Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GOD HAS NOT PASSED YOU BY

One of the greatest burdens I have as a shepherd of the Lord is, “Oh, God, how do I bring hope and comfort to believers who are enduring such great pain and suffering? Give me a message that will cancel their doubt and fear. Give me truth that will dry up the tears of the grieving and put a song on the lips of the hopeless.”

 

The message I hear from the Holy Spirit for God’s people is very simple: “Go to my Word, and stand on my promises. Reject your doubtful feelings.” All hope is born out of God’s promises.

 

I received a letter recently that contains a beautiful living illustration of this. It’s from a mother who writes, “My daughter is sixteen years old. She has a physical degeneration of her muscles, ligaments and joints, and is in extreme pain twenty-four hours a day. I lost my son to suicide in 1997 due to the same pain. He was twenty-two when, after nine years of suffering, he took his life. He couldn’t handle the pain.

 

“My daughter was a ballerina and was looking forward to going to Julliard School in New York City. But her dreams were shattered when she was stricken with the same disease that tormented her brother. The doctor said that her pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is at 14. The amount of painkiller needed to be effective for her would destroy her kidneys, so she can’t take the medicine.

 

“She loves the Lord, and is a joy to be around. She is a wonderful poet whose writings have appeared in over 15 publications, and she is listed in the ‘International Who’s Who in Poetry.’”

 

In the face of everything, amid a relentless shaking of body and soul, this mother and her daughter have put their hope in God’s Word to them. And he has given them peace.

 

Has the enemy tried to tell you that God has bypassed you? Have you been tempted to conclude that the Lord isn’t with you? Have you almost given up your faith? Put your hope in the Lord’s Word to you:

 

“I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

 

“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, has not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psalm 9:9-10).

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

CALEB

Caleb, whose name means “forcible, fortitude,” is a type of Christian who goes all the way! He was inseparable from Joshua, a type of Christ, and represented one who continually walks with the Lord.

 

Caleb had been over Jordan with the spies. While there, he was drawn by the Holy Spirit to Hebron—“the place of death.” With awe he climbed that hallowed mountain and faith flooded his soul. Abraham and Sarah were buried here, as were Isaac and Jacob. Years later, David’s kingdom would begin there. Caleb prized that hallowed place! From that time on he wanted Hebron for his possession.

 

It was said of Caleb that he “followed me [the Lord] wholly” (Numbers 14:24). He never wavered to the very end. Solomon wavered in his later years and “he went not fully after the Lord.” But at 85 years of age, Caleb could testify: “As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me; as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in” (Joshua 14:11).

 

At 85 Caleb waged his greatest battle! “Now therefore give me this mountain (Hebron)…” (Joshua 14:12). “And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb…Hebron for an inheritance…” (Joshua 14:13). “Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb…because that he wholly followed the Lord” (Joshua 14:14).

 

The message is glorious! It is this: It is not enough to have died to sin—to have entered fullness sometime in the past. The need is to grow in the Lord to the end! To keep your spiritual power and strength—to not waver, to “wholly follow the Lord”—even in old age! It should be an ever-increasing faith.

 

Hebron, Caleb’s inheritance, means “a company associated.” Associated with what? The answer is, “with death.” Not only with the death in Jordan to sin but also to live with a company of people, a community of fellow believers who are associated with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was on Hebron that Abraham had built an altar to sacrifice his son and it was here that Caleb and his family would live. They would live constantly associated with that altar of living sacrifice.

 

Caleb’s wholeheartedness for the Lord produced a holy fire for God in his children. While the children of the two and a half tribes living in the middle ground turned away and embraced the world and its idolatry, Caleb’s family grew stronger in the Lord!

Monday, September 28, 2009

MIDDLE GROUNDERS

Those who choose to live on middle ground share certain characteristics! The characteristics of the two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh) can be found today in those who refuse to pulverize their idols and die to the world. Their Hebrew names expose them!


Reuben means, “A son who sees!” He was Jacob’s firstborn, but he lost his birthright because he was driven by lust. Jacob described his son Reuben as “…unstable as water, thou shalt not excel….” Reuben went into his father’s concubine, and Jacob, in his dying hour, said of him: “Reuben…thou defilest…thou went up to my couch…” (see Genesis 49:4).


Reuben had eyes only for this world—its lusts, its things, its pleasures. He was unstable because his heart was always divided, and this spirit was passed on to his posterity. Here was an entire tribe attached to the world and bent on having their own way.


Gad means, “Fortune or troop.” Simply put, this means soldiers of fortune or mercenaries. Moses said of Gad, “He provided the first part for himself…” (Deuteronomy 33:21). This tribe was outwardly obedient, “executing the justice of the Lord,” but the overriding characteristic was self interest. Gad was consumed with its own problems and the need to “make it.”


Gad’s philosophy was, “I will fight with the Lord’s army; I’ll be obedient and do everything God expects of me. But first I’ve got to get a stake in life. I need to get myself and my family set up and then I’ll be free to do more for the Lord!”


Manasseh means, “To forget, to neglect.” This was Joseph’s firstborn son and he should have received the birthright. But even in his childhood there was a sad trait developing and Jacob saw it in the Spirit. Manasseh would one day forget the ways of his father Joseph and neglect the commandment of the Lord.


Consider these combined traits of middle-ground Christians: Unstable as water in spiritual convictions; never excelling in the things of God; lukewarm, weak with lust; ruled by selfish needs; neglecting the Word; not taking the Lord’s commandments seriously; making their own choices instead of trusting God; forgetting past blessings and dealings; unwilling to let go of certain idols; justifying their own decisions; not willing to die to all that would seduce them back to middle ground!


Let us determine to want the Lord’s fullness. God’s desire for you is to enter into a place of rest, joy and peace in the Holy Spirit. That required following him “with all the heart, all the strength.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

BEING IN CHRIST

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Paul is telling us, “All who follow Jesus are blessed with spiritual blessings in heavenly places, where Christ is.” What an incredible promise to God’s people.

 

This promise becomes mere words if we don’t know what these spiritual blessings are. How can we enjoy the blessings that God promises us if we don’t comprehend them?

 

Paul wrote this epistle “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1). These were believers who were sure of their salvation. The Ephesians had been well trained in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life. They knew who they were in Christ, and were assured of their heavenly position in him.

 

These “faithful ones” fully understood that “God…raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places” (1:20). They knew they’d been chosen by God from “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4). They grasped that they were adopted “by Jesus Christ to himself” (1:5).  God had brought them into his family, because when they heard the word of truth, they believed and trusted it.

 

Many forgiven, cleansed and redeemed people live in misery. They never have a sense of being fulfilled in Christ. Instead, they continually go from peaks to valleys, from spiritual highs to depressing lows. How can this be? It’s because many never get past the crucified Savior to the resurrected Lord who lives in glory.

 

Jesus said to the disciples, “Because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:19-20). We are now living in “that day” that Jesus spoke of and we are to understand our heavenly position in Christ.

 

What is meant by the expression, “our position in Christ”?  Position is “where one is placed, where one is.” God has placed us where we are, which is in Christ.

 

In turn, Christ is in the Father, seated at his right hand. There, if we’re in Christ, then we are actually seated with Jesus in the throne room, where he is. That means we’re sitting in the presence of the Almighty. This is what Paul refers to when he says we’re made to “sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6). Yes, Jesus is in paradise. But the Lord also abides in you and me. He has made us his temple on the earth, his dwelling place.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

THE FACE OF GOD

“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after” (Psalm 27:4). King David knew there had to be more to knowing God; he sensed there was something of the Lord he hadn’t obtained, and he would not rest until he found it. He said, in short, “There is a beauty, a glory, an excitement about the Lord I haven’t yet seen in my life. I want to know what it’s like to have uninterrupted communion with my God. I want my life to be a living prayer. Only that will see me through the rest of my days.”

 

The face of God is his likeness, his reflection. In answering the cry of David’s heart to have intimacy with him, God said, “Seek ye my face.” David’s response was, “Lord, when you said, ‘Seek my face,’ my heart leapt in response.” “My heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek’” (Psalm 27:8).

 

In answering as he did, the Lord revealed to David that he could satisfy his longings by reflecting God in his own life. He was instructing David, “Learn of me. Search my Word and pray for understanding through the Spirit, so you can be like me. I want your life to reflect my beauty to the world.”

 

This was not merely a call to prayer; David had already been praying seven times a day. In fact, David’s prayers are what created this passion in him to know the Lord. No, this call from God was to hunger for a lifestyle that totally reflects who Jesus is.

 

You see, at Calvary, God took on a human face. Jesus came to earth as a man. God in flesh. And he did this so he could feel our pain, be tempted and tried, as we are, and show the Father. Scripture calls Jesus the express image (meaning the exact likeness) of God. He is the same essence and substance of God the Father (see Hebrews 1:3), the same “engraved cut.” In short, he is “the same as” the Father in all ways.

 

To this very day, Jesus Christ is the face, or very likeness, of God on earth. And because of him, we have uninterrupted fellowship with the Father. Through the Cross, we have the privilege of “seeing his face,” of touching him. We can live as he did, testifying, “I don’t do anything except as I see and hear it from the Lord.”

 

Today, when God says, “Seek my face,” his words have greater implications than at any other time in history. With all that is going on in the world around us, how should we respond? When David was surrounded by a host of idolaters, God said, “Seek my face.” And we do it for one purpose: that we may be like him! That we become his express image, so that those who seek the true Christ will see him in us.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

OUT OF THE PAW OF THE LION

It is for our own benefit that God tells us to remember. The memory of our past deliverances helps to increase our faith for what we are going through right now.

 

Are you facing a crisis? Do you have a menacing giant of a problem, at home, at work, or in your family? The only way to face a giant is to do as David did: remember the lion and the bear. By remembering God’s faithfulness to him in his past crises, David could go up against Goliath without fear.

 

When David volunteered to fight Goliath, “Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him…. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: and I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth…. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them” (1 Samuel 17:33-36).

 

David knew the danger he was facing against Goliath. He wasn’t some novice, a na├»ve kid full of bravado and looking for a fight. No, David was simply remembering his past deliverances. And now he looked his enemy squarely in the eye and stated, “The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (17:37).

 

Multitudes of God’s people today face giants on all sides. Yet many cower in fear. Does this describe you? Have you forgotten the time you were so sick that you were close to death, but the Lord raised you up? Do you remember that financial disaster when you thought, “That’s it, I’m finished,” yet the Lord saw you through it, and has kept you to this day?

 

There are many things we don’t understand and we won’t understand until we are home with Jesus. But I absolutely believe that God can heal, and that he has a way out of every situation. The question for us is, where do we find the faith, the courage, to stand up and gain victory in him?

 

It comes only by remembering the lion and the bear. It comes when you’re able to recall the incredible faithfulness of God, and the past victories he has given you. You can’t face a giant until you’re able to envision and understand the majesty and glory of God in your life.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CHOSEN TO BEAR FRUIT

“Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit” (John 15:16).

 

Many sincere Christians think bearing fruit means simply to bring souls to Christ. But to bear fruit means something much larger even than soulwinning.

 

The fruit Jesus is talking about is Christ-likeness. Simply put, bearing fruit means reflecting the likeness of Jesus. And the phrase “much fruit” means “the ever-increasing likeness of Christ.”

 

Growing more and more into Jesus’ likeness is our core purpose in life. It has to be central to all our activities, our lifestyle, our relationships. Indeed, all our gifts and callings—our work, ministry and witness—must flow out of this core purpose.

 

If I am not Christlike at heart—if I’m not becoming noticeably more like him—I have missed God’s purpose in my life.

 

You see, God’s purpose for me can’t be fulfilled by what I do for Christ. It can’t be measured by anything I achieve even if I heal the sick or cast out demons. No, God’s purpose is fulfilled in me only by what I am becoming in him. Christlikeness isn’t about what I do for the Lord, but about how I’m being transformed into his likeness.

 

Go into a Christian bookstore and read the titles on the shelves. Most are self-help books on how to overcome loneliness, how to survive depression, how to find fulfillment. Why is this? It’s because we have it all wrong. We aren’t called to be successes, to be free of all trouble, to be special, to “make it.” No, we are missing the one calling, the one focus, that’s meant to be central to our lives, to become fruitful in the likeness of Christ.

 

Jesus was totally given to the Father and that was everything to him. He stated, “I don’t do or say anything except what my Father tells me.”

 

So, do you want to bear the “much fruit” that springs forth from becoming more like Christ? We fulfill our life’s purpose only as we begin to love others as Christ has loved us. And we grow more Christ-like as our love for others increases.

 

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love” (John 15:9). His command is clear and simple: “Go and love others. Give to others the unconditional love I have shown you.” We grow more Christlike as our love for others increases. Simply put, bearing fruit comes down to how we treat people.

Monday, September 21, 2009

FINDING NEW STRENGTH

How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our lives. Yet the Bible tells us over and over, “Remember your deliverances.”

 

We’re so like the disciples. They didn’t understand Christ’s miracles when he supernaturally fed thousands with just a few loaves and fishes. Jesus performed this miracle twice, feeding 5000 people one time and 4000 the next. A few days later, the disciples had dropped these events from memory.

 

It happened when Jesus warned them about the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples thought he said this because they’d forgotten to bring bread for their journey. But Christ answered them, “Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?” (Matthew 16:9-10).

 

According to Mark, Christ was overwhelmed by how quickly his disciples had forgotten. Jesus said, “Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up?” (Mark 8:17-19).

 

What do these passages tell us? It’s clear that none of the disciples stopped to consider what was happening as those miraculous feedings took place. Try to picture these men walking among the crowds carrying their baskets, passing out loaves and fishes that multiplied miraculously before their eyes. You’d think those disciples would have fallen on their knees crying, “How is this possible? It’s simply awesome. It’s totally beyond human explanation. Oh, Jesus, you truly are Lord.” I imagine them urging the people they served, “Here, feast on miracle food, sent from glory. Jesus has provided it.”

 

The disciples saw these miracles with their own eyes yet, somehow, the significance didn’t register with them. They didn’t understand the miracles and likewise, you and I forget God’s miracles in our lives. Yesterday’s deliverances are quickly forgotten amid the crises of today.

 

Throughout both Testaments, we read, “Remember the powerful arm of the Lord, to perform miracles on your behalf. Remember all your past deliverances.” Consider Moses’ exhortation to Israel after the miracle of the Red Sea: “Moses said unto the people, Remember this day, in which ye came out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; for by strength of hand the Lord brought you out from this place…” (Exodus 13:3).

Friday, September 18, 2009

THE FATHER’S KISS

A great blessing becomes ours when we’re made to sit in heavenly places. What is this blessing? It’s the privilege of acceptance: “He hath made us accepted in the beloved [Christ]” (Ephesians 1:6). The Greek word for “accepted” means highly favored. That’s different from the English usage, which can be interpreted to mean “received as adequate.” This signifies something that can be endured, suggesting an attitude of, “I can live with it.” That’s not the case with Paul’s use of the word. His use of “accepted” translates as, “God has highly favored us. We are very special to him because we are in our place in Christ.”

 

Because God accepted Christ’s sacrifice, he now sees only one corporate man: Christ, and those who are bound to him by faith. Our flesh has died in God’s eyes. How? Jesus did away with our old nature at the Cross. So now, when God looks at us, he sees only Christ. In turn, we need to learn to see ourselves as God does. That means not focusing solely on our sins and weaknesses, but on the victory that Christ won for us at the Cross.

 

The parable of the Prodigal Son provides a powerful illustration of the acceptance that comes when we’re given a heavenly position in Christ. You know the story: A young man took his inheritance from his father and squandered it on a sinful life. Then, once the son became completely bankrupt—morally, emotionally and physically—he thought of his father. He was convinced he’d lost all favor with him. And he feared that his father was full of wrath and hatred toward him.

 

The Scripture tells us that this broken young man was full of grief over his sin and cried out, “I’m unworthy. I’ve sinned against heaven.” This represents those who come to repentance through godly sorrow.

 

The Prodigal told himself, “I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15:18). He was exercising his blessing of access. Are you getting the picture? The Prodigal had turned from his sin, he’d left the world behind, and he’d accessed the open door his father had promised him. He was walking in repentance and appropriating access.

 

So, what happened to the Prodigal Son? “When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). What a beautiful scene. The sinful son was forgiven, embraced and loved by his father, with no wrath or condemnation whatsoever. When he received his father’s kiss, he knew he was accepted.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

“SETTING” OUR FAITH

I am convinced people lose hope because they’ve lost faith. They have heard many sermons, read many books, but all around they see examples of shipwrecked faith. Christians who once espoused faith are now giving up their trust in God in the midst of their hard times. So where do people turn for hope? The Spirit spoke a clear word to me: “You have to anchor your faith. Set your heart to trust God in everything, at all times.”

 

To “set” our faith means to “stabilize, make unshakable, set down roots, put pillars underneath, lay a foundation.” Scripture says it is within our power to do this. James writes, “He that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6-7).

 

In this passage, the Lord lays the whole responsibility on the believer. God is telling us, in essence, “When the world looks at my people in these days of trembling and anxiety, they have to be able to see faith. While everything is shaking, faith is what must remain solid and unshakable. So, you, believer, anchor your faith. You. Christian, take a fixed position. And never give up that position.”

 

I’m convinced that the world doesn’t need more sermons on faith. They need to see an illustrated sermon: the life of a man and/or a woman who’s living out their faith before the world. They need to see servants of God go through the same calamities they’re facing and not be shaken by them. Only then will sinners come face to face with the powerful testimony of unwavering faith.

 

David described this when he spoke of “them that trust in (the Lord) before the sons of men” (Psalm 31:19). He was talking about believers whose strong trust and faithful lives are beams of hope to those in darkness.

 

When you set your faith by bringing every burden and trial to Christ, leaving everything at his feet and resting in faith, you are going to be severely tested.

 

Once, when I was in the process of setting an enduring faith, when I truly laid all my burdens on the Lord, I received a phone call with news that shook me. For a moment, a flood of fear swept over me. But the Holy Spirit gently whispered, “Hold your faith position. Don’t give it up. I’ve got everything under control. Just stand steadfast.” I will never forget the peace that flooded through me at that moment. By day’s end, my heart was full of joy as I realized, “I trusted you. I did not waver. Thank you!”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

LEARNING TO FORGIVE OURSELVES

To me, this is the most difficult part of forgiveness. As Christians, we are quick to offer the grace of our Lord to the world, but we often parcel it out meagerly to ourselves.

 

Consider King David, who committed adultery and then murdered the husband to cover up his offense. When his sin was exposed, David repented, and the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to tell him, “Your sin has been pardoned.” Yet, even though David knew he was forgiven, he had lost his joy. He prayed, “Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice…Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;  and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Psalm 51:8,12).

 

Why was David so disturbed? This man had been justified before the Lord, and he had peace through God’s promise of forgiveness. Yet, it’s possible to have your sins blotted out of God’s Book but not out of your conscience. David wrote this Psalm because he wanted his conscience to stop condemning him for his sins. And David couldn’t forgive himself. Now he was enduring the penalty for holding onto unforgiveness—an unforgiveness directed toward himself—and that is a loss of joy. The joy of the Lord comes to us as a fruit of accepting his forgiveness.

           

I have been greatly impacted by the biography of Hudson Taylor. Taylor was one of the most effective missionaries in history, a godly man of prayer who established churches throughout China’s vast interior. Yet he ministered for years without joy. He was downcast over his struggles, agonizing over secret longings and thoughts of unbelief.

 

In 1869 Taylor experienced a revolutionary change. He saw that Christ had all he needed, yet none of his own tears or repenting could release those blessings in him. Taylor recognized there was only one way to Christ’s fullness: through faith. Every promise God had made with man required faith. So Taylor determined to stir up his faith, yet even that effort proved vain. Finally, in his darkest hour, the Holy Spirit gave him a revelation: faith comes not by striving, but by resting on the promises of God. That is the secret of tapping into all of Christ’s blessings.

 

Taylor forgave himself for the sins that Christ had said were already cast into the sea.  And because he rested on God’s promises, he was able to become a joyous servant, continually casting all his cares on the Lord.