Jesus Rejoices in the Spirit
21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 22 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”
23 Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; 24 for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it.”
We have professed our belief, but what ensues after that is the enemy trying to see in which kind of soil the seed was planted; the persecutions and temptations that follow do all in their power to dislodge that seed.
This is why our Lord emphasizes not only the hearing, but the doing, of the Father’s will. It is why James tells us faith without works is dead (James 2:17) We put distance between ourselves and our accuser when we manifest our faith in the covenant we’ve entered into: that we believe in the atoning work of the Son, that we may dwell eternally in the Kingdom of G-d.
At one time, our lives were such that we turned seek G-d, but the Father granted authority to the Son to reveal Him to those who sought Him.
YOU were chosen to be given the truth that buried doubt, subdued sin, granted you peace, answered your questions as to G-d’s very existence, and removed you from the impending judgment of the Father’s coming wrath.
What it does not remove us from is the enemy’s grasping attempts to pry us loose:
Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial
31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”
33 But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.”
34 Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.”
Satan not only asked, but Jesus granted him permission. The most volatile of the Apostles, the one whom Jesus called the Rock on which He’d build His church, would deny Him in His hour of need.
Here we see the power of our Lord’s prophecies at work again: He knew Peter would return, because He said ‘when,’ not ‘if.’ Peter then went on to deliver some of the most searing sermons ever preached, but he went through a time of sifting by Satan, and indeed, had a broken heart and contrite spirit.
Hard soil was tilled. Peter was the only disciple who went into Jesus’ tomb to make sure it was, in fact, empty. He was the only one who stepped out of the boat when Jesus called him.
Have we treated the revelation and gift of salvation, given to us by the Father and revealed to us by Christ, as the gift it truly is? Have we contemplated remaining in faith, repentance, obedience, and works that we might be granted eternal life.
Jesus said to His disciples, when they returned from their missions,
20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Are we rejoicing in our spirits today?
24 This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven,
There are days we have taken for granted the gift of the Son’s grace to reveal the Truth of of Your word to us. We ask through the power of Your Son’s holy blood that You forgive us for treating it as a common thing.
We would not crucify our Lord again.
Today, we pause to give thanks for all You’ve provided, for seeing us through our trials, for delivering us from the sifting of our enemies, for as Paul tells us, we contend in a world of warring spirits for the value of our souls.
Today, we reflect on the grace of our Shepherd to bring us into the light and green pastures of Your peace, the bloody wrath of Your impending day sparing those of us who believe in the only Name under heaven by which we are saved.
Today, we rejoice that we have made our Lord rejoice in His spirit, that our own unworthy names are written in Heaven, in the Book of Life. Let our works shine before our unbelieving brethren, that they may come to believe and glorify You, Father.
Today, let our spirits be renewed to not only hear, but do, Your will, abiding in Jesus, for we can do nothing apart from Him, that we might bear fruit that withstands the testing fires.
We rejoice that we too, will be raised up on the last day, to dwell in Your house, and in Your presence, now, and truly forevermore.
May it be done to us as You have said.
Division over John Mark
36 Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.” 37 Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. 39 Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
From what we are told and not told, Barnabas and Paul never ministered together, or quite possibly, ever even met again. We are told that Mark left them, but not why. As Paul’s missions were extensive and difficult, but critical to the spreading of the Gospel, whenever Mark left them to return to Jerusalem was likely an inopportune time, and made an already difficult task that much more difficult.
Barnabas, however, was still willing to give Mark another chance, but Paul was not.
As an alternative seemed to be available, we’re not sure why it got to the point of a such an argument, but perhaps Barnabas at this time had seen and heard enough of Paul, and knew enough of Mark, to launch out on his own. We are not told that was the case, but very often, when G-d splits a ministry amid chaos and strife, it still ends to His glory.
The Book of Acts itself came after the church was persecuted and its members and missionaries forced to run for their lives, if not their freedom.
We don’t have any books written by Barnabas that chronicle his time with Mark and the work they did in Cyprus.
But we do have this, later, from Paul:
2 Timothy 4:9-11
The Abandoned Apostle
9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.
Alone and in prison, perhaps Paul had received word of all that Mark did in Cyprus to assist Barnabas. We are told that Demas made his decision to return to worldly things, and the others left for their own reasons. But now, he tells Timothy to get Mark, and bring him to help Paul during his last days, “for he is useful to me for ministry.”
This, like Paul’s conversion, is a complete 180 from where he was when Barnabas took Mark away. How very lonely even the tone of Paul’s letter is, where after having preached to millions, he only has Luke.
Yet even so, that was one more than Jesus had when ‘they all forsook Him and fled.’
And as Christ restores Peter, so Paul restores Mark, even if indirectly, back into the ministry of the Gospel. Mark, however, in contrast to Demas, never truly left.
We have the words of John:
(1 John 2:18-20)
Deceptions of the Last Hour
18 Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. 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.
20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.
Let us be thankful that we yet have the grace and mercy of our Father, who has imparted it to the Son, who has encouraged us to stay the course. For Christ says of those who turn back: (Luke 9:62)
62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Therefore I pray:
In the course of our walking, there are days it is not in us. As Mark returned to Jerusalem to get back on familiar footing, with maybe some fear of such a pagan and polytheistic culture, so we too seek comfort zones even in our missions.
Paul took some hard, long, and difficult journeys, but as You sustained him, so You sustain us.
Paul’s faith and trust in You was absolute, more often than not. His communication and obedience were shining examples of what our own walks could, and should be.
Yet even when we are Mark, we yet serve. Forgive us when we take the lowly place not in humility, but in fear, discomfort, doubt, and anger.
It is in the matters of Your sovereignty, and in Your will for our lives and the pleasures of this world come into conflict, that we ask You for Paul’s resolve, but Barnabas’ compassion. As we minister to the next generation, of new believers in all nations, and look to those who have run the race for guidance to take their mantles with fear and reverence, let us remain connected to You.
And when and where we fall, let us rise to once again be useful in ministry, being refreshed, restored, and reconciled to You, to Your glory, and abiding in Your will.
May it be done to us as You have said.
2 Chronicles 15
The Reforms of Asa
15 Now the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded. 2 And he went out to meet Asa, and said to him: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 3 For a long time Israel has been without the true God, without a teaching priest, and without law; 4 but when in their trouble they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and sought Him, He was found by them. 5 And in those times there was no peace to the one who went out, nor to the one who came in, but great turmoil was on all the inhabitants of the lands. 6 So nation was destroyed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every adversity. 7 But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded!”
8 And when Asa heard these words and the prophecy of Oded the prophet, he took courage, and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and from the cities which he had taken in the mountains of Ephraim; and he restored the altar of the Lord that was before the vestibule of the Lord. 9 Then he gathered all Judah and Benjamin, and those who dwelt with them from Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon, for they came over to him in great numbers from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him.
10 So they gathered together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. 11 And they offered to the Lord at that time seven hundred bulls and seven thousand sheep from the spoil they had brought. 12 Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13 and whoever would not seek the Lord God of Israel was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman. 14 Then they took an oath before the Lord with a loud voice, with shouting and trumpets and rams’ horns. 15 And all Judah rejoiced at the oath, for they had sworn with all their heart and sought Him with all their soul; and He was found by them, and the Lord gave them rest all around.
16 Also he removed Maachah, the mother of Asa the king, from being queen mother, because she had made an obscene image of Asherah; and Asa cut down her obscene image, then crushed and burned it by the Brook Kidron. 17 But the high places were not removed from Israel. Nevertheless the heart of Asa was loyal all his days.
18 He also brought into the house of God the things that his father had dedicated and that he himself had dedicated: silver and gold and utensils. 19 And there was no war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa.
When our leaders are blessed to walk in the ways of the Lord, the land and people prosper. From the time that Israel requested kings, G-d told them they would be prone to error and sin, and though it grieved Him, he granted their request.
Their fortunes rose and fell on how well or poorly those men listened to the edicts of their prophets, counselors, and even queens (see the Book of Esther). The land of Judah was fortunate in Asa, who had a loyal heart, but in hindsight, as with every king (David, Solomon, etc) G-d gave them a condition that He’s given the rest of us who are not of earthly royalty, but the children of a king: Seek Me and walk in my ways, and all will be well with you.
When we fall away, we are to return.
When we sin, we are to repent.
When we backslide, we are to confess.
The Lord has promised that if we do these things, He will ear from heaven, and heal us, comfort us, and restore us to Himself.
We can rejoice then, that our High Priest is the Son of G-d, interceding incessantly for our struggling flesh, which we do not crucify for the sake of purity.
The prophet Isaiah tells us: (55:v 5-7)
5 Surely you shall call a nation you do not know,
And nations who do not know you shall run to you,
Because of the Lord your God,
And the Holy One of Israel;
For He has glorified you.”
6 Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
It was Asa’s shift in focus that brought him down toward the end of his reign.
2 Chronicles 16
Asa’s Treaty with Syria
16 In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. 2 Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king’s house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, 3 “Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me.”
4 So Ben-Hadad heeded King Asa, and sent the captains of his armies against the cities of Israel. They attacked Ijon, Dan, Abel Maim, and all the storage cities of Naphtali. 5 Now it happened, when Baasha heard it,that he stopped building Ramah and ceased his work. 6 Then King Asa took all Judah, and they carried away the stones and timber of Ramah, which Baasha had used for building; and with them he built Geba and Mizpah.
Hanani’s Message to Asa
7 And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. 8 Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. 9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.”
10 Then Asa was angry with the seer, and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him because of this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at that time.
King Asa proves his humanity, and like David not seeking the Lord for the proper procedure to move the Ark of the Covenant, Asa relies on riches plundered from the church to reduce the size of the forces he has to battle, and so loses the war, and now has to fight where before, when he walked in the ways of G-d, the land had rest.
Asa Reigns in Judah
2 Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God, 3 for he removed the altars of the foreign gods and the high places, and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the wooden images. 4 He commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to observe the law and the commandment. 5 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah, and the kingdom was quiet under him. 6 And he built fortified cities in Judah, for the land had rest; he had no war in those years, because the Lord had given him rest.
The Father has done all He is going to do to give us rest, but our faith in His promises wavers, and fails, and fall away into the grip of the enemy’s world. We doubt, and despair, and grow angry.
Yes, go through the process, but never fail to seek to return. Your Father knew you before He formed you, and all of your days were known before you came to be.
Your Father understands, and if you seek Him, rely on Him, love Him, and obey Him, He will be found you.
All the time.
Therefore I pray:
Give us loyal hearts, Lord, but increase our faith as well. Let us not dwell in the world of the enemy as we use his own tools to combat his own forces.
Let us climb the spiritual hills with songs of ascension, seeking Your will and Your presence, believing in faith You will equip us not only for the battle, but for victory, where we too, like King Asa, will carry away ‘very much spoil’ (2 Ch, 14:12).
In seeking You, Lord, we place before You all of our weakness. Consume it with holy fire as You did the offering of the prophet Elijah. Increase our faith, and help our unbelief, even if you do not deliver us from the fiery furnaces that seek to burn away our very souls.
Let us, today, rejoice in the renewal of our oath to seek You with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, putting to death within us that which will not accept You. Let us, today, tear down and crush all the high places that have crept up the mountains of our dreams, hopes, plans, aspirations, and replaced You.
The whispers of the world are constant, sibilant as the Garden’s serpent, calling us away: Did G-d really say…? If we believe Your promises to be ‘yes’ and ‘amen’, there can be no room for doubt.
As love cannot be compelled, You have set before us blessings and curses, and told us to choose.
The Narrow Way is rugged, but we follow the One who finished the work, and turned neither left nor right, the One You sent to us, that we may not be lost, or fall away, or be consumed by the fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
So today, we renew our oath not to forsake You, but we ask that hold our hands fast to Yours, and bind us tighter to the easy yoke and light burden of working out our salvation, to Your eternal glory.
May it be done to us as You have said.
The purging of our heart’s strongholds is long, hard work.
1 Kings 13:1-5
The Message of the Man of God
13 And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2 Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’
2 Kings 23:1-3
Josiah Restores True Worship
23 Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. 2 The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem—the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord.
3 Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.
The only king prophesied by name in the Bible other than Jesus was destined for righteousness and fellowship with G-d. A good king recognized that the process of purification for the sins of his people began with him, and was a reflection of him. What the king does, the people will follow.
Josiah did a lot of work, tearing down the hedged bets of shrines, high places, altars of human and child sacrifice, unholy objects and idol figures that were a plague on the land, built by his forebears in case the G-d of Abraham was not who He claimed to be.
It is amazing how much of our human attributes we ascribe to G-d’s ability to achieve, never knowing that even our highest possible achievement is our limited way of expressing love to Him, and even prone to error, as when David first moved the Ark of the Covenant, if not done without His permission, guidance, or assistance. These are works of the flesh, burned to stubble in the testing by holy fire.
That being said, we too, were prophesied to be the children of G-d. Our days were planned before one of them came to be, and now, we live in the fruition of that summoning. Are we willing and able to remove the rebellious items in the high places of our own houses? Are we willing to consent to G-d’s sovereignty in His calling on our lives? Are we willing to put our pride and will aside, and empty ourselves of who we think we are, in order to be who the Father called us to be, and do what He’s asked us to do?
Are we ready to leave all?
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.
To give up the one thing keeping us from the Kingdom?
21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”
The Father’s call supersedes anything and everything else, and demands obedience if we are to be His servants, discipline if we are to be His disciples, and faith if we are to be in His presence.
It was said of Josiah:
2 Kings 23:25
25 Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.
Compare that to this:
1 Samuel 15:11
11 “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night.
What will be said of us, as the children of the living G-d, called through grace, partaking of His mercy?
It’s up to us.
Therefore I pray:
We thank You, Father, for the mercy of Your calling, for bringing us out of the world to reveal the truth of Your Son through the power of Your Spirit.
Let disobedience and perverse things be far from us, and let our eyes be pure lamps so the light that enters us brings no stains of darkness to our souls.
Help us to hold fast to Your statutes, obey Your commandments, and allow the purification of our fellowship with You, and the conviction, confession, and remission of our sin to reconcile us to You again, by the Spirit’s prompting.
We would not grieve you with our faithlessness, erecting high places in the worship of the created instead of the Creator, handing our fates over to false gods, and trusting in fables of the stars and zodiac, and put before the doing of Your will the enjoyment of our possessions that Your hand has freely given us, to provoke Your anger.
We would abide in Your love and not Your wrath, for You are jealous for our souls, and have given us salvation that we might be reconciled to You. We will not treat it as a common thing. Bring to mind, when we fall into temptation to backslide, and sin, that we were bought with a price that cost You everything, and the You bestowed the gift to us alongside Your chosen people.
Father, we cry out to You today, to restore good and righteous leaders to us, to break the spiritual choke hold Your sworn enemy has the world in now. Bring our leaders to godly repentance. Convict them, O Lord, and open their eyes to the strife their words and actions create, the pain and the worry, the loss of life You’ve given to all men, not just to one nation, the elite, and the wealthy.
We pray Josiah’s spirit of mind be with us as peg down our tents in new territory, and if it is not, O Lord, Your will still gets accomplished.
May our deeds withstand the testing fire, that we might claim our reward, and depart from those who would see us hurt, or dead, before our work is done.
May it be done to us as You have said.
Jesus Promises Another Helper
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
We call it ‘the still, small voice,’ among other things, but it’s by far the most important voice we have, and the one we’re most prone to ignore. I have endured unnecessary struggles as a result, and have no one but myself to blame.
I remember the day Jesus sealed His promise of eternal life to me; that it took place on a mountain held a special significance for me then, but then I came back to the valley, and the clouds of the world rained down, and though the voice never stopped speaking, I stopped listening.
But the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not break their promises, and they are not without understanding, and while the Spirit may yet be found, it’s in my best interest to not only listen, but to abide.
As Jesus said the Father sent Him, and He spoke not on His own, so it is too, with the Holy Spirit. Christ tells us:
12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.
The Word of G-d is not a scattered, random thing, for if Jesus and the Father are One in will and purpose, the reconciling of man to G-d by the Word and faith in Christ, the Spirit is of the same. So, taken all in all, there’s no disconnection in the consistency of the Word’s message: Repent, and believe the Gospel.
How fitting, then, that He who came down a King of humble birth, would use a ‘still, small voice.’ But it’s the most authoritative one we should serve without hesitation.
The miracles and signs were done in the presence of assemblies in temples, in cities, in villages, in front of hundreds and thousands, but in the quiet moments of mountaintop prayer, closet intimacy, nights of candlelight on your knees before the altar, the voice speaks to you, in your circumstances.
But our Savior was never ‘over the top,’ and the Holy Spirit, one on one, won’t be either.
We are on a difficult road to find a narrow path, to spend eternity with a promised king, guided by the Spirit with a still, small voice, while being pelted from the roadsides of the world with all manner of mockery and filth.
Do we, as He did, set our faces like flint as we set our sights heavenward, while doing His will on the earth?
No doubt it is a hard calling in unparalleled times. And yet, the Word of the Lord, higher than His name, has survived all attempts to blot it out, and we take it our hands today to read:
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to You.
Even so, come Lord Jesus.
Therefore I pray:
I repent of grieving You through doubt, disobedience, willful sins, rebelliousness, and faithlessness. You are spoken of the least in our churches’ earthly sermons, but You are as powerful a manifestation in the assembly of the saints as when the Father’s glory filled the temple.
And indeed, You glorify the Father as well as the Son.
Let us be reminded that You speak the words of our Lord to our everyday, modern day problems with simple truth, heavenly guidance, and eternal love, and that You also, like the Father and Son, can’t look on sin, and grieve when we give in to temptation.
But we thank You, also, for not abandoning us, for convicting us, and being constant in the message: Repent, and believe, and be reconciled to the Father.
Help us to know that it is not only You, but also the voice of the Father and Son that tell You what to say to us, though You have Your own realms of authority.
Thank You for not waiting for the quiet hours only to speak, but also in the midst of chaos, You impart that peace beyond understanding to us, that we may glorify G-d in word and deed among the faithless.
As You continue to guide us and reveal the Truth of the Gospel, help us also to do the Father’s will by remaining humble, by noticing the still, small details among us that allow us to serve the Kingdom: to help the widow and orphan, and give a cup of water to a child, and restore our brothers and sisters who’ve fallen by the way, and to say what You would have us say, not speaking on our own authority, that we might bear fruit and reconcile others to Christ, that they too might be saved, walking the Narrow Way with us, fulfilling a hard calling in difficult times.
Let it be done to us as You have said.
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.
31 “In that day, he who is on the housetop, and his goods are in the house, let him not come down to take them away. And likewise the one who is in the field, let him not turn back.
The Signs of the Times and the End of the Age
3 Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
4 And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
The Great Tribulation
14 “So when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.15 Let him who is on the housetop not go down into the house, nor enter to take anything out of his house.16 And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.17 But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days!18 And pray that your flight may not be in winter.19 For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be.20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.
21 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, He is there!’ do not believe it.22 For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.23 But take heed; see, I have told you all things beforehand.
Everyday events will be ongoing, and then eternity will impose itself on time, and the law, judgment, and will of G-d will supersede the fragile and compromised dominion of men.
In the meantime, the suffering of those of us who will not renounce His Name in order to continue to exist will also increase. We must hold fast to the fact that this is not our permanent home, and the rubber of our faith will meet the road of reality when the pain of their torture hits, and we are confronted with our own mortality, and He does not deliver us in spectacular fashion, as with the Hebrew children, but we become one of the ‘others’ delivered up, and cut in two.
We have, to our peril and on a global scale, disregarded the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians:
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.
And if our righteousness on our best day is as filthy rags before the Father, how much more then should we heed Christ, and prepare the way of the Lord?
Therefore I pray:
As we strive in a fallen world to hold fast to its polar opposite, and do the Father’s will, that we may be reconciled to Him in word and deed, and live with You in eternity, give us a bold spirit to endure to the end that we might be saved.
We ask this so that we might not hold onto the Truth as a selfish thing, for You tell us none can come to You unless the Father grants it. We ask that You put the seeds in us to plant, and call us to where they’re needed, which You have said is not already among the righteous.
A lot of churches have become culture clubs that don’t serve their communities, that do outreach like Pharisees, seeking their rewards among men, patting sinners on the head, and saying ‘Keep warm and well fed,’ while providing no coat or food. The minds of their shepherds are on earthly pleasures even as they preach. They seek power they can’t keep in a world where they can’t stay, and don’t honor You with their hearts.
The tares are planted, and the wolf and serpent stalk and slither among the flock, seeing to their own profit and posterity like Simon the Sorcerer, who sought Holy Spirit’s power as a magic act. They have forgotten Your words: ‘They have their reward.’
Yet we are tried, mocked, tempted, grow weary, and even now as the prophecies of unfold, we are doubtful if any of this will come to anything resembling what You’ve told us.
In those times, remind us to seek You, that we might be comforted, given rest, and imbued once more with power from on high; let us seek times of refreshing, and let our peace return to us.
Bring to mind the Psalms and Proverbs of Your two greatest kings, for one teaches us how to do business with G-d, and the other, with man.
I would endure to the end, Lord, that me and my house, and the ones that You’ve given me as I sow will be saved. I ask that You grant this also to my Brothers and Sisters around the world, that it will be as You have said:
27 And then He will send His angels, and gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest part of earth to the farthest part of heaven.
and (Matthew 24):
42 Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.43 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into.44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
In that day, we will ask You no more questions, there will only be unspeakable joy, and the memory of this fallen world will be washed away forever.
May it be done to us as You have said.
Jonah Thrown into the Sea
10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, “Why have you done this?” For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them. 11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.
12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.
Whenever the story of Jonah is preached, we focus on Jonah’s disobedience from the command of the Lord, for he was one of the Chosen, called and sent by G-d to preach to the most murderous, heathen nation in the known world.
Jonah did not want them to hear the Word of the Lord, because G-d had called them to repentance and he didn’t want them forgiven, so he ran.
G-d could have sent someone else and cut Jonah from the fold, but He didn’t. As Jonah thought he could hide and take a ship to go the opposite direction, G-d stirred up the sea, and Jonah confessed, but look at what happened: Jonah told them how to calm the storm, but they too, relied on their earthly knowledge and tried to row to land anyway.
Through his disobedience, Jonah recognized that innocent people, sailors who had no knowledge of G-d, were going to die, but when he told them how to remedy their situation and get out of danger, they disobeyed Jonah until they realized this was not a race they were going to win.
Our flesh and spirit war the same within us; the flesh rages to fulfill itself, and the commands of the Lord are dropped into the midst of it, quietly: a verse, an admonition, a ‘chance’ encounter, all signs that we can read and know. It is a goad against that which will cause us to sin, but we press on toward gratification of our own desires, hurting our souls and grieving the Spirit in the process.
And Satan smiles…
It is when we come back emptied of our pride, and convicted of our wrong, that we go up to our mountains, into our prayer closets, open our Bibles, return to church, and confess ourselves to other believers, or just to Jesus, and cry out that the Lord not hold our rebellion against us.
And in His mercy, by His grace, and through His Son’s atoning work on Calvary, we are given another chance to get it right, and we go back to doing that which we were called.
As the Lord admonished his reluctant Apostle, (Acts 9:5)
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
All the resistance, the arresting of believers, the self-righteousness of an overachieving Pharisee who’s reputation struck fear in the hearts of Christians, was only preparation for the most widespread messages of deliverance outside of Christ Himself in the known world of the day, and down through the ages.
We use the phrases ”In G-d’s time, ” and “In His own way,” but there are times we don’t like either, and we rush forward too far, or delay too long. It is then the seas rise up, and we feel the goads prodding us back into the fold. But we only hurt ourselves, and sometimes those around us, when we do this.
Let us be reminded that G-d is sovereign: it is His plan, in His time, the silver and gold is His, and also what it says in Psalm 24:1
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
There is no hiding place, so let’s set aside the needless burden and stop delaying to repent, or indeed, as Christ said, ‘Sin no more,’ and get on with the Lord’s work. We will not be rewarded for sin; G-d isn’t winking at it, nor is He ‘letting it slide’ because it’s popular and legal in the eyes of a weak, confused, hard-hearted, broken, prideful, rebellious humanity that says nothing is wrong with anyone, and nothing needs to be repented for, and hell, and even G-d, do not exist.
For those who loosely subscribe, the G-d of love they want to embrace to excuse their sin is also a G-d of judgment who will not, but they ignore the day of the Lord’s vengeance to their peril. As believers we are to scatter our seeds, and let our peace settle or return to us by the will and power of our Heavenly Father, until He tells us we’re finished, and calls us home.
Therefore I pray:
I confess that I have delayed my calling, carried my burdens too long, because they allowed me to lick the wounds of my anger and point at those who wronged me, that I might not forgive them and do good to them, be kind to them, love them, and tell them about You lest they turn to You and be forgiven also.
I fooled myself into thinking I alone was worthy of favor, love, and mercy, and that only those who’ve already gone through their own fires of faith are also worthy of the kingdom.
The mocking, leering, abusive, blaspheming, faithless unbelievers we would just as soon leave to the storms and the outer darkness make us afraid and have no part with us.
Father, I thank you that our prideful, self-righteous hearts don’t make the final call; we would foolishly pluck the wheat up with the tares, and burn it all in the fire in our uncertainty, then realize we’re going to starve to death.
Forgive me for the times my stumbling rebellion put others at risk because I ignored the Spirit’s voice, and caused them to not do what was right.
In the end, Jonah brought these men to You also when they saw You calm the sea after they were obedient, and then he went on to do the work You called him to in Nineveh, among a heathen people that loved all things worldly, and loved You not at all.
Let my work also bear double fruit, as a matter of letting unbelievers see Your works, even through my moments of repentance from having my own way, coming to recognize that there is no ‘my’ way.
Let me continue to honor You in the work You’ve called me to do, without burden, without question, and without delay.
May it be done to me as You have said.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Within the Word of G-d, fire has three roles:
The first is to clear the waste of that which is not the work of the Kingdom. The waste itself is part of the harvest, and it is always separated from that which isn’t the Father’s will. Jesus spoke of these fates to end the parable of the wheat and tares:
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.”
As people enter the faith and leave it, the harvest will reveal all, but the fire will reveal those of us who’ve remained true to the Lord.
The second is to purify. The Holy Spirit reveals the truth of G-d’s Word to us, convicts us of sin, and leads us to repentance, but also instills within us a desire to share with others the Good News. That which we do unto the Lord, our works, as such, are also tested. Paul tells us this in 1st Corinthians 3:11-15
11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
As Paul speaks of being saved, that brings us to the third role of fire: to punish:
John’s admonition to the crowd, and in particular to the religious leaders, speaks of this:
12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
Isaiah prophesies to its existence: (Isaiah 66:23-24)
23 And it shall come to pass
That from one New Moon to another,
And from one Sabbath to another,
All flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the Lord.
24 “And they shall go forth and look
Upon the corpses of the men
Who have transgressed against Me.
For their worm does not die,
And their fire is not quenched.
They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”
Jesus affirms it when He speaks of removing that from our lives which causes us to sin:
43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— 44 [where
‘Their worm does not die
And the fire is not quenched.’
The fire that punishes can’t be put out, and is eternal.
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:
Let us be ever conscious of the roles of fire in our walk with the Lord, and let us work to eliminate that which is unfruitful, that our works may stand, and that which will make Him tell us to depart from His presence.
Let us, instead, seek to be purified, that we won’t need to dismember ourselves to enter into Life, and to remain under the covering of the covenant of grace, in all that we do.
Therefore I pray:
I thank You for the purification of holy fire, holy truth, and salvation.
I thank you for imparting to me the Holy Spirit, that I might remain reconciled to the Father through You. I ask that You give me discernment to do that which is the Father’s will, in all things. I would like to see my tested works of blessing remain, and not suffer loss (though I know I will).
I would have You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and not be saved with my clothing smoking, or worse yet, to depart.
Help me to know that my willful rebellion is recorded for the Day, and that I will be called to account for my thoughts, and every idle word. Help me to remember that my backsliding means a greater darkness because I claim to be Yours, and that I crucify You again to my shame, which means I abide once again under Your wrath, and not in Your mercy.
You have set me apart, and called me out of the world, and revealed the Father’s will for me through Your teaching, and Your sacrifice.
I would not cheapen that, or take it lightly, nor for granted.
Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for the times that I do all these things, and let the Spirit have its way in me. Help me to attune to the still, small voice that guides me to the Narrow Way, that I might be in Your presence, praising G-d forever more.
I ask it in Your Name, believing I’ve received.
May it be done to me as You have said.
30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”
31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.”
The Lord had promised them freedom from slavery, which He delivered in a spectacular fashion; they’d all witnessed the power and favor of Jehovah first hand, in ways that no other people of the earth had before, but just before claiming the promise, they replaced His vision with their own, their doubt for His assurance, and His good pleasure to deliver them into a land of no lack with a desert experience full of hardship and death.
They are not alone. Example after example is offered to us that when we are called to do the work of the Living G-d, we do not often give Isaiah’s reply, but rather that of Moses.
10 Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”
14 Then the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?”
15 So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.”
Or the army of Israel:
1 Samuel 17:8-11
8 Then (Goliath) stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10 And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.” 11 When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.
It is now no less fearful for us, whom the Savior has now called out of the world to finish the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, to do the will of the Father, which hasn’t changed, and to enter in to rest, rule, and reign with Him in the work of praising the Father forever, and dwelling in peace among ourselves.
Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t work for that? Who wouldn’t we tell about that, so they could come with us?
But we have an enemy, and our flesh doesn’t desire that which makes it uncomfortable, for as we have a Savior who has chosen us for Kingdom work, He paid a terrible cost, as did His disciples, even to this day. But the suffering had an end, and He now sits in inconceivable power and glory at the Father’s right hand.
We must go through one to get to the other, so our Teacher tells us to count the cost, deny ourselves, die to ourselves, take up a daily cross, and follow Him down the Narrow Way.
Our Savior reassures us: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)
So too, did G-d reassure His servants, telling them He would fill their mouths, be with them, instruct them, guide them, and answer them. The phrase, as it pertains to actual fear, and not the reverence of the Lord, occurs 103 times.
G-d knows what He created, and well does he know our hearts, spirits, and minds. How could it not be so, if the hairs on our heads are numbered, and the length of our days set from the beginning.
If, as the Word says, we are wilting flowers, withering grass, vapors, breaths, fleeting, and our spirits not reconciled to G-d, we are better off trusting and accepting that which God will do through us by faith.
We are marked men and women, and the call is irrevocable. It is we who turn back, run away, and hide from it in our frailty.
G-d would have it that you answer the call, and enter into His rest through faith in the atoning work of His Son, who tells us there is already space:
2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)
A house that contains mansions…. the G-d we serve, and love, and worship, is bigger than that.
Don’t make yourself small in His sight.
Therefore I pray:
Father in Heaven,
I confess today, I have not always stepped forward with Isaiah’s desire to be sent to do Your will. My response has been one of fearful doubt, or I pretend not to hear, and go blithely on until I reach the dead end, crouch down at the end of the alley, and wait for darkness to hide me from Your sight. I hope the whole time it isn’t true that You see at midnight as You do at noonday, though I know it is.
Create in me a renewed heart of flesh, and not stone. Make my spirit right, make it as fertile soil where Your word takes root. Give me ears to hear, and in hearing, a will and heart to understand.
I would not be tossed into the sea as Jonah, or given over to my enemies like Sampson, or give another my glory like Barack.
Replace my quavering spirit with Yours, my fast-beating, fearful heart with Yours, my hating, angry emotions with Your peace, my compromising with Your steadfastness, my backsliding with Your resolve to drink from the cup.
I lay my life down to You today, right now, as an imperfect fleece, dry and knotted, full of spots and stains and blemishes, and I say to You today, right now, water it with the dew of Heaven, and purify it for Your glory, and to Your purposes.
I would like to say that on the peak of this mountain, where You see a mighty warrior imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit, I will not have to ask again, but I know I will.
And the beauty of knowing You is that You know it too, and will answer when I call.
Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
May it be done to me as You have said.