Friday, October 31, 2014

LET HIM BE EVERYTHING TO YOU

Years ago I stood at an altar beside my wife and heard my father (who was the minister) ask Gwen, “Will you accept David to be your lawful husband?” We exchanged vows, each saying, “I will.” Gwen has loved me in a thousand ways, but never better, never more, than when she let me be the man of the house. It took a while for her to step aside and let me do the “husband” things—especially since I’m really not very mechanical. But she learned to tactfully encourage me to fulfill this role.

God intended for a husband and wife to reflect His relationship with us, His bride: “For thy Maker is thine husband” (Isaiah 54:5). We are “a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). But Jesus is not like any earthly husband. When He says, “I will,” He has all power and glory to see it done. You can find our Lord’s vows to His beloved all through His Word.

Our love for Him appropriates it, rests on it, and lets Jesus be God to us. Here are some of the vows He has made to all who have pledged their love and faithfulness to Him:

“I will bear; even I will carry . . . you” (Isaiah 46:4). “Can a woman forget her child? . . . Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee” (Isaiah 49:15). “He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). “I . . . will heal him . . . and restore comforts unto him” (Isaiah 57:18). “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24). “For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus is our righteousness, our health, our deliverance, our rock of salvation, our daily bread, our comfort, our provider, our strong arm, our defense, our light, our joy, our peace—our everything in time of need! Let Him be God to you. Don’t fret and try to work things out yourself. Prove to Him that you will trust His power!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

“SHE DID THIS FOR ME”

“And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. . . . And [Jesus] turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment” (Luke 7:37-38, 44-46).

Have you ever washed His feet with your tears? Have you come to Him asking nothing for yourself or your ministry or your family? Have you come simply pouring out on Him a gift of incense, an alabaster box of love and worship? Listen to His heart cry: “Thou gavest Me no kiss. No water for My tired feet! But she did this for Me!”

In Matthew 26, another woman came to Jesus and poured perfume on His head as He sat eating. The disciples saw it and said with indignation, “To what purpose is this waste? For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor” (Matthew 26: 8-9). We are just like those disciples; we think it’s wasted time to be alone, ministering to His needs when so many poor, suffering people need our time and prayer petitions. Jesus said, “Why trouble ye the woman? For she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always” (Matthew 26:10-11). In essence He was saying, “She did this for me!”

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

SPENDING TIME WITH JESUS

Why did Jesus say, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6)? It is because the Lord desires intimacy. He wants to be shut up alone with the love of His heart! So many will pray and never miss a prayer meeting. They will go to any home meeting—and certainly it is scriptural for two or three to agree together in prayer. But there will come a tug from the Lord and He will whisper, “Come alone—shut the door—let it be just the two of us.” Secret, closet prayer is the most intimate thing you can share with your Lord. If you don’t have this kind of relationship, you don’t really know Him.

Without intimacy with Jesus, even your good works can become evil: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-23). What is Jesus saying? The key is, “I don't know you.” There has been no intimacy; someone is doing an awful lot in His name without really knowing Him. This means that we can become so wrapped up in doing good, in programs, in helping others, that we lose touch with Jesus.

When we do spend time alone with Him, do we ever think of His needs? Jesus became man with all man’s needs, including the need for friendship and love. He felt rejection just as we do, having never laid aside His humanity. Jesus is God and still man. Being touched by the feeling of our infirmities means that He still experiences the hurts and needs of a man. I recently thought, “Lord, when You were on earth did You ever ask if anyone loved You simply for Yourself—as Jesus, the man?” Look at the multitudes that pressed Him on all sides, crying out for help, for mercy, for sight, for healing, for food, for signs and wonders. He saw them as sheep having no shepherd; He heard their cries and wept. But so few came who were asking for nothing—so few came just to love Him.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

LOVING JESUS

Jesus knows what it is like to be cheated on! He has been patient and long-suffering as all throughout history His beloved Israel has been unfaithful to Him, committing spiritual adultery over and over again. The heart of Jesus yearns for a faithful bride. He longs for a people who will have eyes only for Him with no other love coming between.

What is it that brings joy to a wife or husband? It is faithfulness—the ability to look into each other's eyes and see trust. No lies or secrets! So it is with our relationship with Jesus. “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no [lack of gain]” (Proverbs 31:10-11). Can Jesus look into our hearts and safely trust us?

I know an evangelical sisterhood that spends hours just “loving Jesus.” They repent for the unfaithfulness of His cheating bride. They try to fill His aching heart—to fill up the lack of love— and they speak of “His hurt.” Truly Jesus must hurt when so few love Him with all their being. My heart is breaking and through tears I pray, “Oh, Jesus! How unfaithful I’ve been to You over the years. How often the things of this world took my heart. I’ve chased after cars, antiques, sports. There have been times of loving the praises of men, of wanting things, and giving my time to these other concerns.” The Word of God says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15).

Jesus asked a very disturbing question: “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). The word “faith” in Greek means “reliance upon and faithfulness to.” To Him! He prophesied a great falling away, that even His elect would be greatly tempted. So many will fall and chase after this world in lust and pleasure. My cry is, “Oh, Lord, draw me to Yourself. Let me be one whom You can trust. Let me love You without reservation. Give me a pure, holy, unmixed love for You!”

Monday, October 27, 2014

EMPOWERING GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

Most Christians have pressing concerns in their lives—a child who is running from God; a marriage filled with tension; a mounting stack of bills with no money to pay them. Why should you be concerned about falling back into works if you are facing these kinds of problems?

I believe there is no more practical issue than an enslaving mindset of works-over-grace. It has everyday implications because it directly affects how you deal with your problems.

Let’s say a young man with a pornography addiction wants to be set free. He also tends to have a “works” mentality. One night he reads the following passage: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9, ESV). The young man thinks if he reads his Bible more, he’ll find freedom. Next he reads a passage that says, “Pray for one another.” So he joins a men’s accountability group and asks them to pray for him.

All the actions he has taken are good but in his heart, he is depending on doing things—on works—to provide the freedom he seeks. Yet this mentality only drives him farther down into bondage and despair. Following after Christ is not dependent on works—working to receive what only God can supply by faith.

Another young man in the same church is also struggling with pornography. He prays, “Lord, I’m helpless without You and I know that all too well. Yet, I also know that You are my hope. I come to You now, leaving behind my despair and trusting You to do a work in me. I know I need just one thing to overcome this sin: Your empowering grace. Let it roll over me now. Otherwise, I’m hopeless.”

This man will be met by God’s empowering grace. Why? Because he has knocked down every barrier that is preventing him from that grace—all with one simple prayer.

These two examples may not seem very different on the surface. But in the spiritual realm, tectonic shifts have taken place. A heart has moved away from the old, enslaving covenant that says, “I have to earn this,” toward a covenant that says, “Your grace drives all my efforts.”

When we come to this point, we’ll see God do things in our lives we could never do through our own efforts. I urge you, don’t neglect the great salvation you have been given. Turn to Jesus, who is always greater—and whose grace is your strength for everything.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

DESIRE DETERMINES DESTINY by Claude Houde

I am the pastor of New Life Church on the South Shore of Montreal in Canada. We began our church with a handful of people in a tiny room in a building we rented from a school board. Today, over 3500 people come to church every week, something that has never happened in Quebec. Less than two percent of the population is evangelical. The typical evangelical church in our nation has been in existence for over fifty years, with an average attendance of less than eighty people.

How can we explain this unusual harvest? Why have we been blessed with over twenty consecutive years of growth in one of the most hostile and secular environments in North America? We don’t hold evangelistic outreaches and we don’t try the latest “cutting edge” methods and strategies of the modern church growth gurus. We have been through one building program after the other; we hold multiple services on Sunday; and we grow more and more exponentially year after year. Why? Simply because men and women of all ages and from every possible ethnic and social background are experiencing the transforming power of faith with a resolution. Hundreds are baptized every year as they stand and tell stories of grace, courage and redemption—miraculous, beautiful stories that are totally inexplicable apart from “an act of God!” They invite their friends, neighbors, family, colleagues from the workplace or college friends to “taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him” (Psalm 34:8). And God multiplies the church.

In modern, secular, and cynical French Quebec, as all around the world, faith with a resolution is lighting fires of revival and changing lives. Thousands of “Daniels” are experiencing breakthroughs and deliverances that are irrefutable. There is no “star system,” no weird mysteries, polished professionalism, nor any gimmicks. There are only modern “Daniels,” men and women who live every day in the light and liberty, power and possibilities of faith with a resolution. They understand that desire determines destiny and although this is impossible for men, with God all things are possible.

__________
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, October 24, 2014

JESUS IS COMING WITH A SHOUT!

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

In Greek, the word “shout” means to incite by word, to awaken, excite, spur to action. The voice of the archangel will be heard by all overcomers. “He is at the door! Come, beloved! He whom you love has come to take you away.” This is no discreet coming, quietly done in a corner. No! Jesus is coming with trumpet blasting, with hosts of angels, with a shout, with a cry of the archangel. The dead in Christ will arise first to meet Him in the air. They will embrace Him first. Do you think they will be silent? With new bodies? Eternally redeemed and at long last home with Jesus? Beloved, there will be thunderous rejoicing! And while they are rejoicing, He will send His angels into all the world and gather His children. What a welcome that will be.

But here is the meaning of His coming, distilled in a few words: “And so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). How foolish it is to argue whether we will be living on earth or in some heaven. Heaven will be wherever Jesus is. Some are so determined we will never leave this earth, that Jesus will come down to us and set up a world kingdom. All I want is this: “So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Do you desire to ever be with the Lord? Did you know that it is also His desire to be with you? “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory” (John 17:24). Leave the times and seasons in the Father’s hands and live every day of your life as if Christ were coming within the hour. But remember, until He comes there is much work to be done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HIS COMING WILL BE A GREAT CELEBRATION

For us who make up the bride, there must be no fear when He appears. “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13).

Never forget that He will not surprise those who expect Him, who are “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12). Those who are looking and expecting His coming are “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). They are not sitting in front of the TV, wrapped up in selfish dreams and foolish ambitions! They are busy adorning themselves as a bride-in-waiting, occupying until He comes. That day will not “overtake” those who are prepared. He will not come as a thief in the night to the expectant!

It will also be the Lord’s day of gladness because He is anxious to be with His bride: “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me” (Song of Solomon 7:10). We forget about His excitement, His joy, His expectancy. Yes, He yearns for His bride! He rejoiced after the disciples returned from casting out devils (see Luke 10:17-22). He is man glorified, partaking of all our feelings, and full of joyful anticipation of having His bride, of claiming her, and of drawing her to Himself!

He has promised to show Himself to those looking for His coming. “Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28). This time He does not come to atone for sin, but to reveal His glory to His bride. That manifestation has already begun as He is showing forth His power and glory to His holy remnant. They will be caught up in its magnetic pull. He is no trickster; rather, He is wooing, cleansing, calling, and drawing us closer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WE WILL SEE HIM!

“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

A flesh and bone body was laid in the tomb, and it was a resurrected flesh and bone body that Thomas touched (see John 20:26-29). He touched His hands and put his hand in His side. This was truly a man—glorified—who ascended to the Father! Jesus did not vaporize before them; He was lifted in a cloud until He was out of sight. What an awesome sight it had to have been: Jesus glowing—radiant with glory—face heavenward—slowly lifted above them. The apostles had to have fallen on their knees!

They saw the whole advent with their eyes fixed on Him: “While they looked steadfastly toward heaven” (Acts 1:10). They did not blink an eye and He was gone! It is true that we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye: “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul is talking about our bodily change when we are “caught up together with [the resurrected dead] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). He will come quickly, suddenly, and we will be changed bodily in a moment.

The writer of the book of Hebrews suggests God’s people will see the day approaching: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . . but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). “But we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him” (Revelation 1:7). “And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Stephen, “being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55). Stephen is a type of those living in the last days—“full of the Holy Ghost”—who will be given open eyes and an open heaven. We will see Jesus coming in glory with all the holy angels and we will see the train of His glory!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

PREPARING TO GO OUT TO MEET HIM

“When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. . . . And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-7, 9-11).

Jesus gathered together those who were chosen to see Him ascend to the Father—“being assembled together with them” (Acts 1:4). About 120 were called together by Jesus Himself to the Mount of Olives. I don’t think they knew or grasped what was about to happen. He had tried to prepare them for His return to the Father: “I go to my Father, and ye [shall] see me no more” (John 16:10). How could a finite mind comprehend such words? How would He be going? Would He die again? Would angels take Him? Would a chariot come as it did for Elijah or would He suddenly vanish into thin air? It was something Jesus had warned them about: “Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father” (John 14:28). They said, “What is this that he saith, A little while? We cannot tell what he saith” (John 16:18).

In the same way He gathered the disciples, Jesus will again gather His people to prepare us for His return. But will we understand? God has always had a people, but just prior to His coming He will do just as He did before He left. He is doing it now, in fact! It is happening here in Times Square Church and all across America, China, Europe, Poland, Russia. By the call of the Holy Spirit, small companies and larger groups are coming together to “go out to meet Him.” They have heard the trumpet! They have heard the cry, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him” (Matthew 25:6).

Monday, October 20, 2014

CHRIST HAS SET US FREE by Gary Wilkerson

Think of all these blessed things: intimate prayer with the Lord; reading His wondrous Word; sharing His gospel joyfully. They are all wonderful practices that make for a joyful, fulfilling life. Yet we often make merit-based works out of them—arduous, duty-bound labors. By doing so, we neglect “so great a salvation”—a saving grace that does not fail. You see, even when we fail, the New Covenant does not. According to Paul, that truth should set us free, not enslave us.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, ESV). Throughout this epistle Paul asks believers, “Why would you ever go back to an Old Covenant of works? That system will only re-enslave you. You’ve been given the New Covenant, which sets you free to love and serve God in perfect liberty.”

Paul hammered this home to the Galatians, saying the gospel empowers us in the Spirit through grace. But the Galatians kept trying to live out the gospel through a lens of works. They were convinced, “If I do this, I’ll get a blessing. If I don’t, I’ll get a curse.”

We may not see this in ourselves, but we tend to do something similar today. Our attitude is, “I’ll do my best to obey God’s commands and then He’ll have to bless me.” But God says differently through the New Covenant: “I have blessed you already, before you even attempt to obey My commands. I also know you can’t keep my Word perfectly, so I will empower you to keep it through My Spirit. My grace will be the power behind your works, not your own strength.”

This is the core of the gospel: God does it all! Therefore, when we are told to “pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1), it doesn’t mean we’re to pay greater attention to rule-keeping. Instead, we are to pay attention to the gospel of grace that has set us free.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

MERCY IS CONTAGIOUS by Nicky Cruz

“When Jesus . . . saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34, NIV).

In Oslo, Norway, our ministry teamed with a large Lutheran church. It was one of the few churches willing to help us. Their kids were deeply committed to the Lord but were caught completely off guard by our methods of evangelism. European Christians are quiet, humble people who usually keep their faith to themselves. The idea of preaching on a street corner in the middle of a neighborhood took them far from their comfort zones. At first they didn’t want to go with us, but within a few weeks we couldn’t stop them. They developed a fire in their guts for evangelism—a genuine soul obsession.

Many of them travelled by train for two or three hours each morning to help us, then travelled home again late in the evening. They couldn’t get enough. And they were so thirsty to learn more about our kids from New York. When we told them that many of our kids were former gang members and drug addicts, they had a hard time believing it. They were astonished by what Jesus had done in their lives—what He was still doing.

But what attracted them most was the genuine compassion our kids had for others. When someone was hurting, our kids would cry with them, hold them, pray with them. Every morning began with several hours of prayer and worship at the church building, and the Lutheran kids couldn’t get enough of it. The love our kids exuded for them and one another was beyond anything they had ever experienced. And they soon caught that enthusiasm. It spread like wildfire throughout the hearts of everyone working with us.

By the time our crusade ended, the kids from Norway couldn’t bear to see us leave. They had become so attached to our group, so in love with our kids, that they cried for hours at the airport before our plane left. Our kids made lifetime friends on that trip and made an indelible impact on the lives of those we left behind.

That’s the beauty and nature of compassion. It is one of the most endearing and contagious of all human emotions. It cannot be faked, and its impact cannot be explained, yet it is so real. And so very powerful!

__________
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, October 17, 2014

A FRESH WORD EVERY DAY

God is speaking a fresh word every day to all who will hear, but many cannot hear it because their hearts are growing hard. In Hebrews we read, “Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7-8). God’s voice is a “today” voice. He wants us to hear an up-to-the-minute voice.

Jesus warned us about stony-ground hearers: “These are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended” (Mark 4:16-17). This refers to the ones who love to hear, who receive all God says with gladness. But the Word does not sink in. God’s voice does not change them. They remain unbroken with their hearts turning to stone. Where are the stony hearts? In prison? On the streets? Sadly, the hardest of hearts can be found in God’s house among those who don’t even know they are getting hard!

Let me tell you how Christians develop hard hearts. They refuse to allow God’s voice to smash their stubborn will. They hear God’s voice in His Word, in preaching, and sometimes even in the still, small voice. Yet, they will not obey it! The Word cannot take root. And there is something even worse. Every day God is calling His people to the secret closet of prayer because He wants to speak. He wants to talk about obedience, about problems, about the future, and give guidance. “I spake unto you, rising up early and speaking, but ye heard not; and I called you, but ye answered not” (Jeremiah 7:13). Each time we refuse that call and go instead to our own interests and business, putting other things ahead of God—every time we miss a day of hearing—every day we refuse to listen—our hearts grow colder and colder. Every time we listen to another voice rather than waiting to hear His voice, we grow a little harder.

When we refuse to discipline ourselves to be alone with God to hear His voice, we become strangers to that voice. It is shameful to observe what is happening in so many churches today with many who can no longer recognize God's voice. The Lord sees them getting hard, but He cares and loves them still. So He turns His Holy Ghost light upon them, bringing a scorching, penetrating word—a voice of thunder—to awaken them up. But the Word offends them; the very Word God meant to deliver them offends them and they get angry and dry up! “When the sun comes up they are scorched and wither” (see Matthew 13:6).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

IT’S TIME TO CLOSE THE DOOR

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).

God’s voice is heard by those who meet with Him in secret prayer. God is very careful to whom He speaks. It is only to those who value His voice so much that they shut out the whole world to get alone and wait for Him.

God says to us, “If you want to hear My voice, shut yourself up in the secret closet of prayer. Pray to Me in secret and I will reward you.” Busyness, lusts, covetousness, and the cares of life choke out the voice of God. Jesus gave us a warning against becoming too busy to stop and hear His voice. In the parable of the sower, “the word” is His voice: “These are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, and the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:18-19).

I fear that some reading this right now have been choking the voice of God. Choke here means “to crowd” or to drown out His voice. God once spoke clearly to you and it was such a joy. You still love Him, but you have less and less time for Him. Your busyness now calls you—your riches, your cares, your problems, and all the other things consuming your time! The voice of God now grows dim. He is calling you, wooing you, warning you: “Keep this up, and you will totally drown out My voice in you!”

You can become so busy, so bogged down with problems and cares, that it would do you no good to hear His voice because you would not listen. Jesus said it would be unfruitful (verse 19).

“[But] these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:20).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DOES GOD STILL SPEAK?

Samuel heard God’s voice clearly, so clear that “the Lord . . . let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Samuel 3:19). “For the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord. And the word of Samuel came to all Israel” (1 Samuel 3:21-4:1). David heard God speak and he, in turn, spoke with God! God's voice was his joy and life. David said, “God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice” (Psalm 60:6).

Many today do not believe that God still talks to men. They say He speaks only through His Word, that all He ever wants or needs to say is locked up in the canon of the Scriptures. Certainly God will never speak a word contrary to Scripture, but “God . . . hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2). And His Son is still talking to His children! He said His sheep know His voice and that another’s voice they will not heed. We know God spoke to men in the Old Testament. But what of the New Testament? What of the last days?

God spoke to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus: “Suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:3-4). For the rest of his life, Paul testified, “I heard His voice.” Before King Agrippa he said, “I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue . . . Rise . . . for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose” (Acts 26:14 and 16).

Peter heard and obeyed the voice of God. In prayer, he heard God speak: “And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord. . . . But the voice answered me again from heaven. . . . And this was done three times” (Acts 11:7-10).

Jesus calls the last Laodicean church to hear His voice and open up: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

HIS VOICE

One of the greatest blessings a true believer has is hearing and knowing the voice of God. It is possible to hear God’s voice today as certainly and clearly as Abraham and Moses did—as clearly as did Samuel and David—and Paul, Peter, the apostles, and John on the Isle of Patmos! God has promised to make His voice clearly known for one last time during these end days. He has given us a promise and a warning about hearing His voice. God is going to bring together a holy, separated remnant into spiritual Zion and make His voice known to them. “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels” (Hebrews 12:22).

God has this message for all who have been called out: The voice of God that has shaken the earth in past generations will be heard in power again in one last shaking! “Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven” (Hebrews 12:26). Here is God’s warning to His holy, believing children. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven” (Hebrews 12:25).

Why is God gathering together a people out of the dead churches? Why is the Spirit crying, “Come out of Babylon, my people! Partake not in her sins”? It is because God must have a people (a Zion people) in these troubled last days who are not confused by false doctrine. These are sheep who do not follow false teachers, who know their Master’s voice. God speaks to them clearly and certainly, and they live by His voice! They are directed by His voice, comforted by His voice, guided in all things by His voice! The one great characteristic of a holy people is that they are not mistaken about God’s voice. They know it—they hear it—they are governed by it. It is sure, steadfast, and unmistakable!

Monday, October 13, 2014

JESUS IS GREATER by Gary Wilkerson

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:1-3, ESV).

The opening chapter of Hebrews repeats a truth every Christian knows but few actually grasp: “Jesus is greater.” The writer is so focused on this theme that he does not take time to offer a greeting. And he gives his readers no instructions, as we see in some epistles; instead, he has one thing on his mind: “Jesus is greater!” He is enamored, thrilled and overcome with Christ.

“Jesus is greater than what?” you may ask. In Hebrews 1 we find the answer: He’s greater than all the prophets, priests, kings and angels. You name it, and He’s greater than that. This isn’t news to us who know Christ as our living Savior; yes, He was present at the creation, and He is ruling eternally as King. Yes, He is greater than all that we can imagine.

Yet many Christians stumble over a simple truth when it comes to knowing that “Jesus is greater.” The problem is this: Jesus is greater than the works of the law—but we live as if our works mean more than Christ’s saving grace. We claim we’re saved by His grace, but whenever we fail, we fall back on works in order to be restored. This is an Old Covenant mentality, one that leads to slavery—yet few of us realize we fall into it.

Reading further in Hebrews, we see the “greater covenant” that God made with us in mind: “Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. . . . ‘Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant’” (Hebrews 8:6, 8).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SPEAKING THE WORD WITH BOLDNESS by Jim Cymbala

What kind of things matter in a book-of-Acts church? The apostles’ prayer gives us one of the clear benchmarks: “Enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness” (Acts 4:29).

There is no such thing as “taught boldness.” Boldness can be imparted only by the Holy Spirit; you cannot get it through a seminar. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and of self-discipline.”

New Testament preachers were boldly confrontational, trusting that the Holy Spirit would produce the conviction necessary for conversion. They were not afraid.

Listen to Peter on the Day of Pentecost: “You, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross” (Acts 2:23). This was the last thing the crowd wanted to hear. If David Letterman had a Top Ten list of things not to say to a Jewish audience, number one would be “Guess what—with your own hands you just killed the Messiah, the one Israel has been expecting for centuries.”

But Peter’s boldness did not drive the people away. Instead, it stabbed their consciences. By the end of the day a huge group had repented of their sin and been converted.

In the next chapter, Peter was just as straightforward with the crowd that gathered after the healing of the cripple: “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life. . . . Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:14-15, 19).

When Paul preached in Ephesus some years later, his confrontation with pagan idolatry was so direct that a riot broke out. “They were furious and began shouting: ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’ Soon the whole city was in an uproar” (Acts 19:28-29). This doesn’t sound very market-sensitive or user-friendly to me.

A strong church was established nonetheless. The apostles realized that without a bold, aggressive attitude in proclaiming God’s Word, they would not build the church that Jesus intended. Any church in any city of the world must come to the same conclusion.

__________
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, October 10, 2014

A LIFE OF REPENTANCE AND SEPARATION

Without a life of repentance and separation from the world there can be no true revival. “And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers” (Nehemiah 9:2). Wherever there is biblical restoration, there will be an ever-growing awareness of the Lord’s call to separate from all that is worldly and sensuous.

Over the years I have observed that it is the separated, Christ-consumed, holy-living Christian who has most effect on the secular world. The ungodly expect Christians to be separate and clean, totally “other.” On the crime-infested streets of New York, with demonic spirits raging on all sides, only a pure, separated, Christ-filled Christian can put the enemy to chase. Compromisers are frightened off and their own sins condemn them.

God is raising up a remnant of believers who want revival but only as it conforms believers to the image of Jesus Christ. And when it comes in its fullness, the majority of Christians will either not recognize it or, if they do, they will reject it. The separated remnant will hear the trumpet sounding and will know what God is saying.

God owns everything we have. We keep saying, “Lord, I give this back to You!” But we have never really owned anything. “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. . . . The wild beasts of the field are mine. . . . For the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalm 50:10-12). The Lord is saying to us, “Go up on the roof and examine your heart!” Are you a just steward of His property? In light of eternity, in light of the frailty of life, how much do you spend on yourself, in comparison to His work?

The great effect of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the laying down of everything on God’s altar, as we get our eyes off the things we possess. At Pentecost it was said, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

THE SPIRIT OF JOY AND CELEBRATION

“Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared; for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength. So the Levites stilled all the people, saying, Hold your peace, for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words which that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:10-11).

Wherever the love of God's Word has been restored and repentance has resulted, there will always come forth a mighty wave of joy and celebration. But there is a kind of phony joy and false celebration in the land today: It is the celebration of self and idolatry—the dancing around the golden calf! We need great discernment to know the difference between the true joy of repentance and the false rejoicing of idolaters.

Moses and Joshua came down from the mount to a great shout in the camp: “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery (in triumph) . . . but the noise of them that sing do I hear” (Exodus 32:18). They were shouting, singing, and dancing and Moses knew all along it was of the flesh. He knew they were a stiff-necked, rebellious people, full of lust, fornication, nudity, and sensuality. It was the shout of idolatry!

Can you tell the difference? If there is no preaching of the Law to convict of sin —no weeping or faces on the ground—if there is no love of God’s reproving Word—no repentance—then there is no spiritual shout, no godly song! Be careful! You may get caught up in the song of idolatry.

Why was there such great happiness, such a festive spirit of joy in this revival recorded in Nehemiah? “Because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:12). In other words, they discerned and took it to heart; they obeyed!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

HEARTBREAKING REPENTANCE

“While lifting up their hands . . . they bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. . . . They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah . . . and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.’ For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law” (Nehemiah 8:6-9, NAS).

Their first reaction to the Word was excitement and joy! They cried, “Amen, Amen, while lifting up their hands.” David said, “Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord” (Psalm 134:2). But the Word soon brought them down on their faces. It is true repentance when we are brought to the ground by God’s Word. “They bowed low and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. . . . All the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law.” They trembled at God’s Word, then took it to heart and repented!

When a Holy Ghost revival comes, Christians don’t hold grudges; they don’t gossip or backbite or find fault. They are not trying to straighten out the church or the pastors. They don’t sit around like couch potatoes in front of the TV! No! They are on their faces before God, weeping, because the Word has smitten their hearts. They are not judging others or looking at others. They are being convicted by the Word for not measuring up!

In Romans 12:9-21 the apostle Paul describes the marks of truly repentant people. Paul begins by saying, “Let love be without dissimulation (hypocrisy). Abhor that which is evil; [hold fast] to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer” (verses 9-12).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD

The first evidence of revival is a great desire to hear and obey the Word of the Lord.

“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded to Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read therein before the street that was before the water gate from the morning until midday, before the men and the women, and those that could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people . . . and when he opened it, all the people stood up” (Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5).

The cry of their hearts was, “Bring us the true Word of the Lord!” Ezra stood on a raised, wooden pulpit and read God’s Word for six hours while the multitude stood at attention, learning that the cause of their suffering was their own stubbornness and rebellion. The surest evidence of revival in a soul or a church or a city is a hunger for God’s Word. Backslidden Christians don’t want to hear the Word—it bores them! What they want is excitement. Backslidden preachers don’t preach much of God’s Word; instead, they give short sermonettes. They don’t preach the Law because that produces conviction and shakes up the church! It makes compromisers squirm!

Where the Holy Spirit is at work, the people in the pew are clamoring for the Word. I get hundreds of letters from famished saints crying, “We are so hungry. We don’t hear the true Word. We get the dead letter with no anointing!” Where God is at work there are Bibles everywhere. There’s an excitement about preaching and teaching with a true reverence for the Word.

How sad it is that in many Charismatic churches, preaching is merely endured. They just want music, entertainment, and special singers on center stage! When the Holy Ghost comes, the Word will be hailed. The cry of the people will be, “Lord, I want it all: the good, the bad, the commandments, the promises, the whole counsel of God!”

Monday, October 6, 2014

THE WORK OF GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

Christ needs no assistance from us with His work of grace!

You may wonder, “Don’t I have a part in the work of grace?” If you try to bring something to Christ’s work, you’ll only mess it up. It is impossible to add to His glorious grace with our rags of unrighteousness. We don’t contain grace—we only receive it. We may give it out, but it is God’s grace, not ours.

This is what Hebrews 10:29 means when it says we “trample underfoot” the blood of Christ when we try to add something to God’s grace. We actually dilute it, insulting the glorious work He has done. In fact, at any given time we are operating in one of two modes: (1) We’re either allowing God to say we are insufficient, and we accept the totality of His grace; or (2) we’re calling His grace insufficient and attempting to add our efforts to it.

You may say, “But if I believed that, I’d never do anything for God.” Actually, the opposite is true. When you live in the grace of Christ, you do more works than ever—because you do them in joy rather than with a grudging sense of obligation. You go to prayer because you love God’s holiness. You study His Word not because it contains your to-do list for the day, but because it’s your life source, your wellspring of peace, joy and direction.

Simply put, grace empowers godly action. So if you are miserable in your walk with Christ—if you are weary, going to church because you fear for your salvation—then you have fallen from the appropriation of His grace. Right now, He is inviting you back, saying, “Come into the covenant I have with the Father. I want to pour My grace over you, to empower you with My Spirit for life.”

Through Him we are fully cleansed, fully at peace with God, and abounding in His grace. We can’t add anything to His finished work—His grace is fully sufficient. It is our role to receive the glorious gift and to walk in it with joy!

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

THE GREAT SUPPER by Carter Conlon

“A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many; and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:16-17, ASV).

In other words, a man issued an invitation to his great banquet, much the same as the Lord invites you and me to come to His incredible feast of life and strength. Vision, direction, provision, and a future can be found there. Everything is ready.

However, those who were invited to the banquet began to present their excuses as to why they could not come. No doubt, some people simply did not want to go. Yet, I cannot help but feel that some among them felt obliged to bring something to the banquet. Perhaps they were embarrassed at their own lack of resources, which ultimately led them to decline the invitation.

This is the same dilemma that you and I face today. God says, “I want to do something through your life.” It is an incredible invitation from the Lord. Yet, for many people, there is an innate sense that they should be providing something. After all, it is common practice even in our society today that the gift one brings to a wedding should be of equal value to the meal that is being set before them.

Of course, knowing that the price of the banquet was the blood of His Son Jesus Christ, it is preposterous to think that you and I could ever bring something comparable to that price, even if we somehow felt obliged. It tends to take us a long time to get to the point of realizing that this is a “come as you are” banquet. The prophet Isaiah said, “Come, those who have no money; come, those who have no skill; come, those who have no ability. Come and buy and be satisfied! Eat that which will truly fill and satisfy you” (see Isaiah 55:1-2).

Jesus continued in Luke 14:33. “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” That does not mean you have to give away your house, empty your bank account, and quit your job. Jesus was essentially saying that you must give away your own thoughts of ever doing this in your own strength. The forces against the testimony of Christ in this generation are too powerful. The social trends are going in the opposite direction of the Word of God. The battle is too strong, and our natural resources are insufficient to meet the need. That is why we must choose to cast away all the self-reliance and show up, just as we are, to an incredible banquet of God.

__________
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, October 3, 2014

THE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER

I receive reams of prophecies and long, involved “spirit” writings from Christians who claim to be spending days and weeks and even months in prayer. One husband asked me to set his wife straight. She had been telling people she had died and gone to heaven, had danced with Jesus, and then had gone skydiving with Him! She claimed her revelation came to her after praying for hours.

Why are these dear ones not out among the people, preaching a resurrected Jesus? Why are they spending all their time reproving others, with no brokenness for the lost? The best cure for “flakiness” is getting out among sinners and preaching the love of Jesus. We pray, “Holy Ghost, come!” But for what? To simply bless us and meet our needs? Or to equip us and reveal to us the broken heart of our Lord? The last words of Jesus before leaving this earth were, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

We have been praying that God will close down the bar next door to Times Square Church. The proprietor said to us, “You people are in real trouble. You don’t know who you’re dealing with.” No! He doesn’t know that he is dealing with Jesus, who said, “All power is given unto me” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, “we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Paul prayed that “ye may know . . . what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the workings of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ . . . far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet” (Ephesians 1:18-22).

Satan has made some of you afraid—afraid of falling, afraid of a besetting sin or a hounding habit, and afraid of men. But the Word says, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). You are not the one who runs away!

“Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. . . . For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion . . . he shall set me up upon a rock” (Psalm 27:3, 5).

Thursday, October 2, 2014

THE “PHILIP” MINISTRY

There is a “Philip” ministry for every believer who walks in Christ’s holiness.

“Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

Philip was not a pulpit man but a Holy Ghost-filled lay person who simply believed in Christ’s power of resurrection life. He was a man of the marketplace who went everywhere expecting miracles. We will never impact this city or any other until every member of the Body becomes a Christ-consumed Philip, a lay evangelist with faith to cast out evil spirits and pray for the salvation and healing of fellow workers. We can and shall stir up this wicked city!

The Plymouth Brethren movement started in Plymouth, England, many years ago. They were a godly group who took the gospel to the streets—what a burden for souls they had! A great revival broke out and Christ was revealed to them as a glorified Man in heaven. But they became so consumed in studying Christ, so focused on their form of worship, that they lost their burden for dying souls. They split up into two groups, the Open and Closed Brethren. The Closed Brethren ended up permitting no one to partake of fellowship with them except by invitation. Today all that is left of the original movement are the great writings of men such as Darby, Stoney, Mackintosh, and Raven, all of which are wonderful teachings on Christ and holiness. But spiritual elitism had crept in and there was no longer a passion for the lost. We need the deep, pure Word and the burning passion for the lost combined.

If we do not obey the Lord’s command to preach the gospel, we will become self-centered and obsessed with our own problems.

“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SILENT WITNESSES?

Paul stirred things up by preaching Jesus the King with resurrection power: “In the market daily with them that met with him . . . he preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection” (Acts 17:17-18). If there is any one place where Christians hide their light more than any other, it is in their workplace. Multitudes of Christians in this country sit in God’s house proclaiming their intense love for Jesus, yet when they go to their jobs, they are timid and ashamed of Christ!

Why is there such cowardly silence about Jesus by Christians who pray, devour the Word, and walk in holiness? It is because, unlike Paul, our hearts are not stirred as we see people given to idolatry all around us (see Acts 17:16). We dare not say, “But Paul was a preacher. He was called to this work!” We are all ambassadors of Jesus Christ and are commanded never to hide our light under a bushel.

These Athenians were exactly like the people you work with nowadays, spending “their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). So it is throughout this nation: the majority of those around you on the job are given over to idolatry, gossip, and superstitions of all kinds.

Paul was not put off by the immensity of the problem. He wasn’t overwhelmed by Satan’s hold on the city, because he knew he had a secret weapon against it: the gospel of resurrection power! Paul took his eyes off what the devil had done and focused on what Jesus could do in resurrection might! It did not matter that they called him a “babbler,” meaning a loafer, a preacher of nonsense.

Have you ever been called “a babbler”? Perhaps someone has said to you, “Stop infringing on my rights. Stop pushing your religion on me. Stop trying to make me believe like you do!” None of that kind of mockery could stop Paul because his heart was bleeding. He knew that if he did not take his stand for Christ, those around him would die in their sin.

It is not enough to just live right or to “set a good example.” For too long we have hidden behind the old cliche, “Actions speak louder than words.” We claim to be silent witnesses living His life but our testimony must include the spoken Word: “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice” (Isaiah 52:8). “How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).