Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Feed My Sheep

When I asked the Holy Spirit to show me how to guard against neglect, he led me to consider Peter’s drifting and his eventual renewal. This man denied Christ, even cursing, telling his accuser, “I don’t know him.”

What had happened? What had brought Peter to that point? It was pride, the result of self-righteous boasting. This disciple had said to himself and others, “I could never grow cold in my love for Jesus. I’ve reached a place in my faith where I don’t have to be warned. Others may drift, but I will die for my Lord.”

Yet Peter was the first among the disciples to give up the struggle. He forsook his calling and returned to his old career, telling the others, “I’m going fishing.” What he really was saying is, “I can’t handle this. I had thought I couldn’t fail, but nobody ever failed God worse than I did. I just can’t face the struggle anymore.”

By that point, Peter had repented of his denial of Jesus. And he had been restored in Jesus’ love. Yet he was still a frayed man inside.

Now, as Jesus waited for the disciples to return to shore, an issue remained unsettled in Peter’s life. It wasn’t enough that Peter was restored, secure in his salvation. It wasn’t enough that he would fast and pray as any devoted believer would do. No, the issue that Christ wanted to address in Peter’s life was neglect in another form. Let me explain.

As they sat around the fire on shore, eating and fellowshipping, Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me more than these others?” Each time Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know I do,” and Christ responded in turn, “Feed my sheep.” Note that Jesus didn’t remind him to watch and pray, or to be diligent in reading God’s Word. Christ presumed those thing had already been well taught. No, the instruction he gave Peter now was, “Feed my sheep.”

I believe that in that simple phrase, Jesus was instructing Peter on how to guard against neglect. He was saying, in essence, “I want you to forget about your failure, forget that you drifted from me. You’ve come back to me now, and I’ve forgiven and restored you. So it’s time to get your focus off of your doubts, failures and problems. And the way to do that is by not neglecting my people and to minister to their needs. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My Absolute Favorite

Of all 150 Psalms, Psalm 34 is my absolute favorite. It is all about our Lord’s faithfulness to deliver his children from great trials and crises. David declares, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears…. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them…. The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles…. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:4,7.17,19).

Note David’s claim in this Psalm: “I sought the Lord…this poor man cried….” (34:4, 6). When did David do this crying out? It had to have happened when he was feigning madness in Gath and yet he couldn’t have prayed audibly in the Philistines’ presence. This brings us to a great truth regarding God’s deliverance. Sometimes the loudest cry is made without an audible voice.

I know what this kind of “inner crying out” is like. Many of the loudest prayers of my life—my most important, heart-wrenching, deepest cries—have been made in total silence.

At times I’ve been so benumbed by circumstances that I couldn’t speak, overwhelmed by situations so beyond me that I couldn’t think clearly enough to pray. On occasion, I’ve sat alone in my study so baffled that I was unable to say anything to the Lord at all, but the whole time my heart was crying out: “God, help me! I don’t know how to pray just now, so hear the cry of my heart. Deliver me from this situation.”

Have you ever been there? Have you ever thought, “I don’t know what this is all about. I’m so overwhelmed by my circumstance, so flooded by deep pain, I can’t explain it. Lord, I don’t even know what to say to you. What is going on?”

I believe this is exactly what David went through when he was captured by the Philistines. When he wrote Psalm 34, he was making an admission: “I was in a situation so overwhelming that I played the part of a fool. Yet, inside I wondered, ‘What is going on with me? How has this happened? Lord, help!’”

And so it seems David was saying, “This poor man cried out from within, not knowing what or how to pray. And the Lord heard me and delivered me.” It was a deep cry from the heart, and the Lord is faithful to hear every whimper, no matter how faint.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Christ Reigns

Often people contact our ministry and say, “I have no one to talk to, no one to share my burden with, no one who has time to hear my cry. I need someone I can pour my heart out to.”

King David was constantly surrounded by people. He was married and had many companions at his side. Yet we hear the same cry from him: “To whom shall I go?” It is in our nature to want another human being, with a face, eyes and ears, to listen to us and advise us.

When Job became overwhelmed by his trials, he cried out with grief, “Oh that one would hear me!” (Job 31:35). He uttered this cry while sitting before his so-called friends. Those friends had no sympathy for his troubles; in fact, they were messengers of despair.

Job turned only to the Lord: “Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high…. Mine eye poureth out tears unto God” (Job 16:19-20).

David urged God’s people to do likewise: “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8).

Eventually, suffering comes to us all, and right now multitudes of saints are chained down by afflictions. Their circumstances have turned their joy into feelings of helplessness and uselessness. Many are asking in their pain, “Why is this happening to me? Is God mad at me? What did I do wrong? Why doesn’t he answer my prayers?”

I believe in my heart that this word is an invitation to you from the Holy Spirit to find a private place where you can frequently pour out your soul to the Lord. David “poured out his complaint,” and so can you. You can speak to Jesus about everything—your problems, your present trial, your finances, your health—and tell him how overwhelmed you are, even how discouraged you are. He will hear you with love and sympathy, and he will not despise your cry.

God answered David. He answered Job. And for centuries he has answered the heart cry of everyone who has trusted his promises. He has promised to hear you and guide you. He has pledged by oath to be your strength, so you can go to him and come out renewed.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Guiding Holy Spirit

When Scripture says the Holy Spirit “abides” in us, it means God’s Spirit comes in and possesses our bodies, making it his temple. And because the Holy Spirit knows the mind and voice of the Father, he speaks God’s thoughts to us: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit is the voice of God in and to us!

If you have the Holy Spirit abiding in you, he will instruct you personally. Please know he doesn’t speak only to pastors, prophets and teachers, but to all followers of Jesus. This is evident all through the New Testament, as the Holy Spirit led and guided his people, constantly saying to them, “Go here, go there…enter this town…anoint that person…” The early believers were led everywhere and in everything by the Holy Ghost!

And the Spirit never speaks a single word contrary to the Scriptures. Instead, he uses the Scriptures to speak clearly to us. He never gives us a “new revelation” apart from God’s Word. He opens up to us his revealed Word, to lead, guide and comfort us, and to show us things to come.

I am convinced God speaks only to those who, like Moses, “come and stand by him.” This means we have to spend quality time with the Lord daily—waiting on him to open our heart fully to hear his voice, not being rushed in his presence, believing he loves to speak to us. He won’t keep anything from us—and he’ll never allow us to be deceived or left in confusion. Even in the most difficult times, we’ll enjoy a time of great rejoicing—because he will reveal himself to us as never before.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I Am Power And Compassion

“Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (Matthew 15:32).

I believe Christ was making a statement to his disciples here. He was saying, “I’m going to do more for the people than heal them. I’ll make sure they have enough bread to eat. I’m concerned about everything that affects their lives. You have to see that I am more than just power. I am also compassion. If you see me only as a healer, a miracle worker, you will fear me. But if you also see me as compassionate, you’re going to love and trust me.”

I am writing this message for all who are on the brink of exhaustion, about to faint, overwhelmed by your present situation. You’ve been a faithful servant, feeding others, confident that God can do the impossible for his people. Yet you have some lingering doubts about his willingness to intervene in your struggle.

I wonder how many readers of this message have spoken words of faith and hope to others who are facing distressing, seemingly hopeless situations? You have urged them, “Hold on! The Lord is able. He is a miracle-working God, and his promises are true. So, don’t lose hope, because he’s going to answer your cry.”

“Do you really believe in miracles?” That’s the question the Holy Spirit asked of me. My answer was, “Yes, of course, Lord. I believe in every miracle I’ve read about in Scripture.” Yet this answer is not good enough. The Lord’s question to each one of us really is, “Do you believe I can work a miracle for you?” And not just one miracle, but a miracle for every crisis, every situation we face. We need more than Old Testament miracles, New Testament miracles, and by-gone miracles in history. We need up-to-date, personal miracles that are designed just for us and our situation.

Think of the one difficulty you’re facing right now, your greatest need, your most troubling problem. You’ve prayed about it for so long. Do you really believe the Lord can and will work it out, in ways you can’t conceive? That kind of faith commands the heart to quit fretting or asking questions. It tells you to rest in the Father’s care, trusting him to do it all in his way and time.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jesus Had A Plan

“When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5-6). Jesus took Philip aside, and said, “Philip, there are thousands of people here. They are all hungry. Where are we going to buy enough bread to feed them? What do you think we should do?”

How incredibly loving of Christ. Jesus knew all along what he was going to do; the verse above tells us so. Yet the Lord was trying to teach Philip something, and the lesson he was imparting to him applies to each of us today. Think about it: How many in Christ’s body sit up half the night trying to figure out their problems? We think, “Maybe this will work. No, no…. Maybe that will solve it. No….”

Philip and the apostles didn’t have just a bread problem. They had a bakery problem…and a money problem…and a distribution problem…and a transportation problem…and a time problem. Add it all up, and they had problems they couldn’t even imagine. Their situation was absolutely impossible.

Jesus knew all along exactly what he going to do. He had a plan. And the same is true of your troubles and difficulties today. There is a problem, but Jesus knows your whole situation. And he comes to you, asking, “What are we going to do about this?”

The correct answer from Philip would have been, “Jesus, you are God. Nothing is impossible with you. So, I’m giving this problem over to you. It’s no longer mine, but yours.”

That’s just what we need to say to our Lord today, in the midst of our crisis: “Lord, you are the miracle worker and I’m going to surrender all my doubts and fears to you. I entrust this entire situation, my whole life, into your care. I know you won’t allow me to faint. In fact, you already know what you’re going to do about my problem. I trust in your power.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In The Midst Of A Miracle

You may be in the middle of a miracle right now and simply not see it. It may be that you are waiting for a miracle. You’re discouraged because things seem to be at a standstill. You do not see any evidence of God’s supernatural work on your behalf.

Consider what David says in Psalm 18: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken…. There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured…. He bowed the heavens also, and came down…. The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice…He sent out his arrows…he shot out lightnings” (Psalm18:6-9, 13-14).

You have to realize, none of these things literally happened. It was all something that David saw in his spiritual eye. Beloved, that is faith. It’s when you believe God has heard your cry, that he hasn’t delayed, that he isn’t ignoring your petition. Instead, he quietly began your miracle immediately when you prayed, and even now he’s doing supernatural work on your behalf. That is truly believing in miracles, his marvelous progressive work in our lives.

David understood the foundational truth beneath it all: “He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). David declared, “I know why the Lord is doing all this for me. It’s because he delights in me.”

I truly believe in instantaneous miracles. God is still working glorious, instant wonders in the world today. In Matthew 16:9-11 and Mark 8:19-21, as Jesus reminds the disciples of the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000, he is asking them and us to take note of his progressive miracles and their role in our own lives today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Having A Perfect Heart

Do you know it is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart? If you are hungering for Jesus, you may already be trying—desiring earnestly—to obey this command of the Lord.

I want to encourage you; it is possible or God would not have given us such a call. Having a perfect heart has been part of the life of faith from the time God first spoke to Abraham: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).

In the Old Testament we see that some succeeded. David, for instance, determined in his heart to obey God’s command to be perfect. He said, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way…I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2).

To come to grips with the idea of perfection, we first must understand that perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless existence. No, perfection in the Lord’s eyes means something entirely different. It means completeness, maturity.

The Hebrew and Greek meanings of “perfection” include “uprightness, having neither spot nor blemish, being totally obedient.” It means to finish what has been started, to make a complete performance. John Wesley called this concept of perfection “constant obedience.” That is, a perfect heart is a responsive heart, one that answers quickly and totally all the Lord’s wooings, whisperings and warnings. Such a heart says at all times, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. Show me the path, and I will walk in it.”

The perfect heart cries out with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23–24).

God does indeed search our hearts; he said as much to Jeremiah: “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). The Hebrew meaning for this phrase is, “I penetrate, I examine deeply.”

The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts—to investigate, expose and dig out all that is unlike Christ. Those who hide a secret sin, however, do not want to be convicted, searched or probed.

The perfect heart yearns for more than security or a covering for sin. It seeks to be in God’s presence always, to dwell in communion. Communion means talking with the Lord, sharing sweet fellowship with him, seeking his face and knowing his presence.

The Lord’s heart-searchings are not vindictive, but redemptive. His purpose is not to catch us in sin or condemn us, but rather to prepare us to come into his holy presence as clean, pure vessels. “Who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart…He shall receive the blessing from the Lord” (Psalm 24:3–5).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Progressive Miracles

The Old Testament is filled with God’s miracle-working power, from the opening of the Red Sea, to God speaking to Moses from the burning bush, to Elijah calling down fire from heaven. All these were instantaneous miracles. The people involved could see them happening, feel them and thrill to them. And they are the kinds of miracles we want to see today, causing awe and wonder. We want God to rend the heavens, come down to our situation and fix things in a burst of heavenly power.

But much of God’s wonder-working power in his people’s lives comes in what are called “progressive miracles.” These are miracles that are hardly discernable to the eye. They’re not accompanied by thunder, lightning or any visible movement or change. Rather, progressive miracles start quietly, without fanfare, and unfold slowly but surely, one step at a time.

Both kinds of miracles—instantaneous and progressive—were witnessed at Christ’s two feedings of the multitudes. The healings he performed were immediate, visible, easily discerned by those present on those days. I think of the crippled man with a gnarled body, who suddenly had an outward, physical change so that he could run and leap. Here was a miracle that had to astonish and move all who saw it.

Yet the feedings that Christ did were progressive miracles. Jesus offered up a simple prayer of blessing, with no fire, thunder or earthquake. He merely broke the bread and the dried fish, never giving a sign or sound that a miracle was taking place. Yet, to feed that many people, there had to be thousands of breakings of that bread and those fish, all through the day. And every single piece of bread and fish was a part of the miracle.

This is how Jesus performs many of his miracles in his people’s lives today. We pray for instantaneous, visible wonders, but often our Lord is quietly at work, forming a miracle for us piece by piece, bit by bit. We may not be able to hear it or touch it, but he is at work, shaping our deliverance beyond what we can see.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Peace With God

Jesus died on the cross to purchase peace with God for me—and he’s in heaven now to maintain that peace, for me and in me. The peace we have with God through Christ distinguishes our faith from all other religions.

In every other religion besides Christianity, the sin question is never settled. Sin’s dominion simply hasn’t been broken. Therefore there can be no peace: “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isaiah 48:22). But we have a God who provides peace by pardoning sin. This is the very reason Jesus came to earth: to bring peace to troubled, fearful humankind.

How does Jesus maintain God’s peace for me? He does it in three ways:

• First, Christ’s blood removed the guilt of my sin. In this sense, Paul says, “He is our peace” (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus made peace for me through his blood.
• Second, Christ maintains my peace and joy in believing: “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost” (Romans15:13).
• Third, Jesus causes me to rejoice at the hope of entering glory: “We…rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2).

Simply put, peace is the absence of fear. And a life without fear is a life full of peace.

When Jesus ascended to heaven, he didn’t just bask in the glory that God bestowed on him. No, he went to the Father to maintain the hard-won peace he achieved for us at Calvary.

Our Savior is alive in glory right now. And he’s both fully God and fully human, with hands, feet, eyes, hair. He also has the nail scars on his hands and feet, the wound in his side. He has never discarded his humanity; he is still a man in glory. And right now, our man in eternity is working to make sure we’re never robbed of the peace he gave us when he left. He’s ministering as our high priest, actively involved in keeping his body on earth full of his peace. And when he comes again he wants us to “be found of him in peace” (2 Peter 3:14).

When I sin, my peace is interrupted in two areas. First, my conscience troubles and accuses me, and rightly so. But, second, Satan’s accusations put fear in me. I believe these are the two primary areas where Christ’s intercession applies to us.

First, my high priest won’t permit my conscience to hold me captive. Nor will he allow Satan’s accusations against me to go unchallenged. Christ is my advocate with the Father against every accusation from hell. What is an advocate? It is simply “my friend in court.” For Christians, this friend in court is also the son of the judge. In addition, our advocate is our brother. In fact, we are set to inherit the judge’s fortune along with him.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Power Of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not just a one-time act, but a way of life, meant to bring us into every blessing in Christ. “I say unto you. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you: that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).

According to Jesus, forgiveness isn’t a matter of picking or choosing whom we would forgive. We can’t say, “You’ve hurt me too much, so I’m not forgiving you.” Christ tells us, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?” (5:46).

It doesn’t matter who our grudge might be against. If we hold onto it, it will lead to bitterness that poisons every aspect of our lives. Unforgiveness brings on spiritual famine, weakness, and a loss of faith, afflicting not just us but everyone in our circle.

Over the past fifty years of my ministry, I have seen terrible devastation in the lives of those who withheld forgiveness. Yet, I also have seen the glorious power of a forgiving spirit. Forgiveness transforms lives, causing the windows of heaven to open. It fills our cup of spiritual blessing to the brim with abundant peace, joy and rest in the Holy Ghost. Jesus’ teaching on this subject is very specific, and if you want to move in this wonderful realm of blessing, then heed and embrace his words.

“If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). Make no mistake: God isn’t making a bargain with us here. He is not saying, “Because you’ve forgiven others, I will forgive you.” We can never earn God’s forgiveness. Only the shed blood of Christ merits forgiveness of sin.

Rather, Christ is saying, “Full confession of sin requires that you forgive others. If you hold on to any unforgiveness, then you haven’t confessed all your sins. True repentance means confessing and forsaking every grudge, crucifying every trace of bitterness toward others. Anything less isn’t repentance.”

This goes hand in hand with his Beatitude: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). His point: Forgive others, so you can move in to the blessings and joy of sonship. God can then pour on tokens of his love. And when you forgive, you’re revealing the Father’s nature to the world.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Same Glory

“He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…and the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one; I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one” (John 17:21-23, italics mine).

Take another look at the verse in italics. Jesus says, in essence, “The glory that you gave me, Father, I have given to them.” Christ is making an incredible statement here. He is saying that we’ve been given the same glory that the Father gave to him. What an amazing thought. Yet, what is this glory that was given to Christ and how do our lives reveal that glory? It is not some aura or emotion; it is unimpeded access to the heavenly Father!

Jesus made it easy for us to access the Father, opening the door for us by the Cross: “For through him [Christ] we both [we and those afar off] have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). The word “access” means the right to enter. It signifies free passage, as well as ease of approach: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (3:12).

Do you see what Paul is saying here? By faith, we’ve come into a place of unimpeded access to God. We’re not like Esther in the Old Testament. She had to wait for a sign from the king before she could approach the throne. Only after he held out his scepter was Esther approved to come forward.

By contrast, you and I are already in the throne room. And we have the right and privilege of speaking to the King at any time. Indeed, we’re invited to make any request of him: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

When Christ ministered on earth, he didn’t have to slip away to prayer to obtain the Father’s mind. He said, “I can do nothing on my own. I do only what the Father tells me and shows me” (see John 5:19). Today we have been given the very same degree of access to the Father that Christ had. You may say, “Wait a minute. I have the same access to the Father that Jesus did?”

Make no mistake. Like Jesus, we’re to pray often and fervently, seeking God, waiting on the Lord. We don’t have to slip away to beseech God for strength or direction, because we have his very own Spirit living within us. And the Holy Spirit reveals to us the mind and will of the Father.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Four Expectations

God is a promise-maker and a promise-keeper and he has spoken to my heart about four things God’s people should trust him for. These expectations are based on promises God has made to us.

1. Expect to be rewarded as you diligently seek the Lord. “[God] is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

You can ask in faith for a token for God to encourage and rekindle your confidence. God is always on time, and he knows you need a ray of hope and good news in your testing time. Expect him to keep his promise to reward you now when you are in greatest need. God cannot lie. He said he rewards those who diligently seek him. Seek him daily and believe that this year will be your year of great spiritual blessing.

2. Expect to see evidence of a progressive miracle in your life. “With God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).

I believe in instantaneous and progressive miracles. Progressive miracles start in unseen, quiet ways and unfold little by little, one small mercy at a time. Expect to see God working in mysterious ways, unseen to the human eye.

3. Expect to enter into God’s promised place of rest. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God…enter into that rest” (Hebrews 4:9,11).

In the last few years we have seen an outpouring of incredible calamities, problems and trials. In the midst of this, the Lord desires that you believe him to bring you into his promised rest. God never intended that his children live in fear and despair. We need a reckless faith and trust in God in the face of fear, trouble and death itself.

4. Expect the Holy Spirit to be always in his temple. “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

The Holy Spirit abides in the heart of the believer. He is omnipresent throughout the world. I face each day acknowledging that he is here in his temple to comfort me, guide me, encourage me, anoint me, and to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ in ever-increasing revelation. He desires that you expect him to make his presence manifest to you, and more so each passing day. He wants to bring you into unshakable faith, just as he did his disciples.

Believe these promises! Lay hold of these expectations and you will see God do marvelous things.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Seeking The Face of God

In Psalm 27, David beseeches God in an intense urgent prayer. He pleads in verse 7, “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me.” His prayer is focused on one desire, one ambition, something that has become all consuming for him: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after” (27:4).

David is testifying, “I have one prayer, Lord, one request. It is my single most important goal in life, my constant prayer, the one thing I desire. And I will seek after it with all that’s within me. This one thing consumes me as my goal.”

What was this one thing that David desired above all else, the object he’d set his heart on obtaining? He tells us: “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (27:4).

Make no mistake: David was no ascetic, shunning the outside world. He wasn’t a hermit, seeking to hide away in a lonely desert place. No, David was a passionate man of action. He was a great warrior, with huge throngs singing of his victories in battle. He was also passionate in his prayer and devotion, with a heart that yearned after God. And the Lord had blessed David with so many of the desires of his heart.

Indeed, David tasted everything a man could want in life. He had known riches and wealth, power and authority. He had received the respect, praises and adulation of men. God had given him Jerusalem as the capital for the kingdom and he was surrounded by devoted men who were willing to die for him.

Most of all, David was a worshiper. He was a praising man who gave thanks to God for all his blessings. He testified, “The Lord laid blessings on me daily.”

David was saying, in effect, “There is a way of living I seek now—a settled place in the Lord that my soul longs for. I want uninterrupted spiritual intimacy with my God.” This was what David meant when he prayed, “That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple” (27:4).

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Lord's Mercies

In ancient Israel, the ark of the covenant represented the mercy of the Lord, a powerful truth that came to be embodied in Christ. We are to receive his mercy, trust in the saving blood of his mercy, and be saved eternally. So, you can ridicule the law, you can mock holiness, you can tear down everything that speaks of God. But when you mock or ridicule God’s mercy, judgment comes—and swiftly. If you trample on his blood of mercy, you face his awful wrath.

That’s exactly what happened to the Philistines when they stole the ark. Deadly destruction came down on them until they had to admit, “This isn’t just chance or happenstance. God’s hand is clearly against us.” Consider what happened when the ark was taken into the heathen temple of Dagon, to mock and challenge Israel’s God. In the middle of the night, the mercy seat on the ark became a rod of judgment. The next day, the idol Dagon was found fallen on its face before the ark, its head and hands cut off (see 1 Samuel 5:2-5).

Beloved, this is where America should be today. We should have been judged long ago. I say to all who mock and challenge the mercy of God: Go ahead, try all you want to bring Christ’s church under the power of secularism or agnosticism. But if you mock the mercy of Christ, God will cast all your power and authority to the ground. Jeremiah says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not” (Lamentations 3:22). Yet when men make a mockery of that great mercy which is Christ, judgment is sure.

It is only the mercy of the Lord that delays judgment. And right now America is benefiting from that mercy. Incredibly, our country is in a race with the rest of the world to remove God and Christ from society. Yet the Lord will not be mocked; his mercies endure forever, and he loves this nation. I believe that is why he’s still pouring out blessings on us. His desire is that goodness will lead us to repentance (see Romans 2:4).

We are not to despair over the present condition in America. We grieve over the awful corruption, mockery and sin, but we have hope, knowing God is in full control. We know the mercies of God endure forever.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Jehovah Shammah - The Lord Is There

To be a member of God’s true church, you must be known by the name of Jehovah Shammah—“The Lord is there” (Ezekiel 48:35). Others must be able to say of you, “It’s clear to me the Lord is with this person. Every time I see him, I sense the presence of Jesus. His life truly reflects the glory of God.”

If we’re honest, we have to admit we don’t sense the Lord’s sweet presence in each other very often. Why? Christians spend their time involved in good religious activities—prayer groups, Bible studies, outreach ministries—and that’s all very commendable. But many of these same Christians spend little if any time at all ministering to the Lord, in the secret closet of prayer.

The Lord’s presence simply can’t be faked. This is true whether it applies to an individual’s life or to a church body. When I speak of God’s presence, I’m not talking about some kind of spiritual aura that mystically surrounds a person or that comes down in a church service. Rather, I am talking about the result of s simple but powerful walk of faith. Whether that’s manifested in a Christian’s life or in an entire congregation, it causes people to take note. They tell themselves, “This person has been with Jesus,” or “This congregation truly believes what they preach.”

It takes much more than a righteous pastor to produce a Jehovah Shammah church. It takes a righteous, shut-in people of God. If a stranger comes out of a church service and says, “I felt the presence of Jesus there,” you can be sure it wasn’t just because of the preaching or worship. It was because a righteous congregation had entered God’s house, and the Lord’s glory was abiding in their midst.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Do Three Things

In the midst of their trial God told Israel to do three things: “Fear not. Stand still. See the salvation of the Lord.” His call to Israel was, “I am going to fight for you. You’re simply to hold your peace. Just be quiet, and put everything in my hands. Right now, I’m doing a work in the supernatural realm. Everything is under my control. So, don’t panic. Trust that I’m fighting the devil. This battle is not yours” (see Exodus 14:13 and 14).

Soon dusk fell over the camp. This was the beginning of Israel’s dark and stormy night. But it was also the beginning of God’s supernatural work. He sent an awesome, protective angel to stand between his people and their enemy. I believe God still sends protective angels to camp around all who love and fear him (see Psalm 34:7).

The Lord also moved the supernatural cloud he’d given to Israel for guidance. The cloud suddenly shifted from the front of Israel’s camp to the rear. And it loomed as a pitch-black wall before the Egyptians. On the other side, the cloud provided a supernatural light, giving the Israelites clear visibility all night long (see Exodus 14:20).

Even though Pharaoh’s army was in total darkness, they could still raise their voices. And all night long they spewed forth threats and lies. Israel’s tents shook from this barrage of lies throughout that dark night. But it didn’t matter how loudly the enemy threatened them. An angel was on guard to protect them, and God had promised his people he would bring them through.

Dear saint, if you’re a blood-bought child of God, he has put a warrior angel between you and the devil. And he commands you, just as he told Israel, “Do not fear. Stand still. Believe in my salvation.” Satan may come against you breathing every evil threat. But at no time during your dark, stormy night is the enemy ever able to destroy you.

“Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night” (Exodus 14:21).

The windstorm that God brought down was so powerful, it began to part the waves of the sea: “The strong east wind…made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided” (14:21).

The Hebrew word for wind here means “violent exhaling.” In other words, God exhaled and the water congealed in walls. Israel’s tent-dwellings must have shaken fiercely as those mighty torrents blew through the camp. Why did God allow Israel to go through an entire stormy night, when he could have spoken a mere word and calmed the elements?

What a storm it must have been. And what a fearful time it had to be for Israel. I ask you, what was God up to here? Why would he allow such a terrible windstorm to go on all night? Why didn’t he just tell Moses to touch the water with his mantle, and part the waves supernaturally? What possible reason did God have for permitting this awful night to take place?

There was but one reason: The Lord was making worshippers. God was at work the whole time, using the terrible storm to make a path for his people out of the crisis. Yet the Israelites couldn’t see it at the time. Many were hiding in their tents. But those who came outside witnessed a glorious light show. They also beheld the glorious sight of waves mounting up, mighty walls of water rising to form a dry path through the sea. When the people saw this, they must have shouted, “Look, God has used the wind to make a way for us. Praise the Lord!”

Friday, April 11, 2008

God Has Not Passed You By

One of the greatest burdens I have as a shepherd of the Lord is, “Oh, God, how do I bring hope and comfort to believers who are enduring such great pain and suffering? Give me a message that will cancel their doubt and fear. Give me truth that will dry up the tears of the grieving and put a song on the lips of the hopeless.”

The message I hear from the Holy Spirit for God’s people is very simple: “Go to my Word, and stand on my promises. Reject your doubtful feelings.” All hope is born out of God’s promises.

I received a letter recently that contains a beautiful living illustration of this. It’s from a mother who writes, “My daughter is sixteen years old. She has a physical degeneration of her muscles, ligaments and joints, and is in extreme pain twenty-four hours a day. I lost my son to suicide in 1997 due to the same pain. He was twenty-two when, after nine years of suffering, he took his life. He couldn’t handle the pain.

“My daughter was a ballerina and was looking forward to going to Julliard School in New York City. But her dreams were shattered when she was stricken with the same disease that tormented her brother. The doctor said that her pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is at 14. The amount of painkiller needed to be effective for her would destroy her kidneys, so she can’t take the medicine.

“She loves the Lord, and is a joy to be around. She is a wonderful poet whose writings have appeared in over 15 publications, and she is listed in the ‘International Who’s Who in Poetry.’”

In the face of everything, amid a relentless shaking of body and soul, this mother and her daughter have put their hope in God’s Word to them. And he has given them peace.

Has the enemy tried to tell you that God has bypassed you? Have you been tempted to conclude that the Lord isn’t with you? Have you almost given up your faith? Put your hope in the Lord’s Word to you:

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, has not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psalm 9:9-10).

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Caleb

Caleb, whose name means “forcible, fortitude,” is a type of Christian who goes all the way! He was inseparable from Joshua, a type of Christ, and represented one who continually walks with the Lord.

Caleb had been over Jordan with the spies. While there, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to Hebron—“the place of death.” With awe he climbed that hallowed mountain and faith flooded his soul. Abraham and Sarah were buried here, as were Isaac and Jacob. Years later, David’s kingdom would begin there. Caleb prized that hallowed place! From that time on he wanted Hebron for his possession.

It was said of Caleb that he “followed me [the Lord] wholly” (Numbers 14:24). He never wavered to the very end. Solomon wavered in his later years and “he went not fully after the Lord.” But at 85 years of age, Caleb could testify: “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me; as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (Joshua 14:11).

At 85 Caleb waged his greatest battle! “Now therefore give me this mountain (Hebron)…” (Joshua 14:12). “And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb…Hebron for an inheritance…” (Joshua 14:13). “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb…because that he wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:14).

The message is glorious! It is this: It is not enough to have died to sin—to have entered fullness sometime in the past. The need is to grow in the Lord to the end! To keep your spiritual power and strength—to not waver, to “wholly follow the Lord”—even in old age! It should be an ever-increasing faith.

Hebron, Caleb’s inheritance, means “a company associated.” Associated with what? The answer is, “with death.” Not only with the death in Jordan to sin but also to live with a company of people, a community of fellow believers who are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was on Hebron that Abraham had built an altar to sacrifice his son and it was here that Caleb and his family would live. They would live constantly associated with that altar of living sacrifice.

Caleb’s wholeheartedness for the Lord produced a holy fire for God in his children. While the children of the two and a half tribes living in the middle ground turned away and embraced the world and its idolatry, Caleb’s family grew stronger in the Lord!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Middle Grounders

Those who choose to live on middle ground share certain characteristics! The characteristics of the two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) can be found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Their Hebrew names expose them!

Reuben means, “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “…unstable as water, thou shalt not excel….” Reuben went into his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, said of him: “Reuben…thou defilest…thou went up to my couch…” (see Genesis 49:4).

Reuben had eyes only for this world—its lusts, it things, its pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.

Gad means, “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He provided the first part for himself…” (Deuteronomy 33:21). This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.”

Gad’s philosophy was, “I will fight with the Lord’s army; I’ll be obedient and do everything God expects of me. But first I’ve got to get a stake in life. I need to get myself and my family set up and then I’ll be free to do more for the Lord!”

Manasseh means, “To forget, to neglect.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son and he should have received the birthright. But even in his childhood there was a sad trait developing and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father Joseph and neglect the commandment of the Lord.

Consider these combined traits of middle-ground Christians: Unstable as water in spiritual convictions; never excelling in the things of God; lukewarm, weak with lust; ruled by selfish needs; neglecting the Word; not taking the Lord’s commandments seriously; making their own choices instead of trusting God; forgetting past blessings and dealings; unwilling to let go of certain idols; justifying their own decisions; not willing to die to all that would seduce them back to middle ground!

Let us determine to want the Lord’s fullness. God’s desire for you is to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. That required following him “with all the heart, all the strength.”

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Being In Christ

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible promise to God’s people.

This promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?

Paul wrote this epistle “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him.

These “faithful ones” fully understood that “God…raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). They knew they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (1:5). God had brought them into his family, because when they heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it.

Many forgiven, cleansed and redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. How can this be? It’s because many never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.

Jesus said to the disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:19-20). We are now living in “that day” that Jesus spoke of and we are to understand our heavenly position in Christ.

What is meant by the expression, “our position in Christ”? Position is “where one is placed, where one is.” God has placed us where we are, which is in Christ.

In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. There, if we’re in Christ, then we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we’re sitting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, Jesus is in paradise. But the Lord also abides in you and me. He has made us his temple on the earth, his dwelling place.