Friday, November 28, 2008

TAKE HOLD OF YOUR TRIAL BY FAITH

If we didn’t have conflict, pressure, trials, wars, we would become passive and lukewarm. Decay would set in and our temple would lie in ruins. We wouldn’t be able to handle the territory we’ve gained. That’s why the enemy’s plan against us is clear: He wants to take us out of the battle. His aim is to remove all the fight from us.

We find all our resources for maintenance—strength to go on, power over the enemy—in our spiritual battles. And on that day when we stand before the Lord, he will reveal to us: “Do you remember what you went through on that occasion? And in that awful battle? Look at what you accomplished through it all. It was all secured through the battles you won.”

The simple fact is, God has put his treasure in human bodies. He has made you a temple, a house for his Spirit to dwell in. And you have a responsibility to maintain that temple. If you become lazy and careless, neglecting the maintenance work needed—regular prayer, feeding on God’s Word, fellowshipping with the saints—decay will set in. And you’ll end up in absolute ruin.

As I look back on my own fifty years of ministry, I recall many times when it would have been easy for me to quit. I would pray, “Lord, I don’t understand this attack. Where did it come from? And when will it end? I don’t see any purpose in it at all.” But over time, I began to see fruit from those trials. And that fruit—resources, strength, spiritual wealth—supplied me in a way I couldn’t have gotten through any other means.

I urge you: Take hold of your trial by faith, and believe God has allowed it. Know that he’s using it to make you stronger…to help you take spoils from Satan...to make you a blessing to others…and to sanctify it all to his glory.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9).

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Thursday, November 27, 2008

NEVER BEING INTIMIDATED

If you walk in the Spirit, you will constantly be harassed by demonic powers. But you do not have to be intimidated by any demon power—anywhere, at any time!

Paul was continually harassed by demonic powers. He was preaching on the isle of Paphos when demons attempted to interfere: “…a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus…withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith” (Acts 13:6–8).

Barjesus means “son of Jesus” or “angel of light.” This was the devil standing up against Paul! But the Holy Ghost welled up inside of the apostle: “Then Saul…filled with the Holy Ghost…said…thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord” (Acts 13:9–12).

Paul, “filled with the Holy Ghost,” brought down all the powers of darkness!

It is not enough to be grieved by the attempts of Satan to harass you! In Acts 16 Paul was grieved—meaning “disturbed, troubled.” He allowed it for many days, but the Spirit of God welled up in Paul, and he said to the demon power, “That’s it—that’s enough! In the name of Jesus, be gone!” (See Acts 16:16–18.)

Beloved, we take too much from the devil! There comes a time when we, too, must stand up in the power of the Holy Ghost and say, “Enough—that’s it, I command you in Jesus’ name to go!”

When you take authority and command devils to flee, Satan will come at you with everything in his arsenal. Just after Paul had cast the demons out of the possessed girl in Acts 16:16–18, Satan started stirring things up. He enflamed the crowd against Paul and Silas—and suddenly they were in a terrible crisis!

The city magistrates had them whipped and cast into prison. And with every stripe on their backs, I can hear the devil saying, “So you think you’ve won the victory? You think you’re going to cast out my demons and take authority over me?”

The devil didn’t seem to know that the more you whip a servant of God who walks in the Spirit, the more praise you whip up from him! If you throw him in a crisis, tie him up with problems and troubles, he’ll sing, shout and worship!

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them” (Acts 16:25).

If we are to walk in the Spirit, then we must believe God for supernatural deliverance from every bondage of Satan. It doesn’t matter if God has to create an earthquake to do it. That is exactly what he did for Paul:

“And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (v. 26).

Satan will try to bring upon you the most dreadful temptation or trial you have ever faced. He wants you to get bogged down in guilt, condemnation, self-examination. Dear saint, you have to arise in the Spirit and get your eyes off your circumstances and bondage. Don’t try to figure it all out. Start praising, singing and trusting God—and he will take care of your deliverance!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

HIGHER MEANING OF WALKING IN THE SPIRIT

In 1 Samuel 9 we see that Saul was sent by his father to find some runaway donkeys. Taking a servant with him, Saul searched throughout the land. Finally, he got discouraged and was ready to give up the hunt. Then his servant told him about Samuel, a seer; maybe he could tell him where to find the donkeys.

Samuel, here, is a type of the Holy Spirit, who knows the mind of God; he has more on his mind than just direction. He knows Saul has been chosen by God to play a part in heaven’s eternal purposes!

The first thing Samuel did when Saul arrived was to call for a feast (see 1 Samuel 9:19). This is exactly what the Holy Spirit desires of us: to sit at the Lord’s table and minister to him—having quality time alone, hearing his heart.

Samuel asked Saul to clear his mind so they could commune together (1 Samuel 9:20–25). Samuel was saying, “Don’t focus on getting direction now—that’s all settled. There’s something more important at hand. You’ve got to know God’s heart—his eternal purposes!”

After that night of communion, Samuel asked Saul to send his servant out of the room, so they could have an intimate, face-to-face session (see 1 Samuel 9:27; 10:1).

Do you see what God is saying here? “If you really want to walk in the Spirit—if you really want my anointing—you need to seek more than direction from me. You need to come into my presence and get to know my heart, my desires! You see, I want to anoint you—to use you in my kingdom!”

Beloved, forget direction—forget everything else for now! Allow the Holy Spirit to teach you the deep hidden things of God. Stand still in his presence, and let him show you the very heart of the Lord. That is the walk of the Spirit in the highest form!

Spending time in the presence of the Lord produces a manifestation of Christ to a lost world.

“We faint not…but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1–2). The apostle Paul states that we’re called to be a manifestation of truth. Of course, we know Jesus is the truth. So, what does Paul mean by saying that we’re to manifest Jesus?

Paul is speaking here of a visible expression. A manifestation is a “shining forth” that makes something clear and understandable. In short, Paul is saying we’re called to make Jesus known and understood to all people. In each of our lives, there should be a shining forth of the very nature and likeness of Christ.

Paul takes this concept of manifesting Christ even further. He says, we actually are God’s letters to the world: “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men…the epistle of Christ…written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Corinthians 3:2–3). Our lives are letters written by the Holy Ghost and sent out to a lost world. And we’re being read continually by those around us.

How exactly do we become God’s letters to the world? It happens only by the work of the Spirit. At the moment we’re saved, the Holy Ghost imprints in us the very image of Jesus. And he continues shaping this image in us at all times. The Spirit’s mission is to form in us an image of Christ that’s so truthful and accurate, it will actually pierce people’s consciences.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

HOW CAN YOU OBTAIN A WALK IN THE SPIRIT?

The command to walk in the Spirit is given to all—not just a few super-saints! Here is how you can obtain this walk: “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit…” (Galatians 5:16).

1. You must go after this walk with everything in you! First, ask the Holy Spirit to be your guide and friend.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Luke 11:9).

If you are saved, the Holy Spirit has already been given to you. Now ask him to take over—surrender to him! You have to determine in your heart that you want him to lead and guide you. Moses, speaking of the latter days, said, “But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

2. Focus on knowing and hearing the Spirit—and get your eyes off your trouble and temptation. Paul, Silas and Timothy would have wallowed in fear and depression if they had focused on their troubles. Instead, they focused on God—praising and worshiping him.

Most of the time when we go to prayer, we focus on past failures. We replay our defeats time after time, saying, “Oh, how far up the road I could be if I hadn’t failed God and messed up in my past.”

Forget everything in your past! It’s all under the blood! And forget about the future, too, because only the Lord knows what’s ahead. Instead, focus only on the Holy Spirit, with your whole mind and heart.

3. Give much quality time to communion with the Holy Spirit. He will not speak to anyone who is in a hurry. Wait patiently. Seek the Lord and minister praises to him. Take authority over every other voice that whispers thoughts to you. Believe that the Spirit is greater than these, and that he will not let you be deceived or blinded.

“Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

Monday, November 24, 2008

GOD LOVES YOU!

The Father loves you—it is at this point that multitudes of believers fail God. They are willing to be convicted of sin and failure, over and over again. But they will not allow the Holy Ghost to flood them with the love of the Father.

The legalist loves to live under conviction. He has never understood the love of God or allowed the Holy Spirit to minister that love to his soul.

We at Times Square Church have taught that the righteous person, the true lover of Jesus, loves reproof. He learns to welcome having the Holy Spirit expose all his hidden areas of sin and unbelief—because the more he deals with sin, the happier and freer he becomes.

Yet, the attitude I see in many Christians is: “Keep on judging me, Lord—convict me, rebuke me!” This is not the same thing as true conviction. For example, I see this in many responses to my newsletter messages. When I write a message that thunders with judgment, I get overwhelmingly approving responses.

When I share about the sweetness and love of Jesus, I receive letters saying, “You’re not preaching the truth anymore!” It is as though these people are saying, “If you’re not reproving, then what you’re saying can’t be the gospel.” Such believers have never entered into the great love-mission of the Holy Spirit.

This is an area where you must learn to walk in the Spirit—and not by feelings! Walking in the Spirit means allowing the Holy Ghost to do in us what he was sent to do. And that means allowing him to flood your heart right now with the love of God! “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:5).

Isaiah said, “As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:13). Isaiah was writing to a stubborn people of God who “went on frowardly [backsliding] in the way of [their] heart” (Isaiah 57:17).

Tell me—How long will a teacher stick by a stubborn, obstinate student who refuses to heed advice? Not very long! But the prophet Isaiah takes one of the highest images possible among men—that of a mother’s love for her child—and shows us something of the love that our Father has for us.

One mother in our church takes a whole day to visit her son in an upstate prison. She gets on a bus and rides for hours, just to see him for a short while. Such a mother will look across at her son in that drab uniform and see the agony in his eyes—and each trip she will die a little more inside. But she never quits on him. He is still her son!

This is the kind of love the Holy Spirit wants you to know God has for you! He comforts us by telling us, “You once said you gave your all to Jesus. You gave him your love, and he still loves you. And now, neither will I let you go. I’ve been sent by him to do a work—and I will keep doing it!”

There is no true comfort for anyone on this earth except that of the Holy Spirit. This is why you need the Holy Ghost abiding in you. He alone can lay you down at night, as in a warm bed, and fill your heart with perfect peace. He alone can truly comfort you in times of pain and sorrow. He is the one who will assure you, “This comfort is not just temporary—it is eternal!”

Friday, November 21, 2008

LET GO OF YOUR PRIDE AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST!

In both the Old and New Testaments, the Holy Ghost fell upon people in the most unusual ways! He shook buildings. People’s tongues began to praise him—in new tongues. The Holy Ghost took full control!

At Pentecost he came with a mighty, rushing wind! Fire fell! When the Holy Ghost comes down, things get shaken up (see Acts 2:4 and 4:11).

John the Baptist preached, “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” (Luke 3:16).

Beloved, the Bible makes it very clear: When Jesus comes to you, he desires to baptize you with the Holy Ghost and fire! The Holy Ghost brings fire—a red hot, consuming love for Jesus. Why are so many believers hot one minute and then cold the next, never totally yielded, never sold out? Is it because they refuse to let Jesus baptize them with the Holy Ghost?

“When [the Holy Ghost] is come, he will reprove…of sin” (John 16:8). Could it be that these believers are not convicted because the Holy Ghost has not yet been invited to take his rightful place in them? He is God’s plumb line. Anything that does not measure up to Christ, he reveals—and he convicts us and empowers us to conform to his Word! Truly he becomes our Comforter in this, because as he convicts us of sin, he empowers us to forsake it. That is true comfort!

The Holy Ghost will never make you do anything stupid. But he may come upon you in such a way that sinners may think you are drunk! He is not welcome in many churches because he is thought to be too noisy, too upsetting, too unpredictable!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

THE HOLY SPIRIT KNOWS WHAT HE IS DOING!

The Holy Spirit does not perform his work in us in some disjointed, haphazard way. He doesn’t exist to simply help us cope with life, to get us through crises and to see us through lonely nights. He isn’t there just to pick us up and pump in a little more strength before putting us back into the race.

Everything the Holy Ghost does is related to his reason for coming—to bring us home as a prepared bride. He acts only in keeping with that mission! Yes, he is our Guide, our Comforter, our Strength in time of need. But he uses every act of deliverance—every manifestation of himself in us—to make us more suitable as a bride.

Neither is the Holy Ghost here to just give gifts to the world. No, his every gift has a purpose behind it. The Holy Spirit has only one message: everything he teaches leads to one, central truth. He may shine in us like a many-splendored jewel, but every ray of truth is meant to bring us to a single truth, and it is this:

“You are not your own—you have been bought with a price. You have been chosen to be espoused to Christ. And the Spirit of God has been sent to reveal to you the truth that will set you free from all other loves. Truth will break every bondage to sin and deal with all unbelief. For you are not of this world; you are headed for a glorious meeting with your espoused and are being readied for his marriage supper. All things are now ready and I am preparing you! I want to present you spotless, with a passionate love in your heart for him.”

That’s the work of the Holy Spirit—to manifest Jesus to the church, so that we will fall in love with him. And that love will keep us!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

THE HOLY GHOST IS RECEIVED BY FAITH!

“This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:2). Saints, this message should ignite your faith, and by faith you should lay hold of God’s great promises! “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).

Have you asked God for this gift? Are you seeking the Holy Ghost? Are you continually knocking? “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

Simply ask and you will receive! Seek your heavenly Father for the baptism of the Holy Ghost and he will give it to you!

We face a mad devil on the loose in our world today. He is unleashing all the power at his command, and legions of evil powers are digging in for the final conflict with heaven. But Satan cannot stand up to a righteous, Holy Ghost-filled child of God who walks in faith and obedience. Show me a truly Holy Ghost-possessed believer and I’ll show you one who puts the legions of hell to chase.

God, send the Holy Ghost! Fall upon us! Baptize us mightily. And send us forth against satanic strongholds with an uncompromising faith that he will prevail in our day!

The apostle Paul said, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). He also said, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (5:25).

As Christians, we have heard this phrase throughout our lives: “Walk in the Spirit.” Many believers tell me they walk in the Spirit—yet they cannot tell me what that truly means. Now, let me ask you: Do you walk and live in the Spirit? And what does that mean to you?

I believe “walking in the Spirit” can be defined in one sentence: Walking in the Spirit is simply allowing the Holy Spirit to do in us what God sent him to do.

I believe you cannot allow him to do that work until you understand why God sent the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Ghost has been sent down to us from the Father to accomplish one (and only one) eternal purpose. And unless we understand his mission and work in us, we will make one of two mistakes: One, we will settle for a small portion of his work—such as a few of the spiritual gifts—mistakenly thinking this is all of him and missing the grand work of his eternal purpose in our lives. Or, two, we will quench the Spirit within us and ignore him completely, believing he’s mysterious and that his presence is something we must take by faith and never understand.

The Holy Spirit has come to dwell in you and me to seal, sanctify, empower and prepare us—he has been sent into our world to prepare a bride for marriage to Christ!

An Old Testament type of this relationship between believers and the Holy Spirit is found in Genesis 24. Abraham sent his eldest servant Eliezer to find a bride for his son Isaac. Eliezer’s name means “mighty, divine helper”—a type of the Holy Spirit. And just as surely as this mighty helper came back with Rebekah to present her as a bride to Isaac, likewise the Holy Spirit will not fail to bring back a bride for our Lord Jesus Christ.

God chose Rebekah as a bride for Isaac—and the Lord led Eliezer right to her. The servant’s entire mission and purpose was focused on one thing: to bring Rebekah to Isaac—to get her to leave all she had, and to be enamored of Isaac and espoused to him. Rebekah’s parents said to Eliezer, “The thing proceedeth from the Lord…take her, and go, and let her be thy master’s son’s wife” (Genesis 24:50–51).

And, so it is with you and me! God chose us to be his bride. Our salvation—our being chosen for Christ—was done by the Lord. He sent the Holy Spirit to lead us to Jesus—and if we trust him, the Spirit will bring us safely home as Christ’s eternal bride!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“ABBA, FATHER”

The Holy Ghost has a way of simplifying our relationship with God the Father and Jesus. He is the One who teaches us to say, “Abba, Father.”

This phrase refers to an oriental custom of Bible days, regarding the adoption of a child. Until the adopting papers were signed and sealed by the adopting father, the child saw this man only as a father. He had no right to call him Abba, meaning “my.”

Yet, as soon as the papers were signed, registered and sealed, the child’s tutor presented him to the adopting father—and for the first time the child could say, “Abba, Father!” As the father embraced him, the young one cried, “My father! He’s not just a father anymore. He’s mine!”

This is the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit. He tutors you of Christ. He presents you to the Father. And he keeps reminding you, “I have sealed the papers. You are no longer an orphan—you are legally a son of God! You now have a very loving, wealthy, powerful Father. Embrace him—call him ‘my Father.’ I have come to show you how much you’re loved by him! He loved and wanted you!”

Our cry should be one of exceeding joy and thanksgiving. The Spirit in us literally cries out, “You are an heir, an inheritor of all that Jesus won.” And what an inheritance you have, because your FATHER is the wealthiest in the whole universe! Don’t shy away from him, he’s not mad at you. Stop acting like an orphan who’s poverty-stricken, lacking joy and spiritual victory. You are not forsaken—so enjoy him!

Not only are we not forsaken but the Holy Spirit is there with us during moments of confusion and suffering.

The Holy Spirit’s mission is to comfort Christ’s bride in the absence of the Bridegroom. “He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” (v. 26).

Comforter means “one who soothes in a time of pain or grief”—one who eases pain and sorrow, brings relief, consoles and encourages. But I like this definition from the Greek: “One who lays you down on a warm bed of safety.” During the cold, dark night of your soul, he lays you down on the soft bed of his comfort, soothing you with his tender hand.

By calling the Holy Spirit the Comforter, Jesus made an infallible prediction. He was predicting his people would be suffering discomfort, and would be in need of comfort—that there would be a lot of pain and suffering among his people in the last days.

The Holy Spirit brings comfort by reminding you that he lives in you with all the power of God inherent in his being. And that’s why you can say, “Greater is he that is in me than all the world powers combined—greater than all demon powers!” God sent the Spirit to use all his power to keep you out of the clutches of Satan—to lift your spirit, drive away all depression and flood your soul with the love of your Lord.

“We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience…. And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3, 5).

Monday, November 17, 2008

A LITTLE TASTE OF HEAVEN

A foretaste is an advance taste or realization. The Bible calls it an earnest—“the earnest of our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14). It means to bring a taste of the whole before we have the whole. Our inheritance is Christ himself—and the Holy Spirit brings us into his very presence as a foretaste of being received as his bride, enjoying everlasting love and communion with him.

Paul describes a people of God who are “sealed with that Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 1:13). This speaks of a people specially marked by a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has produced in them a distinguishing mark, a glorious inner work—something supernatural that has changed them forever.

They are not ordinary believers anymore. They are no longer “of this world,” since they have set their affections on things above, not on the things of this earth. They are not moved by the world’s events; rather, they are unshakable. They are no longer lukewarm or halfhearted. Instead, their hearts cry out night and day, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus….”

What happened to them? What did the Holy Spirit do in these believers? What marked and sealed them forever as the Lord’s possession? Simply this: The Holy Ghost gave them a foretaste of the glory of his presence! He came to them, rolled back heaven—and they experienced a supernatural manifestation of his exceeding greatness! He gives us “a little heaven” to go to heaven with—a whetting of our appetite.

What kind of bride do you think the Spirit will present to Jesus Christ on that day of revelation? One who is halfhearted? Whose love is lukewarm, or cold? Who is not devoted to Jesus? Who does not want intimacy with Christ?

If you truly love Jesus, he’s never out of your mind. He is present in your every waking moment. Some Christians think, “That will happen after I die. When I get to heaven, everything will change. I’ll become the special bride of the Lord then.” No, dying doesn’t sanctify anybody! This Holy Ghost is here today. He is alive and working in you—to produce in you a passionate love for Christ on this side of death!

Romans 8:26 describes one of the most powerful works of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

The Greek word used for groaning means “a yearning”—a longing for more of Christ. You can yearn after Jesus so much that you sit in his presence and nothing comes out but a deep groaning—something that cannot be uttered. It says, “Jesus, you’re the only happiness there is in this world. I have tasted and seen that you’re good—and I want all of you.”

This is the mark of one who is walking in the Spirit. He has an insatiable appetite for Jesus. Like Paul, he is just anxious to depart and be with the Lord!

Friday, November 14, 2008

ONE MINUTE BEFORE MIDNIGHT

We see in 1 Samuel 13 that Saul faced a crucial moment that every believer must eventually confront. It is a time of crisis when we’re forced to decide whether we’ll wait on God by faith, or get impatient and take matters into our own hands.

Saul’s pivotal moment came when ominous clouds of war were gathering over Israel. The Philistines had amassed a huge army of horsemen, iron chariots and legions of soldiers brandishing the latest weapons. By contrast, the Israelites had only two swords in their entire army—one for Saul and one for his son, Jonathan. Everyone else had to use makeshift weapons, such as wooden spears or crude farm tools.

A week earlier Samuel had warned Saul to wait for him at Gilgal before going into battle. The prophet had said he would arrive after seven days to make the proper sacrifices to the Lord.

When the seventh day came and Samuel hadn’t arrived, Saul’s soldiers began to scatter. Worse, the king didn’t have God’s direction for battle.

What approach did Saul take? Did he stand firm, declaring, “I don’t care if it takes Samuel eight days to arrive, I’m going to stand on God’s Word to me. Live or die, I will obey his command”? No—Saul panicked. He allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his circumstances. And he ended up manipulating his way around God’s Word. He ordered the priest who was present to make the sacrifices without Samuel and in so doing committed a grievous sin against the Lord (see 1 Samuel 13:11–12).

No—God is never too late. All along, the Lord knew each step Samuel was taking toward Gilgal. He had set the prophet on a heavenly navigation system, pinpointing his arrival to the very second. Samuel would be there by day seven, even if it was one minute before midnight.

God has not changed throughout the ages. And he is still concerned with whether his people obey this command: “Obey the voice of the Lord, and [do not] rebel against the commandment of the Lord” (1 Samuel 12:15, paraphrased). It doesn’t matter if our lives are spinning out of control—we are to walk in total confidence in the Lord. Even if things look hopeless, we are not to act in fear. Rather, we are to wait patiently on him to deliver us, as his Word promises.

The fact is, God stood right beside Saul as the massive Philistine army pressed in. He knew the crisis Saul was in and his eye was on every detail.

Our God sees every detail of your crisis. He sees all the life-problems pressing in on you. And he’s fully aware your situation is getting worse daily. Those who pray and wait on him with calm faith are never in any real danger. Moreover, he knows all your panicky thoughts: “I don’t see how I can ever repay this debt…I don’t have any hope for my marriage…I don’t know how I can keep my job….” Yet his command to you still holds true: “Don’t panic or get ahead of me. You are to do nothing but pray—and rely on me. I honor everyone who puts his trust in me.”

Consider these words God has given to his church: “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). “Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8). “Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115:11). “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Unbelief is deadly, its consequences tragic. And we face dire consequences if we try to extricate ourselves from our trials instead of trusting God to see us through them.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

STRONG, SPIRITUAL CASTOR OIL

God’s command to love our enemies can seem like bitter, distasteful medicine. But, like the castor oil I had to swallow in my youth, it is medicine that heals.

Jesus states very clearly: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43–44).

Was Jesus contradicting the law here? Not at all. He was reversing the spirit of flesh that had entered the law. At that time, Jews loved only other Jews. A Jew wasn’t to shake hands with a Gentile, or even allow his robe to swish against an outsider’s clothing. Yet, this wasn’t the spirit of the law. The law was holy, instructing, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee” (Proverbs 25:21–22).

We can hate the immoral actions of those in government. We can hate the sins of homosexuals, abortionists and all Christ despisers. But the Lord commands us to love them as people—people for whom Jesus died. And he commands us to pray for them. If at any time I despise a person rather than the principle behind that person, I’m not truly representing Christ.

I have witnessed a homosexual parade on Fifth Avenue here in New York City. Two hundred fifty thousand gays, many half nude, some with signs proclaiming “God is Gay.” I saw them break rank and jump on Christians carrying signs, “God HATES Your Sin—But He Loves You.”

I blushed with hot anger. I felt like calling Sodom-like fire upon them. But on reflection, I said to my heart, “I am like the disciples who wanted to call down fire and consume those who rejected Jesus.”

I say—Homosexuality is sin! So is adultery! So is bitterness and unforgiveness.

Love your enemies! Love those “in your face” militant sinners? Pray for them? Bless them that curse you?

That is exactly what Jesus said!

So do it!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

DANIEL—A MAN OF ANOTHER SORT!

Daniel was a “man of another sort” who speaks of being broken: “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, and made my confession” (Daniel 9:3–4). In turn, Daniel was able to discern the times, because he knew God’s heart. “I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah” (Daniel 9:2).

How did Daniel come to this path of brokenness, knowledge and discernment? It began with his study of God’s Word. Daniel allowed the Scriptures to lay hold of him fully. And he quoted them often and at length, because he’d hidden them away in his heart: “As it is written in the law…” (Daniel 9:13).

In chapter 10, this godly prophet was given a vision of Christ, “I lifted up mine eyes…and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz…and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire…and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude” (10:5–6).

I urge you, set your heart today to seek God with all diligence and determination. Then go to his Word with ever-increasing love and desire. Pray with fasting for brokenness, to receive his burden. Finally, confess and forsake everything that hinders the Holy Spirit from opening heaven’s blessings to you. The path of “men of another sort” is open to everyone. Will you walk in it?

Such a walk brings the touch of God. Daniel testified, “Behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands” (Daniel 10:10). The word for touched here means “to violently seize upon.” Daniel was saying, “When God placed his hand upon me, it put me on my face. His touch gave me an urgency to seek him with all that’s in me.”

This happens anytime God touches someone’s life. That person falls to his knees and becomes a man or woman of prayer, driven to seek the Lord.

I’ve often wondered why God touches only certain people with this urgency. Why do some servants become hungry seekers after him, while other faithful people go their way? God-touched servants have an intimate relationship with the Lord. They receive revelations from heaven. And they enjoy a walk with Christ that few others do.

Why did God lay his hand on Daniel and touch him as he did? Why was this one man able to see and hear things no one else could? He declares, “I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision” (Daniel 10:7).

God needed a voice to speak his message. He wanted a praying servant, someone who would respond faithfully to his calling. Daniel was that man. He’d been praying devoutly three times a day. And now, as he walked along the river, Christ revealed himself to him (see Daniel 10:7–9).

God made Daniel his oracle because:

1. Daniel never let up in prayer (see Daniel 10:2–3).
2. Daniel grieved over the spiritual decline in society and the church (see Daniel chapter 9).
3. Daniel refused to harbor or hide sin (Daniel 9:4–5).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

YOU NEED THE HOLY GHOST

Some have been saved for a number of years, some perhaps a year, and some just months or a few weeks. Being saved from sin is wonderful! Old things fade away—and all things become new. I am so glad you’re saved!

But in order to be a good soldier in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ, it’s not enough just to be saved. There is much more for you! You need to be baptized with the Holy Ghost!

In Paul’s time, some believers didn’t even know there was a Holy Ghost. “He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost” (Acts 19:2). These people were saved, but it is clear they were not filled or baptized with the Holy Ghost.

I believe we are saved through the power and ministry of the Holy Ghost. But Scripture tells us that in addition to this, there is also a baptizing, an infilling, a possessing that the Holy Ghost does in us!

Jesus himself did not send his disciples and followers into the world until they were baptized with the Holy Ghost. Certainly his disciples had pure hearts. They had faith to heal the sick, to cast out devils. They had the Word of the Lord and already had been preaching Christ and gaining converts. They were witnesses to his resurrection. What more could there be? They were willing to die for Jesus! Wasn’t their love for him enough to send them into the world to do his work?

Beloved, none of that was enough! Clearly, there was more. “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Do you really want the Holy Ghost? Do you want him to fall upon you and baptize you with fire? You have to be convinced this is for you. You must come to the place where you know you are nothing, have nothing and can do nothing without the power and leading of the Holy Ghost.

You must know he is still baptizing, still falling upon believers—possessing their bodies! “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38–39).

Every hour of every day, multitudes worldwide are being baptized with the Holy Ghost! They have read of this promise in the Bible or have heard it preached. So they have cried out, claiming the promise, and they have been baptized!

The baptism is especially for those living in the last days. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…. I will pour out in those days of my Spirit” (Acts 2:17–18). He is yours for the asking: “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:13).

God wants you to live and walk in the Spirit. You should not run to find someone else to meet a person’s need. You are called to speak the Word of God as the Spirit moves on you, and to lay hands on the sick and cast out devils just as the apostles did. We are all called to be witnesses who are full of the Holy Ghost and power!

Monday, November 10, 2008

GOVERNED BY THE WORD OF GOD

If Christ reigns as the supreme authority over his kingdom, and we are his subjects, then our lives must be governed by him. What does it mean, exactly, to be governed by Jesus?

According to the dictionary, to govern means “to guide, to direct, to control all actions and behavior of those under authority.” In short, Jesus must be allowed to control all of our actions and behavior, including our every thought, word and deed.

Jesus also rules the nations of the world. The Bible tells us, “He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves” (Psalm 66:7). “The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all” (Psalm 103:19).

Don’t be fooled—our country is not ruled by Republicans, Democrats or any human authority. It is not controlled by Wall Street or big business entities. No power, earthly or supernatural, rules America or any other nation. God alone is in control. He sits as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, ruling and reigning over all creation from his heavenly throne.

All across America we’re seeing awful moral decay, the rise of the occult, rampant sexual deviations, raging “in your face” atheism. Some Christians fear that the hordes of hell are slowly taking over our nation, establishing Satan’s kingdom of darkness.

We need not worry. Isaiah assures us, “The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers…. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! …Thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms” (Isaiah 14:5, 12, 15–16).

Beloved, our God is not one bit anxious about Satan. He isn’t fretting over what we see as an evil takeover of our nation. With just one word from our Lord’s mouth, Satan will be gone forever, tormented for eternity. Therefore, we are to fear no evil.

In no other kingdom does God rule as supremely and as powerfully as in his own kingdom—the one he has established in the hearts of his people.

Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). And it is within this kingdom—the realm of our hearts—that Christ rules supreme over his people, guiding us, healing us, governing our actions and behavior.

“Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). This verse speaks of Jesus’ endless rule throughout eternity. Yet it also has another significant meaning: We must always increase our submission to our King’s rule.

Can you honestly say that day after day, Jesus’ government over you is increasing? Are you bringing your behavior more and more under his authority?

You may wonder—If Jesus is in heaven, ruling in all authority at the right hand of the Father, how does he go about governing his kingdom here on earth? We find the answer in the book of Hebrews. The author tells us that in the Old Testament, God spoke to his people through the prophets. But today the Lord has chosen to speak through his Son (see Hebrews 1:1–2).

Jesus is God’s explicit message to us—the divine Word made flesh. In turn, the Father has sent the Holy Ghost to us today to remind us of the words Jesus spoke while on earth. Thus, Jesus governs us by the written, revealed Word of God. The Bible is our ruler’s scepter, by which he makes his Word known to us.

If you want to hear the testimony of a man who was governed by God’s written Word, you can find it in Psalm 119:11, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (also see verses 105, 123, 133, 162).

Friday, November 7, 2008

HINDRANCES TO GROWING IN GRACE

In Ephesians 4:31, Paul lists things we must remove from our lives if we are to grow in the grace of Christ: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”

We dare not skip over these issues on Paul’s list. The apostle says we absolutely must face these things if we are to grow in grace. If you ignore the heart issues Paul mentions here, you will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your growth will be stunted, and you’ll end up a spiritual zombie.

The first three items on Paul’s list—bitterness, wrath and anger—are self-explanatory. Bitterness is a refusal to let go of an old wound or forgive a past wrong. Wrath is a stronghold of resentment coupled with a hope to gain revenge. Anger is exasperation—either a quick explosive outburst or a slow burn of indignation toward someone. Evil speaking are words that tear down—it is the opposite of edifying someone or speaking words of edification; evil speaking is malicious, hurtful.

Clamor is a sudden outburst over nothing—an unnecessary hubbub, a loud noise made for no purpose. We cause a clamor when we make a big issue out of something insignificant, or cause a scene rather than trying to help or heal.

The final item on Paul’s list is malice. Malice is the desire to see someone else suffer. For many Christians malice means hoping God will punish someone who wounded them. It’s a devilish spirit, and it’s usually hidden deep within the heart.

When Paul says “Put away all these evils from you,” he’s not talking about a quick fix. He’s describing a process—a matter of growth that takes time. At times, we may fail at ridding ourselves of these evils. But if we will quickly repent, and commit to making things right with the person, over time these issues will fade away.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

EXPLOSIVE GROWTH IN GRACE!

Our growth in grace can be explosive when we attempt to edify those who mortify us.

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:29–30). The root word Paul uses for edify here means “house builder.” That word, in turn, comes from a root word that means “to build up.” In short, everyone who edifies is building up God’s house, the church.

Paul is telling us three important things here about the words we speak:

1. We are to use our words to build up God’s people.
2. We are to use our words to minister grace to others.
3. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit with our words.

I get deeply convicted as I read the life stories of some of the spiritual giants of the past. These godly men and women were heavenly minded—studious in God’s Word, praying often, and concerned about growing in grace. What strikes me most about these people’s lives isn’t just their devotion to Christ or the intensity of their prayers. It is also the godly fruit that these things produced in them. Moreover, I discovered a common thread among these spiritual giants: their main concern was to grow in the grace of a pure heart, out of which holy conversation would flow. “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34).

I grow in grace when I choose to live for others and not myself. That growth in grace must begin in my home by showing my mate and my children ever-increasing Christlikeness. My home must become a proving ground where all problems, all misunderstandings are overcome by my willingness to give up “my attempts to be always right.”

Never having to be “right” has helped me enjoy the power of God’s grace as never before. All arguments, all so-called “rights” vanish when we seek to edify one another rather than trying to win some silly dispute.

Let us grow up—in grace.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

MEN OF ANOTHER SORT

When I read about the exploits of godly men in the Old Testament, my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of God’s name, they did powerful works that baffle the minds of most Christians today.

These saints of old were rock-like in their refusal to go forward without a word from God. And they wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in his house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. They tore out clumps of hair from their scalp and beard. The prophet Jeremiah even lay on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of God’s coming judgment.

I wonder, where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all they did? They were men of a different sort, servants of a totally different type from those we see in the church today. I simply can’t relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally of their kind. And I don’t know a single Christian who is.

Something about this troubles me. The Bible says these men’s Old Testament exploits were recorded as lessons for us: “All these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Their stories are meant as examples, to show us how to move God’s heart, or how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.

So, were these saints a special breed? Were they supermen, with a predetermined destiny, endowed with supernatural powers unknown to our generation? Not at all. The Bible states emphatically that our godly forebearers were people just like you and me, subject to the same passions of the flesh (see James 5:17). The fact is, their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. These men possessed something in their character that caused God to lay his hand on them. That’s why he chose them to accomplish his purposes. And he’s urging us to seek that same character quality today.

Ezra was a man of God who awakened his entire nation. Scripture says Ezra was a man who had God’s hand upon him. Ezra testified, “I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me” (Ezra 7:28). In other words, God stretched out his hand, enveloped Ezra and turned him into a different man.

Why would God do this with Ezra? There were hundreds of scribes in Israel at the time. They all had the same calling to study and explain God’s Word to the people. What set Ezra apart from the others? What caused the Lord to put his hand on this one man, and give him charge over 50,000 people to rebuild the fallen city of Jerusalem?

Scripture gives us the answer: “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). It’s simple: Ezra made a conscious decision. He determined above all else to seek God’s Word and obey it. And he didn’t swerve from that decision. He told himself, “I’m going to be a student of the Word. And I am going to act on everything I read.”

Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it, and cleansed of all filth of body and spirit. Ezra hungered for the Scriptures and rejoiced in them. He allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

GOD’S SPECIAL FORCES

You’ve heard of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces—a highly trained army-within-an-army, an elite unit of dedicated soldiers. Special Forces are made up completely of volunteers, fighters who have been noticed and called out by their superiors.

Before the war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had said American soldiers were weak, cowardly, not trained for mountain warfare. He predicted the Taliban would send U.S. troops home in shame, but he hadn’t counted on America’s Special Forces. This fearless unit invaded Afghanistan with a mere 2,000 soldiers. Within days, it had located all the enemy’s strongholds.

I believe God is doing something similar in the spiritual realm. While in prayer, I was impressed by the Holy Spirit with the concept—God has been at work in the heavenlies on a covert operation. He’s raising up an army-within-an-army, searching his regular troops to form an elite unit of volunteers. This special force is made up of warriors he can touch and stir, to do battle with the enemy. We see a picture of this in the Bible, with Saul’s special militia. The Word tells us, “There went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched” (I Samuel 10:26).

God’s special forces today include the young, the middle-aged, even the elderly. They’ve been training in their secret closets of prayer. Their intimacy with Jesus has taught them how to fight. Now they know how to do battle on any spiritual plane, whether in the mountains or in valleys.

God’s army-within-an-army is in place in every nation. Its activity may be covert now, but soon we’ll see it doing exploits in the name and power of Christ. God’s Word is coming forth, and the famine is ending. The Lord will prevail. His Word shall conquer all.

“The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32).

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31).

Monday, November 3, 2008

WE ARE FAMILY

Claiming the power that is in Christ’s name is not some complicated, hidden theological truth. In my library are books written solely on the subject of Jesus’ name. The authors wrote them to help believers understand the deep implications hidden in Christ’s name. Yet, most of these books are so “deep,” they go right over readers’ heads.

I believe the truth we’re meant to know about Jesus’ name is so simple, a child could understand it. It’s simply this: When we make our requests in Jesus’ name, we’re to be fully persuaded that it’s the same as if Jesus himself were asking the Father. You ask, How could this be true? Let me explain.

We know that God loved his Son. He spoke with Jesus and taught him during his time on earth. And God not only heard but answered every request his Son made. Jesus testified to this, saying, “He heareth me always.” In short, the Father never denied his Son any request.

Today, all who believe in Jesus are clothed in his Sonship. And the heavenly Father receives us as intimately as he receives his own Son. Why? It’s because of our spiritual union with Christ. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has made us one with the Father. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…I in them, and thou in me” (John 17:21–23).

Simply put, we are now family—one with the Father, and one with the Son. We’ve been adopted, with the full rights of inheritance possessed by any child. This means all the power and resources of heaven are made available to us, through Christ.

Praying “in the name of Jesus” is not a formula. It is not the phrase that has power in simply speaking it. The power is in believing that Jesus takes up our cause and brings it to the Father on his own merits. He is the Advocate—he is doing the asking for us. The power is in fully trusting that God never denies his own Son and we are the beneficiary of the Father’s utter faithfulness to his Son.