’ name.

May Your words be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 184: Who Did the Will of His Father?

Matthew 21:28-32

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”

They said to Him, “The first.”

Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.

We live as servants to the Lord in our life’s purpose. Once chosen, called, redeemed, and reconciled to the Father in spite of our many sins and wayward walks, our Lord commands us to tell others so they may also come to repentance, seeing the goodness of G-d in the land of the living. (Psalm 27:13)

Jesus admonishes us to be about the work, not about the intentions to work; there is such a thing as too much counsel. There are also those who feel a sense of superiority in the fact that they’ve been chosen, and allow pride to ruin and otherwise sidetrack them from the simple, yet most difficult of commands: Love one another.

Harlots and tax collectors were considered to be the worst kinds of sinners, separated from G-d by their sin, and then John the Baptist came preaching with zeal and passion, telling them that G-d still loved them, and wanted them, but they had to stop what they were doing and come to Him in spirit and truth. Abandoned by the chosen ones whose hands were available to help, but only threw more spiritual stones of condemnation at them, their hearts and spirits responded to the message.

Jesus told them in this parable that if the worst of sinners could respond to the Gospel, what was it in the hearts of the chosen that kept them back when they saw what was happening?

Certainly Paul, the most cynical and prickly of the Apostles, who didn’t even walk with Christ, and persecuted the church, as he says, ‘with zeal,’ knows what he’s saying when he tells us that ‘knowledge puffs up.’ (1 Corinthians 8:1)

In contrast, John, the disciple Jesus loved, tells us that we cannot claim to love G-d whom we haven’t seen, if we hate our brothers and sisters we see all the time. (1 John 4:20)

Jesus Himself tells us that if we are to be with Him in the Father’s presence, we must do the Father’s will. (Matthew 12:50).

Let us reflect today on which of the two sons we truly follow: the one who repents and obeys, or the one who speaks willingness, and leaves his work undone. If we are not among those we deem the worst of sinners, and they’re getting in ahead of us because they receive the message of forgiveness, repentance, and obedience, we will have our answer.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

There are days I feel energized, excited, and fully capable to perform all that the Father asks of me. I am a beacon of light in those times: enthusiastic, excited, happy, and even patient and understanding with those who resist me, forgiving those who stand against me, and in those mountaintop experiences, I praise You with a song of ascent.

My faith feels firm, sealed to my spirit as I go about doing the work I was called to in Your Name, to the Father’s glory, and for awhile I really do believe all things are possible.

There are other days, Lord Jesus, when I feel like the Father should be grateful I’m even speaking to Him. Something or someone has battered my spiritual armor, and got past my guard. They spoke a word, or did a deed, or both, that shook me, angered me, and made me want to call down the Father’s holy fire in such a manner that they would never think to do so again.

You tell me in those moments that I don’t know the type of spirit I’m letting in (Luke 9:55). I get sullen, and prideful, and don’t ask forgiveness. I wonder if the Gospel is nothing but a cosmic hoax sent not by the King and Creator, but merely a divine jester and puppet master. I attribute the behavior of wicked men to a holy G-d, and walk in foolish fearlessness of Him who is able to cast my soul and body into eternal fire, and to wipe it out in an instant.

Today then, I stop, and give heed to the voice of my Father, and ask His forgiveness once again. I regret my rebellion, and remind myself that when I walk in His will, all that He has is mine, and as I fulfill my calling to bring glory and honor to His Name, He will sustain and protect me in all that I do. And I am reminded that Satan has no power over me, save that which in my flesh, I give him, as Adam gave him dominion once he disobeyed the will of his Father by not obeying His command.

Today then, let me be the repentant one who quietly goes and does their Father’s will, that I might be reconciled to Him once more through Christ, who bore my punishment and the Father’s wrath, that I might come to know His eternal love for me when I dwell in His presence forever, praising as I serve.

May Your Word be sealed to my spirit, now and forever.

Amen.

Devotional 176: The Return of Understanding

34 And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever:

For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom is from generation to generation.
35 All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing;
He does according to His will in the army of heaven
And among the inhabitants of the earth.
No one can restrain His hand
Or say to Him, “What have You done?”

36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my honor and splendor returned to me. My counselors and nobles resorted to me, I was restored to my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added to me.

                                                             ************

If indeed the only inevitable thing is the working out of G-d’s plan, there is not much to say about the current circumstances facing the nations. The sparks of trouble are surely flying upward, and brother rises against brother to curse and not bless.

The rudderless tongue pushes words on the patterns of the wind, which blows without discretion or selection, leaving behind damaged people in sorrowful circumstances.

Guns, fires, racial slurs, murder, intimidation, harassment, brutality, protests, signs, slogans, and a restless, chaotic current have gripped the souls of men and blocked their view of heaven. They turn deaf ears to the Word, hiding the veil of politics behind it like the Pharisees, forgetting there is a G-d in Heaven from whom there are secrets, and for whom a thousand years is as a day to man.

We proclaim ‘G-d bless America!’ but we have not blessed G-d, and He does not accept the honor of the lips only, when the heart is far from Him.

In our humanity, there are people we don’t like, and in our worldview, there are things about the governing of nations we have issues with. It has always been that way because the Gospel is not preached, lived, or these days, possibly, even believed among the leaders.

As believers, we are told to fear G-d, and honor the king. He is watching to see if we do so, even if the king is mad and in need of humbling.

That which we call ‘time’ is indeed fleeting, and getting further away from us as we continue to insist on enjoying ourselves in the midst of a plague. That, in and of itself, is not a bad thing, but it shouldn’t become a priority.

Let us rest in the knowledge that the Father has already seen the end result of all this strife, and if He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and revere the Son, and submit to the voice and power of the His Spirit, He has promised He will heal the broken heart and avenge the innocent.

Let us leave the divine justice to the only One who can judge rightly, for He is worthy, and the Father has put all into his hands.

Like Nebuchadnezzar had to be humiliated before He gave G-d glory, let us pray together, unceasingly, that we don’t have to do that here in the US. or anywhere else in the world. Let us give our offering for anything we have against each other, go before the Throne and place it on the altar, and be reconciled in this hour while His hand is yet still.

**************

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We cry out to you once again, having lost our way.  Our leaders have assumed the mantels of proud kings, so as a nation we have now become blind to Your will, deaf to Your Word, and bereft of power in ourselves to bring good from evil.

Return our reason to us, Father, and let us stand once again in Your light, under the loving hand of our Lord Jesus who leads us to the path of reconciliation, and the power of Your Spirit, convicting us of sin and guiding us into all Truth.

Let us give You glory and honor among us once again, kneeling not in protest, but subjugation to Your loving will, and reverence for the King of all Creation, as we repent of our sins, our bloodlust, our hate, fear, anger, and rebellion against You.

Grant us mercy, Father, for behaving like beasts of the field and submitting to Legion, who gratifies our emotions and flesh, and robs of us discretion, discernment, and wisdom.

Your servants stand in the gap, Father, interceding before the hour strikes when You smite us for our prideful ways, our fearful arts, our wild emotions, and our evil thoughts.

Let our understanding return to us as we raise our eyes to You, repenting with godly sorrow, that excellent majesty reflecting Your power, might, and glory, be restored to us once more as we enjoy the covenant of grace in one accord, one nation, indeed under G-d for the time remaining to us.

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

Amen.

 

*art by Daniel Blake

Devotional 175: Every Secret Thing

If the Earth is indeed the Lord’s, and everything in it, then there are no secrets.

Ecclesiastes 12:14

14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.

Matthew 12:37

37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Matthew 15:15-20

15 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”

16 So Jesus said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not yet understand that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. 19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. 20 These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”

We live in an age where we are now ‘free’ to indulge in attacking and persecuting from the safety of wherever we believe ourselves to be safe.

Because of faithlessness and pride, we forget that we are all held to a higher standard. If the Earth is indeed the Lord’s, and everything in it, then nothing \is done ‘in secret.’

The conspiracies, lies, government schemes, dark web, trafficking, all of it is as bare to the sight of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a person on the walking down the street in the noonday sun.

Every slur, insult, dirty picture, and hateful comment of every tribe and tongue who lash out under the deception of darkness will stand before the judgment seat, their level of unbelief notwithstanding:

2nd Corinthians: 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

There will be eternity when time ends, and there will be nowhere else we have to go.

The thought of having to give an accounting of all we have thought, said, and done should give us pause as we currently find our nation divided, hurting, angry, desperate, and greedy.

We are in trouble indeed if the Lord has indeed given us over to the desires of our hearts, removed the Spirit who guides us into all truth, convicts us of sin, and checks our baser natures as love, temperance, compassion, empathy, civility and responsibility are replaced by pride in the things that compose the flesh, things that we had nothing to do with, being created beings capable of exercising dominion, but not operating on the same level with the Father.

Today, let us gather before Him in humility, repentance, and godly sorrow before the darkness completely overtakes us. Let us stand together, and through faith in His Name and by His power, tell the demons that plague this land to go, shouting from the rooftops that which He whispered to us in the watches of the night.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

Today, I confess to the sin of a rudderless tongue, conveyed through technology, that I have lashed out at those who meant no harm, who do not think the way I do, who don’t share my worldviews, who don’t look like me, or even speak my language. 

I confess to a heart of stone, and stopped ears, as my pride speaks to my flesh and drowns out the Spirit of holiness that dwells in me, imparting to me that which is of You.

There are times I lose sight of my Shepherd, content to graze in idleness when progress is called for, content to sleep when there’s work to be done, and prone to rebellion in wandering to spiritual strongholds that appeal to my sinful nature as the Father’s loving words call for me to turn back.

Today, Lord, I release my pride, and hand You my heart once again to heal and purify.

Let me feel the joy and power of the Holy Spirit awakening in me as the first time You sent Him when I surrendered to You, for their will be no hiding place, no secrets, no power of self, no pride in me before Your light, no chance for redemption without abiding in You, and  no justification for the evil I’ve done, standing convicted before Your wisdom. 

Make my repentance one of substance, lasting and true; I would not be among those who call you Lord, and yet be cast out from Your presence.

What light I may possess, though it flicker, make it increase. What faith I may yet have, cause me to remember the many times You delivered and restored me, as You have today. Open the pages of the books of my rememberance.

I take joy in Your mercy, and am thankful for Your grace. 

Today, I stand with the tempestuous St. Peter, and declare there is no other Name under Heaven by which I am saved, that You have the words of Life, that You are the Son of G-d,  and You know that I love You, in faith believing I have been likewise restored.

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

Amen.

 

Devotional 144: Who Then Can be Saved?

Matthew 19:23-28

With God All Things Are Possible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s look at another encounter:

Luke 19:1-11

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But what is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart?

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

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

 

Devotional 139: New Hearts, Right Spirits

Ezekiel 36:26

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

What we consistently fail to understand about the Father’s will to cleanse us is that it is as uncompromising as it it unwavering, though it does not come without requirements.

People who claim the Word is contradictory have been blinded, given hearts of stone, and ears that cry out for tickling, adapting the infinite, glorious, majesty of G-d to their limited knowledge and puffy intellects.

They place Creation under the tangible but cloudy lenses of ‘Science’ and ‘Evolution’, which has theories it takes just as much, if not more faith, to believe in. But the know there’s no G-d. They are, at best, houses built on shifting sand, and such believers in it are willing to go with it as their source.

And yes, they have their time and place, for He gave us a mind to establish dominion over the earth and subdue it, but they don’t replace Him. It is simply that they can’t fathom the mind of G-d, but the Father is not inconsistent in dealing with His creation.

The matter of hearts and spirits is like a ‘pop-up’ ad throughout Scripture, perhaps the most known of them being this verse:

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

    Repentance is the cornerstone of renewed fellowship with G-d, just as faith was the cornerstone of Christ’s miracles manifesting themselves in the lives of those who sought Him.

G-d is not ignoring our sins because we make them legal, and nothing is being done unseen before His eyes. Those things He’s called abominations have only morphed into more forms of spiritual confusion and deception.

The tide of faithlessness is rising, and the current of persecution disguised as legislation moves more swiftly, yet the questions remain the same: “Where is your G-d?”  “Why doesn’t He just save us/ purge evil?”   “You really believe that nonsense?”

Yet Christ tells us:  We will suffer for our faith (Matt: 24:9) The love of many will grow cold (Matt: 24:12) False christs shall rise (Matt: 24:24) He will come at an hour we don’t expect (Matt: 24:44) Not all who call on His name will enter into His rest (Matt: 7:21)

Right hearts and renewed spirits, then, have become things we can’t do without in these times. Peter tells us:

Acts 3:19-21

19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 

Are we prepared for the unexpected?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

It is no small thing to walk behind our Shepherd through the valley of death’s shadow.

The path is narrow and steep, and the unholy line both sides of it, waiting for the weak to fall, the foolish to stray from under the protection of His rod and staff, for the inattentive to lose their way, the tired for fall behind, and the fearful to turn back.

Our enemy speaks to us, as he did in Eden, of the fleshly good of Your creation, tempting us with pretty things, and planting seeds of doubt about what You’ve said to us: Did G-d really say…?

He proclaims to us in moments of spiritual fatigue and moments of crisis: All these things I will give to you…

So Father, today we repent of our sins, we confess them to You that we may be cleansed of all unrighteousness, all doubt and uncleanness, all fear and sorrow. Renew our hearts, Lord G-d, and refresh our spirits.

Restore us to fellowship with You, and each other.

Keep us from invoking Your heavenly Name to justify our earthly evils.

We present ourselves before the throne of grace and judgment. We come to You in our filth, with wretched hearts, weak flesh, tired minds, blind eyes, and hard hearts, that You might send the Son to us again to bring us back to You.

We say to Him today, in Your sight and by Your grace:

“Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

Devotional 125: “Look, Lord…”

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus Comes to Zacchaeus’ House

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

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

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

The tax collectors were appointed by the Roman government, and they were to collect the taxes that funded it. Calculations were made for the right amounts owed, but once those limits were met, the tax collectors were unsupervised and unregulated as to collecting more than was necessary, hence, they were especially despised, and frequently lumped in with harlots as especially heinous types of sinners.

But yet, we have the story of Matthew, who when Jesus called to him, left everything.

Luke 5:27-28

Matthew the Tax Collector

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.

29 Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. 30 And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do You eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

31 Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.

Indeed, He admonished His own disciples that distractions would not help their cause:

Luke 14:33

33 So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.

It was no less with Zacchaeus, who, like Matthew, we are told, also received Jesus joyfully, and again, the questions of the Pharisees regarding this practice come around again.

But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus again answers with the same thing, said a different way:

10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

But what is often overlooked here is the joy Zacchaeus felt, so convicted of his wrong in Jesus’ presence, that he actually wanted the Lord to witness his repentance.

“Look, Lord…”

Are we that confident in our repentance, in our faith in mercy and grace, in the New Covenant itself, that when we turn again to the Father through our faith in the Son, we can say, “Look, Lord…” ?

Are we brave enough to call Heaven’s attention to the changing of our ways, the words of our mouths and meditations of our hearts, and our communion with the Holy Spirit?

Dare we?

Will we make restitution to our King, restoring ourselves to His mercy and grace, seeking His forgiveness of our sins in His authority as the Son of G-d, and through faith in His finished work on the cross as the Son of Man?

Like Zacchaeus climbing the tree, how far will we go to see a glimpse of our Savior’s face, how much effort are we going to put in to our salvation to get into His presence, and seek His blessing and favor over ourselves and our houses?

Let us be ready to feast with Him, that the wrath of the Father not abide on us. Let us restore our fellowship with Jesus, that we might be saved and raised on the last day.

Let us not grow weary of doing good, but neither let us tire of resting in Him, knowing that all our work will be tested, all our secrets brought to light, but all of our sins forgiven by the shedding of His blood.

May we be confident enough in our faith walk to seek His face, saying to Him as He fellowships with us: “Look, Lord…”

Therefore I pray:

I confess now, Lord Jesus, that I am sick, and lost, and as You are the Great Physician and the Good Shepherd,  I ask that You forgive me, heal me, and convict me of all unrighteousness by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Let me make my restitution to those I’ve wronged, and restore myself once again to the Father, who hates dishonest scales. 

Let it be said of me that salvation has come to me and my house, for Jesus noticed my zeal in seeking Him. I thank You, Lord Jesus, for the covenant of grace and mercy that abides on me through You, in You, and of You. Let me not substitute Your spotless, blameless righteousness and favor for the sake of earthly things that will pass away.

May it be true of me that I want You to see the good works I’m doing, forgiving those who’ve wronged me, and restoring that which I’ve taken without gratitude, or the means to repay. 

It is a great debt You’ve forgiven me, so that I might forgive others who’ve wronged me.

May I joyously receive Your blessing over me and my house, standing in Your presence, unable to make restitution for redemption, and unable to attain it through anything I might do.

May my heart feast with You in heavenly places, even as it burns within me as we walk together in the day, far spent. Call me to celebrate with You after repenting of my sin, as You speak to seal the Word of the Father to my heart.

Let my works, in conjunction with the true repentance of my heart, bring You joy, so that I might be confident enough to say to my Savior, “Look, Lord…”

May it be done to us as You have said.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 111: Pray to the Lord for Me

Acts 8:18-25

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

20 But Peter said to him, “Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! 21 You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. 22 Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.”

25 So when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, they returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.

From this story, we see that although Peter admonished him to, Simon the sorcerer did not, in fact, repent, but rather asked for intercession. His heart was not ready to repent. He was poisoned by the bitterness of the apostles ‘showing him up,’ so to speak, by performing a wondrous and unparalleled work among the people, something he wasn’t able to replicate, so they’d usurped his status.

He was bound in iniquity for the practice of sorcery, and needed to shed it in order to be reconciled to G-d, but he wasn’t ready for that, either. He thought the imparting of the Spirit was a ‘magic’ act, negating the Spirit’s indwelling as the equivalent of a parlor trick.

And yet, as believers, we are sometimes requested by those outside of the faith to pray for them in times of catastrophe or when they’re in need.

Do you honor such requests? I do, because it means they see a difference in my life, an assuredness in times of confusion or calamity that they may not possess, in short: the peace of G-d. Sure, they may, like Simon, be ‘hedging their bets,’ but we know the true power of our G-d, for whom nothing is impossible.

I dabbled in tarot as a teenager, and once I took the deck to school, but I was really doing it as a joke. Within three weeks I was doing readings before and after school, during free periods, and at lunchtime. The growth was so fast and exponential that had I charged for it I could have had a nice sideline, and people were willing to pay me, including some of my teachers. But my spirit was troubled not only by how quickly my clientele grew, but the things I was saying to them prompted by the images on the cards themselves. My peers were hanging on every word, confirming as they saw fit.

Even then, there was a holy fear in me that I didn’t recognize as such, and though I hadn’t formally received the Holy Spirit, I was so troubled in my own spirit that I stopped doing it, though I held onto the cards for years afterward until I finally threw them away. I never picked up anything else occult and brought it into the house.

We may unknowingly entertain angels, but we may also unknowingly entertain demons, opening ourselves up. I thank G-d for giving me the strength not to backslide, but as long as I kept the cards, the temptation to pick them back up remained.

But I had a strong family that was praying to the Lord for me, and the cycle was broken.

As believers, we serve a mighty, sovereign, jealous G-d who won’t tolerate even toying with the fringes of evil. For example: Halloween, in this country,  has become ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ instead of the lurid day it  actually is. The other side of the coin, All Saints Day, isn’t even acknowledged, much less celebrated. Perhaps it’s just as well.

I once lived in a place that was a nursing home that had been converted to apartments. Lots of elderly died there, and I vouch for the fact there was paranormal activity, and there was nothing fun or sexy about it. It was scary, and I often invoked the name of Jesus to banish said activity, and it always stopped.

Pray for those who request it of you. You never know what chains you might be breaking, what cycles of evil you’re ending, what souls might be saved as a result of your intercession, reluctant though it may be, for just as Simon didn’t repent, Simon Peter didn’t pray for his redemption, as far as we know.

That would be a shame, because though the power of sorcery is real, the power of the holy name of Jesus is stronger.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

Thank You for sending a Comforter, a helper who can reveal Truth, convict of sin, and guide in prayer. I thank You that He takes of what is Yours and imparts it to me. (John 16:12 -15)

I thank You for preserving me in the times I did not truly know You, serve You, or follow You, though I believed.

I am grateful too, that You forgave the iniquity of my youth, and allowed me to yet be grafted in under the New Covenant of grace, in this, the year of G-d’s favor. 

Bless the souls who prayed for me during those times I was foolish, thinking myself immune to the enemy. It is the word of Your disciple that says to take heed when we think we stand, lest we fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12)

Let me not grow prideful in my service, nor lazy and distracted in my praise, nor lukewarm in my reverence and fear of You. Let me not become sleepy with sorrow, that I might miss You.

In faith, I ask for the boldness to continue to confess Your majesty to all men, trusting You through the power of the Holy Spirit to give me the words and spirit that none can turn against me, deny, or confound.

Let me not only hear the Holy Spirit, but obey His commands, for He speaks what You would have Him say, just as You spoke what the Father would have you say. The Father, You, and the Holy Spirit are all in and of each other, with aligned wills and the promise of the gift of eternal life for the repentant and faithful, therefore let me not be hesitant or doubtful of Your Spirit’s presence in my life, guiding me into Your truth, and sealing me into Your hand, and the Kingdom of G-d.

Have me intercede for those who don’t know You, but ask for prayer with broken hearts, contrite spirits, needs only You can fill, and circumstances only You can deliver them from, that they might glorify the Father.

Let it be so for the remainder of my days. I ask, believing I’ve received. 

May it be done to me as You have said. 

Amen.

 

Devotional 66: ‘I Am Not Like Other Men’

Luke 18:11-15
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Remember the tee shirt that had: ‘Jesus is my homeboy’ on it? I thought for sure lightning would strike. What familiar arrogance in that statement, worn by the most un-Christian people you’re likely to never meet in Hollywood. Their desire is to reduce the Son of God to the Age of Aquarius.

As Paul says in Romans 6:15: What then? Shall we sin because we not under law, but under grace? May it never be.

I add, may it never be so with us! Christ tells us He has called and chosen us out of the world. In that regard, we are not like others, but we are not to keep such status to ourselves. He also commands us to tell others.

If we’re honest, though, there are times we’ve felt a little more held together than those around us, keeping our composure in the midst of the madness, watching others get caught up.

I don’t know if any of us have prayed such as this Pharisee in our Lord’s parable, but we’ve certainly felt the seed of it grow at certain times. That, in and of itself, is not an evil thing, as long as we remember Paul’s admonition:

Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of G-d, 9 not of works, lest any man should boast.’ 

In the watches of the night, we are confronted with our own stock and store of how we’ve handled the day’s events and those G-d has brought across our path, how we’ve performed before our cloud of witnesses, and whether or not we were role models for how to behave and perform under pressure.

And again, if we’re honest, most times we come up short.

But let’s always remember that in fact, with enough time and circumstance, we are equally capable of performing the most reprehensible act as anyone in solitary confinement under the worst jail in the world.

We have it easy here. Need water? Buy a bottle, or turn on the tap.

What if we had to walk miles, with hundreds of others, to a drying pool of it in the middle of a hot, putrid rainforest, on muddy roads runny with sewage?  I’ll not belabor the point: your imagination and self-knowledge will fill in what you’re capable of.

Stay humble before G-d, and penitent. And thankful, realizing that we are all, in fact, just like everyone else. Were it not for the graces and gifts, the blessings and favor, and the delivery from trials by the hand of our Father, and the mercy of His Son, anchoring ourselves in the Spirit and Truth of His Word, it could always be us in solitary confinement, under the jail.

Imagine the darkness, the silence, the exposure to vermin and weather, the stench of your unwashed body, and the reek of sin on your unclean soul.

Will you not ask for mercy? He is faithful and just to forgive.

Since He sees in the darkness as we see in the light, which He created, He knows exactly where you are, and what you’d do.

Would you not be justified before Him?

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Your Son tore the veil, that we may approach the heavenly throne without fear of death. Your Word says to approach boldly, but some have taken it to mean with an arrogance and familiarity they would not show a powerful earthly man, but have no problem displaying it before a divine King.

Even in our anger, our limited scope of Your plan for us and the lives of our loved ones, Your hand giving and taking according to Your will, let us pour out all that’s in our hearts in humility.

We would not be arrogant, for the very next breath we take is by Your pleasure.

Let us remember that Jesus died for the Pharisee as well as the tax collector, and has left the choice to follow and believe to every person who has heard His words.

Let us remember that you, O G-d, take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and it is Your desire that all would come to repentance.

You sent Your Son to prepare the narrow path, and we are grateful, but we can also hoard the grain of Your truth in our hearts, that we might feel justified before You.

Help us to know, Father, that in those moments it is we who are not like the tax collector, justified before Heaven, and forgiven in Your sight.

I ask it in Jesus’ name, believing I’ve received.

Amen.

Devotional 28: Will You Also Go Away?

John 6: 60-70

Many Disciples Turn Away

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, “Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.”

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. 67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[a]

70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?”

Jesus had just alluded to what seemed to be acts of cannibalism and violation of the Law against consuming blood, much less doing it willingly.

Being simple men, these disciples did not understand that Passover itself embodied the coming of Christ through the symbolic eating of bread and drinking of wine.

A hard saying, indeed. “Who can understand it?”

Jesus’ attempt to clarify by teaching on the Spirit only served to further obfuscate.

63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life.

It seemed that at this point, the desertion of Jesus began en masse, since He turned to Peter after the uncomprehending crowd dispersed and asked him, “Do you also want to go away?”

And Peter’s reply, eloquent and affirming as it was, did not keep him from denying he even knew Jesus at all.

I wonder if, even though Jesus knew from the beginning that this would happen, if it broke His heart to see the disconnect in the eyes, the stopping of the ears, and as they began to turn their backs on Him, if he felt hurt.

I’d like to think so, yet He loved on many who didn’t believe, and as they ‘walked with Him no more,’ neither did He walk with them.

I’m thankful that the year of the Lord’s favor, the covenant of grace, allow us to yet seek Him through the Spirit’s divine revelation, at the Father’s direction, while He may be found. But if we continue in doubt, willful disobedience, and outright rebellion, there will come a day Jesus can’t be found.

And it will be too late.

If, therefore, He will not let us be snatched from His hand, let’s not pry his fingers open with hard hearts, blind eyes, and stoppered ears.

Let’s not think eloquent prayer will keep us from sinfulness.

Let’s not think we won’t sleep in the garden when the hour has come.

Let’s not think we’d believe on His Name without signs and miracles.

Let us take heed not to think we stand, lest we fall, as the Apostle Paul admonishes us.

Let us hold fast to our Savior, knowing that the lamb’s blood sprinkled on the wooden doorposts of the Israelites delivered from slavery has become the Lamb’s blood shed on the wooden cross to break our spiritual chains to sin and death, and reconcile us in love and worship to our Eternal Creator, now and forevermore.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, thank You for grace and mercy, thank You for healing and restoration, thank You for blessings, and delivering me through my trials.

On the days, and in the moments, when I would turn my back to walk no more in communion and fellowship with You, I beg of You to call my name, and to remind me that I am in the Book of Life because of the Bread of Life, because of the vine that connects You to me, and us to the Father.

I repent of belief based on signs and wonders, and embrace the faith of the centurion, a faith so great that even You exclaimed in admiration of it.

I repent of not obeying Your words, for I am a foolish man in a house of sand, founded on sand.

Call me forth from my spiritual grave, Lord Jesus, that I may never turn away, because as Peter said, there is nowhere to go, for only You have the words of Spirit and Life, and You speak them to me, casting pearls…

Amen.