Friday, May 31, 2013

THE MARK OF A MATURE BELIEVER

The mark of a mature believer is a refusal to be "tossed to and fro . . . with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Such believers cannot be manipulated by any teacher. They do not need to run around, because they are feasting in green pastures, growing up in Christ. They have learned Christ. They will not be captivated by music, friends, personalities or miracles, but by a hunger for the pure Word.

Paul said, "That they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:10). What is Christ's doctrine? The grace of God teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:11-12). The doctrine of Christ will conform you to the image of Christ. It will expose every hidden sin and every evil longing.

Is your teacher rebuking with authority, speaking and exhorting you to forsake sin and lay down all idols as instructed in Titus 2? Are you learning to hate sin passionately? Or do you leave church, still not deeply convicted? The message of the doctrine of Christ is, "Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God" (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Many write to us saying that their pastors tell them, “I'm not here to preach against sin; I'm here to lift up Jesus.” Or, “You’ll hear none of that condemnation preaching from this pulpit! I'm here to lift the fear and depression off my people.” Even Pentecostal preachers have two extremes. Some scream a hard, legalistic gospel without love, merely of works; others preach against sin like cowards, taking it all back in the same message.

The doctrine of Christ is a doctrine of godliness and holiness. "If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings" (1 Timothy 6:3-4).

The preaching of Christ's doctrine will bless, strengthen and encourage you, but it will also convict you so deeply you cannot sit under it and still cling to a secret sin.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

BEHOLDING THE FACE OF CHRIST

Paul speaks of a ministry that does not require particular gifts or talents; rather, it is to be undertaken by all who have been born again. This ministry is every believer's first calling and no ministry can be pleasing to God unless it is birthed out of this calling.

I am talking about the ministry of beholding the face of Christ. Paul says, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What does it mean to behold the Lord's glory? Paul is speaking here of devoted, focused worship, time that is given to God simply to behold Him. And the apostle quickly adds, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry" (4:1). Paul makes it clear that beholding the face of Christ is a ministry we all must devote ourselves to.

The Greek word for beholding in the verse above is a very strong expression. It indicates not just taking a look, but "fixing the gaze." It means deciding, "I won't move from this position. Before I do anything else, before I try to accomplish a single thing, I must be in God's presence."

Many Christians misinterpret the phrase "beholding as in a glass." They think of a mirror, with Jesus' face being reflected back to them. But that is not Paul's meaning here. He is speaking of an intensely focused gaze, as if peering at something earnestly through a glass, trying to see it more clearly. We are to "fix our eyes" this way, determined to see God's glory in the face of Christ. We are to shut ourselves in the holy of holies with but one obsession: to gaze so intently, and to commune with such devotion, that we are changed.

What happens as a believer beholds the face of Christ? Paul writes, "We . . . are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Greek word for changed here is "metamorphosed," meaning transformed, transfigured. Everyone who often fixes his gaze intently on Christ is being metamorphosed. A transfiguration is taking place. That person is continually being changed into the likeness and character of Jesus.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SOMETHING WORSE THAN FAILURE

I sat in my car weeping, thinking I was a terrible failure. I had been unceremoniously dumped from a courtroom after I thought I was led by God to witness to seven teenaged murderers. I shudder to think of how much blessing I would have missed had I given up in that dark hour. How glad I am today that God taught me to face my failure and go on to His next steps for me.

I know two outstanding men of God—both of whom had ministered to thousands—who fell into the sin that David committed with Bathsheba. One minister decided that he could not go on and today he drinks and curses the Christ he once preached about. The other man repented and started all over. He now heads an international missions program that reaches thousands for Christ. His failure has been left behind and he keeps moving forward.

In my work with addicts and incorrigibles, I have observed that the majority of those who return to their old habits become stronger than all the others when they face their failures and return to the Lord. They have a special awareness of the power of Satan and a total rejection of confidence in the flesh.

When Adam sinned, he tried to hide from God. When Jonah refused to preach to Nineveh, his fear drove him into the ocean to flee from the presence of the Lord. When Peter denied Christ, he was afraid to face Him.

God has shown me a truth that has helped me many times: Something much worse than failure is the fear that goes with it. Adam, Jonah and Peter ran away from God not because they had lost their love for Him, but because they were afraid He was too angry with them to understand. Satan uses such fear to make people think there is no use trying.

If David had resigned himself to failure, we might never have heard of him again. Yet, he ran into the house of God, laid hold of the horns of the altar, found forgiveness and peace, and returned to his finest hour. And the same can be true for you!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

CONSIDER THE FAILURES

Would you consider Moses a failure? Hardly! He was to Israel what Washington and Lincoln together were to America—and much more. But look closely at the great lawgiver's life. His career began with a murder, followed by forty years of hiding from justice.

Moses was a man of fear and unbelief. When God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery, he pleaded, "I am not eloquent . . . I am slow of speech” (Exodus 4:10). All his life, Moses longed to enter the Promised Land, but his failures kept him out. Even so, in Hebrews 3:1-2, God compares Moses' faithfulness to Christ's. Moses’ failures did not keep him out of God's Hall of Champions.

We usually think of Jacob as the great prayer warrior who wrestled with the angel of the Lord and prevailed. Yet this man's life was filled with glaring failure. As a youth Jacob deceived his blind father in order to steal his brother's inheritance. He despised his wife Leah while he nursed a great secret love for her sister, Rachel. He did not accept his responsibility as a husband.

Here was a man caught in a web of trickery, theft, unfaithfulness and polygamy. Nevertheless, we still worship the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob.

King David, a mighty warrior and singer of psalms, delighted in the law of the Lord and posed as the righteous man who would not stand among sinners. Yet, how shocking are the weaknesses of this great man. Taking Bathsheba from her husband Uriah, he sent that unsuspecting man to death at the front lines of his army. The prophet Nathan declared that this double sin gave great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.

Picture the great king standing by the casket of his dead illegitimate child, a stolen wife at his side, and a world filled with enemies who cursed God because of his notorious sins. Yet, God called David a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).

If you are discouraged by your failures, I have good news for you. No one is closer to the kingdom of God than the man or woman who can look defeat in the eye, face it, and move on to a life of peace and victory. Despite failure, keep moving on! It is often after a failure that a man does his greatest work for God.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A TRUE JESUS MOVEMENT by Gary Wilkerson

What hurting man, woman or child wouldn’t run to a place where lifelong troubles are answered by God, where deep, miraculous healing takes place? That is truly a “Jesus Movement.” And it does not happen by plans, ingenuity or organized events; it happens when God shows up. Wherever His glory manifests, whether through faithful preaching or a simple testimony, people will run to taste it.

The people “ran together to them” (Acts 3:11). There is great significance in this word “together.” These people were not scrambling to get past one another. They went as one, each humbled by the majestic power of God’s presence.

God’s glory has that effect. It unifies us in awe. Indeed, that is God’s desire for us—to set aside our differences, forgive offenses, and go to those who need our forgiveness or who need to forgive us.

We cannot expect a glorious, awe-inspiring God to move in our midst if we cling to a tongue that speaks evil, a heart that stews on grudges, a spirit that refuses to forgive another. Why would nonbelievers run to a church where malice and division rule? God’s acts of glory knit our hearts together—but how can we be knit if we refuse to lay down our divisions?

Why is God’s glory manifested in some churches and people but not in others? Peter provides an answer in the scene at the Temple. He told those marveling people, “Men of Israel . . . the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus” (Acts 3:12-13).

God has placed all His majesty, glory and power in one source: Christ. His glory is not made known in smart and powerful men or through brilliant plans and ingenious strategies. His glory is found in a single source: Jesus.

If we want Christ’s glory in our lives and in our churches, it is not going to come through our strength or schemes. It is going to come by emptying ourselves out that He may fill us. We must say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Friday, May 24, 2013

THIS POOR MAN CRIED

In the very first verse of Psalm 51 we read that David appeals to the tender, forgiving mercies of God: "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions."

David knew what to do: "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:6). "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles" (Psalm 34:17).

Dear saint, this is your victory over sin: the absolute confidence that no matter how grievously you have sinned or fallen, you serve a Lord who is ready to forgive, anxious to heal, and possesses more lovingkindness toward you than you could ever need.

The devil comes to you and says, "No! If you get off the hook too easily, you'll jump right back into sin." He will make you feel miserable, unworthy to lift your hands in praise to God, or even to pick up His Word.

But here is your weapon: Cry out as David did, with all of your heart. Go to God and say to Him, "Lord, You love me. I know You are ready to forgive me. I confess!"

At that very moment, you are clear with God. You don't have to pay for your sin. God loves you so much that He gave His Son, who has already paid for it. A merciful, loving advocate is yearning to help and deliver you: "My little children, these things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).

My young granddaughter wanted to walk atop a low concrete wall. As I held her from behind, she tried to knock my hand away. I let go and eventually she fell (but without hurting herself). When she fell, I didn't desert her and say, "Look at what you did. You're not mine anymore!"

The Lord said to me, "David, you allow yourself such love for this child, but you won't allow Me to love you in the same way. You swell with pride over your children but you won't allow Me to do so on your behalf!"

The Bible says God takes pleasure in His children!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

THE TERROR OF THE LORD

I used to say, "Don't come forward to be saved just because you are afraid of hell. Just come in simple faith." But I was wrong. The apostle Paul said, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men"(2 Corinthians 5:11). There is a godly fear that leads to repentance.

It is true that hell was prepared for the devil and his angels. It is also true that Christians are saved by unmerited grace, and that faith in Christ is the believer's security.

With God’s help, I have once and for all dropped out of the fatal race of carnality and worldly-mindedness. I have quit the competition race! I no longer run in flesh-motivated, ego-tripping, man-pleasing races.

I want to do more than simply give up mental attachment to things, houses, cars, lands, possessions. I want the power and grace to curb my appetites, to lay aside all the junk, to sell what I don't need, to quit buying and building and acquiring unneeded things, and to get my eyes so focused on Christ and eternity, the things of this world will lose their hold on me, and materialism will no longer be my master.

Beloved, if this message does not sit well with you, if it angers or upsets you even in the slightest, perhaps you should do what I have been doing lately. Get shut in with God, day after day, and ask the Holy Spirit to turn God's holy searchlight on your soul. Get deadly honest with God. You will soon discover, as I have, how much time you have wasted, how many foolish lusts and wants have crippled you, and you will fall on your face before holy God and confess the coldness and emptiness in your heart.

If you do this with an honest heart, you will begin to thank God for pricking your conscience and stirring you to run a different race.

Saints of God, very soon our Lord is coming in clouds of glory to catch up His bride—a bride without spot or wrinkle. A bride purged of covetousness, pride and worldly ambition.

Shall we spend our final hours on earth putting money in bags with holes in them? No thanks! I'm just passing through. I want no more roots to hold me down. Thank God for the good things He has given me—my family, a nice house, modern transportation—but daily I now prepare my heart to walk away from it all to be embraced in the Savior's arms!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

THE FATAL RACE

The word race suggests competition and in Hebrews 12:1, God’s people are likened to runners in a long-distance race. Today, the race has been corrupted and the prize has become carnal.

If we could spend just a few minutes in heaven, we would never again compete in a carnal race. If only we could experience a short walk within the gates of that city of God; drink in the peace, the beauty, the heavenly splendors; listen to the grand choirs of angels singing the glories of the Lord; mingle with the patriarchs, the martyrs, the apostles, those who came out of great tribulation; visit with departed loved ones; feel the glow of God's holy light; and best of all, catch a glimpse of the face of the resurrected Lamb of God and feel the glory and warmth and sense of security shining forth from His presence!

Would we ever come back to this earth and take up the fatal race again? Never! You and I would live only for the Lord, rejecting the world and all its pleasures and carnal things. We would run His race!

If we could spend even a few minutes in hell, we would never be the same. Imagine what it would be like to be drawn into that black furnace of fire and everlasting darkness; to suddenly be cast into a demonic world of godlessness, cursing, hatred, lust, and corruption; to hear the groans of the eternally damned and witness their terror, their gnashing teeth; to rub shoulders with the workers of iniquity, the crucifiers of the Lord Jesus; to listen to the endless sounds of hopeless, useless prayers of the damned, shaking their fists at the God of justice, cursing the day they were born; to feel what being lost means, cut off from God and truth and love and peace and all comfort.

How could you return to earth from your short visit to hell and ever be the same again? Would you go back to neglecting God's Word, His house, His love? Would you go about your selfish pursuits of accumulating, hoarding gold and silver, and praying for even more? I hardly think so. No, you and I would live every hour as if it were our last.

Do you want to quit running and beating the air in vain? Set your face and heart to seek the Lord as never before!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

WAITING ON HIM

The prophet Samuel's command to King Saul was, "Go to Gilgal and wait . . . I will come and you will get directions" (see 1 Samuel 10:8). Saul’s only responsibility was to wait! God wanted to hear Saul say, "God keeps His word: never once has a word from Samuel's lips fallen to the ground. God said I should wait for directions and I will wait.”

But pride reasons, "God must not have meant it. Maybe I heard it wrong.” Instead of standing on God's word, we start trying to figure out things on our own. Lying in bed in the late hours we say, "Lord, here's how I see it can be done." It is wicked to do something very logical and reasonable when it is not God's clear word of direction. If you want to prove anything to God, prove you will patiently wait for Him to act.

"And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; therefore said I, the Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord; I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering. And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly . . . now thy kingdom shall not continue: the Lord hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the Lord hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the Lord commanded thee" (1 Samuel 13:11-14).

Saul waited seven days—but that wait was unholy. He was impatient, angry, fearful and pouting. We must wait with faith, believing that God cares for us and loves us, that He will be there on His time. This matter of waiting is so important that I must show you some Scriptures to prove it.

"And is shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation" (Isaiah 25:9).

"For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him (Isaiah 64:4).

Monday, May 20, 2013

SHOW US YOUR GLORY by Gary Wilkerson

Peter and John were walking to the Temple when they encountered a crippled beggar. Hearing the man’s pleas for alms, Peter responded, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” (Acts 3:6, ESV).

The beggar was healed instantly! It was a miracle that had a resounding effect: “While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon’s” (3:11). Here was yet another amazing scene of God’s glory manifesting.

The healed man “clung” to Peter and John. The image here is of someone hanging on for dear life, clutching unashamedly. It is as if this man was saying, “God’s presence is real! I have sat here for years, begging for help, but I never experienced anything like this. He has stirred my soul beyond anything I’ve ever known!”

God loves a heart that clings to Him and pursues Him crying, “Lord, Your glory is too great to let it pass by. I cling to the hope You give me—hope for healing, for transformation, for Your presence in my life and my world.”

“All the people” came to see what had happened (3:11). When God reveals His glory in power, the response will not be trifling. The greatness of His power demands the attention of everyone around.

Suppose this beggar’s miraculous healing had happened at the church where I pastor. We would not be able to buy enough chairs to accommodate the throngs that would come. I am not referring only to gawkers who love a spectacle. We are all hungry for the touch of God in our lives. Believers and nonbelievers alike are hurting today, wandering like sheep without a shepherd, hungering for what is real. So when God’s glory manifests, bringing newness of life, it draws the attention of all, not just a few.

“All the people [were] utterly astounded” (3:11). When the people saw that the beggar was healed, they marveled, “Nothing we know compares to this. Surely God is in this place!”

Let me ask: Do you want more from your life in God? Do you want His glory to come into your home, your marriage, your children’s lives, and transform things so that all are astounded? Guess what—that is what God wants! He wants you to be astounded by His glory and transformed by it. And He wants the world around you to be amazed as His glorious power brings new life to situations where defeat has been the rule.

Friday, May 17, 2013

ENDLESS COMPASSION

A lovely, 19-year-old nurse stopped me after a crusade service. Tearfully, she sobbed out a pitiful confession: "Mr. Wilkerson, I'm a lesbian. I feel so dirty and unclean. The church where I used to attend asked me to never return. The minister said he couldn't take a chance of my seducing others in his congregation. I feel like suicide is my only way out. I live in total fear and condemnation. Must I kill myself to find peace?"

She kept backing away from me as if she felt too unclean to be in my presence. I asked her if she still loved Jesus. "Oh, yes," she replied. "Every waking hour, my heart cries out to Him. I love Christ with everything in me but I'm bound by this terrible habit."

How beautiful it was to see her face light up when I told her how much God loved her, even in her struggles. I told her, "Don't ever give yourself over to your sin. God draws a line right where you are. Any momentum toward Him is accounted as righteousness. Any move back across that line, away from Him, is sin. If we draw near to Him, He draws near to us. Keep your spiritual momentum! Keep loving Jesus even though you still do not have total victory. Accept His daily forgiveness. Live one day at a time! Be convinced Jesus loves sinners so He must love you, too!"

She smiled a smile of relief and said, "Mr. Wilkerson, you are the first minister who ever offered me a ray of hope. Deep in my heart I know He still loves me and I know He will give me deliverance from this bondage. But I have been so condemned by everybody. Thanks for your message of hope and love."

Reader of this message, are you living under condemnation? Have you sinned against the Lord? Have you grieved the Holy Spirit in your life? Are you waging a losing battle with an overpowering temptation?

All you need to do is search God's Word and you will discover a God of mercy, love and endless compassion. David said, "If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared" (Psalm 130:3-4).

Thursday, May 16, 2013

HIS LOVINGKINDNESS

We are to preach about the Lord's lovingkindness to all mankind. David said: "I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation; I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation" (Psalm 40:10).

David not only appropriated this wonderful message for himself, he knew it was sorely needed by the whole congregation and by a hurting world. David was grateful to God for such great love, because he was surrounded by his own failings: "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me" (Psalm 40:12). It does not matter how badly people have sinned, God still loves. That is why He sent His Son. And that is what we should be preaching to the world!

Can you say with David, "I have not concealed thy lovingkindness from the great congregation"?

Perhaps one of the most quoted and sung verses in all of God's Word is this: "Thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee" (Psalm 63:3). You may ask, "What do you mean, His lovingkindness is better than life?" Life is short! It fades like the grass, which is here one season and gone the next. Yet His lovingkindness will endure forever. A billion years from now, Jesus will be as tender and loving to us as He is now. Others can take your life from you but they cannot take away His lovingkindness.

The greatest proclamation of His lovingkindness is joyful praise. Stop and think for a moment: God is not mad at you anymore. If you're ready to forsake your sins, you can be forgiven and restored this very moment.

The Word says nothing can come between our Lord and us: no sin, no guilt, no condemning thoughts. You can say, "My life is a blessing to the Lord, and I can rejoice and praise Him. I am clean, free, forgiven, justified, sanctified, redeemed!"

If you really understood how tender He is toward you—how patient, how caring, how ready to forgive and bless—you would not be able to contain yourself. You would shout and praise Him until you had no voice left!

Beloved, Jesus is coming—and we are ready to go. You have a loving, tender Father who cares about you. He has bottled every tear you have ever shed. He has seen your every need and known your every thought—and He loves you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

THE SONG OF VICTORY

The children of Israel were in a hopeless predicament!

The Red Sea was before them; the mountains were to the left and right; and Pharaoh and his iron chariots were closing in from the rear. God's people seemed helplessly trapped—like sitting ducks just waiting to be cut down. Yet, believe it or not, God purposely had led them into this precarious spot!

It was panic time in the camp of Israel. Men shook with fear, and women and children wept as they huddled around grandparents and other kin. Suddenly Moses was mobbed by irate family leaders who cried, "Surely this is the end! Weren't there enough graves in Egypt to bury us there? You had to drag us out here to die? We told you in Egypt to let us alone. It was better to be slaves there than to die in this miserable wilderness!" (see Exodus 14:10-12)

I wonder if even Moses had a moment of trepidation about their circumstances. Yet when this man of God wept, the Lord seems to have chided him: "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" (Exodus 14:15).

No one in Israel could have known what a great deliverance God was about to bring! Suddenly the winds parted the sea, and the people walked through the parted waves on dry ground. When Pharaoh and his powerful army tried to follow, the waters began to rage again, closing in and drowning them all!

What a sight it must have been! The people of God looked back from the other side and saw their mighty enemy destroyed like tin soldiers. Then a song went up in the camp as, once again, they realized God had delivered them from impossible circumstances! Scripture records their reaction—and the song they sang:

"Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him" (Exodus 15:1-2).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

PRAYING PAYSON

Dr. Edward Payson, known as "Praying Payson," was a pastor in Portland, Maine, nearly 200 years ago. In 1806, just a few years after the Declaration of Independence, America was devastated by a severe depression. It was a dark period and Dr. Payson vividly recorded the tragedy in his area. He wrote:

"Business has stagnated, many are failing. Hundreds . . . have been thrown out of employment, and they are destitute. I tremble for my poor country. I fear our sins have helped call down judgment upon us. Some of our wonderful young converts have lost their all, and had their homes stripped away; but it does my heart good to see them cheerful and quiet under it all. Others, who have no God, have lost their reason, they worry incessantly, and are apparently dying of a broken heart."

Dr. Payson and his congregation suffered the spoiling of all their goods. Dr. Payson himself lived on pennies during those hard times. On December 28, 1807, in a letter to his mother, he wrote:

"Conditions worsen. A large number of the wealthy merchants live in poverty now. Businesses are failing daily. The poorhouse is already full, and hundreds are yet to be provided for. Many who have been brought up in affluence are now dependent on others for daily food.

"Perhaps, Mother, you will grieve for me and say, ‘Poor Edward!’ But you never had more reason to rejoice on my behalf, and cry, ‘Rich Edward!’ than now. Blessed be God, my faith does not stand on such tottering foundations as to be shaken by these commotions. God keeps me quiet, resigned, and even happy in all these troubles. I do not mean I don't feel pain—I do. All my worldly hopes are destroyed. In these circumstances it is impossible not to feel pain. I thought I knew before that this world is treacherous, and its enjoyments but for a moment; but these hard times have taught me to wean myself from creature things and pursue the things of God. It is my prayer, that if God has any worldly blessings in store for me, He would be pleased to give me His grace instead."

Edward Payson had quit trying to run the race of life on his own (see Hebrews 12:1). He could take joyfully the stripping away of all he possessed, because he was in this world but not of it.

”My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Monday, May 13, 2013

GREATER THINGS ARE YET TO COME by Gary Wilkerson

God wants to do mighty things through us. He wants to express His love to the world through us. So if we are clinging to one thing that gets in the way of His accomplishing that—some willfulness, some refusal to trust Him for everything—He points it out to us.

Sometimes God wants us to add something to our lives before He brings His best. This may involve something we have not done, so He wants us to ask, “Have I been slow to respond to something God has asked me to do?”

We find an example of this in Acts, when the disciples added a new member to replace Judas. While in the Upper Room, they drew lots and chose Matthias. It seemed like such a small thing. These same men had seen Jesus work wonders, open blind eyes, cast out demons, even raise a man from the dead. They had seen God’s kingdom advanced on earth as never before in history. And when Christ ascended to heaven, He gave them this incredible word: “You will do even greater works, once I send you My Spirit. He will empower you. Greater things are yet to come!” (see Acts 1:1-8).

Indeed, these same disciples would go beyond Israel and the Middle East, into Europe and India and Africa, preaching the good news of Christ to the nations, all within their generation. What made it so important to add another disciple? They did it for one simple reason: Peter sensed it was something God wanted them to do.

“In those days Peter stood up among the brothers . . . and said, ‘Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas . . . For he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry’” (Acts 1:15-17). Peter was referring to Psalm 109:8: “May another take his place of leadership.”

There is a great lesson here for Christ’s church today. That is, never overlook a nagging issue of the heart, no matter how small. God puts His finger on these matters for a reason: to reveal our heart’s response to Him. Greater things are yet to come!

Friday, May 10, 2013

DEALING WITH DOUBT

If you do not deal with your doubts, you will be given over to a spirit of murmuring and complaining. You will live that way and die that way. Your doubts cannot simply be suppressed, they must be pulled out by the roots.

Look at Israel just three days after their deliverance from Egypt. They had been singing, shaking their tambourines and testifying to the power and strength of a mighty God, boasting that He was leading and protecting them. Then they arrived at Marah, which means "waters of bitterness." This was to be testing place for them.

God just keeps allowing crisis after crisis until we finally get the lesson. If we keep refusing to learn it, a time comes when He gives us over to our own bitterness and murmuring. "And they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. . . . And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?" (Exodus 15:22, 24).

On Sunday, the Israelites were having a great time—singing, dancing and praising. Then Wednesday came and they were in trouble. Another crisis—and they were falling apart!

How could a people lose their confidence so quickly? Because they never had any. They never had that foundation built under them. So again they failed the test. They had learned absolutely nothing from their previous crisis and again they missed an opportunity to shine forth the greatness of their God.

From that day on, Israel was beyond learning anything from God. They even began to take His goodness for granted. They had no food, so He sent them manna from heaven. He dropped quails out of the sky, piling them three feet high outside the camp. But not a word of thanksgiving was heard! Instead, the people turned to greed, hoarding all that God gave them. Israel became stiff-necked!

Oh, what a shame it is to go from crisis to crisis and learn nothing in the process. It carries with it a curse that you will be given over to a spirit of murmuring.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

HEAL MY UNBELIEF

"Ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord" (James 1:6-7).

The world is full of Christians who will not hold on to God's Word. They think it is an innocent thing to sit at the table in the house of God and murmur and complain, as if God doesn't hear. God does hear our murmurings! They are accusations that He does not care, insinuations that He has let us down.

God has warned me not to give voice to nagging doubts and fears—not to my wife, not to friends, not to loved ones, not to colleagues. God says to take those doubts to the cross and say, "Jesus, heal my unbelief. Take it out."

Israel spent forty years in turmoil—backbiting, complaining, full of bitterness and jealousy. What a miserable existence they led while claiming to be the children of God, claiming to be holy. But that was their testimony, not God's.

You must come to a place where you trust Him. If you learn it now, the next time a crisis comes you will sing and shout with praises to your Deliverer! Oh, the victory will be there but more importantly, you will have dealt a deathblow to all doubt, fear and unbelief.

Where do you start? By looking right into the mirror of God's Word. Consider your words and actions over the last thirty days: Have you been murmuring? Complaining? You may answer, "Yes, but I haven't been murmuring at God!" Oh yes, you have! No matter where or to whom you complain, it is all directed at God.

Every place I turn in my Bible, I see, "Trust Me and I'll see you through. Just commit your ways to Me." What does that require? Simply this: Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. You ask, "But what if nothing happens?" That response reveals doubt and fear.

Beloved, turn to God today and say, "Lord, I've done everything I know how to do in my situation. I know there's nothing I can do to fix the problem anyway. I'm going to trust You and wait for Your victory.”

Let God make you a testimony to the world, a witness of His faithfulness. Love Him with all your heart right now. Give Him all your problems, all your faith and all your trust!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A SONG IN THE MIDST OF HARD TIMES

"They that carried us away required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psalm 137:3-4).

The people of God were in the hardest place of their lifetime. And as they were carried away, their captors required of them a song. Yet there was no life in them anymore, nothing but depression, despair, hopelessness.

Multitudes of Christians are in the same position today. You may be trapped by your circumstances or the devil is coming at you with an old temptation. You are on the edge of giving up, thinking, “I can't make it. In spite of all my crying and praying, that old bondage is going to hound me forever!"

When Israel fell into Babylonian bondage, their captors cried to them, "Sing for us! Play for us! We've heard all about you and what your God did for you. Now take out your tambourines and bring out your harps. Play us a song. Show us your joy in your God!"

I do not believe this demand was made only in mockery. I believe it was also a pitiful plea. The Babylonians' gods had left them empty and dry. They had no hope. But they had heard Israel singing to their God, a God who had seen them through impossible circumstances. They said, "These people have a God who can open a sea for them. His fire comes down from heaven and He stands against their enemies. There's got to be something to this God of theirs!"

Like all the world, they wanted to see a people who endured the same problems they endured and faced the same battles they faced, yet could sing and shout and hold their faith in the darkest of hours! The Babylonians demanded a song because there is something in every person's heart that cries out, "Where on the face of the earth is something that can make you sing even when you've lost everything?" They needed a testimony! It is important that the children of God, wherever they are at whatever time, sing the songs of Zion: "God, I believe You, no matter what is happening!"

The world is shouting to us, "You can show us a miracle! It isn't the Red Sea opening up that impresses us. It's not seeing the blind given sight or the lame healed. It's that you can look at the darkest hour of your life, a situation that's hopeless to all human reasoning, and yet smile with joy, singing praises to God. That's the miracle we want to see."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SERVANTHOOD

Pride is repelled by the idea of servanthood. Today everybody wants to be everything but a servant. A popular children's game in America is called "Masters of the Universe." But that is also becoming the theology of many Christians. We quote this Scripture, "Thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ" (Galatians 4:7). What Paul really is saying is that a son who has been taught correctly knows that he is legally the king's son with all rights, but he so loves his father he chooses the role of a servant. Paul also said he was "a servant of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1) and James called himself "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus" (James1:1).

A servant has no will of his own; his master's word is his will. The cross represents the death of all my own plans, my own ideas, desires, hopes and dreams. And most of all, it means the absolute death of my own will. This is true humility. "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). He had told His disciples, "My meat (fulfillment in life) is to do the will of him that sent me (John 4:34). In other words, “I refuse to take matters into My own hands. I wait to hear every direction from My Father!”

John wrote, "As he is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17). Every true Christian must be willing to say, "I really want to do His will." But here is where we miss it. We set our hearts on something that we want, something that looks good, that sounds logical, but is not God's will. We will fast and pray and intercede. Cry a river of tears. Claim it. Quote the Bible. Get others to agree with us. One of the biggest traps to Christians is a good idea that is not God's mind, a good strategy which is not from Him, a well-conceived plan that is not His. Can your desire survive the cross? Can you walk away from it and die to it? You must be able to say with honesty, "Lord, maybe it's not the devil stopping me, but You. If this is not Your will, it could destroy me. I give it up to the cross. Do it Your way, Lord!"

Monday, May 6, 2013

TENACIOUS FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

“Have I neglected to do something He has asked of me? I want nothing in my life to hinder what God wants to do.”

God is forever bringing His people to this point. Why? Because before He can bring about His best, He has to do something deep in us. He wants to give us His victory, but He also wants our complete devotion.

The first six chapters of Joshua describe the glorious work God did among His people over a few years’ time. Israel had just been freed after 400 years in bondage. They had emerged from 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. And after all this, God had blessed them. Now they were at the border of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey He had promised them years before. So they crossed over—and what happened? Immediately Joshua turned to the younger generation of men and separated them unto God. Scripture uses the word “circumcised” to describe their preparation, but the deeper meaning is, “They were made ready.”

Why did Joshua do this? Now that they had crossed over, they faced the thick, impenetrable walls of Jericho. Taking this enemy would be impossible for the ragtag Israelites. Yet God was telling them, “I have blessed you these recent years. You have experienced My incredible riches. But your work is not yet finished.”

How did the Israelites prepare for this battle? They didn’t sharpen their swords and shine their armor. Instead, the preparation took place inside their hearts. God commanded them to circle the city singing songs, praying, and waiting on Him. Finally, He had them raise up trumpets and issue a single blast. In an instant, those mighty walls came tumbling down!

Joshua and his men then performed mighty exploits, defeating their enemies, inheriting greater lands and seeing victories as never before. In fact, Joshua did something even Moses did not do—he defeated thirty-one kings. That was a tenfold increase over the number of kings Moses had defeated. I believe this is a picture of what the Lord wants to do in all our lives. He wants to bring a tenfold increase, pour out His Spirit in amazing ways, and have us believe He wants to do it all. In short, He wants us to possess a tenacious, unwavering faith.

Friday, May 3, 2013

HE THREATENED NOT

Here is an amazing truth connected with Christ's suffering: "When he was reviled, [he] reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not" (1 Peter 2:23).

What a tremendous statement: "When He suffered, He threatened not." He never once defended Himself against those who mistreated Him. He punished no one nor retaliated against any.

How unlike us! We threaten when suffering gets unbearable; we defend ourselves; we constantly protect our rights and reputation. Worst of all, we threaten God. It's a very subtle thing, and most of us are not aware of what we are doing. When our prayers go unanswered—when trouble and disaster strike our lives—when it seems as though the Lord has let us down and we end up lonely and in pain—we pull back on God. We slack up on prayer and Bible reading. We still love Him, but we let go of our zeal. We begin to drift and our faith becomes dull, inactive. Those responses are all threats against the Lord.

Every time we back off from seeking the Lord with all our hearts, we are threatening Him. It's a subtle way of saying, "Lord, I did my best and You let me down."

The Lord has infinite patience with those of us who hurt. He waits lovingly until we return to His tender care. But it can become a way of life, a threat to God's faithfulness, if we refuse to wake up and renew our faith and hope in Him. Some become so disillusioned, they give in to their lusts and passions. They indulge their desires because the battle seems so hopeless. It's their way of saying, "What's the use? I call on God to help me, to deliver me, but help never comes. I've still got this thing in me, after all my tears and prayers."

It finally comes to this: "I have a right to do it—because I've been hurt so badly." It's a threat to God, a way of getting even with Him for not answering prayer on schedule.

Beloved, there is hope! The Lord of Hosts is with us! He alone is our keeper. He will not let His children slip or fall. We are held in the palm of His hand.

Let us do as Christ did. He "committed himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23). "To commit" is to place your life completely in His hands. Give up your struggle, quit trying to accomplish anything in your own strength, and commit the keeping of your body and soul to the Lord of Hosts!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

GOD STILL CHOOSES THE WEAK

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

God still chooses the weak to show forth His strength. Have you ever grieved over weakness? Have you felt insignificant, frail and useless to God? Have you looked upon others who seem so strong, so perfect, and thought of yourself in comparison as too sinful, too dull to be used of God? God is not looking for spiritual giants, but rather for ordinary saints with childlike faith who have lost all confidence in the flesh.

God will confound the strong and wise by anointing as His instruments those who are considered weak and foolish. The Lord will bypass those who lean on the arm of flesh, who trust in their talents, their knowledge, their background, their family reputation. Instead, He will raise up the brokenhearted, the weak and the weary. He will pour on them a spirit of praise and a baptism of love. He will show them His greatness, His faithfulness, His covenants, and they will become strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Is there a spirit in you that urges you on to new and higher places in the Lord? Is there a fire for God ignited within? Do you feel a drawing to a renewed faith and trust in God? Be thankful! That is the call of Jesus Christ the Lord!

His promises to us are great and precious. “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).

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE?

"Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him" (Exodus 32:26).

How would God crush the corruption in Israel? Who would He choose to be His instruments in a time of evil? Would angels come down and execute righteous judgment? Aaron and his sons had already corrupted themselves so who would God raise up to shine forth as His soldiers of holiness?

Of all people, He chose the sons of Levi—sons of that murderer who, with his brother Simeon, had caused Jacob’s family to be shamed before the heathen. Simeon and Levi each took a sword and slew Shechem for raping their sister Dinah. They also killed his father Hamor and then took their sheep, oxen and donkeys, their wealth, and their wives and children.

Oh, the matchless grace of God—to choose the most unworthy, the weakest of them all—to be His instruments. “All the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. . . . And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses” (Exodus 32: 26, 28).

Perhaps there was something deep within them that said, “We will not fail God as our father did! We will not bring reproach on the name of our God; we will step out and take our stand with the Lord!”

Moses had promised them, “God will reward you if you consecrate yourself and take a stand among your family, friends and brothers” (see Exodus 32:29). And God did reward them with a semi-priestly order called the Levites, who were given to the service of God’s house.

Being on the Lord’s side is taking His sword and using it to combat the forces of unbelief, putting down all doubts and fears. It means standing true to God and His Word no matter what the crowd does; no matter how faithless our friends become; no matter how worldly our dearest loved ones are. We must step out and declare, “I am on the Lord’s side! I come out against all attacks on the majesty and faithfulness of our God!”