Sunday, November 1, 2020


"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."
– Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
Roughly 60% of professing Christians cast a vote in the 2016 election, according to the George Barna Research Group.  That was up about 1% compared to 2012. Considering how we Americans enjoy the greatest freedom of all -- the freedom to choose our own government "of the people, by the people, for the people" -- the real surprise is that 40% of Christians DON'T vote!  

Is it that we don't care?  That's unlikely in most cases.  By and large, Christians probably care the most about our great nation and its people.  What then?

Well, I was in that 40% camp.  As a young Christian in my thirties, I had made a habit of taking every Election Day off work to spend in prayer, yet I never voted.  I remember, just before the election of 1992, an older friend in Christ reminded me to get out and vote.  "I don't vote," I responded.  "As Christians, I don't believe we are called to get involved in dirty politics.  Just to pray that God takes care of getting the right people into office."  

My friend ever-so-graciously made me reflect on what I had just said.  "Our citizens have a privilege that many countries don't -- to elect honest and upright leaders.  So, you're saying that voting is involvement in the world's 'dirty politics,' and yet you'll spend the whole day praying for others to have that precise involvement.  If all Christians did as you do, then no prayerful Christian votes would be cast at all.  Do you believe all Christians should take the day off praying (and hoping) that the 'dirty political' non-Christians will cast votes in their place?  Or ... is it that you believe God will install those honest, upright leaders without anyone voting whatsoever?" 

It was too late to register to vote in 1992 ... I did still pray! ... but I had plenty to think about.  Number one, of course, is ... what does the Bible say?

- Not surprisingly, the Bible says nothing directly about voting in an election. Fact is, none of the nations in Bible times had a democratic system.  (We've all heard of Greek democracy, but that lasted less than 200 years, ending more than three centuries before Christ.)

- But, back to our lead-in Scripture passage, Jesus identifies us as Salt of the Earth, Light of the World.  He further elaborates that light does no good when it's under the bushel; it must get out and cast its light!  Rather than just praying for other people to cast votes for "light" (righteous leaders to light our halls of government) -- not that there's anything wrong with prayer! -- should we not ALSO get out and cast some of those votes for "light" ourselves?

- When Jesus walked the earth, Israel was governed by a largely corrupt contingent of elders (the Sanhedrin) under authority of the chief priests, and ultimately under the iron heel of Caesar.  Talk about "dirty politics" -- it was the order of the day.  And yet, Jesus did not call for open rebellion against the system.  He rebuked Peter for taking violent actions against the mob sent by the chief priests.  As for the emperor, He said, "Render to Caesar that which is Caesar's."

- Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of that very Sanhedrin.  As a righteous man, he was able to bring a wise and godly perspective to the court.  And his credentials surely helped usher him in before Pilate, from whom he obtained permission to handle Jesus' burial in his own tomb.  Scripture has only good things to say about Joseph of Arimathea.

- Examples can be found throughout the Bible of God calling people to positions within government so they can be salt and light.  It wasn't "dirty politics" when Joseph ascended to be Pharoah's prime minister and saved the nation from famine.  Nor when Daniel (at times, with his three friends) served as high-ranking officials in the cabinet of Nebuchadnezzar -- the same king who had carried the Hebrews into captivity.  In fact, Daniel served under four kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus.  He attained the rank of prime minister, and brought such light to all three administrations that these ungodly kings all, in turn, had to recognize the lordship of God Almighty.

- In modern times, there have been countless great men and women -- heroes, many of them -- in government circles who swore allegiance first to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then to the heads of state whom they served.  These are salt and light in high places.  Think of William Wilberforce (of the movie "Amazing Grace").  He knew God was calling him "to ministry," and instantly thought that meant he couldn't be a Member of Parliament.  But some good friends helped him understand that that was exactly what God had in mind!  He went on to be a shining light in Parliament, ultimately leading the very successful campaign to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire!

So, back to voting.  It's not a stretch to believe that, if Jesus had walked the earth in the context of a democratic state, he would have encouraged his followers not only to submit to and pray for those in authority, but to go forth under the Spirit's guidance and cast their votes for righteous leaders.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, open my heart to deeper, committed prayer for my leaders at all levels -- national, state, and local.  Also, please give me wisdom to get out and vote corruption OUT and righteousness IN.  And, at all times, may I be salt to a dying culture and light to my dark surroundings.  In Jesus' name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 11/1/2020. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved

Monday, September 21, 2020

PASSING THE MANTLE - Isaiah 61 Devotional #1

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me to ..."
– Isaiah 61:1a (AMP)
"Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dies at 87," read the NPR headline of September 18, 2020. Now, all political opinions aside -- and I mean that! -- most adults living in the U.S.A. and reading that headline knew, not only who it was referring to, but the gravity of the news.

You see, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had not only worn THE ROBE of a United States Supreme Court justice; she had "been THE ROBE." Regardless whether one agreed or disagreed with her legal (or personal) opinions, there was no denying that Justice Ginsburg's sincerity and demeanor -- whether on or off the bench -- bordered on nobility. And THE ROBE she wore, though it was by far tinier than the other eight justices' robes, would be difficult to fill indeed.
Starting with this issue of Bradstix, we launch into a series of devotionals based on Isaiah 61 -- the passage quoted by Jesus (in Luke 4) as He began His public ministry. 
Now, this verse isn't just about Jesus bursting on the scene flashing his "badge" of authority -- though that's precisely what He was doing -- but it goes way further, foreshadowing the commission He was going to pass on to the Church (i.e., His disciples and their disciples, and ultimately, YES! ... you and me) within a few short years.
#1 "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me ..."
Wait! If Jesus was (and is) God, then how or why should the Spirit of God -- the Holy Spirit -- rest upon Him? There isn't room enough here to list the vast number of references in Scripture that allude to the Spirit of God resting on Jesus. But, just focusing on the context of Luke 4 (when Jesus quoted this passage), we see the progression:
a) Jesus is baptized by John (Luke 3:21)
b) the Holy Spirit descends upon Him as a dove (v. 22)
c) this marks the beginning of His ministry (v. 23)
d) Jesus was "filled with" and "led by" the Spirit (ch. 4:1)
e) He "returned [from the wilderness] in the power of the Spirit" (v. 14)
f) and finally, he stood up and read (vv. 16-19) this very passage:
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me ..."
#2 "... BECAUSE the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me TO ...
So, BECAUSE Jesus was the Christ -- the Messiah, the Anointed One -- and BECAUSE that anointing was a commission TO -- for the purpose of -- accomplishing the things He was sent to do (which we'll examine in later devotionals) ... therefore, the Holy Spirit had to come upon Him and abide (remain) upon Him throughout His earthly ministry.
Now, it's clear that Jesus' ministry was all carried out, from that point forward, in the anointing and power of the Spirit. The same Spirit who descended in appearance as a dove and rested upon Him.
Since the days of the Levitical priesthood, God had ordained that anointing should be accompanied by physical symbolism, which was usually oil (from which we get the very word "anointing").
But sometimes the symbolism was different. God told Elijah to go "anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet." (I Kings 19:16) Instead of pouring oil on Elisha's head, Elijah threw his own robe (mantle) over Elisha, and that had the same effect -- a physical depiction of the Spirit Who would rest upon Elisha, giving him both the power and the authority to carry out his prophetic commission. And when Elijah was caught up to heaven (II Kings 2), his robe dropped upon Elisha, who immediately used it to perform the miracle that began his ministry -- parting the Jordan.
Now, back to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She had worn the robe for twenty-seven years -- a robe that symbolized her authority as one of nine persons representing the highest circle of justice in the United States of America. But the time had now come for another to wear that robe. 
In the realm of the Spirit, just as Elijah's robe (mantle) passed to Elisha, there can be a passing of the anointing to a new vessel. Besides Elijah's case, we see Moses passing the anointing to Joshua, Aaron to Eleazar, and many other examples, though they did not all involve the same precise symbols.
So, what does this have to do with you and me? Everything, really!
If our only purpose were to get into Heaven, why, we would all be caught up like Elijah the moment we became believers, would we not? But Elijah had already been serving the purposes of God for many years before he was finally taken. And, when the robe of anointing passed to Elisha, he also continued that God-ordained work for many more years, until death took him. In other words, as long as we're on this planet, it's because there is something for us to do.
Let's look once more at Jesus' reading of Isaiah 61:1. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed [and] commissioned Me to ..." Now, once again, we'll devote later devotionals to delving deeper into the many infinitives that follow on that ponderous word "TO." 
But, suffice it to say that Jesus came to Earth to accomplish, by His Holy Spirit power and anointing, a God-sized work of ministry ... not to mention His ultimate work of becoming the Sacrifice Lamb to atone for all Sin! And, accomplish it He did! But then He left, and ... that was it? Indeed no, hallelujah!
When Jesus spoke with His disciples after his resurrection and before His ascension, that's where he passed the robe -- the anointing -- for them to carry on that very same ministry:
"So Jesus said to them again, 'Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.' And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit.'" (John 20:21-22)
From that moment forth, "the Spirit of the Lord God" was upon his disciples because the Lord Jesus had "anointed [and] commissioned" them. He had SENT them to continue the same ministry that the Father had SENT Him to begin. 
Of course, it was formalized about seven weeks later on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit anointing fell, not only upon them, but on 120 disciples gathered in the upper room -- representing the first sprouts of the Early Church. And to this day, the Holy Spirit is given freely by God "to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32), giving us, the Church, not only the robe of authority, but also the power to effectively continue the ministry of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:8).
Justice Ginsburg was an inspiration to all Americans -- whether they agreed or disagreed with her -- because she wore her tiny robe with such towering dignity until the very day she had to pass it to another.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, open my eyes to discover my own robe of anointing.  May I take the first step today, reaching outside myself to continue the ministry of Jesus Christ.  In the words of the old hymn, let me 'be His hand extended, reaching out to the oppressed.  Let me touch Him -- let me touch Jesus -- so that others may know and be blessed.'
In Jesus' name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 9/21/2020. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, August 16, 2020


"The LORD turned to [Gideon] and said, 'Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?'"
– Judges 6:14 (NIV)
Strength? What strength!?

Gideon's curious encounter with the Angel of the Lord (God Himself) starts in verse 11 of that chapter.  Gideon hiding in the winepress. Gideon contradicting God, accusing Him of handing the Israelites over to their enemies.  When the Lord responds with His divine call in verse 14, "Go in the strength you have," Gideon patiently explains to God how he's the youngest member of the weakest family of Manasseh. "Remember, God?  The tribe that's literally split in two! So, like ... weakest of the weakest of the weakest? Am I getting through??"

We all know how this story has a happy ending. But, just WHY did the Lord choose Gideon in the first place?  What extraordinary "strength" did He detect, that He overlooked all the human-splaining and persisted in calling this young man to command the army?
. . .

To better understand, we must take a short detour ... back to around the year 1952, where we'll meet my father -- a pastor in Chile, South America.  To be precise, a burnt-out, jaded pastor without a church.  You see, after a miraculous conversion while in his early thirties, he had quit the university (abandoning his quest for a fifth doctorate) and launched into building a church, then adding a Christian school ... which blossomed into three Christian schools within a few miles' radius. 
But then World War II struck, as well as an earthquake that destroyed one school and left the others badly damaged. He reached out to large church denominations operating in the region, but they had their own problems.  Nobody had time for a rural pastor with a hurting church and three damaged schools. 

So he threw in the towel.  Abandoned what was left of his church and settled into the secular job world.  Until one night there came a heavy-handed knock at the door.  

On his threshold stood a short, middle-age fellow of native (Quechua) physiognomy.  "I hea-hea-hearrr you t-t-t-teach me Spanish?"

He went by the name Simón Molina.  Said he was called of God to preach the gospel.  In Spanish.  To do that, he would need better Spanish, of course.  

"The Spanish I can help with, but you can't even f-f-f-finish a sentence, buddy!" my father thought ... but kept it to himself.  "Sure, you can come two nights a week, and we'll see how it goes," he responded.  "But, can't you just preach to people in your own language?"

"No, it's to b-b-b-b-be S-s-spanish."

As the months dragged on, the young man showed up faithfully to his private classes. With only a second- or third-grade education, the going was slow.  But he bravely fought to understand the fine points of Spanish grammar -- preterite vs. imperfect tenses, irregular verbs, gender-specific nouns ... and on and on. When he hit a wall (which was often), he would just fall to his knees mid-lesson and pour out his soul in Quechua to the God who hears and understands. Then he would return to his seat and pick up with the lesson, a pool of tears still twinkling where he had knelt.

One night Mr. Molina said, "I've come to say g-goo-goodbye.  It's ti-ti-ti... I'm ready now."  So they parted ways, and my father tried to put the whole matter out of mind.  Though he'd come to marvel at his tenacity, the fellow would never be the first Quechua Billy Graham.

Half a year later came another late-night knock at the door, and there stood his short friend.  He chatted for two hours, still in questionable Spanish, about his adventures itinerating around the countryside.  There were two new churches in a nearby town, one over the mountain, three more a day's journey down the highway.  And they were all urgently needing seasoned workers, pastors, schoolteachers.

Suddenly it struck my father what was different about Simón.  He wasn't stuttering at all!

"It happened one night as I was trying to preach," he explained.  "The harder I tried, the more my tongue got in the way.  Until I just broke down crying before the dismayed audience.  But then a miracle happened.  I knew I was cured ... healed.  When I rose and began to speak again, it just flowed.  And it's been this way ever since!  The Lord carried me over to the victor's side!" he said.

"And now I've come to deliver a word from God.  He says, 'What are YOU doing with the gifts and abilities I've given you?'"

The teacher had become the pupil, and it was his turn to shed long-overdue tears of repentance.
. . .

And now, as we reach the end of this detour ... What "strength" did our Lord detect, that called Gideon out of his cowering in the winepress?

The "strength" was his RESOLVE.  Once he was certain that his messenger was truly God, and that He really meant what He said (which required the whole fleece thing, you'll remember ...), NOTHING thereafter could derail Gideon from fulfilling the purposes of God.

See, it's rare for God to choose someone pre-qualified.  Remember, "... Not many wise ... not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (I Cor. 1:26b).  But it's rarer yet for Him to give us all the wisdom, power, and nobility we need for the task right up front.

Rather, what He's looking for is bullet-biting RESOLVE. Unwavering COURAGE and STICK-TO-IT-NESS. Like the priests who stepped into the flooded Jordan across from Jericho with no evidence that they'd make it out alive.  Like young David (later to be king) grabbing that first lion by the beard to rescue a lamb, not knowing how the affair would turn out.  Like the three Hebrew children being tossed into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down to the king's idol.  None of these people was quite sure of what the outcome would be, but they faced their circumstance with RESOLVE.  And that's when GOD shows up!

When a coworker shares about a meltown with their teen.  "Would you like me to pray with you?"

When a friend calls and says grandpa took a fall and is in the hospital.  "Can I go with you and visit him?"

When that feeling comes on strong, that God is calling for action ... stepping out of our comfort zone takes RESOLVE.  It takes COURAGE.  We're not so sure He's going to show up ... that it's going to have a happy ending.  But we swallow hard, grit our teeth, and start doing what He's told us to do ANYHOW.

Why not pray ...  

"Dear Father, often I'm frozen, discouraged by my history of failure.  I can't take a step, speak a word, make a decision to act when I know You're prompting me.  Please change that.  Give me RESOLVE to act even when I can't foresee the outcome.  I can sure use some of what Gideon had.  And Simón Molina.  Give me faith to expect that You'll meet me with the goods -- the power and grace -- at the point where it's needed. 
In Jesus’ name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 8/16/2020.

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, July 19, 2020


"...So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being..."
– Acts 17:27-28a (NKJV)
“Water!! For the love of God, PLEASE, do you have any WATER!?

As the legend goes, a 16th-century Spanish sailing ship had lain becalmed far off the coast of South America for many days, with all hands near death of thirst.  When a small craft with a group of native Brazilians passed within hailing distance, the crew bellowed and made frantic gestures, begging them to share some drinking water.

The Brazilians -- after recovering from a fit of laughter -- just pointed to the water below.

"No, no!  Sea water will kill us all.  Please ... FRESH water!"

But, as their new acquaintances persisted with the same reply, the Spaniards finally dropped a bucket and hauled it back up with ... miracle of miracles! ... FRESH WATER.

What these explorers didn't know, nearly killed them!  First, that they had reached the vast mouth of the Amazon, and furthermore, that mighty river is so powerful that it projects its freshwater flow nearly 100 miles out to sea.

What’s this got to do with us five centuries later??

In his Mars Hill sermon of Acts 17, the Apostle Paul speaks of groping to find a God Who "is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being."  

Of course, finding and meeting this "Unknown God" was essential to the question of where these Athenians would spend eternity.  That is, what -- or WHO -- they didn't know ... would deprive them of eternal life.

But, Paul's "groping and finding" message is just as vital to us believers today, as we seek God's presence and power, both in the prayer closet and beyond -- becoming salt and light in an age when the storms of darkness are closing around us, when make-believe prayer and make-believe spirituality will no longer keep us afloat.

Quoting from my book When We Pipe, God Shall Dance (2011):
# # #
"Surely, the sprout of hypocrisy emerges from the honest soil of man’s desire for substance.  And when he discovers that substance has vaporized, or that it’s never quite been there in the first place, that’s when the games of make-believe begin.  

"At first, these may resemble a rain dance—a zealous, if misguided, outpouring of human enterprise in the hopes of divine response.  And as the days pass into years without a drop of rain, eventually, the dance itself becomes an acceptable end, so long as all the dancers keep up the scrupulous delusion of great downpours which are visible only to those who have attained their rarified level of consciousness.

"In Jesus’ words, 'The men of this generation … are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept."’  Why, it was essential that the whole generation keep step with all the piping and the mourning and the weeping and the dancing, for in so doing, they should carry on the fantasy that God himself was dancing to their ditty."
# # #

You see, the Spanish sailors in our legend could have performed a rain dance in their time of need.  Maybe they did.  Maybe they drank deeply in their fevered dreams, only to wake and find themselves still dying of thirst in the doldrums.  But, they were saved in the end when they finally tasted the fresh water in which they had lived, moved, and had their being all along!

What does this look like, as it relates to my prayer life?

Think of it!  MOST of us spend MOST of our prayer time "seeking God." (As if He were lost!)  And, when we tire of "seeking God" ... and not FEELING like we're "finding Him" ... well, that's when the games of make-believe begin, as described above.

No!! STOP AND DROP!  Drop the bucket into God's infinite presence, Who is WITHIN US!  

"Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
- I Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)

And, what was the very nerve center of the Jewish temple, to which Jesus compared our bodies, if not the Holy of Holies, that inner sanctum where God Himself met with man -- listening, speaking, ANSWERING PRAYER?

Why not pray ... daily! ... 

"Dear Father, thank You that I needn't 'grope' to find you, that I needn't do a rain dance and 'cry out to the vast unknown' in hopes that You're somewhere out there listening. Now I realize that You're right here inside -- the presence of Your own Holy Spirit, within the Holy of Holies, within Your temple, which is my body.  So, I'm dropping my bucket at last ... entering boldly beyond the veil of Your temple within my heart, through the precious blood of Jesus, with a quiet voice and unwavering faith, uttering my prayers into Your loving ear ...
In Jesus’ name. Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 7/19/2020. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 28, 2020


"When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete."
– Acts 27:13 (NIV)
“Ne'er a sweeter south wind blew!  Anchors aweigh, boys, ANCHORS AWEIGH!” 

I cannot read that poor, deluded captain’s words without a shiver.  Relying on the first century Roman Weather Service forecast, he blithely departed the safe harbor – ignoring the Apostle Paul’s heavenly forecast – right into the jaws of a ruthless cyclone.

By verse 29, nothing could save the ship from catastrophe … no matter how many anchors the crew dropped.  And they dropped four!

Moral of the story:  An anchor provides security through a storm, but only if it’s dropped in a secure place.  (Like the harbor, where they should have waited out hurricane season, as Paul had warned them.)

What’s this got to do with us, two millennia later??

In his 1834 hymn, My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less, Edward Mote included this timeless phrase: “In every high and stormy gale / My anchor holds within the veil.”

So … what’s this “veil”?  Nineteenth-century spelling of “vale”—a peaceful valley?  Nope. 

Oh, I get it.  An archaic word for harbor!?  Wrong again.

Mr. Mote dug deep into the book of Hebrews to come up with this metaphorical gem:

“That … we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil...” - Hebrews 6:18-19 (NKJV)

The full sixth chapter of Hebrews deals with our place in prayer, in God’s covenant relationship … everything.  And it’s all anchored sure and steadfast – no matter the “high and stormy gale” that seeks to wrench it loose – to God Himself, the “Presence behind the veil.”  

To prevent any confusion, the writer of Hebrews goes on to say that it’s the veil where Jesus himself entered first as High Priest.  That is, before the mercy seat of the Presence of God.  With His atoning blood.  Remember the veil that was “rent from top to bottom” as He shed that blood?  Yes, and amen!  

So, I can enter anytime, through prayer, and set my anchor in His presence.  Then, as I walk out of the prayer closet and face a chaotic world … disease, riots in the streets, hatred, hopelessness … my anchor HOLDS sure and steadfast back there WITHIN THE VEIL!

On the other hand, I can whoop, “Anchors aweigh!” and charge into yet another prayerless morning.  Then, by lunchtime, I’m frantically tossing anchors astern … gripping nothing but starfish on the sandy bottom, as my day hurtles toward shipwreck.

Why not pray --- daily! ...  

"Father, thank You for the blood of Jesus Christ that ushers me within the veil.  Please set my anchor today to the one truly IMMOVABLE OBJECT, Yourself!
In Jesus’ name.  Amen"

Originally published as a “Bradstix” devotional on the National Minute of Prayer Facebook page 6/28/2020. 

Copyright © Brad Fenichel 2020 All Rights Reserved