Saturday, April 19, 2014

WHEN IN TROUBLE, PRAY! by Jim Cymbala

Have you ever noticed that Jesus launched the Christian church, not while someone was preaching, but while people were praying? In the first two chapters of Acts, the disciples were doing nothing but waiting on God. As they were just sitting there . . . worshiping, communing with God, letting Him shape them and cleanse their spirits and do those heart operations that only the Holy Spirit can do . . . the church was born. The Holy Spirit was poured out.

What does it say about our churches today that God birthed the church in a prayer meeting, and prayer meetings today are almost extinct?

Am I the only one who gets embarrassed when religious leaders in America talk about having prayer in public schools? We don’t have even that much prayer in many churches! Out of humility, you would think we would keep quiet on that particular subject until we practice what we preach in our own congregations

I am sure that the Roman emperors didn’t have prayer to God in their schools. But then, the early Christians did not seem to care what Caligula or Claudius or Nero did. How could any emperor stop God? How, in fact, could the demons of hell make headway when God’s people prayed and called upon His name? Impossible!

In the New Testament we don’t see Peter or John wringing their hands and saying, “Oh, what are we going to do? Caligula is bisexual . . . he wants to appoint his horse to the Roman Senate . . . what a terrible model of leadership! How are we going to respond to this outrage?”

Let’s not play games or divert attention away from the weak prayer life of our own churches. In Acts 4, when the apostles were unjustly arrested, imprisoned, and threatened, they didn’t call for a protest; they didn’t reach for some political leverage. Instead, they headed to a prayer meeting. Soon the place was vibrating with the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:23-31).

The apostles had this instinct: When in trouble, pray. When intimidated, pray. When challenged, pray. When persecuted, pray!


__________
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, April 18, 2014

HE OPENS OUR EYES

The Holy Spirit seeks to bring to us a growing knowledge that God is going to be merciful to us all the way through our trials. “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not” (2 Corinthians 4:1).

What is the merciful ministry we have received from the Holy Spirit? He opens our eyes to the tender mercies of Christ toward us. He implants in us an inner knowing that the Lord is on our side, that He is for us. And He shows us how committed God is to keep us from falling—how compassionate He is toward everything we’re going through, how touched He is by the feelings of our infirmities.

Right now you may feel abused and unloved. The devil would have you believe that God has left you to your own devices—that you deserve to suffer, that it’s all over for you, that there is no hope. Beloved, those are lies from hell. God wants more than anything else to rid you of your perverted concept of Him. He loves you tenderly and He has already set a time to bestow all His mercies on you.

David cried pitifully as he was overwhelmed by his situation: “My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. . . . I watch, and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top. Mine enemies reproach me all the day . . . I have . . . mingled my drink with weeping. . . . My days are like a shadow that declineth" (Psalm 102:4, 7-9, 11). He groaned, “I’m in a terrible condition, physically, mentally and spiritually.”

Yet that was the very time God had set to deliver David, and the Lord moved in quickly with mercy, help and comfort. David testified, “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Psalm 102:13).

God’s set time to deliver David was in his lowest hour, when he was thinking, “I’ve been reduced to nothing.” Likewise today, God has set a time to deliver and send His favor upon us—and it usually comes in our worst hour of trial. That’s the time when we’re no longer struggling to do things on our own. Instead, we admit, “Lord, I can’t do it—it’s a mess. I give it all over to you.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

AN OPEN FACE

The apostle Paul writes, “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). The root word for “open face” here has an amazing definition. It means being totally committed to allowing God to expose every hidden thing in your heart—for the purpose of being delivered from it all.

This kind of open face cries out, “Try me, Lord; see if there is any wicked way in me. Show me where I’m living contrary to Your Word. I want to be delivered from everything that is unlike you. Away with all my pride, my ambitions, my selfish intellect, my reasoning. I know I can’t think my way out of my situation. Holy Spirit, I need Your power and wisdom. I lay down every hope of solving things my own way.”

For many believers, this is a very difficult thing to do. They have survived their whole Christian lives on their wits and wisdom. And now to have to admit to bungling things up and needing to give up control is just too hard.

The Lord had to strip me of my pride in this area years ago. Now, thank the Lord, I freely admit whenever I mess things up. My constant prayer is, “God, I do such dumb things. I make such awful mistakes, get myself into terrible messes. Please, Lord, clear them up for me. I can’t do it. Only You can.” Thankfully, God delights in fixing our messes when we seek to do His will.

The glass Paul speaks of in this passage means mirror. And, beloved, our mirror is God’s Word. It alone accurately reflects back to us our condition. Paul is telling us, “Go to the mirror of God’s truth, and behold your life. Tell the Lord you’re on the wrong course, and you want to be changed. Ask His Spirit to humble you and to open up His Word to you. Forsake others’ advice, your own ideas, your own contrivances. Instead, turn to the Holy Ghost in full trust. Believe what He says to you.”

If you will rely solely on the Holy Spirit, turning away from all other helps, He will unveil your eyes. He’ll also send Holy Ghost-led helpers into your life and you will begin to change in that very moment.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Change is exclusively the work of the Holy Ghost. “How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:8). We simply can’t change ourselves. Only the Spirit of God can conform us to the glorious image of Christ. We have all heard it said, “When a person turns to the Lord, God lifts the veil from his eyes.” That is solely the Spirit’s work.

We also read, “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (verse 17). The word “liberty” here means “no longer a slave; exempt from liability; free, unchained.” This describes the freedom that comes with having our eyes opened. Suddenly, we see things in a new light. Only the Holy Spirit can break down our lifelong way of seeing things, turn us around, and set us on a true course.

In short, the turning Paul speaks of here means trusting fully in God’s Spirit. It also means turning away from all unbiblical counseling, all ideas and plans of your own, and calling on the Holy Ghost alone to lead and guide you.

Paul experienced this kind of turning. In Acts 9, when he was still known as Saul, he was on the wrong course, riding to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. Talk about having a veil over his eyes! Saul actually believed he was doing God a favor by arresting believers and throwing them in jail.

But the Lord intercepted this man and created a crisis in his life. When Jesus met Saul on the Damascus road, He struck him with a light that was so powerful it literally blinded him. Saul had to be led sightless to a house in Damascus, where he stayed until godly Ananias arrived. Ananias told him: “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight” (Acts 9:17-18).

Saul surrendered his past, future, everything to the Holy Spirit—and the veil was immediately removed from his eyes.



__________

The Expect Pastors & Church Leadership Conference is just a few days away. Join fellow ministers for a time of refreshing at Times Square Church in New York City. April 23-24. Speakers are Gary Wilkerson, Carter Conlon, Jim Cymbala, Teresa Conlon, and William Carrol.



Register today at http://bit.ly/1qtMxh3

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

WE’RE CONTINUALLY BEING CHANGED

Like it or not, we all are in the process of changing in one way or another. In the spiritual realm, there is no such thing as mere existence; we are being changed, either for good or for bad. We are either becoming more like our Lord or more like the world—either growing in Christ or backsliding.

So, are you becoming more sweet-spirited, more like Jesus? Are you looking soberly in the mirror each day and praying, “Lord, I want to conform to Your image in every area of my life”?

Or has your bitterness taken root, turning into rebellion and hardness of heart? Have you learned to shield yourself from the convicting voice of God’s Spirit? Are you now spewing out things you once thought a Christian would never be capable of speaking? Are you hardening beyond change?

If this describes you, let me tell you plainly: You will never receive deliverance unless you change. Your life will only become more chaotic, and your situation will worsen. Stop building your case, pointing your finger, justifying yourself. God will not meet you until you wake up and admit, “Nothing is going to change for me unless I’m changed.”

Cry out to the Lord honestly in prayer: “Change me, O God. Dig deep in me—show me where I’ve failed and gone astray. Expose my pride, anger, stubbornness and sin. Help me to lay it all down.”

How many more experts, counselors, lonely nights and fruitless strivings must you endure before you wake up to the truth? If any healing or restoration is going to take place, you must take responsibility. Your miracle is dependent on your being changed.

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).

Monday, April 14, 2014

LOOK WHAT GOD DID TODAY by Gary Wilkerson

The book of Hebrews mentions two types of testimonies. We all prefer the first kind, when saints conquered kingdoms, destroyed the enemy, slew giants. The second kind of testimony is altogether different: Christians were sawed in half, they starved, they froze, they hid in caves.

It is too easy for Christians today to live off the testimonies of others. How often do we catch ourselves saying, “Have you heard about the spiritual awakening in Africa?” “The church in America does a great work among the poor.” “Our church has opened its doors to reach drug addicts.” We should rejoice in the faithfulness of those making a difference in Christ’s name, of course, but Paul refused to live vicariously through another’s work: “Nor do we boast and claim credit for the work someone else has done. Instead, we hope that your faith will grow so that the boundaries of our work among you will be extended” (2 Corinthians 10:15, NLT).

You may think your life doesn’t measure up—that you don’t deserve a boast-worthy testimony—but that is not the issue. Everything can change with one simple prayer of faith. Just before I preached recently, a woman in church told me about something that had happened that week. After thirty-eight years of being addicted to marijuana, God had set her free! It happened through a simple visit from two lay ministers in our church. As they sat praying with her, she grew convicted over the pot in her apartment and immediately threw it out.

The woman’s deliverance is real and lasting. She has obtained a boast-worthy testimony of God’s power to deliver—and the two lay ministers have a testimony as well. God used them in a way they could not have orchestrated. All three can say, “Look at what God did in our midst today.”
With even the smallest beginning, faith starts to rise up in our hearts. We realize, “God did it last week and He can do it again this week.” I want to boast that our church has powerfully effective ministries that were launched just this way—because an individual was faithful to help one person. In every case, a believer’s prayerful act led to a counseling ministry, a mercy ministry, a discipleship ministry, and more. The same can be true for every believer. As we build a history of testimonies, our faith will grow to seek God for greater things.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A SOURCE OF STRENGTH by Carter Conlon

Think for a moment of all that opposes you today and stands in defiance of your inheritance in Christ. It may be the words that were spoken over your life when you were young: “You’re stupid! You’ll never amount to anything. I am leaving because you are not worth staying for.” No matter what was said, or the nature of the opposition that you are currently facing, just keep in mind that it is all simply trying to stop you at the border of this incredible life of Christ.

Joshua said to the people, “Do not be afraid of them, for they are bread for us” (see Numbers 14:9). In other words, the opposition will sustain us; it will nurture and feed us. Of course, this is contrary to the way the natural man thinks. We consider opposition to be an awful thing, larger than we are. It makes us feel like grasshoppers in its sight; it threatens and intimidates us. So how exactly does it feed us?

Remember when Jesus was ministering in Samaria and the disciples went to get food for Him? They returned to Jesus and encouraged Him to eat, but He replied, “I have meat to eat that ye know not of” (John 4:32). Jesus was essentially saying, “I have a source of strength that you are not aware of yet. You have not tasted it; you do not know what it is or how it can nurture you.” The disciples then turned to one another and asked, “Okay, who brought Him something to eat?” But Jesus explained, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (v. 34). In other words, “This is my meat; this is what feeds my life—facing all that stands in direct opposition to the will of God and conquering it in the power of God.”

Jesus continued, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (v. 35). I do not know how many times I have heard Christians say that the harvest is coming—a great day when many will come to Christ. But here Jesus was telling His disciples, “Listen, lift up your eyes, the harvest is already here, ready to be harvested!”

And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together” (v. 36). He who goes out to harvest will receive wages, and these wages are the provision and strength of God. They will be given to the one who says, “Lord, I give You the reins of my life. I am willing to do the work of God no matter what opposition I must face, for this is where my nourishment will be found.”


__________
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, April 11, 2014

THE VOICE OF THE VICTORIOUS CHRIST

When God said, “Once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (Hebrews 12:26), He was saying, in essence, “I shook the earth at Mount Sinai. But when I speak in these last days, My voice will shake both the natural and spiritual worlds. The status quo will tremble; nothing will remain as it is. Whatever is called religious—all that is of Christ or the Church—will be shaken by the voice of My Son speaking from heaven.”

God had warned Israel that all who refuse to listen to His prophet would be brought to account: “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” (Deuteronomy 18:19). He was saying, “I’m going to pursue every disobedience—and you’ll account for it all.”

Scripture reveals that those who ignored the words of God’s prophets fell into ruin. They became withered and bitter, dying without any joy or peace. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).

Beloved, neither will we escape God’s wrath—either as a nation or as individuals. And right now Jesus’ voice is shaking every nation, causing institutions, leaders and economies to tremble. He is saying to the wind and the elements, “Blow upon the earth.” He is saying to the clouds, “Withhold rain.” He is saying to the economies of the world, “All greed—be judged.”

God is also commanding, “Prisons, shake. Governments, shake. Financial systems, shake. Schools, shake. Military forces, shake. Courts and legislatures, shake. Everything on earth, shake until there is no foundation left but the Lord.”

It is not the devil who is shaking everything. The whole world is being shaken by the voice of the victorious Christ. The Man in glory has risen in power upon His throne and He is speaking a word to shake all things.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

GOD IS SPEAKING CLEARLY

God is still speaking clearly to us today. His heavenly voice is sounding mightily throughout the earth and that voice is coming through a Man—Jesus—who is seated at the right hand of the Father. Consider these words from Hebrews:

“For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: and so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:)

“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

“See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:18-27).

Do you get the picture from this passage? When God spoke the first time, the people answered, “Don’t speak to us from heaven anymore. Speak to us through a man.” And Moses prophesied, “Just as you’ve asked, God is going to raise up a prophet. He will be fully human—and He’ll speak God’s words to you.”

Jesus was that promised prophet. He was God incarnate, the Lord in human flesh. He had a ministry on earth as a man, and a multitude of witnesses saw Him ascend to heaven as a man. Now He has a mystical body, which is His Church. But Jesus is still a man made of flesh—still touched with the human feelings we all experience.

Today, in these last days, God is speaking once more from heaven and telling us that He is going to shake everything in sight.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

SPEAK UNTO US SMOOTH THINGS

A man recently wrote the following to our ministry: “I don’t know who put me on your mailing list, but please remove my name immediately. I can’t stand your gloomy gospel and your hammering against sin. None of us is perfect, not even you. I’ve had it with your King James gospel of doom.”

Isaiah spoke of this kind of response: “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way” (Isaiah 30:9-11).

The word “smooth” in this verse means “nice, flattery.” The people of Israel were saying, in short, “Don't tell us any more bad stuff. Describe how we’re going to prosper, how great things lie ahead of us. If not, then get out of our faces.”

No believer who hides sin in his heart ever wants to hear a holy, sin-exposing word. That person will always flee the Holy Spirit’s voice of truth. And he’ll turn to some preacher who is soft on sin, offering smooth talk and flattering prophecies.

So, you ask, what hard message did God’s voice deliver to His people on Mount Sinai? He said simply this: “I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image. . . . Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them” (Deuteronomy 5:6-9).
Here was the pure, unadulterated word of the Lord, coming directly from His mouth. It should have sent the people flying to their tents to smash their graven images. It should have stirred their hearts and brought them to their knees. But instead they cried, “No more thunder, fire, shaking. No more audible voice speaking to us. Give us a spokesman who is like us, and let him speak to us. Then we’ll hear and obey.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

WE NEED A SOFTER MESSAGE

“Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exodus 20:20).

“Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess” (Deuteronomy 5:33).

Moses said, in essence, “God isn’t mad at you. That’s not what this majestic experience is all about. No—He wants to empower you with His awesome fear. He is trying to build into you a powerful weapon and He’s doing it so that you can live victoriously all the days of your life.”

Then came some of the strangest logic in the Bible. These leaders said to Moses, “We have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth. Now therefore why should we die? For this great fire will consume us: if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any more, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh, that hath heard the voice of the living God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?” (Deuteronomy 5:24-26). They told Moses, “We know we can hear God speak out of the fire, and survive. Yet, if we have to sit under His direct, pure, holy voice, we will be consumed. Why should we die? Of all people in the world, we’re the ones who’ve heard God’s voice and lived.”

The Lord then gives us a clue about what was really happening: “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever” (verse 29).

They were giving God honor with their lips but their hearts were far from Him. To quote Isaiah, “This people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but [they] have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isaiah 29:13).

The Israelites were so devoted to their little golden images that nothing could keep them from idolatrous worship. They finally even ignored the audible voice of God, in all its holiness and majesty.

When Israel’s elders said, “We need a softer message, otherwise we’ll die,” how right they were. Anytime you sit under Holy Ghost preaching—hearing God’s anointed, convicting word—you’re surely going to die. That is, you will die to your sins.

Monday, April 7, 2014

TRUSTING GOD TO DEMONSTRATE HIS POWER by Gary Wilkerson

David never said, “My dad asked me to be a shepherd, so I was a good one. I fought off lions and bears and never lost a sheep.” That would have been a good testimony—but it did not give glory to God. Actually, David’s boast was, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:37, ESV).

As a butler in Babylon, Nehemiah risked his life as a wine taster for the king. But Nehemiah’s boast in God was: “I rebuilt a city to restore honor to God’s name.” With God’s name mocked in Jerusalem’s streets, Nehemiah felt a fire in his belly—and he set about rebuilding the walls.

Moses’ testimony was not, “I lived in Pharaoh’s palace and had great authority.” His boast was, “God spoke to me from a burning bush—and I confronted Pharaoh, saying, ‘Let my people go.’” His boast was heard at the Red Sea: “Egypt’s army has drowned in the sea!”

New Testament believers had the same boast. Stephen was a deacon who distributed food to widows—a good testimony in itself—but his boast-worthy testimony came when he preached to an unbelieving crowd. His anointed sermon so provoked the people that they took up stones to kill him. Stephen’s testimony was twofold: He was the first martyr of the Church, and his faithful sacrifice would later impact a Jewish zealot named Saul.

I have yet to meet a Christian who has not wondered, “Isn’t there something more to this life in Christ? When will we see God’s power made manifest in this generation?” Maybe you are facing something that requires God’s intervention. This is no time to say, “I’ll go to church more.” It’s time to say, “I trust God to demonstrate His power in my life. He is going to save my marriage, rescue my kids, impact my coworkers. He’ll give me a boast-worthy testimony.”
This message is not meant to be a guilt trip. It is meant to stir a passion in our hearts—a passion too often repressed by fear and doubt. Some have set aside their faith for so long they no longer believe they can have a boast-worthy testimony—but God’s Word says differently.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

FAITH IS NOT ONLY TAUGHT, IT IS CAUGHT by Claude Houde

I want to challenge you by faith to receive a vision for yourself. Whether you are a teenager, a parent, a student, a housewife, or a young person launching a career, you can communicate your faith to someone. You can inspire somebody—a friend, a mom or dad, son, daughter, fellow believer—to love, pray, forgive, repent, serve and do something beautiful and noble! Please allow your spirit to hear that God is seeking a man or a woman whose heart will beat with the vision that without faith, it is impossible to produce a victorious people.

Faith is not only taught, it is caught! The truth and spiritual reality is that as a dad, my children can walk in the footsteps I will leave for them. Please allow me to illustrate this with a simple tale from my childhood growing up in the low-income housing projects in Montreal.

  • It was a cold winter night as a father walked to the local bar yet again. It was Friday night and he had just cashed in his paycheck. The money burned in his pocket, and as he did every single week, he was about to drink it away. In this insane and incomprehensible moment, everything else vanished. He was unable to think of the money he would need to feed his children, and pay the rent and heating bills. The promises he had made to his wife, over and over, disappeared each time, choked by the blinding habit and the all-encompassing thirst to forget that which both disgusted and enslaved him. This man hated himself, but the voices inside always won: “It's my business; I am not hurting anybody; it's my choice; it's only a few drinks.” Suddenly, he heard a rustling sound in the silence of the cold night—the sound of soft steps in the snow. He turned around and what he saw hit him like an iron fist in the gut, taking his breath away. His son was following him and making his best effort, giving it his all, trying to put his little feet, step by step, in the imprints his daddy had left in the snow. He was walking in his dad’s footsteps.

Dear reader, each one of us is leading somebody somewhere. Some boys and girls are learning to lie, blame others, cheat, criticize, be arrogant and always look for shortcuts. But our sons and daughters can also watch us and learn to love, pray, work, worship, serve, forgive and believe. They can learn from us to speak the truth, respect people, judge people on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, and to be honest, respectful to their elders, and a friend of the poor.


__________
Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

Friday, April 4, 2014

HIDDEN SIN

When Israel camped at Mount Sinai, they were suddenly engulfed by thick darkness and an incredible, blazing fire. Out of the midst of these awesome elements, God spoke: “These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice” (Deuteronomy 5:22).

While all this was happening, the Israelites stood frozen with fear. They were convinced they would die before the voice of the Lord stopped speaking. Finally, the voice stilled; the lightning stopped; the quaking ended; and before long, the sun began to shine. As the people looked around, they saw everyone was still alive. They had heard the actual, audible voice of God and lived!

Evidently, as soon as this incredible manifestation ended, Israel’s elders and tribal heads called a meeting. You would expect this to be the greatest praise meeting in the history of humankind. Yet this meeting was not one of praise—not at all. Incredibly, the elders told Moses, “We can’t handle this kind of experience. We don’t want to hear God’s awesome voice anymore. If He speaks to us this way again, we’ll die. From now on, we want to hear His words through a man’s voice.”

Their response is absolutely puzzling. Why would anyone react this way to such a glorious miracle of God? I can tell you why: It was because the Israelites had hidden sin in their hearts. They were secret idol worshipers.

Unbelievably, these people still clung to the small golden idols they had brought with them from Egypt. The apostle Stephen said these idols were “figures which ye made to worship” (Acts 7:43). The Israelites had carved them in the likeness of the giant golden calves the Egyptians worshiped. They cried, “You delivered us from Egypt. You are our God.” And now, in the desert, they still had not let go of their horrible idolatry.

Stephen called this people “the church in the wilderness” (verse 38). He was amazed that even after the Lord had spoken to them audibly, their hearts were still back in idolatrous Egypt. He said of them, “Our fathers would not obey . . . and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt” (verse 39).

You can see why God’s voice made these people quake. The reason they thought they would die was because they were in the presence of a holy, powerful God—not some lifeless, carved idol. His Spirit had gripped their souls, and their consciences were convicting them.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

HELPING TOGETHER IN PRAYER

A pastor’s wife left a pitiful message on our ministry’s answering service. She said in very slurred speech, “Brother Dave, thousands of preachers’ wives drink in secret to cover their pain. That’s what I do. I drink to dull the ache.” Other ministers’ wives write of their failing marriage or their husband’s addiction to pornography.

Beloved, these are the people I am now helping in prayer. I pray for ministers and their families, because I know they need it. I have learned firsthand that helping prayer works. Scripture says that when the apostle Peter was bound in jail, “prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him” (Acts 12:5). And God delivered Peter with a miracle!

Paul not only asked for prayer helpers, but he was a helper himself. He knew it was part of his calling as a minister of the gospel. He wrote to the Philippians, “To all the saints . . . with the bishops and deacons . . . I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy . . . because I have you in my heart” (Philippians 1:1, 3, 4, 7).

Are you aware of a brother or sister whose marriage is in turmoil? If so, what do you do about it? Do you merely tell others what a shame it is that they are about to break up? Or do you bring up their names to the Lord and strive for them in prayer?

Do you desire this ministry of being a helper in prayer? If you don’t know anyone with a need, start by praying for all Christian marriages and all of God’s saints. Your prayers do not have to be long. Simply state your request, and trust God to hear you.

This was illustrated for me once when I was sick in bed. One of my grandsons came in and announced, “Papa, I’m going to pray for you.” My little helper laid his hand on my head and prayed, “Jesus, make him all better.” I smiled and thanked him but he just kept looking at me. Finally, he said, “You’re healed. Get up!” So I did get up—and I was healed! His prayer of faith brought me to my feet.
Mighty deliverances take place when God’s saints seek Him diligently with childlike faith for the needs of their brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

IN THE MIDST OF TROUBLES, PAUL LEARNED GREAT LESSONS

The most significant lesson Paul learned in his anguish was that he had to turn to the Lord and His covenant promises. He knew he could no longer trust in his own flesh, abilities or willpower. He writes, “We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:9).

Paul’s trial had brought him to the end of his endurance. He knew he did not have any strength left to fight the powers of darkness so he sentenced his own flesh to death. And God marvelously delivered him: “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (verse 10).

How was Paul delivered? Several things were involved: First, he was a mighty man of prayer and second, he had great confidence in the Lord. Paul knew God would uphold His covenant promises. He could say, “Just as the Lord has delivered me in the past, He is at work delivering me from this present trial. From now until the day I die, I’ll be living under His delivering power.”

Like Paul, we also are allowed to endure troubled times, so that we will die to our reliance on human ability. The Lord permits us to be crushed, made helpless and weak, in an effort to convince us we cannot defeat the enemy by any fleshly efforts.

As we compare our lives to Paul’s, we may be tempted to think, “I’ll never experience the kind of deliverance this man enjoyed. He was well-educated in the Scriptures and he received great revelations from the Lord about Jesus, the gospel, the New Covenant.

“And Paul ministered in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost. He single-handedly shook cities and nations. He couldn’t be killed by the devil, even after stonings, mob attacks, three shipwrecks. God even used him to raise the dead. This man was one of God’s most anointed servants in all of history. He had it together spiritually.”

Not so, according to Paul. The apostle makes it clear that there was one other important factor in his deliverance: the powerful intercession of praying helpers. “Ye also helping together by prayer for us” (verse 11). Paul was saying, “I’m confident God will deliver me. And you’re helping that come to pass by praying.”

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

DELIVERED THROUGH THE PRAYERS OF "HELPERS"

“We would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8). The Greek word for pressed in this passage means “heavily burdened, grievously crushed.” Paul was telling these saints, “Our crisis was so serious that it almost crushed me. I thought it was the end for me.”

When Paul says he was so burdened down that he despaired of life, we can know he truly was at rock bottom. In other passages, he downplays his sufferings. You may recall how he simply shook off a poisonous snake that had attached itself to his hand. He was shipwrecked three times yet he mentions this fact only in passing, to make a point. Paul was beaten, robbed, stoned, jailed—yet through it all he never complained.

In this passage, however, the apostle was at a point of total exhaustion. I believe this “trouble” he endured was mental anguish. We cannot know exactly what Paul's trouble was but 2 Corinthians 7:5 gives us a hint: “When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.”

I believe Paul was referring to pain caused by the sheep he ministered to. False teachers had risen up in Corinth and had tried to turn the people against him. Now Paul feared his flock would reject his message and follow men who did not have their interest at heart.

He was consoled when Titus arrived, bringing him good news about his “beloved children” in Corinth. Paul writes, “Nevertheless God . . . comforted us by the coming of Titus; and not by his coming only, but by the consolation wherewith he was comforted in you, when he told us your earnest desire, your mourning, your fervent mind toward me; so that I rejoiced the more” (verses 6-7).

I have felt this kind of anguish in my life. At times, the words of people I have loved and helped have felt like knives in my back. I can say with David, “The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords” (Psalm 55:21). In such troubled times, I have most needed “helping prayers.”

Monday, March 31, 2014

A BOAST-WORTHY TESTIMONY by Gary Wilkerson

We live in a time when biblical predictions have become visible realities. Paul wrote that in the last days perilous times would come upon the earth (see 2 Timothy 3:1). Right now things are taking place we could not have imagined a few years ago.

Jesus predicted that men would become lovers of themselves, lovers of money, hateful and arrogant. Today our nation’s leaders cannot agree on the most basic common principles. If someone has the nerve to mention sin, he is called a bigot and made an outcast. As God’s Word is moved to the sidelines of the culture, sin becomes more and more prevalent.

Pastors feel the spiritual bombardment. Week after week, I learn that another marriage may be falling apart. Kids cut their own skin out of self- hatred. Drugs are more widespread than ever. And there are fewer voices of help, as each month 1,500 pastors leave the ministry.

As Christ’s Body, we cannot be asleep to these things. The Old Testament speaks of the sons of Issachar, a group that had a knowledge of the times and skill in dealing with the world (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). Can the same be said of Christ’s Body today? If we discern the times, we know this is not a moment for half measures. The only way for us to “deal with the world” is not to let church be business as usual. Jesus said of certain demonic spirits, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21, NKJV). In these times, our prayers must be fervent—because without spiritual change, things look too bleak.

In the midst of darkness, Jesus calls us to be light. And here is our message for such a time: “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV). God has done awesome works in the lives of His people and each one of us is called to proclaim His glory through a boast-worthy testimony.

What does a boast-worthy testimony look like? Here is the kind of boasting I am referring to: “As the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord’” (2 Corinthians 10:17, NLT). To do the kind of boasting Paul describes, we have to have a boast worthy of God’s glory.

Friday, March 28, 2014

HELPERS IN PRAYER

Paul was so conscious of his need for the prayers of the saints that he pleaded for “prayer helpers” everywhere. He begged the Romans, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered” (Romans 15:30-31). And he asked the Thessalonians, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

In Greek, the word for strive here means to “struggle with me as a partner in prayer; wrestle for me in prayer.” Paul was not asking for a quick mention to the throne. He was pleading, “Fight for me in prayer. Do spiritual battle, both for my sake and the sake of the gospel.”

When Paul was in prison, ready to lay down his life, he urged the Philippians to pray for him: “I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19). Paul knew he was a marked man, that Satan’s hordes were bent on destroying him. And so it is with every true minister of the gospel. Every pastor, preacher and evangelist needs helpers in prayer who will intercede for him continually.

I can assure you, I would not be writing to you if not for the helpers in prayer who have stood with me over the years. I was reminded of this recently while I was in Europe to conduct ministers’ conferences and nightly crusades. The entire time, God’s Spirit made me aware I was being carried by the prayers of a multitude of people.

In Nice, France, Americans are not well-liked, particularly American evangelists. Everyone worried about that night’s crusade, wondering, “Can it be done?” France is rampant with skepticism, atheism, agnosticism, unbelief. And the kind of meeting we planned to hold had never been attempted.

When the time came, however, thousands gathered. Yet that is when I began to feel helpless. I didn’t know what to preach because no message I had outlined seemed to fit. My interpreter and I had reviewed some notes beforehand, but I wasn’t sure they were right for the meeting. I warned him, “I'm not sure what I’m going to say.”

When I stepped up to the podium, however, the Spirit fell on me powerfully. I sensed the prayers of thousands of saints supporting me and as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost filled my mouth. I preached for forty minutes, and the entire time you could hear a pin drop. When I finished, I simply said, “If you need Jesus, please come forward”—and hundreds of people leapt to their feet in response.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER

Some Bible teachers claim it is unbelief for us to ask God for the same request over and over. No—that is wrong and it has weakened the faith of multitudes. God commands us to ask, seek, fast—and cry out in effectual, earnest supplication (see Matthew 7:7).

From the very beginning, true servants have turned God’s promises into prayers:


  • Jesus knew His Father had promised all things to Him before the foundation of the world, yet Christ still spent hours praying for God’s will to be done on earth. He even told a parable illustrating persistence in prayer. It involved an “importunate widow” who kept demanding justice from a judge until she got it (see Luke 18:1-8). 
  • God gave Ezekiel wonderful prophecies about Israel’s restoration, promising that the nation’s ruins would become as the Garden of Eden. Yet the Lord said His Word would not be fulfilled without prayer: “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezekiel 36:37). In other words, “I’ve made you a promise but I want you to pray it to pass. Seek Me with all your heart, until you see it fulfilled. I will deliver—but first you must ask.” 
  • Daniel had read God’s promise to Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2) that after seventy years Israel would be restored. When Daniel saw the appointed year arrive, he could have waited in faith for God to fulfill His promise but instead, that godly man fell on his face and prayed for two weeks—until he saw the Lord bring everything to pass. 

In the Old Testament, Israel’s priest carried on his breastplate the names of all the tribes of Israel. This signified that the people’s needs were continually on the priest’s heart in prayer. To Christians today, this provides a wonderful image of Christ carrying us in His heart and presenting our needs to the Father. Moreover, every Christian today is a priest unto the Lord and we are always to carry the needs of others in our hearts (see James 5:14-16).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NO HALF-HEARTED PRAYING

As servants of the Lord, we are constantly in danger from the enemy. Our love for Jesus is a threat to all of hell and we cannot undertake any holy work without encountering all kinds of snares set for us by Satan.

A marriage counselor recently called me. “Everywhere I turn in our church, couples are breaking up,” she said. “It’s a literal plague in the Body of Christ right now.”

I hear every kind of reason given for the turmoil in Christian homes: incompatibility, lack of communication, loss of affection, infidelity. But in truth, it is much more than that. Behind it all is an attack from hell against God’s saints.

The cause of broken homes among non-Christians is no mystery. But among the righteous, all such turmoil has a cause. Think about it. How can dedicated Christians who have sat under godly preaching for years suddenly have no authority in their homes? They know full well God’s covenant oath to be their strength. They know He promises to destroy every satanic power that comes against them. So, why is the devil prevailing? Why is their marriage under constant threat?

I believe it is because at least one partner has opened the door to a satanic delusion. Perhaps they both have allowed some compromise in their lives, or they have become spiritually lazy. And now an enraged devil has gained a stronghold in their hearts and home.

If you are under such an attack, you should be asking what the disciples asked: “Master, why could we not cast out those demons?” Jesus answered that certain demonic bondages will not respond to the laying on of hands or a halfhearted, one-time prayer. Such strongholds are so deeply entrenched that the only way to cast them out is by sustained prayer and fasting.

Yet the Church today is in a stupor regarding the power of prayer. A veil has fallen over the eyes of millions. And now, whenever they face trouble, the last place they turn is to Jesus. They abandon the secret closet and, instead, turn to psychology, counselors, books, friends—everywhere but to the Lord.

If you say your marriage is a wreck and you want it healed, I wonder how much time you spend shut in with God. How many times have you turned off your television for an hour just to sit before Jesus and unburden your soul? How many meals have you missed so you could fast for your marriage?
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE FOCUS OF PRAYER

Prayer is often one of the most selfish areas of a Christian’s life. When you think about it, most of our prayers focus on our own needs. The two main subjects of our intercession are our own spiritual growth and the needs of our families and friends.

Occasionally, we may reach beyond our own narrow concerns and pray for others. Yet usually when we say, “I’ll pray for you,” we don’t do it. Or, we pray once and then quickly forget about their need.

Recently I have been examining my own prayer life in light of the Scriptures and I have been convicted about the narrowness and limitations of my own praying. Like most believers, I spend much of my prayer time seeking the Lord about my walk with Him. I cry out to be made holy, to become like Him, to receive guidance for life, to have His anointing on my ministry. And I enjoy sweet communion with Him, quietly worshiping Him and being refreshed in His presence.

I also intercede daily for my family. I ask the Lord to protect my children from the schemes of the devil—to make my sons like oaks planted by the river of God, to make my daughters polished stones in His palace, and to make all my grandchildren lovers of Jesus. I pray for the concerns of our church body. I also intercede for individuals who are in crisis and for the many missionaries and ministries we support.

You might say, “That’s all commendable, Brother Dave. It’s comforting to know you’re shut in with the Lord, communing with Him and praying for all those needs.”

But according to God’s Word, sweet communion is not enough. Yes, it is the secret to spiritual growth, and we can have no greater experience on earth. But if we go to the throne only for our personal edification and needs, we are being selfish. We simply cannot neglect praying seriously for the dire needs all around us.

“Then saith he unto his disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38).

Monday, March 24, 2014

GODLY DREAMS by Gary Wilkerson

Genesis 37:5 (ESV) tells us, “Joseph had a dream.” God spoke directly to Joseph in his dreams and he did not shrink back; he allowed the dreams to spark a godly ambition in his heart. The word dream appears 113 times throughout the Bible—and over 30 of those passages involve Joseph.

Genesis 37:5 continues, “When he told [the dream] to his brothers they hated him even more.” Many of us are ashamed of the dreams God has put in our heart, and part of that shame comes from our fear of others’ opinions. But until we speak our godly ambition, it will never be realized. Giving voice to our dream is itself a step of faith.

For years my dream was to lead a vibrant body like The Springs Church but when I voiced that dream I could see the doubt in people’s eyes. It would have been easy for me to wallow in their doubt; after all, I had pastored only small churches before. But thank God, His Spirit encouraged me to keep saying “yes” to the dream He put in me—and to trust Him to bring it to pass.

There is nothing like giving in to licentiousness to destroy a God-given dream. Joseph could have given in to sin when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. But when you are living for God, you will do anything to avoid grieving Him. Joseph’s integrity enraged Potiphar’s wife but he was speaking for righteousness when he turned her down. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

It is time for you to pick up the dream God gave you long ago. You may be stuck in a pit but what you see as a long trial may be God’s holding ground for your honorable service to Him. Do you fear to dream? Ask God to replace your fear with faith. Do you come from a dysfunctional background? Trust Him to lead you in spite of lingering scars. Are you afraid you have sinned for too long? Remember His promise to go after every sheep that has wandered.

God welcomes every sinner into the life of faith and He will deliver every trusting servant out of every pit they fall into. Let nothing hinder the great high calling the Lord is summoning you to. He desires to set you on an accelerated path that brings glory to His name.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

HOW REVIVAL STARTS by Jim Cymbala

If you study any of the great revivals of the past, you will always find men and women who longed to see the status quo changed—in themselves and in their churches. They called on God with insistence, and prayer begets revival, which begets more prayer. It is like Psalm 80, where the psalmist Asaph bemoans the sad state of his time: the broken walls, the rampaging animals, the burnt vineyards. Then in verse 18 he pleads, “Revive us, and we will call on your name.”

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer. Only when we are full of the Spirit do we feel the need for God everywhere we turn. We can be driving a car, and spontaneously our spirit starts going up to God with needs and petitions and intercessions right there in the middle of traffic.

If our churches don’t pray, and if people don’t have an appetite for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services in our church? How would that impress God? Just imagine the angels saying, “Oh, your pews! We can’t believe how beautiful they are! Up here in heaven, we’ve been talking about them for years. The way you have the steps coming up to the pulpit—it’s wonderful.”

If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we do not enjoy being in His presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would He send anyone there who does not long for Him passionately here on earth?

I am not suggesting that we are justified by works of prayer or any other acts of devotion. I am not a legalist. But let us not dodge the issue of what heaven will be like: enjoying the presence of God, taking time to love Him, listening to Him and giving Him praise.


__________
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, March 21, 2014

FOREVER HIS!

You may wonder how many times the Lord will forgive you for indulging the same sin again and again. Rest assured, His incredible forgiveness is unlimited. Every time you sin, you can go to Jesus and find deliverance. Yet the Lord’s forgiveness is not unwise or blind. To be sure, our heavenly Father forgives us, but at a certain point He punishes us to keep us from continuing in sin.

When my four children were growing up, I had to punish them for doing wrong. I would call them into my room for a spanking and they would burst into tears, crying, “No, Daddy! I'm sorry. Please, forgive me!”

I did forgive them but that did not stop me from applying the spanking. I knew if I didn't apply it, it would become meaningless to them, a joke rather than a source of discipline. Likewise, God's law is always there to remind us of His holiness to us, reminding us of His ways—and that He means what He says!

Let me leave you with a word of hope. If you are in the depths right now because of your sin, be encouraged. He is chastening you because of His tender love. He wants you to know what it is to fear Him!

What, exactly, does it mean to fear the Lord? It means being able to say, “I know my Father loves me. I am safely, forever His, and I know He will never abandon me. He feels my pain whenever I struggle and He is patient with me as I war against sin. He is always ready to forgive me whenever I call on Him, but I also know He is not going to allow me to keep disobeying His Word. My heavenly Father will not spare me—because He loves me deeply.”

That is the point of it all. God wants us to accept His forgiveness so that we may fear Him. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Once we fear the Lord, we will want more than just to obey Him. We will want to please Him, to put a smile on His face. That is the blessed result of the holy fear of God.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

ONLY BY FAITH

One of the foundational promises of the New Covenant is found in Jeremiah 31:34: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” And Paul adds in the New Testament: “And you, being dead in your sins . . . hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). God has promised us His forgiveness—for every sin.

However, this promise of forgiveness is limited to certain people. It applies only to those who have been crushed and sickened by their sins, gone down into the depths of guilt, endured the soul-searching of the Holy Ghost, and have repented and turned to Christ in faith!

Jesus Himself says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Sadly, multitudes of Christians are not troubled at all by their sin; their besetting habit does not bother them in the least. They have convinced themselves that God is so merciful and full of grace, He will pardon them even if they stubbornly continue in sin.

No, never! They have appropriated to themselves a false peace, choking off the Holy Spirit's convictions, searchings and dealings. They have sought forgiveness before their guilt could ripen into godly sorrow.

Yet, at the same time, God's forgiveness can be obtained only by faith. We cannot reason it out. Christ’s gift to us of His blood atonement is so deep, so gracious, so mysterious, that it is far beyond any human ability to understand. We may feel condemnation, fear and guilt over our trespasses, but our heavenly Father stands lovingly beside us at all times, ready to forgive. The blood of Christ, the love of the Father, the Lord's desire to pardon—all these blessings are known only by faith: “No man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE LORD IS GOOD AND READY TO FORGIVE

Many believers become so overwhelmed by their failures that over time they feel trapped beyond any help. Isaiah wrote of such believers, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted” (Isaiah 54:11).

Some eventually get mad at God. They grow tired of waiting for Him to move and they cry accusingly, “Lord, where were You when I needed You? I cried out for deliverance, but You never answered. I’ve done everything I know how to do, yet I’m still not free. I’m tired of repenting and crying, without ever seeing any change.” Many such believers simply give up trying and give themselves over to their lust.

Others fall into a fog of spiritual apathy. They are convinced that God does not care about them anymore. They tell themselves, “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (Isaiah 40:27). “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14).

Still others end up focusing all their attention on their sin, trying to keep themselves in a constant state of conviction. This only causes them to be bewildered, crying, “If . . . our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10). The fact is, feeling conviction is not an end in itself. When we are humbled by guilt and sorrow over our sin, we are not supposed to rest in those feelings. They are meant to drive us to the end of ourselves—and to the victory of the cross.

After all his weeping and crying out to the Lord, David ended up testifying, “But there is forgiveness with thee” (Psalm 130:4). The Holy Spirit began to flood his soul with memories of God’s mercies and he recalled all he had learned of the Father’s forgiving, pardoning nature. “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Soon David was rejoicing, reminding himself, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GOD WAS NOT MAD AT JONAH

“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

Many Christians struggle as David did. When the holy, righteous fear of God is implanted in their souls, His terrible majesty constantly looms before them. Like David, they cry out, “Lord, who can stand before You? Who can endure Your holiness?”

Jonah asked the very same question. He was on the ocean floor, unable to escape his dilemma, when he cried out, “Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. . . . I went down to the bottoms” (Jonah 2:3 and 6).

Who cast Jonah down into those depths of darkness? It was God! The heavenly Father took the prophet down to the very bottom and prepared the whale to swallow him.

God was not mad at Jonah, so why did He allow this to happen to him? Because He wanted to stop His servant from running away from His will. He wanted Jonah to follow His plan so that he would be blessed. In short, God took Jonah down to the depths in order to restore him.

Jonah 2:2 tells us exactly what God was after: “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” The Lord was waiting for Jonah to turn to Him, to cry out to Him alone. “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (verse 4). “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord” (verse 7).

Today, the Lord does the same thing with us: He allows us to sink in despair over our sin until we have no other source to turn to but Him. And finally, out of the belly of our hell, we cry, “Oh, Lord, please hear me! I have no hope. You must deliver me!”

Perhaps you have hit rock bottom over your sin. You just cannot seem to get victory over that one besetting sin and the Lord has allowed you to go down to the depths. Yet, it is all for a purpose. He is hoping that, like Jonah, you will “look again to Him.”

Rest assured, when Jonah cried out to the Lord, God delivered him quickly: “The Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (verse 10). God told the whale, “That’s enough! Now, spit him out. My servant has called out to me, and I'm going to answer him.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

THE LIFE-BREATH OF GOD by Gary Wilkerson

“I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8). What a tragic scene. I know of churches that have every program and strategy in place—but no life. So many churches have seminars, conferences, books, websites, podcasts and meetings for every age group and need. All of these things are designed for good—but unless God’s Spirit breathes into them, they are nothing. In fact, such things have the subtle power to rob us of the life God desires for us.

As we go through the motions of church, we are deceived into thinking we are spiritual. It may look like dry bones are hooking together, but in reality they lack the life-breath of God. I would trade 1,000 worship services and 10,000 strategies for a single breath from His Spirit. Only God can breathe life into what we do—that these dry bones might live.

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath’” (37:9). The Hebrew word for “breath” here is rauch, meaning the Spirit of God. Once again God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy. The first time he was to prophesy to bones, meaning people, but this second command is to prophesy to God Himself—to rauch, the Holy Spirit.

What is God saying in this verse? He is telling us that preaching to each other—articulating doctrine—is not enough. We cannot just speak to man about the things of God. We also have to speak to God about man, beseeching Him to act. God calls for men and women of faith to cry out for Him to enter their situation and change things. Only God’s Holy Spirit can bring life. Our eyes cannot see, our ears cannot hear, our mouths cannot speak anything of Him unless He first animates us.

When He does this, the results amaze us: “I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and [the bones] lived and stood on their feet” (37:10).

God’s breath brings us to our feet with boldness. The same thing happened in Acts 2: “Peter, standing with the eleven” (2:14). The gospel that Peter proclaimed at Pentecost was no different from the gospel he knew and now he stood up and spoke it with power from on high.

The life God is poised to breathe into us is the kind that brings dry bones alive, that brings life to a darkened, despairing environment. Out of chaos, Jesus produces life. Out of ashes, He produces beauty. And into a horrific situation that the enemy means only for destruction, Jesus breathes new life!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

THE KEY by Carter Conlon

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). It is as if Jesus were saying to them, “If I were hurting, I would want someone to comfort Me. If I were lost, I would want someone to give whatever they had to in order to get Me out.”

Whatever you want others to do for you, do for them. That is actually the key to unlocking all the resources that Jesus tells us to ask for. It is the key to enduring the scorn of those who oppose Him and the key to being kind to your enemies. It is the heart of God that says, “I am not willing that any should perish,” and it is what allows you to have your face slapped and not retaliate. It is the key to joy and love in the workplace despite the rudeness of others around you.

The promise at the end of the Scripture says, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24−25). The house was founded upon the work of God in the earth. That’s why Paul could be on a storm-battered ship, still standing and taking communion, and encouraging those who would have to swim to safety (see Acts 27). It was all about God’s glory and other people, not about his own preservation. Paul could see what ordinary men couldn’t see. The captain of the ship and the other merchant seamen couldn’t see it, but Paul’s eyes were opened and he was given incredible vision because he had chosen to be used for the glory of God and others. He was a type of those who will have oil for their lamps in the last days (see Matthew 25:1-13).


I encourage you to study chapters 5 through 7 in Matthew. I have read these three chapters over and over, and I believe they give a clear vision of what the Christian life is supposed to be. The more you study these chapters, the more convinced you will be that you cannot live this life yourself—you need the power of God. So the Lord says to you, “Ask now!” (Matthew 7:9).


__________
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

IS THERE ANY HOPE?

In desperation, David cried out, “Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 130:2). This sounds to me like the plea of a dying man. David obviously wasn’t just uttering “thought prayers.” He was facedown on the ground—broken, contrite, pleading with God from the very depths of his heart.

David knew his soul needed a release and he turned to God alone to find that release. He concluded, “I'm in such a dire condition, only the Lord can help me now. I can’t rely on counselors, friends, even family. My only hope is in prayer. So I’m going to cry out night and day until God hears my plea!”

Many Christian marriages desperately need the kind of release David sought. All across the land I see couples sinking into dark pits of despair. Spouses claim to love one another, but they are not even civil in their communication. They show more kindness to strangers than they do to each other. Over time, their home has become a deep freeze of downright meanness. They don’t know it, but they are free-falling into destruction, their relationship fast spinning out of control. Perhaps your marriage has fallen as far down as it can go. You and your spouse have hit rock bottom, and you wake up every day wondering if there’s any hope left.

Beloved, you need to wake up to your condition. You have fallen into a black hole, full of ungodly attitudes, and this condition will not simply wear off by itself. Unless you take action, it will only get worse until one of you finally kills the marriage.

Wake up now to the Holy Spirit’s voice! There is sin in your marriage and it is being committed by both you and your spouse. You must deal with it or you will remain at the bottom of the dark well forever.

So, to whom are you taking your grief? Are you spilling your guts to your best friend? If so, are you merely building a case against your spouse? If you’re seeing a counselor, are you actually seeking a justification for ending it all?

Please don’t misinterpret my remarks; I believe in marriage counseling. But if you seriously want to get to the source of the problem, there is only one place to go. You need to look no farther than your own heart! The sin is right there inside you and, like David, you need to cry out to the Lord for mercy.