Thursday, September 30, 2010

AT THE END OF THE ROPE?

Are you at the end of the rope? Weary, cast down, about to give up? I challenge you to answer the following questions with a simple yes or no:

• Does the Word of God promise to supply all your needs?
• Did Jesus say he would never leave you, but would be with you to the end?
• Did he say he would keep you from falling and present you faultless before the Father’s throne?
• Did he say that he would supply you with all you need at all times? Did he promise you all the seed you need to spread the gospel?
• Is he more willing to give than you are to receive? Is he greater in you than he that is in the world?
• Are his thoughts toward you good thoughts? Is he a rewarder of those who diligently seek him?
• Is he preparing a place for you in glory? Is he coming in the clouds to gather his people home? Are you going with him when he comes?

Your answer to all of these should be, “Absolutely, yes!”

Now—take inventory. Ask yourself, Do I really believe God is faithful to his word or do I waver in my trust?

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptation; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like 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 1:2-7).

You can lay hold of God’s wisdom, all the wisdom needed to solve life’s problems—if you will believe with no wavering by casting your very life and future on this promise.

God giveth to all men…liberally…wisdom.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

PUT YOUR HEART INTO IT!

God does not accept grudging service from anyone. “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). Heartily means, “with all your heart—all your strength, all that is within you.”

Paul writes, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity [unwillingly]…” (2 Corinthians 9:7). The apostle makes a dual application of this matter of giving: it has to do with our financial offerings—and the giving of our very lives to God’s work!

Paul wrote that the church in Macedonia literally begged him to let them take up a collection for the poor, suffering saints in Jerusalem. These Macedonians were so wholly given to the Lord, they gave out of their poverty!

“…But first [they] gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Paul says the Macedonians gave much more than money. They told him, “Here is our offering. Now what do you want us to do? We volunteer our services to the work of God!” They spared nothing in serving the Lord and their brethren! “…beyond their power they were willing of themselves” (8:3). They gave beyond their human ability—with much prayer!

If you give only because you believe it is commanded—or if you’re always wondering, “Is tithing a New Testament concept, or just Old Testament?”—your heart-attitude is all wrong! If you give ten percent because the pastor asks it of you, that is wrong also. None of this gets to the issue—to the heart of what it means to give!

If you’re going to give yourself wholly to the Lord and his service, you must do it cheerfully! “…for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

I am sorely convicted by this verse—because so often I go about my life and ministry without the joy of the Lord. I hear so many Christians say, “I’m so weary, I don’t know how I’m going to make it. Oh, God, you’ve got to come and give me strength!” That is a human cry, common to us all. But to give oneself to pleasing God, it must spring from a cheerful spirit—available to us all by simple, childlike faith.

The word for cheerful in Greek means “hilarious, merry, glad”—having a light heart, willingness, gladness; being full of hilarity. God is saying, “Whatever you do in your labors for me—whether it’s interceding, worshipping me in my house, or seeking me in your secret closet—do it cheerfully! Be joyful and generous with everything—your money, your service, your time, and your life!”

I ask you: Has serving the Lord become a bore, a drag to you? Is it just a burden, leaving you mostly sad and weary?

God doesn’t want you complaining about your burden—he wants you to chase those things out of your life by laying hold of his Word!

Your checkbook to his resources is faith! He is saying, “I have already made provision for you. What need in your life is so great that I cannot supply more than is required?”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

SUFFICIENCY IN ALL THINGS

Why do so many believers experience weakness, feelings of despair and emptiness, as if they can’t go on? It is because they do not have the revelation that the Spirit gave Paul—a revelation of all the provisions God has made possible for those who would claim them by faith!

Do you fit Paul’s description of a bountiful servant—one who has all he needs and more, at all times, in every crisis? Have you proven this by drawing on the bank of heaven?

For several years I worked with Kathryn Kuhlman. I preached my heart out at her meetings in the morning and evening, and usually by the end of the day I was wiped out. One night Kathryn said to Gwen and me, “Let’s go out and get something to eat.” I told her, “I’m sorry—I’m too tired. I’ve got to go to the motel and get some sleep.”

She looked at me quizzically and asked, “David, did you preach under the Spirit’s unction tonight?” I answered, “You know I was anointed. The altars were filled!”

Kathryn said quietly, “Then you’re missing something. If you’re ministering under the power of the Holy Ghost, you should be stronger at the end of service than when you started—because he is a quickening Spirit! You can rise above your flesh, because by the Spirit you can claim that freedom.” Since then I have proved that truth in my ministry.

“…that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). To abound here literally means, “ever-increasing; to have more at the end than at the beginning.” In other words, as the battle gets hotter, God’s grace increases! As weakness comes upon you, his strength comes on even greater—if you believe it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

HE HAS ALREADY MADE PROVISION

When God calls us to any specific work, he has already made provision for everything we need to accomplish it.

“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

This verse is not just a hope—it is a promise! It begins with the words, “God is able!”

God is not interested in just meeting your need. He wants always to give you more than you need. That is what abound means—an ever-increasing, super-abundant supply!

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Think of what is being promised here: When you are down and tired and don’t think you can go any farther, God is able to so invigorate you that you will have all you need—at all times, in every possible situation.

It is as if the Lord is saying, “Listen, all you shepherds! Listen, all you who faithfully attend my house and labor in prayer, praise and intercession! I want to give you an abundance of strength, hope, joy, peace, rest, finances, encouragement, wisdom. In fact, I want you to have an overabundance of all you need—at all times!”

God never intended for us to be spiritual paupers, poor in the things of the Lord. On the contrary, the bountiful servant is the one who enjoys a revelation of all the great provisions God has prepared for him! And he goes after this revelation by faith!

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10).

Paraphrased, “Our forefathers could not begin to comprehend all the great provisions God had prepared! It never entered into their vision, hearing or imagination. But there is no reason for us to be blind about these things, to go about not knowing what is ours. Our eyes must see, our ears must hear, it must enter into our hearts and minds—because we’re the people for whom God has prepared it all! The Holy Spirit has revealed it to us!”

Indeed, the Bible says we are to seek him for this revelation. Paul wrote, “Now we have received…the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God…which things…the Holy Ghost teacheth…[and] are spiritually discerned” (v. 12–14).

I believe most Christians have not honestly faced the power of these promises of God! We’ve read them many times, but they remain as dead letters to us. We haven’t laid hold of them and said, “Lord, reveal to me what you have prepared! Open my mind and my spirit to your resources. Your Word says I must know all these things that are freely given to me so that I can claim them for your glory!”

Friday, September 24, 2010

THE BOUNTIFUL SERVANT!

Recently I went to the Lord in prayer very heavyhearted, laden down with many cares. I began to plead my case before Him:

“Oh, Lord, I’ve never been so weary in all my life. I can hardly go on!” Then I began to weep. I was so exhausted the tears literally burst out of me. As I lay crying, I thought, “Surely my tears will move the Lord’s heart!”

The Holy Spirit did come and minister to me—but not in the way I thought he would! I wanted sympathy, encouragement, understanding. And he did give me all of that—but in a way much different from what I expected.

The Lord gently instructed me to go to 2 Corinthians 9:6–11 and he said everything I needed was contained in this passage:

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:

“(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.”

I read this passage and reread it—but I got nothing. Finally, I closed my Bible and prayed, “Lord, I’m confused. I see nothing here to help or encourage me.”

Finally, the Spirit spoke forcefully but lovingly to my inner man: “David, this has everything to do with what you are going through. Lately you have been serving me without a bountiful, cheerful spirit! Where is your joy and happiness in your service to me? My Word isn’t talking only about giving money to help the poor. It is speaking of ministry to me and to my body!

“I have called you to New York City and I did not send you without help or abundant resources. All that you need is available to you—strength, rest, power, ability, joy and cheer. There is no reason for you to labor with sadness, to be overburdened. You have access to all strength and joy!”

Thursday, September 23, 2010

LEARN TO STAND UP AND FIGHT ON YOUR OWN

You have to learn to fight your own battles. You can’t depend on someone else for your deliverance!

Perhaps you have a prayer warrior friend you can call and say, “I’ve got a battle before me. Will you pray for me? I know you have power with God!” That is scriptural—but it is not God’s complete will for you! God wants you to become a warrior! He wants you to be able to stand up against the devil.

God promised Gideon, “Surely I will be with thee, and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man” (Judges 6:16). God told him, “I have sent you—I will be with you!”

But then the people of the city came looking for the one who tore down their idols (see Judges 6:28–30). Where was Gideon? He was hiding—still unsure of God’s promises, still wondering if God was with him. Gideon said: “If the Lord be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of…?” (v. 13). And so it is with many of us! Jesus has promised us, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). And yet we have not learned to stand on his Word and fight!

Things will begin to change—the moment you are fully persuaded that God is with you. That he speaks to you and that he will show you all you need to know!

You are stronger than you think! Like Gideon, you may wonder, “How can I fight? I’m so weak, so inexperienced.” But God told Gideon, “Go in this thy might” (6:14). “What might?” you ask. Gideon’s might was bound up in God’s word to him: “Surely I will be with thee.”

Beloved, that same word—“I am with you”—is your strength! And you will receive that strength believing this word is true—and by acting on it!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

DEAL WITH YOUR FEARS AND UNBELIEF

Israel had fallen into idolatry. But their root sin was still unbelief, resulting in all kinds of fears! And God sent them a prophet to expose their root sin.

The prophet told them in so many words, “Look at you—a bunch of wimps, hiding out, afraid to stand up and fight. You’ve already given up. But you have a history of God’s deliverance! He gave your fathers great victories when they trusted him. And he has promised to deliver you too—yet you don’t believe him!” (See Judges 6:7–10.)

Many Christians are terrified the devil is going to destroy them. They’re afraid they’ll make a mistake or go back to their sin, and the devil will have his way. But that’s a lie from the pit of hell! The Bible says you don’t have to be terrified as you walk through this life!

When you hold on to fear, it becomes contagious. Everybody around you catches it! When Gideon gathered his army, God told him to send home every fearful soldier: “Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart…. And there returned of the people twenty and two thousand” (Judges 7:3).

God is speaking the same word to his church today. He is asking, “Why do you fear? Why do you sin by not trusting me to bring victory to your life? I have promised to defeat every demonic power that comes against you!”

Gideon’s father, Joash, had erected statues of Baal and the goddess Asherah, made from huge stones. His reasoning was, “Baal has given Midian power over us, so maybe if we worship their god, he’ll give us power.” People came from miles around to worship there, including Midianites and Moabites; it was a powerful, demonic stronghold in Israel!

God told Gideon, “I’m not going to deliver Israel until you get rid of this idol that stands between us. Lay it aside—cut it down!” So in the middle of the night Gideon “took ten men of his servants, and did as the Lord had said unto him” (Judges 6:27). He took an ox and used ropes to pull down Baal and Asherah!

God is giving his church today the same message he gave Gideon: “I want to help you—but I can’t when you don’t trust me. You’re full of fear. And before I bring deliverance, you’re going to have to pull down this stronghold, this besetting sin!” “Lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [you]” (Hebrews 12:1). We are to pull down all strongholds of fear and sin!

Gideon pulled down demonic strongholds using a strong ox. But we have been given weapons far more powerful than Gideon’s (see 2 Corinthians 10:4–5).

Victory comes by praying in faith. This doesn’t mean cold, empty prayer but prayer in the Spirit, prayer that believes God to answer: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

HOW TO STAND UP AND FIGHT!

With all the talk going on in the church about spiritual warfare, Christians still have not learned how to stand up to the enemy. We are pushovers for the devil!

I don’t believe every misfortune that befalls a Christian comes from the devil. We wrongly blame him for a lot of our own carelessness, disobedience and laziness.

It’s easy to blame the devil for our foolishness. That way, we don’t have to deal with it. But there is a real devil present in the world today—and he is busy at work!

Let me tell you something of Satan’s strategy. If he cannot pull the Almighty out of his throne, he will try to tear God’s image out of you! He wants to turn worshippers into murmurers and blasphemers.

Satan cannot attack you at will. God has put a wall of fire around each of his children, and Satan cannot go beyond that wall without God’s permission.

Satan cannot read a Christian’s mind. Some people are afraid to pray because they think the devil eavesdrops on them! Others think the devil can read their every thought. Not so! Only God is omnipresent and omniscient.

Scripture commands us to stand up, be strong and do battle against the flesh and the devil: “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). “Brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).

You have to become fed up with being held down by the devil—living low, depressed, joyless, empty, harassed!

The book of Judges tells us, “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel” (Judges 6:1–2).

The Israelites were at their lowest point ever. They were driven to living in dark caves and damp dens, starving, scared and helpless. Then something happened. It started with Gideon, and it spread throughout the whole camp: Israel got sick and tired of hiding in those dark caves!

Gideon said to himself, “How long should we put up with this? They go through our land with no opposition. Nobody stands up and does anything about it! We’re told we have a God who moved for our fathers. But look at us now—we are stripped, helpless. We live in constant fear!”

Something rose up within Gideon. And he said just what God was waiting to hear: “This has gone far enough! We serve a mighty, victorious God. Why do we go on, day after day, taking this abuse?”

God will not do anything until you are thoroughly disgusted—until you are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

You have to do as Gideon did—cry out to the Lord! We serve the same God that Israel did. If he heard Israel’s cry in their idolatry, he will hear you—in your sincerity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

THE PRAYER OF UNBELIEF

You’ve heard of the prayer of faith. I believe there is a mirror image of this prayer, a prayer that is based on flesh. I call it the prayer of unbelief.

I want to pose a question to you. Have you ever heard the Lord tell you, “Quit praying—get up off your knees”? Has his Spirit ever commanded you, “Stop crying, and wipe your eyes. Why are you on your face before me?”

The Lord spoke these very words to Moses: “The Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me?” (Exodus 14:15). The literal Hebrew meaning of the verse is, “Why are you shrieking at me? Why all the loud pleading in my ears?”

Why would God say this to Moses? Here was a godly, praying man, in the crisis of his life. The Israelites were being chased by Pharaoh, with no escape. Most Christians would probably react as Moses did. He set out for an isolated hillside and got alone with the Lord. Then he poured out his heart in prayer.

When God heard Moses shrieking, he told him, “Enough.” Scripture is not explicit about what follows. But at that point God might have said, “You have no right to agonize before me, Moses. Your cries are an affront to my faithfulness. I’ve already given you my solemn promise of deliverance. And I’ve instructed you specifically on what to do. Now, stop crying.”

As we face our own crises, we may convince ourselves, “Prayer is the most important thing I can do right now.” But a time comes when God calls us to act, to obey his Word in faith. At such a time, he won’t allow us to retreat to a wilderness to pray. That would be disobedience and any prayers would be offered in unbelief.

The prayer of unbelief takes into account only God’s goodness. It ignores the severity of his holy judgments. Paul writes, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). The apostle purposely mentions God’s goodness and severity in the same breath here. He’s saying one can’t be separated from the other.

In the Old Testament, Isaiah stated it this way: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood” (Isaiah 59:1–3).

Beloved, God didn’t change between the Old Testament and the New. He’s a God of love and mercy, as Isaiah points out. But he still hates sin because he’s holy and just. That’s why he told Israel, “I can’t hear you because of your sin.”

Consider the words of the psalmist David: “I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: but verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away [ignored] my prayer” (Psalm 66:17–20).

The psalmist is saying, “I saw there was iniquity in my heart and I refused to live with it. So I went to the Lord to get cleansed. Then he heard my prayer. But if I had held on to my sin, God wouldn’t have listened to my cry.”

Friday, September 17, 2010

THE OTHER SIDE OF COMMUNION

Walking in God’s glory means not only that we receive the Father’s love, but that we love him back as well. It’s about mutual affection, both giving and receiving love. The Bible tells us, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

God says to us, “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26). His love demands that we reciprocate, that we return to him a love that’s total, undivided, requiring all our heart, soul, mind and strength.

However, the Lord tells us in no uncertain terms, “You can’t earn my love. The love I give to you is unmerited!” John writes, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” and “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19).

Just as God’s love for us is marked by rest and rejoicing, so our love for him must have these same two elements:

1. David expresses a rest in his love for God when he writes, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Psalm 73:25). The heart that loves the Lord ceases completely from looking elsewhere for comfort. Rather, it finds full contentment in him. To such a lover, God’s lovingkindness is better than life itself!

2. Such a heart also rejoices in its love for God. It sings and dances in joyous ecstasy over the Lord. When a child of God knows how much his Father loves him, it puts a delight in his soul!

Let me give you one of the most powerful verses in all of Scripture. Proverbs give us these prophetic words of Christ: “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men” (Proverbs 8:30–31).

Beloved, we are the sons being mentioned here! From the very foundations of the earth, God foresaw a body of believers joined to his Son. And even then the Father delighted and rejoiced in these sons. Jesus testifies, “I was my Father’s delight, the joy of his being. And now all who turn to me in faith are his delight as well!”

So, how do we love Jesus in return? John answers, “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3).

What are his commandments? Jesus says, in essence, there are two and “on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). The first and most important is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind. We’re to hold nothing back from him. And the second is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. These two simple, non-grievous commands sum up all of God’s law.

Jesus is saying here that we cannot be in communion with God or walk in his glory if we bear a grudge against anyone. Therefore, loving God means loving every brother and sister in the same way we’ve been loved by the Father.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A LIFE OF COMMUNION

Multitudes of God’s offspring know little or nothing of a life of communion with him. Why is this so?

I believe such Christians have a sad, twisted concept of the heavenly Father. I recall Jesus’ parable about the servant who hid his talent because he had a twisted image of his master. That servant said, “I knew thee that thou art an hard man” (Matthew 25:24).

Likewise, many believers today think, “There’s no way God could ever be glad over me, rejoicing and singing in love. I’ve failed him so miserably at times, bringing reproach on his name. How could he possibly love me, especially in the struggle I’m facing now?”

I believe this is one powerful reason why so many Christians don’t want to get close to their heavenly Father. They dread drawing near to him because they sense they’ve failed him somehow. All they can conceive of him is that he’s full of consuming fire, ready to judge and condemn them.

The question for all of us today is, how can we not want to be near a Father who writes love letters to us, who tells us he yearns to be with us, who’s always ready to embrace us, who says he has nothing but good thoughts about us? In spite of our foolishness, he assures us, “Satan may tell you you’re useless, but I say you are my joy!”

You may be thinking, “Surely the Lord doesn’t rejoice over someone who’s still in sin. I can’t expect him to love me if I continue my sinning ways. That sort of thinking borders on blasphemy.”

Yes, God does love his people but he doesn’t love their sin. The Bible says he reproves every child who continues in iniquity, but he always does it with longsuffering. And after he reproves us, his Spirit fills us with a sense of his indignation over sin.

Through all of this, God’s love for us remains unchanged. The Word says, “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). “The Father…with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). “I am God, and not man” (Hosea 11:9).

God forbid that his love for us should ebb and flow as ours does for him. Our love varies almost daily, going from hot and zealous to lukewarm or even cold. Like the disciples, we can be ready to die for Jesus one day and then forsake him and run the next.

I must ask you if are you able to say, “My heavenly Father is in love with me! He says I’m sweet and lovely in his eyes and I believe him. I know no matter what I go through, or how tempted or tried I become, he’ll rescue me. He’ll hover over me through it all, never allowing me to be crushed. He’ll always be kind and tender to me!”

This is when true communion begins. We’re to be convinced each day of God’s unchanging love for us. And we’re to show him we believe his revelation about himself. John writes, “We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TRUE COMMUNION

Many Christians talk about intimacy with the Lord, walking with him, knowing him, having fellowship with him. But we can’t have true communion with God unless we receive into our hearts the full revelation of his love, grace and mercy.

Communion with God consists of two things:

1. Receiving the love of the Father, and
2. Loving him in return

You can spend hours each day in prayer, telling the Lord how much you love him, but that isn’t communion. If you haven’t received his love, you haven’t had communion with him. You simply can’t share intimacy with the Lord unless you’re secure in his love for you.

I know when I come to my Lord, I’m not coming to a hard, fierce, demanding Father. He doesn’t wait for me with an angry countenance, anxious to put a rod to my back. He doesn’t trail me, waiting for me to fail so he can say, “I caught you!”

No, I’m coming to a Father who has revealed himself to me as pure, unconditional love. He’s kind and tenderhearted, full of grace and mercy, anxious to lift all my cares and burdens. And I know he’ll never turn me down when I call on him.

That’s why I’m to come into his courts with praise and thanksgiving because I’m thankful for who my God is. He cares about everything concerning me! (See Psalm 100.)

The prophet Zephaniah says something incredible about God’s love for us. He writes, “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

This verse tells us two important things about how the Lord loves us:

1. God rests in his love for his people. In Hebrew, the phrase “He will rest in his love” reads, “He shall be silent because of His love.” God is saying, in essence, “I’ve found my true love, and I’m totally satisfied! I don’t need to look elsewhere, because I have no complaint. I’m completely fulfilled in this relationship, and I won’t take my love back. My love is a settled matter!”
2. God gets great pleasure from his people. Zephaniah testifies, “He rejoices over you with singing.” He is saying, “God’s love for you is so great, it puts a song on his lips!”

To rejoice means “to have joy and delight.” It’s an outward expression of internal delight. It’s also the highest expression of love. The Hebrew word Zephaniah uses for “rejoice” here is tripudiare meaning, “to leap, as one overcome with joyful ecstasy.”

Can you conceive of your heavenly Father being so in love with you that he leaps with joy at the very thought of you? Can you receive his word that he loved you before the world was created, before humankind existed, before you were even born? Can you accept that he loved you even after you fell into Adam’s sinful ways and became an enemy to him?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BATTLE SMART

Whenever opposition arises, God’s grace thrives in us. Think about what happens to a tree when a great storm beats violently against it. The wind threatens to uproot the tree and carry it away. It breaks off branches and blows away its leaves. It loosens its roots and blows off its buds. And when the storm is over, things look hopeless.

Yet, look closer; the same storm that opened crevices in the earth around the trunk of the tree has helped the roots go deeper. The tree now has access to new, deeper sources of nutrition and water. And it has been purged of all its dead branches. The buds may be gone, but others will grow back more fully. I tell you, that tree is now stronger, growing in unseen ways. And just wait till harvest—because it’s going to bear much fruit!

Maybe you’re in a storm right now. The wind is blowing hard, shaking you violently, and you think you’re going down. Beloved, don’t panic! You’ve got to know that in the midst of the tempest, you are putting down deep spiritual roots. God is developing in you a deepening humility, a greater mourning and sorrow for sin, a heightened hunger for his righteousness.

God is making you a seasoned soldier of the cross—battle-scarred, but battle-smart and courageous. You may get down on yourself at times—but the Lord never does. The fact is, he could have acted sovereignly at any time to pluck you out of your struggle. But he didn’t—because he saw it producing in you a greater thirst for him!

Romans 5:3 says, “Tribulation worketh patience.” The word worketh means “to accomplish.”

In 2 Corinthians 4:17 we read, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” The word worketh in this verse is the same as in Romans 5:3.

Monday, September 13, 2010

WHAT EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SPIRITUAL GROWTH

“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

What a great compliment Paul paid the Thessalonian Christians! Here’s the full essence of what he was saying: “It’s incredible to see how much you’ve grown, both in your faith in Christ and in your love for one another. Everywhere I go, I brag to others about your spiritual growth. How I thank God for you!”

In this short passage, Paul gives us an amazing picture of a body of believers who were growing in unity and love. The Greek phrase Paul uses for “groweth exceedingly” means “grows over, above and beyond that of others.” Both individually and corporately, the Thessalonians’ faith and love outshone that of all other churches.

Obviously, these Thessalonian Christians weren’t just trying to hang on to their faith till Jesus returned. They were learning, moving, growing—and their lives offered evidence to that fact. According to Paul, they were the talk of every church in Asia.

Apparently, the preaching these people heard was provoking them into an ever-deeper walk with Christ. It was melting their fleshly ambitions and convicting them of un-Christlike habits. And the Holy Ghost in them was tearing down all ethnic barriers and color lines. They were discovering how to embrace any person, whether rich or poor, educated or not. And they offered great care to each other, preferring one another in love.

If you’re being watered and fed by God’s Word, you should have continual spiritual growth in your life. It should be happening automatically.

I don’t know if everyone in our congregation is “growing exceedingly,” as Paul knew about the church at Thessalonica. Yet, I believe it is true for many of our people. Why? The anointed preaching of the pure Word of God always produces growth. And the apostle Peter says that all who desire the pure milk of the Word will grow.

Paul describes our spiritual growth as a work of the Holy Ghost. He says the Spirit is ever at work, changing us from glory to glory. He’s constantly renewing our minds, mortifying our flesh and bringing forth purity in our inner man. He works in our hearts to put off anger, bitterness, resentment and evil of all kinds. And he produces in us kindness, tenderness and forgiveness toward one another. He’s growing us up in Christ—teaching us that everything we say and do has to be worthy of our Lord!

Paul further urges us, “Let a man examine himself…” (1 Corinthians 11:28). The Greek word for examine here means “scrutinize, test.” The apostle is saying, “Test yourself—see if you’re walking according to God’s Word.” We’re to constantly ask ourselves, “Am I changing? Am I becoming more loving and tenderhearted? Am I treating my family and friends with godly respect? Is my conversation becoming more righteous?”

Friday, September 10, 2010

SOMETIMES WE GROW AND DON’T KNOW IT

Some believers can tell you all about their spiritual growth. And you can clearly see the changes in their lives. They testify to you about how the Holy Ghost has vanquished the enemy for them, and you rejoice with them in their victory.

Yet these kinds of Christians are the exception. Most believers are totally unaware of any spiritual progress in their lives. They pray, read the Bible and seek the Lord with all their hearts. There's no obstruction to spiritual growth in them.

But they can't discern any growth in themselves. I'm an example of this type of believer. I know I walk in the righteousness of Christ, yet I never sense I'm making progress. In fact, I occasionally get down on myself whenever I do or say something un-Christlike. It causes me to wonder, "I've been a Christian for years. Why don't I ever learn?"

I think the Thessalonian Christians were stunned when they heard Paul's glowing assessment of them (see 2 Thessalonians 1:3). They probably thought, "Me, growing exceedingly? Paul must be kidding."

Yet Paul knew that spiritual growth is a secret, hidden thing. Scripture likens it to the unseen growth of flowers and trees: "I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive tree, and his smell as Lebanon" (Hosea 14:5–6).

God is telling us, "Go to the lilies! Just try to watch them grow. I'm telling you by day's end you won't see any growth whatsoever. But know this; I water the lily every morning with the dew I send—and it's going to grow." The same is true of most spiritual growth. It's imperceptible to the human eye!

When some people get saved, they never seem to struggle with a besetting sin. They testify, "The moment I came to Jesus, the Lord took that temptation out of me. And I've been free ever since." I know many former drug addicts who've had this experience.

But for multitudes of Christians, it's a different story. Years after their conversion, an old corruption has broken loose in them—something they hated and never wanted to see again. Yet no matter how hard they struggle, that one remaining lust simply won't let go. Over time they grow discouraged. Their soul cries out, "How long, Lord? When will this chain ever be broken?" And eventually the devil comes to them, saying, "You'll never make it. You know there's no way you could grow spiritually in this kind of condition."

Take heart, friend—I've got good news for you. You are growing in the midst of your struggle! In fact, you may be growing by leaps and bounds because of your struggle.

Rest assured—if you have the fear of God in your heart, you're going to emerge from the storm much stronger. You see, when you're doing battle with the enemy, you're exercising and calling forth all the graces and powers of God. And even though you may feel weakened, those graces and powers are strengthening you. For one, you're becoming more urgent in your praying. And, second, you're being stripped of all pride. So, the storm is actually putting you on "spiritual guard" in every area of your life!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

KNOW, BELIEVE AND KEEP TRUSTING IN HIS LOVE

Anyone can keep his joy when he's riding high in the Holy Ghost, not being tried or tempted. But God wants us to keep ourselves in his love at all times—especially in our temptations.

The apostle John tells us very simply how we can keep ourselves in God's love: "We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). In short, if we "dwell in God's love," we're keeping ourselves in God.

The word dwell here means "to stay in a state of expectancy." In other words, God wants us to expect his love to be renewed in us every day. We're to live every day in the knowledge that God has always loved us, and will always love us.

In reality, most of us flit in and out of God's love according to our emotional ups and downs. We feel safe in his love only if we've done well. But we're unsure of his love whenever we're tempted or tried, or the time we've failed him. That's especially the time we're to trust in his love. He's telling us in these passages, "No matter what the trial you face, you must never doubt my love for you. If you're actively trusting in my love, then you're living the way I want you to live."

Jeremiah 31 offers a wonderful illustration of God's love. Israel was in a backslidden state. The people had grown fat and prosperous and were indulging in all kinds of wickedness.

Then suddenly, their lusts turned sour. They lost all pleasure in fulfilling their sensual appetites. Soon they cried out, "Lord, we're lost. We need you to turn us around." God heard their cry of repentance, and his loving heart went out to them. He chastened the people with his rod of correction—and Israel cried, "Thou hast chastised me…turn thou me, and I shall be turned…. Surely after that I was turned, I repented" (Jeremiah 31:18-19).

Listen to God's words at this point: "…since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him…" (v. 20). "…with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (v. 3).

Here is what you must know of God's love: God was telling his people, "I had to chasten you and speak hard words of truth to you. Yet even then you sinned against me, doing so despite the grace and mercy I extended to you. You turned against my love, rejecting me. Nevertheless, my bowels of compassion were moved deeply toward you, I remembered you in your struggle—and I will surely have mercy on you. I'll freely forgive and restore you."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

WALKING IN THE GLORY

One thing that can keep us going in the coming hard times is an understanding of God's glory. Now, this may sound like a high, lofty concept to you, one that's best left to theologians. But I'm convinced the subject of God's glory has very real, practical value for every true believer. By grasping it, we unlock the door to an overcoming life!

The glory of God is a revelation of our Lord's nature and being. You may recall from the Old Testament that Moses got a literal glimpse of God's glory. Before then, the Lord had sent out Moses with no explanation of himself other than the words, "I AM." But Moses wanted to know something more of God. So he pleaded with him, "Lord, show me your glory."

God responded by taking Moses aside and putting him in the cleft of a rock. Then, Scripture says, he revealed himself to Moses in all his glory (see Exodus 34:6–7). The way God wants us to know his glory is through the revelation of his great love toward humankind. And that's just what he revealed to Moses.

I believe this passage is absolutely essential to our understanding of who our Lord is. Often when we think about the glory of God, we think of his majesty and splendor, his power and dominion, or some manifestation in his people. All such things can be a result of seeing God's glory. But this isn't the glory he wants us to know him by. The Lord is forever waiting to show us his love, to forgive us, to shower us with his mercy and to restore us to himself.

The revelation of God's glory has powerful effects on those who receive it and pray for an understanding of it. Up to this point, Moses had viewed the Lord as a God of law and wrath. He trembled with terror in the Lord's presence, petitioning him, crying out to him, pleading with him on behalf of Israel. This had been the basis of his face-to-face relationship with the Lord.

Yet now, at the first sight of God's glory, Moses was no longer fearful of the Lord. Instead, he was moved to worship: "Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped" (Exodus 34:8). He saw that God wasn't just the thunder, lightning and piercing trumpet that had made him shrivel in fear. On the contrary, God was love and his nature was one of kindness and tender mercy!

Do you see the incredible truth Scripture is showing us here? True worship arises from hearts that are overcome by a vision of God's unmerited love for us. It's based on the revelation that God gives us of himself, of his goodness, his mercy, his readiness to forgive. So, if we're to praise God both in spirit and in truth, our worship must be based on this awesome truth about him.

Once we receive a revelation of God's glory, our worship can't help but change. Why? Seeing his glory changes the way we live! It affects our countenance and behavior, changing us from "glory to glory," making us more like him. Each new revelation of his love and mercy brings supernatural change.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

GOD’S LOVE IS CONVEYED TO US ONLY THROUGH JESUS CHRIST

According to John, all of God's love dwells in Jesus, He writes, "And of his fullness have all we received…" (John 1:16). How have we received the Father's love? We've obtained it by being in Christ.

But, you may ask, what's so important about knowing God's love is conveyed to us through Christ? How does this affect our everyday lives?

How does God's love impact our lives? We have to look to Christ as our example. Jesus has already told us the Father loves us in the same way he loved the Son. So, what impact did the Father's love have on Jesus?

"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us…" (1 John 3:16). Here was the fruit of God's love in Jesus: He gave of himself as a sacrifice for others. The second half of this verse tells us the purpose of God's love in our own lives. It reads, "…and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." God's love leads us also to present our bodies as living sacrifices.

Have you ever thought about what it means to truly lay down your life for your brothers and sisters? John isn't talking about becoming martyrs on foreign soil. He isn't referring to being an organ donor. And he doesn't mean we're to take the place of some condemned criminal on death row. Christ alone made that sacrifice. No, the only kind of Christian who can bring life and hope to his brethren is a dead one. Such a servant has died to this world—to all self, pride and ambition.

This "dead" Christian has allowed the Holy Ghost to take a spiritual inventory of his soul. He sees through the corruption and ungodliness in his heart. And he willingly goes to God's altar, crying, "Lord, consume me. Take it all." He knows that only through being cleansed by Christ's blood can he give his life for his brethren.

Monday, September 6, 2010

THE REVELATION OF GOD’S LOVE

I was stirred recently by the Holy Spirit and he led me to this passage: "Ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" (Jude 20–21). As I read these verses, I heard the Spirit whisper to me: "David, you've never yet come into the fullness and joy of my love. You have the theology right—but you haven't yet experienced the ecstasy and rest of keeping yourself in my love. Up to now, you've only been in it up to your ankles. But there's a whole ocean of my love for you to swim in."

The Bible is filled with the truth of God's love. But at times I allow myself to wonder how the Lord could ever love me. It's not that I doubt his love; it's more a failure on my part to keep myself in the knowledge and assurance of his love to me.

The revelation of God's love comes in part when we are born again. If you were to ask most Christians what they know of God's love for them, they'd answer, "I know God loves me because he gave his Son to die for me." They would quote John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

It's a wonderful moment when you grasp this truth. You suddenly realize, "God loved me when I was lost, undone, a stranger. And he proved his love for me by sacrificing his own Son on my behalf."

Few Christians, however, learn how to be kept in God's love. We know something of our love toward the Lord—but we seldom seek the revelation of God's love for us. In fact, if you were to ask most Christians to find biblical passages on God's love for us, they could point to only a few. Yet, understanding the love of God is the secret to an overcoming life. Multitudes grow spiritually cold and lazy because they're ignorant of the Lord's love for them. They don't know that their greatest weapon against Satan's attacks is to be fully convinced of God's love for them, through the revelation of the Holy Ghost.

In his final prayer on earth, Jesus said, "Father…thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world" (John 17:24). What an incredible thought; Christ was greatly loved by the Father before creation.

Then Jesus prayed this remarkable prayer. "Thou, Father…hast loved them, as thou hast loved me" (v. 21, 23). He also prayed, "That the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (v. 26). Christ was saying, "Father, I know you're going to love those I bring into my body, just the way you've loved me."

The implication here is that when the Father loved Jesus before eternity, he loved us too. Indeed, when man was still only a thought in God's eternal mind, the Lord was already numbering our parts and planning our redemption: "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4).

How long has God loved you? He's loved you since he has existed—because God is love. It is his very nature. He loved you as a sinner. He loved you in the womb. He loved you before the world began. There was no beginning to his love for you—and there is no end to it.

When will God stop loving you? He'll stop loving you when he stops loving his own Son—which is impossible. Christ says, "The Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (John 13:1).

Friday, September 3, 2010

KEEP YOURSELF IN THE LOVE OF GOD

Years ago, God put it on my heart to start a boys’ home on Long Island. I truly sensed the Lord was behind this work. Yet, after just eighteen months, state officials imposed such stringent regulations on the operation of the home that we had no option but to close it down.

We’d taken in four boys during the brief time we were open. After we closed down, I lost touch with them. I had always thought that venture was one of the greatest failures of all time. For more than three decades, I wondered why God ever allowed us to move forward with it.

Recently I received a letter from a man named Clifford. He told the following story:

“Brother David, I was one of the four boys sent to the home on Long Island. Your houseparents were so loving and kind. They taught us the Bible and took us to church. One day they took us to a church that was holding a tent revival. I was so bitter and despondent. It was there, under the tent, that the Holy Spirit began tugging at my heart. I heard the preacher say, ‘Jesus loves you.’ All the years of pain, confusion and hopelessness came to the surface. I got on my knees and prayed. That was thirty-five years ago. Now God has called me to preach, and he’s moving me into full-time ministry. This ‘thank you’ has been brewing in me all this time. I just want to thank you for caring. I know what the love of God is.”

This man’s letter proves to me that nothing we do for Christ is in vain. That boys’ home was not a failure—because one lost, confused Jewish boy discovered the meaning of God’s love.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SATAN USES SUBTLE DEVICES

"And the king of Assyria sent…Rabshakeh…to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem" (2 Kings 18:17). The Assyrians represent today's "guides to prosperity." The devil will parade his army around your walls: people who are powerful, beautiful and seemingly successful in all they undertake. When you see them, you will feel walled in like a prisoner!

The first trick of the man of sin is to question a believer's commitment to trust the Lord fully. Rabshakeh, whose name means "drunken envoy," was the king's ambassador. He mocked the godly with a taunt (see 2 Kings 18:19–20). The accusation was, "God is not going to get you out of this mess. You are going down! You are in real trouble, and your faith is not going to work."

Satan then adds another twist; he tells you that God is the one behind all your troubles. Assyria's messenger claimed, "The Lord said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it" (2 Kings 18:25). Satan will try to convince you that God is getting even with you, that he is mad at you. This is his slickest lie! He makes you believe God has forsaken you and turned you over to trouble and sorrow. He wants you to think all your problems are the result of God's punishment for your past sins. Don't believe it! It is Satan who is out to destroy you.

Our Lord is a deliverer, a fortress. Isaiah said he comes "to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified" (Isaiah 61:3).

No, dear saint, you are not going down. You are simply under attack, being barraged by the enemy's lies because you have set your heart truly to trust in the Lord. Satan is trying to destroy your faith in God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

HE CALLS US TO FIGHT

"What king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage [delegation], and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:31–33).

Enoch once prophesied, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints" (Jude 14). Scripture says we are kings and priests unto the Lord, and we represent these tens of thousands going out to battle Satan's army. Satan wars against us because he hates us greatly (see Revelation 12:17).

We must be prepared for what is coming. We must be ready to spend our days in spiritual warfare, knowing that a flood of iniquity is aimed against the people of God. If we are determined to lay hold of Christ, then we need to realize that we are invincible in Christ. It is written, "Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4). God says we are guaranteed victory over all the power of the enemy; we have all the host of heaven fighting for us!

May God give us more Holy Ghost fight so that each of us can shout to the world and all the hordes of hell, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?… Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For 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 8:35, 37–39).

This is the battle cry of those who hunger for Jesus.

Every man or woman of God is going to become the target of hell's evil devices once a commitment is made to become a living sacrifice for Christ. The hordes of hell will be unleashed against the one who sets his heart to walk in holiness of faith.

Satan will afflict and set up roadblocks because you have become a real threat to his program of deception. You can resign the warfare, give up, quit, and become a dull, fruitless wanderer.

For me, I chose to resist the devil's plot, rise up in faith, and resume the fight. Satan cannot keep down one who truly trusts in the Lord.