Monday, March 31, 2014

A BOAST-WORTHY TESTIMONY by Gary Wilkerson

We live in a time when biblical predictions have become visible realities. Paul wrote that in the last days perilous times would come upon the earth (see 2 Timothy 3:1). Right now things are taking place we could not have imagined a few years ago.

Jesus predicted that men would become lovers of themselves, lovers of money, hateful and arrogant. Today our nation’s leaders cannot agree on the most basic common principles. If someone has the nerve to mention sin, he is called a bigot and made an outcast. As God’s Word is moved to the sidelines of the culture, sin becomes more and more prevalent.

Pastors feel the spiritual bombardment. Week after week, I learn that another marriage may be falling apart. Kids cut their own skin out of self- hatred. Drugs are more widespread than ever. And there are fewer voices of help, as each month 1,500 pastors leave the ministry.

As Christ’s Body, we cannot be asleep to these things. The Old Testament speaks of the sons of Issachar, a group that had a knowledge of the times and skill in dealing with the world (see 1 Chronicles 12:32). Can the same be said of Christ’s Body today? If we discern the times, we know this is not a moment for half measures. The only way for us to “deal with the world” is not to let church be business as usual. Jesus said of certain demonic spirits, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21, NKJV). In these times, our prayers must be fervent—because without spiritual change, things look too bleak.

In the midst of darkness, Jesus calls us to be light. And here is our message for such a time: “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, KJV). God has done awesome works in the lives of His people and each one of us is called to proclaim His glory through a boast-worthy testimony.

What does a boast-worthy testimony look like? Here is the kind of boasting I am referring to: “As the Scriptures say, ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord’” (2 Corinthians 10:17, NLT). To do the kind of boasting Paul describes, we have to have a boast worthy of God’s glory.

Friday, March 28, 2014

HELPERS IN PRAYER

Paul was so conscious of his need for the prayers of the saints that he pleaded for “prayer helpers” everywhere. He begged the Romans, “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; that I may be delivered” (Romans 15:30-31). And he asked the Thessalonians, “Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

In Greek, the word for strive here means to “struggle with me as a partner in prayer; wrestle for me in prayer.” Paul was not asking for a quick mention to the throne. He was pleading, “Fight for me in prayer. Do spiritual battle, both for my sake and the sake of the gospel.”

When Paul was in prison, ready to lay down his life, he urged the Philippians to pray for him: “I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19). Paul knew he was a marked man, that Satan’s hordes were bent on destroying him. And so it is with every true minister of the gospel. Every pastor, preacher and evangelist needs helpers in prayer who will intercede for him continually.

I can assure you, I would not be writing to you if not for the helpers in prayer who have stood with me over the years. I was reminded of this recently while I was in Europe to conduct ministers’ conferences and nightly crusades. The entire time, God’s Spirit made me aware I was being carried by the prayers of a multitude of people.

In Nice, France, Americans are not well-liked, particularly American evangelists. Everyone worried about that night’s crusade, wondering, “Can it be done?” France is rampant with skepticism, atheism, agnosticism, unbelief. And the kind of meeting we planned to hold had never been attempted.

When the time came, however, thousands gathered. Yet that is when I began to feel helpless. I didn’t know what to preach because no message I had outlined seemed to fit. My interpreter and I had reviewed some notes beforehand, but I wasn’t sure they were right for the meeting. I warned him, “I'm not sure what I’m going to say.”

When I stepped up to the podium, however, the Spirit fell on me powerfully. I sensed the prayers of thousands of saints supporting me and as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost filled my mouth. I preached for forty minutes, and the entire time you could hear a pin drop. When I finished, I simply said, “If you need Jesus, please come forward”—and hundreds of people leapt to their feet in response.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER

Some Bible teachers claim it is unbelief for us to ask God for the same request over and over. No—that is wrong and it has weakened the faith of multitudes. God commands us to ask, seek, fast—and cry out in effectual, earnest supplication (see Matthew 7:7).

From the very beginning, true servants have turned God’s promises into prayers:


  • Jesus knew His Father had promised all things to Him before the foundation of the world, yet Christ still spent hours praying for God’s will to be done on earth. He even told a parable illustrating persistence in prayer. It involved an “importunate widow” who kept demanding justice from a judge until she got it (see Luke 18:1-8). 
  • God gave Ezekiel wonderful prophecies about Israel’s restoration, promising that the nation’s ruins would become as the Garden of Eden. Yet the Lord said His Word would not be fulfilled without prayer: “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezekiel 36:37). In other words, “I’ve made you a promise but I want you to pray it to pass. Seek Me with all your heart, until you see it fulfilled. I will deliver—but first you must ask.” 
  • Daniel had read God’s promise to Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2) that after seventy years Israel would be restored. When Daniel saw the appointed year arrive, he could have waited in faith for God to fulfill His promise but instead, that godly man fell on his face and prayed for two weeks—until he saw the Lord bring everything to pass. 

In the Old Testament, Israel’s priest carried on his breastplate the names of all the tribes of Israel. This signified that the people’s needs were continually on the priest’s heart in prayer. To Christians today, this provides a wonderful image of Christ carrying us in His heart and presenting our needs to the Father. Moreover, every Christian today is a priest unto the Lord and we are always to carry the needs of others in our hearts (see James 5:14-16).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

NO HALF-HEARTED PRAYING

As servants of the Lord, we are constantly in danger from the enemy. Our love for Jesus is a threat to all of hell and we cannot undertake any holy work without encountering all kinds of snares set for us by Satan.

A marriage counselor recently called me. “Everywhere I turn in our church, couples are breaking up,” she said. “It’s a literal plague in the Body of Christ right now.”

I hear every kind of reason given for the turmoil in Christian homes: incompatibility, lack of communication, loss of affection, infidelity. But in truth, it is much more than that. Behind it all is an attack from hell against God’s saints.

The cause of broken homes among non-Christians is no mystery. But among the righteous, all such turmoil has a cause. Think about it. How can dedicated Christians who have sat under godly preaching for years suddenly have no authority in their homes? They know full well God’s covenant oath to be their strength. They know He promises to destroy every satanic power that comes against them. So, why is the devil prevailing? Why is their marriage under constant threat?

I believe it is because at least one partner has opened the door to a satanic delusion. Perhaps they both have allowed some compromise in their lives, or they have become spiritually lazy. And now an enraged devil has gained a stronghold in their hearts and home.

If you are under such an attack, you should be asking what the disciples asked: “Master, why could we not cast out those demons?” Jesus answered that certain demonic bondages will not respond to the laying on of hands or a halfhearted, one-time prayer. Such strongholds are so deeply entrenched that the only way to cast them out is by sustained prayer and fasting.

Yet the Church today is in a stupor regarding the power of prayer. A veil has fallen over the eyes of millions. And now, whenever they face trouble, the last place they turn is to Jesus. They abandon the secret closet and, instead, turn to psychology, counselors, books, friends—everywhere but to the Lord.

If you say your marriage is a wreck and you want it healed, I wonder how much time you spend shut in with God. How many times have you turned off your television for an hour just to sit before Jesus and unburden your soul? How many meals have you missed so you could fast for your marriage?
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

THE FOCUS OF PRAYER

Prayer is often one of the most selfish areas of a Christian’s life. When you think about it, most of our prayers focus on our own needs. The two main subjects of our intercession are our own spiritual growth and the needs of our families and friends.

Occasionally, we may reach beyond our own narrow concerns and pray for others. Yet usually when we say, “I’ll pray for you,” we don’t do it. Or, we pray once and then quickly forget about their need.

Recently I have been examining my own prayer life in light of the Scriptures and I have been convicted about the narrowness and limitations of my own praying. Like most believers, I spend much of my prayer time seeking the Lord about my walk with Him. I cry out to be made holy, to become like Him, to receive guidance for life, to have His anointing on my ministry. And I enjoy sweet communion with Him, quietly worshiping Him and being refreshed in His presence.

I also intercede daily for my family. I ask the Lord to protect my children from the schemes of the devil—to make my sons like oaks planted by the river of God, to make my daughters polished stones in His palace, and to make all my grandchildren lovers of Jesus. I pray for the concerns of our church body. I also intercede for individuals who are in crisis and for the many missionaries and ministries we support.

You might say, “That’s all commendable, Brother Dave. It’s comforting to know you’re shut in with the Lord, communing with Him and praying for all those needs.”

But according to God’s Word, sweet communion is not enough. Yes, it is the secret to spiritual growth, and we can have no greater experience on earth. But if we go to the throne only for our personal edification and needs, we are being selfish. We simply cannot neglect praying seriously for the dire needs all around us.

“Then saith he unto his disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:37-38).

Monday, March 24, 2014

GODLY DREAMS by Gary Wilkerson

Genesis 37:5 (ESV) tells us, “Joseph had a dream.” God spoke directly to Joseph in his dreams and he did not shrink back; he allowed the dreams to spark a godly ambition in his heart. The word dream appears 113 times throughout the Bible—and over 30 of those passages involve Joseph.

Genesis 37:5 continues, “When he told [the dream] to his brothers they hated him even more.” Many of us are ashamed of the dreams God has put in our heart, and part of that shame comes from our fear of others’ opinions. But until we speak our godly ambition, it will never be realized. Giving voice to our dream is itself a step of faith.

For years my dream was to lead a vibrant body like The Springs Church but when I voiced that dream I could see the doubt in people’s eyes. It would have been easy for me to wallow in their doubt; after all, I had pastored only small churches before. But thank God, His Spirit encouraged me to keep saying “yes” to the dream He put in me—and to trust Him to bring it to pass.

There is nothing like giving in to licentiousness to destroy a God-given dream. Joseph could have given in to sin when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. But when you are living for God, you will do anything to avoid grieving Him. Joseph’s integrity enraged Potiphar’s wife but he was speaking for righteousness when he turned her down. “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

It is time for you to pick up the dream God gave you long ago. You may be stuck in a pit but what you see as a long trial may be God’s holding ground for your honorable service to Him. Do you fear to dream? Ask God to replace your fear with faith. Do you come from a dysfunctional background? Trust Him to lead you in spite of lingering scars. Are you afraid you have sinned for too long? Remember His promise to go after every sheep that has wandered.

God welcomes every sinner into the life of faith and He will deliver every trusting servant out of every pit they fall into. Let nothing hinder the great high calling the Lord is summoning you to. He desires to set you on an accelerated path that brings glory to His name.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

HOW REVIVAL STARTS by Jim Cymbala

If you study any of the great revivals of the past, you will always find men and women who longed to see the status quo changed—in themselves and in their churches. They called on God with insistence, and prayer begets revival, which begets more prayer. It is like Psalm 80, where the psalmist Asaph bemoans the sad state of his time: the broken walls, the rampaging animals, the burnt vineyards. Then in verse 18 he pleads, “Revive us, and we will call on your name.”

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of prayer. Only when we are full of the Spirit do we feel the need for God everywhere we turn. We can be driving a car, and spontaneously our spirit starts going up to God with needs and petitions and intercessions right there in the middle of traffic.

If our churches don’t pray, and if people don’t have an appetite for God, what does it matter how many are attending the services in our church? How would that impress God? Just imagine the angels saying, “Oh, your pews! We can’t believe how beautiful they are! Up here in heaven, we’ve been talking about them for years. The way you have the steps coming up to the pulpit—it’s wonderful.”

If we don’t want to experience God’s closeness here on earth, why would we want to go to heaven anyway? He is the center of everything there. If we do not enjoy being in His presence here and now, then heaven would not be heaven for us. Why would He send anyone there who does not long for Him passionately here on earth?

I am not suggesting that we are justified by works of prayer or any other acts of devotion. I am not a legalist. But let us not dodge the issue of what heaven will be like: enjoying the presence of God, taking time to love Him, listening to Him and giving Him praise.


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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, March 21, 2014

FOREVER HIS!

You may wonder how many times the Lord will forgive you for indulging the same sin again and again. Rest assured, His incredible forgiveness is unlimited. Every time you sin, you can go to Jesus and find deliverance. Yet the Lord’s forgiveness is not unwise or blind. To be sure, our heavenly Father forgives us, but at a certain point He punishes us to keep us from continuing in sin.

When my four children were growing up, I had to punish them for doing wrong. I would call them into my room for a spanking and they would burst into tears, crying, “No, Daddy! I'm sorry. Please, forgive me!”

I did forgive them but that did not stop me from applying the spanking. I knew if I didn't apply it, it would become meaningless to them, a joke rather than a source of discipline. Likewise, God's law is always there to remind us of His holiness to us, reminding us of His ways—and that He means what He says!

Let me leave you with a word of hope. If you are in the depths right now because of your sin, be encouraged. He is chastening you because of His tender love. He wants you to know what it is to fear Him!

What, exactly, does it mean to fear the Lord? It means being able to say, “I know my Father loves me. I am safely, forever His, and I know He will never abandon me. He feels my pain whenever I struggle and He is patient with me as I war against sin. He is always ready to forgive me whenever I call on Him, but I also know He is not going to allow me to keep disobeying His Word. My heavenly Father will not spare me—because He loves me deeply.”

That is the point of it all. God wants us to accept His forgiveness so that we may fear Him. “There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:4). Once we fear the Lord, we will want more than just to obey Him. We will want to please Him, to put a smile on His face. That is the blessed result of the holy fear of God.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

ONLY BY FAITH

One of the foundational promises of the New Covenant is found in Jeremiah 31:34: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” And Paul adds in the New Testament: “And you, being dead in your sins . . . hath He quickened together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Colossians 2:13). God has promised us His forgiveness—for every sin.

However, this promise of forgiveness is limited to certain people. It applies only to those who have been crushed and sickened by their sins, gone down into the depths of guilt, endured the soul-searching of the Holy Ghost, and have repented and turned to Christ in faith!

Jesus Himself says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Sadly, multitudes of Christians are not troubled at all by their sin; their besetting habit does not bother them in the least. They have convinced themselves that God is so merciful and full of grace, He will pardon them even if they stubbornly continue in sin.

No, never! They have appropriated to themselves a false peace, choking off the Holy Spirit's convictions, searchings and dealings. They have sought forgiveness before their guilt could ripen into godly sorrow.

Yet, at the same time, God's forgiveness can be obtained only by faith. We cannot reason it out. Christ’s gift to us of His blood atonement is so deep, so gracious, so mysterious, that it is far beyond any human ability to understand. We may feel condemnation, fear and guilt over our trespasses, but our heavenly Father stands lovingly beside us at all times, ready to forgive. The blood of Christ, the love of the Father, the Lord's desire to pardon—all these blessings are known only by faith: “No man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

THE LORD IS GOOD AND READY TO FORGIVE

Many believers become so overwhelmed by their failures that over time they feel trapped beyond any help. Isaiah wrote of such believers, “O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted” (Isaiah 54:11).

Some eventually get mad at God. They grow tired of waiting for Him to move and they cry accusingly, “Lord, where were You when I needed You? I cried out for deliverance, but You never answered. I’ve done everything I know how to do, yet I’m still not free. I’m tired of repenting and crying, without ever seeing any change.” Many such believers simply give up trying and give themselves over to their lust.

Others fall into a fog of spiritual apathy. They are convinced that God does not care about them anymore. They tell themselves, “My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God” (Isaiah 40:27). “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me” (Isaiah 49:14).

Still others end up focusing all their attention on their sin, trying to keep themselves in a constant state of conviction. This only causes them to be bewildered, crying, “If . . . our sins be upon us, and we pine away in them, how should we then live?” (Ezekiel 33:10). The fact is, feeling conviction is not an end in itself. When we are humbled by guilt and sorrow over our sin, we are not supposed to rest in those feelings. They are meant to drive us to the end of ourselves—and to the victory of the cross.

After all his weeping and crying out to the Lord, David ended up testifying, “But there is forgiveness with thee” (Psalm 130:4). The Holy Spirit began to flood his soul with memories of God’s mercies and he recalled all he had learned of the Father’s forgiving, pardoning nature. “Thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Nehemiah 9:17).

Soon David was rejoicing, reminding himself, “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee” (Psalm 86:5).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

GOD WAS NOT MAD AT JONAH

“If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?” (Psalm 130:3).

Many Christians struggle as David did. When the holy, righteous fear of God is implanted in their souls, His terrible majesty constantly looms before them. Like David, they cry out, “Lord, who can stand before You? Who can endure Your holiness?”

Jonah asked the very same question. He was on the ocean floor, unable to escape his dilemma, when he cried out, “Thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. . . . I went down to the bottoms” (Jonah 2:3 and 6).

Who cast Jonah down into those depths of darkness? It was God! The heavenly Father took the prophet down to the very bottom and prepared the whale to swallow him.

God was not mad at Jonah, so why did He allow this to happen to him? Because He wanted to stop His servant from running away from His will. He wanted Jonah to follow His plan so that he would be blessed. In short, God took Jonah down to the depths in order to restore him.

Jonah 2:2 tells us exactly what God was after: “I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and he heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” The Lord was waiting for Jonah to turn to Him, to cry out to Him alone. “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (verse 4). “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord” (verse 7).

Today, the Lord does the same thing with us: He allows us to sink in despair over our sin until we have no other source to turn to but Him. And finally, out of the belly of our hell, we cry, “Oh, Lord, please hear me! I have no hope. You must deliver me!”

Perhaps you have hit rock bottom over your sin. You just cannot seem to get victory over that one besetting sin and the Lord has allowed you to go down to the depths. Yet, it is all for a purpose. He is hoping that, like Jonah, you will “look again to Him.”

Rest assured, when Jonah cried out to the Lord, God delivered him quickly: “The Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land” (verse 10). God told the whale, “That’s enough! Now, spit him out. My servant has called out to me, and I'm going to answer him.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

THE LIFE-BREATH OF GOD by Gary Wilkerson

“I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them” (Ezekiel 37:8). What a tragic scene. I know of churches that have every program and strategy in place—but no life. So many churches have seminars, conferences, books, websites, podcasts and meetings for every age group and need. All of these things are designed for good—but unless God’s Spirit breathes into them, they are nothing. In fact, such things have the subtle power to rob us of the life God desires for us.

As we go through the motions of church, we are deceived into thinking we are spiritual. It may look like dry bones are hooking together, but in reality they lack the life-breath of God. I would trade 1,000 worship services and 10,000 strategies for a single breath from His Spirit. Only God can breathe life into what we do—that these dry bones might live.

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath’” (37:9). The Hebrew word for “breath” here is rauch, meaning the Spirit of God. Once again God commanded Ezekiel to prophesy. The first time he was to prophesy to bones, meaning people, but this second command is to prophesy to God Himself—to rauch, the Holy Spirit.

What is God saying in this verse? He is telling us that preaching to each other—articulating doctrine—is not enough. We cannot just speak to man about the things of God. We also have to speak to God about man, beseeching Him to act. God calls for men and women of faith to cry out for Him to enter their situation and change things. Only God’s Holy Spirit can bring life. Our eyes cannot see, our ears cannot hear, our mouths cannot speak anything of Him unless He first animates us.

When He does this, the results amaze us: “I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and [the bones] lived and stood on their feet” (37:10).

God’s breath brings us to our feet with boldness. The same thing happened in Acts 2: “Peter, standing with the eleven” (2:14). The gospel that Peter proclaimed at Pentecost was no different from the gospel he knew and now he stood up and spoke it with power from on high.

The life God is poised to breathe into us is the kind that brings dry bones alive, that brings life to a darkened, despairing environment. Out of chaos, Jesus produces life. Out of ashes, He produces beauty. And into a horrific situation that the enemy means only for destruction, Jesus breathes new life!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

THE KEY by Carter Conlon

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). It is as if Jesus were saying to them, “If I were hurting, I would want someone to comfort Me. If I were lost, I would want someone to give whatever they had to in order to get Me out.”

Whatever you want others to do for you, do for them. That is actually the key to unlocking all the resources that Jesus tells us to ask for. It is the key to enduring the scorn of those who oppose Him and the key to being kind to your enemies. It is the heart of God that says, “I am not willing that any should perish,” and it is what allows you to have your face slapped and not retaliate. It is the key to joy and love in the workplace despite the rudeness of others around you.

The promise at the end of the Scripture says, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24−25). The house was founded upon the work of God in the earth. That’s why Paul could be on a storm-battered ship, still standing and taking communion, and encouraging those who would have to swim to safety (see Acts 27). It was all about God’s glory and other people, not about his own preservation. Paul could see what ordinary men couldn’t see. The captain of the ship and the other merchant seamen couldn’t see it, but Paul’s eyes were opened and he was given incredible vision because he had chosen to be used for the glory of God and others. He was a type of those who will have oil for their lamps in the last days (see Matthew 25:1-13).


I encourage you to study chapters 5 through 7 in Matthew. I have read these three chapters over and over, and I believe they give a clear vision of what the Christian life is supposed to be. The more you study these chapters, the more convinced you will be that you cannot live this life yourself—you need the power of God. So the Lord says to you, “Ask now!” (Matthew 7:9).


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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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

IS THERE ANY HOPE?

In desperation, David cried out, “Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalm 130:2). This sounds to me like the plea of a dying man. David obviously wasn’t just uttering “thought prayers.” He was facedown on the ground—broken, contrite, pleading with God from the very depths of his heart.

David knew his soul needed a release and he turned to God alone to find that release. He concluded, “I'm in such a dire condition, only the Lord can help me now. I can’t rely on counselors, friends, even family. My only hope is in prayer. So I’m going to cry out night and day until God hears my plea!”

Many Christian marriages desperately need the kind of release David sought. All across the land I see couples sinking into dark pits of despair. Spouses claim to love one another, but they are not even civil in their communication. They show more kindness to strangers than they do to each other. Over time, their home has become a deep freeze of downright meanness. They don’t know it, but they are free-falling into destruction, their relationship fast spinning out of control. Perhaps your marriage has fallen as far down as it can go. You and your spouse have hit rock bottom, and you wake up every day wondering if there’s any hope left.

Beloved, you need to wake up to your condition. You have fallen into a black hole, full of ungodly attitudes, and this condition will not simply wear off by itself. Unless you take action, it will only get worse until one of you finally kills the marriage.

Wake up now to the Holy Spirit’s voice! There is sin in your marriage and it is being committed by both you and your spouse. You must deal with it or you will remain at the bottom of the dark well forever.

So, to whom are you taking your grief? Are you spilling your guts to your best friend? If so, are you merely building a case against your spouse? If you’re seeing a counselor, are you actually seeking a justification for ending it all?

Please don’t misinterpret my remarks; I believe in marriage counseling. But if you seriously want to get to the source of the problem, there is only one place to go. You need to look no farther than your own heart! The sin is right there inside you and, like David, you need to cry out to the Lord for mercy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

THE ARROW OF TRUTH

Most Christians are relieved to know they are not included in Paul's list of damning offenses: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Many sincere believers make every effort not to turn His grace into license and yet they realize their walk doesn’t measure up to His holy standard.

As they read the next verse, they feel the piercing arrow of truth: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (verse 11). Suddenly, they remember a besetting lust they have never been able to shake. They think, “Wait a minute—I’ve been delivered and sanctified. So why can’t I quit this habit? I’m not truly free!”

Maybe you have returned to an old lust recently. Perhaps you have visited a pornography site on the Internet or become involved in adultery or homosexual sin. Or perhaps you have stolen goods from your employer, or you are sneaking a drink on the way home from work. Whatever your habit is, you know you are not free in that one area.

Do not be surprised if you start to feel the way David did. “I remembered God, and was troubled . . . my spirit was overwhelmed” (Psalm 77:3).

Whenever the Lord sees one of His children wrestling with some lust or bondage, He moves in quickly to bring us back to a path of obedience, peace and rest. How does He do this? He brings about conditions in our lives that force us to face our sin!

Often this means taking us down into the depths, as God did with Jonah. He allows us to feel His rebuke and to be swallowed up by our circumstances. Yet it was while in the darkest depths that Jonah cried out to God. And the Lord responded to His servant’s cries quickly, restoring to him His blessings and will!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

LORD, HEAR MY VOICE

“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared” (Psalm 130:1-4).

David anguished over the scandal he had caused in Israel. His sin had been exposed, and the whole world knew about it. His grief over the shame he had caused was so overwhelming, he begged God, “Make me not the reproach of the foolish” (Psalm 39:8).

I know a number of Christians who are just like David. They are lovers of Jesus, yet they have sinned horribly against the light they have been given. They have heard many righteous sermons, read the Bible daily for years, spent countless hours in prayer. Yet they have sinned against all of God’s blessings. How? Because they have a besetting sin they have never dealt with!

Over time, their sin has shut off their communion with Jesus and now the Holy Spirit has fingered their habit, holding it up before them. He is warning them, “No more—this sin must go! I won’t wink at the way you keep indulging it. From now on, you’re under a deadline. I’ve exposed your sin to you but soon it may be exposed to the world!”

Whenever they enter God’s house now, they cannot even lift their heads. And they cry as David did, “My sins are too numerous to count! My iniquity has so taken hold of me, I can’t even lift my face to heaven!”

They have lost all the joy, cheer and freedom they once enjoyed. They are not able to pray or sing with any life or power. And they carry around a great sense of failure. They have become weak, soul-sick, bowed down, ready to faint. And they know it is all because their sin has cut off their communion with God!


Does this describe your soul’s condition at the moment? If so, thank God for His mercy. He is implanting in you a holy fear of the Lord!

Monday, March 10, 2014

CAN THESE BONES LIVE? by Gary Wilkerson

God asked Ezekiel, “Son of man, can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).

What a penetrating question. God asks the same of us today: “Can the dry bones in your situation come to life? Can your rebellious child be revived? Can your unsaved loved ones be brought to Christ?”

It is a question of faith: “Do you believe this can happen?” It is also a question of desire: “Do you want this to happen? Are you grieved by the dry bones in your life?” If your answer is no, that’s a sign of dryness—a lack of spiritual unction (passion) over the dark condition of the world.

Here was Ezekiel’s answer: “O Lord God, you know” (37:3). This was a response of trust: “Lord, only You know these things. You have given me a vision of horrific death. Are You suggesting these bones can live? Is it really possible?” The very question had roused Ezekiel’s faith. It was what God was waiting to hear, and He does the same with us to stimulate our faith.

“Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy over these dry bones’” (37:4). Once our faith is engaged—once we have waited on God and He has stirred our faith—He calls us to action. He asks us to “prophesy”—that is, to address our dry bones situation in faith. We are to speak life into our families, believing that God empowers our words. We are to speak life on our jobs, knowing that He holds us in His hand no matter how dark the environment. To do this, God must breathe His life into our being: “I will . . . put breath in you, and you shall live” (37:6).

God did just that for Ezekiel. The prophet testifies, “So I prophesied as I was commanded” (37:7). Can you say this about your walk with God? “I spoke blessings and peace into people’s lives. I also said difficult things. I said everything the Lord wanted me to say, and through it all I knew He was with me.” That is the power of the proclamation of the gospel.

What happened when Ezekiel prophesied in faith? “There was a sound, and behold, a rattling” (37:7). The word “sound” here echoes Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit breathed new life into the disciples at Pentecost. Ezekiel witnessed something similar, as suddenly all the dry bones on the valley floor were animated, filled with life. They came together to form living bodies: “I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (37:6).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

CONTAGIOUS FAITH by Claude Houde

For far too long in many evangelical churches, a pathetic and syrupy attitude of false humility excused, justified and encouraged Christians to say, “Don't look at me! Don't look to man, look to God alone!” Let me make myself clear. It is right, healthy and scriptural to keep our focus, our devotion and ultimate trust, in God and God alone. Men will always be fallible and imperfect; they can disappoint and wound us. The apostle Paul reminds us that the eternal and perfect treasures of God’s Kingdom are carried and lived out in vessels of clay, humanity and human frailty and imperfections (see 2 Corinthians 4:7).

However, the time of ignoring and turning our back on our responsibility and supreme biblical calling to communicate faith, love, forgiveness, purity, generosity and a passionate heart for God and His house to our children and loved ones must come to an end. Without arrogance or pretension, but rather by possessing an inner and acute spiritual sense of dependence on God, the apostle Paul passionately invited young believers who surrounded him, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, ESV). Paul later said to Timothy, “What you have heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2, ESV).

We must begin to see ourselves this way. When we realize and come to grips with the significance of our lives, the immeasurable possibility of influence that we all carry in us, a cry rises from the depth of our souls toward our God: “O Lord, increase our faith!” Dear reader, let me say it to you this way: Every one of us is to be contagious!

Let me ask you this question: What do your values, passions and priorities communicate to those who are watching you walk and talk in your everyday life? Let me ask you straight up, if I hang around with you, learn from you and imitate you, what will I “catch”? You know as well as I do that some men’s and women’s faith, love, joy and passion is communicative. To be near them does us good, inspires us, heals us and reconciles us with the human race! We love being around them and thank God for their faith that produces hope and propels us toward new heights of desires, commitments and possibilities in 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, March 7, 2014

REMOVING THE CANDLESTICK

In Revelation 2:5, Christ gives us a word that lets us know we had better take heed. He says, “Repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick.”

Jesus is saying here that unless we repent, He is going to remove all the spiritual authority we have been given. This includes our impact on our city, our community, our neighborhood, those anywhere in our sphere of influence. Every bit of influence we have will be taken from us.

Right now, churches across the world are shutting their doors. Their lights are literally being turned out because that is the judgment they incur for refusing to repent. God said they would lose their discernment, their spiritual blessings, their finances, His very presence. Now they are dead, lifeless, with only memories of His past blessings.

I preached in many such churches thirty years ago. At that time they were packed with zealous believers while today barely a few dozen people sit in their pews. Soon they will dwindle to nothing and their doors will shut for good. God has written “Ichabod” over their doors, which means, “The Spirit of the Lord has departed!”

Yet, beloved, God gives this same message to every Christian individually. He says, “If you refuse to repent—if you remain in your apathy—I will remove your lampstand. You will no longer have any influence over your family, your coworkers—or anyone!”

Even as we read these words, we are not to fear. Jesus ends His admonition to us this way: “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). Dear saint, Jesus is that tree! He is telling us, “If you will repent, I will give you constant life from My very being. And as long as you continue to love Me, I will provide a flow of supernatural life in you. This life will be revealed in your discernment, your love for people, your good works for My kingdom!” This is the trait that distinguishes every Christian who is truly in love with Jesus.

Jesus promises that your godly sorrow, your repentant heart and your renewed love for Him will lead you to life. So, pray to Him right now: “Lord, give me a truly repentant heart. Take me back to who I was when I was first in love with You. Yet, this time take me deeper in You than I have ever been before.”

As you repent, God’s Spirit will begin to produce in you a new revelation of the glory of Christ and He will make it known to everyone around you!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

THE EPHESIAN CHURCH

You may remember the seven churches that John mentions in Revelation 2. Among them is the church of Ephesus, a congregation Jesus commends very highly.

I like to think of our church in Times Square as being like the Ephesian church. That body of believers labored in one of the world's most populous cities, never fainting in the midst of vile wickedness. The people lived sacrificially, hated sin and refused to accept false doctrines. They stood strong in faith, loving God with all their heart no matter what temptations Satan threw at them.

Yet Christ knew something was amiss among these people. He so loved this church—it was such a bright lamp to the nations—that He wasn’t about to sit idly by and let it die. So He told the Ephesians, “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4).

Jesus was saying, “Your fire is going out! The love for Me that once motivated your faithfulness is waning. You once bore My burden for the lost but now you are satisfied merely to sit and listen to sermons. You have become totally engrossed in your own personal concerns while ignoring Mine. You have fallen far from where you once stood!”

Jesus then tells them, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen” (verse 5). He is saying, “Think back! You used to yearn to come to My house, to be with My saints, to bear My burden. But now an hour on Sunday morning is plenty for you!”

So, dear Christian, are you still on fire for Jesus? Are you in love with Him as passionately as when you first got saved? Or have you lost interest in His concerns, forsaking all ministry? Do you have too much else going on in your life? If so, the Lord says to you, “I have something against you—you have left your first love!”

Listen to what Jesus says to us at this point: “Repent, and do the first works” (verse 5). He is saying, “Mourn over your growing apathy. Be contrite and take it seriously. Then let your grief lead you back to where you were when you first loved Me!”

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“DEEP PLOUGHING”

“Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” (Romans 2:4)

I do not agree with all of the Puritan writers’ doctrine, but I love their emphasis on holiness. These godly preachers called their sermons “deep ploughing.” They believed they could not sow true seeds of faith until the soil of their listeners’ hearts had been deeply plowed.

The Puritans made sure their preaching went deep, cracking all the fallow ground of their listeners’ souls. Their sermons produced genuine repentance in their congregations and, in turn, over the years this produced strong, mature, faithful Christians.

Today, however, most preaching is all sowing with no plowing. I hear very few sermons nowadays that dig deeper than the topsoil. Deep plowing does not just address the disease of sin; it digs down to the very cause of the disease. Much of the preaching we hear today focuses on the remedy while ignoring the disease. It offers a prescription without providing surgery!

Sadly, we cause people to think they have been healed of sin when they never knew they were sick. We put robes of righteousness on them when they never knew they were naked. We urge them to trust in Christ when they don’t even realize their need to trust. Such people end up thinking, “It can’t hurt to add Jesus to my life.”

C. H. Spurgeon, the powerful English preacher, said the following about the need for repentance:

“I trust that sorrowful penitence does still exist, though I have not heard much about it lately. People seem to jump into faith very quickly nowadays. . . . I hope my old friend repentance is not dead. I am desperately in love with repentance; it seems to be the twin sister of faith.

“I do not myself understand much about dry-eyed faith; I know that I came to Christ by the way of weeping-cross. . . . When I came to Calvary by faith, it was with great weeping and supplication, confessing my transgressions, and desiring to find salvation in Jesus, and in Jesus only.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

THE GOSPEL OF REPENTANCE

“Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation” (2 Corinthians 7:10). As I read this passage, I find myself examining my own ministry and asking, "Have I cut short the gospel Jesus preached, the gospel of repentance? Have I essentially taken scissors to my Bible and removed the higher cost of following Christ? Have I lowered His standard by telling people to just believe and be saved?"

Have we cut short genuine conviction for sins? Have we jumped in and offered salvation to those who have not actually repented, who haven’t sorrowed over their trespasses, who have sought faith so they could merely hide their lusts behind it?

We constantly hear exaggerations about the numbers of people who come to Jesus through various ministries. Christians report that scores of people were saved as they preached in prisons, schools, and other venues. They say, “Everybody in the place gave his heart to Jesus. When I finished preaching, they all came forward for salvation.”

All too often, what actually happens is that everyone simply repeats a prayer. They merely pray what they’re told to pray and many do not grasp what they’re saying. Then most go back to their heathen ways!

Such people never experience a deep work of the Holy Spirit. As a result, they never repent, never sorrow over their sins—and never truly believe. Tragically, we have offered them something Jesus Himself never offered—salvation without repentance.

I believe the church has even taken the feeling out of conviction. Think about it—you hardly ever see tears on the cheeks of those who are being saved anymore. Of course, I know tears don’t save anyone, but God made us all human, with very real feelings. And any hell-bound sinner who has been moved upon by the Holy Spirit naturally feels a profound sorrow over the ways he has grieved the Lord.

The apostle Peter felt this kind of godly sorrow when he denied knowing Jesus. Suddenly, he was flooded with the memory of what Jesus had told him: “Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept” (Mark 14:72).

Monday, March 3, 2014

VERY DRY BONES by Gary Wilkerson

In the vision of Ezekiel 37, God led the prophet into a valley filled with dry bones. “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many . . . and . . . they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:1-2, ESV). What an awful scene—a vast stretch filled with skeletons as far as Ezekiel could see.

Maybe like Ezekiel you have wondered, “God, all I can see before me are difficult things. Why are You leading me through this dark valley?” It is because in the valley of dry bones, there is no other source of life. We have no breath of our own there, no power or strength. The valley of death brings us to a place of total dependency. Two thousand thirteen was one of the hardest years of my life—yet, looking back, I thank God for every moment of it. Amidst all of my life’s dry bones, I see that God orchestrated a place where my life ends and His life begins.

The valley of dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision reveals two things to us:
First, it represents the condition of God’s people. I love Christ’s Church; I cannot study enough about it or pray enough over it. It is God’s greatest vessel on earth to express His nature and show His power. But I also have a burden because today many churches are filled with dry bones. This is not a criticism, it is a reality. As Christians, we can grow dry before we know it. Jesus put it this way: “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4, ESV). We can go through the motions yet have no life at all inside.

The second thing I see revealed in Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones is our culture. At one time we were a nation that honored God. Seventy percent of Americans once professed Christ and attended church. The latest statistics show that number is now merely eight percent. We are living amidst spiritual darkness—we reside in a valley of dry bones!

How can a dry-bones church—one that is lifeless, prayerless, lukewarm—ever speak to a dry-bones culture? It can’t happen unless our spirits are revived, awakened by the Holy Spirit.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

THE REAL FORCE by Jim Cymbala

Satan’s main strategy with God’s people has always been to whisper, “Don’t call, don’t ask, don’t depend on God to do great things. You’ll get along fine through your own cleverness and energy.” The truth of the matter is that the devil is not terribly frightened of our human efforts and credentials. But he knows his kingdom will be damaged when we lift up our hearts to God.

Listen to David’s confident assertion in Psalm 4:3: “Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him.” That was David’s whole posture, his instinct, and especially his approach to warfare. It doesn’t matter what the Philistine armies have. If we call out to God, He will give us the victory. If we backslide and don’t call, then we can be defeated by even a tiny army.

I can almost hear David saying, “You can chase me, you can persecute me, you can do anything you want—but when I call on God, you’re in trouble! The Lord will hear when I call to Him.”

Notice how God defines wicked people in Psalm 14:4: “Will evildoers never learn—those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on the Lord?” That is the divine definition of the ungodly. They will do many things, but they will not humble themselves and recognize God’s omnipotence by calling on His name with all their hearts.

Salvation is impossible until a person humbly calls upon the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21), for God has promised specifically to be rich in mercy to those who call on His name (see Romans 10:12-13).

“Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God says in Psalm 50:15. “I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” God desires praise from our lives but the only way fresh praise and honor will come is as we keep coming to Him in times of need and difficulty. Then He will intervene to show Himself strong on our behalf, and we will know that He has done it.


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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.