Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GO AHEAD AND CRY

When you hurt the worst—go to your secret closet and weep out all your despair!

Jesus wept. Peter wept—bitterly! Peter carried with him the hurt of denying the very Son of God. Those bitter tears worked in him a sweet miracle. He came back to shake the kingdom of Satan.

Jesus never looks away from a crying heart. He said, "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17). Not once will the Lord say, "Get hold of yourself! Stand up and take your medicine! Grit your teeth and dry your tears." No! Jesus stores every tear in his eternal container.

Do you hurt? Badly? Then go ahead and cry! And keep on crying, until the tears stop flowing. But let those tears originate only from hurt—and not from unbelief or self-pity.

Life goes on. You would be surprised how much you can bear with God helping you. Happiness is not living without pain or hurt. True happiness is learning how to live one day at a time, in spite of all the sorrow and pain. It is learning how to rejoice in the Lord, no matter what has happened in the past.

You may feel rejected. You may feel abandoned. Your faith may be weak. You may think you are down for the count. Sorrow, tears, pain, and emptiness may swallow you up at times, but God is still on his throne. He is still God!

You can't help yourself. You can't stop the pain and hurt. But our blessed Lord will come to you, and he will place his loving hand under you and lift you up to sit again in heavenly places. He will deliver you from the fear of dying. He will reveal his endless love for you.

Look up! Encourage yourself in the Lord. When the fog surrounds you and you can't see any way out of your dilemma—lie back in the arms of Jesus and simply trust him. He wants your faith—your confidence. He wants you to cry aloud—"Jesus loves me! He is with me! He will not fail me! He is working it all out right now! I will not be cast down! I will not be defeated! I will not be a victim of Satan! God is on my side! I love him—and he loves me!"

The bottom line is faith. And faith rests on this one absolute: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper…" (Isaiah 54:17).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

THE MEASURED GLORY OF GOD

"He said unto them…with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath" (Mark 4:24–25).

Jesus knew these words might sound strange to non-spiritual ears, so he preceded his message by saying, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear" (Mark 4:23). Jesus was telling us, "If your heart is open to God's Spirit, you'll understand what I have to say to you."

What, exactly, is Jesus saying in this passage? He's speaking of the glory of God in our lives—that is, Christ's manifest presence. In short, the Lord measures out his glorious presence in various amounts, whether to churches or to individuals. Some don't receive any of his glory. Yet others receive an ever-increasing measure, emanating from their lives and churches in greater and greater amounts.

God has promised to pour out his Spirit on his people in these last days. Indeed, all of Scripture points to a triumphant, glory-filled church at the close of time. Jesus himself said the gates of hell will not prevail against his church. We won't be limping into heaven—beaten down, depressed, whimpering, defeated, discouraged. No—our Lord is going to bring greater power to his church. This power won't be manifested merely in signs and wonders. It will be revealed in his people—in the glorious transformation of hearts touched by God's Spirit.

How can we obtain a greater, ever-increasing measure of Christ's glory? The Lord tells us very clearly: "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you" (Mark 4:24). Jesus is saying, "According to the portion of yourself you allot to me, I'll give back to you in like portion. I'll deal with you in the manner you deal with me. Whatever measure you mete out to me, I'll mete out to you."

If you mete out to God sloth and laziness—taking for granted his great work—you'll be dealt a spirit of slumber. "Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15). As a result, your soul will go hungry, unable to be satisfied.

God's love, mercy and grace toward us are boundless. The issue here isn't obtaining his love, mercy or grace—but having the blessing of his glory in our lives.

Jesus states plainly that he measures out different amounts of his glory to us, according to how we measure out our hearts to him. Our part is simply to move ever closer to him—in our worship, obedience and diligence.

Monday, June 28, 2010

WHEN YOU HURT

In one way or another, we are all hurting. Every person on earth carries his own burden of pain.

When you are deeply hurt, no person on earth can shut down the inner fears and deepest agonies. Not the best of friends can understand the battle you are going through or the wounds inflicted on you.

Is there a balm for a broken heart? Is there healing for those deep, inner hurts? Can the pieces be put back together and the heart be made even stronger? Yes! Absolutely yes! And if not, then God's Word would be a hoax and God himself would be a liar. That cannot be!

God didn't promise you a painless way of life. He promised you "a way of escape." He promised to help you bear your pain. Strength to put you back on your feet when weakness makes you stagger.

Our loving Father said, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Your heavenly Father watches over you with an unwavering eye. Every move is monitored. Every tear is bottled. He identifies with your every pain. He feels every hurt. He will never allow you to drown in your tears. He will not permit your hurt to deteriorate your mind. He promises to come, right on time, to wipe away your tears and give you joy for mourning.

You have the ability to make your heart rejoice and be glad in the Lord. God's eye is on you—and he commands us to rise up and shake off all those fears causing doubt.

Friday, June 25, 2010

ALL THE GRACE YOU NEED TO OVERCOME

We've often heard grace defined as the unmerited favor and blessing of God. Yet I believe grace is much more than this. In my opinion, grace is everything that Christ is to us in our times of suffering—power, might, kindness, mercy, love—to see us through our afflictions.

As I look back over the years—years of great trials, suffering, temptation and affliction—I can testify that God's grace has been enough. I know what it is to question God as my wife endured cancer over and over, and then both our daughters were also stricken. Today they are all healthy and strong and for that I thank the Lord. I also know what it is to be buffeted by a messenger of Satan. I've been grievously tempted and enticed and I've had enemies stirred up against me on all sides. I've been slandered by rumors, falsely accused, and rejected by friends. In those dark times, I fell on my knees and cried out to God.

His grace has always brought me through. And that's enough for today. Then, someday in glory, my Father will reveal to me the beautiful plan he had all along. He'll show me how I obtained patience through all my trials; how I learned compassion for others; how his strength was made perfect in my weakness; how I learned his utter faithfulness toward me; how I longed to be more like Jesus.

We may still ask why—yet it all remains a mystery. I'm prepared to accept that until Jesus comes for me. I see no end to my trials and afflictions. I've had them for over fifty years of ministry now, and counting.

Yet, through it all, I'm still being given an ever-increasing measure of Christ's strength. In fact, my great revelations of his glory have come during my hardest times. Likewise, in your lowest moments, Jesus will release in you the fullest measure of his strength.

We may never understand our pain, depression and discomfort. We may never know why our prayers for healing haven't been answered. But we don't have to know why. Our God has already answered us: "You've got my grace—and, my beloved child, that is all you need."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

RESIST AND HE WILL FLEE

Satan tempted Jesus with this offer: "All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me" (Matthew 4:9). This sounds so outlandish, so ridiculous, how could it ever be considered a temptation? Believe it or not, this was a powerful, enticing offer. Satan was challenging Jesus, saying, "I promise that if you'll merely bow down at my feet, in a single act of worship, I'll quit the fight. I'll give up all my power over these realms. I won't possess or enslave anyone else. I know that you love humankind enough to be accursed by God for their sake. So, why wait? You can sacrifice yourself right now, and free the world from this moment on."

Why was the devil willing to give up all his power for this? He was trying to save his own skin. Satan knew his eternal destiny would be sealed at Calvary. So, if he could just keep Jesus from going to the cross, he might spare himself that fate.

You may be wondering, "How could this possibly relate to me?" Satan still tempts the righteous with a similar offer. Satan comes to us with threats and accusations. He tells us, "You don't have to worship me—because I already have access to your flesh. I know all your weaknesses. So, go ahead and testify about your freedom in Christ. At the moment you're singing your loudest praises, I'll overpower your mind with evil. I'll bring up your sin to you so powerfully, you'll despair of ever being free. You are powerless."

How do we answer Satan's accusations? "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). It doesn't matter how many temptations Satan throws at you. You needn't fear any sin from your past. If Christ's blood has covered it, then the devil can't do anything to separate you from the Father.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

WHEN QUESTIONS ARISE

"When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread" (Matthew 4:2–3).

At a moment when Jesus was physically vulnerable, the devil brought his first temptation.

There's no sin in being hungry. So, what's the issue here? Satan was challenging Jesus: "If you are fully God, then you have God's power in you. And right now, you're in a very hard place. Why don't you use the power God gave you to deliver yourself? Didn't he give you that power to see if you would use it properly?"

Here is one of the most insidious temptations facing truly godly people. Like your example, Jesus, you have a passion for God. You've set your heart to be wholly surrendered to him. Then the Lord leads you into a wilderness experience and after a while, questions arise. You begin to lose your bearings, wondering about God's eternal purposes in your life. And while you try to pray and gain the victory, Satan's temptations seem fiercer than ever.

The enemy wants you to act independently of the Father. The devil says, "Your suffering isn't of God. You don't have to go through this. You have God's power in you, through the Holy Ghost. Speak the word—free yourself. Satisfy your own hunger."

Satan's first scheme was to create a power failure. He was hoping God wouldn't honor Jesus' cry for bread, should he ask. If heaven's power failed, then Christ might doubt his divinity and turn aside from his eternal purpose on earth. Second, Satan knew Jesus was sent to do only what the father told him. So he aimed to convince Christ to disobey here for his own welfare. That way, if Jesus used his power now to avoid suffering, he might do the same later to avoid the cross.

So, how did Jesus answer the devil's temptation? "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Christ said, in essence, "My coming to earth is not about my needs, hurts or physical comfort. I came to give to humankind—not to save myself."

Even at the height of his suffering, Jesus did not lose sight of his eternal purpose. And if our Lord learned dependence and compassion through a wilderness experience, so will we.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

WILDERNESS JOURNEY

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian, pictured the Christian like someone trying to cross a sea of floating pieces of ice. The Christian cannot rest anywhere while crossing, except in his faith that God will see him through. He cannot stand anywhere too long, otherwise he sinks. After taking a step, he must watch out for the next. Beneath him is the abyss and before him is uncertainty—but always ahead is the Lord—firm and sure! He doesn't see the land yet, but it is there—a promise in his heart. So the Christian traveler keeps his eyes fixed upon his final place!

I prefer to think of life as a wilderness journey—like that of the children of Israel. And King Jehoshaphat's battle, along with all the children of Judah, is also our battle (see 2 Chronicles 20). Sure, it's a wilderness; yes, there are snakes, dry water holes, valleys of tears, enemy armies, hot sands, drought, impassable mountains. But when the children of the Lord stood still to see his salvation, he spread a table in that wilderness—rained manna from above—destroyed enemy armies by his power alone—brought water out of rocks—took poison out of the snakebites—led them by pillar and cloud—gave them milk and honey—and brought them into the Promised Land with a high and mighty hand. And God warned them to tell every following generation: "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

Stop looking in the wrong direction for help. Get alone with Jesus in a secret place; tell him all about your confusion. Tell him you have no other place to go. Tell him you trust him alone to see you through. You will be tempted to take matters into your own hand. You will want to figure things out on your own. You will wonder if God is working at all—there is nothing to lose. Peter summed it all up: "To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

"Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isaiah 45:22).

"Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me" (Micah 7:7).

Monday, June 21, 2010

WHILE THE FOUNDATIONS ARE SHAKING

While all the foundations of the world are shaking and Satan roars like a maddened lion, and everywhere there is confusion, violence, and uncertainty, those who trust in the Lord, confident in him, will stand still to see God's salvation with hearts and minds at peace. They can enjoy rest and sleep sweetly, unafraid of conditions around them.

I give you some glorious promises of God for all who trust in him in these perilous times.

  • "As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried; he is a buckler [shield of protection] to all them that trust in him..." (2 Samuel 22:31).
  • "Show thy marvelous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them" (Psalm 17:7).
  • "Oh, how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust thee before the sons of men" (Psalm 31:19).
  • "Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of men; thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues" (Psalm 31:20).
  • "Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord" (Psalm 31:24).
  • "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5).
  • "The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him" (Psalm 37:39-40).
  • "In God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me" (Psalm 56:4).
  • "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8).
  • "They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever" (Psalm 125:1).
  • "Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe" (Proverbs 29:25).

The only safeguard against Satan's lies and evil devices is to face him with the promises of God. God's Word is still all powerful and the devil still trembles when we stand firm with this Sword in hand.

Today—now—take your stand.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A MIRROR

"But he [Stephen], being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55-56).

Stephen represents what a true Christian is supposed to be: one who is full of the Holy Ghost with eyes fixed on the Man in glory. He is one who mirrors that glory in such a way that all who see it will be amazed and filled with wonder. He is one with a steady gaze fixed on Christ, always looking up to him, fully occupied with a glorified Savior.

Look at the hopeless condition Stephen was in, surrounded by religious madness, superstition, prejudice, and jealousy. The angry crowd pressed in on him, wild-eyed and bloodthirsty, and death loomed just ahead of him. What impossible circumstances! But looking up into heaven, he beheld his Lord in glory, and suddenly his rejection here on earth meant nothing to him. Now he was above it all, seeing him who was invisible.

One glimpse of the Lord's glory, one vision of his precious holiness, and Stephen could no longer be hurt. The stones and the angry cursing were all harmless to him because of the joy set before him. One glimpse of Christ's glory places you above all your circumstances. Keeping your eyes on Christ, consciously reaching out to him every waking hour, provides peace and serenity as nothing else can.

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Stephen caught the rays of the glorified Man in heaven and reflected them to a Christ-rejecting society.

How true that we become what we behold. The proper translation should read, "We all, with open face mirroring the glory, are changed!" The idea is that the Christian reflects, like a mirror, the glory on which he gazes continually. It is we who are "in the glass"—a mirror—looking on Christ, the object of our affection and becoming like him in the process of beholding.

When the enemy comes in like a flood and troubling circumstances get us down, we need to both amaze and condemn the world around us by our sweet, restful repose in Christ. Since we see by our spiritual mind, this is accomplished by keeping our minds stayed on Christ.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

THE UNRELENTING LOVE OF GOD

I want to talk with you about the word unrelenting. It means undiminished in intensity or effort—unyielding, uncompromising, incapable of being changed or persuaded by arguments. To be unrelenting is to stick to a determined course.

What a marvelous description of the love of God. Our Lord's love is absolutely unrelenting. Nothing can hinder or diminish his loving pursuit of both sinners and saints. David, the Psalmist, expressed it this way: "Thou has beset me behind and before…. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there" (Psalm 139:5, 7–8).

David is speaking of the great highs and lows we face in life. He's saying, "There are times when I'm so blessed, I feel lifted with joy. At other times, I feel like I'm living in hell, condemned and unworthy. But no matter where I am, Lord—no matter how blessed I feel, or how low my condition is—you're there. I can't get away from your unrelenting love. And I can't chase it away. You never accept my arguments about how unworthy I am. Even when I'm disobedient—sinning against your truth, taking your grace for granted—you never stop loving me. Your love for me is relentless!"

We need to consider the testimony of the apostle Paul. As we read of Paul's life, we see a man bent on destroying God's church. Paul was like a madman in his hatred for Christians. He breathed out threats of slaughter against everyone who followed Jesus. He sought the high priest's authorization to hunt down believers so he could charge into their homes and drag them off to prison.

After he was converted, Paul testified that even during those hate-filled years—while he was full of prejudice, blindly slaughtering Christ's disciples—God loved him. The apostle wrote, "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He said, in essence, "Even though I wasn't conscious of it, God was pursuing me. He kept coming after me in love, until that day when he literally knocked me off my high horse. That was the unrelenting love of God."

Through the years, Paul became increasingly convinced that God would love him fervently to the end, through all his highs and lows. He stated, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38–39). He was declaring, "Now that I'm God's, nothing can separate me from his love. No devil, no demon, no principality, no man, no angel—nothing can stop God from loving me."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A VOICE

John the Baptist's definition of his ministry was blunt and simple: "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23). This servant of the Most High, who according to the Scripture was the greatest "among them that are born of women," was the most blessed of all the prophets and a revered preacher of righteousness.

The crowds flocked to hear John's scorching messages. Many were baptized and became his disciples and even royalty came under his mighty influence. Some thought he was Christ; others considered him to be Elijah raised from the dead.

John refused to be exalted or promoted. He was emptied of self-serving and he continually withdrew from center stage. In his own eyes the greatest of all prophets was not even worthy to be called a man of God—but only a wilderness voice, modest, retiring, and unconcerned about honor or usefulness. He didn't care about having a ministry or being "mightily used of God." In fact, he considered himself unworthy to even touch his Master's shoes. His entire life was devoted to "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world" (John 1:29).

What a powerful rebuke to us in this age of self-occupation, promotion of personalities, influence-grabbing, ego-tripping, and seeking of honors. John could have had it all, but he cried out, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). And to reach that goal, John kept reminding all who heard him, "I am just a voice."

The secret of John's happiness was that his joy was not in his ministry or in his work, not in his personal usefulness or widespread influence. His pure joy was to stand in the presence of the Bridegroom, hear his voice, and rejoice in it. His joy was in seeing others, his own disciples included, flocking to Jesus, the Lamb of God.

The greatest fulfillment a child of God can know is to lose self and all desire to be somebody, and simply rejoice in being a son or daughter who lives in the very presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Being totally occupied with Christ is what satisfies the heart. John could stand there, in the Jordan River, with his eyes fixed on Jesus, and be delighted by his presence. He fed his soul on Christ—his heart was always going out to him in adoration and awe.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

PROVING MAN

"God left him, to try him" (2 Chronicles 32:31).

We have become so preoccupied in proving God that we have not prepared our hearts for the great tests of life whereby God proves man. Could it be that the great trial you are now facing, the burden you now carry, is actually God at work proving you?

"God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him…. Take now thy son…and offer him there for a burnt offering" (Genesis 22:1–2). God proved an entire nation to find out what was really in its heart. "The Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no" (Deuteronomy 8:2).

We see an amazing thing in 2 Chronicles 32:31: God left a great king for a season to prove him. "God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart."

Often, while in the righteous pursuit of God's work, the steward of the Lord finds himself apparently forsaken—tried to the limits of endurance and left all alone to battle the forces of hell. Every man God has ever blessed has been proved in the same manner.

Do you find yourself in strange circumstances? Do you feel forsaken and alone? Do you fight a losing battle with an unpredictable enemy? These are signs pointing to the proving process.

Victory is always desired, but should you fail, remember: It is what remains in your heart that God is interested in, your attitude after you have won or lost the lonely battle. Your devotion to him in spite of failure is his desire.

Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us, but the record of Scripture reveals there are seasons when the Father withdraws his presence to prove us. Even Christ experienced that lonely moment on the cross. It is in these times that our blessed Savior is most touched by the feeling of our infirmity—and he whispers, "I pray for thee, that thy faith fail not."

Jesus says we are to take up our cross and follow him (see Matthew 16:24). What is that cross? It is the flesh with its frailness and weakness. Take it up, move on in faith, and his strength will be made perfect in you. Is your cross of self and sin too heavy? Then, my friend, take up your cross and follow on. He understands and is there beside you to lift the heavy burden!

Monday, June 14, 2010

CHRIST SUFFERS THE MOST WHEN THOSE HE LOVES DOUBT HIM

Jesus loved Lazarus and he also dearly loved his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Their home was an oasis for the Master. We know Lazarus and his family loved Jesus, but the Scripture is most emphatic in pointing out Christ's love for them: "He whom thou lovest is sick" (John 11:3).

When Jesus heard that, he sent them a message: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (vs. 4).

Jesus knew that his Father intended for this miracle to give him glory and give them confidence and faith! But what an experience of deep suffering it turned out to be for Jesus. The disciples doubted him, Mary and Martha doubted him, and so did the weeping friends of Lazarus.

Did Mary know how deeply she hurt him when she accused him of being preoccupied and disinterested in their problem? "Lord, if you had just been here on time—but it's too late now, the damage is done" (see vs. 21).

Did Martha know how it hurt her Master when she questioned his resurrection power? He had plainly told her, "Thy brother shall rise again," but his word was not enough. She answered, in essence, "Oh, yes, on resurrection day he will arise but that doesn't help today" (see vs. 24).

How painful it must have been for Christ to have his dearest friends doubt that he had all the power they needed. "Don't you know who I am yet?" is what the Lord seemed to say. "I am the resurrection, and the life. Believe in me. I have the power, the life" (see vs. 25).

I don't think we know how deep his pain was at that moment. His own disciples couldn't grasp the concept of who he was. It was hurtful enough that his own nation of people knew him not, but could those he dearly loved not recognize his power? Could he have said to himself, "Not even my dearest friends believe—who then will ever believe?"

It is the doubting of his power that causes such pain and distress to our Lord! If we, his dearest friends, will not trust his power and faithfulness, who will? We call him friend and Lord, but we do not live our lives as though he has the power needed to keep us victorious and joyful—in all our pain and difficulties.

What truly satisfies the heart of our Lord is the child of his who rests completely in his love and tender care.

Friday, June 11, 2010

GOD’S HOUSE TURNED INTO A DEN OF THIEVES

Jesus went up to Jerusalem at Passover and entered the temple (John 2:13-17). What he saw appalled him. Merchants had taken over the house of God! He came seeking a house of prayer and what he found was a preoccupation with the promotion, display, and sale of religious merchandise. The religious leaders were counting their profits. What busyness! Men of God had become hucksters of religious merchandise, running about promoting their goods.

Tables had been set up everywhere in God's house to promote and sell sheep, oxen, doves, candies, incense, and other merchandise for religious purposes. Money changing hands made the loudest noise in the house—money that was being made on God and religion.

What terrible pain caused our Lord’s compassionate heart to boil with holy anger? His great suffering caused his meek spirit to rage with righteous indignation.

Can you picture that moment? With whip in hand, our Lord stormed into the temple and began flailing in all directions, overturning the tables piled high with merchandise. He scattered the promoters, the pitchmen, the hucksters.

"Out!" he thundered, "Out of my Father's house! You have desecrated this holy place, turning the house of prayer into a commercial market!"

It was one of the most painful experiences in all his ministry but he could not stand by and permit his Father's house to become a den for religious thieves.

Are we willing to fellowship with Christ in this aspect of his sufferings today? Do we share his hurt at seeing God's house once again being turned over to merchandisers? Will we be outraged by the horrible commercialism of the gospel? Will we feel his rage against spiritual hucksterism enough to withdraw from all such activities? Do we feel his hurt enough to renounce ministries that grind out merchandise just for the sake of making money?

Can we share his suffering at this point enough to stand against those who would turn God's house into a theater or entertainment center for promoters? Can we grieve over all the profiteering on the name of Jesus? Can we get our eyes off the cash and back on the cross?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

CHRIST HAS WON THE BATTLE FOR YOU

In recent months, I have read many sad, pitiful letters from believers who are still bound by sinful habits. Multitudes of struggling Christians write, “I can’t stop gambling…I’m in the grips of an alcohol addiction…I’m having an affair and I can’t break it off…I’m a slave to pornography.” In letter after letter, these people say the same thing: “I love Jesus and I’ve begged God to free me. I’ve prayed, wept and sought godly counsel. But I just can’t break free. What can I do?”

I’ve spent much time seeking the Lord for wisdom on how to answer these believers. I pray, “Lord, you know your children’s lives. Many are devoted, Spirit-filled saints, yet they don’t have your victory. They don’t know freedom. What’s going on?”

At one point, I studied the biblical passages containing God’s promises to his people. I was reminded that the Lord pledges to keep us from falling, to present us faultless, to justify us by faith, sanctify us by faith, keep us holy by faith. He promises that our old man is crucified by faith, and that we are translated into his kingdom by faith.

The one thing common to all of these promises is this phrase: “by faith.” Indeed, all these things are matters of faith, according to God’s Word. So I came to the only clear conclusion about these struggling Christians’ problems: somewhere at the root of their bondage is unbelief. It all boils down to a simple lack of faith.

Are you struggling to gain victory by your willpower? Are you fighting the battle in your old nature? Paul points out, “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5).

Your victory must come not through weeping or striving, but by faith that Jesus Christ has won the battle for you.

“But without faith it is impossible to please him” (Hebrews 11:6). Indeed, Paul says there is only one condition attached to God’s promises: “[That] ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard” (Colossians 1:23).

Christ surrendered everything to his Father, in order to be a totally obedient Son. And we are to do likewise. We are to be totally dependent on the Father, just as Christ was.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

GOD WANTS TO PLANT US ON THE MOUNT OF HIS PRESENCE

"And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways..." (Isaiah 2:3).

"Them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer..." (Isaiah 56:7).

The message of the Holy Spirit today to all God's people is, "Get back to the mount—get back into his holy presence." Many are now hearing that call and making time for prayer and seeking God. Others, however, go about their way, too busy with kingdom details to climb the holy hill.

Isaiah saw both the glory of an awakened ministry and the tragedy of blind watchmen, asleep. While some watchmen shake themselves and go back to the mount of God to hear a fresh word from heaven, others will be lost in endless activities and self-advancement.

"His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs, which can never getting enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter" (Isaiah 56:10-11).

Isaiah said they got that way—self-centered and preoccupied with the works of their own hands, interested only in what they are doing, spiritually dead—because they "forsook the Lord and forgot his holy mountain" (see Isaiah 65:11).

Ministers of God, we had better listen to the warning of the prophet Isaiah when he said, "The Lord [shall] call his servants by another name" (Isaiah 65:15). He will raise up unknown seekers to awaken his church.

The Spirit is raising up an army of "mountain men" who will spend time alone with God, shut up in his holy presence, hearing his voice, getting new vision, and returning with joy to deliver "those who wail because of broken spirits" (see Isaiah 65:13-14).

Oh, yes! They shall return—but with power and dominion.

His refining fire is going to awaken new and godly principles in us. For too long we have been dead to the godly principles needed to save the church from chaos. No longer will the Lord be satisfied with a general good in his house; he now seeks the fire of Christ in the heart.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

WHERE DOES GOD DWELL?

After Jesus was taken up to heaven, the apostle John received a magnificent vision of glory. He said, "I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it…and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:22-23). In other words, the only temple in heaven is Jesus himself.

Now that God's temple is in glory, sitting at his right hand, where does the Lord dwell on earth? As God himself asks, "What house will you build me? Where is the place of my rest?" We know that no building can contain God. He isn't in St. Peter's Cathedral in the Vatican. Nor is he in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. And he isn't in any of the great European cathedrals. No, as Paul stated on Mars Hill in Athens, "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 17:24). Simply put, if we look for God's dwelling place in some building, we're not going to find it.

The Lord has found his habitation—he lives and rests in the bodies of his created humankind. Paul states that the temple of God is now in human bodies: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Corinthians 3:16).

Once we place our belief in Jesus, we become a temple, God's very dwelling place. This was demonstrated most visibly at the Upper Room. The Holy Spirit fell on the disciples there, filling them with himself. And he claimed their sanctified bodies as God's temple, where the Father would come and live. The Spirit would help them to mortify and destroy the works of their sinful flesh. And he would give them power to live victoriously. Their bodies became God's temple, a dwelling place not built with hands.

Jesus says, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him" (John 14:23). An abode is a residence, a place to stay.

Paul says, "Therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:20). In other words, you belong to God and he wants you to be his resting place. Now, open up your heart to the truth and give him glory by receiving it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

GOD’S GIFT TO HIS SON

I can scarcely take it in when I read these words, "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:22). Think of it. We have our Lord's word, confessed before his own Father, that he has given himself to us as fully and completely as his Father gave himself to him. He has given us the same intimate love his Father gave him, and that is his glory manifested in us. We have been brought into the same kind of special love relationship he shares with the Father and, even more, he opens up the circle of love between the two of them and brings us into it. We are made partakers of a glory beyond comprehension. How incredible that Christ should bring us to the Father and plead, "That they may be one with us!" We share completely in the fullness of God's love for his Son by being in Christ.

In a true sense, it may be said that God so loved his Son, he gave him the world. We know he gave him those who are in the world, because the Lord said, "I have manifested thy name unto the men thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them to me..." (v. 6).

Did you not know we are God's gift to his Son—a gift of love? "They were yours; you gave them all to me." Yet Christ was so in oneness with the Father, he brings the gift back to him and says, "All mine are thine, and thine are mine..." (v. 10). This kind of love can take nothing to itself—but gives its all.

Is it not comforting to know we are the object of such a love between Father and Son? What honor, to have Christ place us in the palm of his great and loving hand, and present us to the Father and say, "Behold, Father! They are ours! They all belong to us! They are the object of our love! I will love them, Father! You will love them! And we will make our abode in them and show them how much they are loved."

How can our minds grasp it all? Here is our Lord saying to his Father, "I am going to make known to them your love to me, that the love you have for me may be in them."

Friday, June 4, 2010

THE LOVE OF THE FATHER

I wonder how many of God's people today can sincerely cry out to our blessed Lord, "Glorify me with thyself! Bring me into oneness. I yearn to be closer, more intimate. Master, it is you that I want. More than signs or wonders, I must have your presence!"

Hear his exalted plea: "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24).

The glory Jesus is talking about has to do with a very intimate kind of love—a love that permits no distance or separation from the object of its affection. It desires a complete oneness, an eternal union. This divine love between our Lord and the Father was so all-important to him, he eagerly longed for the day all his children could behold it with their own eyes.

Glory be to the hallowed name of Jesus Christ for such a glorious thought! Christ is so overjoyed with the glory of his intimate relationship with his Father, he yearns to bring all God's children to heaven to behold it.

Actually, our Lord was praying, "Father, they must see this glorious love we have. They must see for themselves how fully you give yourself to me. I want them to know how greatly I am loved—from before the world was created."

Won't that be something when we, the redeemed, are brought into God's great banquet hall, to the heavenly feast, and are permitted to behold the love of the Father for his dear Son and our blessed Savior? I see on that glorious day our Lord's prayer answered, when he looks to his blood-purchased children and joyfully proclaims, "See, children, is it not so? Did I not tell you the truth? Does he not love me so? Have you ever beheld such great love? Is it not truly perfect love? You now see my glory, my Father's love for me and my love for him."

Do you not see, saints of God, that beholding the glory of Christ on that day will be the revealing to us of God's love for his Son? What a joy to know we serve a Savior who is loved. And is it not terrifying to contemplate that Lucifer cut himself off from such glory? He is without love. He has no father.

Surely, this was his greatest loss. It is the great loss of all Satan's children, to exist without a witness or sense of a heavenly Father's love. In contrast, God's children are embraced in oneness with Jesus while still on earth. God loves us as he loves his own Son. This truth ought to make us come into rest.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

GOD’S RICHES IN US

When the Lord takes up residence in us, he brings with him all his power and resources. Suddenly, our inner man has access to God's strength, wisdom, truth, peace, everything we need to live in victory. We don't have to cry out to him to come down to us from heaven. He's already in us. Paul tells us just how powerful we are in Christ.

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:14-20).

What an amazing passage. Paul lists but a few of the incredible treasures the Lord has made available to us. Indeed, all of God's riches are available to us in Christ Jesus.

Some Christians have created an image of a self-centered God whose only pleasure is in receiving praise. May that never be said about our Lord because that isn't at all why he has come to abide in us. He has come to show us that he's a God who is not far off. The Lord wants us to know he isn't just out in the dark expanse of the cosmos somewhere. He's very present in us. He doesn't flit in and out of our lives at will. No, he never leaves his abode in us.

Paul notes, "Now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ" (Ephesians 2:13). The apostle makes it absolutely clear: God is here now, abiding in us. When the Father made his dwelling in our temple, he brought to us a strength in our inner man, a deep rooting and grounding in love, as well as access to ask him for all things. He has made all things possible, through his divine power at work in us (see Ephesians 3:16-21).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

THE GLORY OF GOD

"Glorify thou me with thine own self..." (John 17:5).

No man can rightly define God's glory any more than he can define him. Glory is the fullness of God, and that is a subject too high for our finite minds. Yet, we do know in part.

When God gives his glory, he gives himself. The one who receives his love also gets his mercy, his holiness, and his strength. The one who receives his mercy also gets his love and all else that is the fullness of God. Those who seek the glory of God must learn that he truly desires to give himself to us, which means he wants us to enjoy fullness of rest and confidence.

Before he left the earth to return to his heavenly Father, Jesus prayed, "O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5).

Jesus was in the bosom of the Father before the world was. He was one with the Father, and that was glory. Union with the Father was the delight and glory of his being. He had intimacy, union, and oneness.

We know so little of his glory. We think only in terms of cosmic power and splendor. We are such strangers to the real meaning of God's glory, we don't even understand what Jesus meant when he said, "I am glorified in them" (v. 10).

Did you not know that Jesus Christ is glorified in his saints—now? He abides in us in all his divine fullness. We are complete in him. When he comes to abide, he comes in all his glory, might, majesty, holiness, grace, and love. We have received the glory of a full and complete Christ. We have an open heaven—let us come boldly to the throne of his glory and make our petitions known. How wonderful to come away with assurance and hope.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A NEW CREATURE

"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live…" (Galatians 2:20).

"If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

You may say, "I know I'm in Christ by faith. I realize I'm a new creature, but I still struggle terribly with a habit. It makes me so discouraged." Satan would love to convince you that God has given up on you. He wants you to think God sees you as dirty, filthy with sin. But it's all a lie. What you're experiencing is the flesh battling against the Spirit in you. This battle is common to all believers. And while you're in the midst of it, Satan wants to convince you that the "old man" is still in control.

No matter what your condition, God does not waver in his love for you. He never stopped loving Adam's race, in spite of all its wickedness, idolatry and lustful ways. He preserved them throughout history to the last days, when he stepped in with his rescue plan. Through the cross, it was possible that all of Adam's race could be reconciled.

You have to know that your standing with God is based on one thing: you are victorious because of the cross. This victory doesn't come through any good thing you do. As Paul says, "They that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Romans 8:8). Our victory comes solely through repentance, faith, belief, trust in God's care for us. And our part is to stand firmly on the position he has graciously given us in Christ. His Word assures us, "You may fail at times. But when I look at you, I see only my Son, Jesus. You're going to come through this battle victorious, with no guilt or condemnation."