Devotional 71: Your Redemption Draws Near

Luke 21:25-28

The Coming of the Son of Man
25 “And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; 26 men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

One of the titles rarely discussed about our Lord is the title ‘Prophet.’ He was known primarily as a teacher, and outside of prophesying His own death and resurrection, we’re only told about the temple he said would be destroyed (and it was), and the end times, though He goes out of His way to tell us that only the Father knows when that will be.

It is the nature of prophecy, unless the Father reveal it, not to get into dates and timelines; the prophet tells us what will happen, and the mark of whether or not they’ve heard from G-d is this: the event comes to pass, or it does not.

Jesus’ prophecies, handed down to us,  tell us what will happen, and while I know there’s a lot more that goes with it, it would be a mistake to say we’re not beginning to see these signs. A lot of the weather events have been called unprecedented.

The aftermath is tragic, awful, hard to look at, and heart-wrenching, and yet even with that, people are making dumb and hateful remarks at the leaders as well as the victims, and tensions and emotions are running high all over the place.

In the midst of this, our Lord would have us look in another direction; it’s the one He’s been emphasizing since His ministry began. We are not to gather earthly treasures, or put our trust in men, nor do good deeds or give to receive our reward in their praises.

If we’ve placed our trust in Him, let us understand the times: He will not be proven a false prophet, for if all was made by His hand, all will be taken by Him, and by Him, judged.

He’s told us few will find the road to life.

He’s told us the world will hate us if we are of Him, and we can expect hatred and persecution from those closest to us.

He’s told us to go into all the world to preach the Good News, and when that is completed, the end will come, but the hour will be unexpected; we must be like the wise virgins on the hill who came prepared to go into the wedding because they had enough oil for their lamps.

He tells us to confess Him before men, that we might be confessed to the Father, and the consequences of not doing so. That means, for some, they must be ready to die in that moment. But He tells us not to fear those who can only kill the body.

This is the prophet in whom we’ve placed our faith and trust, our Lord and King, who lives at the right hand of G-d, and has told us He will raise us up on the last day.

These are the words He’s spoken to us through the ages, and we say, ‘I believe.’

Will you, when the rubber of your faith meets the road of reality? When the blade is at your throat, and the fires rage around you? When your loved one looks at you with absolute hatred in their eyes, and curses you?

I read where a preacher said: “If you believe in G-d, why do you ask if missions your children undertake will be ‘safe? ‘”

Certainly none of the disciples’ missions ended well, yet we’re told they’ll judge the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom.

If our Lord called and chose us to be out of the world, and testified that its works are evil, and a new earth will be created because Satan has corrupted this one, and G-d will not look on sin, and all these other things, are we looking at all these signs and asking ‘Where’s G-d?’

If you haven’t heard the unrepentant and unbelieving say it yet, you will, and soon. But remember, the signs were already spoken of in this ‘outdated, irrelevant’ book, which is the Father’s sword that will save souls even as it divides nations and households.

He punished the world once, and spared no one but Noah, because Noah’s heart was faithful to Him. Remember everyone laughed, until it rained from above, and the ground opened up beneath them.  The rainbow was His promise not to destroy it again, but only by water.

A new earth will not co-exist with an old, and good cannot co-exist with evil, and the saved and faithful will not be cast out with the unbeliever and the unrepentant.

Our Lord has said it to us, and we must believe His prophecies, like His promises, are yes, and amen.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus,

We would be like the sons of Issachar, who understood their times and knew what to do.

Let our faith be strong, our peace even stronger, though our hearts are heavy, because we know what we’re seeing around us is what You’ve prophesied.

You’ve said we come to You only through the will of the Father, that we might be reconciled back to Him through You, and that eternal life will be our reward for doing His will. Therefore, Lord, in the aftermath of the disasters, let us do what we can, where we can.

We pray Your spirit move among those who’ve had to go toward the sites, and pray Your protection over them. Anoint the ministers who move among the afflicted, and give them the words to say, that souls may be redeemed.

We pray for this nation, rife with hate, corruption, and greed, serving mammon instead of You, though it honors You only with its lips, and not its heart.

Give us a bold spirit when they ask us where You are, for they haven’t read Your Word, and reading, liken it to the superstitious imagination of men that made up pagan theologies, foolish with philosophy and meaningless rituals. Their mouths say prayers You don’t hear, sing songs You don’t listen to, and though you reject their offerings, they remain blind.

We ask that in the days to come, we would know Your voice among the rise of many false Christs to come. We would endure to the end, not being fooled by signs and wonders that fool even the elect.

Let us abide in You, Lord Jesus, knowing that apart from You, we can do nothing, and without faith in You, we will become nothing, our souls separated for damnation, and destruction when Hell is destroyed. Help us keep our eyes on the hem of Your garment, and follow the narrow way, in faith believing.

Let such light as we have be a guide for those who’ve placed their faith in Your word through us, as we do the Father’s will at Your command, and through Your love, leading them from earthly calamity and tears to heavenly peace and glory.

I ask in faith, believing I’ve received. 

Amen

Devotional 64: The Day is Far Spent

Luke 24:28-35

The Disciples’ Eyes Opened
28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.
30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

Imagine walking with Jesus, receiving essentially a master class on all that concerned Him regarding the Scriptures, yet not knowing it was Jesus, at least by sight, but having your heart respond during His lessons, and realizing in hindsight you’ve been given the greatest gift there is: to walk with the Lord as He taught.

We see this over and over again, though doubtless some in the crowd just came to be healed, and fed. Who’s to say whether or not they went on to turn their hearts to Him in faith and obedience, or having received the desires of their hearts, went back to their earthly existences.

The tax collectors (a special breed of sinners, because they always separated the two: ‘tax collectors and sinners’), the sinners, the prostitutes, the downtrodden, all repeatedly followed Him to receive the message over and over again that they had value to their Father, that there was a better life waiting, that they were worthy of respect because of their humanity, not their theology or finances.

And Cleopas and his companion, their hopes of a new way of thinking and living dashed with the crucifixion, flee the center of the chaos to mourn quietly and return to their homes, when in fact they were on their way to a divine appointment.

So this learned traveler walks with them, joins their conversation, and rebukes the news of the faithlessness expressed to Him, and He begins to teach.

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

There is no hurry now, or thought of discomfort, or even worry about the future. There is only the silence of the surrounding countryside, and the compelling voice that has touched hearts, revived spirits, changed lives, and saved souls in this intimate moment.

And Jesus, knowing He’ll soon depart, sees them to their destination, but they invite Him to stay, “for the day is far spent.”

Not knowing Him, they know the night roads are dangerous and unsafe for solitary travelers. They would not see the innocent harmed, so they offer the shelter of their dwelling for the night.

It is when He breaks bread with them that their eyes are opened, and it’s only then that He leaves.

32 And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 So they rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 And they told about the things that had happened on the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of bread.

And on the same roads unsafe and dark roads they wouldn’t see Him travel, they went back as soon as He left them to tell the news.

I remember being that excited once. If I’m to be honest, it’s not the case any longer on most days. I do it as discipline and ritual, in a spirit of duty rather than joy. My heart, once burning for the Word, is now merely, barely, a warming flame.

My fruit is unripe, my offering unacceptable, my obedience resentful as I rely on my own strength to do my own thing in my own way.

Is it any wonder Jesus calls me foolish?

I know better: I’m to show myself approved, to always have an answer for my hope, to be assured of my calling, to work within my capacities and giftings to spread the Gospel to every nation, doing my part to hasten the end.

  (Matthew 24:14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

One thing is certain: My end is assured, and for the time I have left I need a rekindled heart, a revived spirit, and a changed life.

Be careful in your walk, brothers and sisters, lest the day be far spent and He does not abide with you.

Therefore I pray:

   Lord Jesus, 

    Walk the road with me, teach me, and open my eyes.

    Break bread with me, and open my heart as You open the Scriptures to me once again.

    Reveal Yourself to me in my sadness, my darkness, and my time of need, that I might remember You spoke of all things that concerned You, and told me that as Your disciple I would undergo them too, both suffering and glory.

    My days are far spent, and I draw closer to the shining light of the kingdom, not grieving with Cleopas, but rejoicing with David in the knowledge my Redeemer lives,  my King forgives my debt, my Shepherd protects me, my Master’s yoke is easy, and my Savior breaks the chains of sin and the power of the grave.

   Let me shout from the housetops what is whispered in my ear.

   Let my burning heart be the light on the hill, filled with oil for the bridegroom’s wedding feast. Let me drink the new wine with You in the Kingdom of G-d.

   Let me humble myself to receive my crown, and place it at Your feet.

   Let my praise reflect my gratitude and joy for all You’ve done, as You bring Your good work to completion in me, never leaving or forsaking me, sticking closer than a brother.

   Breathe the Spirit of Truth back into my soul, Lord, for I would seek deeper truth and mysteries of You, preparing the answers for my hope, and to let my light shine before men that they may glorify the Father.

   I place this life You’ve given me in Your hands once more, to ripen the fruit, to take the plank from my eye, to dry the tears, and ease the loneliness, to cleanse the stains of sin, and to pierce the heart to grieve them, not the Holy Spirit, and  to repent before Your throne.

   I ask by the power of Your Name, believing I’ve received by the mercy of  Your holy hands.

   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 52: All the People Stood Up

Nehemiah 8:5-6

And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God.

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

Purification takes place through fire or water. As the sins of man were washed away symbolically by water and blood, the Lord promises fire for the next time.

It has always interested me that the Lord will use what we view as opposites to achieve the same purpose: our works tested by fire, and the unbelieving, unrepentant souls cast into it along with the unfruitful servants, in contrast to the Great Flood.

But putting that aside, let’s consider the fact that when the work we do for the Lord is of the Lord, we get a deeper sense of connection to Him, joy in Him, and a sense of reverence and holy fear.

The Holy Spirit moved on the gathering the day Ezra had come to rededicate the hearts of the people and strengthen Nehemiah. The Spirit exposed their hearts in the midst of rebuilding the wall that they were still prone to greed and lust through the acquisition of foreign wives and their fortunes.

By the time Ezra gave the reading, their hearts were ripe, and the Spirit gave them the strength to stand all day as He worked. With broken hearts and contrite spirits they could not look toward Heaven, worshipping with tears and their faces to the ground.

In such assemblies, there was always preaching by the leader, then dissemination and exposition by those of understanding who went out among the crowd to answer questions and explain passages, as Phillip did with the Ethiopian, and as the Apostles did after Pentecost.

Reassured that G-d was pleased with their rededication to obey the Law and honor the Lord, it became a time of rejoicing. Sorrow may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning. Opposites achieving the same end: rededication to our G-d.

So from the Water Gate we have tears of sorrow, then of joy as the children of Israel returned to the Father.

Will we, as believers, stand up for the Word in unity and purpose, tearing down strongholds as we rebuild the walls of our spirits and put back the boundary stones on our faith, so that we don’t come down to the enemy. Let’s rededicate ourselves in the Covenant of Grace and place ourselves back in the hands of the Living G-d.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

Daily we are prodigal at some point; a stray thought, a random flash of anger, a harsh word, a grumbling against something You haven’t brought to pass yet. Since judgment is not swift in coming, the boundaries of our faith begin to crumble, the walls of our sanctuaries become curtains, and we get a random peek at the opulence of a sick and dying world, reveling in its hedonism as it says You are a product of ancient history, and a figment of our imagination.

Hourly we are tested by those closest to us, who have their own thoughts and opinions, their own ways of relating to the world that are not ours, and we are commanded to love, forgive, and if possible, restore them.

Clothed in mortal flesh, we fight against moral urges. We are admonished to crucify it, deny its desires for ease and comfort, and to count the cost, walk the talk, and fight the fight.

We are admonished to limit the rudders of our eager tongues to lash, to speak love and not judge.

And we are told by Your Son that with man it is impossible, but all things are possible through You.

So Father, we beseech You for strength in rebuilding these things, in setting up guards around them, in establishing partnerships that will reinforce them when we forget to turn to You. We ask for Nathans in our lives to deliver warnings, Ezras to remind us of Your Word, Davids to put songs in our hearts, and Christ above all, to strengthen the work of our hands as we strive to live by His example.

Let us also be mindful to heed the Spirit, whether it comes as a mighty wind, a still, small voice, or a bird flying in the direction we should go.

We thank You, Father, for people of understanding You’ve sent across our paths to guide us out of the dark places. Let us always be mindful of that You’ve said Your Word is higher than Your Name, and if Yours is the Name above all Names, the pinnacle cannot be attained under our own power.

But having done all we can, when we bring Your Word to mind, let us remember to stand up.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 49: Strengthen Our Hands

Nehemiah 6:5-9

Then Sanballat sent his servant to me as before, the fifth time, with an open letter in his hand. In it was written:

It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their king. And you have also appointed prophets to proclaim concerning you at Jerusalem, saying, “There is a king in Judah!” Now these matters will be reported to the king. So come, therefore, and let us consult together.

Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say are being done, but you invent them in your own heart.”

For they all were trying to make us afraid, saying, “Their hands will be weakened in the work, and it will not be done.”

Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands.

The attacks and harassment came from everywhere: the enemy physically lurked about and taunted as the work of restoration was being done on the walls of Jerusalem. Protected by one king, the threat of the king where Nehemiah went  to work among his people to restore them was no less real.

The accusations followed:    It is reported among the nations, and Geshem[a] says, that you and the Jews plan to rebel; therefore, according to these rumors, you are rebuilding the wall, that you may be their  king.

They sought to wear him down and delay the work of restoration with the threat of physical harm and and psychological weakness.

Through it all, Nehemiah , like David, took comfort in the Lord his G-d, and guided by the Holy Spirit, he thwarted them. He strengthened Nehemiah’s hand to answer five times, “I am doing a great work. Why should  the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”

Notice the direction Nehemiah had to go to reach them?

As persistent as their enemies’demands were, his focus was equally clear; the wall was not just to put Jerusalem right, but it was to the glory of G-d to have His people do it as an act of loving service.

There are other ways to strengthen hands besides giving them the ability to lift heavy objects. During the holidays I was getting cash back from a machine that gave me $60 of the $100 I asked for; the cashier went to get the manager who didn’t look to see the screen had already given me $60. She counts off $100 and gives it to me; we’re the only two there a the machine and no one there between the time it was my turn and the time the manager came back, and I could have had $160 to spend ….

He can strengthen our hands not to steal.

There are men (and a rising number of women) alone at night in front of their computers, and the ‘adult only’ email slides like Eden’s serpent into the Inbox…

He can strengthen our hands not to give in to temptation.

And in the Garden of Gethsemane, our Savior, knowing the pain and forsaking to come, clasps his hands together and entreats His Father to take the cup…

He can strengthen our hands to pray.

Pray, Brothers and Sisters, that He strengthen your hands to complete the task He’s set for you, to His glory and your sanctification.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We see them coming from a long way off when we are high on the ladder of the center of Your will. 

We hear their mocking whispers and veiled threats as clearly as if they’d said them in our ears.

We see their smug smiles of doubt and their frowns of frustration.

We see the ill intent in their eyes.

We see their bravado, for they don’t know You’re in the midst of us.

And in our humanity our hands would strike back, our tongues would give flight to our anger, and our reason would flee the faster for our warming blood.

Let us take comfort in You, Father. Let us see You in them, even as we rebuke them, even as they seek  to turn us from the task You appointed us to do. And by faith, let us remember to turn to You. Let us behold Your smile and loving touch as we answer by the power of Your Spirit: I am doing a great work, and I cannot come down.

I ask it by the strong, nail pierced hands of our Savior, hands You strengthened to bear my sin and put on the altar of His all consuming sacrifice, to Your glory and my sanctification, believing I’ve already received.

Amen.

Devotional 37: I Fell at His Feet…

Revelation 1:10-17

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a loud voice, as of a trumpet, 11 saying, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and,[a] “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia:[b] to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; 15 His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; 16 He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me,[c] “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

In this day, we hear the confident boasts of the faithless, the bitter, the unrepentant, the scorners and mockers, the defiant rebellious, and the witches and satanists:

“When I stand before G-d, I will say/do/ ask/ tell Him  –”

Hear the Word of the Risen Lord, for to you he will say:

“Depart from me, you cursed…”

He speaks of the fate of worthless servants, even those who profess to be sons of the kingdom, and the fate of Lucifer’s goats.

To Him, you are lawless strangers, disqualified from entry into His kingdom. You questioned His existence, did good with wrong motives, mocked His atoning death, and scorned His rising, reconciled to His Father, and reconciling you through His blood, which would have made you spotless, had you but listened.

You placed your faith in your knowledge, in the science, in reason, and yet the son of a carpenter confounded the learned leaders of His day, and taught with such authority, they bore false witness.

But this is why He came. And this is what He said would happen.

You’ve rejected the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the King of angels. He is subject to His Father, and will rule over all, and you’ve spurned His love, grace and mercy, because of your pride.

And He has told you, you will share the fate of the prideful.  In Matthew 7, we read:

I Never Knew You

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

Build on the Rock

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

And again, in Matthew 25:

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

If judgment starts with those who profess Him, how then, will you stand, unbeliever?

Here is what you will do, and all that you will be able to do:

You will fall at His feet as one dead, and if you don’t seek Him while He may be found, indeed, that is what you will be.

You will find yourself unable to speak, if indeed, the disciple who was the closest of Jesus’ inner circle, the only disciple to escape execution, could not speak, and could not stand in the presence of the holy Majesty.

Spare yourself, and cease your prideful boasting, putting faith in the transitory world, and the ever shifting sand of scientific discovery, for the mind of G-d is infinite, and His works past finding out, because they were known to Him from the beginning, and they begin and end with our Lord, Jesus.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, You came among us to call the lost, and we indeed are all lost, even those who profess You, and speak of You before men, and invoke Your Name in doing kingdom work, but don’t glorify You in their hearts, or their motives. They begin to think they are in their own strength, and tempt You to destroy them, not knowing You will simply release them into the hand of the enemy, who will, in fact, destroy them, and bring them to share his own fate.

We ask the anointing of the Helper to reveal that the unquenchable fire is no metaphor.

We ask the anointing of the Helper for discernment of pride, and wrong motives.

We beseech You to have Him ignite in us a renewal of Power to carry Your two-edged sword, to cleave hearts, and bring tears of repentance, that they, and we, might see once again the love of undeserved grace and mercy to souls otherwise doomed to twist in the fire, as a kite in an errant wind.

We would not be unprofitable servants, or cursed and lawless strangers to You, the One we profess to love above all, and prove it false by our actions.

Align us with the Your will, Lord Jesus, for it is the will of the Father that we believe on You, and Your will is not separate from His as to the work we are to perform.

It is only difficult because of our hard hearts, prideful minds, and sinful thoughts.

Yet You are long-suffering, and hear the prayers of Your servants.

Hear this prayer, Lord, for it is the cry of my heart, and the heart of every servant, and unbeliever, who reads these words.

Grant us ears to hear, and plow the hard soil of our hearts, and help us to store up treasures in Heaven, where there are no thieves, and we stand reconciled, spotless, blameless, under the Cross, redeemed by the Resurrection, and our works stand the test of fire, that we may enter into the joy of our Master.

Once again, Lord, I beseech the Throne for mercy, the Cross for grace, and the Spirit for power.

In Your Name, I ask, in faith believing.

Amen.

 

Devotional 32: Let Them Grow Together…

Matthew 13:24-30

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

This parable is often not preached, in deference to the one about the Sower and the seed, which is the Word, but I found myself drawn to this for a few years now, especially as the times upon us now continue to unfold in seemingly unchecked aggression, fighting for rights, and strife along racial and economic lines.

I am reminded of the admonition to take the lowly place, so that we may come up higher when called by the host, instead of taking the high and lofty place, and lose it to someone of greater stature. Jesus said the least in the kingdom of Heaven was greater than His cousin and herald, John the Baptist. As Christians act like Pharisees, and compromise with the world (me included), and don’t practice grace and judging righteously, speaking Truth in love, and loving one another even inside the Way, we must walk in faith while watching, praying, and making disciples of ALL nations, not just the ones who look like us. We must be, as Jesus said, wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.

What draws me to this parable is that:

1- the landowner’s property had to be big, if an enemy was able to get in and sow weeds undetected (figuratively speaking).

2- the plants looked enough alike that weeding them before the harvest would’ve culled the good along with the bad.

3- the good crops are utilized, protected by the barn, and used by the landowner for the good of others, feeding them on that which is whole and good.

4- the tares are to be destroyed, consumed by fire, and made to disappear.

But here’s the main thrust of it: They looked so enough alike as they grew that the servants would not be able to tell them apart.

There are former Christians who have left the faith for various reasons. John says they were not of the faith or they would have remained.

John 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

There are new believers entering the faith:

Luke 23:39-43

39 Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ,[j] save Yourself and us.”

40 But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord,[k] remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

I would be among the sheaves of joy, going into the Kingdom, forever protected, forever sinless, forever useful, forever praising God and serving Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Therefore I pray:

King Jesus, remember me indeed, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.

I bless Your holy Name above all names that took my wretchedness into your dying body, and purged me of fault before the Father, that I might be with you, on that day, resurrected in Paradise.

Help me then, Lord, to store up my treasures in Heaven, where thieves don’t break in and steal. Strengthen my desire to be ever like You, and less like me. Cover the filthy rags of my self-serving righteousness in Your spotless blood, and save me from the fires waiting for the unfruitful and purposeless, and the outer darkness of the rebellious and faithless, in the time of Harvest.

Do not blot my name from the Book of Life, that I may eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Garden, and live forever with You as my Savior, Brother, Master, Lord and King.

I ask it in Your Name, in faith believing.

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.

 

 

Devotional 14: There was No More Spirit in Her

picture credit: Illustration by Avi Katz from the book, King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba by Blu Greenberg and Linda Tarry

1st Kings 10: 1- 5

The Queen of Sheba’s Praise of Solomon

10 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels that bore spices, very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart. So Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his servants, the service of his waiters and their apparel, his cupbearers, and his entryway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.

No doubt this queen was an intelligent woman; we can only guess that she was beautiful as well, but verse 5 takes a peculiar turn when it announces that ‘…there was no more spirit in her.’

What spirits were there that fled before the God-given splendor of Solomon?

  1.  A doubting spirit: Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord…

     In a polytheistic culture, how could one god possibly have all this knowledge? Surely the labors of heaven and earth and man were divided among gods, for no one god could possibly bear the burden; they were mighty over their places, the god of the sun, the goddess of the moon, the god of the seas…etc, but they were not omnipotent over all.

And why would any god share such knowledge with a mere man; he might guide a king or queen in their rule, but surely not impart wisdom on such a grand scale as to give the man any splendor of his own..

As we walk by faith, not by sight, given the flint-faced commandments of our Savior, in our humanity we question the things He wants us to obey because they’re contrary to our fallen nature.

Rumors of Solomon’s God-given wisdom stirred up a spirit of doubt, and she, like Thomas, needed to see for herself. That’s a need we can all relate to, one that we even pray for from time to time. “Lord, show me a sign…”

But unlike the queen, when we return home, we won’t be laden with material goods, but the seed of the Holy Spirit on us, in us, and with us, with the power of conviction of putting sin in us to death, and revelation of the Living Word of the Father

2. A challenging spirit:  she came to test him with hard questions

There are those who believe themselves wiser than people of faith; they are people who place pride in their intellect and ability to ‘show up’ the works of a divine Spirit (God is spirit, Jesus tells us), based on their physical experiences.  In other words, they attempt to seek to understand spiritual matters from a material view, and cannot. I don’t say that as an excuse for us as believers NOT to be knowledgeable, for indeed, Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing so difficult for the king that he could not explain it to her.

However, the Apostle Paul admonishes that knowledge puffs up.

We must remind ourselves not to wield the Sword of the Spirit arrogantly, and to stay abreast of our studies, if we can, that we too, as Peter writes (1st Peter 3:15)

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

But to those whose pride is in their intellect, independent of God, as if He would give man dominion and tell him to subdue the earth without giving him the knowledge to do so, their mind is their idol, and God will brook no idols in his presence, or share his glory.

They test us with what they believe to be ‘hard questions,’ not realizing that their own spirit of pride, coupled to their faithlessness, will yield neither comprehension nor revelation.

2. A doubting spirit: Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord…

In a polytheistic culture, how could one god possibly have all this knowledge? Surely the labors of heaven and earth and man were divided among gods, for no one god could possibly bear the burden; they were mighty over their places, the god of the sun, the goddess of the moon, the god of the seas…etc, but they were not omnipotent over all.

And why would any god share such knowledge with a mere man; he might guide a king or queen in their rule, but surely not impart wisdom on such a grand scale as to give the man any splendor of his own..

As we walk by faith, not by sight, given the flint-faced commandments of our Savior, in our humanity we question the things He wants us to obey because they’re contrary to our fallen nature.

Rumors of Solomon’s God-given wisdom stirred up a spirit of doubt, and she, like Thomas, needed to see for herself. That’s a need we can all relate to, one that we even pray for from time to time. “Lord, show me a sign…”

But unlike the queen, when we return home, we won’t be laden with material goods, but the seed of the Holy Spirit on us, in us, and with us, with the power of conviction of putting sin in us to death, and revelation of the Living Word of the Father.

3. Spiritual restlessness:  and when she came to Solomon, she spoke with him about all that was in her heart.

Something stirred within her, just hearing of Solomon’s wisdom and splendor, for we seek after the knowledge of God, because as Ecclesiastes 3:11 states:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end.

If King David was the man after God’s heart, then Solomon, in asking for wisdom, was the man after His mind, and God added to him for his unselfish request.

So the Presence of the Lord in every aspect of Solomon’s life was so all pervasive and overwhelming to her, that she glorified God, for as verse 5 says, ‘there was no more spirit in her,‘ and Solomon sent her back with more than she came with, though what she left him was unique in all of Israel, the like of which they’d never see again.

Jesus says of her  (Matthew 12:42) 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, let not the spirits of defiance and doubt hold sway over my faith in my salvation by Your blood.

Grant to me also discernment, increase my fruit, and help my unbelief.

Let me always be ready through the power of Your Word to be ready to answer, but fill my mouth with what You would have me say, and therefore not worry, for You  said:  for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. (Luke 21:15) 

Put to rest and silence all testing spirits, the lying spirits, the spirits of destruction, of pride in knowledge, of striving over the miniscule and insignificant.

Keep me focused on what is important and true: You, and You crucified, resurrected, and seated at the right hand of the father, waiting to welcome me home, bringing back with me more than I left with, to Your everlasting glory.

Hosea 6:

Come, and let us return to the Lord;
For He has torn, but He will heal us;
He has stricken, but He will bind us up.
After two days He will revive us;
On the third day He will raise us up,
That we may live in His sight.
Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth.

Amen.

 

Devotional 11: Job 2:9 Curse God and Die

Devotional 11: Curse God and Die

 

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

 

   Job was the target of Satan’s attack to get him to do that which his wife told him to do, but Job, though he endured the attack, would not do it.

But consider the words of his wife; they are so often dismissed, and she’s preached as one who added to his burden, in before his three friends came and began rebuking him.

As Chuck Swindoll once preached on this, I had to agree: she too, lost her children, and her position among the women of Israel.

She too, became a target of Satan’s destruction of their lives.

Job did not suffer alone, though he suffered the brunt of it.

Their enemies probably spoke of them in laughter, to see Job brought low, and the women of Israel who were jealous of his wife doubtless ridiculed her to her face.

We are not told much, because Job and his integrity are the focus of the book, but we shouldn’t be so quick to see the wife as a nag or a burden.

I’ve also heard it preached that Job called his wife foolish, but he did not; he said she speaks as one of the foolish.

He doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who’d marry a foolish woman, given that in his absence she had to deal with the daily matters of issues that accompanied his wealth, as well as raise their many children, and keep track of it all.

While it may be true she didn’t have Job’s integrity, can we truly blame for her falling into despair? She couldn’t lay eyes on her suffering husband, all of their children had been taken in a single stroke, and all of their wealth in the same manner.

Who, not having Job’s integrity, wouldn’t have a broken spirit? We have the book’s outcome and the gift of historical hindsight, but in the moment, in her position, ask yourself honestly, might you have said the same?

In a crucial time, when they should have been pulling together, he sat outside scraping himself, and left her to grieve alone, and he could have ministered to her and soothed her heart as best he could.

Had Job cursed God and died, she would have soon followed, having no hope.

But he actually did something better, because he had the integrity that he did: he strengthened her faith.

As she saw him endure day after day, he probably set an example before her, just as Abraham believed the promise of God when Sarah laughed.

If the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband, then Job’s most extreme testament of faith, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” had to make a profound impact on her, and imparted to her a stronger and higher faith in the Lord.

As the Father returned a double portion Job, he returned one to her as well, because Job, as her husband, was her covering, just as he had to pray for his friends in order to keep God’s chastising hand from them for rebuking their friend in his hour of need .

Therefore I pray:

Lord, when I fall, impart to me Your declaration of faith in me, and Your wisdom to guide me through the trial.

   Restore me to You by the Power of holy, refining fire, and purge my impurities.

   Make of me your best example, in all things, at all times.

   By the Power of the Name of my King and Savior, Jesus Christ, I ask it, knowing full well what You may do; I only ask that You be with me in it, and let me not lose sight of You, not lose the sense of Your presence, that I may know that You are there, for I don’t have Job’s integrity, and my faith is as the tide, strong at times, weak at others.

   Lord, I don’t ask for a double portion, I only ask that You not let me die, before I’ve completed the assignment You’ve called me to do, old and full of days.

   Amen.