Friday, October 31, 2008

GROWTH IN GRACE CAN BE STUNTED!

Paul warned the Ephesians, “Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). You may think, “This verse doesn’t apply to me. My foundation is biblically solid. I’m not taken in by all the new gospel fads and frivolous gimmicks that are distracting people from Christ. I’m rooted and grounded in God’s Word.”

Yet listen to the rest of Paul’s verse: “…carried about…by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (4:14). Perhaps you can’t be fazed by false doctrine. Paul says you could still be carried away by a whole other matter. He’s asking, “Are you tossed about by the evil plans of those who oppose you?”

Paul’s message calls us to examine ourselves yet again: How do we react to people who call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet spread falsehoods about us?

When Paul commands, “Be no more children,” he’s telling us, “Those enemies of yours—the ones who use gossip and slander, fraud and manipulation, cunning and craftiness, deception and underhandedness—I tell you, they’re all rebellious children. They’re devious and spoiled. And they haven’t allowed God’s grace to do a work in them. So, don’t fall for their wicked, childish games. They want you to react to their meanness as a child would. But you are not to answer them with childishness.”

In the next verse, Paul urges us to move on to maturity: “Speaking the truth in love, may [you] grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). He’s saying, “You can’t help the slights you receive, the hurts done to you, the gossip spoken against you, the fraud and deception aimed at you. Yet, you can use these things to grow in grace. View them as opportunities to become more Christlike. Respond softly, with a meek spirit. Forgive those who spitefully use you.”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

HELL-SHAKING PRAYER

When the book of Daniel was written, Israel was in captivity to Babylon. And by chapter six, after a long life in ministry, Daniel was eighty years old.

Daniel had always been a praying man. And now, in his old age, he had no thoughts of slowing down. Scripture makes no mention of Daniel being burned out or discouraged. On the contrary, Daniel was just beginning. Scripture shows that even as this man turned eighty, his prayers shook hell, enraging the devil.

King Darius promoted Daniel to the highest office in the land. He became one of three co-equal presidents, ruling over princes and governors of 120 provinces. Darius favored Daniel over the other two presidents, putting Daniel in charge of forming government policy and teaching all the court appointees and intellectuals (Daniel 6:3).

Obviously, Daniel was one busy prophet. I can only imagine the kinds of pressures placed on this minister, with his busy schedule and time-consuming meetings. Nothing, however, could take Daniel away from his times of prayer; he was never too busy to pray. Prayer remained his central occupation, taking precedence over all other demands. Three times a day, he stole away from all his obligations, burdens and demands as a leader to spend time with the Lord. He simply withdrew from all activities and prayed. And God answered him. Daniel received all his wisdom, direction, messages and prophecies while on his knees (see Daniel 6:10).

You may ask—What is the prayer that shakes hell? It comes from the faithful, diligent servant who sees his nation and church falling deeper into sin. This person falls on his knees, crying, “Lord, I don’t want to be a part of what’s going on. Let me be an example of your keeping power in the midst of this wicked age. It doesn’t matter if no one else prays. I’m going to pray.”

Too busy to pray? Do you say, “I just take it by faith”? You may think to yourself, “God knows my heart; he knows how busy I am. I give him thought prayers throughout the day.”

I believe the Lord wants quality, unhurried time alone with us. Prayer then becomes an act of love and devotion, not just petition time.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CLAIMING THE POWER THAT IS IN CHRIST

As Jesus spent his last hours with his disciples, he said to them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John 16:23). Then he told them, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (16:24).

What an incredible statement. As this scene took place, Christ was warning his followers that he was going away, and he wouldn’t see them for a short time. Yet, in the very same breath, he assured them they had access to every blessing of heaven. All they had to do was ask in his name.

The disciples had been personally taught by Jesus to knock, seek, and ask for the things of God. They were taught firsthand that all of the blessings of the Father—all grace, power and strength—were found in Christ. And they’d heard Jesus declare to the multitudes: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12–14).

Christ’s words to his disciples convict me: “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name” (John 16:24). As I read this, I hear the Lord whispering to me, “David, you haven’t claimed the power I’ve made available to you. You simply need to ask in my name.”

Here is what I believe grieves God’s heart more than all the sins of the flesh combined. Our Lord is grieved by the ever-growing lack of faith in his promises…by ever-increasing doubts that he answers prayer…and by a people who claim less and less of the power that is in Christ.

No matter how much you have asked of the likeness of Christ, it is nothing compared to the resources of spiritual wisdom still awaiting in his storehouse. Ask largely! Ask for wisdom, ask for guidance, ask for revelation. But it must be asked in faith, nothing doubting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

HOW BIG IS YOUR JESUS?

John 14 contains two magnificent promises. In the first, Jesus states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12–14). Jesus makes it plain and simple in the last verse: “Ask anything in my name, and I’ll do it for you.”

Two verses later, Jesus promises, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:16–18). Here Christ is saying, “I’m going to give you the Spirit of Truth. And his power will abide in you.”

These are two incredible promises from Jesus. Yet, notice the one verse that’s sandwiched between them: “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Why does this statement appear here? Christ is telling us, “There is a matter of obedience connected to these promises.” In short, both promises have to do with keeping and obeying God’s Word. They were given to be fulfilled, so that nothing would hinder us from claiming the power that is Christ.

I’m convinced that asking little or nothing in Jesus’ name is a reproach to him. Year after year, many Christians settle for less and less. Finally, they settle for salvation only. They have no expectations other than making it to heaven someday.

I ask you: Have you come to the end of your Christ? Do you expect nothing more than to be saved by his power and grace? Does your Christ end at just enough strength to make it through another day? Does he end for you at a place of occasional peace and joy, in a life lived mostly under Satan’s harassment?

All of these passages in God’s Word persuade me that “my” Jesus is no bigger than my requests. Yet, sadly, many believers make Christ look insignificant and powerless by their unbelief. Beloved, I don’t want my Christ to be limited. Instead, I want every devil in hell to know how big my God is by how big my requests are. I want more out of my Christ. I want him to be bigger than ever in my life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

HE WROTE YOUR NAME ON HIS HAND

What incredible authority we have been given in prayer. How, exactly, do we use this authority? Through Christ’s own name. You see, when we placed our faith in Jesus, he gave us his name. His sacrifice enables us to say, “I am Christ’s, I am in him. I’m one with him.” Then, amazingly, Jesus took on our name. As our high priest, he wrote it on the palm of his hand. And so our name is registered in heaven, under his glorious name.

You can see why the phrase “in Christ’s name” isn’t just some impersonal formula. Rather, it’s a literal position we have with Jesus. And that position is recognized by the Father. Jesus tells us, “At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God” (John 16:26–27).

Here is why Jesus commands us to pray in his name. He’s saying, “Whenever you ask in my name, your request has the same power and effect with the Father as if it were me asking him.” In other words, it’s as if our prayer is being uttered by Jesus himself before the Father’s throne. Likewise, when we lay hands on the sick and pray, God sees us as if Jesus is laying hands on the sick to bring healing.

This is also why we’re to come boldly to the throne of grace: to receive. We are to pray with confidence, “Father, I stand before you, chosen in Christ to go forth and bear fruit. Now I make my request largely, that my joy may be full.”

I hear many Christians say, “I asked in Jesus’ name, but my prayers weren’t answered.” These believers state, “I tried to claim the power in Jesus’ name. But it just didn’t work for me.” There are many reasons why we don’t receive answers to our prayers. We may have allowed some sin in our lives, something that defiles our union with Christ. These become roadblocks that dam up the flow of blessing from him. And he won’t answer our prayers until we’ve forsaken our sin.

Or, perhaps the blockage is due to lukewarmness, or halfheartedness toward the things of God. Perhaps we’re being stifled by doubt, which cuts us off from the power in Christ. James warns, “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6–7).

James makes it clear: “He who wavers won’t receive anything of God.” The word James uses for waver means “to be undecided.” The truth is, when these people made their requests, they put God on trial. In their hearts, they said, “Lord, if you answer me, I’ll serve you. I’ll give you everything, if you’ll just answer this prayer. But if you don’t, I’ll live my life my way.”

Yet God won’t be bribed. He knows our hearts, and he knows when we’re undecided in our commitment to his Son. He reserves the power that’s in Christ for those who surrender to him wholly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

HE WANTS IT ALL

“Blessed are all they that wait for him…. thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry…and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left…. Ye shall have a song, as in the night…and gladness of heart” (Isaiah 30:18–19, 21, 29). Isaiah was saying, “If you’ll just wait on the Lord—if you’ll cry out to him again, and return to trusting him—he’ll do for you everything I’ve said and more.”

God can merely speak a word, and the enemy will falter before us: “For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down” (Isaiah 30:31). Beloved, there is no matter our Father can’t solve, no battle he can’t win for us, with a mere word from his lips. Isaiah says “the breath of the Lord” will consume everything in our way (Isaiah 30:33).

Yet, this process of trusting God in all things isn’t easy. Recently I sought the Lord about a situation concerning our church building here in New York City. I told God, “I trust you about this, Father. I have sought you about it, and I will be at peace about it.” Here is how he answered me: “David, I’m amazed that you can trust me with your real estate, finances and other material things. Yet, you still won’t trust me with your physical well-being.”

I’d been very aware of my age. And I’d been overly concerned about what would happen to my family after I’m gone. Now the Lord’s convicting words hit me like a thunderbolt. I’d put every material concern into his hands, but not the eternal concerns. I realized, “Lord, you want me to trust you with everything, don’t you?”

Yes, dear saint, he wants it all—your health, your family, your future. He wants you to entrust him with every matter. And he wants you to live in quietness, confidence and rest. So, go to your secret closet and get alone with the Lord. Bring everything to him. He has promised, “You’ll hear my word behind you, telling you which way to go. This is the way—now, walk in it.”

The evidence of faith is rest. Trust faith results in peace of mind. And true faith trusts all things into his hands.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND TRUST

The Holy Spirit gives us strength when we release all our needs into God’s hands and trust in his might.

Ruth is an example of this kind of trust. After her husband died, Ruth lived with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi was concerned about Ruth’s welfare and future. So she advised Ruth to lie down at the feet of the wealthy Boaz and ask him to fulfill his obligation to her as her kinsman.

That evening, after the day’s winnowing was finished, Boaz lay down “at the end of the heap of corn” (Ruth 3:7) and pulled a blanket over him. The next morning, he woke up startled, finding a woman lying at his feet. (There was nothing immoral about Ruth’s presence there; this was a common custom of the day.)

Ruth said to him, “Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman” (Ruth 3:9). She was saying, in essence, “Will you take on the obligation of a relative for me? Will you provide for me?” She actually was asking, “Will you marry me?”

This was no manipulative scheme. Ruth and Naomi had done everything in divine order. We can be sure of this, because Christ’s lineage came through Ruth. When Ruth returned home Naomi asked her, “Who art thou, my daughter?” (3:16). She was asking, in other words, “Shall I call you ‘engaged’ Ruth? Or are you still ‘widowed’ Ruth?”

Ruth told Naomi all that had happened. Listen to Naomi’s godly advice: “Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day” (Ruth 3:18). Naomi had prayed about the matter, seeking God’s direction, and God had given her counsel. He had reminded her of the law of the kinsman-redeemer (which was a type and foreshadowing of Christ). So Naomi was confident that she and Ruth had done their part. Now it was time to sit still and trust God to perform what he had promised. She was saying, “It’s all in the Lord’s hands now, Ruth. Just relax and be calm.”

A calm and peace settled over Naomi’s house. Nobody was in a frenzy, biting fingernails and wondering, “Will God do it? When will it happen?” These two faithful women could relax, sing and praise the Lord for His goodness.

Have you prayed? Have you trusted? Are you ready to sit still and “see the salvation of the Lord”? He has everything under control.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

BECOMING PEOPLE OF PRAYER

In Jeremiah 5, God pleaded, “Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem…seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it” (Jeremiah 5:1). The Lord was saying, in essence, “I’ll be merciful, if I can find just one person who’ll seek me.”

During the Babylonian captivity, God found such a man in Daniel. And today, more than ever in history, the Lord is searching for the same kind of godly men and women. He seeks faithful servants who are willing to “make up the hedge” and “stand in the gap,” works that can only be accomplished through prayer.

Like Daniel, such a person will be found with God’s Word in his hand. When the Holy Ghost came to Daniel, the prophet was reading the book of Jeremiah. It was then that the Spirit revealed that God’s time of deliverance had come for Israel. As the revelation came, Daniel was provoked to pray: “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God” (Daniel 9:3–4).

Daniel knew God’s people weren’t ready to receive his restoration. Yet, did the prophet lambaste his peers for their sins? No—Daniel identified himself with the moral decay all around him. He declared, “We have sinned…to us belongeth confusion of face…because we have sinned against thee” (Daniel 9:5, 8).

God strongly desires to bless his people today—but if our minds are polluted with the spirit of this world, we are in no position to receive his blessings. Daniel made this powerful statement: “All this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand the truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us” (Daniel 9:13–14).

Would to God we would examine our own walk with the Lord and let the Holy Spirit show us areas of compromise. We would do more than pray for a backsliding nation. We would be crying out, “Oh, Lord, search my heart. Expose in me all of the spirit of the world that has crept into my soul.” Like Daniel, we could then set our faces to pray for the deliverance of our families—our nation.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

GOD IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING NEW AND GLORIOUS

“But I wrought [acted] for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted before the heathen” (Ezekiel 20:14).

God is about to do something new and glorious. This new thing is beyond revival, beyond an awakening. It is a work of God that he alone initiates when he can no longer endure the polluting of his holy name. There comes a time when God determines that his Word has been so trampled into the mire, and abominations have so defiled what is called “the church,” he must rise up and defend his name before a lost world.

“For his own name’s sake,” God is going to do two mighty works. First, he is going to purge the nations and his church with awesome redemptive judgments. He is going to stop the invasion of his house by homosexuals and charlatans—and he is going to purify and cleanse the ministry and raise up shepherds after his own heart.

Second, God is going to glorify his holy name with a great intervention of mercy. In the throes of judgments being fulfilled, God is going to save the day by a supernatural “turning” of a remnant back to himself. What he did for Israel when they were being judged, he will do again in the days ahead.

You can read it all in Ezekiel 36:21–38. Summed up, this is what is prophesied: “I will have pity for my holy name which has been profaned among the heathen…not for your sakes, but for my own name’s sake. The heathen shall know that I am God. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean of all filthiness. I will give you a new heart and a new spirit. I will cause you to walk in my ways. I will save you from all your uncleanness. Not for your sakes do I this, but for my own name’s sake.”

“Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth…. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have wrought with you for my name’s sake, not according to your wicked ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 20:22, 44).

Monday, October 20, 2008

THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH

“For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

Here is God’s secret to spiritual strength: “Quietness and confidence shall be your strength.” The word for quietness in Hebrew means “repose.” And repose means calm, relaxed, free from all anxiety; to be still, to lie down with support underneath.

Not many Christians today have this kind of quietness and confidence. Multitudes are involved in a frenzy of activity, rushing madly to obtain wealth, possessions and pleasure. Even in the ministry, God’s servants run about worrying, fearing, looking for answers in conferences, seminars, best-selling books. Everyone wants guidance, solutions, something to calm their spirit. Yet they seek it in every source except the Lord. They don’t realize God has already spoken a word for them, through Isaiah: If they don’t turn to him as their source, their striving will end in sorrow and confusion.

Isaiah describes what God’s righteousness is supposed to accomplish in us: “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever” (Isaiah 32:17). If we’re truly walking in righteousness, our lives will bear the fruit of a calm spirit, quietness of heart and peace with God.

As Isaiah looked around, he saw God’s people fleeing to Egypt for help, trusting in men, relying on horses and chariots. Ambassadors were coming and going. Leaders were holding emergency strategy meetings. Everyone was in a panic, wailing, “What can we do?”

Isaiah assured them, “It doesn’t have to be this way. Return from your backsliding. Repent of your rebellion of trusting in others. Turn to the Lord, and he’ll cover you with a blanket of peace. He’ll give you quietness and rest in the midst of everything you’re facing.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

DAY FORTY-ONE

Suppose you came upon Jesus on day forty-one—the day immediately following his temptation in the wilderness. His face is shining. He’s rejoicing, praising the Father, because he’s won a great victory.

You see Jesus exuding life and confidence. Now he’s ready to face the powers of hell. So he sets off boldly for the great cities that lie in darkness. He preaches the gospel, sure of God’s Word. And he heals the sick, knowing his Father is with him.

Now, as you examine your own life, you see just the opposite. You’re still facing your own dry wilderness experience. You’ve endured fiery attacks from Satan, and your soul is cast down. You can’t help thinking, “Jesus never did go through trials like mine. He was above all this.”

You may see a minister who appears strong in faith; he sounds so assured of God’s presence that you think, “He’s never had any problems like mine.” If you only knew! You were not there when God called this man to preach and then led him into a wilderness to be tempted sorely. You weren’t there when he was reduced to nothing, cast down in despair. And you don’t know that often his best sermons have come out of the testings of his own life.

Paul warns us not to measure our righteousness against what we think is another’s: “We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

We can’t read the hearts of others. Who would have known on day forty-one that Jesus had just emerged from a long, horrible temptation? Who’d have known that the glory they saw in him sprang from a struggle worse than any they would ever endure?

We are to look only to Jesus. And we’re to rely only on his righteousness, his holiness. He has given us all equal access to it.

God loves you in your testing times. His own Spirit has led you into the wilderness. Yet his own Son has already been there—and he knows exactly what you’re going through. Let him complete his work of building into you utter dependence and trust in him. You’ll come out with confidence—and godly compassion and strength to help others.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

GO AHEAD AND CRY

When you hurt the worst—go to your secret closet and weep out all your despair!

Jesus wept. Peter wept—bitterly! Peter carried with him the hurt of denying the very Son of God. Those bitter tears worked in him a sweet miracle. He came back to shake the kingdom of Satan.

Jesus never looks away from a crying heart. He said, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Not once will the Lord say, “Get hold of yourself! Stand up and take your medicine! Grit your teeth and dry your tears.” No! Jesus stores every tear in his eternal container.

Do you hurt? Badly? Then go ahead and cry! And keep on crying, until the tears stop flowing. But let those tears originate only from hurt—and not from unbelief or self-pity.

Life goes on. You would be surprised how much you can bear with God helping you. Happiness is not living without pain or hurt. True happiness is learning how to live one day at a time, in spite of all the sorrow and pain. It is learning how to rejoice in the Lord, no matter what has happened in the past.

You may feel rejected. You may feel abandoned. Your faith may be weak. You may think you are down for the count. Sorrow, tears, pain, and emptiness may swallow you up at times, but God is still on his throne. He is still God!

You can’t help yourself. You can’t stop the pain and hurt. But our blessed Lord will come to you, and he will place his loving hand under you and lift you up to sit again in heavenly places. He will deliver you from the fear of dying. He will reveal his endless love for you.

Look up! Encourage yourself in the Lord. When the fog surrounds you and you can’t see any way out of your dilemma—lie back in the arms of Jesus and simply trust him. He wants your faith—your confidence. He wants you to cry aloud—“Jesus loves me! He is with me! He will not fail me! He is working it all out right now! I will not be cast down! I will not be defeated! I will not be a victim of Satan! God is on my side! I love him—and he loves me!”

The bottom line is faith. And faith rests on this one absolute: “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper…” (Isaiah 54:17).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

THE MEASURED GLORY OF GOD

“He said unto them…with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath” (Mark 4:24–25).

Jesus knew these words might sound strange to non-spiritual ears, so he preceded his message by saying, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear” (Mark 4:23). Jesus was telling us, “If your heart is open to God’s Spirit, you’ll understand what I have to say to you.”

What, exactly, is Jesus saying in this passage? He’s speaking of the glory of God in our lives—that is, Christ’s manifest presence. In short, the Lord measures out his glorious presence in various amounts, whether to churches or to individuals. Some don’t receive any of his glory. Yet others receive an ever-increasing measure, emanating from their lives and churches in greater and greater amounts.

God has promised to pour out his Spirit on his people in these last days. Indeed, all of Scripture points to a triumphant, glory-filled church at the close of time. Jesus himself said the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. We won’t be limping into heaven—beaten down, depressed, whimpering, defeated, discouraged. No—our Lord is going to bring greater power to his church. This power won’t be manifested merely in signs and wonders. It will be revealed in his people—in the glorious transformation of hearts touched by God’s Spirit.

How can we obtain a greater, ever-increasing measure of Christ’s glory? The Lord tells us very clearly: “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you” (Mark 4:24). Jesus is saying, “According to the portion of yourself you allot to me, I’ll give back to you in like portion. I’ll deal with you in the manner you deal with me. Whatever measure you mete out to me, I’ll mete out to you.”

If you mete out to God sloth and laziness—taking for granted his great work—you’ll be dealt a spirit of slumber. “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger” (Proverbs 19:15). As a result, your soul will go hungry, unable to be satisfied.

God’s love, mercy and grace toward us are boundless. The issue here isn’t obtaining his love, mercy or grace—but having the blessing of his glory in our lives.

Jesus states plainly that he measures out different amounts of his glory to us, according to how we measure out our hearts to him. Our part is simply to move ever closer to him—in our worship, obedience and diligence.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

WHEN YOU HURT

In one way or another, we are all hurting. Every person on earth carries his own burden of pain.

When you are deeply hurt, no person on earth can shut down the inner fears and deepest agonies. Not the best of friends can understand the battle you are going through or the wounds inflicted on you.

Is there a balm for a broken heart? Is there healing for those deep, inner hurts? Can the pieces be put back together and the heart be made even stronger? Yes! Absolutely yes! And if not, then God’s Word would be a hoax and God himself would be a liar. That cannot be!

God didn’t promise you a painless way of life. He promised you “a way of escape.” He promised to help you bear your pain. Strength to put you back on your feet when weakness makes you stagger.

Our loving Father said, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Your heavenly Father watches over you with an unwavering eye. Every move is monitored. Every tear is bottled. He identifies with your every pain. He feels every hurt. He will never allow you to drown in your tears. He will not permit your hurt to deteriorate your mind. He promises to come, right on time, to wipe away your tears and give you joy for mourning.

You have the ability to make your heart rejoice and be glad in the Lord. God’s eye is on you—and he commands us to rise up and shake off all those fears causing doubt.

Monday, October 13, 2008

ALL THE GRACE YOU NEED TO OVERCOME

We’ve often heard grace defined as the unmerited favor and blessing of God. Yet I believe grace is much more than this. In my opinion, grace is everything that Christ is to us in our times of suffering—power, might, kindness, mercy, love—to see us through our afflictions.

As I look back over the years—years of great trials, suffering, temptation and affliction—I can testify that God’s grace has been enough. I know what it is to question God as my wife endured cancer over and over, and then both our daughters were also stricken. Today they are all healthy and strong and for that I thank the Lord. I also know what it is to be buffeted by a messenger of Satan. I’ve been grievously tempted and enticed and I’ve had enemies stirred up against me on all sides. I’ve been slandered by rumors, falsely accused, and rejected by friends. In those dark times, I fell on my knees and cried out to God.

His grace has always brought me through. And that’s enough for today. Then, someday in glory, my Father will reveal to me the beautiful plan he had all along. He’ll show me how I obtained patience through all my trials; how I learned compassion for others; how his strength was made perfect in my weakness; how I learned his utter faithfulness toward me; how I longed to be more like Jesus.

We may still ask why—yet it all remains a mystery. I’m prepared to accept that until Jesus comes for me. I see no end to my trials and afflictions. I’ve had them for over fifty years of ministry now, and counting.

Yet, through it all, I’m still being given an ever-increasing measure of Christ’s strength. In fact, my great revelations of his glory have come during my hardest times. Likewise, in your lowest moments, Jesus will release in you the fullest measure of his strength.

We may never understand our pain, depression and discomfort. We may never know why our prayers for healing haven’t been answered. But we don’t have to know why. Our God has already answered us: “You’ve got my grace—and, my beloved child, that is all you need.”

Friday, October 10, 2008

RESIST AND HE WILL FLEE

Satan tempted Jesus with this offer: “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). This sounds so outlandish, so ridiculous, how could it ever be considered a temptation? Believe it or not, this was a powerful, enticing offer. Satan was challenging Jesus, saying, “I promise that if you’ll merely bow down at my feet, in a single act of worship, I’ll quit the fight. I’ll give up all my power over these realms. I won’t possess or enslave anyone else. I know that you love humankind enough to be accursed by God for their sake. So, why wait? You can sacrifice yourself right now, and free the world from this moment on.”

Why was the devil willing to give up all his power for this? He was trying to save his own skin. Satan knew his eternal destiny would be sealed at Calvary. So, if he could just keep Jesus from going to the cross, he might spare himself that fate.

You may be wondering, “How could this possibly relate to me?” Satan still tempts the righteous with a similar offer. Satan comes to us with threats and accusations. He tells us, “You don’t have to worship me—because I already have access to your flesh. I know all your weaknesses. So, go ahead and testify about your freedom in Christ. At the moment you’re singing your loudest praises, I’ll overpower your mind with evil. I’ll bring up your sin to you so powerfully, you’ll despair of ever being free. You are powerless.”

How do we answer Satan’s accusations? “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). It doesn’t matter how many temptations Satan throws at you. You needn’t fear any sin from your past. If Christ’s blood has covered it, then the devil can’t do anything to separate you from the Father.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

WHEN QUESTIONS ARISE

“When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread” (Matthew 4:2–3).

At a moment when Jesus was physically vulnerable, the devil brought his first temptation.

There’s no sin in being hungry. So, what’s the issue here? Satan was challenging Jesus: “If you are fully God, then you have God’s power in you. And right now, you’re in a very hard place. Why don’t you use the power God gave you to deliver yourself? Didn’t he give you that power to see if you would use it properly?”

Here is one of the most insidious temptations facing truly godly people. Like your example, Jesus, you have a passion for God. You’ve set your heart to be wholly surrendered to him. Then the Lord leads you into a wilderness experience and after a while, questions arise. You begin to lose your bearings, wondering about God’s eternal purposes in your life. And while you try to pray and gain the victory, Satan’s temptations seem fiercer than ever.

The enemy wants you to act independently of the Father. The devil says, “Your suffering isn’t of God. You don’t have to go through this. You have God’s power in you, through the Holy Ghost. Speak the word—free yourself. Satisfy your own hunger.”

Satan’s first scheme was to create a power failure. He was hoping God wouldn’t honor Jesus’ cry for bread, should he ask. If heaven’s power failed, then Christ might doubt his divinity and turn aside from his eternal purpose on earth. Second, Satan knew Jesus was sent to do only what the father told him. So he aimed to convince Christ to disobey here for his own welfare. That way, if Jesus used his power now to avoid suffering, he might do the same later to avoid the cross.

So, how did Jesus answer the devil’s temptation? “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Christ said, in essence, “My coming to earth is not about my needs, hurts or physical comfort. I came to give to humankind—not to save myself.”

Even at the height of his suffering, Jesus did not lose sight of his eternal purpose. And if our Lord learned dependence and compassion through a wilderness experience, so will we.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

WILDERNESS JOURNEY

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pictured the Christian like someone trying to cross a sea of floating pieces of ice. The Christian cannot rest anywhere while crossing, except in his faith that God will see him through. He cannot stand anywhere too long, otherwise he sinks. After taking a step, he must watch out for the next. Beneath him is the abyss and before him is uncertainty—but always ahead is the Lord—firm and sure! He doesn’t see the land yet, but it is there—a promise in his heart. So the Christian traveler keeps his eyes fixed upon his final place!

I prefer to think of life as a wilderness journey—like that of the children of Israel. And King Jehoshaphat’s battle, along with all the children of Judah, is also our battle (see 2 Chronicles 20). Sure, it’s a wilderness; yes, there are snakes, dry water holes, valleys of tears, enemy armies, hot sands, drought, impassable mountains. But when the children of the Lord stood still to see his salvation, he spread a table in that wilderness—rained manna from above—destroyed enemy armies by his power alone—brought water out of rocks—took poison out of the snakebites—led them by pillar and cloud—gave them milk and honey—and brought them into the Promised Land with a high and mighty hand. And God warned them to tell every following generation: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).

Stop looking in the wrong direction for help. Get alone with Jesus in a secret place; tell him all about your confusion. Tell him you have no other place to go. Tell him you trust him alone to see you through. You will be tempted to take matters into your own hand. You will want to figure things out on your own. You will wonder if God is working at all—there is nothing to lose. Peter summed it all up: “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22).

“Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me” (Micah 7:7).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

HEALING AFFLICTIONS

“Before I was afflicted I went astray: BUT NOW have I kept thy word” (Psalm 119:67).

I believe in healing. I believe in affliction. I believe in “healing afflictions.” Any affliction that keeps me from going astray—that drives me deeper into his Word—is healing. God’s most gracious healing force spiritually and physically can be afflictions.

To suggest that pain and affliction are of the devil is to suggest that David was driven by the devil to seek God’s Word. I have suffered great pain. I have called on God for deliverance and I believe him for complete healing. Yet, while I go on believing, I continue to thank God for the present condition and let it serve to remind me how dependent on him I really am. With David I can say, “It is good for me” (Psalm 119:71).

Pain and affliction are not to be despised as coming from the devil. Such burdens have produced great men of faith and insight.

“Casting ALL your care upon him…” (1 Peter 5:7).

Paul spoke of the “cares” of the churches that were thrust upon him (see 2 Corinthians 11:28). Every newborn church was another “care” on his shoulders. Growth, expansion, lengthening of stakes always involve new cares. The man God uses must have broad shoulders. He dare not shrink under the challenge of numerous cares and responsibilities. Every new step of faith God leads me to take has brought with it numerous new cares and problems. God knows just how many cares he can trust us with. It is not that he seeks to break us—in health or strength; it is only that willing laborers are few and the harvest is so great. Cares are taken from those who refuse them and given as gifts to those who are not afraid of them. Forget the load of cares you carry—can we not cast them all on him?

Every new blessing is related to a family of cares. They cannot be divorced. You cannot learn to live with the blessing until you learn to live with the cares.

Monday, October 6, 2008

THE UNRELENTING LOVE OF GOD

I want to talk with you about the word unrelenting. It means undiminished in intensity or effort—unyielding, uncompromising, incapable of being changed or persuaded by arguments. To be unrelenting is to stick to a determined course.

What a marvelous description of the love of God. Our Lord’s love is absolutely unrelenting. Nothing can hinder or diminish his loving pursuit of both sinners and saints. David, the Psalmist, expressed it this way: “Thou has beset me behind and before…. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there” (Psalm 139:5, 7–8).

David is speaking of the great highs and lows we face in life. He’s saying, “There are times when I’m so blessed, I feel lifted with joy. At other times, I feel like I’m living in hell, condemned and unworthy. But no matter where I am, Lord—no matter how blessed I feel, or how low my condition is—you’re there. I can’t get away from your unrelenting love. And I can’t chase it away. You never accept my arguments about how unworthy I am. Even when I’m disobedient—sinning against your truth, taking your grace for granted—you never stop loving me. Your love for me is relentless!”

We need to consider the testimony of the apostle Paul. As we read of Paul’s life, we see a man bent on destroying God’s church. Paul was like a madman in his hatred for Christians. He breathed out threats of slaughter against everyone who followed Jesus. He sought the high priest’s authorization to hunt down believers so he could charge into their homes and drag them off to prison.

After he was converted, Paul testified that even during those hate-filled years—while he was full of prejudice, blindly slaughtering Christ’s disciples—God loved him. The apostle wrote, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He said, in essence, “Even though I wasn’t conscious of it, God was pursuing me. He kept coming after me in love, until that day when he literally knocked me off my high horse. That was the unrelenting love of God.”

Through the years, Paul became increasingly convinced that God would love him fervently to the end, through all his highs and lows. He stated, “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39). He was declaring, “Now that I’m God’s, nothing can separate me from his love. No devil, no demon, no principality, no man, no angel—nothing can stop God from loving me.”

Friday, October 3, 2008

PROVING MAN

“God left him, to try him” (2 Chronicles 32:31).

We have become so preoccupied in proving God that we have not prepared our hearts for the great tests of life whereby God proves man. Could it be that the great trial you are now facing, the burden you now carry, is actually God at work proving you?

“God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him…. Take now thy son…and offer him there for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:1–2). God proved an entire nation to find out what was really in its heart. “The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no” (Deuteronomy 8:2).

We see an amazing thing in 2 Chronicles 32:31: God left a great king for a season to prove him. “God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart.”

Often, while in the righteous pursuit of God’s work, the steward of the Lord finds himself apparently forsaken—tried to the limits of endurance and left all alone to battle the forces of hell. Every man God has ever blessed has been proved in the same manner.

Do you find yourself in strange circumstances? Do you feel forsaken and alone? Do you fight a losing battle with an unpredictable enemy? These are signs pointing to the proving process.

Victory is always desired, but should you fail, remember: It is what remains in your heart that God is interested in, your attitude after you have won or lost the lonely battle. Your devotion to him in spite of failure is his desire.

Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us, but the record of Scripture reveals there are seasons when the Father withdraws his presence to prove us. Even Christ experienced that lonely moment on the cross. It is in these times that our blessed Savior is most touched by the feeling of our infirmity—and he whispers, “I pray for thee, that thy faith fail not.”

Jesus says we are to take up our cross and follow him (see Matthew 16:24). What is that cross? It is the flesh with its frailness and weakness. Take it up, move on in faith, and his strength will be made perfect in you. Is your cross of self and sin too heavy? Then, my friend, take up your cross and follow on. He understands and is there beside you to lift the heavy burden!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

CHRIST HAS WON THE BATTLE FOR YOU

In recent months, I have read many sad, pitiful letters from believers who are still bound by sinful habits. Multitudes of struggling Christians write, “I can’t stop gambling…I’m in the grips of an alcohol addiction…I’m having an affair and I can’t break it off…I’m a slave to pornography.” In letter after letter, these people say the same thing: “I love Jesus and I’ve begged God to free me. I’ve prayed, wept and sought godly counsel. But I just can’t break free. What can I do?”

I’ve spent much time seeking the Lord for wisdom on how to answer these believers. I pray, “Lord, you know your children’s lives. Many are devoted, Spirit-filled saints, yet they don’t have your victory. They don’t know freedom. What’s going on?”

At one point, I studied the biblical passages containing God’s promises to his people. I was reminded that the Lord pledges to keep us from falling, to present us faultless, to justify us by faith, sanctify us by faith, keep us holy by faith. He promises that our old man is crucified by faith, and that we are translated into his kingdom by faith.

The one thing common to all of these promises is this phrase: “by faith.” Indeed, all these things are matters of faith, according to God’s Word. So I came to the only clear conclusion about these struggling Christians’ problems: somewhere at the root of their bondage is unbelief. It all boils down to a simple lack of faith.

Are you struggling to gain victory by your willpower? Are you fighting the battle in your old nature? Paul points out, “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5).

Your victory must come not through weeping or striving, but by faith that Jesus Christ has won the battle for you.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Indeed, Paul says there is only one condition attached to God’s promises: “[That] ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard” (Colossians 1:23).

Christ surrendered everything to his Father, in order to be a totally obedient Son. And we are to do likewise. We are to be totally dependent on the Father, just as Christ was.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

WHERE DOES GOD DWELL?

After Jesus was taken up to heaven, the apostle John received a magnificent vision of glory. He said, “I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it…and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Revelation 21:22-23). In other words, the only temple in heaven is Jesus himself.

Now that God’s temple is in glory, sitting at his right hand, where does the Lord dwell on earth? As God himself asks, “What house will you build me? Where is the place of my rest?” We know that no building can contain God. He isn’t in St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican. Nor is he in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. And he isn’t in any of the great European cathedrals. No, as Paul stated on Mars Hill in Athens, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Simply put, if we look for God’s dwelling place in some building, we’re not going to find it.

The Lord has found his habitation—he lives and rests in the bodies of his created humankind. Paul states that the temple of God is now in human bodies: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Once we place our belief in Jesus, we become a temple, God’s very dwelling place. This was demonstrated most visibly at the Upper Room. The Holy Spirit fell on the disciples there, filling them with himself. And he claimed their sanctified bodies as God’s temple, where the Father would come and live. The Spirit would help them to mortify and destroy the works of their sinful flesh. And he would give them power to live victoriously. Their bodies became God’s temple, a dwelling place not built with hands.

Jesus says, “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23). An abode is a residence, a place to stay.

Paul says, “Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). In other words, you belong to God and he wants you to be his resting place. Now, open up your heart to the truth and give him glory by receiving it.