Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A SHARING OF THE LORD’S BURDEN

Every true burden that the Lord has given me to bear has been born out of a deep, life-changing encounter in the presence of Jesus. In 1957 the Spirit of God came on me in a spirit of weeping. I sold my television, which dominated my free time, and for a year I shut myself in with my Lord in prayer. I spent months praying in my study and in the woods. And while I was in His presence, He opened His heart to me and showed me a whole suffering world. Out of this came the command, “Go to New York.” I obeyed, and while I walked these streets He shared with me His burden for gangs, addicts and alcoholics.

A few years ago, God called me to a life of much deeper communion. I spent months alone with Jesus, being purged, laying down all ambition, wanting only to please Him. Once again came the command: “Go back to New York.” Now our ministry moves only through prayer and by being in His presence. The burden we have must be His burden or it is all vain.

When I was eight years old, camp meetings were popular. At that time there were no special campgrounds or Christian retreats; tents and little cabins were all that churches could afford. Gwen and I used to go to “Living Waters Camp” in Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania. People would come to that camp full of His presence. We had no TVs, and no one dared even think about going to the theater. Jesus was our everything!

The meetings would last most of the night and in such a meeting, where Jesus shone forth so mightily, we all ran to the altar. I remember kneeling in the straw, and while I was in God’s presence He became my life. He spoke to me there, saying, “Give me your life!” I doubt if I would be ministering today if not for the dear saints who came to those camp meetings so full of Jesus. They manifested His glory. I lay for hours, weeping and trembling at that camp meeting altar, and when I stood up—just a boy—God’s hand was upon my life and His burden was on my soul.

No one shared the burden of the Lord more than the apostle Paul. Jesus laid on his shoulders the yoke of His own heart. But how did Paul receive that burden? From an encounter with the bright sun of Christ’s presence! “Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth” (Acts 9:3-4). This was the very presence of Jesus. Paul’s ministry came out of that encounter. Notice that “Arise, and go” (verse 6) came next! When you have the actual, living presence of Jesus, you don’t need committees, strategies or “how to” seminars for direction. The Holy Ghost comes and says, “Go here . . . go there . . . do it this way.” He tells you when, where and how!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I FELL AT HIS FEET

A day is coming when Jesus will reveal Himself fully to wicked mankind. When that happens people will cry out for rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from His awesome presence. “[They] hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne” (Revelation 6:15-16).

At Times Square Church we often preach against sin, and many can say, “I’ve laid down everything the Spirit has exposed in me that’s unlike Jesus.” Yet I realize we have not arrived; we still fall short of His glory. Preaching alone will not bring the hatred for sin that so many need in these last days. It’s going to take deep, piercing manifestations of God’s holy presence because only in His presence will we learn to hate sin and walk in His fear.

I hear Christians boast, “On that Day of Judgment I won’t have to fall on my face. I will stand boldly, warts and all, because I am trusting in His salvation, not in my works!” It is true that we are not saved by works. But if we do not obey Christ’s commandments, then we never really loved Him and He was not manifested in us (John 14:21).

The apostle John, our “brother, and companion in tribulation” (Revelation 1:9), the one who once leaned on Jesus’ breast, saw Christ in His glorified holiness. John testified, “I turned . . . I saw . . . one like unto the Son of man . . . his eyes were as a flame of fire . . . his voice as the sound of many waters . . . and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not” (Revelation 1:12-19).

You may be as John, a righteous brother or sister in the Lord—a servant who has endured much tribulation—but can any of us stand before a Presence that shines as the sun in all its strength? We will no more be able to look upon that holiness than we can now look into the sun without tinted glasses. He will have to enable us in that day, to touch us and reassure us not to be afraid.

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy . . . be glory and majesty, dominion and power” (Jude 24).

Monday, December 29, 2014

THE LIVING COVENANT by Gary Wilkerson

“There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope” (John 5:45). What did Jesus mean when He said said that? Moses represents the Old Covenant law received from God on Mt. Sinai. If we set our hope on accomplishing God’s law, it is Moses’ voice that accuses us when we fail. You may think, “Why would anyone ever put their hope in the Old Covenant?” Well, Christians do it all the time. It happens when we say, “God has given me a command and I can do it. I can maintain His holy standard.”

That’s how we “set our hope on Moses.” That’s also the moment our hearts begin to grow sick: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). We have no real hope when we set our sights on accomplishing Moses’ law—because we do not possess the ability to do so.

Under these terms, we may try to worship Jesus, but something in our hearts doesn’t feel right—it feels earthbound. We sense something is missing—and it is: the grace of God that comes to us in Christ, the living covenant. When Moses’ voice accuses, “You’re not holy,” we keep trying but the result continues to be the same—and we end up in despair.

God does not accuse us and it is absolutely essential for us to have this as our firm foundation—a foundation based not on law or accusations or despair, but on the glorious, gracious action of God Himself. When He hears accusations against us, He tells Jesus, “Crush it.” In that moment, we hear the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, “Do not listen to that lie. It has been destroyed on the cross.” Neither does God accuse us. His Son has set us free. We have been given Jesus, and in our times of discouragement we will hear His voice above all others: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:11). May God supply you with His grace to build on that foundation and to rejoice!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

THE FATHER OF FAITH by Claude Houde

If you want to grow spiritually, if you are thirsty for the miraculous and the divine in your daily life, you absolutely must pay close and passionate attention to Abraham. He’s not an ordinary Old Testament character, or just a name on a list. The apostle Paul called him the “father of faith,” the example, the model, the plumb line, the standard and the father of all believers (see Romans 4:12).

Isaiah, the prophet, issues this vibrant call to us: “Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness and thirst for the living God. Fasten your eyes on the rock from which you were cut. Give your attention to Abraham, your father. For I called him when he was alone and unknown; I blessed him and multiplied him. For the Lord shall restore all the wasted places and make wells of living water spring forth in the desert. Joy and voices of thanksgiving and gladness can be heard again. Give me your attention, My people! Set your eyes on Abraham” (see Isaiah 51:1-4).

Do you get the impression from reading these lines that Abraham has something to say to us? Well, you’re right. Paul, the scholar, apostle and world changer whose remarkable and inspired writings have marked the history of mankind, tells us that “there is a promise that is assured for those who will walk in the faith of Abraham” (see Romans 4:16).

Dear reader, let’s lift up a veil and discover a treasure. Let’s plunge into the Book of Beginnings—the Genesis of Abraham’s faith—to dig up a spiritual gold mine of eternal value: faith with a refusal.

“The Lord said to Abram, Come out of your country and out of your father’s house to a land that I will show you. I will make you a source nation and I will bless you. I will make your name great and you will become a source of blessing unto the ends of the earth for generations to come” (see Genesis 12:1-3).

Dear friends, this faith with a refusal that characterized and defined the personality and life of Abraham touched the heart of God and became a key to the perfect fulfillment of the astonishing promise you just read. In biblical terms and in the global perspective of Scriptures, Abraham is not only the father of the millions of Jewish people through history, but also the spiritual father of every believer who has placed his faith in Christ, from across the centuries to our present day. There are over one billion followers of Christ on the earth. We are the fastest growing religious movement in the world, and according to Scriptures each one of these precious Christians is a son or daughter of Abraham!

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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 26, 2014

THIS IS HOLINESS

“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord . . . declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness” (Roman 1:3-4). True holiness has a spirit operating behind it. Wherever you find the presence of Jesus working in or among His people, you will discover abundantly more in them than obedience, more than separation from the world, more than abstinence from ungodly things. You will find a spirit of obedience.

To these people, obedience is no longer just a matter of doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong. The believer who so delights in pleasing the Lord has a spirit resting upon him which automatically draws him to the light. “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:20-21).

A holy person is not afraid of the light of God’s presence. Rather, he invites that glaring light, because a spirit of holiness within him cries out, “I want all hidden things to be brought out! I want to be as much like Jesus as is possible for a human being on this earth.” This servant runs to the light and when he surrenders, the light of Christ’s presence becomes pure glory to him.

Listen to the language of the Spirit of holiness, to the motivation of that spirit: “We keep his commandment, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight” (1 John 3:22). In the Greek translation, these words are very strong: “We keep His commandments, taking them up with great excitement because we know it pleases Him!”

Here is how I believe this spirit of holiness operates in a church where the presence of Jesus is manifested. First of all, brothers and sisters come to your church in victory with the smile of an overcomer. They testify, “I’m being changed! The Lord is putting a desire in my heart to obey and walk blameless in His presence.” As you witness this, your spirit rejoices, saying within, “Thank God, another servant is bringing Him pleasure! My brother and my sister are making heaven rejoice!” Your excitement extends beyond the freedom we presently enjoy, beyond our rescue from the devil’s power. Because more than all else, we are becoming a body that is learning how to please Him. We obey not out of duty or out of slavish fear, but because inside us lives a spirit of obedience. We delight in Christ’s joy, rejoicing that His heart rejoices! This is holiness.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

THE PRESENCE OF GOD

The presence of Jesus has power to destroy and drive out sin! “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Psalm 68:1-2).

This is a picture of what ought to happen when you get alone with God in your prayer closet. His awesome, manifest presence is like a hurricane that blows away the dirt and smoke of lust; like a blazing fire, it melts down all hardness. Wickedness perishes in His presence.

“The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord” (Psalm 97:5). The hills in this psalm represent satanic strongholds and mountains of stubbornness, all of which melt from those who are shut in with God. We can pray until we’re exhausted, “Oh God, send Your sin-exposing, sin-destroying power to all our churches!” But it will not do any good until the Spirit raises up in those churches a praying, holy remnant whose pure hearts invite His presence into the sanctuary.

You will not experience the real presence of Jesus until you have within you a growing hatred for sin—a piercing conviction for your failures and a deepening sense of your exceeding sinfulness. Those without Christ’s presence become less and less convicted by sin. The further they withdraw from His presence, the bolder, more arrogant and more comfortable in compromise they grow. Yet it is not enough for us to eat and drink in His presence; we must also be changed and purified by being with Him. “Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity” (Luke 13:26-27).

Those who confess that they have eaten and drunk in His presence will really be saying, “We were in Your presence; we sat under Your teaching.” Thus they will be judged out of their own mouths. They will admit that they sat in His presence but they were not changed. They remained blind to their own sinfulness, hardened and unaffected by the presence of Christ. Jesus will answer them, “I don’t know you. Depart from Me!”

How dangerous it is to sit among saints of God who radiate His glory and presence, where Jesus powerfully reveals Himself, and not be changed. How deadly not to see the ugliness of sin, the plague of the heart! Will you dare tell the Lord, “I attended a church where Your presence was real; I sat in Your holy presence”? It would be better for you never to have known His presence.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TRUE REVIVAL

Recently, four teenage boys told me, “You preached in our church last year and it was dead at the time. So we four started a prayer meeting just for us. We wanted to get right with God, to repent and be on fire for Jesus. Our group grew to ten and we helped other fellows get saved. Now we’re inviting the deacons and pastors to come and pray with us. We really have a changed church now!”

A true revival, as I see it, is a restoration of this kind of intense love for Jesus. It is marked by a new desire to obey His every word, a heart attitude that says, “Whatever He says, I will do.” Indeed, a revival is a return to obedient love by a people who individually have confessed and forsaken all sin, desiring only to become channels of Christ’s presence. Revival is embodied in these people. They carry Christ’s glory and presence with them because His life flows through them at all times.

Pastors of large churches have said to me. “You must come and see what God is doing. Thousands are coming—we’re packed out! And our worship is really something to behold.” I visited some of these churches with great expectation, but seldom did I sense or experience the actual presence of Jesus in these mass meetings. The congregations exhibited no true repentance and I believe that if a prophet had stood up and exposed the divorce, adultery, fornication and mixture with evil music that existed in those churches, half the crowd would have walked out.

They were having fun! In one church, a leader invited about fifty people to come to a prayer room where he gave them a sales talk. They needed to join that church, he said, “for a covering—to get your prayers answered.” In that congregation, there were no instruments or channels of His presence. The so-called worship and praise were simply noise, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the crowd would cry out for entertainment. Where there is no true presence of Christ, the people seek only thrills.

I left these meetings knowing in my heart that Jesus was not among the people. It was clear they did not live in obedience to Him, so in truth they could not be loving Him. Jesus will not manifest Himself to those who say they have love but do not obey.

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FULL OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE

Ask any Christian, “Do you love Jesus?” and he will answer, “Yes, absolutely!” But words alone will not stand in the holy light of His Word, for Jesus Himself said two distinct things will reveal our love for Him. If those two evidences are not being revealed in your life, then your love for Jesus is in word alone—not in deed and in truth. They are: (1) your obedience to Jesus’ every command and (2) a manifestation of His presence in your life.

This verse says it all: “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me . . . and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him” (John 14:21). “Manifest” means to “shine or break forth”—in other words, to become an instrument or channel that radiates Christ’s presence.

The Church so often prays, “Oh, Lord, send us Your presence. Come among us—fall upon us—move upon us. Reveal Yourself to us!” But God’s presence does not just come down. It does not suddenly fall and surprise or overwhelm the congregation. We seem to have the idea that Christ’s presence is an invisible smoke that God sprays into the atmosphere, like the Old Testament cloud of glory that so filled the temple that the priests could not stand to minister.

We forget that in this day our bodies are the temple of God, and if His glory comes, it must appear in our hearts and fill our bodies. Christ does not inhabit buildings or a certain atmosphere; in fact, the very heavens cannot contain Him. Rather, He is manifested through our obedient, sanctified bodies—His temples: “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Why is there little or no presence of Jesus in the midst of our churches? Why are so many congregations dead? Because either the pastor or the people—or both—are spiritually dead! Experiencing the presence of Jesus in a church is not so much a corporate matter as it is an individual one. It is true that a spiritually lifeless, prayer-less shepherd can spread death over the people. Yet every member is still a temple and remains personally responsible to obey God and be available as an instrument of His presence. Your church can be dead and yet you can be full of Christ’s presence.

Monday, December 22, 2014

HUNGER FOR GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

I am convinced there is a hunger throughout the world for the grace of Christ, and Scripture attests to this. Luke writes that when Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, crowds of thousands “had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those troubled by evil spirits were healed” (Luke 6:18, NLT). These masses came because they had heard a rumor about a man of grace who would heal them.

“There were people from all over Judea and from Jerusalem and from as far north as the seacoasts of Tyre and Sidon” (Luke 6:17). The hurting masses didn’t travel those distances because they wanted to hear a preacher urge them to try harder. They were already worn down by discouragement, disease and despair over their efforts to remain godly. And this wasn’t just a gathering of “good” people. Many were probably on the fringes of life, people shoved aside by their broken condition. Whatever the case, observing the Law had not brought them life.

To these hungry sojourners, Jesus’ reputation for grace turned out to be true. He not only preached grace but demonstrated it by healing them all: “Healing power went out from him, and he healed everyone” (Luke 6:19).

As a boy, I measured my walk with Christ by how well I demonstrated humility, purity and mercy. If I caught myself being aggressive, I thought, “I need to be more humble and meek.” Or if I had sexual thoughts, I wondered, “How will I ever be able to keep a pure heart?” Like many before me, I turned God’s gracious promise of blessing into laws I tried to keep. If I “lived” the beatitudes well enough, then maybe God would say, “Gary, you’re blessed.”

No! That is completely backward—and utterly contrary to Christ’s gospel. When Jesus looked on that crowd of people, He saw them already poor in spirit, on their knees in humility, harangued by sickness, exhausted by their efforts to live a good life. So what did He do? He spoke blessings upon them! Just as the Lord spoke creation into a void of utter darkness, Jesus spoke divine blessings onto ravaged sinners, people beaten down by life. He assured them, “You came here in mourning, but I say you are blessed in the eyes of God—blessed in your marriage, blessed in your labors, blessed in the depths of your soul.”

This was a radical message to their ears! These people only knew the terms of the Old Covenant. They thought they deserved to hear, “You’re cursed! You didn’t keep the Law according to Deuteronomy; otherwise, your lives would be blessed.” Jesus told them the opposite: “Before you’ve done anything for Me—before you’ve prayed, worshiped or confessed—I have already blessed you!”

Saturday, December 20, 2014

SEEDS OF FORGIVENESS by Nicky Cruz

I wish you could experience the miracle that our family has experienced. I wish you could feel the difference between how we live now and how we lived during the days of my youth. Today I love my brothers and sister with a passion. There’s nothing I’d rather do than sit around and laugh and talk and cry with my family.

The times that I get to travel back to Puerto Rico and visit are some of my most precious memories. When I go home I’m no longer Nicky Cruz the evangelist or speaker; I’m just a brother. I’m just one of the family, and I love that. In fact, two of my brothers pastor churches in Puerto Rico, and they’ve never even asked me to speak to their congregations. They know that when I come home I come to hang out.

I have so many memories of staying up late with my family, eating and laughing and joking and praying and crying together. Sometimes we stay up until one o’clock in the morning telling stories. Trading jokes. Relishing the joy we all share. It’s like one big fiesta!

But that’s not how it used to be with us. We weren’t always so happy and carefree and loving. When Jesus came into our lives, He brought with Him an explosion of love! He opened the floodgates of mercy and forgiveness. In my family there is a lot of pain in our past, yet not one of us harbors feelings of resentment. No one holds a grudge. We hold nothing but love in our hearts among us. We don’t spend any time in regret; we just rejoice in the Jesus we know today—in the future He brings to us all.

It breaks my heart to see families that hold on to the past. Brothers and sisters who hang on to bitterness and resentment from days long gone. Husbands and wives who have been hurt by words or actions, so they allow the pain to fester, to grow, to eat away at them like a cancer.

Jesus can do for the human heart what no one else can do. He can bring about change unlike anything we could imagine. When He comes to live in your heart, He does more than forgive you, He leaves behind seeds of forgiveness. Supernatural seeds that will not only erase the sin, but erase the pain that sin has brought.

I could never thank Jesus enough for what He has done for our family. For the forgiveness and mercy and grace that He has brought, bringing us back together.
And He can do the same for anyone.

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Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run

Friday, December 19, 2014

DON’T FEEL SORRY

Naomi tried one last time to encourage Ruth to go back home, but Ruth would not go. “Ruth clave unto [Naomi]” (Ruth 1:14). The word used here suggests a maiden on her knees with her arms around her master’s waist, as if she will never let go. Ruth wanted God!

As soon as Ruth crossed over the border to Judah, she was on the road to winning Christ. There was no signpost to tell her, but we know where the road led: straight to the heart of Jesus! Ruth and Naomi came to the place of blessing—poor and not knowing where their next meal would come from—but they arrived during the beginning of the harvest season.

Ruth was penniless, with no future in sight, yet she was a virtuous woman, and had committed everything to the Lord. She said, “Let me now go to the field, and glean” (Ruth 2:2). Only the very poor did such work. The Law demanded that the owners not harvest the four corners of their fields and not glean the remains, so that the poor could have them. “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shall not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest . . . thou shall leave them for the poor” (Leviticus 19:9-10).

It looked as if Ruth had made a poor bargain: Her devotion took her all the way to the place of visitation and now she was sweating over a minimum-wage job! She was even below the poverty line. Take a good look at her, because this is how you may end up if you break loose and go all the way with God!

This was the cross of the apostle Paul until he died: “For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake . . . we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; and labor, working with our own hands; being reviled . . . persecuted . . . being defamed . . . we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring [we get the brush-off, being considered the scum of the earth]” (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).

But don’t feel sorry for Ruth—for she was just about to win Christ!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

CROSSING THE BORDER

As we see in Ruth 1, Naomi, Orpah and Ruth reach the border between Moab and Judah and there they face a decision. Will they follow the move of God’s grace over into the fullness of Christ? Their names give you a clue: Naomi means grace; Orpah means stiffnecked; and Ruth means friend, companion.

A confrontation takes place at the border when Naomi decides to test Orpah’s and Ruth’s commitment and resolve. For them, the decision to go will require more than emotion, more than words. They must choose either to go back or to go on—with no promise of reward and a clear vision of the high cost ahead.

Rather than preaching prosperity, ease, and success, Naomi presents to them a picture of suffering and poverty. There is no promise of earthly goods, only a walk of faith. In fact, she encourages them to return to their own mothers’ houses (see Ruth 1:8-9).

Both Orpah and Ruth remain steadfast at this point: “They lifted up their voice, and wept. And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:9-10). You already know from Orpah’s name that, in spite of her river of tears, in spite of all her strong words about going on, she will drop out and go back to her idolatry. Outwardly, however, she is broken and tender, and seems to be part of this move back to God.

I believe Naomi could see into Orpah’s heart, into her struggle. She probably thought to herself, “Poor child! She thinks she wants the Lord’s fullness, but she is still charmed by this world. She would be miserable if she went on, because she’d always be looking back!”
So Naomi says, “Go your way!” Orpah must have reached a decision in her heart, “I’ll go back to Moab and serve God—my way! I’ll still love these precious saints, but I’ve got to get on with my life. I’m not ready to give up my past.”

The Bible says, “They lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law” (Ruth 1:14). An original manuscript adds to the sentence, “and went back.”

Some of you reading this now are about to kiss your brethren good-bye. Something in your heart is pulling you—a circle of special friends or old loves. But as Naomi said of Orpah, “Thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15), likewise, an idol has your heart—something from your past that you can’t release!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

THE END OF A FAMINE

In Ruth 1:6 we read, “The Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.” The word came to Naomi that the famine in Judah was over—that once again God had visited His people with plenty of bread and blessings. Memories of past blessings flooded Naomi’s soul, and she began to yearn for the holy place. She was sick of Moab and its idolatry and death. So “she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return . . . wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was . . . and they went on the way to return” (Ruth 1:6-7).

Naomi’s daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth, said good-bye to parents, friends, and family. They told their lifelong loved ones they would be gone for good, that they were going to Judah—a place where God was “visiting His people.”

Today, once again the Lord is visiting His people! Once again a famine has ended! Here at Times Square Church and in other churches around the world, the pure Word of God is going forth. When the Lord visits His people, He “gives them bread.”

During this last famine of the Word, while others fled to today’s Moab—worldliness, lethargy, coldness, pleasure, and success—a holy remnant has persevered. They endured the self-exaltation of TV evangelists, the sordid sensuality that swept into God’s house, the foolishness in the pulpit, and the mockery of backslidden Christians.

They prayed, fasted, and interceded. And now the Lord has heard their cry and is visiting His people. Why is Times Square Church packed with hungry seekers? Because word has gotten out that God is here! People are hearing that a word from God is flowing. The same is true in other places, as the news spreads that a visitation of God is taking place. The famine is over! God has sent bread from heaven and if you haven't yet tasted it, then get out of Moab and go back to where God is visiting His people!

This is what Naomi and her two daughters did. Their departure for the border of Judah represented a move toward the Lord. They were being drawn by the Spirit of God, attracted by the news of His visitation.

Today, in the same way, in the Spirit I see untold thousands heading home, back to the fullness of Christ—away from the hype, the emptiness of the gospel of ease and prosperity, the double standards and half-heartedness.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

THE BOOK OF RUTH

The Book of Ruth is a wonderful story of a converted heathen maiden who won the heart of her earthly lord. I believe it is a prophetic story, a message that speaks powerfully to us today. For we win Christ in the same way that Ruth won Boaz!

But this story is more than just historic! Paul writes: “Now all these things happened unto them for examples; and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

The story of Ruth begins with these words: “There was a famine in the land” (Ruth 1:1). Thus the Israelite Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons, Mahlon and Chilion, fled Judah for Moab. Elimelech died there, and Naomi’s two sons married heathen wives, Orpah and Ruth. They remained in Moab for another ten years.

But Moab was a place of idolatry—the congregation of the wicked, the seat of the scornful. Moab himself, after whom the region was named, was born of an incestuous relationship between Lot and one of his daughters. In fact, the name “Moab” stands for fornication. It was he who seduced Israel in the wilderness, after which 24,000 died from a plague. God forbade the Israelites to marry Moabite women, “for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods” (1 Kings 11:2).

In the spirit realm, this very same thing happens when a famine of God’s Word occurs: God’s people turn toward the world, yield to the seduction of idolatry, and mix with the ungodly. This kind of famine drives believers elsewhere to find something to satisfy their inner needs.

Christians today grow cold and backslide because they are not receiving true spiritual food. They go to church, but the cupboard is bare. The preaching they hear is shallow—no meat, no living water—just entertainment. Starvation abounds right in God’s house!

This is why our churches are being overrun with adultery, divorce, rock and roll, unbiblical psychology, a New Age gospel—with our young people using drugs and becoming promiscuous. The famine in the church has driven them to Moab, the place of idolatry. And Moab is a place where young men die, just as Naomi’s sons had died in Moab!

Monday, December 15, 2014

HE SAYS YOU ARE BLESSED by Gary Wilkerson

Many Christians won’t admit it, but deep down they believe God’s grace is too good to be true. They think it buys them too much freedom so they hold on to their sense of works because they are convinced it is the only thing that will keep them on a righteous path.

Paul anticipates this thinking, which ends in dead works: “Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you” (Romans 6:15-17, NLT).

What is the teaching Paul refers to here? It is that we are now owned by the grace of Jesus Christ! Thus, we no longer continue sinning as we did before, because that is no longer our identity: “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Finally, Paul says, “My dear brothers and sisters, this is the point: You died to the power of the law when you died with Christ. And now you are united with the one who was raised from the dead. As a result, we can produce a harvest of good deeds for God” (Romans 7:4).

The new life we have been given—the life of Christ Himself—resurrects us to serve Him in freedom, peace and joy. Unshackled from exhausting works of obligation, we now can shout with David, “Lord, I delight to do Your will!” And we can’t help but witness about Jesus to a world that is hungry, desperate, starved for His grace. In a word: Grace produces results!

Friend, you can’t wring life out of something that’s dead. Only Jesus has the power to resurrect our old, dead man into new life. That kind of grace is incomprehensible, so far beyond our understanding that we will never fully grasp it in this life. Likewise, we’ll never be able to attain it on our own. As Paul writes, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

Note that last phrase: You are known completely by the Lord—even amid your messed-up life of mourning and brokenness—and He says you are blessed. You see, the new life you have isn’t the result of attaining but of receiving. So, will you lay down your scales and walk in the new life Jesus has graced you with? He has already spoken His blessing over you . . . so receive it!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

THERE WILL COME A DAY by Jim Cymbala

There will come a day, the apostle Paul says, when all our “work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward” (1 Corinthians 3:13-14, NIV). The gold, silver and precious stones will endure while the wood, hay, and straw will go up in smoke.

Paul doesn’t say that the quantity of our work will be tested. He says nothing about attendance goals. Instead, everything will focus on the quality of our work.

Warren Wiersbe (former pastor of Moody Church in Chicago and speaker on the Back to the Bible radio broadcast) made an interesting observation about this passage to the Brooklyn Tabernacle staff. “What’s the difference between these materials, besides the obvious—that one group is fireproof while the other isn’t? I think it’s significant that wood, hay and straw are abundant . . . right outside your door, or only a few miles away at most. Any forest, any farmer’s field has an abundance of these. But if you want gold, silver and costly stones, you have to dig for them. You have to pursue them with great effort. They are not just lying around everywhere. You have to go deep into the earth.”

To me, these words are profound. Spiritual “construction” that uses wood, hay, and straw comes easy—little work, little seeking, no travail, no birthing. You just slap it up and it will look adequate—for a while. But if you want to build something that will endure on Judgment Day, the work is much more costly.

On that day it won’t matter what your fellow Christians thought of you. It won’t matter what the marketing experts advised. You and I will stand before the One whose eyes are “like fire.” We won’t soften Him up by telling Him how brilliant our strategy was. We will face His searing gaze.

He will only ask whether we were boldly faithful to His Word.

__________

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 12, 2014

CROSSING THE OBEDIENCE LINE

“And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32).

When Jesus walked the earth, He knew all too well the fierceness of the powers of evil and how Satan comes with every weapon in hell to sift the Lord’s disciples. I don’t think any one of us knows or understands the great conflict raging right now in the spirit realm. We also do not realize how determined Satan is to destroy all saints who have fixed their hearts firmly on going all the way with Christ.

In our Christian walk, we cross a line—I call it the “obedience line”—that sets off every alarm in hell. The moment you cross that line into a life of obedience and dependence on Jesus, determined in your heart never to go back, you become a threat to the kingdom of darkness and a target of principalities and powers. The testimony of every believer who turns to the Lord with all his heart—hungering after holiness and a deeper walk with Jesus—includes the sudden breaking forth of strange and intense troubles, trials and testing!

Maybe you were once a part-time disciple. You loved the Lord, but you were spiritually lazy. You were not an avid student of the Bible or inclined to spiritual things. You did not want to be a fanatic, and things in your life went quite smoothly. The devil didn't bother with you much because you were a fence-straddler.

But now, you are all business for God. His Word has come alive to you and you pray, you weep, you love lost souls. Everything has changed, including your trials. What great heart-change you have experienced!

Yet at the same time you’ve made waves in the unseen world. You’ve crossed the obedience line. To those who have crossed the obedience line, Jesus says, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

THE FINAL CROSSING

“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant . . . of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan” (Joshua 3:13-14, 17).

Crossing the Jordan is a type of entering into freedom in Christ. God always brings us out of something in order to bring us in to Himself! It is not enough to escape from Satan’s power, out of the prison house of bondage; we must also enter into the resurrection life of Christ. Here, Canaan does not represent heaven, because this land is a place of spiritual warfare. But it is a place where Jesus wants us to enjoy the goodness of His victory, a place of enjoyment, gladness and fullness.

When Israel came to the Jordan, they no longer were led by the cloud during the day and the fire by night (see Exodus 13:21) but by the Ark of the Covenant. We see the Ark—a type of Jesus—going down into the Jordan, immersing itself in death, saying, “Follow me!” It is Jesus inviting us to be baptized into Him.

Coming out of the Jordan, the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land, which is a type of abiding in Christ. “And the people came up out of the Jordan . . . and encamped in Gilgal” (Joshua 4:19). At this point, they were blood-secured, delivered from the enemy’s power, and raised up into newness of life in God’s land of milk and honey.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

HAVE YOU WON THE LORD’S HEART?

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Have you won the Lord’s heart? The apostle Paul stated the purpose of renouncing his past life as this: “That I may win Christ.” He was completely captivated by Christ, having eyes only for the Lord.

Why would Paul feel the need to “win” Christ? Christ already had revealed Himself not just to the apostle, but in him. Even so, Paul set out to win Christ’s heart and affection.

You see, Paul’s entire being—his ministry, his life, his very purpose for living—was focused only on pleasing his Master and Lord. All else was rubbish to him! I believe one of the reasons Paul never married was to give himself more time to care “for the things that belong to the Lord, how [I] may please the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:32). And he urged others in the same direction, “that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Colossians 1:10).

Is this scriptural—this “winning the heart of Jesus”? Are we not all the object of God’s love, regardless? Indeed, His benevolent love extends to all mankind. But there is another kind of love—an affectionate love such as occurs between a husband and wife—and only a few ever experience it.

This love is expressed in the Song of Solomon, with Solomon portrayed as a type of Christ. In this passage, the Lord speaks of His bride: “Thou hast ravished my heart . . . my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck. How fair is thy love . . . my spouse! How much better is thy love than wine!” (Song of Solomon 4:9-10). Later, He says, “Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me” (6:5). His bride responds, “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (7:10).

I believe the Bride of Christ will consist of a holy people who live so pleasingly to their Lord, so obediently, so separated from all others, that His heart will be ravished. The word “ravish” as used in this verse means “to steal my heart.” Christ’s followers ravish His heart with one eye (Song of Solomon 4:9). That one eye is the singleness of a mind focused on Christ alone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

THE REPROACH OF EGYPT

In Joshua 5, Israel was at the height of her glory and power, experiencing incredible miracles. Her people were loved and secure, and their enemies’ hearts were melted, “neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel” (Joshua 5:1). Verse two says that “at that time”—that is, the time of victory, blessing, guidance and favor, the time they were about to go in and possess the land—God said, in effect, “Hold everything! We’ve got a problem. Everything looks good—greater victories are to be won—but one matter hasn’t been dealt with. The reproach of Egypt is still in your hearts and it must be cut out and rolled away.”

It is as if God is saying to His people: “I have patiently endured your backsliding, your complaining, your endless, constant lusting. Ten times your fathers provoked Me in the wilderness and I forgave it all. When I found you wasting away in Egypt’s iron furnace, I washed you, secured you with blood, and delivered you from your enemies. But all along you have carried a secret sin in your heart. You have refused to lay down an idol that has a stronghold in your heart.”

The prophet Amos confirmed that Israel had this heart-idolatry in them: “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch . . . the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves” (Amos 5:25-26). Here was the reproach: All along, in spite of God’s love, protection, blessing and guidance, the Israelites had been carrying something secret in their hearts. Even as they sang the Lord’s praises, another god ruled their inner motives.

They had hidden their fathers’ idols in their baggage! Not even the awesome voice of a holy, dreadful God could get them to give up their little shrines, their golden images from Egypt. They wanted to move on and serve God while still clinging to idols. The Lord had been patient up to that point, but He gave them an ultimatum: “I am moving on only with a holy people. There is a world of joy and peace that lies ahead but you cannot bring your reproach with you. Cut it off! Sharpen the knives! No flesh is allowed from here on in. No idolatry! No clinging lusts! No secret reproach!”

Monday, December 8, 2014

RECEIVE THE BLESSING OF GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

Many Christians today envision their lives to be like the scales of justice. On one side are all their godly deeds and on the other is a growing pile of sins and failures. If they think their life tips too much toward failure, they feel compelled to pray more, study their Bible more, go to church more. Yet no amount of additional good works can even out their self-made scale of righteousness.

I recently watched a video clip of a scene at a fast-food drive-through window. When the driver finished giving his order, the voice on the other end asked, “And then?” Feeling guilty, the driver added fries to his order. Again the voice came back, “And then?” Bewildered, the driver added a dessert. Again the voice asked, “And then?” Finally the driver shouted, “No, no, no! No ‘and then.’”

That is a picture of us when we try to attain God’s righteousness. The more self-effort we put forth, the closer we come to the moment when we’re finally forced to shout, “No more ‘and then’ for me.” It explains why so many Christians feel exhausted at the very thought of serving God. Paul calls their efforts “dead works” for a reason: Their approach will never produce righteousness or joy but only weariness and misery. There is no life in it—only death—because it isn’t Christ’s gospel.

Paul writes, “The sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many” (Romans 5:17, NLT). If death rules your walk—if you carry the weight of constant accusations of sin, if nothing you do is ever good enough—then you’re listening to the old voice of the Adamic nature. From that old nature springs every fleshly attempt to appease God, which is contrary to your identity in Christ.

Paul then adds this in the same verse: “Even greater [than Adam’s sin] is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness.” How do we attain this righteousness? Paul tells us in the next phrase: “All who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” We are destined to triumph over every sin—not through our own efforts, but through one man, Jesus. And so Christ urges us, “Why don’t you take that scale of your own making and lay it down at the foot of the cross? I never called you to appease Me. I have called you to do one thing: receive My blessing of grace.”

Saturday, December 6, 2014

THE SWORD OF THE LORD by Carter Conlon

“So Gideon, and the hundred men that were with him, came unto the outside of the camp in the beginning of the middle watch; and they had but newly set the watch: and they blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers that were in their hands. And the three companies blew the trumpets, and brake the pitchers, and held the lamps in their left hands, and the trumpets in their right hands to blow withal: and they cried, The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon. And they stood every man in his place round about the camp: and all the host ran, and cried, and fled” (Judges 7:19-21).

The whole host of the enemy fled before Gideon and his three hundred! At the sound of the trumpets, the Israelites broke the pitchers in their hands—representing the breaking off of all human reasoning, all human frailty, all sense of self-loathing and unworthiness. They smashed it all and held up the torch that was inside the clay vessel, which was a symbol of the power of God.

“The sword of the Lord, and of Gideon” they shouted. That refers to the power of God through the people who believe Him. You see, when you decide to stand in a public place, refusing to let the testimony of God be hidden, God will do for you what He did for Gideon and his army—He will send confusion into the ranks of the enemy! The Bible tells us that the Midianites started turning and fighting with each other. Confusion ensued because a visible testimony of God had arisen in the earth again—through people who simply believed God in spite of their weakness and frailty.

And so the same incredible victory is available to you and me today. All that has ever been necessary is for someone—or perhaps ten or twenty or fifty or a hundred—to rise to their feet and declare, “I believe God! I believe that God can take my life and make a difference. I believe He can put compassion in my heart and make me a voice in this generation. I believe Him even in my insufficiency. I know that I do not have much to bring but I believe God will provide everything that I need.”

Even now I imagine that all hell is trembling, for the enemy knows what happens when you and I dare to believe like this!

__________
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 5, 2014

THE SHARP KNIFE

John was shepherd over the seven churches in Asia, and by revelation Jesus appeared to him and showed him the hidden sins in the people. John addressed these beloved ones as children of God, “loved . . . and washed . . . from . . . sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). They were “kings and priests unto God” (verse 6). But on a particular Lord’s day, the Spirit of God came upon John and he heard God’s Word sounding as a trumpet: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet” (verse 10). Jesus appeared to him and “out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (verse 16).

To a beloved, blood-washed Church, a sharp knife appeared! And in spite of their goodness, hard work or love, God found them wanting.

In Revelation 2, John described a wonderful congregation at Ephesus. They were patient and hardworking; they hated evil works but they were growing cold. They had lost their white-hot love for Jesus and had fallen into lethargy. Jesus cried, “Repent! Come back quickly or I will remove your candlestick [You will not be anointed]” (verse 5). At Pergamos, a congregation was “holding fast to His name, not denying the faith, some willing to die” (see verse 13). But one thing was terribly wrong: false teaching was creeping in and doctrines of devils were taking hold. Jesus said, “Repent or I will fight against you with the sword of My mouth.”

A Jezebel spirit had infiltrated the congregation at Thyatira, even though the people there were charitable servants, full of faith, patience and good works. To that church, Jesus said, “I will cast . . . them . . . into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds” (verse 22).

The congregation at Sardis had a reputation for being a church alive. But Jesus said, “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). They did not have much spirituality left because their hearts were not perfect toward the Lord. Yet, like so many churches today, they saw themselves as being full of life. Only those who walked in the Spirit knew that, in reality, they were dead.

Jesus came forth with a sharp knife and placed all those under His cutting Word. This is true love!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

REMOVING THE REPROACH OF EGYPT

“Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise . . . the children of Israel . . . and Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins” (Joshua 5:2-3).

I am not going to raise a theological discussion of circumcision but this ancient process has great significance for the Church today. What a painful experience it must have been for the Israelites to remove the foreskin with a sharp knife as a sign to the world that they were joined in a faithful covenant with God! These people had been born in the wilderness and had never been circumcised. And after the event took place, they were helpless and weak for days.

Coming under the knife today means submitting to the sharp, cutting Word of God! “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word truly cuts: “When they heard that, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 5:33). When Stephen preached, “they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54).

The Bible says the Word of God circumcised our hearts. “Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Romans 2:29). There is a “circumcision made without hands, in putting off . . . the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11).

Each of us has within us the “reproach of Egypt” that must be rolled away—all that is of our flesh. And there is an operation in which God’s Spirit cuts away all those lusts and dominions of evil: When the Word of God is preached by God’s anointed in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost, it becomes that sharp knife! God has His Joshua’s today and He has commanded them to take this blood-secured, delivered, redeemed and resurrected people and place them under the knife of His Word to remove all traces of idolatry and compromise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

END-TIME SOWERS

The Lord is going to have a great host of willing sowers in the last days!

“And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him. Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou has been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:20-23).

I am going to prove to you that the true Church of Jesus Christ will not go out with a whimper! It will not be crushed or crippled by the tide of wickedness. It will not be weak, confused, or beaten down by demonic powers. Never! This parable proves that God will have a fruitful, glorious harvest at the end. Two out of three of the Lord’s servants will come to the Judgment loaded with fruit and full joy—happy in a great harvest. They will not be losing ground or barely making it. Instead, they will say, “I have gained! What God gave me has doubled.” They will be “good and faithful,” not backslidden or dead. They will not be cast down, depressed, or dejected, but rather, they will have the joy of the Lord.

Jesus is “the man traveling into a far country” (see Matthew 25:14) who will “after a long time” (see Matthew 25:19) return and call into account His servants. We are those servants, “His own,” and the talents represent our measure of grace and revelation of Jesus. We are commanded to go out and sow this revelation. Some have a greater revelation of Jesus than others—but all must sow.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

LIVING THE CHRIST-LIFE

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)” (John 1:1, 14).

How much of the Word became flesh? All of it! “For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). So, how do we live by every word that proceeds out of His mouth? Do we get pad and pencil, mark down every commandment of Jesus, then discipline ourselves to tackle each one until we master them all? Beloved, even after all these years of preaching, I still don’t know all the Lord’s many precious commandments!

As I see it, there is only one way to please the Lord: Present your body to Him—get self out of the way—and let Jesus live His life in you. Paul said, “Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). This was not a mystical spirit-life, lived within the confines of the mind. No! Paul continues in the same verse, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.”

God is leading us to that great, good land full of milk, honey, oil and wine—the spiritual blessings in Christ for which God has been preparing us. When we have a body so dead, crucified, humiliated and dependent, Christ possesses it and lives His life in and through us. God does not work through flesh, not even “good” flesh! He works only through His Son Jesus!

Paul was a “good” man—holy, spotless, keeping God’s commandments. But that “good” Paul had to die daily so Christ could do His work and live His life in him. For Paul, the key was: “Yet not I, but Christ”—a daily putting off of Paul and putting on of Christ. Yet so many of us don’t want to live Jesus, we only want to wear Him when it’s convenient, to put Him off and on like a suit of clothes!

Living Christ is not complicated. First, you must want His life with all that is within you. Then you must get out of the way and turn everything over to Him, trusting Him to possess you completely. Finally, you must believe that as much of yourself as you will empty, He will fill with Himself!

Monday, December 1, 2014

TRUE FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

In the Old Testament, David was never supposed to enter the holy of holies in the temple. But he did, and his experience resulted in a powerful psalm that God’s people recite to this day: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1, NLT).

Although David went where he was not supposed to go, it caused him to reflect on the amazing revelation of God’s presence on the earth. My point is this: Many saints in the Bible and throughout history have circumvented their bad situations through sheer faith, advancing God’s calendar by their passionate cries to Him.

One of those people was a non-Israelite who sought out Jesus to heal her afflicted daughter. “A Gentile woman . . . came to him, pleading, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely’” (Matthew 15:22, NLT). This woman had approached Jesus with a big need—her daughter was tormented by a demonic spirit. Yet Christ wasn’t stirred to act: “Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away . . . ‘She is bothering us with all her begging’” (15:23).

But the woman stayed and kept bothering them, pressing in with her request, refusing to go away. If you are familiar with Scripture, you know that Jesus told several parables applauding that kind of persistence: “Keep knocking. Keep seeking. Keep asking. God will reward your faith.”

It would have been easy for this woman to give up. But she kept persisting, and finally Jesus told her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (15:26), referring to Israel’s priority over Gentiles. I find her response amazing: “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table” (15:27). She was saying, “Jesus, if we’re talking about the power of heaven, then even a scrap is sufficient.”

She was right: The scraps that fall from God’s table are sufficient to meet any need on this earth. And she had faith that even the smallest measure would deliver her daughter completely. Friend, that is true faith! This woman didn’t ask timidly. She asked believing in God’s goodness, knowing that even the smallest scrap of His glory was enough to perform a miraculous deliverance.

Friday, November 28, 2014

GIVE ME YOUR WORD

Multitudes of Christians today are what I call “bread” believers—they live on bread alone, always asking God to prove His faithfulness. They have a hunger inside and they think they know what will satisfy it.

For most of my early years in ministry, I was a “bread” Christian. I had a deep hunger, driven by unexplainable need. When I thought I needed a new church, I got it! When I believed I needed a TV program, I got it! When I needed turn-away crowds, I got them! These were all good things in themselves, but I spent years praying, “God, prove Your power! I’m in debt, so send me money! Bless me, Lord! Bless my ministry! Answer my prayers! Let me prove to the world You have all power. Heal the sick to prove You are still the same today!”

So seldom does God find a Christian whose only goal in life is to know and to do His will—as Jesus did—and who never says, “God, where are You?” but instead prays, “God, where am I in this matter of obedience and dependence?”

When we stand before the judgment seat, we will not be judged by how many healings we’ve performed, or how many demons we’ve cast out, or how many prayers we’ve seen answered, or how many great works we’ve accomplished. We will be judged on our dependence on and obedience to His Word and to His will.

In our day and age, we have become very good at “commanding” God. We command the devil and demons; we command strongholds to fall. That is all good—but think about how often we cry out, “Oh, God! Command me! Tell me what to do. Show me how to do Your will, how to obey every word out of Your mouth.”

Through everything, God is saying to us, “I want to be your only supply, your only hope. I want to be your only object of trust.” My cry is, “Oh, God, You take care of the money. Just give me Your mind. You take care of my health, my family, my needs—just give me Your Word.”

Thursday, November 27, 2014

DOING HIS WORD

“Man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

This text from Deuteronomy is so powerful that Jesus Himself used it against the devil during His great temptation in the wilderness. “And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:2-4).

Like the children of Israel in the wilderness, Jesus was also hungry. What greater humiliation could there be than to be the Son of God and be brought to a place of total dependence?

As a man, Jesus learned obedience and dependence by the things He suffered, such as this crisis of hunger. What Jesus actually was saying is: “I am not here to please Myself or to pamper My flesh. I am here to do the perfect will of My Father.” Jesus relinquished every single human care into His Father’s hand. In other words, He said, “I will spend all My life and all My time obeying My Father, doing His perfect will—and He will take care of me His way.”

Jesus knew that God only had to speak a creative word: “Hunger, be gone!” But He also knew that the Father could give Him meat that no man knows about so He gave no thought to food or drink or clothes or houses. Rather, He would seek God’s will first and let Him take care of the needs.

Jesus was saying something very profound, to the effect of: “I have not come to ask the Father to keep His word to Me; I have come that I may keep all His words!” Jesus didn’t need a miracle to prove His Father’s love for Him. He rested in the Father’s words. His cry was not, “God, keep your Word to me!” but, instead, “Let me do Thy Word in all things.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TOTAL DEPENDENCE

“For the Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills . . . a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it. . . . Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God . . . lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses . . . and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied . . . then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . . and thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:7-14, 17)).

The Lord is speaking here not only to Israel but to us today. The purpose of their test in the wilderness was never in doubt: it was “that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end” (Deuteronomy 8:16). He had to teach Israel how to handle all the goodness He was about to pour out upon them. And God will test us the same way He did them.

You see, although the children of Israel were blood-secured and delivered, supernaturally guided and the object of God’s love and miracle-working power, they lacked one thing: They were not dependent upon God!

The blood can cover your sins, but it does not make you dependent on Him. Miracles can deliver you from Satan’s power, but they can’t make you dependent. You can be led by God and still not lean wholly upon the Lord.

God has to strip us of all self-assurance and destroy all that remains of self-righteousness, spiritual pride and boasting. He must (and He does) humiliate all who are destined to inherit His great spiritual blessings.

He will take a Saul of Tarsus—self-assured, self-righteous, consumed with a knowledge of the Scriptures, full of God’s zeal, ready to die for Jehovah—and strike him blind! Saul had to be humiliated before the world, led around like a child and waiting helplessly for days, until God moved. He was humiliated to a point of total dependence!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE TEST

The children of Israel were absolutely helpless—fathers, mothers, princes, leaders—all with no place to turn. There were no pack camels loaded with supplies. No dried fruits, dried fish, bread, figs, dates, raisins or nuts. No doubt they had seen Pharaoh’s supply train swept away: huge canvases loaded with food, floating along on the Red Sea! Their logic must have been: “God knew the very day and hour we would leave Egypt. Moses talks with God, so why didn’t he tell us to bring a six-months supply of food? Even the gods of Egypt treat their soldiers better. Why were we told to borrow all this gold, silver and jewelry? We can’t eat this stuff; it's worthless out here!”

There was not a blade of grass in sight—no animals to hunt, no fruit trees, no foreigners to trade with. They could not have gone back to Egypt even if they had wanted to because the Red Sea was blocking their retreat! And if they could have gotten around the sea, the Egyptians would have blocked their return with every stick and stone in Egypt, having had their fill of plagues.

So now there was nothing but a howling, foreboding desert ahead. The children were crying and wives were wringing their hands. Every father and husband was helpless and humiliated. They all gathered around Moses and complained: “Ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3).

This was a humiliation for Israel and it is a lesson for us today. “These things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. . . . They are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11).

God brought Israel to a place of total humiliation.

The Israelites’ test was not about having courage to face powerful enemies, because God had already pledged to fight their battles for them. It was about the blessings for which they were unprepared: good houses, vats full of wine, rivers of milk, an abundance of honey, wheat and cattle—not to mention all kinds of spiritual blessings.

“He humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna . . . that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE MEASURE OF FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

The gospels make clear that whatever measure of faith we receive is up to us.

“The next day there was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, ‘They have no more wine’” (John 2:1-3, NLT).

Have you ever run out of anything? Perhaps patience for your rebellious child? Hope for your marriage? At this wedding in Cana, Jesus’ mother, Mary, saw that the celebration had run out of wine. So she went to Jesus and said, “Do something.”

Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come” (2:4). Mary could have accepted her Son’s reply as a firm edict: “Well, it has been sovereignly declared from heaven that wine won’t be multiplied at this wedding.” Instead, she acted like a good Jewish mother or any other kind of mom, for that matter—and ignored her son’s response. “His mother told the servants, ‘Do whatever he tells you’” (2:5).

Theologically, I am very big on the sovereignty of God. I believe nothing happens unless He decrees it. But sometimes God’s sovereign decree is, “I’m leaving this up to you.” The clear impression from this passage is that Jesus was not going to act on Mary’s request. He even had a solid theological reason for it: “My time has not yet come,” meaning, God hadn’t yet announced His public ministry.

But Mary could not wait on the calendar of heaven. She needed God to move immediately—and so the calendar moved! “Jesus told the servants, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ When the jars had been filled, he said, ‘Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.’ . . . When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from . . . he called the bridegroom over. ‘A host always serves the best wine first,’ he said. ‘Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now’” (2:7-10). This was not just “replacement” wine. It was the very best!

A miracle occurred, surpassing even Mary’s expectations. Yet things could have been very different. She might have been discouraged by Jesus’ response. She might have accepted His words at face value, agreeing, “I guess it’s not the right time.” Instead, she made a withdrawal of faith from the heavenly bank when she hadn’t even made a deposit yet.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

THEY LIGHT UP THE SCREEN by Claude Houde

One of the greatest surprises of a new believer who begins to read and explore the Bible is to discover that the men and women of Scriptures are so incredibly human. There is no makeup, no tricks and no face-lifts in the Bible narrative. There are no Hollywood scripts, no “too good to be true,” larger-than-life flawless heroes.

One of the reasons the Bible is the all-time worldwide best seller year after year is the fact that the action and characters found in its pages are simply fascinating. The Bible is the most read book in the world because the sixty-six books that make up the Scriptures are, in fact, a mirror in which we all find a reflection of ourselves sooner or later. Although the men and women of the Old and New Testaments are very distant from us in time, space, contexts, customs and cultural reality, they are right there, so incredibly close to us in their human experience and humanity. Take a look and you will have to admit that these people literally “light up the screen.” Reading the Bible is the ultimate “reality TV” experience! Each page is riveting and propels us into the front rows of the theater of human lives in connection with the Divine.

We are staggered, appalled, “confronted” and moved by their adventures, battles, hopes, doubts, passions and faith, because they are painfully and implacably like our own (or at least like somebody we know when it comes too close for comfort, so close in fact that we turn the mirror away). These Bible life stories make us both laugh and cry. Our spirits are crushed by their failures, shattered at the mistakes they make and lifted with every exploit.

These men and women of the Word of God are made of flesh and bone. They dream, suffer, fall, cry and are disappointed and betrayed by their closest friends and the people they trusted the most. Sometimes they are afraid of what’s inside them. They can doubt horribly and shake their fists at heaven in anger, confusion and sheer pain. They cut and bleed. They turn their backs on God and doubt His very existence, and then run madly toward Him when tragedy strikes. So strong and yet so weak, they do not do what they know they should and often end up doing what they hate and know is wrong. They dream of beauty and nobility, of a better world, of justice and of “starting their life over.”

The Bible is a veritable jewelry box, filled with rough diamonds. Each book and each chapter reflects a facet of the human experience in search of the essential, the eternal and the meaningful. As you read the Bible, you can discover God and find yourself.

__________

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, November 21, 2014

REAPING IN JOY

“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou has not [scattered seed]: And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant . . . Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. . . . And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness” Matthew 25:24-26, 28, 30). Who is this lazy, wicked servant and why was he cast into outer darkness?

First, he was a servant of God who was controlled by a secret sin. Jesus called him a wicked servant, which here denotes evil or something sinister. Although he is associated with a circle of servants who are busy, fruitful, and joyous, there is something hidden and unexposed in this man. He claims to know the Lord (“I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown”), but he has developed a perverted vision of the Lord because of unforsaken sin. He says, “Thou art an hard man,” which is another way of saying, “You expect too much from me; I can’t live up to Your demands for serving!”

It is sin in the heart that makes one say, “This is far too hard for me!” The yielded heart, on the other hand, becomes free, and obedience is no longer a burden. For the surrendered heart, it is all joy. “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5-6).

A minister once heard some of our tapes and then told a friend, “No one can live like that! Everybody makes mistakes. You can’t live as pure as they preach!” He saw it as a hard message.

I wonder why.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

ON THE FRONT LINES

Willing servants will not be afraid of “the lion out on the streets.” The lazy Christian says, “There is a lion outside and I’ll be slain in the street if I go out there.”

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets” (Proverbs 26:13).

Is there a lion out in the streets? Yes! A roaring lion seeking to devour. But Spirit-filled servants are not afraid of any lion. Before I came back to New York to pastor, the devil tried to put fear in my heart. I had seen what is coming and how wicked these streets will become. Satan said, “You’ll be slain in the streets!” But Jesus commanded, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Luke 14:21).We are not afraid!

I think of how wonderful it must be to live in a quiet, secluded place, and many have that privilege. But there are growing numbers of Christians “taking to the hills” simply to hide out. The lion has chased them and they’re seeking a place of security. I have already been through that way of thinking. Gary North, a leading reconstructionist, wrote a book entitled Government by Emergency, in which he warns Christians to stockpile goods and guns, and then get ready to hide out and protect their possessions. The list he recommends includes liquor and tobacco to bribe (he calls it “barter”) law officials in a time of anarchy.

These are those who will cry out for the rocks and the mountains to hide them from His wrath (Revelation 6:16). “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25).

This Spirit-filled, last-days Church will not hide, but will be on the front lines, fighting a good fight and bringing in a harvest of souls.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE LAST-DAYS HARVEST AWAITS!

There is something unique and special about the servants who will bring in the last great harvest. First of all, they will not be afraid to “plow in the cold.”

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing” (Proverbs 20:4).

Jesus said that the field is the world, meaning nations, peoples, races. When I came to New York in 1958, the church, society, and the government all said that drug addicts were incurable—especially heroin addicts. They said in effect, “It’s too cold to plow! They don't want God. They can’t be reached.” But God said to me, “Go plow! That’s a diamond mine and I’m going to have a great harvest there.” And so He has.

Along our southern borders they are wringing their hands as millions of illegals pour in. In New York and California illegal aliens are flooding in from all over the globe. God has raised up churches to reach them for Christ because these newly converted Christian workers have seen it as a chance to plow. God has brought the mission field to them. Now young ministers, who were once illegal aliens, are going back to their homelands as missionaries to evangelize.

Yes! Cold waves of apostasy are sweeping the earth. The Jews are cold, as well as the Muslims. So many seem hopeless and hard. But the Lord says, “Don’t be lazy—go plow!” No group of people, no individual, should be considered too cold, too hard, or too far gone! Go and sow! Plow and you will reap! In this day of His power the Spirit will convict all.

Before establishing Times Square Church, we were told that New York was too hard, too wicked—there was no hope—no one would come out on a Sunday night for church. There was too much cynicism, too much crime and people would not leave their homes to come to Times Square at night, any night. It was supposed to be too cold to plow. But this packed church proves how wrong they were.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GOD’S PEOPLE WILL BE WILLING

Psalm 110 is a direct prophecy about a last-days people who “shall be willing in the day of [God’s] power” (verse 3). Martin Luther called this psalm “a glorious prophecy concerning the Kingdom of Christ.” He added, “It ought to be dear to everyone in the church.”

God’s people will be “willing” in that day; they will be spontaneous volunteers. Here is how God does it: When He determines that His day of power has come, He raises up holy prophets, watchmen, and shepherds who blow the trumpet. God supernaturally moves upon a people to respond. They heed the call to repent, to rally, and to rise up in faith to challenge the enemy. They wake up, go out, and challenge the powers of darkness. God’s people begin to cry out and He sends prophets to awaken the church.

So it was when Sisera and his great iron chariots came up against Israel. God raised up Deborah because “the children of Israel cried unto the Lord” (Judges 4:3). It was the Spirit of the Lord that came upon them and as Deborah later sang, “The people willingly offered themselves” (Judges 5:2). When the Spirit of God truly comes upon a people you don’t have to push, plead, pull, or threaten. They become willing in the day of His power. I see this happening here in Times Square Church. The Word is cleansing and the Spirit of God is coming upon many. We now have an abundance of volunteers, willing to do anything for Jesus.

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness” (Psalm 110:3). This is a prophecy that God will have a people who do not see holiness as a burden too hard to carry. They will not see it as something difficult or legalistic—but beautiful! They will not cringe under a hard message but, rather, they will see it as God cutting and polishing a diamond so that additional rays of light will shine forth. It is a certain prophecy that in a day of wickedness, a day of immorality, He will raise up a holy host, walking with joy in all His commandments.