Thursday, April 30, 2009

Dearly Beloved

PRAISE GOD FROM WHOM ALL BLESSINGS FLOW.

 

The Bible says, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:17).  The word “hearing” here includes the reading of God’s Word and trusting in it without reservation.

 

As I sat down to write this, I heard the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit whisper to me that I could encourage many by setting before you a number of scriptural promises on which to anchor your faith.

 

I believe at least two of the following promises are especially for you at this particular time.  Your two promises will seem to leap up in your heart, and you will know the Lord has sent you his Word for your specific situation:

 

  • “There shall none of my words be prolonged any more, but the word which I have spoken shall be done, saith the Lord God” (Ezekiel 12:28).  
  • Here are two New Covenant promises: “Behold, I will bring health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth” (Jeremiah 33:6).  “And I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, whereby they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against me” (Jeremiah 33:8).
  • “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:2).
  • “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?  I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
  • “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.  Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish” (Isaiah 41:10-11).
  • “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor” (Proverbs 22:9).
  • “Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waiteth for the Lord; he is our help and our shield for our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name” (Psalm 33:18-21).

May God speak to you through his precious Word. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dearly Beloved

JESUS CHRIST IS LORD NOW AND FOREVER.  GLORY TO HIS PRECIOUS NAME!

 

So much distress.  So much affliction.  So much sorrow caused by sickness, disease and disaster.  So many hurting believers.  So many people facing financial crises.  The Bible does tell us, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…”  However, the next phrase in this verse changes the meaning entirely: “…but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

 

David cried, “Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions” (Psalm 132:1).  This godly man faced many troubles.  His prayer was, “Lord, you have delivered others out of their afflictions.  Don’t forget about me.  Help me, deliver me.” 

 

The apostle Paul also endured many afflictions.  He wrote, “The Holy Ghost witnesseth [tells me] in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me [await me]” (Acts 20:23).  Paul added, “No man should be moved by these afflictions” (1 Thessalonians 3:3).  He was saying, “Dear saints, don’t question why I have to face so many great afflictions.  These things do not cause me to question God.” 

 

“But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses” (2 Corinthians 6:4).  Note Paul’s emphasis here: “in much patience.”  Have you been losing patience in your affliction?  Have you become so discouraged that you’ve come to the point of casting aside your faith? 

 

A pastor and his wife wrote to me, “We are so discouraged.  We have been so mistreated and unappreciated.  We are financially devastated, and we see very little fruit from our labors.  We have prayed, believed and held onto faith.  But now we are at the end of endurance.  We do not want to doubt, but we need a miracle.  We need to see at least some token for good, so we can go on.”

 

Any words I have to encourage the downcast seem inadequate.  But this one thing I do know: we serve a kind and loving heavenly Father.  His Word says he is touched with the feelings of our afflictions.  And it is my firm belief that even now he waits for you to lay down all your fears, anxieties, questions – all your cares and burdens – and trust he will deliver you, because of his loving kindness for you.

 

Lay hold of the following Scriptures, and let faith arise in your heart.  God has not forgotten you. 

 

  • Psalm 117:2: “For his merciful kindness is great towards us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever.  Praise ye the Lord.”  
  • Psalm 119:76: “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.”
  • Isaiah 54:7-8, 10: “For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.  In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer.  For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

JEHOVAH SHAMMAH—THE LORD IS THERE

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Friday, April 24, 2009

HIS NAME IS FORGIVENESS

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passseth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:18-19).

 

How is our Lord distinguished from all the other gods worshipped throughout the world? Of course, we know our God is above all others, set apart in every way. But one clear way we know the Lord to be distinguished from others is by his name: the God who pardons. Scripture reveals our Lord as the God who forgives, the only God who has the power to pardon sin. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity?” (Micah 7:18).

 

We see this name of God confirmed throughout the Scriptures.

 

  • Nehemiah declared, “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and forsookest them not” (Nehemiah 9:17). The proper translation of the phrase “a God ready to pardon” is “a God of propitiation” or “a God of forgiveness.”
  • Moses asked the Lord for a revelation of his glory. He wasn’t allowed to see God’s face, but the Lord did reveal his glory to Moses through a revelation of his name. What was the name of God that was revealed to Moses? “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin” (Exodus 34:6–7).
  • David gives us the same Hebrew description of God. He writes, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5). David penned these words out of his own difficult personal experience.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

OUR SHEPHERD STILL LOVES THR STRAYS

Our great shepherd loves every sheep who has gone astray because of testings, trials, hurts and wounds. We never dare to accuse our shepherd of abandoning us. He still walks beside us and watches over us at all times.

 

Right now you may be waging a losing war against some kind of temptation. Whatever your struggle is, you’ve determined not to run away from the Lord. You refuse to give yourself over to sin’s grasp. Instead, you’ve taken God’s Word to heart.

 

Yet, like David, you’ve grown weary. And now you’ve come to a point where you feel absolutely helpless. The enemy is flooding you with despair, fear, lies.

 

Your testing may become even more mystifying and unexplainable. But I want you to know—no matter what you’re going through, the Holy Ghost wants to reveal in you Jehovah Rohi, the Lord your shepherd. You have a shepherd who wants to imprint his love on your heart.

 

Jesus assures us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And our heavenly Father—Jehovah Rohi, the Lord our shepherd—has revealed himself to us in Psalm 23. He tells us, “I know you by name, and I know what you’re going through. Come, lie down in my grace and love. Don’t try to figure out everything. Just accept my love for you. And rest in loving arms. Yes, I’m the Lord of hosts. I’m the majestic and holy God. I want you to know all of these revelations about me. But the one revelation I want you to have right now is the revelation of Jehovah Rohi. I want you to know me as your loving, caring shepherd. And I want you to rest assured I’ll bring you through all your trials, in my tenderness and love.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

THE LORD MY SHEPHERD

We are all familiar with the 23rd Psalm. Its comforting message is well known even among non-believers. This renowned psalm was written by King David, and its most famous passage is contained in the opening verse: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”

 

The Hebrew word David uses for want in this verse indicates a meaning of lack. David is saying, in other words, “I shall not lack anything.” When we combine this meaning with the first part of the verse, David is saying, “The Lord leads, guides and nourishes me. And because of that, I have no lack.”

 

In this brief verse, David gives us yet another reflection of the Lord’s character and nature. The literal Hebrew translation of the first part of this verse is Jehovah Rohi (pronounced Je-HO-va-RO’-ee). It means “the Lord, my shepherd.”

 

Jehovah Rohi is not some benign, passive shepherd. He isn’t a hireling—someone who does little more than provide food and guidance. He doesn’t merely point us toward the grassy pasture and pools of water, and say, “There’s what you need. Go and get it.” Nor does he turn a blind eye to our needs. He doesn’t run the other way when he hears our cries for help and sees us in trouble. No, he knows every pain we endure, every tear we shed, every hurt we feel. He knows when we’re too weary to go another step. He knows just how much we can take. Most of all, he knows how to rescue us and bring us to a place of healing. Time after time, our shepherd comes after us, fetches us and takes us to a place of rest. He continually makes us lie down for a time of healing and restoration.

 

Jehovah Rohi—the Lord our shepherd—is compelling us to follow him into his rest, so that he might “shekinah” in our midst. The Lord says in Exodus 29:45, “I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” The Hebrew word for dwell here is shekinah, meaning “to abide by, or to settle down beside.” This word signifies not just a passing presence, but a permanent one—a presence that never leaves. In short, the shekinah glory of God is not a vanishing imprint that disappears from our hearts like invisible ink. No, it’s something God imprints permanently on our soul. It’s his very near and eternal presence.

 

The picture here is glorious: Our shepherd offers to come to us in the midst of our pain and depressed condition, and to sit by our side. He promises to bind up our wounds and strengthen the parts of us that have become sick and diseased.

 

That’s the shekinah glory of God: the abiding, everlasting presence of the Lord. And we often experience it when we’re in the midst of trouble. Our great shepherd tells us, “I want to restore you. And I’m going to do it by being present with you, even in the valley and shadow of death. My presence will be with you through everything the devil throws at you. Even if you try to run from me, I’m going to chase after you. And when I catch you, I am going to take you in my arms and carry you back to my rest. Then I’ll bind up your wounds and heal all your sicknesses.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

ALL HE WANTS IS YOUR FAITH

God doesn’t want your home, your car, your furniture, your savings, your possessions. All he wants is your faith—your strong belief in his Word. And that may be the one thing that other, more spiritual-appearing people lack. You may look at another person as being more spiritual than you. But that person may actually be struggling hard to keep up an appearance of righteousness. Yet, as God looks at you, he declares, “There is a righteous man or woman.” Why? You’ve admitted your helplessness to become righteous. And you’ve trusted in the Lord to give you his righteousness.

 

Paul tells us we are accounted as righteous in God’s eyes for the same reason Abraham was. “Therefore it was imputed to [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead” (Romans 4:22–24).

 

You may claim, “I believe this. I have faith in the God who resurrected Jesus.” Yet, the question for you is, do you believe the Lord can resurrect your troubled marriage? Do you believe he can bring to life a spiritually dead relative? Do you believe he can raise you up out of the pit of a debilitating habit? Do you believe he can erase your cursed past and restore to you all the years the cankerworm has eaten?

 

When everything looks hopeless—when you are in an impossible situation, with no resources, and no hope before you—do you believe God will be your Jehovah Jirah, seeing to your need? Do you believe he’s committed to keeping his promises to you—and that if even one of his words fails, the heavens would melt and the universe collapse?

Monday, April 20, 2009

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jeremiah 23:5–6).

 

God gave the prophet Jeremiah a revelation of Jehovah Tsidkenu (pronounced Je-HO-va  Sid-KAY’-noo) in a time of crisis similar to the one we face today. So, what does this mean for us, in practical terms? What is this righteousness he’s the Lord of—and how are we to know and understand Jesus in this role?

 

Paul gives us some insight into God’s definition of righteousness in several passages.

 

  • “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3).
  • “Faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness” (Romans 4:9).
  •  “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).

Each of these verses refers to one thing that Abraham did to attain true righteousness: he believed.

 

Finally, Paul provides the Lord’s definition of righteousness: “[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; and being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:20–22).

 

The Bible could not make this matter any clearer. Righteousness is believing the promises of God, being fully persuaded he’ll keep his word.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TEMPTING GOD?

As Jesus stood at the highest point of the temple, Satan whispered to him, “Go ahead—jump! If you’re really God’s son, he’ll save you.”

 

“And [the devil] saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6).

 

Do you see Satan’s deviousness in this? He isolated a single promise from Scripture—and he tempted Jesus to cast his whole life upon it. He was suggesting, “You say God is with you. Well, show me the proof. Your Father has already allowed me to harass you. Where was his presence in that? You can prove he’s with you right now by jumping. If God is with you, he’ll provide a soft landing. Then you can base your confidence on that. If not, you might as well die rather than go on wondering if you’re on your own. You need a miracle to prove the Father is with you.”

 

How did Jesus respond? He stated, “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matthew 4:7). What exactly does Jesus mean here by “tempting God”?

 

Ancient Israel is an example. Ten times the Lord has proved himself faithful to the Israelites. God’s people received visible proof that their Lord was with them. Yet, every time, the people asked the same question: “Is God among us or not?” God calls this “tempting him.” Jesus uses this same phrase—“tempting God”—in his reply to Satan. What does this tell us? It shows us it is a grave sin to doubt God’s presence; we’re not to question whether he’s with us.

 

As with Israel, God has already given us an entire body of evidence. First, we have in his Word multiple promises of his closeness to us. Second, we have our own personal history with God—a testimony of his many past deliverances in our lives. Third, we have a Bible full of witnesses to God’s presence in past centuries.

 

The Bible is clear: We’re to walk with God by faith and not by sight. Otherwise, we’ll end up like faithless Israel.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

AN IRONCLAD PROMISE

God has given us an ironclad promise for life on this earth. He says that when our enemy attempts to walk over us, “My people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I” (Isaiah 52:6). In other words, God says, “When you’re in your darkest trial, I will come and speak a word to you. You’ll hear me say, ‘It is I, Jesus, your Savior. Don’t be afraid.’”

 

In Matthew 14, the disciples were on a boat in an awful storm, being tossed about by torrents of wind and waves. Suddenly, the men saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Scripture says, “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26). What did Jesus do in that fearful moment? “Straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (14:27, italics mine).

 

I’ve wondered why Jesus used these particular words, “Be of good cheer.” Why would he say this to men who thought they were about to die?

 

The word cheer means “to be relieved, happy, released from fear.” And here, in the disciples’ time of distress, Jesus tied the word to his identity. Remember, these men knew him personally. And he expected them to act on his word by faith. He was saying, “The Father has promised I’ll come to you in your storm. It is written, ‘They shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I’ (Isaiah 52:6, italics mine). Now I’ve come to you in your storm. It’s me, Jesus, here with you in the midst of it all. So, cheer up.” Likewise, our Savior expects the same faith reaction from us, in our distressing times.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

WHOLLY DEPENDENT ON HIM

God has always wanted a people who would walk totally reliant on him before the eyes of the world. That’s why he took the insignificant little nation of Israel and isolated them in a wilderness. He was placing them in a school of testing, to produce a people who would trust in him no matter what their circumstance. He wanted Israel to testify, “I can go through any test, any difficulty, even those beyond my abilities. How? I know my God is with me in every trial. He will always bring me through.”

 

Consider Moses’ statement to Israel: “[God] suffered thee to hunger” (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Lord was telling them, “I orchestrated your trial. It wasn’t the devil. I possessed all the bread and meat you needed the whole time. And I was ready to drop it out of the sky at any minute. It was all stored up, waiting for you to receive it. But I withheld it for a while. And I did this for a season. I was waiting for you to come to the end of all your self-reliance. I wanted to bring you to a point of crisis, where only I could deliver you. I allowed you to experience your ‘wit’s end,’ a place of human helplessness. And it required a miracle of deliverance from me.”

 

Today, the Lord is still looking for a people who’ll rely totally on him. He wants a church that will testify both in words and actions that God is all-powerful on their behalf. He wants an unsaved world to see that he works mightily for those who love him.

 

Job declared, “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Here is an incredible statement, especially considering the context in which Job spoke it.

 

Job suffered one of the worst trials any human could undergo. He lost all of his children in a tragic accident, and then he lost his wealth and possessions. Finally, he lost his physical health. And all these things happened in such a short time, they were utterly overwhelming.

 

Yet, God had put Job on this path. And the Lord alone knew where it eventually would lead. It was a plan so divinely orchestrated that God even allowed Satan to do the afflicting of Job. That’s why Job couldn’t see God in any of it: “I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: but he knoweth the way that I take” (Job 23:8–10).

 

Job was saying, “I know that God knows everything I’m enduring. And he knows the way through it all. My Lord is trying me right now. And I’m confident he’ll bring me through with a stronger faith. I’ll come out purged and cleansed, with a faith more precious than gold.” 

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY

No one on earth can place you in ministry. You may be given a diploma by a seminary, ordained by a bishop, or commissioned by a denomination. But the apostle Paul reveals the only source of any true call to ministry: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).

 

What does Paul mean here when he says Jesus enabled him and counted him faithful? Think back to the apostle’s conversion. Three days after that event, Christ placed Paul in the ministry—specifically, the ministry of suffering: “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). This is the very ministry Paul refers to when he says, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry…” (2 Corinthians 4:1). He continues, adding, “…as we have received mercy, we faint not.” He’s talking about the ministry of suffering. And he makes clear it is a ministry that we all have.

 

Paul is telling us Jesus gave him a promise for this ministry. Christ pledged to remain faithful to him and enable him through all his trials. The Greek word for enabled means “a continual supply of strength.” Paul declares, “Jesus promised to give me more than sufficient strength for the journey. He enables me to remain faithful in this ministry. Because of him, I won’t faint or give in. I’ll emerge with a testimony.”

 

A transfiguration is taking place in all our lives. The truth is, we’re being changed by what obsesses us. We’re becoming like the things that occupy our minds. Our character is being influenced and impacted by whatever has hold of our hearts.

 

I thank God for everyone who feeds his mind and soul with spiritual things. Such servants have fixed their eyes on what is pure and holy. They keep their gaze fixed on Christ, spending quality time worshipping him and building themselves up in faith. The Holy Spirit is at work in these saints, continually changing their character in Christ’s. These believers will be ready for the hard, explosive sufferings to come. Slothful, lazy, prayerless believers will suffer heart failure or breakdowns. They’ll be crushed by their fears, because they don’t have the Holy Spirit at work in them, transfiguring them. When the hard times come, they simply won’t make it.

 

Here is Paul’s final word on the matter: “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments…. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Corinthians 6:3–5, 10). How do we “make many rich”? By outshining the hope of Christ in the midst of our sufferings. We offer true riches when we cause others to ask, “What’s his secret? Where does he find such peace?”

Monday, April 13, 2009

CONTENTMENT

Contentment was a huge test in Paul’s life. After all, God said he would use him mightily: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). When Paul first received this commission, “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (9:20).

 

Paul was in no hurry to see everything fulfilled in his lifetime. He knew he had an ironclad promise from God, and he clung to it. For the present moment, he was content to minister wherever he was: witnessing to a jailer, to a sailor, to a few women on a riverbank. This man had a worldwide commission, yet he was faithful to testify one-on-one.

 

Nor was Paul jealous of younger men who seemed to pass him by. While they traveled the world winning Jews and Gentiles to Christ, Paul sat in prison. He had to listen to reports of great crowds being converted by men he’d battled with over the gospel of grace. Yet Paul didn’t envy those men. He knew that a Christ-surrendered man knows how to abase as well as abound: “Godliness with contentment is great gain…and having food and raiment [clothing] let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).

 

The world today might say to Paul, “You are at the end of your life now. Yet you have no savings, no investments. All you have is a change of clothes.” I know what Paul’s answer would be: “Oh, but I’ve won Christ. I tell you, I’m the winner. I’ve found the pearl of great price. Jesus granted me the power to lay down everything, and take it up again myself. Well, I laid it all down, and now a crown awaits me. I have only one goal in this life: to see my Jesus, face to face. All the sufferings of this present time can’t be compared with the joy that awaits me.”

Friday, April 10, 2009

THE PATH OF SURRENDER

God begins the process of surrender by knocking us off our high horse. This literally happened to Paul. He was going his self-assured way, riding toward Damascus, when a blinding light came from heaven. Paul was knocked to the ground, trembling. Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4).

 

Paul knew something was missing in his life. He had a knowledge of God, but no firsthand revelation. Now on his knees, he heard these words from heaven: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (9:5). The words turned Paul’s world upside down. Scripture says, “Trembling and astonished, [Paul] said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (9:6). Paul’s conversion was a dramatic work of the Holy Spirit.

 

Paul was being led by the Holy Spirit into the surrendered life. He asked, “Lord, what would you have me to do?” and his heart was crying out, “Jesus, how can I serve you? How can I know you and please you? Nothing else matters. Everything I’ve done in my flesh is dung. You’re everything to me now.”

 

Paul had no other ambition, no other driving force in his life, than this: “That I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). By today’s standards of success, Paul was a total failure. He didn’t construct any buildings. He didn’t have an organization. And the methods he used were despised by other leaders. In fact, the message Paul preached offended large numbers of his hearers. At times he was even stoned for preaching it. His subject? The cross.

 

When we stand before God at the judgment, we won’t be judged by our ministries, achievements or number of converts. There will be but one measure of success on that day: Were our hearts fully surrendered to God? Did we lay aside our own will and agenda and take up his? Did we succumb to peer pressure and follow the crowd, or did we seek him alone for direction? Did we run from seminar to seminar looking for purpose in life, or did we find our fulfillment in him?

 

I have but one ambition and that is to learn more and more to say only those things the Father gives me. Nothing I say or do of myself is worth anything. I want to be able to claim, “I know my Father is with me, because I do only his will.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

THE SURRENDERED LIFE

“Surrender.” What does this word tell you? In literal terms, surrender means “to give up something to another person.” It also means to relinquish something granted to you. This could include your possessions, power, goals, even your life.

 

Christians today hear much about the surrendered life. But what does it mean, exactly? The surrendered life is the act of giving back to Jesus the life he granted you. It’s relinquishing control, rights, power, direction, all the things you do and say. It’s totally resigning your life over to his hands, to do with as he pleases.

 

Jesus himself lived a surrendered life: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). “I seek not mine own glory” (8:50). Christ never did anything on his own. He made no move and spoke no word without being instructed by the Father. “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things…. For I do always those things that please him” (8:28–29).

 

Jesus’ full surrender to the Father is an example of how we all should live. You may say, “Jesus was God in flesh. His life was surrendered before he even came to earth.” But the surrendered life is not imposed on anyone, including Jesus.

 

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17–18).

 

Jesus was telling us, “Make no mistake. The act of self-surrender is totally within my power to do. I’m choosing to lay down my life. And I’m not doing it because some man told me to. Nobody’s taking my life from me. My Father gave me the right and the privilege to lay down my life. He also gave me the choice to pass up this cup and avoid the cross. But I choose to do it, out of love and full surrender to him.”

 

Our heavenly Father has given all of us this same right: the privilege to choose a surrendered life. No one is forced to yield his life to God. Our Lord doesn’t make us sacrifice our will and give back our lives to him. He freely offers us a Promised Land, full of milk, honey and fruit. But we may choose not to enter that place of fullness.

 

The truth is, we can have as much of Christ as we want. We can go as deep in him as we choose, living fully by his word and direction.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

PREPARED FOR ANY CRISIS

When a crisis strikes, you don’t have time to build yourself up in prayer and faith. But those who have been with Jesus are always ready. 

 

A couple wrote to our ministry recently in a spirit that revealed they’d been with Jesus. Their 24-year-old daughter had been out with a friend when a madman kidnapped both young women. Then he murdered their daughter in a grisly fashion.

 

The couple was in shock. Their friends and neighbors wondered, “How could any parent survive this kind of tragedy?” Yet, within an hour, the Holy Spirit had come to that sorrowing couple, bringing supernatural comfort. Of course, in the painful days that followed, those grieving parents continued to ask God why. Yet, all the while they experienced divine rest and peace.

 

Everyone who knew these parents was astonished at their calmness, but that couple had been prepared for their moment of crisis. They’d known all along that God would never allow anything to happen to them without an underlying purpose. And when the terrible news came, they didn’t fall apart.

 

In fact, these parents and their surviving children began praying for the killer. The people in their town couldn’t accept it. But the godly couple spoke and taught of God’s ability to provide strength, no matter what they may face. The townspeople recognized their strength as coming only from Jesus. Soon they were saying of the couple, “They’re a miracle. Those are true Jesus people.”

 

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GOD IS WITH THEM

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

 

We see in Acts 4 that as Peter and John stood waiting for judgment to be pronounced, the man who had just been healed stood with them. There, in flesh and blood, was living proof that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Now, as the synagogue rulers looked on, “beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:14).

 

What did Peter and John do when they were released? “They went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them” (4:23). The saints in Jerusalem rejoiced with the two disciples. Then they prayed, “Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (4: 29–30). They were praying, “God, thank you for the boldness you’ve given our brothers. But we know this is just the beginning. Please, keep us all bold to speak with holy assurance. And provide visible evidence that you are with us.”

 

No doubt, Peter and John had seen the look of resignation on the high priest’s face when he realized they’d been with Jesus. Peter must have winked at John and said, “If they only knew. They only remember that we were with Jesus weeks ago. They don’t realize we’ve been with the resurrected Master ever since. We were just with him, in the Upper Room. Then this morning we were with him as we prayed in our cell. And as soon as we get out of here, we’re going to meet him again.”

 

That’s what happens with men and women who spend time with Jesus. When they come away from their time with Christ, he’s with them wherever they go.

Monday, April 6, 2009

HOLY BOLDNESS AND SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

The more someone is with Jesus, the more that person becomes like Christ, in purity, holiness and love. In turn, his pure walk produces in him a great boldness for God. Scripture says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). The word for bold in this verse means “secure, confident.” That’s just the kind of boldness the synagogue rulers saw in Peter and John as they ministered (see Acts 4:1–2).

 

In the previous chapter (Acts 3), Peter and John prayed for a crippled beggar and he was instantly healed. The healing caused a great stir around the temple, and in an attempt to stop the disciples from sharing their faith in Christ, the religious leaders had them arrested and put on a public trial.

 

Peter and John met with the synagogue rulers but the Bible doesn’t go into much detail about this scene in Acts 4. Yet I can assure you, the religious leaders orchestrated it to be all pomp and ceremony. First, the dignitaries solemnly took their velvety seats. Then the high priests’ relatives followed. Finally, in a moment of hushed anticipation, the robed high priests strutted in. Everyone bowed as the priests passed by, walking stiffly up the aisle toward the seat of judgment.

 

All of this was meant to intimidate Peter and John. But the disciples were not intimidated at all. They’d been with Jesus for too long. I imagine Peter thinking, “Come on, let’s get this meeting started. Just give me the pulpit and turn me loose. I’ve got a word from God for this gathering. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to preach your name to these Christ-haters.” Acts 4:8 begins with: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost…” and this tells me he wasn’t going to deliver a lecture. It wasn’t going to be quiet or reserved. Peter was a Jesus-possessed man, bursting with the Holy Ghost.

 

God’s servants are secure in their identity in Christ. And they stand confident in Jesus’ righteousness. Therefore, they have nothing to hide; they can stand before anyone with a clear conscience.

Friday, April 3, 2009

THESE MEN HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS

In Acts 3, we find Peter and John going to the temple to worship. Just outside the temple gate sat a beggar who had been crippled from birth. This man had never walked a step in his life. When he saw Peter and John, he asked them for alms. Peter answered him, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6). Peter then prayed for the beggar, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth., rise up and walk” (3:6). Instantly, the man was healed! In utter joy, he began running through the temple, jumping and shouting, “Jesus healed me!”

 

Everyone in the temple marveled at the sight because they recognized the man as the cripple. When Peter and John saw the crowds gathering, they began preaching Christ. Thousands were saved. Yet, while Peter and John were preaching, the synagogue rulers “came upon them, being grieved” (Acts 4:1–2). These high and mighty men asked the disciples, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Peter was emboldened by the Holy Ghost. He answered the rulers, “His name is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the man you crucified just three weeks ago. God raised him from the dead. And now he’s the power that healed this man. No one can be saved by any other name. You’ll be lost if you don’t call on Christ’s name” (see 4:10–12). 

 

The rulers sat stunned. Scripture says, “They marvelled [admired them]; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). The phrase took knowledge comes from a root word meaning “known by some distinguishing mark.”

 

What was this mark that distinguished Peter and John? It was the presence of Jesus. They had Christ’s own likeness and Spirit.

 

Those who spend time with Jesus can’t get enough of him. Their hearts continually cry out to know the Master better, to draw closer to him, to grow in the knowledge of his ways. Paul states, “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7; see also Romans 12:3). What is this measure Paul speaks of? It means a limited amount. In other words, we’ve all received a certain amount of the saving knowledge of Christ.

 

For some believers, this initial measure is all they ever desire. They want just enough of Jesus to escape judgment, to feel forgiven, to keep a good reputation, to endure an hour of church each Sunday. Such people are in “maintenance mode.” And they give Jesus only the bare requirements.

 

Paul desired the following for every believer: “And he gave some apostles …prophets…evangelists… pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints...till we all come in…the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men…whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–15).

 

Paul was saying, “God has given these spiritual gifts so that you may be filled up with Christ’s Spirit. This is crucial, because deceivers are coming to rob you of your faith. If you’re rooted in Christ and maturing in him, no deceptive doctrine will ever sway you. Yet, the only way to grow to such maturity is by wanting more of Jesus.”

Thursday, April 2, 2009

THE JOSEPH COMPANY

Joseph had a vision that his life would be used mightily by God. But that vision seemed like a pipe dream after his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. The following years of Joseph’s life were filled with hardship and injustice. Then, when Joseph seemed to get back on his feet, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison.

 

Yet, all this time, God was watching over Joseph’s life. And finally, after years of turmoil, Joseph ended up serving in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh eventually appointed Joseph ruler over all of Egypt.

 

Beloved, that’s how God works; he was preparing a man to save a remnant. Indeed, in every generation, the Lord raises up a Joseph Company. He takes these devoted servants through years of trouble and trials, to prove and strengthen their faith.

 

What does this mean? Scripture says it’s what Joseph endured: “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him” (Psalm 105:17–19).

 

The Lord also has a Joseph Company today. These are godly men and women he has touched and called. They don’t seek fame or fortune. All they want is to live and die fulfilling the calling God has placed on them. And the Lord promised their lives would count for his kingdom.


Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:7–8).

 

Joseph could look back over his years of suffering and testify, “God sent me on this journey. He had a purpose in taking me through all these hardships. I see now that everything I’ve endured has led up to this moment. Brothers, the Lord has been preparing me to minister to you. He orchestrated all of these things, to bring you under his preserving grace as he did with me.”

 

What an incredible revelation for Joseph. Yet, what is the lesson here for God’s people today? It is this: Our Lord has preserved us in the past and he will preserve us in the days ahead. And, most important of all, he has an eternal purpose behind it all. He preserved you because he has a purpose for you. He has laid out a divine work ahead of you. And only a tried, tested, proven believer can accomplish it.

 

This is not a time for timid faith. It’s a time when every Christian who has endured great testings must step forward. Our Captain is calling us to stand up amidst a fearful society and engage in “power faith.” We’re to make the Joseph Declaration: “God sent me before you…to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).