Tuesday, December 31, 2013

THE BLESSED PROVISION OF THE NEW COVENANT

After God’s Spirit left King Saul, his halfhearted obedience had opened him up to Satan’s influence. Soon an evil spirit troubled Saul and he ended up seeking counsel from a witch (see 1 Samuel 15).

Perhaps as you read the account of Saul’s life, you wonder, “But Saul tried his best and he didn’t do that bad of a job. Why was God so severe with him?”

God is telling us through this passage that He means what He says! He is saying, “I’m showing you how I feel about your obedience to Me. I want all your heart, all your love—not just a halfhearted obedience!”

If the Lord’s message to Saul had been foggy or unclear, we would be justified in saying He should have made an allowance. But His direction to Saul was clear and there was no doubting what He commanded. Likewise today, we have no doubt about what God has spoken to us. We know what His commandments are, because He has revealed them to us by His word and by His Spirit within our hearts.

You may answer, “But what God did to Saul happened under the Old Covenant, under the Law. We live in a day of grace now. Surely the Lord won’t be as severe with us when we disobey as He was with Saul.”

Here is God’s word on the matter under the New Covenant, a covenant of grace:

“[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile: for there is no respect of persons with God” (Romans 2:6-11).
Let me spell out the difference for you between Saul in the Old Testament and all believers under the New Covenant: Whenever a person truly has a desire to obey God’s commands—when that person loves and respects God’s Word—the Holy Ghost supplies him with all power and ability to fulfill those commands. That is the blessed provision of the New Covenant.

Monday, December 30, 2013

OUT OF THE PIT by Gary Wilkerson

When I was a teenager, I spent my summers helping out on a ranch in East Texas. The ranch manager, Jimmie, was a big, strapping guy who had limited eyesight but knew how to do all sorts of things. He taught me how to mow and haul hay, for instance.

One day we were shoveling dirt into a six-feet-deep hole for a well. During a water break, Jimmie misjudged where the hole was and stepped toward it. My mouth was too full of water to warn him—and he dropped in! I was afraid he might have broken a limb from the deep drop and I instantly scrambled to help. But when I looked up, Jimmie was casually climbing out of the hole as if nothing had happened.

That was Jimmie’s life. He was a guy with several pits in front of him daily because not only was he losing his eyesight, he was also losing his hearing. Yet Jimmie climbed out of every pit he fell into and kept moving ahead. To me, he is an example of faith for everyone in Christ’s body. We all have pits we fall into—that’s just life—but God’s Word shows us that as Christians we are to face our pits through eyes of faith.

Maybe you are stuck in a pit right now. It could be a difficult relationship, a financial hole, an illness—something you’ve been caught in for a while—and you wonder if you’ll ever be able to climb out. Your once close walk with Christ seems like a distant dream. But God has something powerful to say to you about your present pit.

One type of pit is the kind we create for ourselves. We may fall back into an old sin habit or unhealthy life pattern that keeps us going in circles. We find ourselves drifting, wandering, moving farther away from the abundant life God has provided. But it does not matter what kind of pit we are in. Our merciful Lord makes a way for us out of every one of them.

“Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out?” (Matthew 12:11, ESV). Jesus says, “It doesn’t matter if you created your pit. Even the law won’t stop Me from coming to lift you out of it.”

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A PROPER FOUNDATION by Jim Cymbala

By 1977 more people than there was room for were trying to fit into the pews of Brooklyn Tabernacle in Sunday morning and Sunday night services. Down the block was a YWCA with an auditorium that could seat nearly 500 people and we were able to rent it on Sundays.

Meeting at the YWCA was a temporary solution to the overcrowding. We purchased a lot across the street in the hope of building a real church one day. It required a big step of faith, but God provided the funds.

We scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony, excited about starting a new building, a permanent home. Would you believe that on that special Sunday, it rained so hard we couldn’t go outdoors to put a shovel in the ground? Disappointed, we packed ourselves back into the Y auditorium that evening. But in that meeting God clearly spoke to us that it was not the ground across the street He wanted to break. Instead, He would break our hearts and build His church on that foundation.

The downpour, as it turned out, was providential. A few months later, a large 1,400-seat theater on the main north-south artery of Brooklyn became available. We were able to sell the lot at a profit. We still needed to sell the run-down Atlantic Avenue building in order to buy the theater, so at a Tuesday night prayer meeting we laid the problem before God.

On Wednesday afternoon the doorbell at the church rang. I went downstairs to answer and encountered a well-dressed stranger, a Kuwaiti businessman. He walked in and looked around while I held my breath lest he look too closely at crooked walls, dingy bathrooms, and questionable plumbing.
“What are you asking for this building?” he asked.

I cleared my throat and weakly gave him a figure. He paused a moment and then said, “That’s fair. Just get your lawyer to call my lawyer. Cash deal.” And with that he was gone. Our prayers had been answered in a surprising way.

God formed a core of people who wanted to pray and who believed that nothing was too big for Him to handle. No matter what roadblock we faced, God could still change people and deliver them from evil. He was building His church in a tough neighborhood, and as long as people kept calling out for His blessing and help, He was fully committed to respond.


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Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, December 27, 2013

HE WANTS YOU TO BELIEVE HIS WORD!

As you consider the struggles Israel went through, you might be tempted to say, “God, aren’t You expecting too much? They’re scared, and rightly so. How could they be tempting You when they’re just crying out of their need?”

Yet, remember that these people had been well fed and well taught, immersed in signs and miracles. They were not spiritual novices nor were they without a caring shepherd. Every day they had a visible, sheltering cloud as evidence that God was present with them. And every night they had the comforting glow of a fire in the sky. Each morning they found manna on the ground, faithfully sent from heaven. God had provided Israel with everything they needed to build their faith!

Our Lord is not making small talk when He warns, “Without faith you cannot please Me. You must truly believe that I AM and that I will always reward faith. Therefore, I expect my well-fed, well-trained children to trust in Me!”

What about the test you have been facing? What does God want from you in your difficult time?

He wants you to believe His word—His promises! He wants you to fully trust that He is with you in your struggle. It does not matter if all hell is coming at you, His presence will never be taken from you, even in the midst of your fears and tears. No dart of the devil—no powerful attack against you—will destroy you. Your Father already has a plan of deliverance in place.

God is waiting for you to cling to Him in blind trust. He wants you to be able to face all your ferocious temptations, and say, “I may not understand this but I know my Lord will not forsake me. I am trusting Him to see me through!”

Your battle will end only when you come to full trust in the Lord, believing He is with you in power and in love. So put aside every thought that God has shut His eyes to your circumstances. That is tempting Him and putting Him to a test to prove His faithfulness. Yet He has already proven it many times over!

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God is saying, “You're not going down. I am with you through all of this! If you will just seek My face and trust Me, I will bring you through—because I am always with you!”

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A PLACE OF TESTING

“I proved thee at the waters of Meribah” (Psalm 81:7).

We really do not know what is in our hearts (see Jeremiah 17:9). It doesn’t matter how many years we have walked with the Lord, how many hours we have prayed, or how much Bible knowledge we have acquired. If God sees something in us that is not of faith—an area where we have not trusted Him to empower us to overcome—He will take us to Meribah (a place of testing/proving). He will put us in a situation that is humanly impossible and we will be severely tested.

You may honestly believe you have a loving heart toward all your brothers and sisters in Christ. “The Lord has given me the ability to love everyone,” you testify, but He knows you have a problem in one area. You go ballistic whenever someone abuses your love or acts of kindness. When this happens, you carry a continual hurt and resentment inside, yet you continue saying you love that person.

How does God get at that kind of hypocrisy in you? He brings you to a place of testing. He allows a mean, in-your-face Christian to have at you! Suddenly, you find yourself praying, “Lord, why did You bring that person into my life? He’s a thorn in my flesh! I’ve tried to serve You faithfully but all I get in return is this abuse!”

The Lord has you at Meribah! He is trying to perfect something in you. He wants you to be able to rise up in your situation and shout, “I know my God is with me. My steps are ordered by Him and He will see me through all my hurt and anguish!”
God has brought you to Meribah but it isn’t the end. He has not forsaken you, so don’t give in, don’t stop holding on! The Lord is looking for faith, wanting to know what is in your heart. He knows how to meet your needs. He only wants you to trust Him!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

WHAT GOD IS WAITING TO HEAR!

A human being can go for weeks without eating, but only a few days without water. When Israel came to Rephidim, there was no water in sight (Exodus 17). Before long, children were crying and families were growing faint from thirst. It was a critical situation.

Moses understood the ways of the Lord and he knew just what was happening with Israel. He realized that God was letting His people be stretched beyond measure. Why? Because He wanted them to cast themselves completely into His care. He longed to see them rise up in faith and say, “God is able!” Scripture then tells us, “[Moses] called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because of the chiding of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7).

The words “Massah” and “Meribah” both mean the same thing: “a place of trial and testing.” Moses ran through the camp crying, “This is Massah—a test, a trial! It isn’t the end. God hasn’t forsaken us, so keep holding on! The Lord is looking for faith, wanting to know what’s in our hearts. He knows how to meet our need—He only wants us to trust Him!”

Tragically, Israel did not trust the Lord, so God instructed Moses to pick up his rod, go to Horeb, and strike a certain rock there. When Moses hit the rock, water came gushing out to meet Israel’s thirst. The Lord proved once again He was with His people in spite of their unbelief.

How did Israel tempt the Lord in this episode? Was it in their anger toward Moses? Was it in their murmuring? Or was it in their idolatrous fornication? None of these things was the real issue. Here is how Israel tempted God: “They tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?”

God had that water in storage all along. He could have supplied it to Israel at the first pangs of their thirst but He waited. His heart yearned for His special, chosen people to recognize His love for them and cast themselves into His faithful arms. But once again, they failed!

So, God tried them yet again, this time by allowing them to hunger. Moses later said, “The Lord thy God . . . humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger . . . to prove thee” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

Here was another test of faith. Would Israel hold their empty stomachs and wait for God to send them bread? Would they encourage one another toward faith? All God wanted was to hear, “God, You opened the Red Sea for us and sweetened the bitter waters of Marah. We trust You to feed us. Live or die, we are Yours!”

That is all God was waiting to hear!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

HE IS IN CONTROL OF EVERYTHING

When you give your heart to Jesus, you win a great battle. The powers of hell are defeated, robbing Satan of the spoil he took from you when he ruled your life. But afterward, as you are still glowing with spiritual victory and freedom, two kings await you—the same two kings that awaited Abram in Genesis 14:17-24.

Abram faced as strong a temptation as any human being ever experienced. Before him was an offer of riches, material goods and fame, but he did not have to think twice about his decision. His response to the king of Sodom’s offer was a quick and clear NO. Why? Because what mattered most to Abram was preserving God’s reputation, not his own. In effect, he was telling the king of Sodom, “I’m returning all these things to you—the people, the riches, everything, because my Lord owns it all, anyway. If He decides to make me wealthy, so be it. But I don’t want you to be able to brag that you made me rich.”

Where did Abram get such detachment from the world, such independence that he was able to reject outright the devil’s offer of material blessing? It is clear from Scripture that Abram derived his strength from a fresh revelation of who God is. Melchizedek had opened Abram’s eyes to an amazing vision of God’s character: “[Melchizedek] blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God . . . which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand” (Genesis14:19-20).

Embedded in this verse is a name for Jehovah: El Elyon. It means, literally, “God most high, creator and possessor of heaven and earth.” Melchizedek was declaring to Abram, “Your Lord is not just a God above all other gods, He is the creator of the entire universe. Everything in it belongs to Him—all wealth, cattle, possessions. He is in control of everything you see around you.”

Monday, December 23, 2013

WALK IN THE SPIRIT by Gary Wilkerson

I hope I am not the only person who sometimes wonders, “Am I really walking out the gift of righteousness that He’s given me?” Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (ESV).

We can take any passage of Scripture and read it through the lens of either grace or the lens of works and the Law. When I read Galatians 5:16, I sometimes get in the “works” mentality that says, “I have to try to do this!” I say to myself, “Okay, I’m going to do this today; I’m going to walk in the Spirit!” I get anxious and all of a sudden, I am not walking in the Spirit at all.

The next thing Galatians 5:16 says is, “You will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Sometimes we read this passage through the lens of, “I’m in the flesh. No, I’m in the Spirit. But then something comes along and I get mad and I’m back in the flesh!”

Galatians 5:18: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”

Are you in the Spirit? Has Jesus ever come into your heart? If so, did He say, “I’m going to check you out and if your heart is righteous enough, later on we’ll invite the Holy Spirit to come, too”?

No! He did not do that! You cannot get saved unless you have the Holy Spirit living in you. So when He says, “Walk in the Spirit,” He is not saying, “Try to be spiritual,” He is saying, “The Spirit of God lives in you, so walk it out!” He has granted you access to His righteousness and now He is just saying, “Catch up with the work I have already put in you. Put to practice the things you already have in life and quit being anxious and fearful and stressed out.”
Do not wonder if you are too much in the flesh. You don’t need to say, “God, can You help me become more spiritual?” No, you already are spiritual—the life of God lives in you! The Spirit, the breath of God, is in you and you are not under the Law.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

DESPERATE FOR A TOUCH by Carter Conlon

We know that Jesus was so full of the love of God that He allowed Himself to be given for the needs of the very ones who opposed Him. When people walked by His cross and reviled Him, wagging their heads and gambling for His garments, the only thing that came out of His mouth was, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (see Luke 23:34). This is the perfected love of God! It is this perfected love that will empower us to do what we are called to do in this generation—to love those who hate us, for their souls’ sake.

On the other hand, the one who fears is not perfected in the love of God. He is as the blind man who was touched by Jesus yet only saw people as trees walking. “When he . . . put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw as he ought. And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly” (Mark 8:23-25).

This blind man had only partial vision and, similarly, when you and I do not have a heart to see people the way God sees them, we will be driven back by their hard looks and condescension. However, when the man was willing to be touched by the Lord a second time, he lifted his eyes and suddenly saw all men clearly.

If you are desperate to be a witness for Jesus Christ—if you are tired of being one thing in church but another outside; if there is a cry inside of you that says, “God, I have had enough of this powerlessness! I don’t care who laughs at me or who thinks I have lost my mind. I want Your power to be able to stand for Jesus Christ!”—then I have good news for you: God is willing to touch you again, just as He did that blind man.


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Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. A strong, compassionate leader, he is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A MERRY HEART

One of the actions irritating marriages today is the silent treatment. A young wife asked me to “talk some sense” into her husband. “All he does,” she said, “is close up on me when we disagree. He won't fight back, he just walks out the door. When he cools down, he comes home but he is like ice until I make up with him. He can go for days without saying a word. I hate it! I’d rather he yell or even hit me. But no more silent treatment—I can’t take anymore.”

It is deadly wrong to say to your husband or wife, “Just leave me alone. I don’t want to talk. I’m going through a rough place so just let me work it out by myself. I don’t want to be around anybody right now.” That is not only stupid, it is a genuine put-down. What is marriage all about if it is not about sharing and helping one another through every crisis?

I have heard all the excuses: “I’m not feeling well.” “I’ve had a really bad day.” “My nerves are shot.” But these excuses do not give you the moral right to shut out someone who loves you. Always keep the door to your heart open to accept help in your time of need.

The Bible says, “He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28).

If the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10), then strong marriages should abound with joy. When marriage loses its joy, it becomes weak and vulnerable. Show me a happy home, and I’ll show you a joyful couple at the helm.

Husbands and wives who no longer laugh and play together no longer love each other. There is a joyful childishness about true love. I have come to the conclusion that our marriages are suffering from too many sober husbands and sad wives.

Sure, there are problems. There is sickness, unexpected trouble, financial problems, misunderstanding, pain, and even death. But life goes on and it is a shame that so many couples never enjoy life. They keep hoping they will someday be happy and contented. Life passes by quickly and all they have to show for it are the wrinkles and lines on their worried faces.

No thanks! Not for me! The future is now. God is on the throne and He has everything under control. There is a time for weeping, but also a time for rejoicing. The good outweighs the bad, so look up and live.

The Bible says, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).

Thursday, December 19, 2013

THE REAL LOVE STORY

A 1970 movie entitled Love Story contained a quote that became famous: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It is fine in a movie script but in actuality, it is a lie from the pit of hell. According to God’s Word, love is learning how to say, “I’m sorry.”

An irate husband boasted, “I walked out on my wife last night. She is always right, and I’m always wrong, but not this time. I’m not going to let her walk all over me again. I know I’m right on this matter and I’m not giving in. I’m staying away until she crawls on her hands and knees and admits she’s dead wrong.”

Along with learning to say, “I’m sorry,” husbands and wives must learn how to say, “I forgive you.” Jesus warned that the forgiveness of our heavenly Father depends on our forgiving those who trespass against us.

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:25-26).

Has your husband or wife cheated on you? Have you been wounded by adultery? Did you accidentally discover the secret affair? Was there a true repentance? Are you trying hard to forgive and forget?

You may never forget but you must learn to forgive. As long as you live, you may be haunted by the images of your husband or wife in the arms of someone else. You may always hurt and grieve over it. But if he or she has shown evidence of godly sorrow—and every effort is being made to make it up to you—you must forgive. More than that, once and for all, you must stop bringing up the past. Multiplied thousands of marriages have survived infidelity, but only because godly sorrow for sin was followed by Christlike forgiveness. If you keep dragging up all the old, ugly past, the marriage will be in jeopardy.
The Bible says, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression” (Proverbs 19:11).

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

UNANSWERED PRAYER

A teenage girl confessed to me, “Sir, two years ago my mom and dad were killed in a car crash. They were the best parents a girl could ever have. I’ve wondered how God could allow them to be killed in such a violent way, and for the past two years I’ve held a grudge against Him. Doesn't God protect His own? I can’t pray anymore with real trust in Him, because I believe He failed me. What can I do? I guess you can say I’m mad at the Lord.”

A young couple I know has been harboring resentment against the Lord for nearly ten years. Their beautiful, five-year-old daughter died shortly after being stricken with a brain tumor and they grew bitter. They have stayed in church and go through all the motions, but they no longer believe in the effectiveness of prayer. They are afraid to disown God, afraid to call Him a liar or an unfaithful Father, but they have never forgiven Him for “taking away their only child.”

Almost every Christian at some time in his life has had to face the problem of unanswered prayer. A prayer goes unanswered for weeks and months—even years. An unexpected illness or tragedy claims a loved one. Things happen that have no rhyme or reason and then faith begins to falter. But the Word makes it very clear that a wavering person will never receive anything from God.

Jesus understood this tendency in His children to hold grudges against heaven when mountains are not moved on schedule. He warned Peter not to ask anything when standing in God’s presence lest he be unforgiving in some matter.

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any; that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25).

I believe Jesus is saying, “Don’t stand in God’s presence asking for mountains to be removed or for forgiveness of your sins, if you have a secret grudge in your heart against heaven. Get it out! Let the Spirit of forgiveness flow through you. Cry out to your faithful Father. He has not failed. He will answer. He will supply. Submit yourself and ask Him to forgive you for allowing these doubts to spring up.”

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

JESUS AND FORGIVENESS

The most difficult thing in all the world for Christians to do is forgive. For all the talk in the Church about forgiveness, restitution, and healing, very little of it is truly demonstrated. We all like to think of ourselves as peacemakers, lifters up of the fallen, always forgiving and forgetting. But even the most deeply spiritual are guilty of wounding brothers and sisters by not showing a spirit of forgiveness.

Even the best Christians find it hard to forgive those who injure their pride. Let two good Christian friends have a “falling out” and you could have a lifetime grudge going. They seldom admit it, because they cover their unforgiving spirits with a facade of courtesy calls, nice words, and an invitation to “Come and see us sometime.” But it is never the same. We really do not hate that other party; we just seem to be saying, “I've got nothing against him, but just keep him out of my hair. Let him go his way, and I’ll go mine.” We simply ignore people we can’t forgive.

The most difficult person to forgive is someone who is ungrateful. You loved someone without being loved. You sacrificed to help a friend in need, only to be criticized or taken for granted. The person you went out of your way to help shows nothing but ingratitude and selfishness in return. Your good intentions are misinterpreted and your good deeds are misconstrued as being selfishly motivated. Do we ever forgive that ungrateful person? Hardly ever. We smile at them, wave a greeting from a distance, but we determine to “never do anything for them again.”

Then we get to those who deceive us. We find it nearly impossible to forgive such a person. We are most anxious to be forgiven our own lies and failures, but nothing infuriates us more than to discover someone has lied to us.

And what about the person who tells us we are wrong? Convinced we have good reasons for everything we do, we find it extremely difficult to forgive the person who suggests we have made a mistake. Rather than take an honest look at what that person is saying to us, we justify our actions.

In His teaching on prayer Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:11-12).

Monday, December 16, 2013

DAY BY DAY by Gary Wilkerson

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25, ESV).

Jesus does not want you to be anxious about your life. It is easy to get apprehensive about small things such as what you are going to wear or what you are going to eat. He goes on in verse 27, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to the span of his life?” Jesus is saying, “Don’t do that! You can’t add anything to your life by worrying.” He is setting us free from anxiety and calling us into a glorious revelation of the liberty that the children of God can have.

In verse 33 of this passage, Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He is saying that He already knows what you need and as you seek Him, He will give you all the things you need.

Hallelujah! Christ adds His righteousness to the life of a seeker who is hungering and thirsting after Him. When we met Jesus at the cross and became blood-bought, sanctified followers of His, our victory was won!

Some may say, “I know He brought His righteousness to me, but I might do something that displeases Him and He’ll take it away.” No, the Bible does not say that. It says, “Don’t be anxious for your righteousness.” The Holy Spirit will convict you of sin, and God knows who you are and what you are going through. I want to assure you today that He is more powerful than sin and the sin nature. “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, ESV).

The outcome of knowing Him is a rest, a peace, so that you can lay your head down at night and sleep peacefully. You can know that He is cleansing you and making all things new. He does not do that just once but every single day of your life. He is walking with you, working with you, and overseeing all the things of your life.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

FAITH PLEASES GOD by Claude Houde

Christ confronted the Laodicean church, which represented the Church of the end times. He gave her this warning that reaches out across the centuries to speak to you and me today: “Because you are lukewarm . . . I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16). What incredible words! What is the crime, the unimaginable sin committed by the modern Church? Listen to the words of the One who, above all, seeks our faith, trust and surrender: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. . . . Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:17 and 20).

This passage of Scripture, so often quoted and applied completely out of context, is not addressing a lost world in need of “letting Jesus in.” Rather, it is a direct and solemn call to modern believers who are lazily lying on the bed of indifference, quite happy with themselves and the portion they have. This generation has been diabolically blinded to the spiritual revelation that without a burning faith it is impossible to please Him. Jesus is literally and dramatically standing outside the door of a self-sufficient and oh-so-self-satisfied church that trusts in methods, strategies and “cutting-edge” paradigm shifts and tactics borrowed from the secular marketplace. He is crying out, “Let Me in! Repent! Turn away from these broken cisterns that will offer no living water! I call for a people whose trust and confidence will hold solely to My promises. I long for a people whose faith will allow them to see the invisible, believe the unbelievable, and receive the impossible!”

There can be worship, fantastic music programs, awesome buildings, impressive attendance, dynamic teaching, every imaginable church and social program, even Christian lingo and Bible quoting, but without faith it is impossible to please God! God delights in moving mountains and extravagantly unleashing all of heaven’s resources for breathtaking divine interventions when one sincere person simply turns to Him with true, passionate faith.

Burning faith asking with boldness still opens the heavens, moves His heart and His hand, and gives us unlimited access to surprising, inexhaustible, inexplicable, miraculous and supernatural resources. God says, “I love faith! Faith moves me! Faith will see My power and obtain My favor!” As a pastor in Montreal, I only need to take a sweeping look over the thousands of faces gathered on a Sunday morning to be reminded of modern-day miracles, stories and testimonies that joyfully announce to our cynical and skeptical world that faith pleases God!



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Claude Houde, lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada, is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences conducted by World Challenge throughout the world. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

Friday, December 13, 2013

THE MEANING OF TEMPTING GOD

The psalmist writes of Israel’s sin, “They tempted God in their heart” (Psalm 78:18). The Hebrew meaning of this phrase indicates that the Israelites were “tested beyond endurance.” This means they had no human means left to provide for themselves. When they came to this place, they believed God had abandoned them and was remaining silent and out of sight.

In short, this is what it means to tempt God. It happens when His chosen, blessed ones are placed in the fires of testing and their crisis keeps growing more intense until fear grips their hearts, and they cry out, “Lord, where are You? Where is my deliverance? Why aren’t You on the scene? Are You with me or not?"

It is impossible for an unsaved person to tempt the Lord since such a person does not acknowledge God in any area of his life. To him, everything that happens is either good luck or bad luck. Only those who are closest to the Lord can tempt Him, those who have seen His power, tasted His mercy and grace, and been called to walk by faith.

Even the righteous John the Baptist faced the kind of trial that can lead to tempting God. As he sat in prison, he must have wondered where God was in his situation. Word had come back to him of all the wonderful things Jesus was doing—healing people, performing miracles, drawing crowds who had once flocked to him. And now here he sat alone, awaiting execution.

John had known that he had to decrease so Christ could increase. But now the thought crossed his mind, “Decrease, yes, but death? Why do I have to die if Jesus is truly God? If He is performing all these wonders for others, why can’t He deliver me? Lord, this is all too much to endure.” (Remember, Christ had not yet removed the sting of death.)

The last words Jesus sent to John were incredibly significant: “Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (Matthew 11:6). Christ was telling this godly servant, “Don't be offended at me, John. You know I only do what I see and hear from the Father. He has a plan in all this, and He is worthy to be trusted. If He wanted Me to come and release you, you know I would be there in a moment. You can rest assured that whatever comes of this, it will be to His glory. And it will mean eternal glory for you!

“You are enduring your final test, John. Don’t let doubt rob you of your faith. Instead, rest in the Father’s love and faithfulness to you. You’re not being judged. On the contrary, you are greatly honored in His eyes. Just hold steady!”
I believe John did endure. When he was finally beheaded by Herod, he went home to glory full of faith and honor!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

JESUS KNEW WHAT WAS IN THEIR HEARTS

The disciples had no idea what was in their hearts but Jesus did, and He brought them to a place of testing that exposed it all. He told the twelve to get into a boat and cross the sea, knowing full well that a storm would soon envelop them.

Now, these men thought they were trusting followers of the Master. After all, they had seen thousands fed with just a handful of fish and a few loaves of bread. So, as they stepped into the boat, they probably thought they would never doubt Jesus again.

It is one thing to see miracle-working power in your pastor’s life, and quite another to experience it for yourself. Now, as the winds began blowing and the waves rose higher, the disciples’ test came. Soon the boat filled with water, and the men started bailing as fast as they could. In just minutes, however, they knew their ship was going to sink.

Listen to what emerged from these men’s hearts in their time of testing: “Lord, don’t You care that we’re all about to die? We’re going down! Help us, Jesus. Are You God or not? Don’t You care about us?"

Jesus’ very own disciples were tempting Him! Indeed, they spoke almost the very same words to Jesus that the Israelites had spoken to Moses: “They tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?” (Exodus 17:7).

Yet, all along Jesus knew what He was doing. He could have commanded the winds and waves to cease long before they did. Such power was always present in Him. But, instead, He allowed His disciples to be tested in a literal, life-or-death situation.

“His disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. . . . They see Jesus walking on the sea . . . and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went” (John 6:16-21).

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A PLACE OF TRIAL AND TESTING

Many believers arrive at places of trial and testing. Sometimes the Lord brings us to places similar to Marah, where the waters of life are bitter (see Exodus 15:22-23). And once there, we too face unfulfilled thirst, nagging questions and grave doubts. You may protest, “No, you can’t compare me to those idolatrous, fornicating Israelites! You can’t say I’m like them!”

But the poor Israelites did not recognize these things about themselves; they did not realize what was in their hearts until their time of testing came. I believe the same is true of God’s people today. The prophet Jeremiah writes, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Remember, these are the same people who would later tremble before the Lord at Mount Sinai after hearing His commandments. They would quickly answer, “Everything God has said, we will do. We’ll obey every command!” And the Israelites sincerely meant every word they said. They were full of the fear of God, and were convinced they would not fail to honor Him. But they had no idea what was in their hearts; in truth, they were spiritually bankrupt.

You see, Israel was living off the experience of their pastor and teacher, Moses. They had no faith of their own and when God removed Moses from their midst, they backslid within forty days!

The same thing happens with many Christians today. When they hear God’s Word preached, they eagerly pledge to obey it with all their hearts. But in reality, they are living off someone else’s experience. They feed on teaching tapes, seminars, the revelations of their pastors—and they have no deep experience of their own with Christ.

Beloved, you cannot get God’s true revelation from someone else. A preacher can stir and inspire you, and you may learn to spout biblical precepts. But until you have your own experience with Jesus and develop a history with Him, you cannot know Him. His word has to work its way into your heart until it becomes a living experience.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

IS THE LORD AMONG US?

Who were the people Paul was describing in 1 Corinthians 10:8-10, the thousands who “fell in one day,” the masses who were killed by snakes, and others who were “destroyed of the destroyer”? These were not Moabites, Canaanites, Philistines or any of the other heathen surrounding Israel. No, Paul was speaking here of believers—people of God’s own choosing!

In the wilderness God’s people witnessed incredible miracles. They had been fed spiritual food by supernatural means and had drunk spiritual water from a rock Paul says was Christ Himself. They were well taught and well taken care of. Yet, many of these same people were consumed by God’s fiery wrath and destroyed by serpents.

The apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:5 that these Israelites so displeased God that He “overthrew” them in the wilderness. The Hebrew word used here means, “He cast them out of His hand, scattering them to the ground like so much dust.”

What does this mean? The Lord was telling Israel, “I will not accept this from you. If you were innocent—if you weren’t well trained, or hadn’t received spiritual food from My hand or seen evidence of My glory—then I would deal with you. But in spite of My many blessings to you, you have chosen lusts and idols. So, now I am going to scatter you and cast you out of My hands completely.”

How could this be? Why would the Lord deal so severely with His own people after they had benefited so fully from Him? Paul tells us very clearly in verse 9 that they tempted Christ! “Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted.”

What does Paul mean when he says we are not to “tempt the Lord”? He is referring to an episode in Exodus 17 when the Israelites had just experienced the miracle of manna—a white wafer containing all the nutrition they needed to sustain them. This “small, round thing” appeared on the ground in their midst every day. The people did not earn or merit this supernatural food; the Lord fed it to them by His grace alone and all they had to do was gather it up. But then they had no water. They came to a place called Marah, where the water was too bitter to drink, and once again they were in a crisis, facing yet another test.

Immediately, the people began chiding their leader, Moses, accusing him of being a heartless liar who had led them into the wilderness to destroy them. And then we see in verse 7 that “they tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us, or not?”

Monday, December 9, 2013

HAVE YOU BEEN SET FREE? by Gary Wilkerson

I want to ask you a very simple but important question: Have you been set free? At first the answer might very easily be yes, but in reality many of us are living in some form of fanciful, make-believe world. We have been set free; we have been washed; we have been redeemed and made holy; we are pure, clean, washed and living for God in some sort of otherworldliness that is somewhere in the shadow lands behind our understanding.

In reality, in our day-in and day-out, nitty-gritty existence where heaven meets Earth, so to speak, we begin to have a different feeling about our life. Have I really been set free? Many of us are pleading with God and daily beseeching Him, “Lord, please liberate me! Set me free from bondage, set me free from the power of sin, set me free from these habitual patterns and addictions.” We are constantly asking God to deliver us.

The truth is, if you have already met Jesus Christ, if you have been washed by the blood of the Lamb and cleansed by His precious blood, you have been made free in Him. You are victorious and a new creation in Christ Jesus!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18, ESV).

You do not have to come to the altar and beg and plead and wallow in despair and guilt and cry, “Oh, God, set me free! God, please change me!” No, because He has already changed you. He has already made you new. He has already convicted you of unrighteousness and planted His righteousness inside of you. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you cannot compel Him to make you righteous but if you have met Him, He has already made you righteous and and complete. Hallelujah! That is good news!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

THE NEW BEGINNING by Jim Cymbala

Over one hundred years ago Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the great British pastor, said in a sermon, “The condition of the church may be very accurately gauged by its prayer meetings.”

On our first Tuesday night prayer meeting at Brooklyn Tabernacle, fifteen to eighteen people showed up. I had no agenda laid out; I just stood up and led the people in singing and praising God. Out of that came extended prayer. I felt a new sense of unity and love as God seemed to be knitting us together.

In the weeks that followed, answers to prayer became noticeable. We were joined by new people who had talents and skills that could help us, and unsaved relatives and total strangers began to show up. We started to think of ourselves as a “Holy Ghost emergency room” where people in spiritual trauma could be rescued. So week after week, I kept encouraging the people to pray.

We were not there to hear one another give voice to eloquent prayers; we were too desperate for that. We focused vertically, on God, rather than horizontally on one another. Much of the time we called out to the Lord as a group, all praying aloud in concert, a practice that continues to this day. At other times we joined hands in circles of prayer, or various people with special burdens to express spoke up. The format of a prayer meeting is not nearly as important as its essence—touching the Almighty, crying out with one’s whole being.

In those early days in our church, as people drew near to the Lord, received the Spirit’s fullness, and rekindled their first love for God, they naturally began to talk about it on their jobs, in their apartment buildings, at family gatherings. Soon they were bringing new people.

From that day to the present there has never been a season of decline in the church, thank God. By His grace we have never had a faction rise up and decide to split away. God has continued to send people who need help and often we never find out how they learned of us.


_________
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, December 6, 2013

FALSE PEACE

America today is under the seductive power of a satanic lie. Yet, before I say anything more, please know that what I speak here has nothing to do with politics but everything to do with spiritual truth. The fact is, our nation’s leaders have cast aside God’s Word completely, showing no respect for biblical truth. And now the Lord has allowed a deception to fall upon us.

The demonic lie blanketing America today is a false peace. It is the idea that we can do whatever we please with no fear of consequences. We have already crossed a line in this deception and now judgment is inevitable.

Paul lays out this divine judgment in Romans 1. He speaks of those who once held to biblical truth but later tried to retain the truth in unrighteousness. In short, they wanted God’s Word and their lust at the same time. So the Lord turned them over to reprobate minds. They wanted to believe a lie and He sent a strong delusion upon them.

This is the very state of our nation right now. One of our recent Presidents told the entire country, “I did not commit this sin,” but later was exposed for committing the very act he named. Today, eighty percent of Americans have turned a blind eye to both his sin and his lie, saying none of it matters. As prophesied, truth is fallen in the streets.

Americans are gambling on the stock market like drunken sailors—and prospering. In addition, a survey says sixty-five percent of college students cheat and think there is nothing wrong with it. People of all ages are treating God’s laws casually, thinking, “What I’m doing must be okay, because I’m getting away with it.”

We constantly hear lies, cover-ups and manipulations from our nation’s capital. But the strong delusion our nation is under is not simply about the sordid mess in Washington, D.C. No, Satan’s deceiving power goes far beyond those treacheries and depravity. His big lie is an outpouring from hell against God’s people.

Paul warns, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables [lies]” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Who are these deceived masses Paul is talking about? They are deceived Christians! He wrote this letter to the Thessalonian church—addressing born-again believers! These people had sat under biblical teaching and had known God’s truth, yet they held on to their lusts and sought out heresies that would comfort them in their sins.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

MYSTERY OF INIQUITY

In a letter to the Christians at Thessalonica, Paul speaks of a future event he calls “the day of the Lord.” He writes: “We beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

I believe that Paul is speaking of Christ's second coming and he states that His return will not take place until two things happen:
  1. A great apostasy will occur. Many who once knew God will fall away from the truth of the gospel they have known. 
  2. The Antichrist, or man of sin, will be revealed. 
A “falling away” is already taking place. Many believers today, as well as Christians throughout the past few decades, have grown cold in their love for God. With that in mind, I will focus on Paul’s second point, that the day of the Lord will not come until the “man of sin is revealed.”

Is Paul saying here that Jesus will not come back until the Antichrist has been enthroned as a world ruler and we all know his identity? I don't think so. Paul knew that Christ could return at any moment and Jesus Himself said He will come when least expected, in the twinkling of an eye.

We find a key to Paul's meaning in his use of the word “revealed.” The Greek meaning is “uncovered.” I believe Paul is saying, “Jesus will not come until the Antichrist’s full plan and agenda are exposed, and the church is made aware of it.” The Antichrist’s plan has already been exposed in Scripture. Paul declares, “The mystery of iniquity doth already work” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). He is saying that a mysterious form of sin, even now at work, will usher in the Antichrist. Apparently, a spirit of iniquity will fall upon lost humanity, gripping people’s hearts so powerfully that the man of sin will ascend to power quickly.

Yet there is another meaning to this phrase, “mystery of iniquity.” It comes from a Greek root meaning “silent initiation.” Paul is talking about a secret initiation into the cult of the Antichrist—a subtle, demonic influence he saw taking place in his own day.
Right now, this same mysterious spirit is at full seductive power, preparing masses of people to receive the man of sin. Thousands daily are being brainwashed, silently and in secret, to be initiated into his fold. And this satanic work is happening so fast and so efficiently, the man of sin could ascend to power in the not-too-distant future.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

BRING LIFE!

I wish I could have met Paul in the final, mature days of his walk with the Lord. I would have asked him, “Brother, what kept you from fainting and giving up? You were constantly pressed down on all sides.”

I believe Paul would have answered, “Yes, I was pressed down, but I wasn't distressed by any of it.”

“But you write so often of being perplexed by your trials,” I would say.

“True, but never once did I give up in despair,” he might answer.

“You were also persecuted more than anybody.”

“Yes, I was. But the Lord never forsook me through it all.”

“You were struck down often, with infirmities and troubles.”

“Sure. But none of it destroyed me.”

Today Paul testifies to the whole world, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). He wants God’s people to know, “All your troubles are light, momentary afflictions. And they are producing in you an eternal weight of glory, far beyond your comprehension” (see verse 17).

Paul tells us, “Death worketh in us, but life in you” (2 Corinthians 4:12). The apostle states very plainly, “Here is the reason God hands us over to death. He does it so the life of Christ will flow out of us to others! If we allow death to complete its work, a manifestation of the Christ-life will come forth in us. And our testimony will produce life in all who hear it!”

Remember that when financial problems hit, when physical pain strikes, when your name and character are being defamed, all eyes are on you. Your co-workers, your family members, your brothers and sisters in Christ, even strangers are watching and waiting for your reaction.

What do they see flowing out of you in such times? Do they see faith, trust, surrender? Or do they see a despairing, murmuring Christian who will not entrust himself to the resurrection power of Jesus? Beloved, let death finish its work in you! Let it remove everything that hinders the flow of Christ’s life out of you to others.

Say to the Lord, “Father, I know these troubles aren’t happening to me because You are angry with me but because You are trying to get at something in my soul. Deal with it, Lord. Bring it to death, and out of that death, bring life!”

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I’M NOT QUITTING!

I am sure that in the early days of his walk with Christ, Paul endured terrible times. And, like most of us, he probably hoped that if he just trusted the Lord enough, he would be protected from all trouble.

The first time Paul was thrown into jail, for example, he might have cried out for deliverance: “Lord, open these prison doors. Get me out of here for the sake of the gospel!” Likewise, his first shipwreck probably tested his faith severely. And his first beating might have caused him to question God’s ability to keep His word: “Lord, You promised to protect me. I don't understand why I'm enduring this horrible trial.”

But things just kept getting worse for Paul. Scripture gives little evidence that the apostle ever saw much relief from his troubles.

I believe that by his second shipwreck, Paul must have thought, “I know the Lord abides in me and so He must have a reason for this trial. He has told me that all things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purposes [see Romans 8:28]. If this is His way of bringing forth a greater manifestation of Christ's life in me, so be it. Sink or swim, my life is in His hands.”

By the third shipwreck, Paul probably said, “Look at me, all you angels in glory! Look at me, all you vile demons of hell. Look at me, all you brothers and sinners. I’m going down once again into deep, dark waters and I want you all to know that death can’t hold me! God has told me I’m not finished—and I’m not quitting. I will not question my Lord about why I am being tested this way. I just know that this death situation is going to end up in great glory to Him. So, watch how my faith will come forth as pure as gold!”

Simply put, our death situations are meant to be the end of certain personal struggles. Our Father brings us to a place where we realize we have to depend on Christ completely, or we will never get through. He wants us to say, “Jesus, unless You deliver me, it’s hopeless. I put my trust in You to do it all!”

Monday, December 2, 2013

ARISE, GO TO ZAREPHATH by Gary Wilkerson

The prophet Elijah was told by God to prophesy that a famine was coming on the land. That is not a ministry that will make you very popular but Elijah was obedient to the Lord. The Lord protected him and sent him to a place beside a brook called Cherith. This is a beautiful name for a brook, although we do not know if it was as beautiful as it sounds. But nevertheless, after a while the brook dried up (see 1 Kings 17:3-7). Everyone can go a considerable amount of time without eating but after a few short days without water, life cannot be sustained. So I imagine Elijah became concerned when his water supply dried up.

The word of the LORD came to him, “Arise, go to Zarephath . . . I have commanded a widow there to feed you” (verses 8-9). Elijah, who seemed to have very little provision, trusted and obeyed God yet he was being sent to a poor widow. “So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks” (verse 10).

Elijah asked her for a jar of water and a morsel of bread and she responded, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug” (verse 12).

This widow was responding to him out of her hurt. She and her son were starving and Elijah had come and said, “God sent me here to have you feed me.” She is looking at her resources and thinking, “This is impossible!” And then she said to him, “Now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die” (verse 12).

Elijah’s response was rather strange: “Do not fear; go and do as you have said” (verse 13).

Why would he say that? Because he knew that God was not going to abandon this woman and her child. He knew that as she obeyed God and blessed others through the little bit that she had, she would become blessed herself. The more she gave away, the more God increased what she had (see verses 14-16).
Obey God and you will see the windows of heaven open. God will not withhold His hand from you. He longs to pour out His blessings on you, to show you His favor.