Devotional 58: A Book of Remembrance

Malachi 3:16-18  A Book of Remembrance

16 Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.

17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
18 Then you shall again discern
Between the righteous and the wicked,
Between one who serves God
And one who does not serve Him.

 

The year of 2017 is half over. It is a good time to reflect and look back at the anticipation of the first month, and what we offered to the Father for the sacrifice of praise.

What were our petitions?

What were our sins and backslidings?

What were our gains and losses?

And where does our faith in His providence stand today?

If a person shall fall seven times and rise eight, are you standing? (Prov 24:16)

New Year’s Day is much like the wedding, a splashy, extravagant affair of public celebration, extravagant dressing, feasting, and wishing each other all the best.

And then there is the marriage: the commonality of the day to day, the taking out of trash, the washing of dishes, the stress of parenting, the stress of taking care of self.

But in the midst of it all, when you forget the celebratory times, there is a book of remembrance: The Wedding Album. You go back to it, and remember, reminisce, and recapture those feelings. Hopefully, if this is you, those feelings are reinforced by your spouse in the day to day grind that leads to anniversaries, fidelity, partnership, and lifelong commitment.

Yet, sadly, it is not so between us and G-d. Indeed, in the verses before these, the people have judged G-d as not worthy of being served since the wicked prosper in the midst of the righteous. (Mal 3:13-15)

It’s still true today.

A prayer is not answered, a miracle of healing not given, a child not conceived, a financial blessing not received in time, no food, no means of transportation, and what little you have is seized by greedy oppressors under the guise of the law.

Your faith is tested, and the serpent slithers through the weed ridden garden of your life, its eyes on yours, and its sibilant question as it opens its mouth is always this:

“Did G-d really say…?”

Let us remember: the coin of gold the serpent offers for ease and quick riches is counterfeit. When the Lord brings wealth, He adds no trouble to it  (Proverbs 10:22)

The coin for your taxes, the cost of serving Christ, is in the mouth of the fish; you have to go find it, under the guidance of the Lord Jesus, being obedient to His commands, using that which you are called to do. As Peter used his fishing skills to serve, so too, you will use your own gifts. (Matthew 17:24-27)

One coin falls out at your feet, and the price is your soul; the other you must work to get out, and the reward is salvation.

In the Book of Remembrance we call the Word of the Lord, go there to see what G-d really said:

His Word says His promises are ‘yes and amen.’ It says the wicked shall be punished, the unrepentant condemned, and the dead who have faith in the atoning work of the Son of G-d shall be redeemed from the power of the grave, and live eternally in the presence of the Father, under the rule of the Son, and all will be empowered by the Spirit to give thanks and praise, doing the work of the Kingdom.

If need be, enhance His Word with a book of remembrance of your own making: a journal, a blog, a notebook and pen.  I don’t remember who said the following, but I remember the quote:

The dullest pencil is clearer than the brightest memory.’

If there is no access to these things, simply offer a prayer of thanks, or put a marker in a special place where something good happened. It can be a small stone, or you can build an altar of special items. The Father understands that in our spiritual walk, we need material reminders to bring to mind all the good things He’s done for us. Be careful of idolatry, however, and always seek to add to your book, whatever form it takes.

Maintain gratitude, remain faithful, and be obedient to Him in the face of adversity? It sounds like the stupidest thing to do. 

It isn’t. It will be rewarded. (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

He promised, and He is not a man that He should lie. (Num. 23:19)

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven

Today we praise you for all the good things You’ve done in our lives, for all that You will do until we are called home. Help us to complete that to which we’ve been called.

Increase our faith, and help our unbelief.

In our obscure service, let us sings songs of joy.

In our failed missions, let us give thanks and praise.

In our spiritual irresponsibility, let us meditate on Your love and willingness to restore us to fellowship with You.

As You are the Author and Finisher of our faith, so too, be the Author of our books of remembrance, and let them reflect You in us, as we stand as ambassadors of the Way in a nation that has lost it, living among people who don’t want it, and navigating a world that rejects it; for that also is according to Your Word.

You tell us that narrow is the path, few are the travelers, and yet, we ask that You strengthen our hands, enlarge our territory, and give us a spirit of boldness not worrying what we will speak, for we know the Spirit will fill us in that moment, as You have said.

And let us stand for You, remembering always, that one day we will be with You. Not because we deserve it, but because You loved us first.

In Your Name, I ask it. 

Amen.

Devotional 57: In Vain They Worship

Defilement Comes from Within

15 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; [a] and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’[b] But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honor his father or mother.’[c]Thus you have made the commandment[d] of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And[e] honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”[f]

We are implored by Jesus to come, take, learn, and find rest when we exchange our yoke for His (Matthew 11:28-30), yet the Pharisees burdened themselves and the people with trimmings, trappings, and rituals that added to the Father’s commandment, while at the same time absolving themselves of keeping the Law.

Do we render the the commandments of G-d to no effect, not only through our traditions, but also through our desires? If we are honest, we all have the potential.

We too, as believers who love G-d amid our own struggles, have from time to time asked ourselves this question since the time of Eden: Did G-d really say….? in order to gratify our flesh in the immediate moment.

The self is a powerfully tempting spiritual stronghold for evil, and it is through our frailty  of mastering it that we are brought to suffering. For if Heaven is paradise, surely feeling good here on Earth is justified.

What we forget in pursuing earthly pleasure is that it’s fleeting at best, and damaging at worst.

We are to worship G-d in spirit and truth (John 4:24)

We are to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Luke 10:27)

We are to have no other gods before Him (Exodus 20:3)

We are to acknowledge that every good thing comes from Him (James 1:17)

And we are to give Him thanks and praise (Psalm 150:6)

The modern world sees this as outdated, imaginary, foolish, and limiting, when in fact it puts a hedge of protection around us and our loved ones since our lives are living stones, ministering to a lost and dying, dry and thirsty, spiritually bankrupt and morally compromised world.

Brothers and Sisters, let us be in the Word, which G-d says is higher than His Name, which is a lofty height indeed, since His Name is above all others. Determine for yourself to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified (Corinthians 2:2), with the promise of his power to restore us to life through faith in Him, raising us on the last day.

That’s all we need to know, and all we’ll ever need.

The rest is for the fire.

Let our worship not be in vain, for the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd. Let s not be taken in by the empty, erroneous, and transient doctrines of men seeking control, wealth, power, and vanity, thanking G-d they are not like the poor man standing next to them, instead of thanking Him for their blessings.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We are grateful that You speak to our weakness in doing that which we know You’ve commanded us. We thank You for the things we know of You, and revealing the Father’s will to us through grace, reconciling us to Him through faith in Your atoning work.

Those things the Father has hidden are, as King David said, knowledge to wonderful for us to attain (Psalm 139:6) We can no more fathom the Father’s mind than we can know all there is to know about His creation.

From where we stand, we are baffled that He made us at all, since it cost Him to send You to die for us, that we might be sinless before Him. On our best days as servants, we are bumbling and inept before You, and it is You who add to the numbers, and the Spirit who strikes the heart with conviction and reveals the Truth of the Word.

Yet the Father says He will return to us if we return to Him. (Zecharia 1:3)

So let us go to the House of the Lord, if not physically, then in our hearts and thoughts.

Let’s anoint our lips with oil to praise, light the incense of our hearts to give thanks, and make our worship pleasing to Him.

Lord Jesus, edify us, and seal the Word to our heats and minds, that we may not add men’s foolish doctrines to it and render the Father’s Word to no effect. Let its double-edge cleave knowledge and wisdom from foolishness and vanity.

In Your Name, we ask it.

Amen

Devotional 55: A Blessing and Message for Mary

Luke 2:34-35

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

Imagine that someone held your baby and told you all they were destined for, and that it was as calamitous as turning a nation on its head?

What would you do as a young mother or father? What would you say?

Simeon’s message was directed at Mary, so it was already prophesied that Joseph would not be there when the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side fulfilled it on Calvary.

She received a lot of messages during these times, from the greeting of the angel until now, and she thought about their meanings. We only have a few snippets of them interacting, and even one where she took the siblings and went looking for Jesus because they began to think He was unstable.

We wonder from 2017 years later: ‘But how can you be told all these things regarding your child, deliver Him as a virgin, and come to doubt that they were true?’

She was just a young girl, and not one who moved in the circles of prophecies and divine things and thunderous, ponderous teachings. No wonder the angel told her not to fear!

And having been told she’d conceive the child, she gathered up her courage, knowing G-d would sustain her through the stigma of being pregnant and unwed. “Let it be done to me as you have said.”

And the destiny of this child had not only a national impact, but a global one. Indeed, an eternal one. In the carol ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ there is a line that says: “The Child that you delivered/ will soon deliver you.”

Yet she protected Him, poured out her life into Him, soothed Him, tended His cuts and bruises, pushed Him, set examples for Him, taught Him…

And watched Him die.

I’m sure on that day, she felt more than one sword in her pierce her.

And yet she saw it through, having done all she could.

To the mothers out there who are holding on, and ministering to your children every day, in acts both great and small, from teaching them how to hold a spoon to standing at their college graduation to the birth of your first grandchild, know that you are doing a noble work in obscurity, a grand thing no one notices, a divine calling no one else heard but you.

But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit see you, and your child is destined, and you, handmaiden of the Lord, have been selected to pour into them as Mary did to hers, trials and all, swords and sundry.

Today, Mother, may your children rise and call you blessed.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We thank you for our mothers, for the many sacrifices they’ve, for their teaching, for their willingness to give their all for all their children, for their intimate guidance in knowing their child like no one else.

Even for their discipline, when no one else would rein in misbehavior.

 It is a ministry like no other, so much so that You’ve called them, and not man, to do it.

I’ll not pretend I understand the withholding of children from those who deeply desire them, and the granting of them to the cold and callous, for You, O Lord, are sovereign in these things.

Rather, I pray You would change hearts and open eyes, and protect the gentle souls of Your little ones in harsh circumstances, and console and guide those who desire to be blessed with them. I pray You grant their desire.

To those who’ve lost a child, you are no less a mother today than you were then. You’ve carried the pain of your sword awhile, and G-d sees your tears, even the ones you keep inside.

Mourn, and be comforted that you will see them again in their innocence, and they will be restored to you.

I pray you continue in grace, faithfulness, strength, patience, integrity, kindness, honor, and virtue, and that your legacy be inherited in double portion through those you leave behind, that the harvest may grow.

Thank you, mom, for giving, caring, and loving us through it all.

And releasing us to that which we are divinely destined.

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 51: The Things Concerning Me Have an End

Luke 22:37

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

Branded a criminal, a demon, a blasphemer, a charlatan, an upstart, a rebel, and a fraud, all prophesied from the beginning, our Lord came to save us and not only take on our sins, but our labels; have we not been guilty of all these things?

Yet we can rejoice in celebration as we are yet in the year of His, with mercy and grace continually pursuing us.

We have the Word, the gift of hindsight, technology, pastors, preachers, and prophets today, yet do you believe we really understand any better than the Apostles did as they walked with Him in His earthly ministry as He spoke of Heavenly things?

Could we place our faith in spiritual matters any more than they did when they felt the heat of the desert sun on their bodies?

Did the concept of eternity click for them as they aged and came to the persecution Jesus prophesied they’d receive for preaching in His Name?

Today, this Good Friday, brothers and sisters, we still have cause to rejoice; though the earthly ministry of Jesus had an end, the eternal reign of Christ with G-d does not, and we discover to our exceeding joy that the things concerning Jesus do have an end, not in time, but eternity.

Take heart, be still, and know that He’s taken away the sins of the world, once for all, for those who believe.

“You believe in G-d. Believe also in Me.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, that You would save the unworthy, the ungrateful, and even the unfaithful speaks to the everlasting love You had for us before the world’s foundation.

We’ve counted the cost, and chosen this day whom we serve.

Alongside You, in Faith, we take up our crosses, put on our armor, set our faces like flint in these times of softened souls and hardened hearts, striving to be wheat in the midst of tares, willing to bear the blows and count ourselves blessed for the sake of the Gospel.

In our times of faltering, help our unbelief, strengthen our hands, send the Spirit to us in boldness, rekindle our hillside lamps and fill them with the oil of joy, and help us to hear the Father’s voice and do His will on earth as it is done in Heaven: immediately and without question.

With thankful hearts we praise You, with hope we long for You, and with love we serve You all the days of our lives, that we might rule and reign with You, and glorify G-d and enjoy Him forever, which is the chief end of humanity.

Amen.

 

Devotional 48: We Are Able

Matthew 20:20-23

Greatness Is Serving

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him.

21 And He said to her, “What do you wish?”

She said to Him, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.”

22 But Jesus answered and said, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”[a]

They said to Him, “We are able.”

23 So He said to them, “You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;[b] but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father.”

Their faith in Jesus as the Son of God was not in question, though they still didn’t fully understand. Indeed, the brothers were in His inner circle, as we see references to Peter, James, and John throughout the Gospels.

It is in their humanity and seeming piety that they found they were in error, and Jesus, with compassion, lays it out for them.

Their mother, being part of the ministry of women that followed Jesus, saw an opportunity, and thought to seize on it to elevate her sons. Clearly they discussed and conspired to approach Jesus to do something they thought was possible: to be favored by the leader in a highly visible manner, much like Haman sought to glorify himself through Ahasuerus.

If we’re honest, when the leader favors us in our earthly endeavors, we feel proud of ourselves that the work we’ve done has attracted their notice and we become for a moment the center of attention. Yet the Bible tells us that if we are skilled in our work, we will not serve before obscure men, and Paul admonishes us to work as unto the Lord, and not man. Given that combination, this request is not only overbold, but mires it in earthly things though it targets Jesus’ eternal kingdom: to sit on the Lord’s right and left hand for all eternity!

We know that the placement of one at a table during an event had to do with wealth, prominence, social significance, and the degree of the relationship to the host; the closer you were, the more important you were.

Yet they approach Jesus and kneel before him in false humility.

That they don’t understand what He’s saying about His cup and baptism is evident in the easy confidence of their answer when He asks, ‘Are you able?’ and they reply.

“We are able.”

What we must remember is that they were as much in the dark of the things Jesus spoke of concerning Himself as the rest of us would be. He preached difficult things to unlearned men, and simplicity to the scholarly, and they were both confounded by His speech.

Let us also remember that Jesus already took His cup, tore the veil, spilled His blood, and rose from the grave to return to the Father. That was His cup. At the table of life, we each have our own, and there are days we sip from it, and days when it’s poured over our heads.

And on the days we are baptized with worldly vileness, remember that He has called us out of it, and is preparing our place.

And it is in Him, and only in Him, that we can say, with quavering voices, as we kneel before the Infinite and Eternal G-d, that we are able.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

In our misunderstanding and misapplication of the many things you spoke concerning Yourself and the kingdom, forgive me for taking my cup lightly, with no reverence of what Yours contained. The wine of my trials is far sweeter than Yours had to be, and it is nothing to speak truth to evil, though I tremble when I see the world gather to stone those who proclaim Your truth.

Help me to remember that the places in Heaven have already been prepared by the Father. Therefore, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, and true repentance, I am assured a place through faith in believing I too am redeemed from the power of the inevitable grave.

Through Your love, and by Your mercy, strengthen my hands to lift to my cup, take up my cross, count the cost, and follow You on the Narrow Way, rejoicing in overcoming my earthly trials to exchange it for Heaven’s reward from Your hand, glorifying the Father with You in the Your kingdom.

I thank You now, for making me able through Your sacrifice, and the cup of the covenant of mercy and grace.

Amen.

Christmas Witness

CHRISTMAS WITNESS (Luke 2:17-18) Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

A group of unschooled men on fire with a holy message should sound like a familiar bell to our ears. Walking the streets of Bethlehem, they spread the message: Emmanuel.

At the doors of the inns where the people slept, waking the highborn and the low, with fervent, reverent whispers, with excited gestures, with joyous shouts, they spread it throughout the length and breadth of their travels, throughout the night. Whatever silence there had been was now filled with something better: Emmanuel

And all those who heard wondered that these men, not prone to talk of things fantastic, not subject to flights of fancy, walked among them with something so important to them that they could not keep silent, speaking to them of visions and angels and heavenly praise, followed by directions to where a living prophecy fulfilled lay in a manger: Emmanuel

This Christmas, let us not keep silent in the face of those who would say “Stop speaking in this Name!”  Time grows short, and there are those who would yet marvel that our own hearts burn with a holy witness, though we’ve seen Him not.  Emmanuel (G-d with us)

Amen

Christmas Lights

Luke 2:9

“And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.”

A light from Heaven suddenly overtakes you.

In your world, this has never happened. It’s night time, and you’re outside, and suddenly….

We have the gift of hindsight, but the shepherds were afraid. Greatly afraid.

Did they cry out, shield their eyes, maybe even start to run? Yet, the light was not hurting them, or blinding them, or burning them. It was just sudden.

He is the God of “suddenly.”

Remember the conversion of Saul? In Acts 9:3 we read:

“As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.” 

We are admonished to “walk in the light, as He is in the light.” (John 1:7)

May the light of God surround you with peace, and change your life, your heart, with the news of the blessed birth of our Savior. It really doesn’t matter what day, it matters that it happened.

“The people walking in darkness, have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.”  (Isaiah 9:2)

Merry Christmas, brothers and sisters.

Devotional 27: Stretch Out Your Hand

Matthew 12:9-14

Healing on the Sabbath

Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue.10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.

11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.

The Sabbath, the sacred day of rest, when no work is to be done, knows no rest from the Pharisees’ plotting, yet Jesus said He came to fulfill the Law, not replace it.

We read where crowds are astonished at the way Jesus teaches, because He ‘taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes,’ who taught what they were able to glean, or manipulate, to keep the people docile, uninformed, intimidated, and under control of the powerful, and wealthy, religious leaders.

Yet their jealousy persisted, and with every attempt to trap Jesus in the things He said, they lost face with the people, and control of their power.

What they failed to realize is that the Sabbath itself is given to us as a day of restoration, to rest from our labors, restore our strength, our family ties, our relationships with others and our communities, and to reflect on the goodness of the Lord.

Their question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” was therefore a foolish one.

Jesus, ever teaching to the secrets of the heart, answers them with an analogy that speaks to their need to preserve their wealth, for livestock was wealth, and they would rescue a sheep from a well in order that they might continue to profit from it, because they loved wealth rather than G-d and their fellow man.

But men are more valuable to G-d than livestock. Isn’t that why He sent us His Son?

Also, Jesus asks something of the man with the withered hand. We don’t know if the Pharisees brought him to the synagogue to be complicit in their plans, but we do know he didn’t go unnoticed and ignored by Jesus even if that was the case.

And so, a test of faith and obedience:

“Stretch out your hand.”

Jesus doesn’t touch him, but as the hand draws closer to the presence of the Lord, it’s made whole again, and useful now to the kingdom of G-d.

Obedience and faith must be our hallmarks as believers. We must act, ‘in faith believing,’ and pray ‘as if (we’ve) already received,’ and the restoring power of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will do its part.

Therefore I pray:

This, O Lord, is simply a prayer of praise and thanksgiving for restoring me to G-d, that I might see the light of His glory and not die, for You are the light of the world, and the bread of Heaven, and You have promised me eternal life through belief in your Name, and obedience to your Word.

Today, I stretch forth the withered hand of my faith, Lord Jesus, right where I am, right now, knowing You will make it whole again the closer it gets to Your presence.

Your unworthy servant bows low before You, to thank You for paying my debt, and granting me the mercy of Your shed blood for my sake, and Your grace to help me up when I stumble.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for making my spirit whole through Your broken body, now in glory, and seated at the Father’s right hand.

I long for the day we meet, and I am made whole anew, and forever.

Amen.