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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Captivity In The Lord

Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 2 Timothy 2:9; 2 Timothy 1:8

There is a very real sense in which the apostle Paul, in his own person and experience, was an embodiment of the history of the Church in this age. Indeed, it would seem to be a principle in the Divine economy that those to whom a Revelation has been entrusted should themselves have it so wrought into their very being and history that they are able to say, "I am your sign." To take the one fragment which is now before us, the end of Paul's life saw a process of narrowing down and limitation working itself through by "a great falling away" on the one hand, and a closing up from the general to the specific in the case of that which (him who) represented the testimony on the other. This is precisely what is foretold as to the conditions at "the end," and it is not a little significant that this is specially referred to in prophetic utterances to Timothy - in the end letter. So that is phrase "The prisoner in the Lord" occurring as it does in the last writings, is prophetic in its meaning, and wonderfully explanatory of the end way of the sovereignty of the Lord.

What we have here, then, is

1. The instrument of the Lord's testimony in a place of limiting by the will of God.

As we read the record of the incidents which led up to Paul's going to Rome as a prisoner, and especially when we read the words o Agrippa: "This man might have been set at liberty, if he had not appealed unto Caesar,' we are not far from feeling that there were mistakes and accidents, but for which there might have been a much more propitious issue, and the ministry of the apostle at large might have extended. There may have been times of stress when Paul himself was tempted to wonder if he had not been impulsive in that appeal to the Emperor. But as he went forward, and when the Lord spoke to him from time to time giving light, it became clear that, however the thing might have been construed humanly, there was the sovereign government of God in it all, and that he was in prison not as the Emperor's prisoner, but as the prisoner of the Lord.

Perhaps Paul did not accept this all at once. Possibly he did not realize just how it would work out. A more or less quick trial and release may have been in his mind. Some hope of further ministry among beloved saints seems not to be absent from his correspondence. (There probably was a short period of release from the first imprisonment.) At length, however, he fully accepted what was becoming increasingly clear as the Lord's way, and it grew upon him that this way was in the greatest interest of the Body of Christ. Thus we see that when the time comes for the Lord's people to be brought face to face with the ultimate and supreme things of the revelation of Jesus Christ: things beyond personal salvation: things which relate to the mind of God from before times eternal as far above being saved: then there has to be a narrowing down, a closing up, a limiting. Much activity that has been, and all quite right for bringing things to  certain position and state, now ceases to carry them further, and something more intensive is needed.

That which represents the testimony in its fullest and closest approximation to the ultimate purpose of God, then, has to be shorn of much that has been good, necessary, and of God in a preparatory way, and must be shut up to what is ultimate. The captivity is not to be conceived truth or a superimposed doctrinal acceptance. It is wrought into the very fiber of the being by experience following revelation, and revelation interpreting experience. It is not the championing of some espoused interpretation: it is that it is the very life of the instruments and the instrument is that in its very being. It is not a matter of wanting to be or not wanting to be, but of cannot be other, a prisoner, the sovereignty of God has done it.

2. The importance and value of seeing and accepting things in God's light.

This applied both to Paul and to those who were brought into touch with him. For the apostle the settling into the sovereign ordering of God in his imprisonment issued in increasing illumination leading to spiritual emancipation.

No one can fail to recognize the tremendous enrichment of ministry as contained in what are called "the Prison Epistles." If he had been restive, piqued, rebellious, or bitter, there would have been no open heaven, and a spirit of controversy with the Lord would have closed and bolted the door to the fuller divine unveilings and clarifyings.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 2)

Hard Places Are Needed to Press Us Forward

I was much so that I despaired even of life, but that was to make me rely not on myself, but on the God who raises the dead" (2 Cor. 1:8, 9).

"Pressed out of measure and pressed to all length;
Pressed so intensely it seems, beyond strength;
Pressed in the body and pressed in the soul,
Pressed in the mind till the dark surges roll.
Pressure by foes, and a pressure from friends.
Pressure on pressure, till life nearly ends.
"Pressed into knowing no helper but God;
Pressed into loving the staff and the rod.
Pressed into liberty where nothing clings;
Pressed into faith for impossible things.
Pressed into living a life in the Lord,
Pressed into living a Christ-life outpoured."
The pressure of hard places makes us value life. Every time our life is given back to us from such a trial, it is like a new beginning, and we learn better how much it is worth, and make more of it for God and man. The pressure helps us to understand the trials of others, and fits us to help and sympathize with them.
There is a shallow, superficial nature, that gets hold of a theory or a promise lightly, and talks very glibly about the distrust of those who shrink from every trial; but the man or woman who has suffered much never does this, but is very tender and gentle, and knows what suffering really means. This is what Paul meant when he said, "Death worketh in you."
Trials and hard places are needed to press us forward, even as the furnace fires in the hold of that mighty ship give force that moves the piston, drives the engine, and propels that great vessel across the sea in the face of the winds and waves.
--A. B. Simpson

~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, December 30, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 59

The Victory of the Cross of Christ (continued)

Therefore, we see that the Herods have become the agents of satan's antichrist spirit as satan attempts to usurp the Throne of the Most High. It is the antichrist spirit of satan that gives the beast, that gives all that is antichrist, his power, and his throne; it is the antichrist spirit of satan that gives the beast the power to make war with the saints, and to overcome them (Revelation 13:7). It was the antichrist spirit of satan that was working his evil through the Herods!

But, let us remember, satan and all his antichrist evils and counterfeits are doomed. "If anyone has an ear, let him hear ... Here is the patience  [the endurance] and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:9, 10). Beloved, when Herod beheaded James, he did not overcome James or John or Peter or the Church that was fervently praying, he did not overcome those who had gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, to pray. No, James and the others overcame Herod, James and the other overcame all that which was, and is, antichrist, for Revelation 20:4 proclaims:

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the Word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

In this scripture, we find what was really taking place when James laid down his life. Acts twelve does not give us many details concerning the death of James; but in the above scripture, the Holy Spirit, Who knows that which the natural eye has not seen and the natural ear has not heard, reveals to us that a tremendous unseen conflict was taking place between the Lord and the antichrist forces of satan.

Herod, through the instigation of satan, moved to afflict evil upon the Church, he moved to discourage and weaken the Church by putting their leaders out of the way, but, instead, the Church prayed. James laid down his life "because of the Word of God and because of the Testimony of Jesus." And because of this, James got the victory "over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name." In a different way Peter and John would also lay down their lives because of the Word of God and because of the Testimony of Jesus. Peter and John would also overcome all that is anichrist as they would go on to finish the course the Lord had set before them. These three were joint-sharers "in the tribulation," and "in the kingdom" and "in the patient endurance" which are in Jesus Christ. And the Lord, not satan, wrought a great victory that strategic season when Herod put forth his evil hand to afflict the Church. In that strategic season one of the most important portions of God's eternal purpose in Christ was birthed out of the tribulation and travail, that those brothers and sisters experienced. For Ats 12:24 tells us: "But the Word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied". And not long after this, another brother names James would be inspired by the Holy Spirit to pick up his pen and write a letter to the Christians who had been scattered abroad because of tribulation: - and the New Testament was begun.

Thus, many years later, we find the Holy Spirit using John to write one of the last books of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. We find John writing to us of the tribulation that all who are overcomers must experience. This should not discourage us, for the Word of God confirms that those who suffer with Christ, will reign with Christ. Beloved, John was "in the Spirit" when he wrote the Book of Revelation, just as James was "in the Spirit" when he laid down his life; and when we are "in the Spirit" we are brothers and companions with those like Samson and Hannah, those like Peter, James and John. When we are "in the Spirit" we are brothers, companions in the tribulation, in the kingdom, in the patient endurance which are in Jesus Christ.

We have seen that in the measure we allow the Cross to work in our lives, in the measure that we deny our self, that is the measure we are "filled in the Spirit." And if we allow the Cross to do its work in our lives, we will be empowered by the Spirit to overcome all that is antichrist. We will be joint-sharers with those who have gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name (Revelation 1:9; 15:2).

We have seen that the time came when James and John and Peter drank of the Lord's cup, the time came when they became joint-sharers in their Lord's sufferings. Dear ones, whether we are to be martyred like James, or whether we die after living a long life for the Lord like John, or whether we live out our lives like those unnamed brothers and sisters who "fervently prayed" at the house of Mary, the mother of Mark, we are called to lay down our lives for the Lord. We are called to be joint-sharers in the tribulation, in the kingdom, in the patient endurance which are in Jesus Christ. We are called to drink of His cup. We are called to endure the Cross. "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."

Beloved, our Lord has commanded; "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." May our answer be: "I was in the Spirit ... and heard."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(the end)

Our Real Hope

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. - Hebrews 11:24-26 

The world news is depressing. There seems to be so much suffering in the world. Why must we suffer? As children of God, why must we go through such painful trials and tribulations?
When we are going through painful times, there is no easy answer to those questions. But let's take a moment and just remind ourselves of what the Bible tells us. First of all, we are told throughout the pages of God's Word that we willsuffer. Suffering is not an option. It is a fact of life. First Peter 4:12 tells us to not be surprised by the fiery trials. In other words, be ready for them. Do not be caught off guard when they happen. Moses chose to leave the palace and suffer the same types of afflictions that he had watched his people endure. Hebrews 4:15 comforts us by saying that we have a High Priest who understands our sufferings. No one suffered more than Jesus. No one understands our pain more than Him. We are never alone and never forsaken.

The next point for us to remember is this: Philippians 4:7 says, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." The peace that Jesus promises is not always consistent with our definition of peace. The peace of God is a feeling of inner comfort and joy, which cannot be explained or humanized. How do we get such peace? We ask for it in faith. We pray. We seek Jesus. We continually lay our cares at His feet. We ask the Lord to give us an eternal perspective so that we can keep our focus on His purposes and not our own. Romans 8:17-25 is a great passage of Scripture that reflects this message of an eternal hope. The Apostle Paul speaks of our suffering with Christ, a suffering that all of creation must endure because of sin. "We ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." (Romans 8:23)
For us today, our only hope is in Jesus. His living Word is our eternal food. His Holy Spirit is our living water. His very presence in our lives will change our hearts and minds with a wisdom and understanding that goes beyond our earthly desires. Jesus never promised that we would not suffer, but He did tell us to be of "good cheer." Even though we will have tribulation in the world, we have His peace and He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Faith and Prayer

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. - Hebrews 11:6

God rewards faith. Christianity started with the faith of Abraham. Faith means that we do not see to believe. So, praying is an act of faith. When we pray, we are acknowledging that God exists and listens even though we do not see Him. God rewards our faith by answering our prayers.

I have noticed that when I first came to Christ, He answered my prayers pretty quickly. It was as if I was in "obedience school" and He wanted to reward my good behavior of including Him. As I grew in my faith, I next noticed that God answered some prayers quickly but other prayers, He did not answer at all. He was then training me to learn how to pray and ask for certain things differently. When I studied the Word to see God's heart on the matter or asked God to clarify my motives of why I was asking, He would answer those prayers as well as what I asked.

Now, after having walked with the Lord for many years, my prayer life has changed again. I have more of a conversational prayer life than an "ask and believe and receive" prayer life. Now, I talk with the Lord about my requests. I ask Him to reveal His heart to me about the matter and I wait to see if there is any change in my heart as I also search the Scriptures to hear His heart. The requests themselves have now become smaller in comparison to the relationship of talking and listening and learning from Him. There is no request or unanswered prayer that becomes more important than my ongoing relationship with Him. So my faith is rewarded in a completely different way than answered prayer; my faith is rewarded by enjoying His presence in the process.

God is good. Learn to seek Him in faith. It starts with prayer requests and continues until you are praying without ceasing. You will not be disappointed. How could we ever be more satisfied than with the very presence of God Himself?

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 58

The Victory of the Cross of Christ (continued)

The Herods were descendants of the Edomites, which traces them back to Esau the firstborn son of Isaac. In the scripture, Esau was given the name Edom when he sold his birthright to Jacob for a meal of lentil pottage (Genesis 25:30-32; 32:3). Esau allowed the desire of his natural man to rule him, and he "despised his birthright"; he gave up his inheritance in the Lord, the Promise that God made to Abraham, in order to satisfy his natural man. Later he became very bitter when he realized Jacob had tricked him so that he might gain the birthright. Jacob was wrong in his way of accomplishing this, but right in his desire for the Lord. Nevertheless, the Lord would deal with Jacob until His Way, the way of the Cross, became Jacob's way. But we do not want to miss the point, Esau had a compromising, fornicating [idolatrous], bitter spirit, and the Bible makes it clear that he passed it on to his descendants (Hebrews 12:15-17; Numbers 20:18-21; 1 Samuel 14:47; etc.) This bitter, compromising murderous spirit, reached full fruition in the Herods, and as the New Testament opens, the Herods were kings in Israel. And the Holy Spirit records that the Herods directed their murdering spirits against Christ and against those who are His.

Christ said, "Beware ... of the leaven of Herod" (Mark 8:15). The Lord was not speaking of doctrine or teaching. No! He was warning His disciples, both then and now, that allowing the natural man to rule in our lives is like leaven, and it will ultimately give satan the ground he needs to bring forth that which is of the antichrist, that which is against Christ and His fullness. In Esau's natural man was a root of bitterness, and when he allowed his natural man to rule his life this bitterness fermented like leaven, and the Bible says: "A little leaven leaventh the whole lump" (Galatians 5:9). The Edomites and the Herods were the result of Esau allowing his natural man to rule; and bitterness was the result. Bitterness is an attribute of satan, and even the  smallest amount of bitterness gives satan the ground he needs to produce that which is of the antichrist, that which is against Christ. No wonder the Holy Spirit is grieved when we allow bitterness to have a place in our lives (Ephesians 4:30-32). Ephesians 4:32 tells us that there is only one way to deal with bitterness, and that is "forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 59)

The Way to Peace and Victory

We know not what we should pray for as we ought (Rom. 8:26).

Much that perplexes us in our Christian experience is but the answer to our prayers. We pray for patience, and our Father sends those who tax us to the utmost; for "tribulation worketh patience."
We pray for submission, and God sends sufferings; for "we learn obedience by the things we suffer."
We pray for unselfishness, and God gives us opportunities to sacrifice ourselves by thinking on the things of others, and by laying down our lives for the brethren.
We pray for strength and humility, and some messenger of Satan torments us until we lie in the dust crying for its removal.
We pray, "Lord, increase our faith," and money takes wings; or the children are alarmingly ill; or a servant comes who is careless, extravagant, untidy or slow, or some hitherto unknown trial calls for an increase of faith along a line where we have not needed to exercise much faith before.
We pray for the Lamb-life, and are given a portion of lowly service, or we are injured and must seek no redress; for "he was led as a lamb to the slaughter and… opened not his mouth."
We pray for gentleness, and there comes a perfect storm of temptation to harshness and irritability. We pray for quietness, and every nerve is strung to the utmost tension, so that looking to Him we may learn that when He giveth quietness, no one can make trouble.
We pray for love, and God sends peculiar suffering and puts us with apparently unlovely people, and lets them say things which rasp the nerves and lacerate the heart; for love suffereth long and is kind, love is not impolite, love is not provoked. LOVE BEARETH ALL THINGS, believeth, hopeth and endureth, love never faileth. We pray for likeness to Jesus, and the answer is, "I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong?" "Are ye able?"
The way to peace and victory is to accept every circumstance, every trial, straight from the hand of a loving Father; and to live up in the heavenly places, above the clouds, in the very presence of the Throne, and to look down from the Glory upon our environment as lovingly and divinely appointed.
I prayed for strength, and then I lost awhile
All sense of nearness, human and divine;
The love I leaned on failed and pierced my heart,
The hands I clung to loosed themselves from mine;
But while I swayed, weak, trembling, and alone,
The everlasting arms upheld my own.
I prayed for light; the sun went down in clouds,
The moon was darkened by a misty doubt,
The stars of heaven were dimmed by earthly fears,
And all my little candle flames burned out;
But while I sat in shadow, wrapped in night,
The face of Christ made all the darkness bright.
I prayed for peace, and dreamed of restful ease,
A slumber drugged from pain, a hushed repose;
Above my head the skies were black with storm,
And fiercer grew the onslaught of my foes;
But while the battle raged, and wild winds blew,
I heard His voice and Perfect peace I knew.
I thank Thee, Lord, Thou wert too wise to heed
My feeble prayers, and answer as I sought,
Since these rich gifts Thy bounty has bestowed
Have brought me more than all I asked or thought;
Giver of good, so answer each request
With Thine own giving, better than my best.

~L. B. Coman~

Friday, December 27, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit# 57

The Victory of the Cross of Christ (continued)

Now, in order to grasp the full significance of that which took place in Acts twelve, we need to go back a few years and consider that which is recorded in Mark 10:28. In Mark 10:33 and 34, the Lord Jesus had just finished telling the twelve of His Cross, He had told them that He would be killed, and that three days later He would rise again. About this time, James and John came up to Him and said to Him: "Grant that we may sit in Your Glory, one on Your right, and the one on Your left." And Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking or. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" And they said to Him, "We are able." These "sons of thunder" were ambitious, they were interested in becoming the greatest in the kingdom; but James and John were not much different than Peter, who not long before this had said, "Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee." Which is one way of saying: "What do I get out of this?"

The Lord knew that the twelve had discussed and argued among themselves  who was the greatest among them. Jesus knew how ambitious their natural man was, but He also knew that their heart was wholly dedicated to Him (except for Judas). He knew that after the cross had done its work in their lives that they would be "able." they would, in measure, have their Gethsemane; so He said to James and John: "The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I AM baptized." And in saying it to them, He said it to all who will take up their cross and follow Him.

You know, beloved, when Peter said, "Lo, we have left all, and followed Thee," he was referring to earthly things, and earthly riches, and earthly ties (Mark 10:29). But when the Lord Jesus Christ answered Peter, He was not speaking of the earthly realm. He was speaking of the hundredfoldness, limitless, spiritual blessings of the Kingdom of God. When Christ spoke of houses, brothers, sisters, and mothers and lands, etc., He was not speaking of the earthly realm. He was speaking of the spiritual blessings and the unsearchable riches which are In Him. Christ also said that this hundredfoldness of His Kingdom was to be received by us now, in the present age, "along with persecutions." He also said that we would receive this hundrefoldness, the unsearchable riches that are in Him, throughout eternity.

Christ was speaking of His Kingdom, which is not of this world. He was speaking of the Kingdom of God in which the greatest is the One Who is the servant of all (verse 44), and only Christ is the Greatest; and in this Kingdom those who reign with Him must suffer with Him. he Tribulation, the Kingdom, and the Patient Endurance which are in Jesus Christ are irrevocably linked together.

So the Lord Jesus Christ said to James and John, "The cup that I drink ye shall drink:; and "The cup He drank" always leads us to the agony of Gethsemane and the suffering of the Cross. Thus, in the Word of God, it is by Divine Design that the last two times Peter, James and John are recorded as being together is at Gethsemane, and then at Jerusalem, 12 or 15 years later, when the Holy Spirit solemnly tells us: "Now, at that strategic, significant period [in the growth of the Church and the success of the gospel message], Herod the king laid his hands  upon certain of those who belonged to the Church for the purpose of maltreating them. And he put James, the brother of John, out of the way, beheading him with a sword ... and he put him (Peter) in prison" (Acts 12:1, 2).

Herod put forth his hands to "vex", to maltreat, to afflict with evil, "certain of the Church." There is something very sinister and cunning, very malicious and venomous, behind these words. This is the first time one of the Herods have been mentioned since the Cross of Christ, and this Herod, Herod Agrippa I, comes on the scene with murder in his heart. This Herod is from a long line of Herods who had murder in their hearts against the Lord and His chosen ones. It was Herod the Great who murdered the innocent children when Christ was born in order to stop Christ from becoming King of Israel. It was Herod Antipas who, under the influence of Herodias, ordered the beheading of John the Baptist; and Herod Antipas also took part in the condemning of Christ to the Cross. And now Herod Agrippa I, moves to maltreat the Church, and he beheads James, the brother of John.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 58)

Understanding Guilt

Guilt over doing something that violates the conscience is a normal emotion. However, living under a cloud of remorse for no discernible reason is not. The Lord designed feelings of culpability and regret to serve as a reminder that a person has done wrong and needs to repent. But Satan twists those emotions to imprison men and women: those living in shame are uncertain of God's love and often lack self-confidence.

Good guilt--the Lord's effective tool for prompting repentance--is a gift that helps us find the right path. However, the Devil encourages false guilt, which involves taking responsibility for things outside our control and then suffering self-condemnation for not changing the outcome. This unhealthy type of guilt is also a widespread problem for those in legalistic churches or lifestyles--certain behaviors or thoughts are labeled as wrong, and then people feel ashamed for doing or thinking those things.

Self-condemnation stunts a relationship with Jesus. Instead of enjoying the peace of God, people who are trapped by shame fear His rejection and feel driven to prove their worth. Trust is nearly impossible because they are waiting for God's judgment to rain down. Their guilt even colors how they see themselves: rather than saying, "My action is wrong," they say, "I am bad."
Jesus did not come to accuse or condemn us. Christ restored our souls and made us righteous before God so that our guilt is removed. If our Savior forgave the woman caught in an adulterous relationship, just imagine how ready He is to take your shame away too (John 8:11).

~Charles Stanley~

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 56

The Tribulation, the Kingdom and the Patient Endurance Which are in Jesus Christ

So we begin to understand some of what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired John to write these words to us: "I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience [which are in] Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, because of the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9). John was "in the Spirit" when he wrote these inspired Words to us, and we must be "in the Spirit" if we are to be fellow partakers with him in the Tribulation, and in the Kingdom and in the Patience [the endurance] which are in Jesus Christ.

John well knew what it meant to be a brother, and fellow partaker in the tribulation, the kingdom and the patient endurance which are in Christ Jesus; he knew because he had actually lived through this with his natural brother James, and with Peter who was his friend, and partner in the fishing business. Luke 5:10 tells us that they were "partners" in the fishing business; and in the book "Jesus the Messiah" by Edersheim, we are told that fishing was a lucrative business in those days. The word "partner" is "koinonos" in the Greek. In using this word to describe the business relationship between these men, before they followed the Lord,we are sure the Holy Spirit was pointing to the relationship that they would have together "in the Spirit"; because it is the same word John used many years later when he wrote: "I, John, your brother, and fellow partaker [sunkoinonos] ..." The Greek preposition, "sun", is added because the redeemed are to be fellow partakers "in the tribulation, and kingdom and perseverance (patient endurance) which are in Jesus... "  Oh, how much Peter, James and John shared together in the Lord.

Together they were fishermen for their livelihood and for the support of their families. Together they answered the call of Jesus to follow Him, and He made them fishers of men. Each one of these three were chosen by the Lord to become one of His twelve apostles. These three watched amazed as the Lord raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead. These three also witnessed the Lord's transfiguration. And when the Lord Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane with His disciples to pray, He took these three a little further with Him, and He asked them and the others to pray that they "may not enter into temptation"; but instead, as the Lord agonized in prayer, they all fell asleep.

Many believe that Peter, James and John were a part of an inner circle that was closer to the Lord than the rest of the disciples; but we believe it is more likely that they required more dealings in their inner man than the others, because they were more ambitious, impetuous, and strong-willed - their natural man was very strong. It would take the Cross to deal with these three and the other disciples, for after the Cross, the Resurrection, and the Ascension of our Lord, we find them welded and bonded together "in the Spirit." And on the day of Pentecost all the apostles, and the rest of the 120, were filled with the Spirit; and the apostles stood as one new man in Christ Jesus as Peter gave the Word: "and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:14-41)

Now Gethsemane, the place of the Lord's agony over the cup He will drink, is the last time that Peter and James and John are recorded as being together until Acts 2, where we find that Herod has put forth his hands to "vex", to afflict with evil, certain of the Church. "Now, at that strategic, significant period [in the growth of the Church and the success of the gospel message], Herod the king laid his hands upon certain of those who belonged to the Church for the purpose of maltreating them. And he put James, the brother of John, out of the way, beheading him with a sword ... he proceeded to seize Peter also ... and ... he put him in prison ..." (Acts 12:1-4).

The Holy Spirit records that Peter and John are together many times after the day of Pentecost, but Peter and James and John are not recorded as being together until Acts twelve. Oh, James is there among the twelve apostles as all of them steadfastly, even under the threat of death, preached and taught and established the Church; but from Gethsemane until Acts twelve, these three are not mentioned together. Then, in Acts 12:1, the Holy Spirit tells us that Herod put forth his hand to afflict evil upon the Church, and these three are brought together again as the Lord, out from the Throne, is working all things after the counsel of His Own Will: - "the strategic, epochal season is imminent" (Revelation 1:3). A time of great tribulation is at hand3 but, remember, it is through "much tribulation" that we enter the kingdom, that we become able to live in the reality of the Throne. Thus James and John and Peter are to become joint-partakers "in the tribulation," and "in the kingdom," and "in the Patient Endurance" which are in Jesus Christ.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 57)

Men Ought Always to Pray

Luke 18:1
Men ought always to pray.
If men ought always to pray and not to faint, much more Christian men. Jesus has sent His church into the world on the same errand upon which He Himself came, and this mission includes intercession. What if I say that the church is the world's priest? Creation is dumb, but the church is to find a mouth for it. It is the church's high privilege to pray with acceptance. The door of grace is always open for her petitions, and they never return empty-handed. The veil was rent for her, the blood was sprinkled upon the altar for her, God constantly invites her to ask what she wills. Will she refuse the privilege which angels might envy her? Is she not the bride of Christ? May she not go in unto her King at every hour? Shall she allow the precious privilege to be unused? The church always has need for prayer. There are always some in her midst who are declining, or falling into open sin. There are lambs to be prayed for, that they may be carried in Christ's bosom? the strong, lest they grow presumptuous; and the weak, lest they become despairing. If we kept up prayer-meetings four-and-twenty hours in the day, all the days in the year, we might never be without a special subject for supplication. Are we ever without the sick and the poor, the afflicted and the wavering? Are we ever without those who seek the conversion of relatives, the reclaiming of back-sliders, or the salvation of the depraved? Nay, with congregations constantly gathering, with ministers always preaching, with millions of sinners lying dead in trespasses and sins; in a country over which the darkness of Romanism is certainly descending; in a world full of idols, cruelties, devilries, if the church doth not pray, how shall she excuse her base neglect of the commission of her loving Lord? Let the church be constant in supplication, let every private believer cast his mite of prayer into the treasury.

~Charles Spurgeon~

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 55

The Victory of the Cross of Christ (continued)

Beloved, in these Scriptures we find the Faith of Jesus, the Endurance of Jesus, the Throne of Jesus; so let us do as this precious word says, "let us lay aside, strip off and throw aside, every encumbrance [every distraction], let us put off and away from ourselves once for all that sin which so easily entangles us ["that sin" - of allowing our natural man to rule in our lives]; and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, looking away [from all that will distract] unto Jesus, fixing our eyes on Jesus."

Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of Faith: - He is the Author, the Leader, the Captain, the Source, the Beginning of FAITH, He is the Finisher, the Perfecter, the Completer, the Consummator of FAITH. We have capitalized FAITH, because Christ is the Author and Finisher of ALL FAITH spoken of in the Word of God. This FAITH is two-sided. On  the one side, Christ is the Source, the Development, and the perfecter of our faith, the faith we live by; because in the redeemed, faith is both a gift of the Spirit; and the fruit of the Spirit. And on the other side, Christ is the Author and Finisher of the FAITH. He is the Source, the Perfecter, and the Consummator of the FAITH, the "One Faith" (Ephesians 4:5; Jude 3). The Faith, the "One Faith," is the sum total of the Truth of God; and the Word tells us that the Truth is a Person, for Christ says: I AM the Truth (John 14:6). I AM the Reality of All that God is. Therefore, the Faith, the "One Faith," upon which we stand and have our existence as Christians is the Living Reality of All that Christ is, and of All that Christ accomplished. In both cases, whether it is our faith, the faith we each live by, or whether it is "The Faith" upon which we all stand and have our existence as Christians, we have to believe, trust, live, move and have our being in Him.

How did our Lord and Saviour complete the Faith, our faith, All Faith? He endured the Cross. He laid down His Life. He died in Faith. He died in perfect trust believing that God would raise Him from the dead by the Power of the Holy Spirit! "Jesus... endured [patiently endured] the Cross." "Here is the patience and the faith of the saints."

Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross. - Jesus ... for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross. He Whom God "appointed Heir of all things," patiently endured the Cross. He through Whom God "made the worlds, and the reaches of space and the ages of time," patiently endured the Cross. He Who is "the Radiance of God's Glory, and the Express Image of His Person," patiently endured the Cross. He Who "upholds all thing by the Word of His Power," patiently endured the Cross. (Hebrews 1:2 and 3). He Who "was the Word, and the Word was God," patiently endured the Cross. He Who is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Godhead, patiently endured the Cross. "Jesus ... for the joy that was set before Him" endured the Cross. What was this joy that caused Him to lay down His glorious Life, a Life so vast and eternal that it cannot be comprehended fully by mortal man, nor by any other created being? What was this surpassing joy that was set before Him? The Holy Spirit gives us the answer as He records what was in the heart of our Lord Jesus as He fulfilled all that His Father had purposed in and through Him: "Lo, I come to do Thy Will, O God." And the Holy Spirit, the Eternal Spirit, shares what He knew had always been in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ: "I delight to do Thy will, O My God" (Psalm 40:8).

The joy of the Lord Jesus was to fulfill the Father's Will, thus He patiently endured the Cross and upon Him was laid the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53). He Who knew no sin was made sin, "despising the shame," but crying: "Nevertheless not My Will, but Thine, be done." THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PATIENTLY ENDURED THE CROSS and "when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High" (Hebrews 1:3). Oh, beloved, the Lamb is in the midst of the Throne and He bears the wounds of the Cross in His Glorified Body.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 56 - "The Tribulation, the Kingdom, and the Patient Endurance Which are in Jesus Christ")

No Condemnation

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment [or condemnation], but has passed from death into life.” - John 5:24

Although there is a huge difference between conviction and condemnation, they seem to be interchangeable in the Christian life at times. When Christians are convicted, often this leads them into feeling condemned. The thoughts and feelings associated with the word convicted suddenly become closely defined to the words "convict or a prisoner". When convicted, we act as if God wants us to wear prison clothes, eat prison food and wake up behind prison doors to remind us of how we have fallen short. God does not want that for us. Neither word: condemned nor convicted, applies to the believer negatively.

The Bible defines these words differently. Condemnation has to do with who  you are, either in Christ or not. Conviction has to do with what you do, to bring you closer to Christ. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, if His blood does not cover your sins, you are condemned. You have not passed over from death to life and you remain in your sins. However, if you are a Christian, you will never be condemned because Jesus has given you eternal life. Thoughts of condemnation are not from the Lord, not ever. Condemnation is about your spiritual state for eternity, not your daily thoughts or actions.
For the Christian, there is a clear distinction between conviction and condemnation. Conviction leads us closer to Christ as we confess and repent to Him. Condemnation makes us feel as if we cannot come to God as we concentrate on our own shortcomings. Condemnation is a tactic of the enemy. Pray that you do not fall prey to his lies. Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
If you know Jesus, He is for you. He is always on your side and He wants you to succeed at everything you do. Stay on His team by thinking His thoughts about you. Work with Him to change. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ because He has come to give you life in abundance.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 54

The Victory of the Cross of Christ (continued)

In Revelation 13:1-8, the Lord is telling those of us who desire to be overcomers that the dragon, that old serpent, called the devil, and satan, has given the beast, whose name is "blasphemy," the power "to make war with the saints, and to overcome them." This does not have reference to our salvation, for those whose names are in the Lamb's book of Life have eternal life. However, as we have calculated the number of this name of this blasphemous beast throughout the Word, we have seen that a Christian can be overcome when he allows his natural man to rule in his life. We have seen that when we, as Christians, allow the strength of our natural man to govern our lives, we give the devil the ground he needs to further his antichrist activities. "If anyone has an ear (a spiritual ear), let him hear." We are not to be overcome, we are to be overcomers!

The Word of God makes it clear that those redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb are to be overcomers, they are not to be overcome by satan and his antichrist tactics.

"And they overcame him [that old serpent, called the devil, and satan], because of the Blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even to death" (Revelation 12:11).

"And I saw ... them that had gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name, stand ... and sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb ..." (Revelation 15:2, 3).

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded because of the witness [the testimony] of Jesus, and because of the Word of God, and which had not worshiped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Revelation 20:4).

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be His God, and he shall be My Son" (Revelation 21:7).

So it is clear that we are supposed to be overcomers, and the key to our being, and continuing to be, overcomers is in the words which follow the Holy Spirit's declaration of satan's doom: "Here is the patience [the endurance] and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:10). And these  words lead us again to Revelation 1:9, where John, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is writing these words to us: "I, John, your brother and companion - sharer and participator - with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patient endurance [which are] in Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:9).

So in Revelation 13:10, we have "the patience [the endurance] and "the faith" of the saints; and in Revelation 1:9, we have "the tribulation" and "the kingdom" and "the patience" which are in Jesus. We have long contemplated these inspired words: I am your brother and companion in the Tribulation, in the Kingdom, and in the Patience which are in Jesus. We know that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 14), but what  does it mean when the Word speaks of The Tribulation, The Kingdom and The Patience (Endurance) which are in Jesus?

Throughout the Word, the Holy Spirit intertwines "the patience" and "the faith" of the saints, with "the tribulation" and "the Kingdom" and "the Patience" which are in Jesus. In Acts 14:22, we are exhorted "to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God." Romans 8:17 declares that we are joint-heirs with Christ, "if we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him". First Peter 4:13 tells us: "but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing". Second Timothy 2:12 clearly states, "If we endure (with Him is implied), we shall also reign with Him". However, in order to find the fullest meaning of the statement made to the overcomers in Revelation 13:10, "Here is the patience [the endurance] and the faith of the saints," we have to consider Hebrews 12:1 and 2 -

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 55)

The King Comes Wherever We Are

These were the potters, and those that dwelt among plants and hedges: there they dwelt with the king for his work (1 Chron. 4:23).

Anywhere and everywhere we may dwell "with the king for his work." We may be in a very unlikely and unfavorable place for this; it may be in a literal country life, with little enough to be seen of the "goings" of the King around us; it may be among the hedges of all sorts, hindrances in all directions; it may be furthermore, with our hands full of all manner of pottery for our daily task.

No matter! The King who placed us "there" will come and dwell there with us; the hedges are right, or He would soon do away with them. And it does not follow that what seems to hinder our way may not be for its very protection; and as for the pottery, why, that is just exactly what He has seen fit to put into our hands, and therefore it is, for the present, "His work."
--Frances Ridley Havergal

Go back to thy garden-plot, sweetheart!
Go back till the evening falls,
And bind thy lilies and train thy vines,
Till for thee the Master calls.
Go make thy garden fair as thou canst,
Thou workest never alone;
Perhaps he whose plot is next to thine
Will see it and mend his own.

The colored sunsets and starry heavens, the beautiful mountains and the shining seas, the fragrant woods and painted flowers, are not half so beautiful as a soul that is serving Jesus out of love, in the wear and tear of common, unpoetic life.

The most saintly spirits are often existing in those who have never distinguished themselves as authors, or left any memorial of themselves to be the theme of the world's talk; but who have led an interior angelic life, having borne their sweet blossoms unseen like the young lily in a sequestered vale on the bank of a limpid stream.

~L. B. Cowman~

Monday, December 23, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 53

"The Victory of the Cross of Christ"

Hannah's and Samuel's and David's weapons of warfare were not carnal, but they were mighty through God to the pulling down and destruction of strongholds - the strongholds of evil (2 Cor. 10:4). In the battle between David and Goliath, David did not move in his own strength and confidence; he did not wear the armor of Saul, which represented the corporate strength of the natural man, for this only made this uncircumcised giant stronger. No! David ran to meet this uncircumcised giant in the Name of the Lord, he ran to meet this giant not in his own strength, but in the strength of his Lord; thus, David slew the giant and took off the giant's head with the giant's own sword.

When David took off the head of this uncircumcised giant, the Philistines suffered a defeat from which they never fully recovered. But most important of all, satan lost the ground he had gained because David, moving in full dependence in his Lord, struck a death blow to the strength of the natural man. The Word of God says: "Now there was long war between the house of Saul (the strength of the natural man) and the house of David (the spiritual man); but David waxed (grew steadily) stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed (grew continually) weaker and weaker" (2 Samuel 3:1).

David's battle with the Philistines was not entirely finished when the giant was slain, but as David continued to allow the Lord to have His Way in his life- the way of the Cross - David's spiritual man steadily became stronger. As David's spiritual man became stronger, Saul, who represents the corporate strength of the natural man, became continually weaker and weaker. Therefore the place, the ground, that satan had gained when Saul was made king became smaller and smaller. But God is not willing to allow satan to have even a small place in His people's heart, because in His New Creation in Christ Jesus, Christ is all, and in all, and satan has no place at all.

Therefore, God continues to use the faithful in David's age, and in every age, to drive out the Philistines, to drive out that which is of the antichrist, from His people's inheritance. God is not willing that the enemy have one inch of ground! And in 2 Samuel 23:11 and 12, where we find the Holy Spirit's record of David's mighty men, we are told that the Philistines "were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles." And Shammah, who was one of David's mighty men, "stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the Lord wrought a great victory!"

God will not allow the enemy to have even a lentil patch, no! not even the smallest piece of ground, because there is no place for satan in the New Creation in which Christ is All, and in All. God has already prepared a place for satan and his evil host (Matt. 25:41); hence, in Revelation 13:10, we find these words: "He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword." These two statements are Hebrews idioms for destiny, a destiny that cannot be escaped. And by carefully leaving these two idioms in the context of Revelation thirteen, we find the Holy Spirit is declaring that God-Ordained destiny of the beast - the destiny that was sealed through the Victory of the Cross of Christ. The Holy Spirit is declaring the God-Ordained destiny of every antichrist evil that satan has ever instigated, or ever will instigate. According to the Word of God, the final destiny of the beast, of that which is antichrist, is the same as the dragon's, that ancient serpent, called the devil, and satan: - "The lake of fire" is their God-Ordained end! (Revelation 20:10). It is the victory of the Cross that overcomes every antichrist evil that satan has ever instigated, or ever will instigate - The Lamb is in the midst of the Throne and He bears the wounds of the Cross in His Glorified Body - "And the Lamb shall overcome them [all that is antichrist]: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."

Nevertheless, even though the doom of satan and all his works is sealed, we must realize that the warfare that began when satan fell (Isa. 14:12-15) will continue until "that old serpent, which is the devil, and satan," is cast into the lake of fire. This is why the Holy Spirit's declaration of satan's doom is prefaced and concluded with both a warning, and a challenge, to the overcomers of every age.

"If anyone has an ear let him hear. He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience [the endurance] and the faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:9, 10).

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 54)

The King's Mowings

He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass (Ps. 72:6).

Amos speaks of the king's mowings. Our King has many scythes, and is perpetually mowing His lawns. The musical tinkle of the whetstone on the scythe portends the cutting down of myriads of green blades, daisies and other flowers. Beautiful as they were in the morning, within an hour or two they lie in long, faded rows.
Thus in human life we make a brave show, before the scythe of pain, the shears of disappointment, the sickle of death. There is no method of obtaining a velvety lawn but by repeated mowings; and there is no way of developing tenderness, evenness, sympathy, but by the passing of God's scythes.
How constantly the Word of God compares man to grass, and His glory to its flower! But when grass is mown, and all the tender shoots are bleeding, and desolation reigns where flowers were bursting, it is the most acceptable time for showers of rain falling soft and warm.
O soul, thou hast been mown! Time after time the King has come to thee with His sharp scythe. Do not dread the scythe--it is sure to be followed by the shower.
--F. B. Meyer
When across the heart deep waves of sorrow
Break, as on a dry and barren shore;
When hope glistens with no bright tomorrow,
And the storm seems sweeping evermore;
When the cup of every earthly gladness
Bears no taste of the life-giving stream;
And high hopes, as though to mock our sadness,
Fade and die as in some fitful dream,
Who shall hush the weary spirit's chiding?
Who the aching void within shall fill?
Who shall whisper of a peace abiding,
And each surging billow calmly still?
Only He whose wounded heart was broken
With the bitter cross and thorny crown;
Whose dear love glad words of Joy had spoken,
Who His life for us laid meekly down.
Blessed Healer, all our burdens lighten;
Give us peace, Thine own sweet peace, we pray!
Keep us near Thee till the morn shall brighten,
And all the mists and shadows flee away!
~L. B. Cowman~

Sunday, December 22, 2013

What It Means to be Filled with the Holy Spirit # 52

The Natural Man Receiveth Not the Things of the Spirit (continued)

And, in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, we find the Holy Spirit sharing one of Hannah's prayers, a prayer which is the fruit of her long travail "in the Spirit." Hannah's prayer is a psalm of the Spirit, it is a psalm of praise, worship, devotion, instruction and warfare. It is a priestly prayer "in the Spirit" that delivers God's people out of the power of darkness, and transfers them into their full inheritance - "The Lord maketh ... them inherit the throne of Glory" (1 Samuel 2:7, 8). It is a prophetic prayer "in the Spirit" that proclaims the true King of kings, and Lord of lords - "And He shall give strength unto His King" (1 Samuel 2:10). It is a kingly prayer "in the Spirit" that exalts the Omnipotent Power of Christ, and declares His defeat of His enemies:

"The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces; 
Against them will He thunder in Heaven.
The Lord will judge [all peoples] to the ends of the earth;
And He will give strength to His King,
And exalt the power of His anointed -
His Christ" (1 Samuel 2:10).

Dear ones, the prayers of Hannah, the prayers of this lowly handmaiden of the Lord, had in them the ministry of the Psalmist, the Prophet, the Priest, and the King. We do not have to be a Samuel, or a David, or an apostle like John, in order to serve the Lord in these ministries. No, we only have to be like Hannah. We have to be those who will not expend our prayers upon our own natural desires, but who will intercede "in the Spirit" until the Lord is satisfied.

Hannah's prayers were prayers "in the Spirit"; for Hannah, like the Apostle John in Revelation 1:9 and 10, was "in the Spirit" in the Lord's Day. Hannah was "in the Spirit" and it was the Sovereign Imperial Day of the Lord, fr God was working all things after the counsel of His Own Will. And we need to realize that Hannah's praying "in the Spirit" did as much to defeat Goliath as David did. For when David ran to meet Goliath, he cried through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit: "The Battle is the Lord's and He will give you into our hands" (1 Samuel 17:47). Notice, h said "into our hands!" Yes, David was moving in the good of Hannah's prayers, for Hannah's prayers were breaking down, and making a way through, the unseen forces of evil long before David met Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine.

Beloved, we need the uncompromising Samuels and the courageous Davids today, but in order to have them, we must first of all have the Hannahs. We must have men and women who will not expend their prayers on their own natural desires, but who will pray, travail, intercede, and persevere "in the Spirit" on all occasions, in all seasons, until God has His End through His Way.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 53 -"The Victory of the Cross of Christ")

Down With a Shout

And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city!” Joshua 6:16

The story surrounding the city of Jericho is amazing. The Bible tells us that the walls came down with a shout. Just imagine the fear that already existed within the people in the city. For six straight days, the Israelites arose early in the morning and marched around the city of Jericho. A regiment of armed guards in the front, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the middle, and another regiment bringing up the rear marched around the city, never saying a word, just blowing their trumpets. Then, on the seventh day, they did it again, but not once, but seven times! And on the seventh time, at Joshua’s command, they shouted with their voices…and the walls came down. What an awesome display of God’s power!

We learn a lot from this story and this verse. We learn that God is sovereign and has a plan for all things. We learn that God’s ways are not our ways and that His works seem mysterious at times. We learn to trust Him, obey Him and wait on His timing, despite what we think. We learn that the battle is His, not ours. We may want to use all of our weapons and all of our own strength, but God can strike the enemy with one word or one shout! We learn that we serve an awesome God, for He is God alone and there is none other. Let Him take down your walls today. Follow Him, trust Him and obey Him. Stop looking for worldly proof and evidence, just put your faith in His Word and start marching to the beat of His drum.

~Daily Disciples Devotional~