Friday, July 31, 2009

DETAILED DIRECTIONS AND UNCLOUDED DECISIONS!

God’s purpose for every one of his children is that we surrender to the reign and rulership of the Holy Spirit:

 

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). In other words, “If he lives in you, let him direct you!”

 

I want to show you what it means to walk in the Spirit. I have not yet fully arrived in this glorious walk—but I am gaining ground!

 

We have heard the expression “walk in the Spirit” all our lives, but what does it really mean? I believe the 16th chapter of Acts is one of the best examples of what it means to walk in the Holy Spirit.

 

The Holy Ghost provides absolute, clearly detailed instructions to those who walk in him. If you walk in the Spirit, then you don’t walk in confusion—your decisions aren’t clouded ones.

 

The early Christians did not walk in confusion. They were led by the Spirit in every decision, every move, every action! The Spirit talked to them and directed them in their every waking hour. No decision was made without consulting him. The church’s motto throughout the New Testament was: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit has to say!”

 

I began ministering in New York City because the Holy Ghost told me very clearly: “Go to New York City and raise up a church.” And he told me when to come. No devil or demon could move me from this—because the Spirit gave detailed instructions. I remember standing between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, weeping and raising my hands. The Holy Ghost said, “In this very area I am going to raise up a church. Obey me, David. Start a church in New York City!” Times Square Church is not an accident. It is the result of clear, detailed instructions from the Holy Spirit!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO FORGIVE AND BLESS OUR ENEMIES?

Paul writes, “Give place unto wrath” (Romans 12:19). He is saying, “Suffer the wrong. Lay it down and move on. Get a life in the Spirit.” However, if we refuse to forgive the hurts done to us, we have to face these consequences:

 

  1. We’ll become guiltier than the person who inflicted our wound.
  2. God’s mercy and grace toward us will be shut off. Then, as things begin to go wrong in our lives, we won’t understand them, because we’ll be in disobedience.
  3. Our persecutor’s vexations against us will continue to rob us of peace. He’ll become the victor, succeeding in giving us a permanent wound.
  4. Because Satan succeeds in driving us to thoughts of revenge, he’ll be able to lead us into deadlier sins. And we’ll commit transgressions far worse than these.

The writer of Proverbs advises, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11). In other words, we’re to do nothing until our anger has subsided. We’re never to make a decision or follow through with any action while we are still angry.

 

We bring glory to our heavenly Father whenever we overlook hurts and forgive the sins done to us. To do so builds character in us. When we forgive as God forgives, he brings us into a revelation of favor and blessing we have never known.

 

Jesus commands us to love those that have made themselves our enemies by doing three things:

 

1.     We are to bless them

2.     We are to do good to them

3.     We are to pray for them

 

In Matthew 5:44 Jesus says, “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.”

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

PRAYER—THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT!

“Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

 

There is often a pretense in long prayers. A desire to build up “credit power” with God; an ambition to duplicate the prayer lives of men used of God; a subtle attempt to overwhelm the Lord with enough words to weary him into action. I wonder—does God ever get bored? Does he long for more prayers and petitions framed with brevity and intelligence? Some of us go to the secret closet and just “run off at the mouth.” We become rash, wordy, and parrot clich├ęs, meaningless petitions and praise patterns. God deserves an intelligent, concise presentation of our needs, a clear-minded offering of sincere praise, and a dignity based on our respect for the King of all kings.

 

Be specific with God in prayer and he will be specific with you in regard to the answer. Nonchalance and levity have no place in his courts.

 

Jesus said, “Tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Matthew 26:38).

 

The true purpose of prayer is that we enjoy much personal communion with the Lord. The heart is reluctant to dwell in God’s presence and satisfies itself with “devotions.” This describes a hurried period late at night or early in the morning when a “quickie” prayer is offered and a hurried portion of Scripture is partly absorbed. All the witnessing in the world cannot excuse a man from his duty and privilege of prayer in the secret closet. Locked in with God until the carnal soul is transformed! No man should pray without plowing and no man should plow without praying.

 

Every gift from God will cost you a groan. True men and women of God feel too weak to face the enemy without daily, consistent prayer. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

OBEDIENCE IS BETTER THAN BLESSING

“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22).

 

It is written, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” I say it is also better than blessing. This is the deepest meaning in the story of Abram offering Isaac on the altar. God said, “Go and do this.” He obeyed. Did Abram leave that altar saying, “God changed his mind”? I don’t think so. God wanted only obedience. I have just experienced that today. God told me to negotiate and gave me every evidence that I should claim a certain thing. I did. I did everything in my power to obtain it. But I didn’t get it! What now? Shall I question God? Shall I doubt he spoke to me? Shall I believe Satan hindered me? No! I sought the Lord diligently. He said, “Do this,” and I did it. I will rest in the peace of obedience. That makes it better than blessing. God shows you only one side of the coin—obedience.

 

The servant must obey without question! That, too, is faith: When a master commandeth his servant to go, he goeth; to come, and he cometh.

 

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15).

 

Can a man purpose in his heart to trust God when it appears he is breaking promise? Can a man still speak the language of faith when all his leadings “blow up” in his face? The giants of faith did! Men of great faith faced the most fiery trials. God has peculiar ways of developing faith, and the deeper in God you go, the more peculiar will be your testing. Do not be led to think that afflictions are necessarily proof you are displeasing him! Miracles are produced only amidst impossibilities. So you desire to be a child of faith—then ready yourself for a life of most peculiar testings.

 

Faith comes by using what you have. Don’t wait for obstacles to be removed. Go forth

anyhow! The most critical part of faith is “the last half hour.”

Monday, July 27, 2009

STILL STANDING

Every victory we win over the flesh and the devil will soon be followed by an even greater temptation and attack. Satan simply will not give up in his war against us. If we defeat him once, he’ll redouble his forces and come right back at us. And suddenly we’re in a spiritual war we thought we’d already won.

 

Scripture tells us, “The Syrians set themselves in array against David, and fought with him” (2 Samuel 10:17). Suddenly, David was facing the same old enemy—one he thought he had defeated soundly. It is important to note that David was not living in sin at this time. He was a godly man who walked in the fear of the Lord. Yet David was also human—and he must have been awfully confused about what was happening. Why would God allow this enemy to come against him again?

 

Have you stood in David’s shoes? Have you prayed, “Lord, all I want is to please you—to obey your Word and do what is right. You know that I fast, pray and love your Word. I don’t ever want to grieve you. So why am I being tempted so severely? Why am I facing this same battle with an old enemy?”

 

“And as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also the Lord telleth thee that he will make thee an house. And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Samuel 7: 11-12).

 

In the midst of his confusion and soul-searching, David remembered the promise God had made with him. So while the devil was throwing every weapon in hell at David, the Lord was showing him that even before he entered battle he would emerge a victor. David got his eyes off the oncoming enemy. Instead he basked in the revelation of God’s lovingkindness. This is what God intends for every one of his children when the enemy comes on them like a flood. The Lord “prevents” them with his love. In other words, he comes to them saying, “I promise you are going to come out of this standing. You may be wounded—but that doesn’t matter. I have already made you victorious.”

Friday, July 24, 2009

POSSESSING YOUR PROMISED LAND

Multitudes from all nations have possessed Christ as their all-in-all. Yet the majority of these people, including many who are in ministry, have forsaken Jesus as their source. Why? They know how costly it would be to give up relying on their own flesh. You see, something happens when we cross the line into the Holiest of Holies. The moment we enter our Lord’s presence, we realize all flesh must die. This includes all desire for spiritual excitement, all talk of great revivals, all focus on deliverance, and all seeking out some new work or movement.

 

Jesus himself has to become your everything. He alone is to be your source of excitement, your constant revival. He is to be your continual word of direction, your new grace every morning. Once you cross the border, you can no longer rely on gifted teachers, anointed preachers, powerful evangelists. If you still seek out men instead of Christ—rushing from meeting to meeting, looking for some person to bless you—then you’re not satisfied with Jesus. He has to be all to you.

 

Abraham was called “the Friend of God” (see James 2:23) because of his intimate relationship with the Lord. A friend is someone who freely gives his heart to another and clearly the Lord shared his heart with Abraham. God himself testified, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?” (Genesis 18:17).

 

Indeed, Paul declares, “God…preached before the gospel unto Abraham” (Galatians 3:8). In other words, the Lord showed Abraham great things to come. This included the nations that would come forth from Abraham’s seed: “Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him” (Genesis 18:18).

 

Abraham knew Jesus was our promised possession. He saw a victorious Jesus bringing down all principalities and power. He saw the victory of the cross and many nations streaming into the Promised Land, possessing their promise: Christ himself. These people weren’t striving to enter, or making empty promises to God. They were possessing their promise by faith alone, trusting God’s Word to them.

 

Have you possessed your Promised Land? Have you laid hold of the provision and blessing that Jesus won for you at the cross? I urge you, make Jesus your life, your all, your everything. Take up God’s invitation to you and enter into the peace and rest of your everlasting possession, Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

DEALING WITH OUR STRONGHOLDS

Many Christians quote 2 Corinthians 10:3–4: “We do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” Most of us think of strongholds as bondages such as sexual trespasses, drug addictions, alcoholism—outward sins we put at the top of a worst-sins list. But Paul is referring here to something much worse than our human measuring of sins.

 

First of all, he isn’t speaking of demonic possession. In my opinion, the devil cannot enter the heart of any overcoming Christian and claim a place in that person. Rather, the figurative meaning of Paul’s word stronghold in Greek here is “holding firmly to an argument.” A stronghold is an accusation planted firmly in your mind. Satan establishes strongholds in God’s people by implanting in their minds lies, falsehoods and misconceptions, especially regarding God’s nature.

 

For instance, the enemy may plant in your mind the lie that you’re unspiritual, totally unworthy of God’s grace. He may whisper to you repeatedly, “You’ll never be free of your besetting sin. You haven’t tried hard enough. You haven’t changed. And now God has lost patience with you because of your continual ups and downs.”

 

Or the devil may try to convince you that you have a right to hold on to bitterness because you’ve been wronged. If you keep listening to his lies, you’ll begin to believe them after a while.

Satan is the accuser of the brethren, coming against us time after time with his army of accusers, planting demonic lies in our minds. These lies are his stronghold—and if we don’t resist them by God’s Word, they will turn into imbedded fears in our minds.

 

The only weapon that scares the devil is the same one that scared him in the wilderness temptations of Jesus. That weapon is the truth of the living Word of God. According to Micah, here is the promise we are to cling to: “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth 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). In Hebrew, the word subdue means “he will trample on them.” We do not subdue our sins; he will subdue them through repentance and faith. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

THE GREATEST DANGER

The greatest danger we all face is not being able to see Jesus in our troubles—instead we see ghosts. In that peak moment of fear when the night is the blackest and the storm is the angriest, Jesus always draws near to us, to reveal himself as the Lord of the flood, the Savior in storms. “The Lord sitteth upon the flood; yea, the Lord sitteth King for ever” (Psalm 29:10).

 

In Matthew 14, Jesus ordered his disciples into a boat that was headed for a storm. The Bible says he constrained them to get into a ship. It was headed for troubled waters; it would be tossed about like a bobbing cork. Where was Jesus? He was up in the mountains overlooking the sea; he was there, praying for them not to fail in the test he knew they must go through.

 

You would think that at least one disciple would have recognized what was happening and said, “Look friends, Jesus said he would never leave us or forsake us. He sent us on this mission; we are in the center of his will. He said the steps of a righteous man are ordered by himself. Look again. That’s our Lord! He is right here! We’ve never once been out of his sight.”

 

But not one disciple recognized him. They did not expect him to be in their storm. Never, ever did they expect him to be with them, or even near them, in a storm! But he did come, walking on the water.

 

There was only one lesson to be learned, only one. It was a simple lesson, not some deep, mystical, earth-shattering one. Jesus simply wanted to be trusted as their Lord, in every storm of life. He simply wanted them to maintain their cheer and confidence, even in the blackest hours of trial. That’s all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE

When Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. When Peter denied Christ, he was afraid to face him. When Jonah refused to preach to Nineveh, his fear drove him into the ocean, to flee the presence of the Lord.

 

Something much worse than failure is the fear that goes with it. Adam, Jonah, and Peter ran away from God, not because they lost their love for him, but because they were afraid he was too angry with them to understand.

 

The accuser of the brethren waits, like a vulture, for you to fail in some way. Then he uses every lie in hell to make you give up, to convince you that God is too holy or you are too sinful to come back. Or he makes you afraid you are not perfect enough or that you will never rise above your failure.

 

It took forty years to get the fear out of Moses and to make him usable in God’s program. If Moses or Jacob or David had resigned himself to failure, we might never again have heard of these men. Yet Moses rose up again to become one of God’s greatest heroes.  Jacob faced his sins, was reunited with the brother he had cheated, and reached new heights of victory. David ran into the house of God, found forgiveness and peace, and returned to his finest hour. Jonah retraced his steps, did what he had refused to do at first and brought a whole city to repentance. Peter rose out of the ashes of denial to lead a church to Pentecost.

 

In 1958, I sat in my little car weeping; I was a terrible failure, I thought. I had been unceremoniously dumped from a courtroom after I thought I was led by God to witness to seven teenage murderers. My attempt to obey God and to help those young hoodlums looked as though it were ending in horrible failure.

 

I shudder to think of how much blessing I would have missed if I had given up in that dark hour. How glad I am today that God taught me to face my failure and go on to his next step for me.

Monday, July 20, 2009

THE LORD OUR PEACE

Knowing and believing in God’s character as revealed in his names provides great protection against enemy attack. God declared through Hosea, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). The implication here is powerful. God is telling us that having an intimate knowledge of his nature and character, as revealed through his names, is a powerful shield against Satan’s lies.

 

This brings us to another of our Lord’s names: Jehovah Shalom. We find this name mentioned in the book of Judges. Here, the Lord revealed himself to Gideon in the form of an angel (see Judges 6:22–24). What does this name, Jehovah Shalom, mean exactly? As a noun, the Hebrew word shalom means “completeness, health, welfare.” It implies being whole, in harmony with God and man, having wholesome relationships. It also indicates a state of being at ease—not restless, having peace both inwardly and outwardly, being at rest both spiritually and emotionally. In short, shalom signifies wholeness in a life or work. And as a verb, shalom means to be completed or finished, or to make peace.

 

Once more, I’m driven to ask, “What does this particular name of God have to do with me and with the church today?”

 

Shalom cannot be earned. We’ll never receive the Lord’s shalom until we realize, “This is serious business. This is God almighty I’m dealing with, creator and sustainer of the universe. How can I continue taking him for granted? Why do I still test his grace, living with this lust as if he is deaf and blind to my secret acts?” Do you tremble at God’s Word? Are you ready to obey everything it says? If so, you’ll receive the revelation of Jehovah Shalom. He’ll come to you personally as “the Lord, your peace,” filling your spirit with supernatural strength against every enemy. You can’t earn this kind of peace; it’s a gift from God.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A FOUNTAIN OF LIFE

I have seen men mightily used of the Spirit who were later put on the shelf by God. The Lord told them, “I’m sorry, son—I love you, I forgive you, and my mercy will come through for you. But I can’t use you.” To me, this is one of the most dreadful things that could ever happen. Yet it happened to Saul, the king of Israel. “Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commands of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever. But now thy kingdom shall not continue…” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

 

What sad words. God told the kind, “Saul, you could have had my blessing in your life continually. I had great plans for you, plans to use you mightily. But you wouldn’t deal with your sin. You became bitter and hardhearted.” From that moment Saul was no longer of use to the kingdom.

 

That’s where it all ends when you continue in sin: You become absolutely barren and fruitless.

 

The Word declares that the fear of God is a fountain of life (see Proverbs 14:27). In the same verse we read that this fear helps one avoid the snares of death. In Proverbs 3:7 we read, “…fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” And in Hebrews 12:28 we are instructed to “…serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Those who desire to walk in the fear of God will soon be led into the full revelation of the promises and provisions that God has made available for us.

 

Perhaps God is dealing with you about your sin right now. He has shot his arrows of conviction in your heart, and you’re feeling a sense of guilt over your sin. Don’t panic! That is the gift of God. He’s planting his divine power in you, teaching you, “Only through my holy fear will you depart from your sin.”

 

Once you’re convinced of the exceeding sinfulness of your sin, you’ll be ready for the comfort of the Holy Spirit. The book of Acts tells us, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31). Do you see the writer’s point here? As these first-century Christians walked in the fear of God, they received the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

 

Yet, what exactly does it mean to walk in the fear of the Lord? In short, it means reminding yourself of his warnings. And it means allowing the Holy Ghost to bring your sins out into the open for you to acknowledge and cast them far away from you. In doing this, he’s laying the foundation to fulfill every one of God’s promises to you.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

AFTER THE SIFTING

When Peter was sifted he failed miserably—but not in his faith. You may be thinking, “How can that be? This man denied knowing Jesus three different times.”

 

But you see, if Peter had failed, then Jesus’ praying would have been to no avail. I know Peter’s faith did not fail because just as he swore and it looked as if the Lord had lost a friend and an anointed disciple, Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus—and melted. He remembered how the Lord had said, “You will deny me three times,” and “Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61–62). Wept bitterly in the Greek actually means he cried “a piercing, violent cry.” I picture Peter walking toward the Judean hills, falling on his face with hands outstretched, crying, “O Father, he was so right. I did not listen. He warned me that Satan would try to destroy my faith. I’m not ready! Die for Jesus? Why, I couldn’t even stand up to a maid. Forgive me, O Lord—I love him. To whom else shall I go?”

 

I can see Peter standing up with the Spirit of God flowing through him, his hands raised to the sky, shouting, “Satan, be gone! I failed him, but I still love him. He promised—in fact, he prophesied—that I would come back and be a strength to others, a rock. I’m going back to my brothers and sisters!” Indeed, Peter was the first disciple to reach the tomb when they were told Jesus had risen. He was with other disciples when Jesus later appeared in their midst. He was there worshipping when Jesus was translated to glory. And it was Peter who stood as God’s spokesman on the day of Pentecost—and what a sermon he preached!

 

A flood of new converts is coming back to the Lord today, Jews and Gentiles alike, and many backsliders as well. Where will they find strength in the troubled times ahead? From the returning, sifted saints, who can say with authority, “Don’t trust yourself. Take heed when you think you stand, lest you fall” (see 1 Corinthians 10:12).

 

Do you sense a seductive pull of temptation in your life? Does some kind of deep trouble brew in your heart? Then hear the words of Jesus and realize that Satan may have been given permission to sift you. Don’t take it lightly. You don’t have to fail as Peter did; in fact, we are to read his story and be warned by it. But even if you have failed, you can look into the face of Jesus as Peter did and remember he is praying for you. Repent, return and then share your experience with others who are being sifted. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

COME DO YOUR WORK IN ME

I believe if a Christian has an intensity for a holy life—if he desires to give his all to the Lord—there can be only one reason why he fails to enjoy the blessing and freedom promised by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. That reason is unbelief. As surely as Jesus could not perform his works when there was unbelief, so his Spirit cannot do anything in our lives when we harbor unbelief.

 

It is vital for every follower of Jesus not to judge God’s promises according to past experiences. If we cast ourselves fully on his promises—believing them with all our being, trusting him for a supply of faith, holding the Spirit to his own word—then we can know the results are all God’s responsibility. And we’ll be able to stand on judgment day, having been faithful. We simply cannot give up our desire to enter into his promised blessings.

 

There was a point in my life when I had to cast my eternal future on God’s promises. I determined to trust his Word at the risk of my very soul. I put out this challenge to almighty God: “Lord, I’m going to believe you’ve given me your Holy Ghost. I believe he alone can deliver me from every chain that binds me. I believe he will convict me, lead me and empower me to overcome. I believe he causes me to obey your Word. And I believe he will never depart from me, nor will he let me depart from you. I won’t limit your Spirit in me. I’ll wait on him, call on him and trust in him—live or die.”

 

“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:4). We’re to do what the Lord told Ezekiel to do—pray the Word of God. We are to remind the Holy Spirit of God’s promises to us. We’re to tell him, “Holy Ghost, the heavenly Father promised me he would put you in my heart—and I’ve committed myself to that promise. I will yield and I will cooperate, for I want to be holy. You said you will cause me to walk in his ways and obey his every word. I don’t know how you plan to do that—but you made an oath, and you cannot lie. This is all written in the Word, Holy Spirit. So, come—do your work in me. I’ve entrusted my very soul to this promise.”

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

AS A LITTLE CHILD

Matthew tells us Christ called a little child to him and took the youngster in his arms. He wanted to give his disciples a profound illustrated sermon. He told them, “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me” (Matthew 18:3–5).

 

In these verses, Jesus lays out the kind of relationship he desires with his people. He’s saying, “Look at this child. Here is my future church. This young one represents every new believer who’s going to come to me in childlike faith, from every nation, race and tribe. I tell you, my church must relate to me as this child does.”

 

The Greek word Jesus uses for converted here means “a sharp twist.” Christ was telling these men, “You must undergo a sudden turning, a sharp twist, in your theology. You have to quickly turn away from all your thoughts of how to become special in my kingdom through your own works. That is the old way of doing things—and it is about to pass away.”

 

Next he called for his disciples to humble themselves. He commanded them, “Become as little children.” He was telling them, “I’m building my church on you. And if you want any part of it, you must become as humble as this little child I’m holding in my arms.” I believe he’s asking us for two simple things: repudiation of all self-dependency and an uncomplicated devotion. These traits, Jesus says, will characterize us as true kingdom servants: “Whosover therefore will humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”

 

Christ told his disciples very directly, “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses. For it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh” (Matthew 18:6–7).

 

Jesus was expressing his wrath toward those who teach that the cross is not sufficient to save. He was talking to the very foundation stones of his church—his own disciples. He was warning them not to be offended by the cross. They had to accept the fact that he alone is full payment for our sins.

 

Likewise, Jesus is telling the church today: “Woe to any preacher, teacher or witness who puts a stumbling block before any of these baby converts. They come to me in simple faith and repentance. And you will incur my wrath if you offend them by saying, ‘Jesus is not enough. If you really want to be saved, you’ve got to do more. Here are the specific doctrines and guidelines of our church….’”

 

Pastors, evangelists, teachers—let the seriousness of Jesus’ harsh words sink into your soul. “…Better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” 

Monday, July 13, 2009

A HEART TO KNOW HIM

God has sworn by an oath to give us a new heart—one that is inclined to obey.

 

“I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7).

 

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

 

God promises us not only to give us a new heart, but to write on our hearts his commands. In other words, he promises to cause us to know him. Again, the Holy Spirit is the one who accomplishes this work in us. He teaches us about the Father’s nature and way—and in the process, he transforms us into Christ’s divine image.

 

Our Lord has sworn a sovereign oath to be merciful to us in our struggles against sin. And until full victory comes, he will be patient and loving with us, never casting us aside. He promises, “No matter what I demand of you, I will supply you with all the power you need to accomplish it. I won’t ask anything of you for which I have not made provision.”

 

Today, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—and which enabled him to fulfill God’s law through a perfect, sinless life—now abides in us. God’s own Spirit is alive in us, providing all power over every work the enemy tries to bring against us.

 

When the enemy comes flooding into your soul, enticing you toward an old lust, call upon the Holy Ghost. Listen to his every whisper, and obey his every command. Don’t shut him out. If you are prepared to do whatever he empowers you to do, he won’t withhold his word from you.

 

You can move out of the old life and into the new in a single leap. It happens when you see how impossible it is for you to overcome sin by your own human efforts.  It dawns on you that a faithful God has sworn to give the Holy Ghost to all believers who ask, and that he will accomplish in you what the Lord has promised by oath. So, finally, you abandon yourself totally to God and his promises. You believe he will perform what he has promised.

 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17).  

Friday, July 10, 2009

PROMISES

Our great need for patience is repeated throughout the book of Hebrews:

 

·         “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself…and so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:13-15, italics mine).

·         “Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (6:12).

·         “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (10:36).

 

God has given us many wonderful promises—to break every bond of sin, to empower us to defeat all dominion of sin, to give us a new heart, to cleanse and sanctify us, to conform us to the very image of Christ. His Word assures us, “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

 

Yet God does all of these things for us only in his time, according to his divine schedule. He has no deadlines pushing him. And he ignores all demands for an instant cure-all. In short, true faith on our part demands that we patiently wait on our Lord. Our response to him should be, “Lord, I believe you’re true to your Word. And by the power of your Spirit within me, I’m going to wait patiently until you bring these things to pass in my life. My part is to remain in faith, waiting on you.”

 

You may endure awful trials and temptations. And you may hear horrendous lies whispered to you by Satan. At times, you may fail. In fact, you may wonder if you’ll ever reach the goal. But, as you’re enduring all these afflictions, if you’ll simply hold onto faith with patience—trusting God is at work, keeping his Word, being your Jehovah Tsidkenu—he will look on you as righteous. He has sworn by oath, “By faith, you will receive the promise.”

 

Paul provides the Lord’s definition of righteousness in Romans 4:20-23: “[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 to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him.”

 

The Bible could not make this any clearer. Simply put, righteousness is believing the promises of God, being fully persuaded he’ll keep his word. Conversely, unbelief is staggering at his promises, doubting God will do what he promises. 

Thursday, July 9, 2009

FACING THE ROD OF GOD

The psalmist writes the following about one of God’s greatest promises: “If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail” (Psalm 89:30-33).

 

God promises to never remove his loving-kindness from us, no matter how badly we may fall. Yet many believers skip lightly over the heavy warning in this verse: If we forsake God’s law and refuse to keep his commands, he’ll visit our transgressions with his divine rod.

 

The Bible tells us that whomever the Lord loves, he chastens. We see this truth illustrated vividly in David’s life. Consider how the Lord dealt with this man, a faithful servant who enjoyed God’s favor. At one point in his life, David sinned awfully—justifying it and keeping it hidden for months on end. Finally, God said, “Enough”—and sent a prophet to expose David’s sin. The prophet, Nathan, used an analogy to tear apart every excuse David had until finally the king admitted, “I’ve sinned—I’m guilty.”

 

David wrote, “My strength faileth because of mine iniquity, and my bones are consumed” (Psalm 31:10). Like a hole in the oil tank of a car, your sin will slowly drain you of all resources. Your peace, joy and strength will literally drip away until they’re gone completely. David confessed, “Neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin” (Psalm 38:3). He was saying, “All my strength is gone because of my sin. My body has become weak because of what I’ve done. My iniquity simply won’t allow me to rest.”

 

David was experiencing God’s piercing arrows. He wrote, “Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore” (38:2). Yet this beloved servant was being taught the fear of God. And part of his painful lesson was that he had lost the peace of the Lord. Now he cried out, “He weakened my strength” (Psalm 102:23).

 

I know Christians who lead lives of utter confusion because they continue to indulge in sins. These hollow souls are always downcast, weak, forever struggling but getting nowhere. I also know ministers who can’t sit still because of their sin. They’re constantly busy, working, never entering into the Lord’s rest.

 

It doesn’t matter who you are—if you harbor a secret sin, you’ll experience continual disturbances in your life, your home, your family, your work. Everything you touch will be out of kilter. You’ll become increasingly restless, confused, tossed about by endless worries and fears. And all of your peace and strength will be drained from you.

 

God does not want to expose his servants; rather, it is in his heart to forgive, cleanse and cover our sins. Exposure of secret sin is God’s last attempt to save a rebellious, hypocritical child who has determined to cover his sin, indulge, and play the part of a spiritual man. God’s rod is reserved only for unrepentant, unconverted, hardhearted, false believers. In love he will discipline his righteous one but the rod, the stripes, are for the lawless.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

ALL HE WANTS IS YOUR FAITH

So, you’ve turned everything over into the Lord’s hands. You’re trusting him, casting all your cares upon him. And you believe in his promises to keep you, protect you and cause you to walk uprightly before him. You state, “I believe God’s Word. And if he says I’m his righteousness, then it’s his job to make it so in my life. He says his name is ‘the Lord our righteousness’—and that applies to me. I may not have arrived yet, but I know it’s not my job to make that happen. It is the Lord’s. And I know that somehow, by his Spirit working in me, he’s going to get me there.”

 

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 may 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 eternal promises to you—and that if even one of his words fails, the heavens would melt and the universe collapse?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

CHASTENING LOVE!

Because God loves you, he will work to cleanse you. But it is a loving chastening upon those who repent and return to him. You may feel God’s arrows in your soul because of your past and present sins, but if you have a repentant heart and want to turn from error, you can call upon his chastening love. You will be corrected—but with his great mercy and compassion. You will not feel his wrath as the heathen do, but rather the rod of his discipline, applied by his loving hand.

 

Perhaps your suffering comes from making wrong decisions. How many women are suffering because they married men whom God warned them not to marry? How many children are breaking their parents’ hearts, bringing them to the end of their ropes? Yet many times this happens because of the parents’ own past years of sin, neglect and compromise.

 

When you know you have arrived at your lowest point, it is time to seek the Lord in brokenness, repentance and faith. It is time to receive a new infusion of Holy Ghost strength. It is time to be renewed and refreshed, to have spiritual strength overflow within you.

 

You see, when you cry out to God, he pours his strength into you: “In the day when I cried thou answerers me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul…Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou salt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerned me: thy mercy, O Lord, endured for ever” (Psalm 138:3, 7–8).

 

One of the most difficult things for Christians to accept is the suffering of the righteous. Up to the time of Christ, the Jews associated prosperity and good health with godliness. They believed that if you were wealthy, in good health or otherwise blessed, it was because God was showing that he was pleased with you. This was why Jesus’ disciples had a hard time understanding his statement that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24).  The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”

 

Likewise today, there is an erroneous doctrine that says if you are in agreement with God you will never suffer; just call out to God and he will come running and solve everything immediately. But this is not the gospel! The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11 all walked in close relationship of faith with God and they suffered stoning, mocking, torture and violent deaths (verses 36–38). Paul himself, who walked closely with God, was shipwrecked, stoned, whipped, and left for dead, robbed, jailed and persecuted. He suffered the loss of all things. Why? These were all testings and purgings, the proving of his faith to the glory of God.

 

God wants to plant something in our hearts through our testings and trials. He wants us to be able to say, “Lord Jesus, you’re my Protector, and I believe you rule over the events of my life. If anything happens to me, it’s only because you allowed it, and I trust your purpose in doing it. Help me understand the lesson you want me to learn from it.  If I walk in righteousness and have your joy in my heart, then my living and dying will bring glory to you. I trust that you may have some prepared glory, some eternal purpose that my finite mind doesn’t understand. But either way, I’ll say, ‘Jesus, whether I live or die, I am yours!’”

Monday, July 6, 2009

HAVING A PERFECT HEART

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

The Lord’s heart-searching is not vindictive, but redemptive. His purpose is not to catch us in sin or condemn us, but rather to prepare us to come into his holy presence as clean pure vessels.

Friday, July 3, 2009

THE SECRETS OF THE LORD

Matthew tells us Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables: “All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 13:34–35).

 

To many Christians today, the parables sound very simple. Yet, according to Christ, each parable holds an incredible secret. There’s a hidden, kingdom truth in every parable Jesus told. And that truth is discovered only by those who diligently seek for it.

 

Many believers skim over the parables quickly. They think they see an obvious lesson and quickly move on. Or, they dismiss a parable’s meaning as not applying to them

The Bible states clearly there are secrets of the Lord: “His secret is with the righteous” (Proverbs 3:32). These secrets have been unknown from the foundation of the world, but Matthew tells us they’re buried in Jesus’ parables. These hidden truths have power to truly set Christians free. Yet few are willing to pay the high cost of discovering them.

Consider with me one of the Lord’s parables.

 

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it” (Matthew 13:45–46). Who is the merchant in this parable? The Greek root here explains him as a traveling wholesale trader. This merchant was also an assayer, or tester. In other words, he made his living by evaluating costly pearls for their quality and worth.

 

We know that Jesus is the pearl of great price that the merchant finds. He’s very costly, of incalculable value, because the merchant sells all his other possessions to gain him. I believe we find the meaning of the pearl in God’s eternal purposes. Obviously, the pearl belonged to the Father. He possessed Christ just as any father possesses his own son. Indeed, Jesus is the Father’s most valued and treasured possession. Only one thing would cause the Father to give up this priceless pearl. He did it out of love.

 

Christ is the treasure chest in the field. And in him, I’ve found all that I’ll ever need. No more trying to find purpose in ministry. No more looking for fulfillment in family or friends. No more needing to build something for God, or to be a success, or to feel useful. No more keeping up with the crowd, or trying to prove something. No more searching for ways to please people. No more trying to think or reason my way out of difficulties.

 

I’ve found what I’m looking for. My treasure, my pearl, is Christ. And all that the Owner asks of me is, “David, I love you. Let me adopt you. I’ve already signed the papers with my own Son’s blood. You’re now a joint heir with him of everything I possess.”

 

What a bargain. I give up my filthy rags of self-reliance and good works. I lay aside my worn-out shoes of striving. I leave behind my sleepless nights on the streets of doubt and fear. And in return, I get adopted by a King. This is what happens when you seek the pearl, the treasure, till you find him. Jesus offers you everything he is. He brings you joy, peace, purpose, holiness. And he becomes your everything—your waking, your sleeping, your morning, afternoon and evening.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

VICTORY OVER YOUR BESETTING SIN

Sin causes Christians to become craven cowards who live in humiliating defeat. They can’t stand up with courage against sin because of the secret sin in their own lives. They excuse the sins of others because of the disobedience in their own hearts and they can’t preach victory because they live in defeat.

 

King David had enemies. When David was right with the Lord and in good fellowship, none of his enemies could stand before him. But when David sinned and became estranged from the Lord, his enemies grew bold and triumphed over him.

 

David’s sin of adultery immediately followed one of his greatest victories. This great man of God, basking in the glory of a great victory, began to lust after Bathsheba, killed her husband Uriah and committed adultery with her. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:27).

 

So the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David. The prophet did not come to counsel David on how to handle his guilt and condemnation. Rather, Nathan got right to the heart of the matter. “You have despised the commandment of the Lord. You have done evil in the sight of the Lord. You are guilty of secret sin.” David fled into the wilderness—a weeping, barefoot, cowardly man, shorn of his power and courage because of sin.

 

We have had enough teaching on how to cope with our problems and fear. We have not had enough teaching about how to deal with sin in our lives. How do you overcome a sin that has become a habit? Where is the victory over a sin that almost becomes a part of your life?

 

I have no formulas, no simple solutions. I do know there is much comfort in the Bible for those who are fighting battles between the flesh and the spirit. Paul fought the same kind of battle, against the same kind of enemy. He confessed, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Romans 7:19).

 

Many Christians today haven’t had the fear of God planted in their hearts by the Holy Ghost. The writer of Proverbs declares, “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6). “Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (3:7). “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (14:27).

 

The “fear of God” referred to here indicates much more than reverential awe and respect. We can’t receive the full revelation of God’s truth until his fear is deeply rooted in us. All revelation is tied to his holy fear.

 

I’m convinced that without the fear of God, we cannot experience lasting deliverance from sin. Yet, in many churches the fear of the Lord has become a taboo subject. When was the last time you heard a sermon on the fear of God?

 

One reason for this is that society’s permissiveness has invaded God’s house. In recent years, the term “grace” has come to mean a cover for sin. As the psalmist writes, “There is no fear of God before his eyes” (36:1).

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CALLED TO CHRISTLIKENESS

Jeremiah spoke of engaging the heart to seek the Lord (see Jeremiah 30:21). Jeremiah also set his heart to seek the Lord, and the Word of God came to him. Over and over we read of the prophet, “The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah.”

 

Many commentators call Jeremiah the weeping prophet, and that’s certainly true of him. But this man also brought us the happiest, most praiseworthy gospel in the Old Testament. After all, he foretold the coming glory (see Jeremiah 32:40).

 

Now, that’s good news. The prophecy Jeremiah gives is full of mercy, grace, joy, peace and goodness. But, you see, there is a personal history behind each of Jeremiah’s words here. And that history includes a brokenness far beyond the capacity of a human being.

 

Jeremiah wrote, “My bowels, my bowels! I am pained at my very heart; my heart maketh a noise in me; I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war” (4:19). “Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!” (9:1).

 

Jeremiah was weeping with holy tears that weren’t his own. Indeed, this prophet actually heard God speak of his own weeping, broken heart. First, the Lord warned Jeremiah that he was going to send judgment on Israel. Then he told the prophet, “For the mountains will I take up a weeping and wailing, and for the habitations of the wilderness a lamentation” (9:10). The Hebrew word for lamentation here means “weeping.” God himself was weeping over the judgment to come upon his people.

 

When Jeremiah heard this he shared the burden of God’s weeping over his people. So, what happens when we share God’s burden of weeping? The Lord shares with us in turn his very mind and thoughts. Jeremiah testified of this. He was given a discerning knowledge of his times that enabled him to see what was coming. “The Lord of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee…and the Lord hath given me knowledge of it, and I know it: then thou shewedst me their doings” (Jeremiah 11:17–18).  Any broken, Word-saturated saint will be given a discerning sense of the times.

 

I believe God has a human heart and that heart is Christ, who is the very essence of the Father. He is the human heart of God who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities. He wept! He sang! He rejoiced.

 

Precious men of God are privileged to share in the feelings, the joy and pains of this eternal human heart of God.