Thursday, July 31, 2008

"HE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH"

As we read Hebrews 11, we find a single common denominator to the lives of the people mentioned. Each had a particular characteristic that denotes the kind of faith God loves. What was this element? Their faith was born of deep intimacy with the Lord.

The fact is, it’s impossible to have a faith that pleases God without sharing intimacy with him. What do I mean by intimacy? I’m speaking of a closeness to the Lord that comes from yearning after him. This kind of intimacy is a close personal bond, a communion. It comes when we desire the Lord more than anything else in this life.

“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). I want to note several significant things about this verse. First, God himself testifieth of Abel’s gifts, or offerings. Second, Abel had to build an altar to the Lord, where he brought his sacrifices. And he offered not only unspotted lambs for the sacrifice, but the fat of those lambs as well. “And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof” (Genesis 4:4).

What does the fat signify here? The book of Leviticus say of the fat, “It is the food of the offering made by fire for a sweet savour: all the fat is the Lord’s” (Leviticus 3:16). The fat was the part of the sacrifice that caused a sweet aroma to rise. This part of the animal caught flame quickly and was consumed, bringing about the sweet smell. The fat here serves as a type of prayer or fellowship that’s acceptable to God. It represents our ministry to the Lord in the secret closet of prayer. And the Lord himself states that such intimate worship rises to him like a sweet-smelling savor.

The Bible’s first mention of this kind of worship is by Abel. That is why Abel is listed in Hebrews 11’s Hall of Faith. He’s a type of servant who was in fellowship with the Lord, offering him the best of all he had. As Hebrews declares, Abel’s example lives on today as a testimony of true, living faith: “He being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4).

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

INCREASE OUR FAITH

Mark 4 relates a story of Jesus and his disciples in a boat, being tossed about on a stormy sea. As we pick up the scene, Christ has just calmed the waves with a single command. Now he turns to his disciples and asks, “How is it that ye have no faith?’ (Mark4:40).

You may think this sounds harsh. It was only human to fear in such a storm. But Jesus wasn’t chiding them for that reason. Rather, he was telling them, “After all this time with me, you still don’t know who I am. How could you possibly walk with me for this long, and not know me intimately?”

Indeed, the disciples were astonished by the amazing miracle Jesus had performed. “They feared exceedingly, and said to one another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (4:41).

Can you imagine it? Jesus’ own disciples didn’t know him. He had personally called each of these men to follow him and they had ministered alongside him, to multitudes of people. They’d performed miracles of healing, and fed masses of hungry people. But they were still strangers to who their Master really was.

Tragically, the same is true today. Multitudes of Christians have ridden in the boat with Jesus, ministered alongside him, and reached multitudes in his name. But they really don’t know their Master. They haven’t spent intimate time shut in with him. They’ve never sat quietly in his presence, opening their hearts to him, waiting and listening to comprehend what he wants to say to them.

We see another scene regarding the disciples’ faith in Luke 17. The disciples came to Jesus, requesting, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5). Many Christians today ask the same question: “How can I obtain faith?” But they don’t seek the Lord himself for their answer.

If you want increased faith, you have to do the same thing Jesus told his disciples to do in this passage. How did he answer their request for faith? “Gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken” (17:8). Jesus was saying, in essence, “Put on your garment of patience. Then come to my table and sup with me. I want you to feed me there. You happily labor for me all day long. Now I want you to commune with me. Sit down with me, open your heart, and learn of me.”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

HE PLEASED GOD

Enoch enjoyed close fellowship with the Lord. In fact, his communion with God was so intimate, the Lord translated him to glory long before his life on earth might have ended. “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5).

Why did the Lord choose to translate Enoch? The opening word of this verse tells us very plainly that it was because of his faith. Moreover, the closing phrase tells us Enoch’s faith pleased God. The Greek root word for please here means fully united, wholly agreeable, in total oneness. In short, Enoch had the closest possible communion with the Lord that any human being could enjoy. And this intimate fellowship was pleasing to God.

The Bible tells us Enoch began walking with the Lord after he begot his son, Methuselah. Enoch was sixty-five at the time. He then spent the next 300 years fellowshipping with God intimately. Hebrews makes it clear that Enoch was so in touch with the Father, so close to him in hourly communion, God chose to bring him home to himself. The Lord said to Enoch, in essence, “I can’t take you any further in the flesh. To increase my intimacy with you, I have to bring you to my side.” So he whisked Enoch away to glory.

According to Hebrews 11:5, it was Enoch’s intimacy that pleased God. To our knowledge, this man never performed a miracle, never developed a profound theology, never did any great works worthy of mention in Scripture. Instead we read this simple description of this faithful man’s life: “Enoch walked with God.”

Enoch had intimate communion with the Father. And his life is yet another testimony of what it means to truly walk in faith.

Monday, July 28, 2008

FRIEND OF GOD

Consider the way God himself described his relationship with Abraham: “Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8). Likewise the New Testament tells us, “Abraham believed God…and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).

What an incredible commendation, to be called the friend of God. Most Christians have sung the well-known hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” These biblical passages bring home that truth with power. To have the Creator of the universe call a man his friend seems beyond human comprehension. Yet it happened with Abraham. It’s a sign of this man’s great intimacy with God.

The Hebrew word that Isaiah uses for friend here signifies affection and closeness. And in the Greek, James’ word for friend means a dear, close associate. Both imply a deep, shared intimacy.

The closer we grow to Christ, the greater our desire becomes to live wholly in his presence. Moreover, we begin to see more clearly that Jesus is our only true foundation.

The Bible tells us Abraham “looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). To Abraham, nothing in this life was permanent. Scripture says the world was “a strange place” to him. It was no place to put down roots. The heavenly country Abraham yearned for isn’t a literal place. Rather, it is being home with the Father. You see, the Hebrew word for this phrase, “heavenly country,” is Pater. It comes from a root word meaning Father. So, the heavenly country Abraham sought was, literally, a place with the Father.

Yet Abraham was no mystic. He was not an ascetic who put on holy airs and lived in a spiritual haze. This man lived an earthly life, heavily involved in the world’s affairs. After all, he was the owner of thousands of head of livestock. And he had enough servants to form a small militia. Abraham had to be a busy man, directing his servants and buying and selling his cattle, sheep and goats.

Yet somehow, despite his many business affairs and responsibilities, Abraham found time for intimacy with the Lord.

Friday, July 25, 2008

THE POWER OF STAYING GREEN

I was led to read and study Revelation 9, the chapter on the locusts. As I read verse 4, about God’s command to the locusts not to destroy anything green, a thought leaped out at me.

I realized that here was the key to remaining safe in any time of terror: “stay green.” David wrote, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of my God…for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8).

The “green” that David refers to here signifies spiritual health. It means to flourish, grow, be fruitful. David is telling us, “My health comes from trusting God. I flourish because I turn to him. My trust in him produces spiritual life in me.”

Here is a glorious truth about the power of staying green. “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).

The Lord is warning, “Don’t trust in man. If you put your faith in human power rather than in me, you’ll be cursed.”

Yet, if we put our trust in the Lord, here is what our faith will produce: “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (17:7-8).

As we trust wholly in the Father, we put down roots in his river of health. And his divine strength—luscious, green, spiritual health—flows in us and through us. While everything around us is decaying, we’ll flourish as green trees, healthy and strong. And when the hour of trial comes, we won’t languish or wilt. Instead, our faith will be growing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

GOD'S FIRE STILL BURNS

Sadly, much of Christ’s Body today resembles a modern-day Valley of Dry Bones. It is a wilderness filled with the bleached skeletons of fallen Christians. Ministers and other devoted believers have flamed out because of a besetting sin. And now they are filled with shame, hiding out in caves of their own making. Like Jeremiah, they have convinced themselves, “I will not make mention of [the Lord], nor speak any more in his name” (Jeremiah 20:9).

God is still asking the same question he asked Ezekiel: “Can these dead bones live again?” The answer to this question is an absolute, “Yes!” How? It happens by the renewing of our faith in God’s Word.

The Word of the Lord is itself a consuming fire. Indeed, it’s the only true light we have during our dark nights of despair. It’s our only defense against the enemy’s lies, when he whispers, “It’s all over. You’ve lost the fire. And you’re never going to get it back.”

The only thing that will bring us out of our darkness is faith. And faith comes by hearing God’s Word. We simply have to cling to the Word that has been implanted in us. The Lord has promised, “I will not let you go down; therefore, you have no reason to despair. There’s no cause for quitting. Rest in my Word.”

You may think, “But this dark night is worse than anything I’ve ever known. I’ve heard a thousand sermons on God’s Word, but none of it seems of any value to me now.” Don’t fret; God’s fire still burns in you, even if you can’t see it. And you’re to pour onto that fire the fuel of faith. You do this by trusting the Lord. When you do, you’ll see all your doubts and lusts consumed.

God’s Spirit is breathing life again into every set of dry bones. He’s reminding them of the Word he implanted in them. And those who once lay dead are being revived. They’re crying as Jeremiah did, “God’s fire has been shut up in me for too long. I simply can’t hold it any longer. I can feel the Lord’s power raising me up. He’s putting life in me. And I’m going to speak the Word he gave me. I’m going to proclaim his mercy and healing power.”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MY LIFE IS PRESERVED

The Bible tells us Jacob received an incredible revelation through a face-to-face encounter with God: “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). What was the circumstance surrounding this revelation? It was the lowest, scariest point in Jacob’s life. At the time, Jacob was caught between two powerful forces: his angry father-in-law, Laban, and his hostile, embittered brother, Esau.

Jacob had labored over twenty years for Laban, who’d cheated him time after time. Finally, Jacob had had enough, so without telling Laban, he took his family and fled.

Laban gave chase from the east, with a small army, ready to kill Jacob. Yet, only when God warned Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob did this man let his son-in law go. No sooner was Laban out of the picture, however, than Esau came from the west. He too led a small army of some 400 men, ready to kill his brother for stealing his birthright.

Jacob faced total calamity, convinced he was about to lose everything. Things looked utterly hopeless; yet in that dark hour, Jacob had an encounter with God as never before. He wrestled with an angel that scholars believe was the Lord himself.

Now think also about Job. In Job’s darkest hour, God appeared to him in a whirlwind. And the Lord gave this man one of the greatest revelations of himself ever witnessed by any human being.

God took Job up into the cosmos, then down into the depths of the sea. He led him into the very secrets of creation. And Job saw things that no person had ever seen. He was shown the utter glory and majesty of God. Job emerged from that experience praising God, saying, “I now know you can do anything, Lord. I repent for questioning your judgment. I see that everything is under your control and directed by your grace. You’ve had a plan all along, but now I’ve actually seen you with my eyes” (see Job 42:2-5).

Something marvelous happens when we simply trust. A peace comes over us, enabling us to say, “It doesn’t matter what comes out of this ordeal. My God has everything under control. I have nothing to fear.”

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

HE HOLDS ALL THE KEYS

Throughout Scripture, the greatest revelations of God’s goodness came to people in their times of trouble, calamity, isolation and hardship. We find an example of this in the life of John. For three years, this disciple was “in Jesus’ bosom.” It was a time of utter rest, peace and joy, with no troubles or trials. In all that time, John received very little revelation. He knew Jesus only as the Son of man. So, when did he receive his revelation of Christ in all his glory?

It happened only after John was dragged from Ephesus in chains. He was exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he was sentenced to hard labor. He was isolated, with no fellowship, no family or friends to comfort him. It was a time of utter despair, the lowest point in his life.

That’s when John received the revelation of his Lord that would become the final element of Scripture: the Book of Revelation. In the midst of that dark hour, the light of the Holy Ghost came to him and John saw Jesus as he’d never seen him before. He literally saw Christ as the Son of God.

John did not receive this revelation while he was with the other apostles, or even during Jesus’ days on earth. Yet now, in his darkest hour, John saw Christ in all his glory, declaring, “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:18). This incredible revelation put John on his face. But Jesus lifted him up and showed him the set of keys he held in his hand. And he reassured John, “Fear not” (1:17).

I believe this revelation comes to every praying, hurting servant in his or her time of need. The Holy Spirit says, “Jesus holds all the keys to life and death. So everyone’s departure rests in his hands.” This revelation is meant to bring peace to our hearts. Like John, we are to envision Jesus standing before us, holding the keys to life and death, assuring us, “Don’t be afraid. I hold all the keys.” What is our response to be? Like Job, we’re to say in faith, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

Monday, July 21, 2008

PEOPLE GRACE

God often uses angels to minister to people. But mostly, he uses his own caring people to dispense his grace. This is one reason we’re made partakers of his grace: to become channels of it. We are meant to dispense it to others. I call this “people grace.”

“Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7). Because of the comfort we’re given through God’s grace, it is impossible for any of us to continue grieving our whole lifetime. At some point, we are being healed by the Lord and we begin to build up a reservoir of God’s grace.

I believe this is what Paul meant when he wrote, “I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me…that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8). “Ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:7). The apostle is making a profound statement. He’s saying, “When I go to God’s throne to obtain grace, it is for your sake. I want to be a merciful shepherd to you, not a judgmental one. I want to be able to dispense grace to you in your time of need.” God’s grace made Paul a compassionate shepherd, able to weep with those who grieved.

Peter writes, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). What does it mean to be a good steward, or dispenser, of God’s manifold grace? Am I such a person? Or do I spend my time praying only for my own pain, grief and struggles?

Beloved, our present sufferings are producing something precious in our lives. They are forming in us a cry for the gift of mercy and grace, to offer to others who are hurting. Our sufferings make us want to be grace givers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

CRUMBS

The woman with the vexed daughter persisted in seeking Jesus. Finally, the disciples urged their master, “Lord, send her away, get rid of her. She won’t stop bothering us.” Note Jesus’ response to the woman’s pleas: “He answered her not a word” (Matthew 15:23). Evidently, Christ ignored the whole situation. Why would he do this? Jesus knew this woman’s story would be told to every future generation, and he wanted to reveal a truth to all who would read it. So, he tested the woman’s faith by saying, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (15:24). Christ was saying, “I came for the salvation of the Jews. Why should I waste their gospel on a Gentile?”

Now this statement would have sent most of us on our way, but the woman didn’t budge. I ask you, how often do you give up on prayer? How many times have you grown weary and reasoned, “I’ve sought the Lord. I prayed and asked. I just don’t get any results”?

Consider how this woman responded. She didn’t reply with a complaint, or an accusing finger, saying, “Why are you denying me, Jesus?” No, Scripture says just the opposite: “Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me” (15:25).

What follows next is hard to read. Once again, Jesus rebuffed the woman. Only this time his reply was even harsher. He told her, “It is not meet [right] to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs” (15:26). Once again, he was testing her.

Now the mother answered him, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (15:27). What an incredible reply. This determined woman was not going to relent in her pursuit of Jesus. And the Lord commended her for it. Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour” (15:28).

Beloved, we are not to settle for crumbs. We have been promised all the grace and mercy we need for our crises. And that includes every crisis involving our families, saved or unsaved. We’ve been invited to come boldly to Christ’s throne, with confidence.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

BEYOND HUMAN HOPE

There comes a time when certain life situations are beyond human hope. There is no counsel, no doctor, no medicine or anything else that can help. The situation has become impossible. It requires a miracle, or else it will end in devastation.

At such times, the only hope left is for someone to get to Jesus. It doesn’t matter who it is, father, mother, or child. That person has to take the responsibility to get hold of Jesus. And they have to determine, “I’m not leaving until I hear from the Lord. He has to tell me, ‘It’s done. Now go your way.’”

In the Gospel of John, we find just such a family in crisis: “There was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46). This was a family of distinction, perhaps even royalty. A spirit of death hung over the home, as the parents nursed their dying son. There may have been other family members in the home, perhaps aunts and uncles, grandparents, or other children. We are told the whole household believed, including the servants. “[The father] believed, and his whole house” (4:53).

Someone in that troubled family knew who Jesus was, and had heard of his miraculous power. And somehow, word came to the household that Christ was in Cana, about twenty-five miles away. In desperation, the father took it on himself to get through to the Lord. Scripture tells us, “When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judea into Galilee, he went unto him” (4:47).

This nobleman had a strong determination and he got through to Jesus. The Bible says he “besought [Jesus] that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death” (4:47). What a marvelous picture of intercession. This man set aside everything to seek the Lord to provide a word.

Christ answered him, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (4:48). What did Jesus mean by this? He was telling the nobleman that a miraculous deliverance wasn’t his most pressing need. Instead, the number-one issue was the man’s faith. Think about it: Christ could have gone into that family’s house, laid hands on the dying son and healed him. Yet all that this family would have known of Jesus was that he worked miracles.

Christ desired more for this man and his family. He wanted them to believe he was God in flesh. So he said to the nobleman, in essence, “Do you believe it’s God you’re beseeching for this need? Do you believe I am the Christ, the savior of the world?” The nobleman replied, “Sir, come down ere my child die” (4:49). At that point, Jesus must have seen faith in this man. It was as if Jesus said, “He believes I’m God in flesh.” Because next we read, “Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth” (4:50).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

THE FOUNDATION OF FAITH

What foundation is your faith built upon? Scripture tells us faith comes by hearing, and that God’s Word gives us “spiritual ears,” enabling us to hear (see Romans 10:17). Well, here’s what the Bible says about the wilderness experiences in our lives:

• “Let not the waterflood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up…Hear me, O Lord; for thy lovingkindness is good…hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble” (Psalm 69:15-17). Clearly waters of affliction flood the lives of the godly.

• “For thou, O God, has proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins…we went through fire and through water” (66:10-12). Who brings us into a net of afflictions? God himself does.

• “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word…It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes” (119:67, 71). These verses make it perfectly clear. It’s good for us—it even blesses us—to be afflicted.

Consider the Psalmist’s testimony: “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications…. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul” (Psalm 116:1-4). Here was a faithful servant who loved God and had great faith. Yet he faced the sorrows of pain, trouble and death.

We find this theme throughout the Bible. God’s Word loudly declares that the path to faith is through the floods and fires: “Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters” (Psalm 77:19). “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth…. I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19). “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 41:13). “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:13).

This last verse holds an important key: In every wilderness we face, our Father is holding our hand. Yet only those who go through the wilderness get this hand of comfort. He outstretches it to those who are caught in raging rivers of trouble.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT TO DELIVER

“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). What an incredible statement! Paul is saying, “The Spirit delivered me out of a hopeless situation. He’s delivering me even now. And he will continue to deliver me, in all my afflictions.”

Receiving the Holy Spirit isn’t evidenced by some emotional manifestation. (Yet I do believe there are manifestations of the Spirit.) What I’m talking about is receiving the Spirit through an ever-increasing knowledge. Receiving him means having an ever-increasing light about his delivering power, his burden bearing, his provision.

I repeat Peter’s words: “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). According to Peter, the divine power of the Spirit doesn’t come as a manifestation. He comes first “through the knowledge of him that hath called us.”

“And of his fullness have all we received” (John 1:16). Moreover, the Holy Spirit is not fully received until he is fully in charge. We simply haven’t received him if we haven’t given him complete control. We have to cast ourselves totally into his care.

Let me give a final example, to illustrate this. In Genesis 19, we find Lot and his family in a terrible crisis. Judgment was about to fall on their city, Sodom, and so God had sent his angels to deliver them. Lot opened his door to theses messengers of the Lord, and they entered the house. They had the power of heaven to deliver that whole family. But the angels weren’t received.

In the end, the angels had to force their will on Lot and his family, dragging them out of Sodom. God’s plan all along was to deliver them in the process of fleeing. He was going to feed and clothe and take care of them. But, as we all know, Lot’s wife looked back and died.

The angel’s message was clear: “If you want God to be in control, then you have to give up the reins. If you look to him for deliverance, you’ve got to let go of your plans and be willing to go his way.” In short, the Holy Spirit doesn’t use his power to deliver doubters. Unbelief aborts his work. We have to be willing to let him make changes in our lives, if that is God’s chosen way of delivering us.

Monday, July 14, 2008

GOD'S DELIGHT

God not only loves his people but delights in each one of us. He takes great pleasure in us. He’s actually blessed in keeping and delivering us.

I see this kind of parental pleasure in my wife, Gwen, whenever one of our grandchildren calls. Gwen lights up like a Christmas tree when she has one of our dear little ones on the line. Nothing can get her off the phone. Even if I told her the President was at our door, she’d shoo me away and keep talking.

How could I ever accuse my heavenly Father of delighting in me less than I do in my own offspring? At times my children have failed me, doing things contrary to what I taught them. But never once have I stopped loving them or delighting in them. So, if I possess that kind of enduring love as an imperfect father, how much more does our heavenly Father care for us, his children?

Joshua and Caleb stood up in the midst of Israel and cried, “If the Lord delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it to us” (Numbers 14:8). What a simple yet powerful declaration. They were saying, “Our Lord loves and delights in us. And he’s going to vanquish every giant, because he delights to do it for us. Therefore, we mustn’t look at our obstacles. We have to keep our eyes on our Lord’s great love for us.”

All through the Scriptures we read that God delights in us: “Such as are upright in their way are his delight” (Proverbs 11:20). “The prayer of the upright is his delight” (15:8). “My strong enemy [was]…too strong for me…but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:17-19).

It is absolutely imperative that we believe that God loves us and delights in us. Then we’ll be able to accept that every circumstance in our lives will eventually prove to be our Father’s loving will for us. We’ll emerge from our wilderness leaning on the loving arm of Jesus. And he’ll bring joy out of our mourning.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dearly Beloved

MAY THE LORD CAUSE HIS FACE TO SHINE ON YOU.

I want to talk to you about “soul sickness.” This is caused by a flood of troubles coming upon you – not just one problem, but one after another. King David cried, “Save me, O God, for waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire. I am come into deep waters, floods overflowing. I am weary of my crying” (Psalm 69:1-3).

Troubles came at David so powerfully he thought he would collapse. He prayed, “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am so distressed. I am wasting away from grief. My strength faileth, my soul and my belly” (Psalm 32:9).

Some readers may say, “I have known troubles, but not a flood of them. I can’t relate to David’s pain. I can’t relate to Job’s afflictions.” But I am speaking to those who are facing a flood of fears: fear of losing a job. Fear about finances. Fear about marriage or children. Fear about world conditions. Right now, multitudes of elderly people are living on starvation means. Parents grieve over children who are drawn away by drug and alcohol-addicted friends. Couples have mounting mortgage payments, troubled marriages, bills piling up.

I have been called a doomsday preacher. Some have even asked to be taken off my mailing list because they say I am too negative. But I can’t help speaking about what I see and hear. Chat with your neighbors – listen as they express their heartsickness over the hell breaking out in schools, the politically correct messes foisted on kids, teaching that is so immoral and godless it sickens the soul.

The root cause of soul sickness is when your troubles go on…when events get worse…when your soul cries out to God for help…and there seems to be no answer. Soul sickness is to know the Lord, to love him, to pray and even to shed tears, and still he does not seem to be there.

David said his troubles became so overwhelming, his soul was cast down “so that I cannot even speak.” In other words: “I have cried so much, there are no tears left. All I can see now is despair in the days ahead.”

If you relate to this at all, I have hopeful news for you. Here are simple, uncomplicated, biblical truths that can heal your soul sickness:

• Most important of all, keep praying, even when the situation worsens. God is going to answer in his time, in ways you could not imagine. The hardest part of faith is the last half hour, just before the answer comes.
• Even as important: do not get mad at God – ever! I see this happening to believers worldwide. All unbelief and impatience imply that the Lord has picked you out of the masses in the world and made you the object of cruelty and harassment. God forbid! He loves you through all your struggles. If he were to shut his ear to your cries, he would be a fraud – and he is not. He is your loving, forgiving, almighty, caring Father.

Shake off fear, because it has torment. Instead, rest in his promises. Things may change – your lifestyle may have to be simplified because of circumstances – but all things do work together for good to them that love God and are called according to his purpose.

Look up – God will never fail you!

Friday, July 11, 2008

CONQUERING THE DARKNESS

Only one thing conquers and dispels darkness, and that is light. Isaiah declared, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). Likewise, John stated, “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John 1:5).

Light represents understanding. When we say, “I see the light,” we’re saying, “Now I understand.” Do you see what Scripture is saying? The Lord is about to open our eyes, not to see a victorious devil but to receive new revelation. Our God has sent us his Holy Ghost, whose power is greater than all the powers of hell: “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

In Revelation we read of hell spewing forth locusts and scorpions that have great power. We read of a dragon, beasts, horned creatures, as well as a coming Antichrist. Yet, we don’t know the meaning of all these creatures. That is, we don’t have to. We don’t need to worry about the Antichrist or the mark of the beast.

There is living in us the Spirit of Almighty God and his Christ. Paul declares that the power of the Holy Spirit is working in us. In other words, the Holy Ghost is alive in us at this very moment.

So, how does the Spirit work in us in the midst of hard times? His power is released only as we receive him as our burden bearer. The Holy Spirit was given to us for this very reason, to bear our cares and worries. So, how can we say we’ve received him if we haven’t turned over our burdens to him?

The Holy Spirit isn’t shut up in glory, but is here, abiding in us. And he’s waiting anxiously to take control of every situation in our lives, including our afflictions. So, if we continue in fear—despairing, questioning, going deeper into anxiety—then we haven’t received him as our comforter, helper, guide, rescuer and strength.

The witness to the world is the Christian who has cast his every burden on the Holy Spirit. Like the Thessalonians, the believer sees overwhelming problems all around, and yet he has the joy of the Lord. He trusts God’s Spirit for his comfort, and for guidance out of his affliction. And he has a powerful testimony to a lost world, because he embodies joy despite being surrounded by darkness. His life tells the world, “This person has seen the light.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

THE SECRET CLOSET

“Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).

In the past I’ve taught that because of the demands of making a living, we may have a “secret closet of prayer” anywhere: in the car, on the bus, during a break at work. In measure, this is true. But there is more to it. The Greek word for “closet” in this verse means “a private room, a secret place.” This was clear to Jesus’ listeners, because the homes in their culture had an inner room that served as a sort of storage closet. Jesus’ command was to go into that secret closet as an individual and shut the door behind you. There you will enter into the kind of prayer that cannot happen in church or with a prayer partner.

Jesus set the example for this, as he went to private places to pray. Over and over Scripture tell us that he “went aside” to spend time in prayer. No one had a busier life, as he was constantly pressed by the needs of those around him, with so little time to himself. Yet, we are told, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

We all have excuses for why we don’t pray in secret, in a special place alone. We say we have no such private place, or no time to do it. Thomas Manton, a godly Puritan writer, says this: “We say we have no time to pray secretly. We yet have time for all else: time to eat, to drink, for children, yet not time for what sustains all else. We say we have no private place, but Jesus found a mountain, Peter a rooftop, the prophets a wilderness. If you love someone, you will find a place to be alone.”

Do you see the importance of setting your heart to pray in a secret place? It is not about legalism or bondage, but about love. It is about God’s goodness toward us. He sees what’s ahead and knows we need tremendous resources, daily replenishing. All of that is found in the secret place with him.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

SEATED WITH JESUS

According to Paul, we who believe in Jesus have been raised up from spiritual death and are seated with him in a heavenly realm. “Even when we were dead in sins, [God] hath quickened us together with Christ…and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:5-6).

Where is this heavenly place where we’re seated with Jesus? It is none other than God’s own throne room—the throne of grace, the dwelling place of the Almighty. Two verses later we read how we were brought to this wonderful place: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (2:8).

This throne room is the seat of all power and dominion. It’s the place where God rules over all principalities and powers, and reigns over the affairs of men. Here in the throne room, he monitors every move of Satan and examines every thought of man.

And Christ is seated at the Father’s right hand. Scripture tells us, “All things were made by him” (John 1:3). And, “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). In Jesus resides all wisdom and peace, all power and strength, everything needed to live a victorious, fruitful life. And we’re given access to all those riches that are in Christ.

Paul is telling us, “As surely as Christ was raised from the dead, we’ve been raised up with him by the Father. And, as surely as Jesus was taken to the throne of glory, we’ve been taken with him to the same glorious place. Because we are in him, we are also where he is. That’s the privilege of all believers. It means we are seated with him in the same heavenly place where he dwells.”

Paul says that all spiritual blessings are bestowed in the throne room. All the riches of Christ are available to us there: steadfastness, strength, rest, ever-increasing peace. “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).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A GREAT AWAKENING

What do I mean by a great awakening? I’m talking about what Paul describes as a revelation and enlightenment: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Paul was telling the Ephesians, “I pray that God will give you a fresh revelation, that he’ll open your eyes to the calling he’s given you. I’m asking him to give you new understanding about your inheritance, the riches in Christ that belong to you. There is a mighty power God wants to unleash in you. It’s the same power that was in Jesus. Yes, the same power that is in the enthroned Christ in heaven is in you right now.”

According to Paul, “[God’s mighty power] which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,” is the same “exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe” (1:20, 19). For this reason, Paul exhorts, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

How are we to examine ourselves? We do it by measuring ourselves against the awesome promises of God. We’re to ask ourselves: “Do I draw on Christ’s resources to resist the devil? Do I access his power to overcome sin? Do I live continually in the joy, peace and rest Jesus has promised to every believer without exception?”

Your personal “great awakening” comes the day you look at your life and cry out, “There has to be more to life in Christ than this. All my plans have unraveled, all my dreams have been shattered. I’m living as a slave to my fears and fleshly lusts. But I can’t do it any longer.

“I know the Lord has called me to more than this defeated life. And I won’t be a hypocrite. Oh, God, is there actually a place where you’ll supply me with strength to live victoriously? Are you really willing to make me more than a conqueror in my trials? Is it true you’ve provided a place of perfect peace for me in the midst of my battles?

“Is it really possible for me to have continual intimacy with you? Is it true I don’t have to slide into apathy anymore or struggle to please you? Is there actually a place of rest in you where I’ll never again need revival, because my faith remains steadfast?”

Monday, July 7, 2008

FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT

“According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3).

For years I’ve claimed to be filled with the Spirit. I have testified that I’ve been baptized in the Spirit. I’ve preached that the Holy Spirit empowers me to witness, and that he sanctifies me. I’ve prayed in the Spirit, talked to the Spirit, walked in the Spirit and heard his voice. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is the power of God.

I can take you to the place where I was filled with the Spirit, at eight years of age. I’ve read everything that Scripture says about the Holy Spirit. Yet lately, I’ve found myself praying, “Do I really know this incredible power that lives in me? Or is the Spirit just a doctrine to me? Am I somehow ignoring him? Am I not asking him to do for me what he came to do?”

The fact is, you can have something very valuable and not know it. And you can’t enjoy what it is you have, because you don’t understand how valuable it is.

There’s a story about a farmer who worked his small farm his whole life. For decades he tilled the rocky soil, living poor and finally dying in discontent. At his death, the farm was passed down to his son. One day, while plowing, the son found a gold-streaked nugget. He had it appraised and was told it was pure gold. The young man soon discovered that the farm was full of gold. Instantly, he became a wealthy man. Yet that wealth was lost on his father, even though it was on the land his whole life.

So it is with the Holy Spirit. Many of us live in ignorance of what we have, of the power that resides in us. Some Christians live their entire lives thinking they have all the Holy Spirit brings, yet they truly haven’t received him in fullness and power. He isn’t accomplishing in them the eternal work he was sent to do.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Dearly Beloved

WE THANK GOD FOR HIS MANIFOLD MERCIES AND LOVINGKINDNESS.

I am led by the Holy Spirit to write to you about God opening shut doors. Someone reading this message will relate immediately to this, because you face one or more closed doors. There it is, right in your face, a door that seems to be continually locked. It could be a serious financial situation, and you’ve prayed for the door of some opportunity to open. Yet everything you try seems to fail; the doors simply don’t open.

I don’t know what your closed door may be, but for many it seems both the windows and doors of heaven are closed. The heavens seem as brass, and you can’t seem to get through. This closed door I am speaking about is some issue, some situation, some need you’ve been praying much about. It may be a crisis that requires nothing less than a miracle. And you haven’t yet received an answer to your fervent prayers and petitions to the Lord.

In Revelation, Christ refers to himself as HE THAT OPENS AND SHUTS DOORS (3:7). This was in a letter sent to the believers in ancient Philadelphia, a church the Lord complimented for having kept the word of his patience and never denying his name. Simply put, in their most trying times, these people stood faithfully on God’s Word. They did not accuse the Lord of neglecting them or turning a deaf ear to their cries.

Evidently, Satan had come against them with lies. His principalities and powers of darkness, lying spirits pouring out of the very bowels of hell, say that God has shut every door, that he isn’t worthy of worship and faith. But these believers, whom Jesus said were of little strength, kept on trusting, waiting patiently for God to put the key in the door and open it. He holds the key to every shut door – and he alone sets before us open doors.

Here is what the Lord promised them, and it is our promise as well:

“Because you have kept the word of my patience [you did not give up in your trial], I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (3:10).

This hour of temptation is even now upon us. It holds incredible tests of faith so great and so fiery that many will fall into deadly unbelief. Indeed, a great falling away from enduring faith is now upon the whole world.

But you – because you still trust his promises, and are willing to die in faith even if you do not see the promises fulfilled – you will be kept from this worldwide temptation to fall into unbelief. God has heard your cry, and he knows the timing, the very hour, to open all doors. So, never give up. Never doubt. Stand on his promises. He will not fail you.

Friday, July 4, 2008

FAMILY PRAYER

“If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Some Christians call this “agreement praying.” You are deeply blessed if you have a devoted brother or sister to pray with. Indeed, the most powerful intercessors I’ve known have come in two’s and three’s.

The place where this kind of prayer takes place most powerfully is the home. My wife, Gwen, and I pray together daily, and I believe it holds our family together. We prayed for each of our children during their growing up years, that not one of them would be lost. We prayed about their friendships and relationships and for their future mates, and now we’re doing the same with our grandchildren.

Very few Christian families take time for prayer in the home. I personally can testify that I am in the ministry today because of the power of family prayer. When I was a child, every day, no matter where my siblings and I were playing, in the front yard or down the street, my mother would call out the front door of our home, “David, Jerry, Juanita, Ruth, it’s prayer time!” (My brother Don wasn’t born yet.)

The whole neighborhood knew about our family prayer time. Sometimes I hated to hear that call, and I griped and groaned about it. But something clearly happened in those times of prayer, with the Spirit moving amid our family and touching our souls.

Maybe you can’t see yourself holding family prayer. Maybe you have a spouse who isn’t cooperative or a child who’s rebellious. Beloved, it doesn’t matter who chooses not to be involved. You can still come to the kitchen table and bow your head and pray. That will serve as your household’s prayer time and every family member will know it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I HAVE NEED OF YOU

Some Christians don’t want to be connected to other members of the body of Christ. They commune with Jesus, but they deliberately isolate themselves from other believers. They want nothing to do with the body, other than the head.

But a body can’t be comprised of just a single member. Can you picture a head with only an arm growing out of it? Christ’s body can’t be made up of a head alone, with no limbs or organs. His body consists of many members. We simply can’t be one with Christ without being with his body also.

Our need is not just for the head, it’s for the whole body. We are knit together not only by our need for Jesus, but by our need for each other. Paul states, “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again they head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Corinthians 12:21).

Note the second half of this verse. Even the head cannot say to another member, “I don’t need you.” What an incredible statement! Paul is telling us, “Christ will never say to any member of his body, ‘I have no need of you.’” Our head willingly connects himself to each of us. Moreover, he says we’re all important, even necessary, to the functioning of his body.

This is especially true of members who may be bruised and hurting. Paul emphasizes, “Much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (12:22). The apostle then adds, “And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely part have more abundant comeliness” (23:23). He’s speaking of those in Christ’s body who are unseen, hidden, unknown. In God’s eyes, these members have great honor. And they’re absolutely necessary to the work of his body.

This passage holds profound meaning for us all. Paul is telling us, “It doesn’t matter how poor your self-image may be. You may think that you’re not measuring up as a Christian. But the Lord himself says, ‘I have need of you. You’re not just an important member of his body. You’re vital and necessary for it to function.’”

As important members of the body of Christ, believers are to rise up and take serious action against Satan’s attacks against fellow believers. Amazingly, this command is ignored by many Christians. When we see a believer in pain, we want to offer comfort, of course, and that is an act of godly love. But that is not enough! Every believer is to bind Satan in Jesus’ name and cast him into outer darkness. That is a sign of being a true member of the body.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Resigned Into God's Care

Jesus said, “…upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity…men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). Christ is warning us, “Without hope in me, multitudes of people are literally going to die of fright!”

For Jesus’ followers, however, those who trust in God’s promises to preserve his children, there is glorious freedom from all fear. In fact, all who come under the lordship of Christ never need to fear again, if they’ll just lay hold of the following secret: True freedom from fear consists of totally resigning one’s life into the hands of the Lord.

Resigning ourselves into God’s care is an act of faith. It means putting ourselves completely under his power, wisdom and mercy, being led and preserved according to his will alone. If we do this, the God of the universe promises to be totally responsible for us, to feed, clothe and shelter us, and to guard our hearts from all evil.

Jesus provided the ultimate example of this kind of holy resignation when he went to the cross. Just before he gave up his spirit, he cried aloud, “…Father, into thy hand I commend my spirit…” (Luke 23:46).

Christ literally placed the keeping of both his life and his eternal future in the custody of the Father. And in doing so, he placed the souls of every one of his sheep into the Father’s hands.

You may wonder, “But didn’t Jesus say he had the power both to lay down his life and to take it up again?” (See John 10:18.) Since he had the power to “take up his life again,” why did he resign it into God’s hand to be preserved? The answer is obvious: Jesus did it to set an example for all of his sheep to follow!

If we are being asked to trust our lives to someone, then we have to know that this Someone has the power to keep us from all danger, threats and violence. The apostle Paul writes, “…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).