Monday, February 28, 2011

THE SURRENDERED LIFE

“Surrender.” What does this word tell you? In literal terms, surrender means “to give up something to another person.” It also means to relinquish something granted to you. This could include your possessions, power, goals, even your life.

Christians today hear much about the surrendered life. But what does it mean, exactly? The surrendered life is the act of giving back to Jesus the life he granted you. It’s relinquishing control, rights, power, direction, all the things you do and say. It’s totally resigning your life over to his hands, to do with as he pleases.

Jesus himself lived a surrendered life: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). “I seek not mine own glory” (8:50). Christ never did anything on his own. He made no move and spoke no word without being instructed by the Father. “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things…. For I do always those things that please him” (8:28–29).

Jesus’ full surrender to the Father is an example of how we all should live. You may say, “Jesus was God in flesh. His life was surrendered before he even came to earth.” But the surrendered life is not imposed on anyone, including Jesus.

“Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17–18).

Jesus was telling us, “Make no mistake. The act of self-surrender is totally within my power to do. I’m choosing to lay down my life. And I’m not doing it because some man told me to. Nobody’s taking my life from me. My Father gave me the right and the privilege to lay down my life. He also gave me the choice to pass up this cup and avoid the cross. But I choose to do it, out of love and full surrender to him.”

Our heavenly Father has given all of us this same right: the privilege to choose a surrendered life. No one is forced to yield his life to God. Our Lord doesn’t make us sacrifice our will and give back our lives to him. He freely offers us a Promised Land, full of milk, honey and fruit. But we may choose not to enter that place of fullness.

The truth is, we can have as much of Christ as we want. We can go as deep in him as we choose, living fully by his word and direction.

Friday, February 25, 2011

GOD DELIGHTS IN YOU!

The Holy Spirit gave David a revelation that is the key to all deliverance. David could say, “The reason God delivered me from all my enemies—from all my sorrows and the powers of hell—is because I am precious to him. My God delights in me!” “He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:19). Do you need deliverance? From lust, temptation or trial? From a problem that’s mental, spiritual, emotional or physical? The key to your victory is in this verse. God delights in you. You are precious to him!

In Song of Solomon, the Lord says of his bride, “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights! (Song of Solomon 7:6). Three of the Hebrew words in this verse are synonymous: fair, meaning “precious”; pleasant, indicating “pleasure”; and delights. These words describe Jesus’ thoughts toward his bride as he beholds her. He looks at her and says, “How beautiful, sweet and delightful you are. You are precious to me, O love.” In turn, the bride boasts, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (7:10). The meaning here is, “He runs after me with delight. He chases me because I am so precious to him.” These same thoughts are found throughout the Psalms: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy” (Psalm 147:11). “The Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation” (149:4).

I can try to convince you of God’s delight in you by telling you, “You are precious to the Lord.” Yet you may think, “That’s sweet. But it’s only a lovely thought.” No, this truth is much more than a lovely thought. It is the very key to your deliverance from every battle that rages in your soul. It is the secret to entering into the rest God has promised you. Until you lay hold of it—until it becomes a foundation of truth in your heart—you won’t be able to withstand the trials of life.

Isaiah had a revelation of God’s great delight in us. He prophesied, “O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Isaiah 43:1-2).

Isaiah wasn’t talking about a literal flood or fire. He was talking about what people go through spiritually and mentally. Israel was in captivity at the time; their floods were trials, their fires were temptations, their rivers were testings. These were all Satan’s attempts to destroy and overwhelm God’s people. Isaiah’s words were a message of pure mercy to Israel. The people were in captivity because of their own stupidity and foolishness. But God sent them a brokenhearted prophet who said, “God wants me to tell you that you belong to him.”

Right now, you may be in the midst of your own swirling waters. You may feel overwhelmed by a trial or temptation that threatens to consume you. You’ve got to understand from these biblical examples that the Lord does not always calm the waters. He doesn’t always keep the floods from coming or put out the fires. Yet he does promise this: “I will walk with you through it all. This trial or circumstance will not destroy you. It won’t consume you. So, walk on. You’ll come out on the other side with me beside you!”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ARE WE PUTTING LIMITS ON GOD’S POWER AND HIS PROMISES?

I believe we limit God today with our doubts and unbelief. Scripture says of Israel, “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41). Israel turned away from God in unbelief.

We trust God in most areas of our lives, but our faith always has boundaries and limits. We have at least one small area that we block off where we don’t really believe God is going to undertake for us. For example, many readers have prayed for the healing of my wife Gwen. But often, when it comes to healing for their own husband, wife, son or daughter, they limit God.

I limit God most in the area of healing. I have prayed for physical healing for many and I have seen God perform miracle after miracle. But when it comes to my own body, I limit God. I am afraid to let him be God to me. I douse myself with medicine or run to a doctor before I ever pray for myself. I’m not saying it’s wrong to go to the doctor. But sometimes I fit the description of those who “sought not to the Lord, but to the physicians” (2 Chronicles 16:12).

I ask you: Do you pray for God to bring down walls in China or Cuba—but when it comes to the salvation of your own family, you don’t have an ounce of faith? You think, “God must not want to do this. My loved one is such a tough case. God doesn’t seem to be hearing me in this matter.” If this is true, you are not seeing him as God. You are ignorant of his ways. God’s desire is to “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Ephesians 3:20).

God told me, “David, you’ve tied my hands; you’ve shackled me. How can I heal you when you don’t really believe I will? Your doubt hinders me from being God to you. I tell you, you don’t know me unless you know that I am more willing to give than you are to receive.”

Israel murmured continually, “Can God…? Sure, he made a way for us through the Red Sea, but can he give us bread?” God gave them bread. In fact, he spread a table for them in the wilderness. “But can he give us water?” they asked. He gave them water from a rock. “But can he give us meat?” He gave them meat from the sky. “But can he deliver us from our enemies?”

Time after time God provided and delivered in every area. Yet the people spent forty years saying, “Can God…? Can God…?

Beloved, we ought to be saying, “God can! God can!” He did—and he will! God can and will do all that we ask and believe him for.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GOD WANTS TO TEACH US TO KNOW HIS VOICE!

Those who truly know God have learned how to recognize his voice above all others. He wants you to be absolutely convinced that he desires to talk to you—to tell you things you’ve never seen or heard before.

Not long ago the Lord showed me that I was still wavering about hearing his voice speak to my soul. Oh, I know that he speaks and that the sheep need to know the Master’s voice. But I doubted my ability to hear him. I spent all my time “checking” the voice I heard. And when it was too big or too mysterious for me, I thought, “This can’t be God. Besides, the devil can speak, too. The flesh speaks; lying spirits speak.” A multitude of voices come at us all the time. How can I know God’s voice?

I believe that three things are required of those who would hear God’s voice:

1. You must have an unshakable confidence that God wants to speak to you. You have to be fully persuaded and convinced of that. Indeed, he is a speaking God. He wants you to know his voice so you can do his will. What God tells you will never go beyond the boundaries of Scripture. And you don’t have to be ordained or have a Ph.D. to understand his voice to you. All you need is a heart that says, “I believe God desires to talk to me.”

2. You must have quality time and quietness. You need to be willing to shut yourself in with God and let all other voices hush away. True, God speaks to us all day long. But whenever he has wanted to build something into my life, his voice has come only after I have shut out every other voice but his.

3. You must ask in faith. We do not obtain anything from God (including hearing his voice) unless we truly believe that he is able to convey his mind to us and enable us to understand his perfect will.

Jesus said, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12). In other words, “If you ask your heavenly Father for a word—a clear direction, a godly correction or a particular need—do you think for a moment he will instead let the devil come and deceive you?”

God is not a tease! He will not allow the devil to deceive you. When God speaks, peace follows! And Satan cannot counterfeit that peace. If you’re in a place of quiet and rest, convinced that God can speak to you, then you have an assurance that never changes. You can go back to God a thousand times and you will receive the same word—because it is truth.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

HOW BIG IS YOUR CHRIST?

“If you ask anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). We show the measure of our Christ by what we ask in his name. We are told to ask largely and to expect great things. We show forth the greatness of Christ by the greatness of our supplications. We have so little of Christ because we ask so little.

We limit our supplications to material things. True, we are to make our needs known. But to ask only for food and shelter is to diminish our vision of his greatness.

The kingdom of God is “joy, peace in the Holy Ghost!” We serve a triumphant Christ—and we are called to share in the triumph. Do you have joy, peace in the Holy Ghost? Do you go to his throne, asking for joy and peace? Do you ask the Father “in the name of Jesus”?

Christ did not triumph for himself. He did so for you and me. So we get the benefit from it. Do you ask for more of Christ’s likeness? Do you ask in faith, in Jesus’ name, for the promised rest in Hebrews?

God is waiting for and desiring greater requests. Asking “in Jesus’ name” is an invitation to share in God’s great goodness laid up for those who believe and who ask largely. Ask today for an ever increasing spirit of rejoicing, even in your most trying times.

What about the hungry crowd of 5,000 in the New Testament when Jesus asked his disciples what they should do? In other words, show me your plan to feed them. What can be done to meet this crisis? He tested their faith.

All along, Jesus had a plan! Who in that mass of people could have conceived of feeding them with five loaves of bread and two fish?

Beloved, God has a preconceived plan for every situation in your life. You may be able to think of ways God could solve your crisis—but God’s Word tells us that the human mind cannot conceive the ways of God.

God will not tell us what his plan is. He will not even give us a hint. He insists on our having faith in his promises, his majesty, he past miracles on our behalf. His Word to us is: Believe! Your Lord has a way prepared—and he has the power to fulfill his plan. He would love to pull back the curtain and show us a passing view of his invisible ways—but he cannot.

Faith is evidence that cannot be seen. There can be no rest for us in our fiery trials until w4e fully believe he stands ready—in readiness to do the unthinkable, the impossible. Our part is to simply trust he will perform what he promised.

Monday, February 21, 2011

GIVING THANKS ALWAYS

“Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20).

This matter of giving thanks always was so important in Paul’s theology, he repeats it three times. (1) “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” (2) “Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” and (3) “Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 19-20).

Without faith we cannot do this as we ought. We are pressed down by so many problems and distresses. Of course God does not want us to fake it. It seems to me Paul has given us the key to it all when he tells us, “…do it unto the Father.” That great preacher John Calvin said that such singing and giving thanks always is all feigning and hypocrisy unless we are fully persuaded that God is our Father.

Our mouths quiver sometimes with grief so that we cannot sing; we do not feel like giving thanks. Dire circumstances shatter our spirits. There are times the heart cries, “Lord, do you really expect me to sing and make melody when I hurt so badly?” “Lord, I am so burdened down with cares, I can barely lift my head.” “Lord, I find it hard to praise and speak hymns in my heart. There is too much fear, grief and doubt.”

Yes, it is not easy to respond to this important truth. God is not severe with us when we hurt. We are his children. But these words are given us to find solace and relief in such times. We become so focused on our difficulties that we lose more than our song—we drift further and further away from God’s eternal promises. In spite of all we face, our Lord says, “GIVE THANKS ALWAYS.”

We become ungrateful for all he has done in the past. We get swallowed up in praying only for ourselves, our needs, our families—we cannot lift up our eyes to other’s suffering—suffering more than us.

I am truly convicted by this word from Paul. I want to face tomorrow determined to sing to my Lord and give thanks for an entire day—for all things—in all things. It may be an inaudible song; it may be weak at first; but there must be a power in doing it, by faith, or it would not have been repeated three times.

Oh that ten thousand reading this message would endeavor to sing along with me—what a joy it would bring to Father’s heart. Then, to follow it up by resting in the truth that God has heard your cry, he is working out the solution even now and every day—so go on giving thanks always and never stop singing love songs to our precious Lord and Savior.

Friday, February 18, 2011

DO YOU STILL BELIEVE?

Recently I had an unusual experience while in meditation with the Lord. His still small voice asked of me, “Do you still believe?”

“Do you believe I still love you unconditionally—that you are right now being led by the Holy Spirit—that every tear you shed I bottle—that you are right now in this place, in this very hour, in the perfect will of God?

“Do you believe all things still work together for good to them that love me—that I hear your prayers, even when you have no audible words to express them, when all seems dark and you are overwhelmed—when fear lays hold on your mind and soul—when it seems I have shut the heavens to you?

“David, do you still believe I feed all living things: the fish of the sea, the cattle, the fowls, all creeping things? Do you still believe I count every hair on your head—that I take note of every fallen bird on the face of the earth? Do you truly believe that?

“Do you still believe—when death comes to your loved ones? Do you still believe what you have testified, that I give comfort and strength to face even the grave?

“Do you still believe I love you—I forgive you all your past sins, your present sins—and I will forgive all future sins if you rest and trust me? Do you believe I understand when Satan sends his messengers against you to implant lies, doubts, blasphemies, fears, despair?

“Do you still believe you are in the palm of my hand—that you are more precious than gold to your Savior—that eternal life is your future—that there is no power that can pluck you out of my hand—that I still am touched by every infirmity and affliction you endure? Do you still believe these things are true?”

My answer is emphatically YES! Yes, Lord, I still believe it all and more—much more!

Read all of Psalm 103 and ask yourself, “Do I still believe it? All of it?”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER HAS A PLAN FOR YOU

God has a preconceived plan to deliver us out of our fiery trials. No matter what you are going through, God has a plan tailored for every difficulty. It is a plan that could never be conceived or imagined by the human mind.

Take, for example, the fiery trials facing Israel in the desert. There was no bread, no food of any kind. What committee, what intercession group could have come up with this, “Let’s pray that tomorrow we wake up and discover white flakes of angel’s food covering the ground—with a taste of honey.”

God had a plan—a miracle, inconceivable plan. Incredible!

Then there was no water. The hot desert parched their lips. There was no way to survive, humanly speaking. Hundreds of thousands weeping, facing a life-and-death crisis.

Who could have imagined how God could save the day? Who could have pointed to a big rock and suggested to Moses, “Go; strike it and cause a river of water to flow out”?

But God had a plan—conceived in his mind long before the crisis.

Go back to the Red Sea, with an impassible sea before them—Pharaoh’s army racing toward them. Impossibilities! Hopelessness!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A MESSAGE TO OVERWHELMED BELIEVERS

I speak now to those believers who are overwhelmed by accumulating afflictions. David the Psalmist tells of his being overwhelmed by unbearable troubles:

“My heart is sorely pained within me: all the terrors of death are fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:4-5).

Search the Scriptures through and you will not find any man of God speak more than David did about trusting God. No one spoke more about seeking and waiting on the Lord for strength in the time of need. It was David who testified he feared no evil, even though he walked through the valley of death—because the Lord was with him.

But there fell upon David a series of deep and painful distresses that shook his faith. At one low point when he seemed hopeless, he cried, “All men are liars!” He was speaking out of his overwhelming pain and sorrow. All spoken words of comfort and hope have not come to pass; it all seems like a lie.

There was an all-out attack on David’s faith. He was not accusing God of lying—but all the voices coming at him from all sides. David was at the place of despair. He looked for an escape “that I had the wings like a dove, I’d fly away from all this despairing and find a place of rest.”

When I speak about being overwhelmed, I know what I speak of. My daughter Debi has just been operated on for cancer. My 29-year-old grandson Brandon is undergoing chemotherapy for 4th stage cancer. David was right: “Fearfulness and trembling fall upon us.”

What does the believing child of God do in these overwhelming hours? We do as David did.

“As for me, I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice…[and] deliver my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me” (Psalm 55:15-18).

Go to prayer—steal way and get into the Lord’s presence. Even if you do it quietly, cry out your pain and ask for peace to come upon you. We must do more than trust. We must stay in God’s Word and pray the promises back to him.

My family and I are walking in faith and relying on God’s faithfulness to his Word. God is good!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

FAITH IS AN INVITATION MORE THAN A COMMAND

Faith is a command. It is written, “The just shall live by faith.” Without faith it is impossible to please God. Scripture adds, “If any man draw back, I will have no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:38).

I shudder when I think of the terror and dangers of unbelief. Unbelief is a bottomless pit of fear, anguish and discouragement. The consequences of unbelief are horrendous. It begins with fearing what we cannot see. One fear today leads to two fears tomorrow, then three, and then fears become a bottomless pit of uncontrollable anguish and despair.

More and more I see that fear and unbelief end up as hopelessness. It leads into a wilderness of confusion and emptiness. It is not an option—it is not a small issue with God. It is a matter of life and death. It will lead to fearing everything, present and future. Fear is torment.

All God’s children are enduring afflictions and troubles of various kinds. It is heartrending to hear the painful things the righteous are now suffering. My family is also being severely tried and tested.

Some who face overwhelming and frightful sufferings, both physical and spiritual, are losing heart. If you are going through the refining fires, I have a word for you.

FAITH IS ALSO AN INVITATION TO PARTAKE OF THE GREAT GOODNESS OF THE LORD.

I refer you to one of the most encouraging promises in all of God’s Word. Let this promise sink deep into your soul:

“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:19-20).

Here is great encouragement to hold steadfast in your faith. Here is a bold, glorious promise. God says, “You trust me before men and I will open my storehouse of great goodness and pour it on you. I will hide you in the secret of my presence; I will not allow strife to overwhelm you.”

Some may say, “We ought not trust God to obtain goodness from him.” Not so! It is also written, “Cast not away therefore your confidence, for it has a great recompence of reward” (Hebrews 10:35). It is also written, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). We must believe that he is a rewarder. Those rewards of faith are spiritual goodnesses, such as rewards of strength—peace and calm in the storm.

Oh beloved, God rejoices in our faith. He awaits to give us hope and open our eyes to his loving care. The decision is ours to make—even this moment. It is within our power to choose to trust God in our present and future trials. It is either the wilderness of despair or the smile of the Lord and an open heaven.

God help us all to hold fast our faith. Do not give up. We are too close to the end of the race.

“Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:7-8).

Monday, February 14, 2011

THE DANGER OF UNBELIEF

God has imbedded in me a dread of unbelief. This dread is the result of searching the Scriptures for examples of the dire consequences of unbelief.

I thank God with all that is in me for revealing to me the harm and ruin caused by unbelief. We believers have taken this matter too lightly, supposing God overlooks the doubting of those facing great affliction and hard times.

I once thought the Lord ought to give some slack to those facing seemingly hopeless situations. For example, the disciples in a sinking ship in a raging storm. My thinking was, “Lord, they are just human. They were overwhelmed by it all. It looked hopeless. It was just a human response.” Yet Jesus reprimanded their little faith.

Yes, there is a time to weep—when Jesus whispers lovingly, “Go ahead, cry; I bottle every tear.” There are grieving times; there are times when we are overwhelmed and we cry, “Where are you in this, Lord?” We serve a loving Father who is touched by our feelings. There are eclipses of faith when fears overwhelm us.

Yet we dare not linger on these fears and passing doubts—we must rise up and “trust in the shadow of his wings.” God has no pity for unbelief—and the whole of Scripture bears that out. It may sound harsh, but he will not accept any excuses. He grants no other option but faith.

Israel was given ten opportunities to trust God in dire circumstances. Every crisis was of the Lord’s doing. The consequence of their unbelief was forty years of hopelessness, confusion and grief. They missed God’s blessing, and he said they could not enter into a life of rest, peace and the great goodness of God because of their unbelief. God called unbelief evil. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief” Hebrews 3:12).

Unbelief is mostly caused by neglect of God’s Word. Faith is impossible without a constant input of Scripture and a clinging to the promises.

I choose to trust God. I do not want “my carcass to die in a wilderness” as did the Israelites. God told me to “gird up your loins…cast all your cares on me…stop looking at circumstances…do not ask why anymore. Feed daily on my Word…memorize promises. Pray with confidence…believe with all your heart that God loves you…he has not forsaken you. Weeping endures for a night…joy will come in the morning.”

Whatever you are going through, even walking through the valley and shadow of death, God promises to be with you. Today, take a stand and start trusting. Your unbelief changes nothing—but faith opens the door to deliverance.

“Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou has wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues” (Psalm 31:19-20).

Friday, February 11, 2011

PREPARED FOR ANY CRISIS

When a crisis strikes, you don’t have time to build yourself up in prayer and faith. But those who have been with Jesus are always ready.

A couple wrote to our ministry recently in a spirit that revealed they’d been with Jesus. Their 24-year-old daughter had been out with a friend when a madman kidnapped both young women. Then he murdered their daughter in a grisly fashion.

The couple was in shock. Their friends and neighbors wondered, “How could any parent survive this kind of tragedy?” Yet, within an hour, the Holy Spirit had come to that sorrowing couple, bringing supernatural comfort. Of course, in the painful days that followed, those grieving parents continued to ask God why. Yet, all the while they experienced divine rest and peace.

Everyone who knew these parents was astonished at their calmness, but that couple had been prepared for their moment of crisis. They’d known all along that God would never allow anything to happen to them without an underlying purpose. And when the terrible news came, they didn’t fall apart.

In fact, these parents and their surviving children began praying for the killer. The people in their town couldn’t accept it. But the godly couple spoke and taught of God’s ability to provide strength, no matter what they may face. The townspeople recognized their strength as coming only from Jesus. Soon they were saying of the couple, “They’re a miracle. Those are true Jesus people.”

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof” (Psalm 46:1-3).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

GOD IS WITH THEM

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

We see in Acts 4 that as Peter and John stood waiting for judgment to be pronounced, the man who had just been healed stood with them. There, in flesh and blood, was living proof that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Now, as the synagogue rulers looked on, “beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it” (Acts 4:14).

What did Peter and John do when they were released? “They went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them” (4:23). The saints in Jerusalem rejoiced with the two disciples. Then they prayed, “Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus” (4: 29–30). They were praying, “God, thank you for the boldness you’ve given our brothers. But we know this is just the beginning. Please, keep us all bold to speak with holy assurance. And provide visible evidence that you are with us.”

No doubt, Peter and John had seen the look of resignation on the high priest’s face when he realized they’d been with Jesus. Peter must have winked at John and said, “If they only knew. They only remember that we were with Jesus weeks ago. They don’t realize we’ve been with the resurrected Master ever since. We were just with him, in the Upper Room. Then this morning we were with him as we prayed in our cell. And as soon as we get out of here, we’re going to meet him again.”

That’s what happens with men and women who spend time with Jesus. When they come away from their time with Christ, he’s with them wherever they go.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

HOLY BOLDNESS AND SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

The more someone is with Jesus, the more that person becomes like Christ, in purity, holiness and love. In turn, his pure walk produces in him a great boldness for God. Scripture says, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1). The word for bold in this verse means “secure, confident.” That’s just the kind of boldness the synagogue rulers saw in Peter and John as they ministered (see Acts 4:1–2).

In the previous chapter (Acts 3), Peter and John prayed for a crippled beggar and he was instantly healed. The healing caused a great stir around the temple, and in an attempt to stop the disciples from sharing their faith in Christ, the religious leaders had them arrested and put on a public trial.

Peter and John met with the synagogue rulers but the Bible doesn’t go into much detail about this scene in Acts 4. Yet I can assure you, the religious leaders orchestrated it to be all pomp and ceremony. First, the dignitaries solemnly took their velvety seats. Then the high priests’ relatives followed. Finally, in a moment of hushed anticipation, the robed high priests strutted in. Everyone bowed as the priests passed by, walking stiffly up the aisle toward the seat of judgment.

All of this was meant to intimidate Peter and John. But the disciples were not intimidated at all. They’d been with Jesus for too long. I imagine Peter thinking, “Come on, let’s get this meeting started. Just give me the pulpit and turn me loose. I’ve got a word from God for this gathering. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me to preach your name to these Christ-haters.” Acts 4:8 begins with: “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost…” and this tells me he wasn’t going to deliver a lecture. It wasn’t going to be quiet or reserved. Peter was a Jesus-possessed man, bursting with the Holy Ghost.

God’s servants are secure in their identity in Christ. And they stand confident in Jesus’ righteousness. Therefore, they have nothing to hide; they can stand before anyone with a clear conscience.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

THESE MEN HAVE BEEN WITH JESUS

In Acts 3, we find Peter and John going to the temple to worship. Just outside the temple gate sat a beggar who had been crippled from birth. This man had never walked a step in his life. When he saw Peter and John, he asked them for alms. Peter answered him, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee” (Acts 3:6). Peter then prayed for the beggar, saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth., rise up and walk” (3:6). Instantly, the man was healed! In utter joy, he began running through the temple, jumping and shouting, “Jesus healed me!”

Everyone in the temple marveled at the sight because they recognized the man as the cripple. When Peter and John saw the crowds gathering, they began preaching Christ. Thousands were saved. Yet, while Peter and John were preaching, the synagogue rulers “came upon them, being grieved” (Acts 4:1–2). These high and mighty men asked the disciples, “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” (4:7). Peter was emboldened by the Holy Ghost. He answered the rulers, “His name is Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the man you crucified just three weeks ago. God raised him from the dead. And now he’s the power that healed this man. No one can be saved by any other name. You’ll be lost if you don’t call on Christ’s name” (see 4:10–12).

The rulers sat stunned. Scripture says, “They marvelled [admired them]; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus” (4:13). The phrase took knowledge comes from a root word meaning “known by some distinguishing mark.”

What was this mark that distinguished Peter and John? It was the presence of Jesus. They had Christ’s own likeness and Spirit.

Those who spend time with Jesus can’t get enough of him. Their hearts continually cry out to know the Master better, to draw closer to him, to grow in the knowledge of his ways. Paul states, “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7; see also Romans 12:3). What is this measure Paul speaks of? It means a limited amount. In other words, we’ve all received a certain amount of the saving knowledge of Christ.

For some believers, this initial measure is all they ever desire. They want just enough of Jesus to escape judgment, to feel forgiven, to keep a good reputation, to endure an hour of church each Sunday. Such people are in “maintenance mode.” And they give Jesus only the bare requirements.

Paul desired the following for every believer: “And he gave some apostles …prophets…evangelists… pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints...till we all come in…the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men…whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:11–15).

Paul was saying, “God has given these spiritual gifts so that you may be filled up with Christ’s Spirit. This is crucial, because deceivers are coming to rob you of your faith. If you’re rooted in Christ and maturing in him, no deceptive doctrine will ever sway you. Yet, the only way to grow to such maturity is by wanting more of Jesus.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

THE JOSEPH COMPANY

Joseph had a vision that his life would be used mightily by God. But that vision seemed like a pipe dream after his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. The following years of Joseph’s life were filled with hardship and injustice. Then, when Joseph seemed to get back on his feet, he was falsely accused of attempted rape and sent to prison.

Yet, all this time, God was watching over Joseph’s life. And finally, after years of turmoil, Joseph ended up serving in Pharaoh’s house. Pharaoh eventually appointed Joseph ruler over all of Egypt.

Beloved, that’s how God works; he was preparing a man to save a remnant. Indeed, in every generation, the Lord raises up a Joseph Company. He takes these devoted servants through years of trouble and trials, to prove and strengthen their faith.

What does this mean? Scripture says it’s what Joseph endured: “He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant: whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him” (Psalm 105:17–19).

The Lord also has a Joseph Company today. These are godly men and women he has touched and called. They don’t seek fame or fortune. All they want is to live and die fulfilling the calling God has placed on them. And the Lord promised their lives would count for his kingdom.

Joseph told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve you a posterity in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt” (Genesis 45:7–8).

Joseph could look back over his years of suffering and testify, “God sent me on this journey. He had a purpose in taking me through all these hardships. I see now that everything I’ve endured has led up to this moment. Brothers, the Lord has been preparing me to minister to you. He orchestrated all of these things, to bring you under his preserving grace as he did with me.”

What an incredible revelation for Joseph. Yet, what is the lesson here for God’s people today? It is this: Our Lord has preserved us in the past and he will preserve us in the days ahead. And, most important of all, he has an eternal purpose behind it all. He preserved you because he has a purpose for you. He has laid out a divine work ahead of you. And only a tried, tested, proven believer can accomplish it.

This is not a time for timid faith. It’s a time when every Christian who has endured great testings must step forward. Our Captain is calling us to stand up amidst a fearful society and engage in “power faith.” We’re to make the Joseph Declaration: “God sent me before you…to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7).

Friday, February 4, 2011

PRESERVED FOR A PURPOSE

David prayed, “Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust” (Psalm 16:1). The Hebrew word that David uses for preserve in this verse is packed with meaning. It says, in essence, “Put a hedge around me, a wall of protective thorns. Guard me and keep me. Observe my every move, all my comings and goings.”

David fully believed that God preserves the righteous. And Scripture says David was helped and preserved in all his ways. This blessed man declared, “He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is thy keeper…thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul” (Psalm 121:4-7).

The same Hebrew word for preserve appears in this passage also. Once again, David is speaking of God’s divine hedge, the supernatural wall of protection. He is assuring us, “God keeps his eye on you everywhere you go.”

Indeed, the Lord is with us in all places: at work, at church, while we’re shopping. He’s with us in our cars, on buses, on subways. And all the while, David says, God is preserving us from evil. In short, our God has every base covered. He has promised to thwart every possible weapon formed against his children.

Time after time, our God has proved himself a preserver to his people. Yet, for what purpose? Why is the Lord so intent on preserving us? We find a clue in Moses’ words: “The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” (Deuteronomy 6:24). Moses says God gave them the commandments for one reason: to preserve and keep them. But for what? The same reason God wants to save and protect us.

Think of all the ways God preserved his chosen people, Israel. He protected them from the ten plagues in Egypt. He delivered them from Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea. He healed them from deadly snakebites in the desert. And the people testified of God’s preserving power to their children and grandchildren: “The Lord delivered us from all our enemies. He gave us food and water, and kept our clothes from wearing out. He has preserved Israel through everything.”

But is that all there was to Israel’s testimony? Were these people preserved and protected just to end up dying in the wilderness? Moses stated, “He brought us out from thence, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he sware unto our fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:23). Moses was telling Israel, “Look at all the miraculous ways God has brought you out of bondage. What do you think that was all about? Why do you think he chose you and marked you as special from the foundation of the world? Why did he deliver you from slavery? Why did he bless you when you deserved to be abandoned?”

The Lord has preserved you so he can take you someplace. He wants to accomplish something in your life beyond all the miracles. The Lord preserved the Israelites and put a wall around them for a specific purpose: to bring them into a place of usefulness. He was leading them to the Promised Land, a place of destiny.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

SNAKE HANDLERS

You cannot work effectively for Christ unless you are willing to take the risks involved. Jesus warned about the risks of encountering serpents.

I say this kindly, but the Bible says that the wicked are like poisonous serpents, and we must be snake handlers. I think it is significant that the Bible calls Satan “that old serpent” (Revelation 12:9). And Christ promised, “They shall take up serpents…” (Mark 16:18).

Jesus said, “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in” (Luke 14:23). But in Ecclesiastes we are warned: “…whoso breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him” (10:8). The hedges are filled with serpents, yet as fishers of men, we are told: “If he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?” (Luke 11:11).

Soul winners are promised “…and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them…” (Mark 16:18). This refers to a missionary’s or other believer’s accidentally imbibing a poison, but there is something far greater hidden in this Scripture. Just as surely as Christians drink of the blood of Christ—the river of life, of his divine love and beauty—we unconsciously drink also of the poison of this world when we go out to preach the gospel.

We absorb so much of the spirit of this world, we take such deadly things into our spiritual lives, that unless we receive Holy Ghost protection I do not see how Christian workers can go where sinners are. You cannot help drinking in some of these unmentionable things into your spirit. But if you drink any deadly thing while you are going after serpents in the power of Christ, the poison will not hurt you. When the Lord began to show me this truth, I would go home and pray, and I could feel the breath of the Holy Spirit pouring through my system. The poison would just drain out and I could stand up cleansed and pure—unharmed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

TO DIE IS GAIN?

Paul said it: “To die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). That kind of talk is absolutely foreign to our modern spiritual vocabularies. We have become such life worshippers, that we have very little desire to depart to be with the Lord.

Paul said, “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Yet, for the sake of edifying the converts, he thought it best to “stay in the shell.” Or, as he put it, “live in the flesh.”

Was Paul morbid? Did he have an unhealthy fixation with death? Did Paul show a lack of respect for the life God had blessed him with? Absolutely not! Paul lived life to the fullest. To him, life was a gift, and he had used it well to fight a good fight. He had overcome the fear of the “sting of death” and could now say, “It’s better to die and be with the Lord than to stay in the flesh.”

Those who die in the Lord are the winners; we who remain are the losers. Death is not the ultimate healing: resurrection is! Death is the passage, and sometimes that passage can be painful. No matter how much pain and suffering wreak havoc on these bodies, it is not even worthy to be compared with the unspeakable glory that awaits those who endure the passage.

Any message about death bothers us. We try to ignore even thinking about it. We suspect those who talk about it of being morbid. Occasionally we will talk about what heaven must be like, but most of the time the subject of death is taboo.

How different the first Christians were! Paul spoke much about death. In fact, our resurrection from the dead is referred to in the New Testament as our “blessed hope.” But nowadays, death is considered an intruder that cuts us off from the good life we have been accustomed to. We have so cluttered our lives with material things that we are bogged down with life. The world has trapped us with materialism. We can no longer bear the thought of leaving our beautiful homes, our lovely things, our charming sweethearts. We seem to be thinking, “To die now would be too great a loss. I love the Lord, but I need time to enjoy my real estate. I’m married. I’ve yet to prove my oxen. I need more time.”

Have you noticed there is very little talk, nowadays, about heaven or about leaving this old world behind? Instead, we are bombarded with messages on how to use our faith to acquire more things. What a stunted concept of God’s eternal purposes! No wonder so many Christians are frightened by the thought of death. The truth is, we are far from understanding Christ’s call to forsake the world and all its entanglements. He calls us to come and die, to die without building memorials to ourselves, to die without worrying how we should be remembered. Jesus left no autobiography, no headquarters complex, no university or Bible college. He left nothing to perpetuate his memory, but the bread and the wine.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

THE LESSON OF THE PRODIGAL

The Bible says, “When he [the prodigal] was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

I believe the prodigal came home because of his history with his father. This young man knew his father’s character—and apparently he had received great love from him. He must have known that if he returned, he wouldn’t be upbraided or condemned for his sins.

Notice how the prodigal’s father received him in his pitiful condition. The young man was intent on offering a heartfelt confession to his dad. Yet when he faced his father, he didn’t get a chance to fully confess. His father interrupted him by running up to him and embracing him.

The young man was only able to blurt out the beginning of his speech, saying, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (v. 21). But his father didn’t wait for him to finish. To him, the young man’s sin had already been settled. The father’s only response was to issue an order to his servants: “Put a robe on my son and rings on his fingers. Prepare a feast, because we’re going to celebrate. Everyone rejoice—my son is home.” He knew his son’s heart. He knew he had fully repented.

Sin wasn’t the issue to this father. The only issue in his mind was love. He wanted his boy to know he was accepted even before he could utter a confession. And that is the point God wants to make to us all: His love is greater than all of our sins. “The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4).