What About My Thorns?

 Jesus told [the crowd] many things in parables, saying: ‘A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear…’

“‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away… The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them…’

“‘Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’” Matthew 13:3-9,11-12,14-15,18-23

We who are exposed to the word and opportunities for teaching are entrusted with much, and are expected to thrive and bear fruit. But beware thorns! Jesus warns repeatedly to listen, pay attention, stay clear-headed and keen-hearted to understand and apply what He gives us. Cares of this world clog ears and dull hearts to render us ineffective.

We may be in the lushest of locales, irrigated regularly with fell0wship and good teaching, but unless we stay intent on ingesting God’s word, and deliberate in applying it to our discernment, work, and conversation, thorns will stick us to distraction. We can easily slip into ‘I already know what it says,’ and make foolish investments of time and resources in temporal, worldly endeavors that end up sapping us of eternal fruit.

What thorns have we allowed to intrude on our domain? What sticklers of sloth, doubt, materialism, or lax vigilance have infiltrated so deeply we no longer recognize their danger to our resolve, godly affection, and spiritual growth?

Lord, with Your precise, merciful hands, remove my thorns. Plant Your word deeply to yield a hundredfold, for Your glory.

Channeling Sorrow

“Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison, because John had been saying to him, ‘It is not lawful for you to have [Herodias]’, his brother Philip’s wife. And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people… But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, ‘Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter…’ He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter… And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

“When Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick... Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the loaves and fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied… And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.” Matthew 14:3-8,10-14,19-20a,23

His cousin had been senselessly, crudely killed, and Jesus withdrew to grieve. But the curious, needy crowds kept coming, and sorrow had left its sweet mark on our Savior. Instead of stewing at the injustice of John’s death, or retaliating in anger, He transformed His pain into compassion for others. He loved, He healed, He engaged, blessed, and fed. The same sin sickness that drove Herod to order John’s beheading had infected the crowds, lost sheep in need of a Shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

What do we do with our disillusionment, anguish, pain? Do we allow it to take on a life of its own and consume our attention and emotions? Do we turn inward to nurse bitterness and wounds, and plot revenge?

What would change if we withdrew from our flesh reactions to learn from Jesus? How might we see differently people who hurt us? Might we recognize in our so-called enemies some of ourselves? Might God awaken compassion at the plight of all image bearers who have fallen short of His glory, and plant ideas of how to reach out, connect, and offer life? (Genesis 1:27; Romans 3:23)

It takes quiet contemplation to recognize in ourselves what we criticize and loathe in others. Another’s cruelty mirrors our desire for justice at any cost. Another’s saunter of power ignites our own swagger of ‘right.’ Another’s deceit and cruelty inflames malice and retribution. Ah, fallen are we all. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Would we come to the suffering Savior for healing? For sustenance to withstand the struggle? For blessing when weighted with effects of the curse? He is our hope of right thinking and righteous response. He is sufficient for our weaknesses. His love preserves us through every obstacle and force against us. (Psalm 22:6-18; Isaiah 53:4-6; Romans 8:31-39; 2 Corinthians 12:9)

Father, in every sadness, draw me to Yourself to learn how to move forward. Then may I do so with understanding, compassion, and Your irrefutable love.

Mean What You Say, Then Live That Way

“Then I [Ezra] proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

“Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests… I weighed out to them the silver and the gold and the vessels, the offering for the house of our God... [I said], ‘Guard them and keep them until you weigh them before the chief priests… in Israel at Jerusalem, within the chambers of the house of the Lord…’ Then we departed… The hand of our God was on us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambushes by the way.” Ezra 8:21-25,29,31

Ezra the Scribe was known for his wisdom, his faith, his God. So when it came to a risky journey on God’s errand to Jerusalem, to teach the returned exiles who’d rebuilt the temple His law, he chose to venture wholly on His protection and provision. Since the king had dispatched him with permission, and knowing the route could be peppered with bandits, he led his entourage to stop and fast. He boldly refused a royal chaperone, prepared practically, and trusted God would bring them safely to their destination. His greatest concern was that He be recognized and magnified as he’d described. (Psalm 91:11; 139:5)

For Nehemiah the Governor, leading the third wave of exiles back 13 years later, his prayer regarding his journey led him to ask for specific help from the king. His was just as much a prayer of faith, and gave witness to how God remarkably undertook for them by way of an amenable heathen king. The hand of God was upon both Ezra and Nehemiah, though He led them and manifested His care in different ways. (Nehemiah 1:4-2:8)

How about for us, and our brothers and sisters? When we go before Almighty God, does He lead us all the same way? Our paths are distinct, and it’s vital we pray personally for the Spirit’s clear direction, then obey. I cannot know how He leads another, nor should I judge their decision. I can pray they seek God’s discernment and courageously follow, then trust God to answer. I am responsible to align my own plans with His, not others’.

Are there situations where I feel smug, a touch superior because of how God led me, but look down on someone else’s path? Is one way of going about ministry always better, or best? Some make needs known to people, some only to the Lord. He is glorified in His provision either way, and in a variety of ways, but calls us follow His Spirit. (1 John 3:20-24; James 4:17)

Father, keep me coming to You for direction, answers, and provision, then following faithfully. May I rejoice in the many ways You lead and undergird Your people.

Earnest, and Surprised?

“About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also… And… he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him… So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.

“Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And the chains fell off his hands… ‘Dress yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. When Peter came to himself, he said, ‘Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.’

“When he realized this, he went to the house… where many were gathered together and were praying. And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. They said to her, ‘You are out of your mind.’ But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, ‘It is his angel!’  But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” Acts 12:1-16

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16 (NKJV)

Violence. Gasping sorrow choked in disbelief. Shock and fear drove the church to its only shelter- prayer- and huddled together, they earnestly beseeched Almighty God for Peter’s strength and deliverance.

God answered, in a big and supernatural way. Humor blends with conviction as we digest the stream of events and the stun among those praying saints. Would we respond any differently?

We think we pray earnestly, but how is that defined if we expect no answer? Why is it we are surprised when God shows up and answers our prayers by displaying His muscle, creativity, grace, and splendor? Are we fervent only in our wants or repetition, or in our faith that God is able, shapes our desires, can do anything, and will surely do what is best?

We can count on God to keep His word regarding prayer. While we may be surprised at the way He answers, we should never be surprised that He does. (Psalm 37:4; Matthew 6:6; 7:7-11; 21:22; John 16:23-24; Romans 8:26-27)

Lord, keep me on my knees in earnest prayer, and on tiptoe for Your answers. Purify and translate my desires into God-honoring prayers, then show forth Your majesty.

One Note Higher

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:38-48

Dark, cool, balmy, the pre-dawn is still and quiet, save for an occasional singular deep tone from the wind chimes. A flock of small birds sweeps across close and fast, silhouetted, in a whispering swoosh. Moments pass, barely a movement, then another single note, this one higher. Listen, with your heart.

The world has standards that in a divine economy are a lowest common denominator. Do this, and you will get by, deemed alright, because you’ll blend in with the crowd. But our Lord sets a higher standard, Christ-likeness, and this sets us a notch higher and different from the world. As His children, we have a different Spirit, and so we think differently, respond differently, behave distinctly from the majority of those who do not know Him. How true is this of you and me?

When we hear a statement or accusation pointed at a sore spot, are we touchy and quickly offended, and do we react with excuses or retaliation? Or do we consider how our Savior was ridiculed, falsely accused and taunted for us, and turn the other cheek? (Isaiah 53:3-7)

Do we run fast and loud with a crowd who hates those who hate truth, who condemns those with different belief systems or nontraditional lifestyles? Do we desire to cancel those that cancel us? (Really?) Or do we look for areas of common interest and connection? Will we pray, not just for all to seek truth, but for soft hearts toward them and ways to love and shine light? (Matthew 5:16; John 13:34)

But for God’s grace, we would all be stuck on the low note. By that same grace, let’s lift it higher.

Elevate my thoughts, Lord, lift my love higher. Shift Your Spirit breeze to raise my tone and tune. Where I’ve been complacent, shake me. Where I’ve settled for courtesy over genuine interest, strike me. Where I’ve settled into ease and safety, jar me to risk for You and others. Where I’ve thoughtlessly moved through hours, engage my intentions with Yours. Make holy music in the way I live and love, to honor You.

Every Job Sacred

“In these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. The twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them… 

“Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some… rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. Then they secretly instigated men who said, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council… And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:1-6,8-12,15

Growth led to increased need led to complaint led to solution led to action. The godly Stephen, available as his Lord’s servant for any necessary role, stepped up in the Spirit for what many would deem menial, unimportant, and subservient. And mightily he was used. Full of grace and power, this waiter took seriously the distribution of food to widows and offered spiritual nourishment as well. His spirit was recognized, and precipitated his giving one of the most all-encompassing, profound speeches recorded in scripture that was heard by Saul (Paul), and set in motion persecution that scattered the church and spread the gospel. We may never know the effects of our work done for Jesus. (Acts 6:15-8:4)

Life is full of similar issues, and in God’s economy, He appoints people to fill different roles at different times to fulfill His plans. Organization, integrity, willingness, and humility are all tucked under His anointing of His children for varied work within His purpose. Every individual is valued, every honest job is sacred and can be performed for His honor. (Colossians 3:23-24)

Where do I contribute? How alert am I to needs around me, and how willing to serve in areas that, in the world’s eyes, are demeaning or insignificant? Do I regard any task as beneath me? Where am I thinking too highly of myself, and instead need to look for humble ways to spread Christ? (Romans 12:3-8)

If He is Lord, nothing is too great or small to do for Him. How can I glorify my God through service today? How can I sprinkle Christ’s love and truth into the conversations and duties at work, home, or ministry?

Lord my Master, I come as Your servant. Please anoint my character, willingness, and service for the benefit of Your people, and the glory of Your name.

Ezra, This Ezra

“In the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok, son of Ahitub, son of Amariah, son of Azariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi, son of Bukki, son of Abishua, son of Phinehas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the chief priest— this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord… had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him...

“On the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

“This is… the letter that King Artaxerxes gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes..:  ‘Artaxerxes.., to Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven. Peace. I decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you…

“‘And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.'” Ezra 7:1-6,9-13,25

Ezra had a Bible book named after him. He was given specific gifts, a special heart, and an important role in Israel and in God’s broader plan. Just who is this Ezra? An ordinary man, with parents and grandparents and a long family line, who was made extraordinary by the God he sought and served.

Each one of us who knows Jesus is known by name. He ordained our lineage, our time and place, our family, and our occupation. And He gives us the privilege of doing our part in His kingdom with particular purpose and sufficient equipping. (Psalm 16:5-6; 139:13-16; Isaiah 49:1-3; Acts 17:26; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 2:10)

Blessed be the God who so works! Do we see His marvelous hand ordaining and inspiring His church through its members? Do we see His generosity in the provision given to carry out our calling? Can we trace His wise hand in superintending leaders and common people to move forward His divine intention?

Grasping God’s providence in our lives gives courage and joy to be brave and glad to move forward in His will. He who calls is He who enables, and His plans never fail, nor His presence leave. He has named us each this one, and will bless our following His voice. (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

How ready, and willing, am I to offer myself as living sacrifices for His service? How diligently do I seek His specific place for me in His church, His world? Am I trusting Him to give all I need to follow His lead? (Matthew 7:11; Romans 12:1; Philippians 4:19)

Lord, as Your named one, may I be faithful in doing Your bidding and bringing honor to Your name above all.

Expectancy in the Early

“My soul waits for the Lord
    more than watchmen for the morning,
    more than watchmen for the morning.” Psalm 130:6

“Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
    for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
    for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:8

“And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35

There is something about being up early, when it is still dark, that contributes to expectancy for the day. Seeing little at all but an ink black sky dotted with sleepy stars sets the mind to wanting more, and morning. As the first hues of light announce the curtain rising, all eyes are on the east. At the first hints of her glorious entrance, the heart beats more quickly, the mind focuses in anticipation at the resplendence about to appear. No two days are the same, but there is a lilt of the soul, a quickening of the pulse, and what God will bring forth in any one.

If we choose to remain in a slumber of complaint and ingratitude, of monotonous routine or a sense of frustration because we’re not doing what we want, we miss out on the hopeful expectancy for God to show up and make beautiful and wonderful the hours before us. If we choose to wallow in a fog of emotions we cannot shake, a stupor of angst or anger or resentment, our eyes will be clouded and unable to discern His ‘this is why, learn of Me, I’ll lead you on.’ Prolonging a self-imposed night of the soul inhibits spiritual growth and makes us unpleasant company. Who wants to grope in the dark when you can be exhilarated by a dawn of God’s making?

When we see our days, our nation, the world, through the lens of expectancy, the Holy Spirit gives us a keenness to look for what God is doing and to discern how He is orchestrating people and places and movements to bring about His holy and good plans. We rise on tiptoe to see the unfolding, excitement swells to be part of His kingdom work, to participate in ministry that is eternally fruitful. We begin to loosen our clench on the things of this world- false idols and meaningless pursuits- and to think differently and build for what lasts. We see that there is more to life than what we see, and we anticipate the eventual heavenly unveiling. (Matthew 6:19-21; 1 Corinthians 13:9-12; Colossians 3:1-2).

We step out of tedium and into significance, out of the temporal and into the eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

When do I sit and wait in expectancy for my Lord? What has changed, or do I desire to change, about my spiritual perspective? What has my God honed in the dark to inspire with fresh light? Am I looking?

Lord, I want your eyes and renewed hope every morning. May they motivate and drive my choices. Help me see as You see, love what You love, do as You would have me do, for the sake of Your kingdom and Your glorious name.

Lived, Fathered, Died; Lived, Fathered, Walked

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them… When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son.., and named him Seth.  The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

“When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

“When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died…

“When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died…

“When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch… When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

“When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.” Genesis 5:1b-11,18,21-27

Since the fall, every man and woman born also died; God’s warning came true. One jewel of a life stands out in the genealogy of the generations of Adam, that of his descendant Enoch, whose life is described differently from all the others: he walked with God. We do not know whether others walked with Him, although Enoch’s son Methuselah died in Noah’s 600th year, assumedly in the flood of judgment. What we do know is that Enoch was distinctive because of his relationship with his Heavenly Father. (Genesis 2:16-17; 5:28-32; 7:11)

For us to be described as individuals who walk with God, He would be the One who set our direction and gait, the companion at our side with whom we intimately and comfortably conversed. How true is this of me?

With whom do I daily walk? Is it someone speaking through my earbuds, on a screen, or from a book? Who sets my schedule and GPS? My self-drive, or the Lord’s wise path as revealed in His word? Who determines my tempo, the rhythm of my hours? The metronome of my will, or a mind transformed by God’s? (Proverbs 3:5-6; Romans 12:1-2)

What regular practices or disciplines structure our days to set us on the Lord’s path and make us available for His specific calling? What evidence is there in our industry, service, and conversation that we are intentionally in step with God? What change is needed that would adjust our stride, or our direction, or our daily destination, to get us astride with our Lord?

This mysterious Enoch, rather than dying, simply was no more. Walking with God affects our life now through the end. Walking with God by faith assures that our death is simply a transition: we are no more here on earth, but we are with the Lord forever. Is there a greater hope in life or death? (John 14:3; 1 Thessalonians 4:17)

Father, distinguish my life by my walk with You.

Whose Charge Do I Keep?

“The people gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and afflicted.., and they were all healed. But the high priest rose up, and all who were with him, and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison. But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, ‘Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.’ And when they heard this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach…

“Now when the captain of the temple and the chief priests heard, they were greatly perplexed about them, wondering what this would come to. And someone came and told them, ‘Look! The men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people.’ Then the captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for they were afraid of being stoned by the people.

“They set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.’ But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men…’ When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them… They beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” Acts 5:16-21,24-29,33,40-42

Once the Holy Spirit took up residence in the disciples, there was no stopping them. The truth burned in their hearts and flamed from their tongues, and no opposition could restrain its force. They’d been given a charge, and that they would keep. (Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:49)

God’s commands are clear, and in this world we will always be opposed, in some way, for following them. Those who hate God will bristle and attack at any vestige of Him. What determines our perseverance is the clarity of our charge, and the commitment to keep it. God calls for wholeheartedness, and deplores lukewarmness. When expected attempts to thwart our call come, we are enabled by the Spirit to plow through the barricades we encounter and press on. (Revelation 3:15-16)

What pressures do we face from our culture, or our peers, that distract us from our true Master? Who or what has deceived us into thinking we answer to anyone but Him? What rules and regulations do we give more precedence than the plumb line of God’s word?

Perhaps we attempt to control, to set our own course of work and ministry. Have we consulted with the One who has apportioned our gifts, and assigned where we are to serve His will? Might His plans or direction differ from what we conjure up within the limitations of our comfort and preference? (Romans 12:1-2)

“A charge to keep I have, 
a God to glorify, 
a never dying soul to save, 
and fit it for the sky.

To serve the present age, 
my calling to fulfill, 
O may it all my pow’rs engage 
to do my Master’s will!” ~CHarles Wesley (1762)

Lord, help me consistently, and with patient endurance, keep Your charge, knowing my purpose is to glorify You forever. (Revelation 3:8,10-12)