Friday, November 28, 2014

GIVE ME YOUR WORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 27, 2014

DOING HIS WORD

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TOTAL DEPENDENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

THE TEST

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

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

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

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

God brought Israel to a place of total humiliation.

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

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

Monday, November 24, 2014

THE MEASURE OF FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

THEY LIGHT UP THE SCREEN by Claude Houde

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

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

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

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

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

__________

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

REAPING IN JOY

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

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

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

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

I wonder why.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

ON THE FRONT LINES

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

THE LAST-DAYS HARVEST AWAITS!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

GOD’S PEOPLE WILL BE WILLING

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 17, 2014

THE RESOURCES OF HEAVEN by Gary Wilkerson

When it comes to the resources of heaven, the prophet Zechariah speaks a powerful yet mysterious word: “On that day the LORD will defend the people of Jerusalem; the weakest among them will be as mighty as King David! And the royal descendants will be like God, like the angel of the LORD who goes before them!” (Zechariah 12:8, NLT).

Zechariah was looking down through history to our day. Because of Christ’s work for us, even the weakest Christian will be as strong as David, Israel’s greatest king. And the strongest believer will “be like God,” meaning, like Christ. It all sounds outlandish. Yet in this prophecy, God gives us an image of the resources He has made available to His Church. The reserves of heaven’s bank are meant to come pouring out on us to His great glory, especially in our trials.

Much of the Church has yet to grasp this. When some Christians come to the teller’s window, they stand mute. The Holy Spirit asks them, “What can I do for you?” but they don’t know to ask for the wealth available to them. Instead, they answer, “Lord, just give me whatever You want to. I don’t have any ambition, but You are sovereign. You can do as You please.”

That may sound humble, even godly, but Scripture suggests this attitude actually frustrates the Holy Spirit. His response is, “What do you mean there’s nothing in your heart? Don’t you see the enemy at work ravaging the lives of people you love? Don’t you see loved ones in fear and bondage who would be set free if only they knew My delivering power? Look around. There are kingdoms to conquer, enemies to slay, demons to cast out!”

Paul tells us to “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts.” That means when we come to the teller’s window, our request ought to be, “Lord, I have the gift of faith. Could You also give me the gift of evangelism, so I might bring others to faith?” Or, “Lord, You’ve gifted me with prophecy. Please, give me a word today for my sister who’s enduring great pain with no hope.”

One of the greatest lessons my father, David Wilkerson, taught me was, “You can have as much of Jesus as you want.” My message in turn is to say to you: Go to the teller’s window and ask extravagantly!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

JUST A SHEPHERD BOY by Nicky Cruz

David was just a young shepherd boy, tending his father’s sheep, when God picked him to become the king of Israel. God had rejected Saul as king because of his wickedness and instead sent his prophet Samuel to seek out David—a mere shepherd boy. “[David] was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features. Then the Lord said, ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.’ So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power” (1Samuel 16:12-13).

Try to imagine what David must have felt at the time. How could he possibly have imagined becoming king of Israel? Did he even comprehend what was going on? He was just a boy tending sheep, probably grooming himself to take over his father’s business someday. The job of shepherd was the lowliest job a person could have. As the youngest son of Jesse, David was sent to the fields each day to tend to the flocks; his brothers handled the “more important” jobs. Even his own father couldn’t see the greatness inside David’s heart.

But God changed all that! God saw David’s heart and stepped in to create a covenant for him—a grand and glorious future far better than David could have dreamed for himself.

At the time David was content just spending time in the fields alone with God. He would run through the grass and sing before the Lord, worshiping and praying and taking in the beautiful mountain air. Early in the morning he would find a spot on a tall rock and watch the majestic sunrise, breathing in the colors as they changed from moment to moment. Each morning he suckled on the northern wind, strengthening his bones by drinking in the freedom of the open space.

It was here in the fields that David first connected with God—that he learned to talk to Him as a friend. That’s why the psalms of David are so beautiful and inspiring. In the psalms he takes us back to the days when it was just him and God, dancing in the fields together, tending to the sheep, growing in love and friendship.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. . . . In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat” (Psalm 19:1-2, 4-6).

As a shepherd David loved God with a passion. And God took notice.

__________ 
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, November 14, 2014

CORRECTLY HEARING THE VOICE OF GOD

When the voice of God is not heard, men run and labor for Him without a mandate—they are on their own. I have been there: doing good things, taking on challenges, believing fully that I was standing up against the worker of iniquity. And I wound up thousands of dollars in debt, weary and disillusioned, crying for help at every turn. I had not been sent by God but I didn’t understand. I was broken, burdened, willing to give up so much; it was not born out of prayer—it was human compassion.

But then I said, “No more, Lord! Not a step more unless You command it. Not a move until Your voice is heard!” And whatever money was needed was there because God supports what He originates. It is joy with no burden, peace with no begging. The begging in ministries today is a result of men doing good things without being sent by God’s voice. Their own desires are being mistaken for God’s bidding.

Jesus would not make a move unless He heard from heaven. “I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. . . . I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me” (John 8:26, 28). “The Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. . . . Whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50).

Here are four safeguards for correctly hearing the voice of God:
  1. His voice always brings you to Jesus and exposes all sin and lust. John heard His voice and said, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet” (Revelation 1:17). 
  2. His presence (or countenance) always accompanies His voice. You will be overwhelmed and overjoyed by the glory of His presence. 
  3. His voice will give you scriptural assurance. The Holy Spirit will lead you to confirmation in His Word. Everything God speaks must line up with Scripture at every point. 
  4. Whatever He speaks will stand before the judgment seat of Christ in its purity and selflessness.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

THE SOUND OF HIS VOICE

God’s desire for His people is that their greatest joy be the sound of His voice.

“He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:29). Our greatest joy should be, “I heard His voice! I stood alone, waiting, and I heard Him speak to me!” In the Song of Solomon, we can hear a last-day bridal love duet. The bridegroom beckons His betrothed to hide away secretly with Him: “O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice” (Song of Solomon 2:14). Then later in the Song, she responds, “It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me . . . my love, my dove” (5:2).

To those whose hearts have grown cold, who can no longer hear His voice, God has promised to give a new and tender heart if they repent and turn to Him in faith. A hard heart is not terminal—that is, if you want to change! It is not something God did to you; rather, you did it to yourself by shutting out God’s Word. Here is your promise: “And they shall come thither, and they shall take away all the detestable things thereof and all the abominations thereof from thence. And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: that they may walk in my statutes, and keep mine ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:18-20).

And, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you; and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

HIS LOVING ARMS

“I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears” (Psalm 6:6).

This giant killer, this mighty warrior of whom they sang, “David hath killed his ten thousands,” this poet who wrote so much about trusting God and casting all care upon Him, this same man of God, cried out, “Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed” (Psalm 6:2). David had sinned grievously, confessing, “For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled: I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long” (Psalm 38:4-6).

David is expressing exactly what some of you may be going through right now: a feeling of being overwhelmed by sin, like unexpected ocean waves sweeping over your soul. You can’t understand why you are swamped again. You cry, “God, it is too much for me! I can’t handle it anymore.” You are wounded and you know that you stink inwardly from sin. You know you have been foolish and stupid. You feel the spiritual corruption and are so sick in your mind that it affects your body. Your failure, your lack of victory, has actually made you go “mourning all the day” in depression and fear. You are troubled—bowed down—disturbed in your soul.

David had a sense that he was suffering from the sins he had committed. He was not saying that God was not just in chastising him, but he wanted to be corrected in love: “O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure. Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak” (Psalm 6:1-2). The cry from David is this: “Lord, my own foolishness, my own besetting sin, has brought much of my suffering upon me! I know You have a right to correct and chastise me. But please remember that I am still Your child! Pour out Your wrath on those who don’t want You. I have sinned, but I still love You. Correct me in love. Be merciful.”

If you feel God’s arrows in your soul because of past and present sin, yet you have a repentant heart and want to turn from your sin, you can call for His chastening love. You will be corrected, but in great mercy and compassion, just as a caring father spanks his child because of love. You will not feel His wrath as do the heathen, but with His rod you will feel His loving, outstretched arms.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A TIME TO BE REFRESHED

The Word of God is full of accounts of great men of God who came to the end of their rope, having lost all strength. I preach a message entitled “The Making of a Man of God” which discusses three things Jesus faced in the Garden of Gethsemane: a cup of pain, an hour of confusion, and a night of isolation. All men and women of God have gone through this.

Perhaps your present suffering has been self-inflicted. How many wives suffer now because they married men God warned them not to marry? How many children are breaking the hearts of their parents, bringing them to the end of their rope? So many despair from AIDS and other diseases because of past sins. But it is now time to move on from what caused your trouble and into brokenness, repentance, and faith. It is time to receive a new infusion of Holy Ghost strength and be renewed and refreshed!

If your heart feels godly sorrow and you love Him, you may be down, but He won’t let you go out. When walking by faith in repentance, David said: “For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. For who is God save the Lord? Or who is a rock save our God? It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places. He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath held me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. . . . For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me” (Psalms 18:28-36, 39).

God promises strength to His anointed: “Blessed be the Lord, because he hath heard the voice of my supplications. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up forever” (Psalm 28:6-9).

If you will cry out, He will pour His strength into you: “In the day when I cried thou answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul. . . . Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me” (Psalm 138:3, 7).

Monday, November 10, 2014

THE BANK OF HEAVEN by Gary Wilkerson

Lately I haven’t been able to shake a certain image from my mind. It’s of a heavenly bank, where God’s people come to transact business. This bank is always open so that we can make deposits, passing to the teller all our sins, anxieties, worries and cares. Of course, the vault where those deposits are taken is the throne room of God’s grace.

We can also make withdrawals from this heavenly bank. At the teller window sits the Holy Spirit, ready to dispense any and every resource of heaven. When we step up to that window, we have the ability to withdraw endless reserves of God’s grace, power, faith and hope.

As I envision this bank, I realize many of us in the church make a lot of deposits, but we don’t make nearly as many withdrawals. Instead, when we step up to the window we ask for a pittance. “Lord, I don’t want to bother You,” we stammer, “but I need a little extra grace to get me through this present problem. If You can just get me going, I can handle the rest.”

I’ve got news for you: God doesn’t want us to “handle the rest.” He wants us to deposit everything to Him: all our anxieties, struggles, sins and heartaches. And He wants us to draw on His infinite resources, which are stored up for us in His vaults. He wants us to say, “Lord, I’m through asking for ten dollars’ worth of faith to get me through a problem. I need Your grace in denominations of thousands. And I want it not only to solve my problem, but to see Your glory established in the earth. From now on, every time I come to this window, I’ll ask for a greater outpouring of Your Spirit. I need more of Your life, Your breath, Your movement within me!”

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV).

Saturday, November 8, 2014

A PIERCING MESSAGE by Jim Cymbala

The apostles never tried to finesse people when they were presenting the gospel. Their communication was not supposed to be “cool” or soothing. They aimed for a piercing of the heart, for conviction of sin. They had not the faintest intention of asking, “What do people want to hear? How can we draw more people to church on Sunday?” That was the last thing on their minds. Such an approach would have been foreign to them.

Instead of trying to bring men and women to Christ in the biblical way, we are consumed with the unbiblical concept of “church growth.” The Bible does not say we should aim at numbers but rather urges us to proclaim God’s message in the boldness of the Holy Spirit. This will build God’s church God’s way.

Unfortunately, some churches now continually monitor how pleased people are with the services and ask what else they would like. We have no permission whatsoever to adjust the message of the gospel! Whether it seems popular or not, whether it is “hip” to the times, we must faithfully and boldly proclaim that sin is real but Jesus forgives those who confess.

Nowhere does God ask anyone to have a large church. He only calls us to do His work, proclaiming His Word to people He loves under the anointing and power of the Holy Spirit to produce results that only He can bring about. The glory then goes to Him alone—not any denomination, local church, local pastor, or church growth consultant. This is God’s only plan, and anything else is a deviation from the teaching of the New Testament.

Today we have an anti-authority spirit in America that says, “Nobody can tell me I need to change. Don’t you dare.”

Both in the pulpit and in pastoral counseling we have too often given in to this mentality and are afraid to speak the truth about sin. We keep appealing to Paul’s line about becoming “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22), not noticing that in the very next paragraph he says, “Run in such a way as to get the prize” (verse 24). Adapting our style to get a hearing is one thing, but the message can never change without leaving us empty-handed before the Lord.

__________
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, November 7, 2014

THE SCHOOL OF THE HOLY GHOST

Why did things go wrong for David? Because he was in the school of the Holy Ghost! God was producing character in him—and only trouble can bring it forth. There were to be no more Sauls, undisciplined and untrained by a lack of trials. Saul started out right but soon wilted because he was never tested. God now sought a man He could trust, a man with whom He could build an enduring house.

There was never a moment the Holy Spirit was not with David. God could have sent angels; He could have spoken a word; He could have sent a heavenly host to keep David out of trouble. Instead, He permitted it all so that David would come to the end of himself and throw himself completely on the Lord. We would have had none of those great psalms of trust and faith had David not been tested.

Some of you are at Ziklag with David—or you are headed there! In 1 Samuel chapter 30, the story is told of how the Amalekites had overtaken God’s people, devastating lives and property. David was in great distress, as his own people spoke of stoning him because they blamed him for the disaster. “But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). As he turned to the Lord (verse 8), he was assured that all that was lost would be restored to him. In verse 19, we see the final outcome: “David recovered all.”

David got back his family and his goods, but there was so much more that was restored to him. Most important was that he regained his confidence in God, his assurance that God was still with him. The power of his anointing was renewed, along with a new hatred for the enemy. On that day David got his diploma! He had learned to inquire of the Lord and to encourage himself in the Lord. From that day on, he grew stronger and stronger—and prevailed.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

WHEN YOU DO RIGHT AND THINGS STILL GO WRONG

David is an example of a man who had a heart for God, a type of one who did right (except for the sin of Bathsheba and Uriah). “David did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:5). From the moment Samuel poured oil over him, anointing him king over Israel, “the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). It is said, “Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him. . . . David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and the Lord was with him. . . . And Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David” (1 Samuel 18:12, 14, 28).

So what does David get for all this goodness? Trouble on all sides! But remember, God was still with him.

Think back to when this same godly man stood fearlessly before the giant Goliath. Think of the crowds cheering, “David has slain his ten thousands.” Now he shrinks in fear and his best friend has been alienated from him. He is so gripped by panic that he pretends to be mad in order to save his skin. He ends up hiding out in the cave Adullam with four hundred discontented has-beens gathered to him. David said, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul: there is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 27:1). David was now torn by many fears. He must have thought back to the day of his anointing as a big mistake, thinking, “Lord, You can’t be with me; I can’t be Your anointed one. Everything is going wrong. It’s no use. Evidently You are mad at me.” Have you ever said anything like that?

But God had not forsaken David—not for a moment. For we know “the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13). So it is with you and me. The day God’s Spirit brought us to Jesus and anointed us, He came to stay, to abide. In your trial, in your discomfort, He is your comforter. Things may seem to be going wrong, but for you who trust, God has everything under control.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

RESTING IN THE LORD’S TIMING

If you do not believe in Holy Ghost timing, you will never understand why prayers seem to be delayed. Every promise of God will rise up to test you—unless you rest in the Lord’s timing! It is written of Joseph, who helplessly lay prison: “Until the time that his word came: the word of the Lord tried him” (Psalm 105:19). This verse on Holy Ghost timing is sandwiched between these two statements: (1) “Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron” (verse 18) and (2) “The king sent and loosed him . . . and let him go free” (verse 20).

Joseph’s trial of waiting broke his heart. Listen to his pathetic plea to the cupbearer, after Joseph revealed to him that he would be restored and released from prison: “But think on me when it shall be well with thee, and shew kindness, I pray thee, unto me, and make mention of me unto Pharaoh, and bring me out of this house . . . I [have] done nothing that they should put me into the dungeon” (Genesis 40:14-15).

Some would ask where Joseph’s faith was. He was so close to God that he could interpret dreams and mysteries. God spoke to him, so why didn't he just rest and trust in God to get him out? Why such a pitiful plea to the cupbearer to talk to Pharaoh? He was being tried by the Word! You can read it, pray it, preach it, but until it is tested in you, it will not produce life. Some of you are being severely tried by the Word right now. You have seen God answer many prayers, but right now you are looking at a longstanding unanswered prayer. Your crying, your shouting, your uplifted hands, your travail all seem to go unheard with no evidence of an answer anywhere.

Let me tell you what it is going to take to overcome in these last days. We must stand on every promise and pray in faith, effectually, fervently, without doubt, and then wait and rest, trusting the Lord to do what is right, in His time and His way. Few Christians today wait with patience for God to work in His time. The more it is delayed, the angrier some get. Some finally give up, thinking God doesn’t answer.

Say with Habakkuk, “I might rest (wait quietly) in the day of trouble. . . . Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines . . . and the fields shall yield no meat . . . and there be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength . . . and he will make me to walk upon mine high places” (Habakkuk 3:16-19).

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WHEN PRAYERS SEEM TO GO UNANSWERED

Let’s look at the deep agony of a very holy man of the Bible and see if you can figure out who is speaking: “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. He hath led me, and brought me into darkness, but not into light. . . . He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. . . . My strength and my hope is perished from the Lord” (Lamentations 3:1-2, 7-8, 18).

Who was this man who gave up hope, who said God had shut out his prayers? It is no less than the prophet Jeremiah. “Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that our prayer should not pass through” (Lamentations 3:44). But this could also be you and me during some crisis in our lives, when it seems God has shut the heavens. Do you cry with Jeremiah, “I am the one who has seen trouble. I’m in a situation I can’t seem to get out of”?

Do not think Jeremiah continued in despair! Like David, he came into a place of hope and victory. He remembered that his God was full of compassion and tender mercies: “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. . . . For the Lord will not cast off forever: but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lamentations 3:21-26, 31-32).

The psalmist David said, “For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping. The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will receive my prayer” (Psalm 6:8-9). He has bottled every tear, received every cry, listened attentively to every prayer. You can rest assured that if you must go through a hot furnace of affliction, He will be right there with you. God has a purpose for everything He allows, and for every difficult trial He gives special grace.

Monday, November 3, 2014

SO GREAT A SALVATION by Gary Wilkerson

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:1-3, ESV).

The law that God delivered to man “proved to be reliable.” Yet this seems like a paradox. If this law was impossible for any person to keep, how could it be reliable? First of all, the law was never meant to be the means of our salvation; it was meant to show us our need for salvation. And the law reliably did that. Yet time after time Scripture reveals how miserably man failed to keep God’s law.

Note something else in this passage. Once again, the writer uses the word “great” to describe what Jesus has done. Christ has made the perfect covenant with the Father, one that works to secure “such a great salvation” (2:3). Talk about something reliable! Christ’s gift of salvation sets us free from the law of sin and death and is designed to work in our lives. Moreover, the New Covenant of grace is the power of God at work in our lives. It empowers us to follow His commands with His strength, not our own. “God also bore witness . . . by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (2:4).

With such a great gift of salvation, why would anyone neglect it? Here’s why: We are conditioned to respond to laws with works. Even in the realm of faith, we tend to fall back on works. We may give mental assent to being saved by grace, but deep down many of us still believe works are the way to secure God’s blessings.

Our minds are conditioned since childhood to fall back on law-keeping whenever we fail. There are basic rules in every household: Clean your room; help clear the dinner table. It’s a conditional arrangement based on rewards and punishment, and most parents use it to maintain their sanity.

This system may work well in family life, but not in Kingdom life. Yet, since most of us grew up this way, years later we continue to see life through this lens. Whenever we fail in anything, our reflex is to fall back on works.

Works can never achieve what only the cross could provide or add a single degree of holiness to our lives. Works that are truly holy are the result of God’s grace. They’re what we do in gratitude, joy and faithfulness because we’ve been provided “so great a salvation.”

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A BUNCH OF BISCUITS by Carter Conlon

As God calls us to walk in the supernatural—in the things that we consider ourselves unqualified for—it is likely that fears may arise in our heart. This was the case with Gideon and so the Lord instructed him: “And it came to pass the same night, that the Lord said unto him, Arise, get thee down [to the camp of the enemy]; for I have delivered it into thine hand. But if thou fear to go down, go thou with Phurah thy servant . . . And thou shalt hear what they say; and afterward shall thine hands be strengthened to do down unto the host” (Judges 7:9-11).

In other words, “If you are afraid, go down to the enemy’s camp. You are going to hear what they are saying, and it will give you strength to go into what, in the natural, is a suicide mission.”

“Then went he down with Phurah his servant unto the outside of the armed men that were in the host. . . . And when Gideon was come, behold, there was a man that told a dream unto his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and, lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came unto a tent, and smote it that it fell, and overturned it, that the tent lay along. And his fellow answered and said, This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon . . . for into his hand hath God delivered Midian, and all the host” (Judges 7:11-14).

You would expect the Lord to come up with something a bit more extraordinary, perhaps with the Midianite saying, “I saw chariots of angels coming down, thousands and thousands! They were angry, and they killed us all! Let’s get out of here!” No, instead, he saw a loaf of bread roll down a hill, and it just flattened their whole camp. And from that the other man immediately concluded, “Well, this is none other than the sword of God and the sword of Gideon! He has given the whole host into the hand of Gideon!”

How did the enemy know it? They knew because they had been on the receiving end time and time again. They knew what happened when suddenly even just a few of God’s people got up and decided to go forward. They knew what danger was posed to the kingdom of darkness when a barley loaf came rolling down the hill!

Do you know what a barley loaf is? It is nothing more than a bunch of biscuits that get together and decide to move as one! You and I are living in an hour when we must surrender our pride and our human reasoning; we must surrender wanting to be seen as someone greater than we are. We are all biscuits invited to a banquet—every last one of us. I have always been nothing, I am still nothing, and I will always be nothing. All I have is what God chooses to give me.

__________
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.