Monday, September 30, 2013

THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER by Gary Wilkerson

Chapters 1 through 6 of the book of Acts describe one of the most glorious works of God in history. It is an amazing sequence of action-filled events: powerful preaching, mass conversions, miraculous healings. All were the fulfillment of a divine promise foretold by Jesus.

Before His resurrection, Christ instructed the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to receive the “promise of the Father.” “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, ESV).

That promise began its fulfillment on Pentecost, Israel’s feast of “firstfruits.” The world was about to see the firstfruits of Christ’s labor on the cross for us.

The disciples could not possibly have imagined what God had in mind for them. They probably thought, “Great! This promise means God is about to restore Israel. He’ll free us from the shackles of Roman bondage forever and we’ll be His people again.”

Today I think perhaps the Church would have a similar reaction if we heard the same promise from Jesus. We might think, “When God’s promise comes, our churches will be filled to bursting. The Holy Spirit will move in other cities and people will travel from all over just to get a taste. We’ll be blessed as never before!”

We should want the Holy Spirit to fill our sanctuaries, to bring joy and comfort to God’s people. But when God’s glory comes, it will not be for our benefit alone. Jesus did not say, “When you receive power from on high, you shall be My churchgoers, My Bible studiers, My prayer meeting attenders.” He said, “You will be My witnesses to the ends of the earth.”

God’s power is meant to go beyond the walls of the church to the very farthest reaches of the world. That is what we see unfolding in the book of Acts. When Peter got up to preach to the crowd that had gathered, three thousand were saved. Later, as Peter and John testified throughout Jerusalem, signs and wonders followed in miraculous healings and deliverances.

Yet that was only the beginning! If the work of the Spirit had stopped in Acts 6, all the power of God would have remained in the hands of twelve apostles. Instead, a tectonic shift took place. God said, “My Spirit will no longer move through just a select few. I am going to empower every man, woman and child who calls on My name.”

Friday, September 27, 2013

MAINTAINING THE PRESENCE OF GOD

God attaches a condition to His presence in our lives and it is found in 2 Chronicles 15. In the previous chapter, King Asa had led the armies of Judah to a great victory over Ethiopia's million-man army. Yet Asa testified that it was God's presence that had scattered the enemy.

"Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. . . . So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa" (2 Chronicles 14:11-12).

As Asa and his armies led the triumphant procession back to Jerusalem, a prophet named Azariah met them at the city gate with this message from God: "Hear ye me, Asa . . . The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. Now for a long season Israel hath been without the true God. . . . But when they in their trouble did turn unto the Lord God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them" (15:2-4).

Here is the secret of getting and maintaining the presence of God in your life. The Lord reminded Asa, point-blank, with no holds barred: "Asa, don't ever forget how you got this victory. You sought Me with all your heart when you were in trouble and I sent My presence to you. It was My presence that put your enemies to chase!"

Now Azariah was telling Asa, "Do you remember what the kingdom was like before you came to power? Everything was out of kilter, with no law, no guidance, no righteous teaching. Everyone was a law unto himself, doing his own thing!"

This is not a complicated theology. Anyone can have the abiding presence of the Lord if he or she will simply seek Him for it.

"[The Lord] will be found of you" (15:2). The Hebrew word for found here is matsa, meaning "His presence coming forth to enable, to bless." In short, this verse tells us, "Seek the Lord with your whole heart, and He will come to you with His presence. Indeed, His presence will be an almighty power that emanates from your life!"

Thursday, September 26, 2013

GOD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS

“For I am the Lord thy God . . . and I have loved thee. . . . Fear not: for I am with thee" (Isaiah 43:3-5).

The Old Testament stories of Abraham, Joshua and all of Israel are meant to encourage and exhort us to seek God’s presence in our lives. We can thank God for what His presence did for them and yet each of us has a powerful testimony of what God's presence has done for us: guiding our lives, opening doors, moving obstacles, melting hearts, making us fearless.

I have seen this proven true in my life. You may say, "You're just boasting!" No, the fact is, God's presence has been with me in spite of myself!

When we started Times Square Church in New York City, the presence of Christ emanated from us in all we did. I remember walking into a famous Broadway producer's office in search of a theater to use as a church. This man's secretary and staff scoffed at me; their words and attitudes assured me, a lowly minister, I would not be able to get an appointment. In fact, I thought I might even get kicked out. But then the producer came out of his office and when he saw me, he invited me in!

Over the next several weeks, the producer and I got to know each other. At times he would look across his desk at me and say, "I don't know why I'm spending so much time with you. My schedule is absolutely full." But whenever I walked into his office suite, his secretary pushed me past all other visitors, saying, "Go right in, Reverend, he's waiting for you!"

Eventually, this man sold his flagship theater to us to use for Times Square Church. Even as he was signing the documents of sale, he said, "I don't know why I'm doing this!" It was only God's presence that moved him to sell that building to us. Just a few years after the deal was done, he and his attorneys were begging to buy it back!

I saw God change the hearts of others as well. The man who owned the building next to ours refused to sell it to us as an annex. But over time he became a friend of mine, and eventually he sold us the building. All along, he kept telling me, "Somebody up there is working for you!"

That is the power of the presence of God. And every Christian can testify in the same way: "God's presence with me has done great things!"

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

BLESSINGS OF HIS PRESENCE

Consider these Old Testament examples of the blessings that God's presence brought to the lives of His followers: 
  • God's presence was so evident in Abraham's life, even the heathen around him recognized the difference between their lives and his: "Abimelech . . . spake unto Abraham, saying, God is with thee in all that thou doest" (Genesis 21:22). This heathen king was saying, "Abraham, there's something different about you. God guides you, preserves you and blesses you wherever you go!" 
  • God promised Joshua that no enemy could stand against him when His presence was with him: "There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of good courage" (Joshua 1:5-6). When God's Spirit is present with us, we can be strong and courageous and no enemy can harm us! 
  • God told Gideon: "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valour. . . . Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel" (Judges 6:12, 14). The phrase "thy might" in this verse refers to verse 12 that says, "The Lord is with thee." Do you see what God is saying? "Gideon, there is a might in you so powerful that it can save Israel. And that might is My presence!" Scripture reveals Gideon to be a coward, so why did God call him a "mighty man of valor"? Because he wanted to prove to Gideon what an ordinary person can do when the Lord's presence is with him! 
  • God warned Jeremiah that the whole nation would turn against him and reject his prophecies. Yet He promised, "They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee" (Jeremiah 15:20). God was saying, "It doesn't matter if the whole country turns against you, Jeremiah. All that matters is that My presence is with you. Be confident I am with you!" 
  • God told Isaiah of a special promise He makes to those He loves: "Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God . . . and I have loved thee. . . . Fear not: for I am with thee" (Isaiah 43:1-5). God was saying, "With My presence abiding with you, you can go through any flood or fire and survive. Yet you won't merely survive. You'll be blessed and favored through it all, because My presence is with you!" 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

EMPOWERED TO LIVE

Scripture provides endless examples of how the presence of God empowers His children to live for Him. One of the most powerful of these examples is found in the life of Moses.

Moses was convinced that without God's presence in his life, it was useless for him to attempt anything. When he spoke face to face with the Lord, he said, "If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence" (Exodus 33:15). He was saying, "Lord, if Your presence is not with me, then I'm not going anywhere. I won't take a single step unless I'm assured You are near!"

Moses knew it was God's presence in Israel that set the people apart from all other nations. And the same is true of the Church of Jesus Christ today. The only thing that sets us apart from nonbelievers is God's presence “with us”—leading us, guiding us, working His will in and through us.

Moses did not care how other nations received their guidance, formed their strategies, ran their governments or directed their armies. He said, "We operate on one principle alone. The only way for us to be guided or governed, to make war and survive in this wasteland, is to have the presence of God with us!

"When the Lord's presence is in our midst, no one can harm us. But without Him, we are helpless, reduced to nothing. Let all the nations of this world trust in their mighty armies, their iron chariots, their skilled soldiers, their new weapons. We will trust in the manifest presence of our God!"

God answered Moses' bold statement: "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest" (verse 14). What an incredible promise! The Hebrew word for rest here is "a comfortable, quiet repose." God was saying, "No matter what enemies or trials you face, you will always be able to find a quiet rest in Me!"

Think about this: If a church has the manifest presence of God in its midst, there will not be any hustle or bustle, sweating or striving. The worship meetings will not be hurried along, with three songs, an offering and a short sermon. Instead, there will be a calming peace, a quiet rest—and everyone who walks through the doors will sense it! 

Monday, September 23, 2013

CALLED TO FREEDOM by Gary Wilkerson

“And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 51:11, ESV).

Do the following words appeal to you? Life—joy—unselfconsciousness—delight—boldness—liberty. Can you imagine having this kind of enjoyment in your service to Christ? How can you obtain such empowering joy?

It will not come through works of righteousness. We do not have the power to be righteous on our own. We may do our best, strive our hardest, and sincerely offer to God all we have and all we are, but it still amounts to no more than filthy rags. “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isaiah 64:6, ESV).

Freedom comes through Christ’s righteousness alone. When His righteousness becomes ours, we are set free from striving. His Spirit is in us, releasing us from the law of sin and guilt and making all things new. “For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2, ESV).

That freedom is everything! It means liberty to carry out the godly responsibilities He calls us to do. Suddenly we are able to witness with abandon. We have a boldness that is not of our own making. Grace flows through us rather than a deadly, binding legalism.

There is only one way to walk in the freedom and joy Christ has won for us: by accepting His gift of righteousness. Doing this means embracing grace, not works. It does not mean shirking our responsibilities; on the contrary, coming under the covering of His grace is the only way to take on real responsibility. We cannot accomplish anything in His name otherwise!

“For you were called to freedom” (Galatians 5:13, ESV).

Friday, September 20, 2013

SAFE IN EVERY SITUATION

The Bible says, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).

Will the present recession turn into a deep, long depression? Is this the economic storm so many ministers and economists have been warning of? Or is this merely another short-lived adjustment of the economy?

Frankly, not one human on earth knows. Economists give terribly conflicting forecasts, and so-called "prophets" are sending out all kinds of confusing warnings.

Several years ago hundreds of worried Christians wrote to me about a prophecy that said most of Florida would be inundated by a tidal wave. Many Christians slipped out of Florida on the predicted date for a so-called "vacation"—just in case the prophecy was right. Florida is still with us!

No one knows when, how, or where God will send judgment. The times and seasons are all in His hands. God has dealt with me personally about using dates, names, or places and when I disobey God on this matter, I end up speculating rather than truly prophesying. All true prophecy must offer hope and comfort to God's people who live by faith.

Where do you live? In an earthquake zone, maybe near a fault line? Do you live in a sprawling suburb that seems less secure as the days go by? No food stored up? No gold bars or coins to hedge against inflation? Nothing to fall back on if the economy collapses? Nothing to live on if you lose your job? Do you feel left out when others around you boast about their plans for the future?

Do not panic! You have all you need if you will believe in our Lord's promise of protection. Every child of God has an ironclad contract of survival. The more I read the words of Jesus, the more I believe He is asking for our childlike trust in Him to keep us safe in every situation.

My advice is to stay put and quit listening to voices that speak warnings contrary to Scripture. "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

"Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken” (Proverbs 3:25-26). 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF ELIJAH

The Old Testament closes with this amazing prophecy of Malachi: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6).

This prophecy was in great measure fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist. An angel appeared to Zacharias and prophesied that his son John would turn many in Israel to the Lord and that "he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias (Elijah), to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17).

Jesus, speaking to His disciples about John the Baptist, said: "If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:14). He added, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear" (11:15). I believe Jesus was asking them to see the spiritual significance of John's coming, as prophesied, in the spirit and power of Elijah.

John himself emphatically denied that he was Elijah raised from the dead. When the Jews asked him pointedly, "Art thou Elias?" John answered, "I am not. . . . I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias" (John 1:21-23). This is why Jesus told His disciples that only spiritual eyes and ears would understand that John the Baptist was of the same ministry mold as Elijah the prophet. John was a preacher of righteousness, as was Elijah, sent to awaken a people to a straight and narrow way of holiness.

John, anointed with the same fearless spirit and power which was upon Elijah, thundered against the sins of disobedient, greedy, pleasure-loving Jews. Christ was soon to appear and this mighty man of truth suddenly came to prepare a people for the Lord. This wilderness prophet was sent to turn the hearts of the people, which is the truest definition of repentance. John preached repentance, restitution, purity of heart, justice, and a practical walk of holiness to correspond with an open confession of sins.

I believe the prophet Malachi (as well as other Old Testament prophets) speaks of a company of holy people who will be raised up just prior Christ's second coming. They will minister under the very same spirit and power that rested upon Elijah and John the Baptist.

This last-day company of believers will heed the prophecy of Isaiah, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins" (Isaiah 58:1). 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

THAT I MIGHT KNOW HIM

God gave Moses a frightening directive: "Depart, and go up hence, thou and the people which thou hast brought up out of the land of Egypt, unto the land which I swore unto Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, Unto they seed will I give it: and I will send an angel before thee . . . for I will not go up in the midst of thee; for thou art a stiffnecked people: lest I consume thee in the way" (Exodus 33:1-3).

The people of God had spun completely out of control because of lust and idolatry (Exodus 32:25). Gold had become their god. They wanted to dance, play and follow their lustful appetites. Only the sons of Levi stood up for the holiness of God.

Then followed the dreaded revelation that the Lord had removed Himself from them; He had departed lest He slay them. But still they were commanded to move on to claim their inheritance. God said, "I will give you what I promised." They could claim all their rights and His protection but not His presence.

Today we are seeing the sad spectacle of multitudes of God's people moving on in their religious quest for promised rights, boasting of angelic help against enemies, but having no holy, awesome, convicting presence of Christ in them.

What could be worse than hearing the Lord command them to go up to a land flowing with milk and honey and yet say that He would not go up with them (see Exodus 33:3)? God said to them, "You are an obstinate people. If I should go up in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you” (see Exodus 33:5).

Moses wanted something greater than a land flowing with milk and honey. He wanted to know and experience the Lord's presence. He prayed, "Thou hast said, I know thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in my sight. Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, show me now thy way, that I may know thee" (Exodus 33:12-13).

No wonder this precious servant of God convicted his generation! No wonder there was so much glory in his face. He wanted only to know the Lord. The only favor he wanted was the abiding presence of his Lord. So it was with Paul, whose heart cried out, "Oh, that I might know Him!" (see Philippians 3:10). 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A REVIVAL OF CLEANSING

All the prophets saw the end times and prophesied of the gathering of a separated, holy people who would have great understanding in the Word of the Lord. Daniel heard great things from God but "understood not" (Daniel 12:8). However, he saw a day coming when a purified, tried and tested remnant would understand; there would be a last-day company full of wisdom and discernment in the things of God. “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

Isaiah deplored the spiritual blindness of backslidden Israel. He said, "They err in vision, they stumble in judgment" (Isaiah 28:7). The little discernment they once had was destroyed by their lusts. But Isaiah prophesied of a day in which "the deaf [shall] hear the words . . . the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. . . . They shall sanctify my name . . . and shall fear the God of Israel. They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine" (Isaiah 29:18, 23-24).

I believe the last-day revival so many preach about is a revival of cleansing. If the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment, then it is certain that in a great Holy Ghost outpouring there will be powerful waves of conviction, and a careless, indulgent Church will be shaken and forced to face her sins.

While multitudes of Christians chase after signs and miracles and flock to teachers of success and prosperity, God has been calling out a "wilderness people" who are consumed with hunger for more of Christ.

Right now a glorious company is coming forth! One day God began to stir their hearts and they became disillusioned with all the hypocrisy and shame. They got into the Word of God and saw for themselves what His ultimate purposes are. They put on Christ's robe of righteousness by faith, submitted to the claims of Christ, and decided to walk alone, if necessary, to be wholly obedient to Him. They set themselves to hear and understand the Lord's will. They began to see things in the Spirit and were made to understand that the end of all things is at hand. To these, the Word of the Lord has come!

"Christ is coming! Repent, for the day of the Lord is near! Lay aside every besetting sin and set your affection on things above! Do not partake in the empires and dreams of men. Forsake it all and go out to meet Him." That word is being proclaimed loud and clear! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

GRACE RAINS DOWN by Gary Wilkerson

Our life in Christ begins in grace, it continues in grace, and it will end in grace. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV).

Once we grasp this truth, our lives will be marked by freedom, not bondage; by joy, not weariness; by delight, not dread. Spending time in God’s presence will seem like a joyous gift rather than a duty. After all, Jesus says we are no longer His servants but His friends.

None of this negates our responsibility. Of course there is a time to set the alarm clock to rise and pray. But don’t dare do it without the oil of God’s grace. And don’t dare read your Bible without grace, or you will come away condemned and fearful rather than enlightened and empowered. Why? It is God’s work of grace to show us our inability. That’s the only way we will ever acknowledge His ability.

No, don’t give up on your accountability group. Don’t give up on your dedicated prayer time. Don’t give up on your Bible study group. Don’t give up on any of these wonderful disciplines—unless they are getting in the way of God’s grace working fully in your life.

Some of you might say, “The way you’re talking, nobody will ever pray again. No one will discipline himself to the task. We don’t have it in us. If we follow what you’re suggesting, no one will ever know God’s way for us.”

Just remember that grace rains down on us from the Lord’s throne; it doesn’t rise upward from us to Him. That is what will draw the world to our lives and testimonies. When people see real grace raining down on us, they will see the wonders that it works in us. And they will know our hearts have been won not by our work but by God’s. May it be so in your life today! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

HE SEES EVERY STEP

Multitudes of Christians get up each morning facing indescribable problems—physical pain, emotional suffering, financial struggles. Many are so beset by trouble that they worry, "This is all too much for me to handle. I don't have the strength to fight these things anymore. How will I ever make it?"

Our ministry receives many letters from saints who endure extremely difficult circumstances daily. One godly woman wrote: "I've been married for over thirty-five years and I'm a grandmother. But now my family is being destroyed by my adulterous husband. He has been Spirit-filled and used by the Lord but now he is an embittered womanizer, full of lust late in life. Please pray for me. He has driven all love out of me, and I'm so unhappy. I don't think I can endure any longer."

Our heavenly Father sees every step of our lives and in spite of all our crises and difficulties, He commands us again and again in Scripture: "Fear not!" We are not to believe that our problems will cast us down and destroy us, because He is our shield.

"Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places” (Deuteronomy 33:29). God is telling us, "It is not true that I have forsaken you! I am not mad at you and have not left you to fend for yourself against your enemies. Those are all lies of Satan!"

No matter what crisis we face, what powerful difficulties lay ahead of us, our victory has been assured: "In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us" (Romans 8:37).

Does this mean we are to stand by and expect God to send an angel to slay all our enemies? No—never! Even though God has proclaimed our victory, He will not do our part for us.

We still must pick up a sword to fight the enemy. The difference is, we do it believing God has promised to empower us: "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).

The Holy Spirit responds to our faith! When we call on Him, He comes upon us with supernatural power to mortify the deeds of the flesh. Our part is to have faith and then walk in the belief that God's Spirit will resist the power of evil coming against us. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

AN ENDLESS SUPPLY

The apostle Paul cried out to God, "Lord, please deliver me from this thorn in my flesh!" But the Lord answered him, "My grace is sufficient for thee" (2 Corinthians 12:9). God was saying to His servant, "Paul, you're going to have to live with this thorn. But in the midst of your pain, I'll give you all the grace you need. I have an endless supply for you!"

The Lord wants us to know that His grace is stronger than any deliverance He might bring to our circumstances. Why? His grace contains the full revelation of who He is! Simply put, God's grace is Jesus Christ fully revealed—in all holiness, yet with a tender, compassionate heart.

Our heavenly Father sees every bit of our suffering and He makes these wonderful promises to us:
  • The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble" (Psalm 37:39). 
  • "He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:5-6). 
  • "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10). 
  • "Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought” (verses 11-12) 
  • "For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. . . . When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them" (verses 13 and 17). 
You can make it through any situation, crisis or disaster—all by the grace of Jesus Christ. No matter what comes your way, He has more than sufficient grace and Holy Ghost comfort for you! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WE ARE NOT ALONE

Christ told His disciples, "I will not leave you comfortless" (John 14:18). The Greek word for comfortless here is orphans, meaning "bereaved, fatherless."

At times you may feel as the disciples later did: that you're all alone and God is not at work for you. You see no evidence of His care and Satan lies to you that God's Spirit has left you for a season.

One incredible miracle you cannot forget is Jesus' promise to all His followers: "I will not leave you as an orphan. I paid a price for you and you are Mine!"

No matter what you are going through, your heavenly Father has never once abandoned any thought of you and He never will. Listen to His eternal, unbreakable promise:

"Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me" (Isaiah 49:14-16).

This passage tells us, "Your need for protection is always before My eyes. There is never a moment when I am unconcerned about keeping My supernatural walls secure around you. My protective hedge is always there!"

I have known some mothers—including pastors’ wives—who have abandoned their children. A pastor wrote to us: "I've been married for twenty-five years, but my wife recently left me for some man she met through the Internet. She just walked out on our children and me. I still love her and want her to come home, but she won't. I hurt so badly right now, I can't sleep. I don't know how I'm going to make it."

God answers this man, "Even your beloved wife may abandon you but I never will. My walls around you will always be secure!"

He will not leave us comfortless!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

REMEMBER WHAT GOD HAS DONE

Moses instructed Israel, "Thou shalt not be afraid of them: but shalt well remember what the Lord thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt . . . the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the stretched out arm, whereby the Lord thy God brought thee out: so shall the Lord thy God do unto all the people of whom thou art afraid" (Deuteronomy 7:18-19).

What a powerful message! Moses was reminding the Israelites, "No matter what enemies you face, God has promised you victory over them all. He delivered your fathers from Pharaoh, and he will do the same for you today!"

"Remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life" (Deuteronomy 16:3). "Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt" (verse 12).

Moses' cry to the people was, "Remember the past! If you think you're having a difficult time here in the wilderness, think about all the terrors you faced in Egypt. Don't forget what life was like when you were all slaves. And remember everything God did to deliver you from it all!"

The prophet Isaiah also spoke God's Word to a people who were full of fear. This was at a time when Israel was convinced God had forsaken them, but Isaiah assured them:

"Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth; and hast feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, as if he were ready to destroy? And where is the fury of the oppressor?" (Isaiah 51:12-13).

God said through the prophet, "The reason you're afraid is because you have forgotten who I am. You are looking only at your troubles and have forgotten that My hand is still on your life!"

You may have trouble remembering God's miracles in your life. You may think, "My life has been one long, hard nightmare. How can I remember God's miracles when I haven't experienced them?"

Our experiences can inspire faith, but they are not meant to be the foundation of our faith. That is why God's Word always points us toward what Jesus has done. We are to remember His victory on the cross and cling to it by faith. He alone empowers us to victory, by His Spirit. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

FASHIONED BY THE GRACE OF GOD by Gary Wilkerson

Consider what God says to us regarding prayer. First we are told, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6, ESV). Then the Bible says, “No one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11, ESV). In Scripture it is a given that we will not seek the Lord as we should.

Again and again we are shown God’s standard of perfection—and our inability to reach it. Why? It is so that we can avoid the fate of the Pharisees. They got up early in the morning and prayed long prayers. They constructed rules to keep an appearance of holy behavior. But Jesus points out that while they appeared clean on the outside, their hearts were dark and rotten. “You Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness” (Luke 11:39, ESV).

God is after a deeper work in us—deeper than we could ever accomplish on our own. Paul sums it up in one brief passage: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? . . . Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3, ESV).

When our obedient works are not fashioned by the grace of God, we feel it. On the surface we may feel proud of what we seem to achieve, but when we fail, we feel discouraged to the point of giving up, thinking, “This is too heavy a burden. I can’t take it anymore.”

Exactly! That’s the point: It is too heavy a burden. This is why Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV). 

Friday, September 6, 2013

HOLD YOUR PEACE

Do you wake up every day in anguish over a besetting lust or habit? Do you live in torment, thinking, "This awful thing is still alive in me"?

God knows all about the sin remaining in your heart. And He knows how you hate it and have wept over it. Now He wants you to hear this word: "The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).

Because of this David could say, "I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4). Satan would get the victory if he could just convince David to be afraid and the enemy works in the same way against you. He wants you to be afraid that you never will be set free.

God says to all grieving, hurting saints: "Fear not! I see and know all your suffering and I will not permit Satan to destroy you!" You may ask, "But what am I to do? How can I have the Lord's peace and rest in all this?"

The answer is found in God's word to Moses and Israel. With a sea before them, an enemy behind them and no place for them to turn, God commanded them: "Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you today . . . The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace" (Exodus 14:13-14).

What does this last phrase—"hold your peace"—mean? It means no more worrying, no more trying to figure everything out and instead trusting God to make a way for you. That is when He gives you His word of direction, as He gave to Israel: "Go forward" (verse 15).

Joshua also faced impossible enemies. He and his weary band of unskilled troops had to march all night to Gibeon, where they faced a massive military machine. As Joshua looked down at the battlefield, he saw the valley filled with mighty chariots and well-trained infantrymen.

Scripture says: "The Lord said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee" (Joshua 10:8).

God pronounced victory even before Joshua went into battle. He said, "The victory is already won! Not one of these enemy soldiers will be left standing after the battle. Now, go and fight, knowing I have promised you the victory!"

That is the message of the cross! The victory has already been won for us. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE

"Thou shalt not be afraid of them" (Deuteronomy 7:18). For Israel, "them" represented the massive, well-armed heathen nations they faced in the Promised Land. For us today, "them" represents every problem, trouble and overwhelming difficulty we face in life.

Why are we not to fear? Because God says so! No other explanation is needed. God is all powerful, all sufficient—and He is aware of the satanic strongholds we face. He knows every snare, trial and temptation that will ever be thrown at us. And He commands us, "You shall not fear any of them!"

Abraham was living in a strange country, surrounded by powerful kings, not knowing where he would end up. Yet God's first word to him was, "Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward" (Genesis 15:1).

The meaning of this last phrase is, "I will be a wall around you, your protector, your defense." In essence, God was telling Abraham, "You are going to face difficulties but I will protect you through them all." Abraham responded by believing God's word to him: "He believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness" (verse 6).

This same word came to Abraham's son, Isaac. He also lived in a hostile environment, surrounded by Philistines who hated him, harassed him and wanted him off their land. Scripture says that every time Isaac dug a well for a supply of water, the Philistines filled them back up: "The Philistines had stopped them, and filled them with earth" (26:15).

Everywhere Isaac went, he faced the same problem. He even called one well "Esek," which means "contention" (see 26:20). Apparently, Isaac felt nothing but contention in his life. He must have thought, "How will I ever feed my family and water my flocks? And how can I raise my children without fear, when the Philistines could plunder us at any time, with no problem? God, why have You planted me here? How can I ever make it?"

As this cloud of doubt formed over Isaac, God gave him the same word he gave Abraham: "I am the God of Abraham thy father: fear not, for I am with thee, and will bless thee, and multiply thy seed for my servant Abraham's sake" (verse 24).

We are children of Abraham and God makes the same promise to us he did to Abraham and his offspring: "If ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29). 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

WAIT UPON THE LORD

The devil has a strategy to deceive believers and make them doubt the faithfulness of God in answering prayer. Satan would have us believe that God has shut His ears to our cry and left us to work things out for ourselves.

I believe the greatest tragedy in the church of Jesus Christ today is that so few believe in the power and effectiveness of prayer. Without meaning to blaspheme, multitudes of God's people can now be heard complaining, "I pray, but I get no answers. I've prayed so long, so hard, without any results. All I want is to see a little evidence of things changing. Things go on as usual—nothing happens. How long must I wait?" They no longer visit the secret closet because they are convinced that their petitions, born in prayer, are miscarried at the throne. Others are convinced that only Daniel, David, and Elijah types can get their prayers through to God.

In all honesty, many saints of God struggle with these thoughts: "If God's ear is open to my prayer, and I pray diligently, why is there such little evidence of His answering?" Is there one certain prayer you have been praying for such a long time, and as yet it has not been answered? Have even years gone by and still you wait, hoping, yet wondering?

Let us be careful not to charge God, as Job did, with being slothful and unconcerned about our needs and petitions. Job complained, "I cry unto thee, and thou dost not hear me: I stand up, and thou regardest me not" (Job 30:20).

Job’s vision of God's faithfulness was clouded by his difficulties. He ended up accusing God of forgetting him and God rebuked him soundly for it.

It's time we Christians took an honest look at the reasons why our prayers are aborted. We can be guilty of charging God with neglect, when all along our own behavior is responsible.

“Wait on the Lord, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

THIS IS NOT A GAME

Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, was on his way home from being with Ahab, the evil king of Israel. The Lord sent a prophet out to meet him, with these strong words: "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer (prophet) went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? Therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord" (2 Chronicles 19:2).

God was saying to Jehoshaphat, "You don't know the danger and consequences of what you've done. You may think it's a light thing to join an affinity with someone who is against Me. Ahab was my enemy—an idolater—and you made friends with him. You listened to his wicked talk and indulged his filth. Yet you didn't take a stand against any of it, Jehoshaphat. I have a controversy with you about this!"

At this point, you may be thinking, "I understand that Ahab was evil. But as I consider my own friends, there's no way I can think of them as God's enemies.” Yet, consider these passages from Scripture:
  • "He that is not with me is against me" (Luke 11:23). Does your friend take the Lord's side in all things? 
  • "Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Samuel 15:23). Is your friend's counsel full of rebellion? 
  • "He that condemneth the just . . . [is an] abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15). Does your friend speak evil of godly people? 
This is not a game! Your friends are a serious matter to God because their actions have serious consequences: "Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest . . . Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces" (Psalm 50:19-22).

Thank God, Scripture says, "Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" (2 Chronicles 20:3). The king humbled himself and repented: "Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord" (verse 18).

God responded to Jehoshaphat's brokenness by giving Judah total victory against the Moabites. Finally, the Bible says, "The realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet: for his God gave him rest round about" (verse 30). 

Monday, September 2, 2013

COME TO ME by Gary Wilkerson

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, ESV). Jesus is not just offering an invitation, He is telling us—commanding us—to come to Him because He alone supplies the rest that our souls need.

Yet is it even possible for us, on our own, to “come to Him”? According to Jesus, it is impossible: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44, ESV). Why would Christ command us to do something we cannot do?

We are being given an important lesson here—one that is critical to the Christian life. That is, when we are given a command, it is not enough to charge ourselves up and say, “I’m your man, Lord!” If we do this, we are in trouble before we even begin. The fact is, when we are given a command in the gospels, it exposes our inability. God does this on purpose. Even as He reveals to us His will and His commands, He shows us our inability to achieve them on our own.

For this reason Jesus follows every impossible command with a promise. First, He says, “No one can come to me unless the Father draws him.” Then immediately He says, “And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44, my emphasis). God not only will draw us to Himself but will raise us up into new, resurrection life. His power enables us to walk in a new covenant with Him.

We do not have the ability to have new life on our own. It comes only through Him. Likewise, the same power that saves us by grace also keeps us by grace. “Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” (John 3:21, ESV). I love how the King James Version translates the last part of this verse: “That his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” It means they have been “worked out in God.” God is fashioning the work in us! That is why He follows every command with a promise. As soon as He reveals our inability, He reveals His ability and willingness to accomplish it all in us.