Thursday, March 31, 2011

GOD’S GREAT INTENTION FOR HIS PEOPLE

I believe God has had but one great intention for his people ever since the cross and it will not change until Christ returns in glory. God's intention has to do with understanding the mystery of the gospel, revealed first to Paul the apostle. It is a mystery no longer.

Paul said, "By revelation [God] made known to me the mystery...which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed...by the Spirit…. And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery..." (Ephesians 3:3-9).

The mystery revealed is simply this: Christ's body is still here on earth! The head is in heaven but the rest of his body is right here on earth. We who love and serve him are his body, the visible part, which men see of Christ on earth.

"For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Ephesians 5:30).

"And he is the head of the body, the church..." (Colossians 1:18).

God's full intention for these last days can be summed up in this one sentence: Being that we are Christ's body on earth, God's intention is that every member become a true expression of who Christ is!

God intends for us to express such a complete fullness of Christ that any sinner can see in us the Lord Jesus Christ as surely as if he once again walked here in the flesh. We are to appropriate so much of his fullness, his glory, his completeness that the world will see in us the hope and answers to their needs.

It is not enough to know Christ. We must be a full expression of who he is! We must look at everything we say and do and ask: "Does this represent who Christ is? Is this what I want the sinner to see of him, through me?" Would Christ, in his physical body, walk into an X-rated theater? Would he linger around a pornography counter? Would Christ abuse his body in any way? Would he indulge in adultery, fornication, drinking? Would he cheat, gossip, tell dirty stories, or lie? Would Christ live a lie, then attempt to preach the truth? Would he try to spread the light with a pocket of darkness in his own heart? Would he tell others not to commit adultery, then do it in secret himself?

We must continually keep before our eyes this one great intention of God—that we his body reflect honestly and purely who he is! Set your heart on being a true expression of who Jesus Christ is.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

THE SIN OF MIXING

There is nothing in the Old Testament quite as strong as the warnings of Paul against affinity with the world:

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16 NKJV).

In the Old Testament, when God wanted to reveal the power of his presence before the wicked Egyptians, he drew a line of separation, dividing God's people in Goshen from the rest of Egypt.

“And the Lord shall sever between...Israel...and Egypt...For I will at this time send all my plagues upon thine heart...that thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth" (Exodus 9:4, 14).

God wants the world to see the difference between his people who love him and the rest of the unbelieving world. He wants us to be an example of a delivered and victorious people, trusting in his mighty arm to deliver us from all harm and evil.

The reasons for separation from the world (Egypt) today are the same as they were in ancient time. God is once again drawing a line between his people and this wicked age, so that this generation can know there is none like him to deliver in all the earth. The wicked of this age must have an even greater manifestation of the Lord's presence; nothing else will get their attention. Nothing else will smite them with conviction for sin. The Holy Spirit has been outpoured, so that all flesh could come under the power of Christ's presence and be convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment!

Speaking of his true disciples, he said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (John 17:16). Again, "I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John 15:19).

The world loves its own, but we are not of the world. May God help us to joyfully accept our special character of separation and difference. Only those who are truly unmixed with the world, separated unto Christ, have any power to save it!

"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 John 2:15).

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

THE COMING OF JESUS

I believe Jesus is coming very soon. We see the Lord gathering the nations together against Israel. Events are moving rapidly toward Armageddon.

“When you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33).

“Of the day and hour knoweth no man, no, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (v. 36).

All signs point to a Mideast war against Israel. Out of the turmoil in Arab nations will come a united call to destroy Israel. We are beholding the fulfillment of prophecies we have preached about for many hears.

Those who know the Scriptures have a Holy Ghost inner sense of the Lord’s return. We hear the call of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, crying, “Even so, Lord Jesus, come.” Jesus said, “Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord will come” (v. 42).

“Be ready, for in such an hour as you think not the Son of man cometh” (v. 44).

“Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he comes, shall find so doing” (v. 46).

Beloved, do you feel—do you sense—that these are the last of the last days? Do you share the longing for his appearance?

Look up; our redemption is drawing near!

Monday, March 28, 2011

EXPERIENCE VERSUS SCRIPTURES

I read a statement written over 150 years ago made by missionary George Bowen:

“ALL HUMAN EXPERIENCES OF CHRISTIANS MUST BE PUT TO THE TEST OF SCRIPTURE.”

He was saying, for example, do our deepening fears stand the test of Scripture? Does our wavering faith stand the test of Scripture? Is there any form of doubting that stands the same test?

When circumstances become overwhelming and doubts enter our hearts, we have a tendency to justify them because of trying experiences. We experience pain, afflictions of all kinds and testings that are crushing. The question is: How do we react to it all? Will our reaction stand the test of Scripture?

What are you facing in your life today? Financial troubles? Unemployment? Bad health problems? Anxiety attacks? How are you dealing with it? Does your present reaction measure up to Scripture?

For example, Scripture says, “He that wavereth is like a ship tossed by waves.” Do you pass over this Scripture and go on wavering because of dire experiences?

I have wavered many times when my experience looked hopeless, but more and more I trust the Holy Spirit to comform my experience to the test of Scripture. Scripture trumps all experience.

God help us all to test our feelings by the Word of God. Ask yourself, “Is this reaction scriptural? Do my emotions measure up to the Word?” If not, pray for strength to admit it and make changes.

Keep the faith!

Friday, March 25, 2011

GET INTO THE ARK

John Owen, the great Puritan preacher, spoke the following message to his congregation on April 9, 1680:

“You know that for many years, without failing, I have been warning you continually of an approaching calamitous time, and considering the sins that have been the causes of it…I have told you that judgment will begin in the house of God; that God seems to have hardened our hearts from his fear…and that none knows what the power of his wrath will be. In all these things I have foretold you of perilous, distressing, calamitous times…These all now lie at the door, and are entering in upon us.”

God did send his awful judgments on that society. John Owen lived to weep over a flaming holocaust that engulfed London.

Yet, before he ever saw a single one of these calamities take place, Owen faithfully cried out from his pulpit, “I am going to show you how we ought to deport ourselves in and under the distressing calamities that are coming upon us, and may reach, it may be, up to the very neck.”

Beloved, we’re living in just such a time as Owen’s. And in times like these, there is only one response to the coming storm. “The just shall live by faith!”

Owen admonished his people with tears, “Get you an ark—prepare an ark for the safety of you and your families.” Then he added, “The ark is Jesus Christ. There is no other way, no other ark—for Isaiah, the prophet, said of our Lord, ‘And a man [Christ] shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadows of a great rock in a weary land.’ That is our ark! Blessed are they that trust only in him…I know of no safety, no deliverance, in the trials and afflictions coming upon the earth, but in believing Christ as our only refuge.”

We may see dangers on all sides, including a devil and his principalities who want to drown our faith in doubts. But we have a fiery guard of angels surrounding us and a God who is under oath to carry us through any disaster we may face.

So let me ask you, do you want to face the coming storm with quiet confidence and peace of mind? Then die today to all your own ways and means of saving yourself and commit the keeping of your life wholly to God’s care. He’s your good, loving Shepherd—and he is faithful to see you through all!

Fix your eyes on Jesus. He alone is our hope.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

GOD IS A REWARDER

There is little purpose in prayer if we do not fully believe God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.

I am persuaded that God delights in giving tokens of his goodness to his beloved children. David the Psalmist insisted that God is bountiful and inclined to compassion, that his mercy is great, and that it is impossible for him to reject any who implore his help. He rejoices in pardoning sins—he is always propitious.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Psalm 31:19-20,

“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.”

Think of it! First God says we must believe he is a rewarder of faith—then the Psalmist tell us, “Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear him…and who trust him.”

A storehouse of great goodness—goodness laid up for his people, not only in glory but now, in our daily walk!

I pray this daily: “Lord, you promised to reward my faith if I will trust you before the sons of men, but I need what you promised. I need fresh strength, and new hope, more of the peace that passes all understanding. Lord, I ask only for what you have promised. It is the highest goodness to have a fresh manifestation of your sweet presence. This is what I desire as my reward.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

REMEMBERING GOD’S FORMER BENEFITS

Nothing contributes more effectively to encourage us to come to the throne of grace than the remembrance of God’s former benefits.

Our faith would succumb under adversity, and sorrow would choke our hearts, were we not taught to believe from the experiences of the past. It helps us to believe he will hear the prayers of his people and always do in the present and the future what he has done compassionately in the past.

What has God done for you in the past? What about your history with him in your walk over the past years? Did he not keep his word? Did he ever fail to keep his word?

“Wilt thou not turn again and quicken us, that thy people will rejoice in thee?” (Psalm 85:6).

This has been my prayer: “Lord, do it again! Revival? Do it again. Strength, refreshings of the Holy Spirit? Lord, do it again! Miracles in the past? Lord, do it again!”

Go all the way back to the Law and hear what is revealed of his nature: “And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin…” (Exodus 34:6-7).

That is what God was, and is, and will be! God has kept you so far; why would he turn from you now?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

THE TEARS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

The Bible declares emphatically that not one tear of his children falls to the ground. David said, “Put my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book?” (Psalm 56:8). The tears of the godly are so precious to him, he preserves them. If God preserves my tears, will he not preserve me?

It is almost too fantastic to take it all in. What strikes me in such a word is that if he counts every tear of mine, then how precious is my blood to him—my livelihood—my needs.

Until we are persuaded in our minds that God takes special notice of each and every affliction which we endure, it is impossible we can ever obtain such confidence so as to believe that he would put our tears into his bottle. Can we believe that truth—that the God who numbers every hair on our heads and bottles every tear—will he not then interpose on our behalf?

Hear this word in your spirit: Every tear you have shed over past sins, every tear shed in times of afflictions and stress, every tear shed over lost souls is written in his book.

You may say, “I don’t weep. I seldom shed tears.” I believe in soul tears—only God sees them—inward, silent tears shed often in times of trouble and need.

Not one of your tears has been wasted! Not one is in vain. To believe in God is to believe this incredible truth!

Monday, March 21, 2011

THE MARK OF THE BONDSERVANT

David, the psalmist, said, "Mine ear hast thou digged [pierced]" (see Psalm 40:6). This may well be interpreted as meaning, “Thou hast accepted me as thy slave," an allusion to the custom of masters boring the ear of a slave who refused his offered freedom (see Exodus 21:6). In other words, "There is a hole in my ear that marks me for the Lord, for life and eternity." Have you allowed the Holy Spirit to dig in your ear?

What marked the bondservant is that he pledged himself to give wholly of his time in service to his master. There is nothing mystical about this way of living. It begins with a commitment to give the Lord the best of our time and is worked out practically in everyday life!

This is not to suggest we should all quit our jobs and careers to enter full-time ministry. Too many nowadays are getting out of God's will by going out presumptuously, leaving the responsibilities of raising a family and pulling up roots to “go out by faith.” The greater thing is to stay put and give the Lord more quality time where you are. It is a matter of putting Christ at the center of everything, so that family, job, and all things revolve around him. Christ becomes the focus of our thoughts and we spend time in his presence, hearing his voice, obeying his commands.

The bondservant is more a giving rather than a taking soul. With Paul, he can say, "I have determined to know nothing among us save Christ and him crucified." This servant is not interested in serving for reward or personal gain. His wages are the glory and honor he bestows on his Master. The true bondservant who is committed to lifelong service is marked by the Lord in some special way. You can't miss this servant because he bears in his body the marks of his Master.

What marks the bondservant in this day and age? It is clearly revealed in the Word as the mark of a broken, contrite spirit that weeps over the abominations done against his Lord. Our Master does not drill the ear with an awl, but breaks the heart with his hammer.

"And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; and the Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof” (Ezekiel 9:3-4).

Another mark on this bondservant is a circumcision made without hands. This speaks of total separation from the world and unto Christ. It means that all self-made plans, schemes, and dreams are abandoned, and the concerns and burdens of the Lord become supreme.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A BONDSERVANT BY CHOICE

"And…the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free" (Exodus 21:5). To this servant there is no dilemma, no choice. His decision was never in doubt. His master was his whole world and he was bound to him with an eternal bond of love. He could not possibly leave his master or his house.

This servant’s life revolved around his love for his lord, and, like Paul, he considered all else as “dung,” that he might win the master. He was the kind who would be willing to be accursed if others could come to know the love of his lord.

This servant valued intimacy with his master above any earthly blessing. Who cared for flocks, for corn, or for wine and oil, when you could have endless communion and fellowship with the master? His heart overflowed with affection for him and he made it very plain: "I love my master and I will not go free."

What this servant is saying to us is simply this: Christ is enough! Nothing in this world is worth losing the sense of his presence. All the wealth and prosperity of the entire earth is not to be compared to a single day spent with him. The pleasures at his right hand far exceed any ecstasy known to man. To know him, to be where he is, seated together in heavenly places, is more than life itself. To serve him, to be led by him, to come and go as he alone commands is life on the highest plane.

Would you remind me that you are a son, and not a servant? Then I would kindly remind you that Jesus was a Son who "thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). He could have come as a powerful Prince of the Almighty, trampling every foe, yet Christ chose to come as a bondservant, fully committed to his Father's interests.

This dedicated bondservant we read about in Exodus believed he had one mission in life, and that was to serve his master. He was not in it for an inheritance, even though it is written, "A wise servant shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren" (Proverbs 17:2). Love made it easy to obey and from morning to night, every waking hour, he lived in willing servitude to his master. He was driven only by love—no guilt, no sense of obligation. No wonder Jesus could say, "If you love me, you will obey me."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

THE BONDSERVANT

God's ways seem like paradoxes to the human mind. He says, “To live, you must die. To find your life, you must lose it. To become strong, you must first become weak.”

One of the greatest paradoxes of all is this: To be truly free, you must become bound. To gain the greatest liberty in God, one must give up all rights and become a lifelong bondservant to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a glorious love-slavery that leads to the highest form of freedom and liberty. It is a voluntary surrender born out of love and affection, causing one to consider servitude even greater than sonship.

In a time when God's people are obsessed with claiming their rights, taken with the Lord's blessings and benefits, it would profit us all to allow the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to a place in God beyond anything we've yet discovered. It is in perfect divine order to receive all the good things from the hand of God, and no child of the Lord should feel guilty about the blessings and benefits poured upon him.

Yet we need to see there is something better than blessings and prosperity, something far more rewarding than all the other manifold benefits he daily gives us.

A bondservant is one who has entered a sacrament of service with his master. It is beautifully described in the following Scripture:

"If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters, the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself.
"And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever" (Exodus 21:2-6).

This is much more than a picture of God's concern for slaves and servants. In type and shadow, it clearly portrays the bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is the Master in this account, and we are the servants whose freedom has been purchased. The cross is God's Sabbath, the year of release for all prisoners, captives, slaves, and servants, and we who were sold under the Law have been set free by grace!

We are freed from sin, yet bondservants to Christ, all our days, by choice.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). We become what we observe! The focus of our attention spreads its influence all through our lives. What we behold with our spiritual eyes obsesses us—it takes over! Paul chose to be obsessed with Christ; the Savior became the sole object of his thinking, his preaching, his doctrine. "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). He kept his eyes on the Head of the body, and not on the problems in the body.

God's desire for us is that we be clothed with Christ's presence. Do you want victory over sin and deliverance from all the power of the enemy? Then diligently pray for a manifestation of Christ's presence. If you are serious about it, his loving eyes will melt you and bring you to a place of brokenness and contrition.

That same tender presence of the Lord will become the very heart and life of your soul. You will not want to leave his presence. You will lean on his arm and all fear will go, replaced by perfect peace and rest. You can face sin and Satan clothed in the glorious power of his presence. God's Word promises, "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Revelation 3:5).

The church goes into the last days as "a woman clothed with the sun..." (Revelation12:1). This is Christ, our white raiment! We have put on Christ and are abiding in His presence, above all principalities and powers.

It really is not complicated. In fact, it can be summed up in four words: STAY CLOSE TO JESUS! Live in his presence and by faith take your seat beside him in heavenly places. Behold him standing at the right hand of the Father on your behalf and nothing can hinder you. You will be above it all and, like Stephen, you will behold him in heaven (see Acts 7:56).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

THE MIGHTY HAND OF GOD

"Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy" (Exodus 15:6).

Even though some Christians know they are forgiven and safe, they lack a sense of power against the flesh. They have not come into the knowledge of "full deliverance" from their evil nature. Christian, by his blood he secures us, then by his mighty hand he breaks the power of sin in us. Sin still dwells, but it does not rule!

"Delivered from slavery by the strength of his hand." What an incredibly encouraging word in these days of disillusionment and super-human efforts to be free of sin's power. Yet we are so reluctant to acknowledge the work of God's hand. It goes against our pride, our sense of justice, our theology, to accept the truth that our deliverance from sin's dominion comes from a power other than our own. But look at our example: Israel went out armed, but all the battles were the Lord's. "The Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord's (1 Samuel 17:47). It is recorded in Exodus that "...the children of Israel went out with a high hand" (14:8) and sang praises to God after passing safely through the Red Sea.

The blood secured Israel from divine judgment, but the high hand of God delivered them from the power of the flesh. They had experienced security and rejoiced in it; now they needed power! Power to once and for all do away with the old enemy, and power to arm them against all the new enemies to come. That power is in the Lord's high and mighty hand.

We have been given great and precious promises surpassing those given to Israel. God has promised to deliver us from all evil and seat us in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, free from the dominion of sin.

But first we must learn to hate sin—no agreements, no compromises. Coddle your sin, play with it, let it remain, refuse to demolish it—and one day it will become the most painful thing in your life.

Do not pray about victory over the sins of the flesh until you have cultivated a hatred for them. God will have nothing to do with our excuses and appeasement. Are you enslaved by a secret sin that causes turmoil and anguish, both physically and spiritually? Do you hate it with a passion? Do you feel God’s holy wrath against it?

Until you do, victory will never come.

Monday, March 14, 2011

SAFE FROM JUDGMENT

The blood of Christ cleanses from all sin—it is our atonement. But first of all, it is our security. It is God's way of securing to himself a people ready for a full deliverance. Remember, on the night of the Passover the Israelites were safe but not yet delivered. They still had to face a Red Sea, a wilderness, warfare with giants, imposing walls, and enemy strongholds.

I am convinced that before I can do battle against principalities and powers, before I can resist lust and temptation (our modern giants), I must have the knowledge that under the blood I am secure! Though I am not yet fully delivered, I am out of judgment. The fleshly enemies loom ahead, but the blood has made me a safe soldier.

You cannot fight giants, pull down strongholds, or stand against overwhelming odds unless there is an assurance of absolute security under the blood. No matter what my heart says, no matter how guilty or condemned I feel, no matter what whispering voices I hear, I must know, beyond a shadow of doubt, that I am safe! I am not going to judgment, because the blood on the door of my heart secures me in his sight.

We are always questioning our safety. If God based our security on our love for him or on personal goodness, we would be in more danger than those who broke the Law, for under grace there is a higher claim. God must take security out of our hands so that it stands on his pure mercy and grace alone. Not our devotion, our obedience, or our goodness—but only on his mercy. Obedience and devotion are the results of our love for Christ.

It was not the unleavened bread that saved the children of Israel, but the blood. Not one Israelite moved "in and out" of safety because of some personal fault. They were all safe until judgment had passed. Obedience was to apply the blood to the doorpost. We are called to confess and trust Christ’s redeeming blood.

God never intended for his children to live in fear, with anxiety or guilt. He prepared a rest for them, the perfect, absolute security of the blood of his own dear Son. By his gracious act, God was saying to Israel, "Now that you see I have secured you and removed you from fear of judgment, let Me deliver you bodily. I secured you to make you holy."

The inalterable fact is, not one thing can be added to Christ’s blood to make us more secure! The blood perfectly shelters us, makes us acceptable to God, and saves us from wrath. The apostle Paul states, “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

Friday, March 11, 2011

WE THANK GOD FOR HIS MANIFOLD MERCIES AND LOVINGKINDNESS

I am led by the Holy Spirit to write to you about God opening shut doors. Someone reading this message will relate immediately to this, because you face one or more closed doors. There it is, right in your face, a door that seems to be continually locked. It could be a serious financial situation, and you’ve prayed for the door of some opportunity to open. Yet everything you try seems to fail; the doors simply don’t open.

I don’t know what your closed door may be, but for many it seems both the windows and doors of heaven are closed. The heavens seem as brass, and you can’t seem to get through. This closed door I am speaking about is some issue, some situation, some need you’ve been praying much about. It may be a crisis that requires nothing less than a miracle. And you haven’t yet received an answer to your fervent prayers and petitions to the Lord.

In Revelation, Christ refers to himself as HE THAT OPENS AND SHUTS DOORS (3:7). This was in a letter sent to the believers in ancient Philadelphia, a church the Lord complimented for having kept the word of his patience and never denying his name. Simply put, in their most trying times, these people stood faithfully on God’s Word. They did not accuse the Lord of neglecting them or turning a deaf ear to their cries.

Evidently, Satan had come against them with lies. His principalities and powers of darkness, lying spirits pouring out of the very bowels of hell, say that God has shut every door, that he isn’t worthy of worship and faith. But these believers, whom Jesus said were of little strength, kept on trusting, waiting patiently for God to put the key in the door and open it. He holds the key to every shut door – and he alone sets before us open doors.

Here is what the Lord promised them, and it is our promise as well:

“Because you have kept the word of my patience [you did not give up in your trial], I also will keep you from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (3:10).

This hour of temptation is even now upon us. It holds incredible tests of faith so great and so fiery that many will fall into deadly unbelief. Indeed, a great falling away from enduring faith is now upon the whole world.

But you – because you still trust his promises, and are willing to die in faith even if you do not see the promises fulfilled – you will be kept from this worldwide temptation to fall into unbelief. God has heard your cry, and he knows the timing, the very hour, to open all doors. So, never give up. Never doubt. Stand on his promises. He will not fail you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

PRAISE GOD FOR HIS TENDER MERCIES

I have a short message for those who are experiencing a painful, overwhelming situation. I am not speaking to those who now enjoy a time of rest from suffering, who are not in any kind of pain or sorrow. Thank God for those times of quiet rest.

Rather, I receive so many letters from precious followers of Jesus who are living with incredible inner sorrow and crisis situations: divorce, children on drugs or in jail, the death of a spouse. A woman who is so in love with the Lord grieves over the death of three of her children, who suffocated in a fire. A pastor grieves for his wife, who left him and his children for a lesbian lover. It goes on and on, as so many godly people are burdened with grief and pain.

I have a message for you who suffer sorrow, who grieve or live with pain. In Psalm 40, David cried, “Innumerable evils have compassed me about… Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me” (Psalm 40:12-13). “Let all those that seek you rejoice and be glad in thee… But I am poor and needy; the Lord thinketh upon me; thou art my help and my deliverer; do not tarry, O my Lord” (40:16-17).

I have been so blessed and comforted by this one line in verse 17: “The Lord thinketh upon me.” Imagine that. The Lord God who created all things, the God of this universe, is thinking about me.

Even now, at this very hour, his thoughts are about you, in your hour of need.

When Israel was captive in Babylon, mourning over the loss of homes and families, enduring grief and trouble, God sent word to them through Jeremiah: “For I know my thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:11). God said to his people, “Your nightmare is going to end. I have only good, loving thoughts toward you, and if you seek me with all your heart, you will find me” (see Jeremiah 29:11-13).

God is not mad at you. Saintly people do get afflicted, so do not waver in your trust in him. In times of stress and feelings of loneliness and regrets, go to prayer. Pour your heart out to the Lord. He is thinking of you – and he is at work for you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

THE LOVE OF GOD FOR HIS PEOPLE NEVER FAILS

While reading Psalm 13, I was impressed to send you a few words of encouragement I have gleaned from this blessed chapter.

David penned the words contained in this Psalm. He asked, “How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long shall I have sorrow in my heart daily? How long will the enemy be exalted over me?”

It sounds as if David felt that God had altogether left him to suffer, to wake up each day with a black cloud hanging over him. For a season, David spoke out of despair: “God, will this feeling of isolation go on forever? When will my prayers be answered?”

When troubles assail us though we know we love the Lord – when deliverance seems distant and hopeless – we sink under the pressure. Right now, someone reading these words is sinking under the awful pressure of a situation that seems to be unsolvable. They are on the verge of total despair, hoping a calm will come if only for a break in their trial.

In the midst of his own trial, David asked, “How long shall I take counsel in my soul?” He had formed one plan after another, trying to devise ways out of his trouble – but all his plans, all arrangements, had failed. Now he had nothing else to think of, no workable solution. He was at the end of it all.

How upsetting it is to see a ray of hope, a bit of sunshine, but then despair once again sets in. Keep in mind, this all happened to a godly man, someone after God’s heart. David was a man who testified of having great trust in the Lord. Yet, like us, David went through hard times, as he describes in this Psalm.

How did David arise from this pit of despair? “I will trust in your mercy… I will sing.”

Let me share with you reasons to keep trusting your way through your present trials:

• No matter how the storms may rage, our precious Lord will still be feeding the fowls of the air, dressing the lilies of the field, and supplying an ocean full of fish with their daily needs. “Your heavenly Father feedeth them…” Not one bird ever falls to the ground without the Father’s eye upon it.

• What kind of Father would feed all the creatures of the earth and yet neglect his children? Jesus exhorted us to “give no thought” to everyday needs and problems, “for he careth for you.”

Truly, the Lord loves you, and he will not turn a deaf ear to your cries. Hold on to his promises. Move on in faith. Wait on him patiently. He will never fail you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

WE EXALT THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD!

Somebody reading this needs a touch from Jesus. When the Lord ministered here on earth, he went about healing and restoring the afflicted by simply touching them. When Jesus touched Peter’s mother, “the fever left her.” He touched the box casket of a dead child, and the boy came to life. He touched the eyes of blind people, and they could see. He touched the ear of a deaf man, who could suddenly hear. Parents brought their children to Jesus “that he should touch them.” His gentle touch changed everything. Multitudes brought their sick and infirm, and Jesus took the time to reach out and touch them all, healing them.

If you truly know the Lord intimately, you have known and felt the touch of the hand of Jesus. In times of loneliness, times of discouragement, times of confusion, times so painful and uncertain, you cried out from the depth of your soul: “Lord Jesus, I need your touch. I need to feel your presence. Come, Jesus, and touch my thirsting soul.”

Some need a touch of Jesus upon their mind. Satan has come with his wicked principalities to harass and overburden the mind with thoughts that are hellish – unbelieving thoughts, unChristlike thoughts, fearful thoughts, thoughts of unworthiness, thoughts of God’s displeasure. Honest believers will tell you they have experienced these attacks on their mind. Satan is determined to destroy our faith and dependence on the Lord.

In Scripture, the touch of Jesus came in answer to a cry. There is no evidence he ever ignored or rejected such a cry. And he will not turn away from your cry, but will mercifully respond to your need. In Matthew 8 we read of a leper coming to him, saying, “Lord, if thou will, thou canst make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

Find a place alone with Jesus today, and say to him what the leper said: “Lord, you are able. Make me clean.” Then expect that he who is no respecter of persons will touch and heal you, in mind, body, soul and spirit. The arm of the Lord is outstretched to you, but he waits for that cry of need, the cry for help that is also a cry of expectancy.

“And the Egyptians evil entreated us, and afflicted us, and laid upon us hard bondage; and when we cried unto the Lord God of our father, the Lord heard our voice, and looked on our affliction, and our labour, and our oppression: and the Lord brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders: and he that brought us into this place, and hath given us this land, even a land that floweth with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:6-9).

Monday, March 7, 2011

AN IRONCLAD PROMISE

God has given us an ironclad promise for life on this earth. He says that when our enemy attempts to walk over us, “My people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I” (Isaiah 52:6). In other words, God says, “When you’re in your darkest trial, I will come and speak a word to you. You’ll hear me say, ‘It is I, Jesus, your Savior. Don’t be afraid.’”

In Matthew 14, the disciples were on a boat in an awful storm, being tossed about by torrents of wind and waves. Suddenly, the men saw Jesus walking toward them on the water. Scripture says, “When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, it is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26). What did Jesus do in that fearful moment? “Straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (14:27, italics mine).

I’ve wondered why Jesus used these particular words, “Be of good cheer.” Why would he say this to men who thought they were about to die?

The word cheer means “to be relieved, happy, released from fear.” And here, in the disciples’ time of distress, Jesus tied the word to his identity. Remember, these men knew him personally. And he expected them to act on his word by faith. He was saying, “The Father has promised I’ll come to you in your storm. It is written, ‘They shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I’ (Isaiah 52:6, italics mine). Now I’ve come to you in your storm. It’s me, Jesus, here with you in the midst of it all. So, cheer up.” Likewise, our Savior expects the same faith reaction from us, in our distressing times.

Friday, March 4, 2011

WHOLLY DEPENDENT ON HIM

God has always wanted a people who would walk totally reliant on him before the eyes of the world. That’s why he took the insignificant little nation of Israel and isolated them in a wilderness. He was placing them in a school of testing, to produce a people who would trust in him no matter what their circumstance. He wanted Israel to testify, “I can go through any test, any difficulty, even those beyond my abilities. How? I know my God is with me in every trial. He will always bring me through.”

Consider Moses’ statement to Israel: “[God] suffered thee to hunger” (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Lord was telling them, “I orchestrated your trial. It wasn’t the devil. I possessed all the bread and meat you needed the whole time. And I was ready to drop it out of the sky at any minute. It was all stored up, waiting for you to receive it. But I withheld it for a while. And I did this for a season. I was waiting for you to come to the end of all your self-reliance. I wanted to bring you to a point of crisis, where only I could deliver you. I allowed you to experience your ‘wit’s end,’ a place of human helplessness. And it required a miracle of deliverance from me.”

Today, the Lord is still looking for a people who’ll rely totally on him. He wants a church that will testify both in words and actions that God is all-powerful on their behalf. He wants an unsaved world to see that he works mightily for those who love him.

Job declared, “He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Here is an incredible statement, especially considering the context in which Job spoke it.

Job suffered one of the worst trials any human could undergo. He lost all of his children in a tragic accident, and then he lost his wealth and possessions. Finally, he lost his physical health. And all these things happened in such a short time, they were utterly overwhelming.

Yet, God had put Job on this path. And the Lord alone knew where it eventually would lead. It was a plan so divinely orchestrated that God even allowed Satan to do the afflicting of Job. That’s why Job couldn’t see God in any of it: “I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: but he knoweth the way that I take” (Job 23:8–10).

Job was saying, “I know that God knows everything I’m enduring. And he knows the way through it all. My Lord is trying me right now. And I’m confident he’ll bring me through with a stronger faith. I’ll come out purged and cleansed, with a faith more precious than gold.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011

STRENGTH FOR THE JOURNEY

No one on earth can place you in ministry. You may be given a diploma by a seminary, ordained by a bishop, or commissioned by a denomination. But the apostle Paul reveals the only source of any true call to ministry: “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry” (1 Timothy 1:12).

What does Paul mean here when he says Jesus enabled him and counted him faithful? Think back to the apostle’s conversion. Three days after that event, Christ placed Paul in the ministry—specifically, the ministry of suffering: “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16). This is the very ministry Paul refers to when he says, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry…” (2 Corinthians 4:1). He continues, adding, “…as we have received mercy, we faint not.” He’s talking about the ministry of suffering. And he makes clear it is a ministry that we all have.

Paul is telling us Jesus gave him a promise for this ministry. Christ pledged to remain faithful to him and enable him through all his trials. The Greek word for enabled means “a continual supply of strength.” Paul declares, “Jesus promised to give me more than sufficient strength for the journey. He enables me to remain faithful in this ministry. Because of him, I won’t faint or give in. I’ll emerge with a testimony.”

A transfiguration is taking place in all our lives. The truth is, we’re being changed by what obsesses us. We’re becoming like the things that occupy our minds. Our character is being influenced and impacted by whatever has hold of our hearts.

I thank God for everyone who feeds his mind and soul with spiritual things. Such servants have fixed their eyes on what is pure and holy. They keep their gaze fixed on Christ, spending quality time worshipping him and building themselves up in faith. The Holy Spirit is at work in these saints, continually changing their character in Christ’s. These believers will be ready for the hard, explosive sufferings to come. Slothful, lazy, prayerless believers will suffer heart failure or breakdowns. They’ll be crushed by their fears, because they don’t have the Holy Spirit at work in them, transfiguring them. When the hard times come, they simply won’t make it.

Here is Paul’s final word on the matter: “Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: but in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments…. As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich” (2 Corinthians 6:3–5, 10). How do we “make many rich”? By outshining the hope of Christ in the midst of our sufferings. We offer true riches when we cause others to ask, “What’s his secret? Where does he find such peace?”

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

CONTENTMENT

Contentment was a huge test in Paul’s life. After all, God said he would use him mightily: “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). When Paul first received this commission, “straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God” (9:20).

Paul was in no hurry to see everything fulfilled in his lifetime. He knew he had an ironclad promise from God, and he clung to it. For the present moment, he was content to minister wherever he was: witnessing to a jailer, to a sailor, to a few women on a riverbank. This man had a worldwide commission, yet he was faithful to testify one-on-one.

Nor was Paul jealous of younger men who seemed to pass him by. While they traveled the world winning Jews and Gentiles to Christ, Paul sat in prison. He had to listen to reports of great crowds being converted by men he’d battled with over the gospel of grace. Yet Paul didn’t envy those men. He knew that a Christ-surrendered man knows how to abase as well as abound: “Godliness with contentment is great gain…and having food and raiment [clothing] let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).

The world today might say to Paul, “You are at the end of your life now. Yet you have no savings, no investments. All you have is a change of clothes.” I know what Paul’s answer would be: “Oh, but I’ve won Christ. I tell you, I’m the winner. I’ve found the pearl of great price. Jesus granted me the power to lay down everything, and take it up again myself. Well, I laid it all down, and now a crown awaits me. I have only one goal in this life: to see my Jesus, face to face. All the sufferings of this present time can’t be compared with the joy that awaits me.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

THE PATH OF SURRENDER

God begins the process of surrender by knocking us off our high horse. This literally happened to Paul. He was going his self-assured way, riding toward Damascus, when a blinding light came from heaven. Paul was knocked to the ground, trembling. Then a voice spoke from heaven, saying, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4).

Paul knew something was missing in his life. He had a knowledge of God, but no firsthand revelation. Now on his knees, he heard these words from heaven: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest” (9:5). The words turned Paul’s world upside down. Scripture says, “Trembling and astonished, [Paul] said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (9:6). Paul’s conversion was a dramatic work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul was being led by the Holy Spirit into the surrendered life. He asked, “Lord, what would you have me to do?” and his heart was crying out, “Jesus, how can I serve you? How can I know you and please you? Nothing else matters. Everything I’ve done in my flesh is dung. You’re everything to me now.”

Paul had no other ambition, no other driving force in his life, than this: “That I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8). By today’s standards of success, Paul was a total failure. He didn’t construct any buildings. He didn’t have an organization. And the methods he used were despised by other leaders. In fact, the message Paul preached offended large numbers of his hearers. At times he was even stoned for preaching it. His subject? The cross.

When we stand before God at the judgment, we won’t be judged by our ministries, achievements or number of converts. There will be but one measure of success on that day: Were our hearts fully surrendered to God? Did we lay aside our own will and agenda and take up his? Did we succumb to peer pressure and follow the crowd, or did we seek him alone for direction? Did we run from seminar to seminar looking for purpose in life, or did we find our fulfillment in him?

I have but one ambition and that is to learn more and more to say only those things the Father gives me. Nothing I say or do of myself is worth anything. I want to be able to claim, “I know my Father is with me, because I do only his will.”