Friday, February 26, 2010

THEY HAD THE LIFE AND THE LIGHT

The church of Jesus Christ lacks spiritual authority in society because it lacks spirituality.

Why are our government leaders and the media so condescending to Christians? Why has the church lost all meaning and purpose in the world’s eyes? Why have young people written off Christianity as totally irrelevant to their lives?

It’s because, for the most part, the church is no longer a light. Christ isn’t ruling in our society because he doesn’t reign in our lives. As I look around today, I see few in God’s house who are truly in union with Christ. There is so little fellowship with heaven. And few ministers refuse worldly methods to trust God for their direction. We have lost our light because we have lost Christ’s life. For God’s authority to have any impact, it must be lived out in yielded, obedient vessels.

Consider the kingdom of Babylon during the time of Nebuchadnezzar. This was the mightiest empire on earth. Daniel prophesied that every succeeding king would be inferior, less powerful, less influential. Why? Because Nebuchadnezzar was not the real ruler in Babylon. The power behind the empire wasn’t in the golden statue he erected. No, Babylon’s authority rested in the hands of a small group of God-possessed men. The Lord had set up a secret, heavenly government and it was ruled by Daniel and the three Hebrew children. These men were God’s governing instruments, because they operated in the heavenly realm. They refused to have anything to do with the world system. Instead, they shut themselves in with God.

As a result, these holy men knew the times. They could tell the people what God was up to at any given time. They were bright, shining lights to the whole nation, because they had the life of God within them.

In 2 Kings 6, we read of Syria making war against Israel. During this conflict, the prophet Elisha sat at home communing with the Lord. This man was God’s secret government, and he ruled with authority. Elisha heard from the Lord, and sent messages to Israel’s king, warning him of every move the Syrian army made.

When the Syrian king found out about Elisha’s thwarting messages, he surrounded the prophet’s hometown with a battalion of troops. But God blinded the Syrians, and Elisha ended up leading them captive into the Israelites’ camp. Elisha had the light—and he knew Satan’s every move—because he had the life.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

LIMITING THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL

“They…limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). The word for limited here comes from two root words, meaning, “grieving God by scratching out an imprint.” In short, limiting God means drawing a line, or making a circle, and stating, “God is in here, and he goes no further.” This describes the thinking of many believers. We’ve marked in our minds a very small imprint, or concept, of Christ’s magnitude.

That’s just what the early church in Jerusalem did. They limited Christ to a small circle, confining him to the Jewish population. But Jesus can’t be confined. He is constantly breaking out of our little, confining circles, and always reaching out to the uttermost.

Let me give an example. Up to about 40 years ago, Pentecostals seemed to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit confined to their movement. Many Pentecostals thought, “We are God’s Spirit-filled church!” Pentecostal preachers bemoaned the deadness of mainline denominations. “They don’t have the full gospel like we do,” they declared.

Suddenly, God’s Spirit burst through everyone’s drawn circles. The Holy Ghost fell on believers in all kinds of denominations. A classic book was written about this move of the Spirit, called They Speak With Other Tongues by John L. Sherrill.

The Lord also used my book, The Cross and the Switchblade, especially in Catholic circles. Yet, like Peter and the early church, I had to allow God to work in my heart before I could accept what was going on. I had been raised Pentecostal, and for the first time in my life I saw priests weeping with conviction, crying out to Jesus.

Soon I had evangelical preachers contending with me, demanding, “What about those Catholics’ Maryology? How can you minister to people who believe in that?” I found myself answering the same way Peter did: “I don’t know anything about Maryology. All I know is, there are hungry people in the Catholic Church. And there are true Jesus worshippers among the priests. God is filling these people with his Spirit.”

God has his people everywhere, and we are not to call any of them common or unclean. We have to be careful that we do not represent Jesus as being small and box him in with our puny thinking.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

WITHOUT SPOT OR WRINKLE

Christ’s church has never been approved or accepted by the world. And it never will be. If you live for Jesus, you won’t have to separate yourself from others' company; they’ll do it for you. All you have to do is live for him. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself reproached, rejected, called evil: “Men shall hate you, and…they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake” (Luke 6:22).

Yet, Jesus adds, this is the path to true fulfillment. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). In other words: “The only way you find meaning in life is by selling out your all for me. Then you’ll find true joy, peace and satisfaction.” Christ tells us, “My church is without spot or wrinkle. So, when you come to me, you must be willing to lay down all sins. You must surrender all to me, die completely to self, ungodly ambition and ego. By faith, you’ll be buried with me. But I will raise you up into new life.”

Think about what it means to be without spot or wrinkle. We know a spot is a stain. But what about a wrinkle? Have you ever heard the phrase, “a new wrinkle”? It means adding a new idea to an existing concept. A wrinkle, in that sense, applies to those who try to improve on the gospel. It suggests an easy way to attain heaven, without full surrender to Christ.

That’s the kind of gospel that’s being preached in many churches today. The sermons are aimed only at meeting people’s needs. As I read Jesus’ words, I see that this kind of preaching will not work. It doesn’t accomplish the true work of the gospel.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not against preaching comfort and strength to God’s people. As a shepherd of the Lord, I’m called to do exactly that. But if I preach only to people’s needs, and ignore Christ’s call to lay down our lives, then true needs will never be met. Jesus’ words are clear: Our needs are met by dying to ourselves and taking up his cross.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

HE PREACHED REPENTANCE

Jesus declares, “My church is a place of shameless, open repentance.” Indeed, the apostle Paul attests: “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:8-11).

Simply put, we are brought to salvation through our open confession of repentance. Jesus states, “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:13). And, he says, repentance is how we are healed and restored: “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

This is good news. Jesus is telling us, “In my church, everyone is healed through repentance. It doesn’t matter who you are—the physically broken, the mentally ill, the spiritually sick. Everyone must come to me the same way. And all find healing through repentance.

How many churches still open their altars for heart-smitten people to come forward and repent? How many pastors have stopped giving invitations for this all-important spiritual work? How many believers have lost all sense of their need to confess sin?

What is the central message of Christ’s gospel? He makes it plain throughout the four gospels. He tells us, “Here is what I preach in my church. This is my message to all sinners.”

“Jesus came…preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). This was Jesus’ first recorded message. He preached repentance!

To some Christians, this may sound like strong language. They may respond, “Okay, but how strongly did Jesus preach repentance?” Luke answers that in his gospel. Jesus told his listeners, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

Monday, February 22, 2010

DRAWING OUR OWN CIRCLE

Are you worried about a family member or friend who doesn’t seem to be growing or maturing in Christ? As you size up that person, are you using your own concept of Christ for their lives? Have you drawn your own circle of what it means to be a true follower of Christ and you don’t see your loved one moving in that circle?

Is it possible that you are limiting Christ? Is your Jesus so small, so tightly circumscribed, that you can’t believe his Spirit may be doing a deep, hidden work? Do you condemn for not measuring up to your imprint? Do you believe that God is big enough to work on him in ways that are unseen?

About 35 years ago, an infamous woman named Celeste Horvath walked into the Teen Challenge in Brooklyn. She was New York’s most notorious madam, running a prostitution ring that catered to some of the nation’s most famous men. Celeste had grown up in a Pentecostal home, and her praying grandmother had prophesied over her, “You’re going to be an evangelist.” But Celeste rejected her church upbringing and turned to prostitution.

As Celeste’s prostitution ring grew, she became addicted to drugs. All during that time, a battle was going on in her heart. Night after night, she prayed, “God, please let me live just one more day.” Finally, Celeste was arrested. The news made national headlines. At one point her brother wrote to her, saying, “You’ve so shamed our family, you’re beyond redemption.”

But Jesus never forsook her. One day in her loneliest hour, Celeste prayed—and she broke before the Lord. The change in her was immediate, and instantly she became a new creature.

Everyone who had seen Celeste’s life from the outside thought she was utterly hopeless, totally unmovable. But they had a limited view of Christ. They hadn’t seen the Holy Ghost at work in her all through the years. While the people in Celeste’s life had seen her only as common and unclean, the Lord had seen in her an evangelist.

Celeste showed up at Teen Challenge just before she was sentenced, and we took her in. She served time in prison where she became the evangelist God had called her to be. She led many souls to Jesus while in jail. After she was released, she became a powerful street preacher and eventually she started a church on Long Island, a congregation that is still on fire today.

Friday, February 19, 2010

AWE AND RESPECT

The Bible makes it clear that there is a fear of the Lord that every believer is to cultivate. True fear of God includes awe and respect, but it goes much further than that. David tells us, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Psalm 36:1). David is saying, “When I see somebody indulging in evil, my heart tells me that such a person has no fear of God. He doesn’t acknowledge the truth about sin, or about God’s call to holiness.”

The fact is, godly fear gives us power to maintain victory in wicked times. So, how do we obtain this fear? Jeremiah answers with this prophecy from God’s Word: “I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jeremiah 32:39-40).

This is a wonderful promise from the Lord. It assures us he will provide us with his holy fear. God doesn’t just drop this fear into our hearts in a supernatural flash. No, he puts his fear in us through his Word.

Does that mean God’s fear is planted in our hearts when we merely read the Bible? No, not at all. It comes when we consciously decide that we are going to obey every word we read in God’s Word. Scripture bears this out. It tells us this is how godly fear came upon Ezra: “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10).

The fear of God isn’t just an Old Testament concept. We see godly fear mentioned in both Testaments. The Old tells us, “Fear the Lord, and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). Likewise, the New declares, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Paul adds, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A LIGHT NOT MEANT TO BE HIDDEN

Jesus tells us, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). His statement here is about much more than just doing ministry. It extends beyond teaching, preaching or passing out tracts. Christ tells us very plainly, “Ye are the light.” He’s saying, “You are not just a reflection of the light. You’re not a mere conduit. You are the light itself. And the intensity of your light depends upon the intensity of your walk with me.”

Do you see what the Lord is implying here? The world recognizes those who walk closely with him. Your neighbors or coworkers may not know about your daily communion with Christ, your faith in him, your utter dependence upon him. But they do see the light that shines from your because of the life you have with him. And as long as nothing hinders that life, your light will continue to shine in the darkness.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid” (Matthew 5:14). Jesus is saying, “I have put you on exhibition to the world. People are looking at you, because I’ve made you a spectacle. You’re a light that is not meant to be hidden.”

So, who are these lights set on a hill? And where do we see them? They are not usually found in the limelight. They aren’t among the self-centered, self-promoting people who live for recognition in this world. And they are not among those self-important church cliques who pretend to be holy but gossip, murmur and complain.

Through the years, I’ve seen many believers who appear godly but in truth are spiritually lazy. They tell others about their failings and weaknesses, thinking this makes them humble. Yet they are quick to judge others. They don’t possess the true, giving, loving servant-like spirit of Christ. On the contrary, the “light” they have is actually darkness. Jesus says, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). Where there is no life of Christ, there can be no light for others.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (5:16). The reason that we are to let our light shine forth to the world is that God may receive glory.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

THE LIFE BEHIND THE LIGHT

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Jesus was, and still is, the light of the world. John says this light was produced by the life that was in Christ: “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Simply put, the life that Christ possessed was his source of light to the world. And all who believe “shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). What is the “life behind the light” that Scripture speaks of?

Most of us think of this life as the eternal existence that’s embodied in Christ. We see it as his power to bestow eternal existence on all who believe. But John is talking about something more here. When he uses the word “life,” he is speaking of the whole biography of Jesus’ existence.

Jesus tells us that we are to live as he did. For us to be as Christ was in the world, his life has to be something we can know and experience for ourselves. It has to relate to our own lives.

I want to tell you how I relate to the life that is in Christ. I rejoice in the kind, little things that Jesus did, touched and said. I believe his everyday deeds, words and walk with the Father are meant to define the meaning of the Christ-life to us.

I think of Jesus’ friendship with Lazarus. I think of him as he retreated from the multitudes after a long period of ministry. I think of him as he enjoyed time in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And I think of Jesus taking the little children into his arms and blessing them. I think of his obedience to his mother, even as a grown man, when he turned water into wine at the wedding feast. I think of Jesus’ love and care for the scorned, the unlovely, the poor. I think of his compassion for the woman caught in adultery or his honoring the widow who had only two mites to give.

I doubt there would be enough books to record all the loving, servant-like things Jesus did while on earth. In these passages, we find the ways we are to relate our lives to Christ’s. This is how we comprehend the life that is the light.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

RIDING THE PROMISE

Because of God’s “preventing” promise, we are able to claim victory and dominion even before the battle begins. David sang, “The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! Thou has given him his heart’s desire, and has not withholden the request of his lips” (Psalm 21:1-2).

You may wonder, “How could David rejoice? He faced the most intense attack he’d ever known. How could he have joy when he might have been wounded or killed?”

David answers: “Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head” (21:3). What David is saying here is life-changing: “I face a powerful enemy who is bent on destroying me. But my soul is at peace. Why? The Lord has foreseen my struggle. And he has showered me with assurances of his love. My enemy may cause me to stumble or fall, and at some point it might seem I’m finished. But God has told me that if I will just get up, I will receive his strength and win the battle.”

David then made this statement of faith just before going to war: “Thou settest a crown of pure gold on (my) head” (21:3). The crown of gold David mentions here is a symbol of victory and dominion. David was saying, “I’m going to war riding on God’s promise to me. He said I would walk out of the battle wearing the crown of victory.”

This sums up the doctrine of God’s “preventing goodness”: He has anticipated all our struggles—all our battles with sin, flesh and the devil—and in his mercy and goodness, he has paid our debt before it can even come due. Our victory is a done deal.

God’s preventing goodness applies especially to those who love Jesus and are surprised by sin. The Lord assures us that even if we are cast down temporarily, we will emerge from the battle standing upright, all because Jesus has paid our debt.

Monday, February 15, 2010

“PREVENTING” LOVE

“Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head” (Psalm 21:3). At first glance, this verse by David is a bit puzzling. The word “prevent” is usually associated with hindrance, not with blessing. A modern translation here would be, “The Lord hindered David with the blessings of goodness.”

Yet the biblical word for “prevent” signifies a completely different meaning. It means “to anticipate, to precede, to foresee and fulfill in advance, to pay a debt before it is due.” Furthermore, in almost every instance, it implies something of pleasure.

Isaiah gives us a glimpse of this kind of pleasure. It comes from God anticipating a need and fulfilling it ahead of time. “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).

This verse provides us with an incredible picture of our Lord’s love for us. Evidently, he is so anxious to bless us, so ready to fulfill his lovingkindness in our lives, that he can’t even wait for us to tell him our needs. So he jumps in and performs acts of mercy, grace and love toward us. And that is a supreme pleasure to him.

That is just what David was saying in Psalm 21: “Lord, you pour out blessings and lovingkindness on me before I can even ask. And you offer more than I could even conceive of asking.”

David was referring to some awesome work that God performed for him in the spiritual realm. It was something that gave David victory over his enemies, answers to prayer, overcoming power and unspeakable joy. And God did it all before David could even go to prayer, to unburden his heart or present his request. Once David finally did pour out his heart, he discovered that God had already made provision to defeat his enemies. David’s victory was assured before he could even get near the battlefield.

Friday, February 12, 2010

OUR FOCUSOUR FOCUS

As Christians in Paul’s day sensed the destruction of Jerusalem drawing near, they wanted to know more about prophetic events. They were fearful over rumors about the ruthlessness of invading armies, who took multitudes captive into slavery. It caused these believers to sense that perilous times were close at hand. So they asked Paul to tell them more about what was to come: “Write to us about how to read the times.”

Paul responded with these words of assurance: “Of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).

Paul described to them what would take place when Christ returned: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (4:16-18).

Paul’s exhortation to them was meant to be encouragement. He was saying, in essence, “There’s no need for you to fret about those things coming on the earth. You don’t have to be overly concerned about all the fearful signs and calamities. You well know what this is about. It is all signaling the coming of the Lord Jesus, to take away his people.”

The truth is that history is going somewhere. We can be sure that the swift current of unfolding events today is carrying us toward God’s eternal purpose. The world is not adrift; the Lord hasn’t abandoned the earth, not matter how wicked and faithless humankind has become. Rather, God has simply picked up the pace. And what we are seeing now is a swift movement of events toward the “one divine event” ahead: the re-creation of a new heaven and earth, where Christ will reign supreme for all eternity.

As followers of Christ, our focus is not to be on daily news reports. We are not to dwell on wars and rumors of war, nor on the possibility of a nuclear accident, nor on other things that are coming on the earth. When Jesus said, “In that day, look up” (see Luke 21:28), he is talking about where our focus should be.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

All future post are being moved to: http://www.worldchallenge.org/en/view/devotions

GOD OF OUR MONSTERS

God said to Job, “Behold now behemoth [the hippopotamus], which I made with thee” (Job 40:15). “Canst thou draw out leviathan [the crocodile] with an hook? Or his tongue with a cord which thou lettest down?” (41:1).

Why would God begin his revelation by having Job consider these two massive monsters? Why would God have Job look into the faces of a hippopotamus and a crocodile?

First, the Lord posed this problem to his servant: “Look, Job, here comes the hippopotamus after you. What are you going to do? Can you wrestle him down in your physical strength? No? Maybe you can try to sweet-talk him.

“Now, behold the crocodile that’s threatening. How will you handle him? This creature has a heart of stone. He has no concept of mercy.” This was more than a simple lecture about the animal kingdom. Rather, God was telling Job something about life’s “monsters.” He was showing his servant that these two awesome, ferocious, overpowering creatures represented the monstrous problems raging in Job’s life.

“Consider the hippo. He tramples down everything in sight. He’s simply too big a problem for you to handle, Job. You are no match for him whatsoever. Nothing you can do will tame him. Only I, the Lord, know how to stop such a monstrous creature.

“And what about the crocodile, Job? No human can do battle with such a creature. And nobody in his own strength can strip the crocodile of his thick armor. The same is true of your spiritual enemy, the devil. Only I can win the battle with him.”

Do you hear what God is saying in this speech? He’s speaking not just to Job but to all believers. And he’s declaring, “Face the truth about the monsters in your life. You can’t handle them. I’m the only one who can.”

Job answered, “My God is all-powerful. He can do all things. And no purpose of his can ever be thwarted. I know I can’t stand up against the hippo or the crocodile. But that doesn’t matter. I know God can. My part is simply to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord” (see Job 42:1-2).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

EVERY BATTLE A VICTOR

God promised that you would come out of every battle a victor, crowned by his strength. “Be thou exalted, Lord, in thine own strength: so will we sing and praise thy power” (Psalm 21:13).

How does the Lord “prevent” us with these blessing of goodness and lovingkindness? The Holy Spirit drives out all fear from us—fear of falling, of being cut off from God, of losing the presence of the Holy Spirit—by implanting in us his joy. We are to go forth rejoicing, as David did, because God has assured us we will prevail.

Yet so few Christians have this joy and exceeding gladness. Multitudes never know rest of soul or the peace of Christ’s presence. They walk around as if in mourning, picturing themselves under the thumb of God’s wrath rather than under his protective wings. They see him as a harsh taskmaster, always ready to bring a whip down on their backs. And so they live unhappily, with no hope, more dead than alive.

But in God’s eyes, our problem isn’t sin; it is trust. Jesus settled our sin problem once and for all at Calvary. He doesn’t harp on us, “This time you’ve crossed the line.” No, never! His attitude toward us is just the opposite. His Spirit is constantly wooing us, reminding us of the Father’s lovingkindness even in the midst of our failures.

When we become focused on our sin, we lose all sight of what God wants most: “Without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). This verse says it all. Our God is a rewarder, and he’s so anxious to shower us with his lovingkindness that he blesses us way ahead of schedule.

This is the concept our heavenly Father longs for us to have of him. He knows when we’ll repent over our failures and sins. He knows when our contriteness is coming. But he can’t wait for the due date. So he jumps in, saying, “I want to assure my child he won’t be judged, because I’ve already forgiven him through my Son’s cleansing blood.”

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

WHY IS “GREENNESS” IMPORTANT?

“And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads” (Revelation 9:4).

Why is “greenness” important to our faith? Remember, the locusts are commanded not to touch anything green. Simply put, they can’t hurt anybody who’s walking in faith.

So, even at the height of their attacks, those who place their trust in God will stand tall, like solid, green trees. They won’t be harmed by locusts of any kind, including terrorists. The best defense against every kind of hellish attack, every scorpion-like sting, is spiritual health. And this kind of health comes only as we turn to the Lord and trust in his promises.

Let me ask you:

  • Do you fully trust in God’s forgiveness? Do you depend on his blood to cleanse you of every iniquity? If you feel condemned, and constantly strive to please God, then you are not green and healthy. God’s foremost desire is that you accept his gift of forgiveness and rest in it.

  • You’ve accepted God’s forgiveness. But do you trust in his unconditional love for you?

Our Lord doesn’t cut us off every time we fail. He doesn’t constantly look over our shoulder, demanding we get it right. He simply asks that we come to him, confessing, “I believe your Word, Lord. Forgive me, wash me, hold me in your arms.”

God’s desire for us is that we live all our days without fear. Therefore, we don’t dare allow Satan to accuse us with a failure from the past. If we’ve repented of it, then we’re covered by Christ’s precious, cleansing blood.

Here is God’s promise to all who place their trust in him: “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright” (Psalm 20:7-8).

Monday, February 8, 2010

BETTER THAN PENTECOST

John the Baptist never made it to Pentecost! He saw none of the cloven tongues of fire nor did he hear the mighty rushing wind. He did not see Jerusalem shaken and multitudes converted. But John said his joy was fulfilled! He had heard something better than the rushing wind—better than good reports—better than the sounds of a joyful bride. He had heard the Savior’s voice.

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29).

John tasted of the greatest joy a follower of Jesus can know. He said, “I stood still and I heard him talk to me. His voice made my heart leap. He talked to me personally. I listened to my Lord and that’s my joy. Just hearing his voice.”

John could say, “O yes, I loved him. I worshipped at his feet and told him how unworthy I was. But my joy is not in what I said to him, my joy is in what he spoke to me! I heard his voice, and I rejoice just in the sound of that voice.”

Some people teach that the Lord no longer speaks to men except through the revealed Word. They cannot believe men can be directed and blessed by hearing that still small voice today.

Jesus said, “My sheep know my voice; they hear when I call…another they will not hear….” Nowadays we are afraid of all the abuses, afraid we will be led to revelations contrary to the Word of God. But, all the abuses are not God’s fault. Every fake vision, false prophecy, false leading is a direct result of man’s own pride and self-will. Men abuse every gift of God. Nevertheless, God still speaks directly to the hearts of those willing to hear.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…” (Hebrews 1:1 NKJV).

“Therefore, as the Holy Ghost says, Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7 NKJV).

Friday, February 5, 2010

A LESSON ON LISTENING

God had to teach Elijah a lesson on listening so he took him to the top of Mr. Horeb and gave him an illustrated sermon.

“And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13).

When that wind began to howl, I think Elijah thought, “It’s about time, Lord. Blow Jezebel right off her throne—throw her and her sinner friends to the winds. Blow them all away!” But God was not in the wind!

Suddenly, a great earthquake came and Elijah said, “That ought to scare them good! God will get even. He will shake them right out of their shoes! Lord, you are vindicating your servant.” But God was not in the earthquake!

After the earthquake, a fire! The heavens were aglow with white-hot flames! Elijah cried, “Lord, they didn’t accept the fire that fell on the altar—burn them out! Burn out wicked Ahab! Fry Jezebel. Cause your fire to consume the wicked. God, I know you are in this fire!” But God was not in the fire!

“And after the fire, a still small voice” (vs. 12).

Can you imagine this? A prophet who was not afraid of a hurricane or an earthquake or heavenly fireworks is frightened by a still small voice. “And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle” (vs. 13).

Elijah covered his head with his coat! Why? Had not this prophet talked to God many times? Was he not a great man of prayer? Hadn’t God used him mightily? Yes! But Elijah was a stranger to the still small voice!

When Elijah finally allowed that voice to speak—alone, quiet, away from all the power displays—he got the most specific directions ever in all his ministry.

“Go to Damascus; go through the wilderness; anoint Hazael king over Syria; anoint Jehu king over Israel; and anoint Elisha to be prophet to follow you…” (see 1 Kings 19:15-16).

How many busy children of God today have never had the voice come to them? They are busy witnessing—doing good—praying for a spiritual awakening—fasting—so intense—so dedicated. Yet, they have heard everything but the voice of the Lord.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

WE MUST ALLOW HIM TO SPEAK TO US

Elijah exercised the power of prayer. He closed and opened the heavens, called down fire, and parted waters with his mantle. A man of action who brought entire governments under his spell, he stood on Mt. Carmel and mocked the prophets of Baal, killing them right under the king’s nose.

This mighty man entered God’s throne room seven times, earnestly praying for rain. Seven times Elijah talked to God about this one need. A little cloud appeared, and the prophet, who three and a half years before had closed the heavens and caused a terrible drought, now opened the heavens and “an abundance” of rain fell.

Elijah was flushed with victory. A great spiritual awakening was about to take place. The fire of God had fallen and miracles had been witnessed by multitudes. It had been an unbelievable display of God’s power. Elijah thought, “Now, even Jezebel will repent! Even she cannot dismiss these signs and wonders. This is God’s hour for this nation.”

What a shock he got. Jezebel was not at all impressed with miracles and power and she said to Elijah, “By tomorrow at this time, I will kill you just like you killed my priests.”

The next time we see this great man of power and action, he is hiding in a cave on Mount Horeb almost 200 miles away.

What a sight! Forty days and forty nights he spent brooding over how things had all gone wrong. He became preoccupied with problems, his eyes on himself rather than on God. So God called to him, “Elijah, what are you doing here hiding in this cave?”

With a pout, Elijah answered, “Lord, the nation is falling apart. The entire government is wicked, immoral. The people have backslidden; they won’t even believe in miracles. Society has gone mad. My message has been thrown back in my face. The devil is in control—he’s got everybody but me. I’m the only one left standing true to you, Lord. I’m hiding out to preserve at least one saint.”

Elijah, a praying prophet, had been so busy for God, so busy demonstrating God’s power, so busy saving God’s kingdom, that he had become a one-way servant. He had been talking to God often, but he had done very little listening. Had he been listening, he would have heard God tell him that there were 7,000 saints who had not compromised.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A GLIMPSE INTO THE HEART OF JESUS

“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say to him…when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say to him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink?” (Luke 17:7-8).

We have no trouble at all identifying with the servant in his duty to the master. No trouble in putting on our apron and serving up the Lord a full table of praises—a good feast of worship. We love to feed our Lord! It is our greatest joy, our supreme fulfillment—to minister unto the Lord.

But we have difficulty with the last part—the Lord’s part. “And afterward, you shall eat!” That is too much for us to comprehend. We do not know how to sit down after we have served him—to allow him the same joy we experienced in serving him! We rob our Lord of the joy of ministering to us.

We think our Lord gets enough pleasure from what we do for him, but there is so much more. He responds to our faith and rejoices when we repent. He talks to the Father about us and delights in our childlike trust. But I am convinced that his greatest need is to have one-to-one communication with those he left here on earth. No angel in heaven can meet that need. Jesus wants to talk with those on the battlefield.

Where did I get such a notion that Christ is lonely and has a desperate need to speak? It’s all there in the account of Christ appearing to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Jesus had just been resurrected and that very same day two disciples were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus. They were grieved about their departed Lord but when he drew near, they did not recognize him. He wanted to talk; he had so much to say to them.

“And it came to pass, that while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near and went with them…and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:15, 27).

There could have been no finer experience for those disciples and they went away saying, “…Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us?” We think of the joy of the disciples but what about the joy of Jesus? I see a resurrected Lord, tears streaming down his glorified cheeks, his heart filled with joy. He was fulfilled, his need had been met, and I see him overjoyed. He had ministered and in his glorified form, he had experienced his first two-way communion. He had poured out his heart but his lonely heart had been touched and his need had been met.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

HOW TO WIN OVER TEMPTATION

Power to bear up and not yield to temptation does not come from stuffing our minds with Scripture verses, or making vows or promises, or spending hours in prayer and fasting, or even in giving ourselves over to a great spiritual cause. These things are all commendable and normal for Christian growth, but that is not where our victory lies.

The simple secret of bearing up under any temptation is to break the fear of Satan’s power! Fear is the only power over man Satan has. God does not give us the spirit of fear. That is of Satan only! But man is afraid of the devil. Frightened of demons. Afraid of failure. Afraid his appetites and habits can’t be altered. Afraid of inner desires, that they will erupt and control his life. Afraid he is one of a thousand who may be different, full of lust, and beyond help.

Man is afraid he can’t quit his sin. He credits Satan with power he doesn’t have. Man cries out, “I’m hooked and can’t stop! I’m spellbound and in the devil’s power. The devil makes me do it!”

Fear has torment. As long as you are afraid of the devil, you can never break the power of any temptation. Satan thrives on fear and Christians who are afraid of the devil have little or no power to resist.

It’s all based on a lie! The lie is that Satan has power to break down Christians under pressure. Not so! Jesus came to destroy all the power of the devil over blood-washed children of God. I have often wondered why God allows spiritual people to be so tempted. Why doesn’t God remove all temptations instead of “making a way of escape that we may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13)? The answer is simple. Once you learn how powerless Satan is—once you learn he can’t make you do anything—once you learn God has all power to keep you from falling—from then on you can “bear up” under anything Satan throws at you. You can go through it without fearing you will fall!

We are not delivered from temptation, but from the fear of the devil to make us yield to it. We will keep on being tempted until we come to the place of “rest” in our faith. That rest is the unshakeable confidence that God has defeated Satan, that Satan has no right or claim on us, and that we will come forth as gold tried in the fire.

Monday, February 1, 2010

THE REASON FOR TEMPTATION

Temptation is an invitation or an enticement to commit an immoral act. Right now Satan is raging over the earth as a roaring lion trying to devour Christians through powerful enticements toward immorality. No one is immune and the closer you get to God, the more Satan will desire to sift you.

Sinners cannot be tempted—only true children of God can! Rain cannot touch a body already under water. Sinners are already drowned in perdition and as children of Satan, they do as he dictates. They do not have to be tempted or enticed, because they are already immoral—already condemned. As slaves, they are not free to choose. They simply go from dead, to twice dead, “to being plucked up by the roots.” Sinners can be teased by the devil but not tempted. Satan teases his own children into deeper and darker pits of immorality but they are already dead in their trespasses and sins and no longer fight the battles of the living. That’s why our Lord tells us to rejoice when we fall into diverse temptations. We are experiencing something unique only to maturing Christians.

Temptation is “training under combat conditions.” It is “limited” warfare—God limits it to the point of being “bearable.” He wants combat-seasoned warriors who can testify, “I was under fire! I’ve been in the battle! The enemy was all around me, shooting at me, trying to kill me, but God showed me how to take it and not be afraid. I have experience now, so the next time I’ll not fear.”

Temptation is not a sign of weakness or a leaning toward the world. Rather, it is a graduation, a sign that God trusts us. The Spirit led Jesus into the arena of temptation in the wilderness so he could learn the secret of power over all temptation. Actually, God was saying to Jesus, “Son, I have given you the Spirit without measure. I have confirmed you before the world. Now I am going to permit Satan to throw at you every device he has—so you will see how powerless he is—so you will never once fear his dominion—that you may go forth preaching the kingdom with faith that Satan is defeated—that he cannot touch you in any way.”

That is why Christians are tempted today. Temptation is allowed in the saintliest of lives to teach us the limitation of Satan. To expose his weakness. To reveal Satan as a scarecrow. We fear only what we do not understand.