Friday, July 30, 2010

A LITTLE TASTE OF HEAVEN

A foretaste is an advance taste or realization. The Bible calls it an earnest—"the earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:14). It means to bring a taste of the whole before we have the whole. Our inheritance is Christ himself—and the Holy Spirit brings us into his very presence as a foretaste of being received as his bride, enjoying everlasting love and communion with him.

Paul describes a people of God who are "sealed with that Holy Spirit" (Ephesians 1:13). This speaks of a people specially marked by a work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit has produced in them a distinguishing mark, a glorious inner work—something supernatural that has changed them forever.

They are not ordinary believers anymore. They are no longer "of this world," since they have set their affections on things above, not on the things of this earth. They are not moved by the world's events; rather, they are unshakable. They are no longer lukewarm or halfhearted. Instead, their hearts cry out night and day, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus…."

What happened to them? What did the Holy Spirit do in these believers? What marked and sealed them forever as the Lord's possession? Simply this: The Holy Ghost gave them a foretaste of the glory of his presence! He came to them, rolled back heaven—and they experienced a supernatural manifestation of his exceeding greatness! He gives us "a little heaven" to go to heaven with—a whetting of our appetite.

What kind of bride do you think the Spirit will present to Jesus Christ on that day of revelation? One who is halfhearted? Whose love is lukewarm, or cold? Who is not devoted to Jesus? Who does not want intimacy with Christ?

If you truly love Jesus, he's never out of your mind. He is present in your every waking moment. Some Christians think, "That will happen after I die. When I get to heaven, everything will change. I'll become the special bride of the Lord then." No, dying doesn't sanctify anybody! This Holy Ghost is here today. He is alive and working in you—to produce in you a passionate love for Christ on this side of death!

Romans 8:26 describes one of the most powerful works of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the believer. "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

The Greek word used for groaning means "a yearning"—a longing for more of Christ. You can yearn after Jesus so much that you sit in his presence and nothing comes out but a deep groaning—something that cannot be uttered. It says, "Jesus, you're the only happiness there is in this world. I have tasted and seen that you're good—and I want all of you."

This is the mark of one who is walking in the Spirit. He has an insatiable appetite for Jesus. Like Paul, he is just anxious to depart and be with the Lord!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

ONE MINUTE BEFORE MIDNIGHT

We see in 1 Samuel 13 that Saul faced a crucial moment that every believer must eventually confront. It is a time of crisis when we're forced to decide whether we'll wait on God by faith, or get impatient and take matters into our own hands.

Saul's pivotal moment came when ominous clouds of war were gathering over Israel. The Philistines had amassed a huge army of horsemen, iron chariots and legions of soldiers brandishing the latest weapons. By contrast, the Israelites had only two swords in their entire army—one for Saul and one for his son, Jonathan. Everyone else had to use makeshift weapons, such as wooden spears or crude farm tools.

A week earlier Samuel had warned Saul to wait for him at Gilgal before going into battle. The prophet had said he would arrive after seven days to make the proper sacrifices to the Lord.

When the seventh day came and Samuel hadn't arrived, Saul's soldiers began to scatter. Worse, the king didn't have God's direction for battle.

What approach did Saul take? Did he stand firm, declaring, "I don't care if it takes Samuel eight days to arrive, I'm going to stand on God's Word to me. Live or die, I will obey his command"? No—Saul panicked. He allowed himself to be overwhelmed by his circumstances. And he ended up manipulating his way around God's Word. He ordered the priest who was present to make the sacrifices without Samuel and in so doing committed a grievous sin against the Lord (see 1 Samuel 13:11–12).

No—God is never too late. All along, the Lord knew each step Samuel was taking toward Gilgal. He had set the prophet on a heavenly navigation system, pinpointing his arrival to the very second. Samuel would be there by day seven, even if it was one minute before midnight.

God has not changed throughout the ages. And he is still concerned with whether his people obey this command: "Obey the voice of the Lord, and [do not] rebel against the commandment of the Lord" (1 Samuel 12:15, paraphrased). It doesn't matter if our lives are spinning out of control—we are to walk in total confidence in the Lord. Even if things look hopeless, we are not to act in fear. Rather, we are to wait patiently on him to deliver us, as his Word promises.

The fact is, God stood right beside Saul as the massive Philistine army pressed in. He knew the crisis Saul was in and his eye was on every detail.

Our God sees every detail of your crisis. He sees all the life-problems pressing in on you. And he's fully aware your situation is getting worse daily. Those who pray and wait on him with calm faith are never in any real danger. Moreover, he knows all your panicky thoughts: "I don't see how I can ever repay this debt…I don't have any hope for my marriage…I don't know how I can keep my job…." Yet his command to you still holds true: "Don't panic or get ahead of me. You are to do nothing but pray—and rely on me. I honor everyone who puts his trust in me."

Consider these words God has given to his church: "Without faith it is impossible to please him" (Hebrews 11:6). "Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us" (Psalm 62:8). "Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord: he is their help and their shield" (Psalm 115:11). "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5–6).

Unbelief is deadly, its consequences tragic. And we face dire consequences if we try to extricate ourselves from our trials instead of trusting God to see us through them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

STRONG, SPIRITUAL CASTOR OIL

God's command to love our enemies can seem like bitter, distasteful medicine. But, like the castor oil I had to swallow in my youth, it is medicine that heals.

Jesus states very clearly: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you" (Matthew 5:43–44).

Was Jesus contradicting the law here? Not at all. He was reversing the spirit of flesh that had entered the law. At that time, Jews loved only other Jews. A Jew wasn't to shake hands with a Gentile, or even allow his robe to swish against an outsider's clothing. Yet, this wasn't the spirit of the law. The law was holy, instructing, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: for thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee" (Proverbs 25:21–22).

We can hate the immoral actions of those in government. We can hate the sins of homosexuals, abortionists and all Christ despisers. But the Lord commands us to love them as people—people for whom Jesus died. And he commands us to pray for them. If at any time I despise a person rather than the principle behind that person, I'm not truly representing Christ.

I have witnessed a homosexual parade on Fifth Avenue here in New York City. Two hundred fifty thousand gays, many half nude, some with signs proclaiming "God is Gay." I saw them break rank and jump on Christians carrying signs, "God HATES Your Sin—But He Loves You."

I blushed with hot anger. I felt like calling Sodom-like fire upon them. But on reflection, I said to my heart, "I am like the disciples who wanted to call down fire and consume those who rejected Jesus."

I say—Homosexuality is sin! So is adultery! So is bitterness and unforgiveness.

Love your enemies! Love those "in your face" militant sinners? Pray for them? Bless them that curse you?

That is exactly what Jesus said!

So do it!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

DANIEL—A MAN OF ANOTHER SORT!

Daniel was a "man of another sort" who speaks of being broken: "I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession" (Daniel 9:3–4). In turn, Daniel was able to discern the times, because he knew God's heart. "I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah" (Daniel 9:2).

How did Daniel come to this path of brokenness, knowledge and discernment? It began with his study of God's Word. Daniel allowed the Scriptures to lay hold of him fully. And he quoted them often and at length, because he'd hidden them away in his heart: "As it is written in the law…" (Daniel 9:13).

In chapter 10, this godly prophet was given a vision of Christ, "I lifted up mine eyes…and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz…and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire…and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude" (10:5–6).

I urge you, set your heart today to seek God with all diligence and determination. Then go to his Word with ever-increasing love and desire. Pray with fasting for brokenness, to receive his burden. Finally, confess and forsake everything that hinders the Holy Spirit from opening heaven's blessings to you. The path of "men of another sort" is open to everyone. Will you walk in it?

Such a walk brings the touch of God. Daniel testified, "Behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands" (Daniel 10:10). The word for touched here means "to violently seize upon." Daniel was saying, "When God placed his hand upon me, it put me on my face. His touch gave me an urgency to seek him with all that's in me."

This happens anytime God touches someone's life. That person falls to his knees and becomes a man or woman of prayer, driven to seek the Lord.

I've often wondered why God touches only certain people with this urgency. Why do some servants become hungry seekers after him, while other faithful people go their way? God-touched servants have an intimate relationship with the Lord. They receive revelations from heaven. And they enjoy a walk with Christ that few others do.

Why did God lay his hand on Daniel and touch him as he did? Why was this one man able to see and hear things no one else could? He declares, "I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision" (Daniel 10:7).

God needed a voice to speak his message. He wanted a praying servant, someone who would respond faithfully to his calling. Daniel was that man. He'd been praying devoutly three times a day. And now, as he walked along the river, Christ revealed himself to him (see Daniel 10:7–9).

God made Daniel his oracle because:

  1. Daniel never let up in prayer (see Daniel 10:2–3).
  2. Daniel grieved over the spiritual decline in society and the church (see Daniel chapter 9).
  3. Daniel refused to harbor or hide sin (Daniel 9:4–5).

Monday, July 26, 2010

YOU NEED THE HOLY GHOST

Some have been saved for a number of years, some perhaps a year, and some just months or a few weeks. Being saved from sin is wonderful! Old things fade away—and all things become new. I am so glad you're saved!

But in order to be a good soldier in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ, it's not enough just to be saved. There is much more for you! You need to be baptized with the Holy Ghost!

In Paul's time, some believers didn't even know there was a Holy Ghost. "He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost" (Acts 19:2). These people were saved, but it is clear they were not filled or baptized with the Holy Ghost.

I believe we are saved through the power and ministry of the Holy Ghost. But Scripture tells us that in addition to this, there is also a baptizing, an infilling, a possessing that the Holy Ghost does in us!

Jesus himself did not send his disciples and followers into the world until they were baptized with the Holy Ghost. Certainly his disciples had pure hearts. They had faith to heal the sick, to cast out devils. They had the Word of the Lord and already had been preaching Christ and gaining converts. They were witnesses to his resurrection. What more could there be? They were willing to die for Jesus! Wasn't their love for him enough to send them into the world to do his work?

Beloved, none of that was enough! Clearly, there was more. "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Do you really want the Holy Ghost? Do you want him to fall upon you and baptize you with fire? You have to be convinced this is for you. You must come to the place where you know you are nothing, have nothing and can do nothing without the power and leading of the Holy Ghost.

You must know he is still baptizing, still falling upon believers—possessing their bodies! "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is to unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:38–39).

Every hour of every day, multitudes worldwide are being baptized with the Holy Ghost! They have read of this promise in the Bible or have heard it preached. So they have cried out, claiming the promise, and they have been baptized!

The baptism is especially for those living in the last days. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh…. I will pour out in those days of my Spirit" (Acts 2:17–18). He is yours for the asking: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke 11:13).

God wants you to live and walk in the Spirit. You should not run to find someone else to meet a person's need. You are called to speak the Word of God as the Spirit moves on you, and to lay hands on the sick and cast out devils just as the apostles did. We are all called to be witnesses who are full of the Holy Ghost and power!

Friday, July 23, 2010

GOVERNED BY THE WORD OF GOD

If Christ reigns as the supreme authority over his kingdom, and we are his subjects, then our lives must be governed by him. What does it mean, exactly, to be governed by Jesus?

According to the dictionary, to govern means "to guide, to direct, to control all actions and behavior of those under authority." In short, Jesus must be allowed to control all of our actions and behavior, including our every thought, word and deed.

Jesus also rules the nations of the world. The Bible tells us, "He ruleth by his power for ever; his eyes behold the nations: let not the rebellious exalt themselves" (Psalm 66:7). "The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalm 103:19).

Don't be fooled—our country is not ruled by Republicans, Democrats or any human authority. It is not controlled by Wall Street or big business entities. No power, earthly or supernatural, rules America or any other nation. God alone is in control. He sits as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, ruling and reigning over all creation from his heavenly throne.

All across America we're seeing awful moral decay, the rise of the occult, rampant sexual deviations, raging "in your face" atheism. Some Christians fear that the hordes of hell are slowly taking over our nation, establishing Satan's kingdom of darkness.

We need not worry. Isaiah assures us, "The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers…. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! …Thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms" (Isaiah 14:5, 12, 15–16).

Beloved, our God is not one bit anxious about Satan. He isn't fretting over what we see as an evil takeover of our nation. With just one word from our Lord's mouth, Satan will be gone forever, tormented for eternity. Therefore, we are to fear no evil.

In no other kingdom does God rule as supremely and as powerfully as in his own kingdom—the one he has established in the hearts of his people.

Jesus said, "Behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21). And it is within this kingdom—the realm of our hearts—that Christ rules supreme over his people, guiding us, healing us, governing our actions and behavior.

"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end" (Isaiah 9:7). This verse speaks of Jesus' endless rule throughout eternity. Yet it also has another significant meaning: We must always increase our submission to our King's rule.

Can you honestly say that day after day, Jesus' government over you is increasing? Are you bringing your behavior more and more under his authority?

You may wonder—If Jesus is in heaven, ruling in all authority at the right hand of the Father, how does he go about governing his kingdom here on earth? We find the answer in the book of Hebrews. The author tells us that in the Old Testament, God spoke to his people through the prophets. But today the Lord has chosen to speak through his Son (see Hebrews 1:1–2).

Jesus is God's explicit message to us—the divine Word made flesh. In turn, the Father has sent the Holy Ghost to us today to remind us of the words Jesus spoke while on earth. Thus, Jesus governs us by the written, revealed Word of God. The Bible is our ruler's scepter, by which he makes his Word known to us.

If you want to hear the testimony of a man who was governed by God's written Word, you can find it in Psalm 119:11, "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee" (also see verses 105, 123, 133, 162).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

HINDRANCES TO GROWING IN GRACE

In Ephesians 4:31, Paul lists things we must remove from our lives if we are to grow in the grace of Christ: "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice."

We dare not skip over these issues on Paul's list. The apostle says we absolutely must face these things if we are to grow in grace. If you ignore the heart issues Paul mentions here, you will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your growth will be stunted, and you'll end up a spiritual zombie.

The first three items on Paul's list—bitterness, wrath and anger—are self-explanatory. Bitterness is a refusal to let go of an old wound or forgive a past wrong. Wrath is a stronghold of resentment coupled with a hope to gain revenge. Anger is exasperation—either a quick explosive outburst or a slow burn of indignation toward someone. Evil speaking are words that tear down—it is the opposite of edifying someone or speaking words of edification; evil speaking is malicious, hurtful.

Clamor is a sudden outburst over nothing—an unnecessary hubbub, a loud noise made for no purpose. We cause a clamor when we make a big issue out of something insignificant, or cause a scene rather than trying to help or heal.

The final item on Paul's list is malice. Malice is the desire to see someone else suffer. For many Christians malice means hoping God will punish someone who wounded them. It's a devilish spirit, and it's usually hidden deep within the heart.

When Paul says "Put away all these evils from you," he's not talking about a quick fix. He's describing a process—a matter of growth that takes time. At times, we may fail at ridding ourselves of these evils. But if we will quickly repent, and commit to making things right with the person, over time these issues will fade away.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

EXPLOSIVE GROWTH IN GRACE!

Our growth in grace can be explosive when we attempt to edify those who mortify us.

"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:29–30). The root word Paul uses for edify here means "house builder." That word, in turn, comes from a root word that means "to build up." In short, everyone who edifies is building up God's house, the church.

Paul is telling us three important things here about the words we speak:

  1. We are to use our words to build up God's people.
  2. We are to use our words to minister grace to others.
  3. It is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit with our words.

I get deeply convicted as I read the life stories of some of the spiritual giants of the past. These godly men and women were heavenly minded—studious in God's Word, praying often, and concerned about growing in grace. What strikes me most about these people's lives isn't just their devotion to Christ or the intensity of their prayers. It is also the godly fruit that these things produced in them. Moreover, I discovered a common thread among these spiritual giants: their main concern was to grow in the grace of a pure heart, out of which holy conversation would flow. "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matthew 12:34).

I grow in grace when I choose to live for others and not myself. That growth in grace must begin in my home by showing my mate and my children ever-increasing Christlikeness. My home must become a proving ground where all problems, all misunderstandings are overcome by my willingness to give up "my attempts to be always right."

Never having to be "right" has helped me enjoy the power of God's grace as never before. All arguments, all so-called "rights" vanish when we seek to edify one another rather than trying to win some silly dispute.

Let us grow up—in grace.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MEN OF ANOTHER SORT

Ezra was a man of God who awakened his entire nation. Scripture says Ezra was a man who had God’s hand upon him. Ezra testified, “I was strengthened as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me” (Ezra 7:28). In other words, God stretched out his hand, enveloped Ezra and turned him into a different man.

Why would God do this with Ezra? There were hundreds of scribes in Israel at the time. They all had the same calling to study and explain God’s Word to the people. What set Ezra apart from the others? What caused the Lord to put his hand on this one man, and give him charge over 50,000 people to rebuild the fallen city of Jerusalem?

Scripture gives us the answer: “Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it” (Ezra 7:10). It’s simple: Ezra made a conscious decision. He determined above all else to seek God’s Word and obey it. And he didn’t swerve from that decision. He told himself, “I’m going to be a student of the Word. And I am going to act on everything I read.”

Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it, and cleansed of all filth of body and spirit. Ezra hungered for the Scriptures and rejoiced in them. He allowed the Scriptures to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.

When I read about the exploits of godly men in the Old Testament, my heart burns. These servants were so burdened for the cause of God’s name, they did powerful works that baffle the minds of most Christians today.

These saints of old were rock-like in their refusal to go forward without a word from God. And they wept and mourned for days at a time over the backslidden condition in his house. They refused to eat, drink or wash their bodies. They tore out clumps of hair from their scalp and beard. The prophet Jeremiah even lay on his side in the streets of Jerusalem for 365 days, continuously warning of God’s coming judgment.

I wonder, where did these saints get the spiritual authority and stamina to do all they did? They were men of a different sort, servants of a totally different type from those we see in the church today. I simply can’t relate to them and their walk. I know I’m not totally of their kind. And I don’t know a single Christian who is.

Something about this troubles me. The Bible says these men’s Old Testament exploits were recorded as lessons for us: “All these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Their stories are meant as examples, to show us how to move God’s heart, or how to bring a corrupt people to repentance.

So, were these saints a special breed? Were they supermen, with a predetermined destiny, endowed with supernatural powers unknown to our generation? Not at all. The Bible states emphatically that our godly forebearers were people just like you and me, subject to the same passions of the flesh (see James 5:17). The fact is, their examples reveal a pattern for us to follow. These men possessed something in their character that caused God to lay his hand on them. That’s why he chose them to accomplish his purposes. And he’s urging us to seek that same character quality today.

Monday, July 19, 2010

GOD’S SPECIAL FORCES

You've heard of the U.S. Army's Special Forces—a highly trained army-within-an-army, an elite unit of dedicated soldiers. Special Forces are made up completely of volunteers, fighters who have been noticed and called out by their superiors.

Before the war in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden had said American soldiers were weak, cowardly, not trained for mountain warfare. He predicted the Taliban would send U.S. troops home in shame, but he hadn't counted on America's Special Forces. This fearless unit invaded Afghanistan with a mere 2,000 soldiers. Within days, it had located all the enemy's strongholds.

I believe God is doing something similar in the spiritual realm. While in prayer, I was impressed by the Holy Spirit with the concept—God has been at work in the heavenlies on a covert operation. He's raising up an army-within-an-army, searching his regular troops to form an elite unit of volunteers. This special force is made up of warriors he can touch and stir, to do battle with the enemy. We see a picture of this in the Bible, with Saul's special militia. The Word tells us, "There went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched" (I Samuel 10:26).

God's special forces today include the young, the middle-aged, even the elderly. They've been training in their secret closets of prayer. Their intimacy with Jesus has taught them how to fight. Now they know how to do battle on any spiritual plane, whether in the mountains or in valleys.

God's army-within-an-army is in place in every nation. Its activity may be covert now, but soon we'll see it doing exploits in the name and power of Christ. God's Word is coming forth, and the famine is ending. The Lord will prevail. His Word shall conquer all.

"The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits" (Daniel 11:32).

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).

Friday, July 16, 2010

WE ARE FAMILY

Claiming the power that is in Christ's name is not some complicated, hidden theological truth. In my library are books written solely on the subject of Jesus' name. The authors wrote them to help believers understand the deep implications hidden in Christ's name. Yet, most of these books are so "deep," they go right over readers' heads.

I believe the truth we're meant to know about Jesus' name is so simple, a child could understand it. It's simply this: When we make our requests in Jesus' name, we're to be fully persuaded that it's the same as if Jesus himself were asking the Father. You ask, How could this be true? Let me explain.

We know that God loved his Son. He spoke with Jesus and taught him during his time on earth. And God not only heard but answered every request his Son made. Jesus testified to this, saying, "He heareth me always." In short, the Father never denied his Son any request.

Today, all who believe in Jesus are clothed in his Sonship. And the heavenly Father receives us as intimately as he receives his own Son. Why? It's because of our spiritual union with Christ. Through his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus has made us one with the Father. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…I in them, and thou in me" (John 17:21–23).

Simply put, we are now family—one with the Father, and one with the Son. We've been adopted, with the full rights of inheritance possessed by any child. This means all the power and resources of heaven are made available to us, through Christ.

Praying "in the name of Jesus" is not a formula. It is not the phrase that has power in simply speaking it. The power is in believing that Jesus takes up our cause and brings it to the Father on his own merits. He is the Advocate—he is doing the asking for us. The power is in fully trusting that God never denies his own Son and we are the beneficiary of the Father's utter faithfulness to his Son.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

GROWTH IN GRACE CAN BE STUNTED!

Paul warned the Ephesians, "Be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). You may think, "This verse doesn't apply to me. My foundation is biblically solid. I'm not taken in by all the new gospel fads and frivolous gimmicks that are distracting people from Christ. I'm rooted and grounded in God's Word."

Yet listen to the rest of Paul's verse: "…carried about…by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (4:14). Perhaps you can't be fazed by false doctrine. Paul says you could still be carried away by a whole other matter. He's asking, "Are you tossed about by the evil plans of those who oppose you?"

Paul's message calls us to examine ourselves yet again: How do we react to people who call themselves our brothers and sisters in Christ, yet spread falsehoods about us?

When Paul commands, "Be no more children," he's telling us, "Those enemies of yours—the ones who use gossip and slander, fraud and manipulation, cunning and craftiness, deception and underhandedness—I tell you, they're all rebellious children. They're devious and spoiled. And they haven't allowed God's grace to do a work in them. So, don't fall for their wicked, childish games. They want you to react to their meanness as a child would. But you are not to answer them with childishness."

In the next verse, Paul urges us to move on to maturity: "Speaking the truth in love, may [you] grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). He's saying, "You can't help the slights you receive, the hurts done to you, the gossip spoken against you, the fraud and deception aimed at you. Yet, you can use these things to grow in grace. View them as opportunities to become more Christlike. Respond softly, with a meek spirit. Forgive those who spitefully use you."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

HELL-SHAKING PRAYER

When the book of Daniel was written, Israel was in captivity to Babylon. And by chapter six, after a long life in ministry, Daniel was eighty years old.

Daniel had always been a praying man. And now, in his old age, he had no thoughts of slowing down. Scripture makes no mention of Daniel being burned out or discouraged. On the contrary, Daniel was just beginning. Scripture shows that even as this man turned eighty, his prayers shook hell, enraging the devil.

King Darius promoted Daniel to the highest office in the land. He became one of three co-equal presidents, ruling over princes and governors of 120 provinces. Darius favored Daniel over the other two presidents, putting Daniel in charge of forming government policy and teaching all the court appointees and intellectuals (Daniel 6:3).

Obviously, Daniel was one busy prophet. I can only imagine the kinds of pressures placed on this minister, with his busy schedule and time-consuming meetings. Nothing, however, could take Daniel away from his times of prayer; he was never too busy to pray. Prayer remained his central occupation, taking precedence over all other demands. Three times a day, he stole away from all his obligations, burdens and demands as a leader to spend time with the Lord. He simply withdrew from all activities and prayed. And God answered him. Daniel received all his wisdom, direction, messages and prophecies while on his knees (see Daniel 6:10).

You may ask—What is the prayer that shakes hell? It comes from the faithful, diligent servant who sees his nation and church falling deeper into sin. This person falls on his knees, crying, "Lord, I don't want to be a part of what's going on. Let me be an example of your keeping power in the midst of this wicked age. It doesn't matter if no one else prays. I'm going to pray."

Too busy to pray? Do you say, "I just take it by faith"? You may think to yourself, "God knows my heart; he knows how busy I am. I give him thought prayers throughout the day."

I believe the Lord wants quality, unhurried time alone with us. Prayer then becomes an act of love and devotion, not just petition time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

CLAIMING THE POWER THAT IS IN CHRIST

As Jesus spent his last hours with his disciples, he said to them, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you" (John 16:23). Then he told them, "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (16:24).

What an incredible statement. As this scene took place, Christ was warning his followers that he was going away, and he wouldn't see them for a short time. Yet, in the very same breath, he assured them they had access to every blessing of heaven. All they had to do was ask in his name.

The disciples had been personally taught by Jesus to knock, seek, and ask for the things of God. They were taught firsthand that all of the blessings of the Father—all grace, power and strength—were found in Christ. And they'd heard Jesus declare to the multitudes: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask anything in my name, I will do it" (John 14:12–14).

Christ's words to his disciples convict me: "Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name" (John 16:24). As I read this, I hear the Lord whispering to me, "David, you haven't claimed the power I've made available to you. You simply need to ask in my name."

Here is what I believe grieves God's heart more than all the sins of the flesh combined. Our Lord is grieved by the ever-growing lack of faith in his promises…by ever-increasing doubts that he answers prayer…and by a people who claim less and less of the power that is in Christ.

No matter how much you have asked of the likeness of Christ, it is nothing compared to the resources of spiritual wisdom still awaiting in his storehouse. Ask largely! Ask for wisdom, ask for guidance, ask for revelation. But it must be asked in faith, nothing doubting.

Monday, July 12, 2010

HOW BIG IS YOUR JESUS?

John 14 contains two magnificent promises. In the first, Jesus states, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it" (John 14:12–14). Jesus makes it plain and simple in the last verse: "Ask anything in my name, and I'll do it for you."

Two verses later, Jesus promises, "I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you" (John 14:16–18). Here Christ is saying, "I'm going to give you the Spirit of Truth. And his power will abide in you."

These are two incredible promises from Jesus. Yet, notice the one verse that's sandwiched between them: "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Why does this statement appear here? Christ is telling us, "There is a matter of obedience connected to these promises." In short, both promises have to do with keeping and obeying God's Word. They were given to be fulfilled, so that nothing would hinder us from claiming the power that is Christ.

I'm convinced that asking little or nothing in Jesus' name is a reproach to him. Year after year, many Christians settle for less and less. Finally, they settle for salvation only. They have no expectations other than making it to heaven someday.

I ask you: Have you come to the end of your Christ? Do you expect nothing more than to be saved by his power and grace? Does your Christ end at just enough strength to make it through another day? Does he end for you at a place of occasional peace and joy, in a life lived mostly under Satan's harassment?

All of these passages in God's Word persuade me that "my" Jesus is no bigger than my requests. Yet, sadly, many believers make Christ look insignificant and powerless by their unbelief. Beloved, I don't want my Christ to be limited. Instead, I want every devil in hell to know how big my God is by how big my requests are. I want more out of my Christ. I want him to be bigger than ever in my life.

Friday, July 9, 2010

HE WROTE YOUR NAME ON HIS HAND

What incredible authority we have been given in prayer. How, exactly, do we use this authority? Through Christ's own name. You see, when we placed our faith in Jesus, he gave us his name. His sacrifice enables us to say, "I am Christ's, I am in him. I'm one with him." Then, amazingly, Jesus took on our name. As our high priest, he wrote it on the palm of his hand. And so our name is registered in heaven, under his glorious name.

You can see why the phrase "in Christ's name" isn't just some impersonal formula. Rather, it's a literal position we have with Jesus. And that position is recognized by the Father. Jesus tells us, "At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God" (John 16:26–27).

Here is why Jesus commands us to pray in his name. He's saying, "Whenever you ask in my name, your request has the same power and effect with the Father as if it were me asking him." In other words, it's as if our prayer is being uttered by Jesus himself before the Father's throne. Likewise, when we lay hands on the sick and pray, God sees us as if Jesus is laying hands on the sick to bring healing.

This is also why we're to come boldly to the throne of grace: to receive. We are to pray with confidence, "Father, I stand before you, chosen in Christ to go forth and bear fruit. Now I make my request largely, that my joy may be full."

I hear many Christians say, "I asked in Jesus' name, but my prayers weren't answered." These believers state, "I tried to claim the power in Jesus' name. But it just didn't work for me." There are many reasons why we don't receive answers to our prayers. We may have allowed some sin in our lives, something that defiles our union with Christ. These become roadblocks that dam up the flow of blessing from him. And he won't answer our prayers until we've forsaken our sin.

Or, perhaps the blockage is due to lukewarmness, or halfheartedness toward the things of God. Perhaps we're being stifled by doubt, which cuts us off from the power in Christ. James warns, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:6–7).

James makes it clear: "He who wavers won't receive anything of God." The word James uses for waver means "to be undecided." The truth is, when these people made their requests, they put God on trial. In their hearts, they said, "Lord, if you answer me, I'll serve you. I'll give you everything, if you'll just answer this prayer. But if you don't, I'll live my life my way."

Yet God won't be bribed. He knows our hearts, and he knows when we're undecided in our commitment to his Son. He reserves the power that's in Christ for those who surrender to him wholly.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

HE WANTS IT ALL

"Blessed are all they that wait for him…. thou shalt weep no more: he will be very gracious unto thee at the voice of thy cry…and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left…. Ye shall have a song, as in the night…and gladness of heart" (Isaiah 30:18–19, 21, 29). Isaiah was saying, "If you'll just wait on the Lord—if you'll cry out to him again, and return to trusting him—he'll do for you everything I've said and more."

God can merely speak a word, and the enemy will falter before us: "For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down" (Isaiah 30:31). Beloved, there is no matter our Father can't solve, no battle he can't win for us, with a mere word from his lips. Isaiah says "the breath of the Lord" will consume everything in our way (Isaiah 30:33).

Yet, this process of trusting God in all things isn't easy. Recently I sought the Lord about a situation concerning our church building here in New York City. I told God, "I trust you about this, Father. I have sought you about it, and I will be at peace about it." Here is how he answered me: "David, I'm amazed that you can trust me with your real estate, finances and other material things. Yet, you still won't trust me with your physical well-being."

I'd been very aware of my age. And I'd been overly concerned about what would happen to my family after I'm gone. Now the Lord's convicting words hit me like a thunderbolt. I'd put every material concern into his hands, but not the eternal concerns. I realized, "Lord, you want me to trust you with everything, don't you?"

Yes, dear saint, he wants it all—your health, your family, your future. He wants you to entrust him with every matter. And he wants you to live in quietness, confidence and rest. So, go to your secret closet and get alone with the Lord. Bring everything to him. He has promised, "You'll hear my word behind you, telling you which way to go. This is the way—now, walk in it."

The evidence of faith is rest. Trust faith results in peace of mind. And true faith trusts all things into his hands.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

SPIRITUAL STRENGTH AND TRUST

The Holy Spirit gives us strength when we release all our needs into God's hands and trust in his might.

Ruth is an example of this kind of trust. After her husband died, Ruth lived with her mother-in-law, Naomi. Naomi was concerned about Ruth's welfare and future. So she advised Ruth to lie down at the feet of the wealthy Boaz and ask him to fulfill his obligation to her as her kinsman.

That evening, after the day's winnowing was finished, Boaz lay down "at the end of the heap of corn" (Ruth 3:7) and pulled a blanket over him. The next morning, he woke up startled, finding a woman lying at his feet. (There was nothing immoral about Ruth's presence there; this was a common custom of the day.)

Ruth said to him, "Spread therefore thy skirt over thine handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman" (Ruth 3:9). She was saying, in essence, "Will you take on the obligation of a relative for me? Will you provide for me?" She actually was asking, "Will you marry me?"

This was no manipulative scheme. Ruth and Naomi had done everything in divine order. We can be sure of this, because Christ's lineage came through Ruth. When Ruth returned home Naomi asked her, "Who art thou, my daughter?" (3:16). She was asking, in other words, "Shall I call you 'engaged' Ruth? Or are you still 'widowed' Ruth?"

Ruth told Naomi all that had happened. Listen to Naomi's godly advice: "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day" (Ruth 3:18). Naomi had prayed about the matter, seeking God's direction, and God had given her counsel. He had reminded her of the law of the kinsman-redeemer (which was a type and foreshadowing of Christ). So Naomi was confident that she and Ruth had done their part. Now it was time to sit still and trust God to perform what he had promised. She was saying, "It's all in the Lord's hands now, Ruth. Just relax and be calm."

A calm and peace settled over Naomi's house. Nobody was in a frenzy, biting fingernails and wondering, "Will God do it? When will it happen?" These two faithful women could relax, sing and praise the Lord for His goodness.

Have you prayed? Have you trusted? Are you ready to sit still and "see the salvation of the Lord"? He has everything under control.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

BECOMING PEOPLE OF PRAYER

In Jeremiah 5, God pleaded, "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem…seek in the broad places thereof, if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it" (Jeremiah 5:1). The Lord was saying, in essence, "I'll be merciful, if I can find just one person who'll seek me."

During the Babylonian captivity, God found such a man in Daniel. And today, more than ever in history, the Lord is searching for the same kind of godly men and women. He seeks faithful servants who are willing to "make up the hedge" and "stand in the gap," works that can only be accomplished through prayer.

Like Daniel, such a person will be found with God's Word in his hand. When the Holy Ghost came to Daniel, the prophet was reading the book of Jeremiah. It was then that the Spirit revealed that God's time of deliverance had come for Israel. As the revelation came, Daniel was provoked to pray: "I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: and I prayed unto the Lord my God" (Daniel 9:3–4).

Daniel knew God's people weren't ready to receive his restoration. Yet, did the prophet lambaste his peers for their sins? No—Daniel identified himself with the moral decay all around him. He declared, "We have sinned…to us belongeth confusion of face…because we have sinned against thee" (Daniel 9:5, 8).

God strongly desires to bless his people today—but if our minds are polluted with the spirit of this world, we are in no position to receive his blessings. Daniel made this powerful statement: "All this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand the truth. Therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil, and brought it upon us" (Daniel 9:13–14).

Would to God we would examine our own walk with the Lord and let the Holy Spirit show us areas of compromise. We would do more than pray for a backsliding nation. We would be crying out, "Oh, Lord, search my heart. Expose in me all of the spirit of the world that has crept into my soul." Like Daniel, we could then set our faces to pray for the deliverance of our families—our nation.

Friday, July 2, 2010

THE SECRET OF SPIRITUAL STRENGTH

"For thus saith the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength" (Isaiah 30:15).

Here is God's secret to spiritual strength: "Quietness and confidence shall be your strength." The word for quietness in Hebrew means "repose." And repose means calm, relaxed, free from all anxiety; to be still, to lie down with support underneath.

Not many Christians today have this kind of quietness and confidence. Multitudes are involved in a frenzy of activity, rushing madly to obtain wealth, possessions and pleasure. Even in the ministry, God's servants run about worrying, fearing, looking for answers in conferences, seminars, best-selling books. Everyone wants guidance, solutions, something to calm their spirit. Yet they seek it in every source except the Lord. They don't realize God has already spoken a word for them, through Isaiah: If they don't turn to him as their source, their striving will end in sorrow and confusion.

Isaiah describes what God's righteousness is supposed to accomplish in us: "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever" (Isaiah 32:17). If we're truly walking in righteousness, our lives will bear the fruit of a calm spirit, quietness of heart and peace with God.

As Isaiah looked around, he saw God's people fleeing to Egypt for help, trusting in men, relying on horses and chariots. Ambassadors were coming and going. Leaders were holding emergency strategy meetings. Everyone was in a panic, wailing, "What can we do?"

Isaiah assured them, "It doesn't have to be this way. Return from your backsliding. Repent of your rebellion of trusting in others. Turn to the Lord, and he'll cover you with a blanket of peace. He'll give you quietness and rest in the midst of everything you're facing."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

DAY FORTY-ONE

Suppose you came upon Jesus on day forty-one—the day immediately following his temptation in the wilderness. His face is shining. He’s rejoicing, praising the Father, because he’s won a great victory.

You see Jesus exuding life and confidence. Now he’s ready to face the powers of hell. So he sets off boldly for the great cities that lie in darkness. He preaches the gospel, sure of God’s Word. And he heals the sick, knowing his Father is with him.

Now, as you examine your own life, you see just the opposite. You’re still facing your own dry wilderness experience. You’ve endured fiery attacks from Satan, and your soul is cast down. You can’t help thinking, “Jesus never did go through trials like mine. He was above all this.”

You may see a minister who appears strong in faith; he sounds so assured of God’s presence that you think, “He’s never had any problems like mine.” If you only knew! You were not there when God called this man to preach and then led him into a wilderness to be tempted sorely. You weren’t there when he was reduced to nothing, cast down in despair. And you don’t know that often his best sermons have come out of the testings of his own life.

Paul warns us not to measure our righteousness against what we think is another’s: “We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12).

We can’t read the hearts of others. Who would have known on day forty-one that Jesus had just emerged from a long, horrible temptation? Who’d have known that the glory they saw in him sprang from a struggle worse than any they would ever endure?

We are to look only to Jesus. And we’re to rely only on his righteousness, his holiness. He has given us all equal access to it.

God loves you in your testing times. His own Spirit has led you into the wilderness. Yet his own Son has already been there—and he knows exactly what you’re going through. Let him complete his work of building into you utter dependence and trust in him. You’ll come out with confidence—and godly compassion and strength to help others.