Saturday, February 28, 2015

CALLED TO STEP OUT by Claude Houde

A fast and limited chronological reading of the text in Genesis 11 and 12 could lead a novice reader of the Bible to suppose that Abraham’s father was dead when God extended to him His divine hand of destiny. However, a simple study of the lifespan and ages of the historical figures involved, along with a rigorous analysis of the genealogies, shows us clearly that this wasn't the case at all.

Bible interpreters agree that Abraham had to leave the land of little and barrenness, and the comfort and compromise in which his father had been complacently lying, at a time when his father was living. He had to come out of his father’s house. Faith with a refusal is faith that will receive the supernatural because it is determined not to die in the land of little and obeys the call to “come out of your father's house” (see Genesis 12:1).

Dear reader, I am not speaking here of spiritual pride and arrogance or of the pretentious, condescending attitude that despises one’s elders or blames the past generations for all of our present challenges. We’re not called to compare ourselves with anyone and we are called to honor our fathers and mothers in the flesh and in the faith. We cherish our heritage, hold on to what is precious, and celebrate the good and the authentic testimony of so many who have walked before us.

However, I am convinced that faith with a desire to receive the supernatural must aspire to more than what has been the norm, more than what is around us or was before us. It refuses the mentality of mediocrity and of minimum required. Whatever the nature and limitation of your family history or spiritual background, God calls you to come out of your father’s house. Saul’s armor will not be sufficient to slay present-day giants. You must come out of your father’s house.

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

Friday, February 27, 2015

IT PAYS TO OBEY

“By faith Moses . . . refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt. . . . By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

Moses could have had all the gold and silver, the horses, the harem, all the luxuries and pleasures of materialistic Egypt! He was a prince in Egypt, from the royal court of Pharaoh. But he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter.” And that decision cost him everything. He considered the reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures in Egypt, preferring to suffer with God’s people. Moses had his eyes on Jesus his Lord and not on the things of this world.

Does it pay to obey? Does it pay to heed God’s message? Compare these two men of the Bible: Solomon, looking over his life, said, “Whatsoever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, I withheld not my heart from any joy. . . . Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought . . . and, behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11). Solomon went on to say in Ecclesiastes:

“Therefore I hated life” (2:17).

“[My] heart taketh not rest in the night” (2:23).

“I praised the dead . . . more than the living” (4:2).

“There is a sore evil . . . namely, riches kept for [my own] hurt” (5:13).

“I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands” (7:26).

But look at Moses: At one hundred and twenty years of age, his eyes were ablaze and all his physical forces were at full strength when God called him home. God personally took the body of Moses!

Here is God’s testimonial left to mankind concerning Moses: “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh” (Deuteronomy 34:10-11). It pays to obey!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

THE RESULT OF DISOBEDIENCE

Disobedience to God’s Word will eventually end up in a breakdown of morals and Christian character.

It all begins with an act of blatant disobedience to a clear word from God. Add to that a half-hearted conviction for sin, a half-hearted repentance, and you will end up like Solomon: an absolute degenerate! “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God. . . . For Solomon went after Ashtoreth . . . the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord. . . . And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel” (1 Kings 11:4-9). These words send chills up my spine!

Solomon was now gospel-hardened. The Word of God had no impact on him whatsoever. He was so pathetic! Where once he built a house for one strange woman, there now stood a huge harem. The daughter of Pharaoh had become but one of a thousand lovers! Solomon himself was now old and haggard, while God was silent and angry with him. He no longer prayed to God and he had no joy left. His heart was sick as he wrote pitiful prose about the vanity and uselessness of life. Jerusalem had become polluted with heathen temples, built with high taxes. The king drank heavily, bored by all his gorgeous houses and gardens. His heart was full of idolatry, the days of touching God but faint memories. “All is vanity—it’s all for nothing” (see Ecclesiastes 1:14).

Is this the same man who once prayed so eloquently at the temple dedication? “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man . . . which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house: then hear thou in heaven . . . and forgive . . . and give to every man according to his ways, whose heart thou knowest . . . that they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers” (1 Kings 8:38-40). So go ahead—cling to your idols! Justify your areas of disobedience and excuse your little sins! One day it will break out into a raging, uncontrollable fire of immorality and apostasy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

HALF-AND-HALF CHRISTIANS

Solomon compartmentalized his life: half for God and half for his pleasures. The Word of God halfway convicted him. He experienced halfway sorrow, halfway repentance—with halfway changes! I don’t know what happened, but Solomon got halfway convicted about his heathen wife living in the holy place near the ark. So he decided to move her out—halfway across town! “Solomon brought up the daughter of Pharaoh out of the city of David unto the house that he had built for her: for he said, My wife shall not dwell in the house of David . . . because the places are holy, whereunto the ark of the Lord hath come” (2 Chronicles 8:11).

The truth was that Solomon didn’t want to give her up! He knew in his heart it was all wrong and it was nagging him on the inside. I can hear him saying, “Yes, I’ve got to do something about this. I’m going to show the Lord I want to do the right thing.” But did he ship her back to Egypt?

Our churches today are filled with half-and-half Christians—halfway convicted by the Word and halfway repentant—making halfway changes in their lives. There is little of “trembling at the Word.” I hear so many who are still living in blatant sin, still doing the same old things. They say, “God knows I mean to do well. He sees my heart. I really love the Lord. I’ve made some changes and I’m doing better.” It’s not enough to mean well. We must do it!

Solomon had built the temple and had finished all his building projects. But he was still living in disobedience in these areas, seeing no danger in it. Yet God was so merciful that He continued answering his prayers. Solomon was still going up three times a year to offer sacrifices and was joyful and glad in the presence of the Lord.

I believe this is the most dangerous position a Christian can be in: His prayers are still getting through and there is joy and gladness. There remain, however, areas of disobedience where the Word is not the absolute authority, while the believer is blind to the deterioration taking place. God again appeared to Solomon with a strong sermon, a powerful Word: “Walk in integrity. Obey My Word.” All the while, Solomon was slipping away from God, growing hard and insensitive to the Word, blinded by His blessings and mercies. How many Christians get blessed, feel God’s Spirit, get happy in Him, and say, “Everything’s all right because God is blessing me”?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

SERMON-PROOF

To be sermon-proof is to hear God’s Word, claim to love it, profess to obey it, but then not act on it! It is to become so hardened, the heart is no longer moved and is totally unaffected by what is preached. Some call it “gospel-hardened.”

Think of all the old Bible stories and Bible characters. Who do you think was the most sermon-proof? Who sat under the clearest, strongest word and was totally unaffected by it?

Was it Saul? He heard a clear, strong word: “Go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Samuel 15:3). Saul disobeyed this message. Instead, “Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good” (1 Samuel 15:9). Then Samuel appeared and Saul became a liar! “Saul said unto him . . . I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:13). Samuel was horrified because he could hear the bellowing of the sheep that were spared. “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but did what was evil in His sight?” (see 1 Samuel 15:19).

Was Saul hardened? Was he sermon-proof? Why else would he tell such bold-faced lies to a prophet of God who had the goods on him? Listen to him lie again with the evidence of his lying all about him: “Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me” (1 Samuel 15:20). Caught red-handed, Saul blamed others and contrived incredible excuses for his sin: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen . . . to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God” (1 Samuel 15:21).

Samuel got to the heart of the problem. He knew that Saul was sermon-proof because his heart had already been given over to witchcraft. “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee” (1 Samuel 15:23). Sermon-proof Saul ended up getting guidance from a witch and died an early, cruel death.

Monday, February 23, 2015

EVERY GLORIOUS WORK by Gary Wilkerson

God is behind every glorious work and He will not share His glory. He will not allow any obstacle to get in the way of the shining brilliance of His Son. Therefore, He needs clean vessels to do His work. At the peak moment when His blessings and power are flowing freely through His people, He tells them, “Pause now and put it all on hold. I want you to examine your heart.”

That is the word I sensed God wanted me to preach when our church celebrated our third anniversary. You can imagine my hesitation. I pictured the whole congregation staring at me, puzzled, thinking, “Wait! You’re telling us we’re all great, but then you turn around and say we need to change.” It would be like the husband who takes his wife to dinner for their anniversary and says, “Honey, I was hoping to talk about the extra weight you’ve put on.”

That’s not exactly what it’s like when God asks us to examine ourselves. After all, we’re aware that our righteousness is as filthy rags, that we need His grace. But the fact is, just when we’re poised on the brink of God’s greatest work in our lives, He asks us to reflect on these questions: “Is there anything in my heart that’s displeasing to the Lord? Have I neglected to do something He has asked of me? I want nothing in my life to hinder what God wants to do.”

God is forever bringing His people to this point. Why? Because before He can bring about His best, He has to do something deep in us. He wants to give us His victory, but He also wants our complete devotion to Him.

What is the Lord putting His finger on in your life? Is it to take away one small thing? Or to add something you’ve neglected? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice. Dealing with one small thing can determine your whole future. Will you examine it? If so, you can know God’s best is ahead—and you can rest assured that you have pleased the One who wants to bless you.

“Let us test and examine our ways” (Lamentations 3:40, ESV).

Saturday, February 21, 2015

GOD HAS NEVER LET ME DOWN by Nicky Cruz

Are you longing to do great things for God—to serve Him and love Him until your dying breath? Are you wanting God to define a glorious future for you?

Then stop trying to do it on your own. Don’t try to set a course for your life and then ask God to bless it. Instead, spend your time getting to know Him. Learn to bask in His presence. Worship Him with abandon. Praise Him and love Him from the depths of your soul. Obey Him, even in the smallest detail. Pray and meditate on His Word. Appreciate the glory of creation!

Learn to set your heart on God, and God alone, and He will take notice.

There is one truth you can know for certain: God has a covenant prepared just for you. A special plan and purpose set aside for your future. And it is more glorious than you could ever imagine on your own. If He hasn’t laid this covenant on your heart, it is only because He knows you are not ready. He’s waiting for you. Watching. Longing to share this vision with you and help you embrace it.

When I was a young man in my early twenties, confused about my future, I could never have imagined the plans God had for my life. I was just a young man in love with Jesus, longing to spend the rest of my days in His presence. I had no idea He had a covenant prepared for me. No idea He had such a powerful purpose for my life.

At the time I couldn’t even begin to imagine myself as an evangelist. I was young and unprepared. I had no capabilities that would have led me to think I could preach in front of an audience. My Bible knowledge was immature and limited. My accent was thick and my manners were awkward. I was just a streetwise kid, and that was all I had going for me.

But I loved Jesus with a passion, and I determined to obey God, regardless of what He would have me do. So I embraced His covenant, little by little, day by day, month by month. I tried my best to stay faithful. And God has never let me down!

__________

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, February 20, 2015

THEY STOOD IN THE GAP

All the mourning, brokenhearted men of God in the Bible had one thing in common: They identified with the sins of the remnant!

They never prayed like the publican, “Thank God I am not like others.” They mourned over the adultery, treachery and compromise but humbly prayed, “God, I am also guilty.” Not guilty of those gross sins, but of falling short of God’s glory.

Ezra prayed, “O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift up my face to thee, my God: for our iniquities are increased over our head, and our trespass is grown up unto the heavens. . . . All that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass . . . behold, we are before thee in our trespasses: for we cannot stand before thee because of this” (Ezra 9:6, 13, 15). “Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God” (verse 10:1).

Nehemiah prayed, “We have sinned against thee: both I and my father's house have sinned. We have dealt very corruptly against thee” (Nehemiah 1:6-7).

Daniel also identified with the sins of God’s people. He prayed, “We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: neither have we harkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. . . . I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people” (Daniel 9:5-6, 20).

These were all holy men, blameless before God. They were not compromising or mixing with the world. Still they stood in the gap, confessing the sins of the people as well as their own.

If you follow in the same path as these men and determine in your heart as they did to seek the Lord—fasting, praying, weeping, mourning for sin—it will have the same effect on you. God’s hand will touch you, and He will send His word to you. You will share the very heart of God and enter into His glorious presence. And once there, you will understand how far short of His glory we all have fallen.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

TOUCHED BY GOD’S HAND

Nehemiah was a man of great intensity for God. “Hannai, one of my brethren, came, he and certain men of Judah; and I asked them concerning the Jews that had escaped, which were left of the captivity, and concerning Jerusalem. And they said unto me, The remnant that are left of the captivity there in the province are in great affliction and reproach: the wall of Jerusalem also is broken down, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:2-4).

The remnant had returned to the holy place, but reproach and lethargy had crept in. Things were still in a dilapidated condition—no spiritual progress was being made.

Scripture says Nehemiah began to weep, mourn and “pray night and day” (verse 6). It was not a matter of being awakened by God in the middle of the night and a burden being dropped into his soul. No! This man of God initiated the burden! He asked for it! “I asked my brethren about the remnant” (see verse 2).

Likewise Daniel spent hours, days and weeks studying God’s Word. God did not drop a supernatural burden into his heart; rather, Daniel chastened his own heart. He developed and nurtured a true burden for God’s people by diligently studying and gaining an understanding of what God was saying. “I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

Talk about intensity, mourning and weeping! Daniel said, “I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. . . . I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:2-3, 8).

When the hand of God touched Daniel, these words came from the throne: “From the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (verse 12). In Hebrew, the word “chasten” means to browbeat the flesh in order to bring it into submission. Paul also said, “I bring my body under subjection!”

The Lord is going to have a people today who are wholly given to His work—intense, passionate and broken—giving every spare hour and dollar to that which represents His interests on earth.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

THE SPIRIT OF INTENSITY

When God is about to do a new work, He pours out a spirit of intensity upon His people. We can no longer be spiritually lazy, complacent, nonchalant and easygoing. We must become intense, full of heat and passion toward Christ, feeling deeply and seriously about the work of God. Today God is raising up a people who hate sin and tremble at His Word. His remnant must hear and believe in holy prophets. They must not vacillate and grow lukewarm; instead, they must grow more serious for God as the days go by.

Consider the intensity of Ezra. Look closely at his passion against anything that hurts God, and you will see his utter hatred of mixing with the world. “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonished. Then were assembled unto me every one that trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the transgression of those that had been carried away; and I sat astonished until the evening sacrifice” (Ezra 9:3-4).

What a scene! Ezra was sitting as a heap of godly sorrow, pulling out his hair and beard “because of the transgression of those that had been [swept] away” (verse 4). One by one, all who had a trembling heart gathered around him. God had just one man who would blush over sin—and through him a body of mourners was brought forth.

“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore” (Ezra 10:1).

Whole households of God’s people are cozying up to the world but many of you are crying for holiness and separation! You feel God’s grief for sin and you blush in shame. You know it is time to get serious about walking with Him.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

WHAT IS HOLY GHOST BLUSHING?

“For from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even unto the priest every one dealeth falsely. . . . Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? Nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore they shall fall among them that fall: at the time that I visit them they shall be cast down, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 6:13, 15).

The prophet Jeremiah saw a horrible condition coming upon God’s people. To hide their sins they had begun living behind a facade of superficial peace and security. Greed and covetousness had so overcome their hearts that they camouflaged their hurts with a phony brokenness. Their entire lives had become superficial—superficial tears, superficial repentance, even superficial healing.

God’s people had lost their sense of shame and grief for sin—sin in society and sin in their own lives. They no longer felt God’s hatred and wrath against iniquity. Sin had become “just one of those things.”

Jeremiah cried out, “Were they ashamed when they sinned? No! They were not at all ashamed—neither could they blush!”

Holy Ghost blushing is not just red cheeks from simple modesty. It is feeling wounded, ashamed, devastated—grieved that the name and purity of Jesus our Lord has been trampled, that His reputation has been smeared.

God’s people sat under a message of searing truth yet they turned away from it. They rebelled against it! “They have made their faces harder than a rock; they have refused to return” (Jeremiah 5:3). They were committing adultery by romping with harlots and lusting after their neighbors’ wives. In verse 11 of the same chapter, Jeremiah called it outright treachery against the Lord!

In spite of all the prophetic warnings by Jeremiah, these people went their merry way, saying, “Neither shall evil come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine” (verse 12). “Judgment is not God’s message for us,” they said.

God warned His people to heed the instructions of the word being delivered to them or He would depart from them. “Be thou instructed, O Jerusalem, lest my soul depart from thee” (Jeremiah 6:8). And again God said: “I am speaking clearly! I am warning! But who is listening?”

Monday, February 16, 2015

EXTRAORDINARY FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

Do you sense that God is about to unleash something tremendous in your life? Perhaps He has spoken to your heart: “I have prepared something special for you. You’re about to enter a walk with Me that you’ve never known before.” Maybe your life has already been greatly blessed by God. Now the Holy Spirit is telling you that His longstanding promise is about to come into full fruition—and that it will amaze you.

If this describes your life right now, I can tell you with the authority of Scripture: Get ready to examine your heart.

Let’s talk about what I call experiencing “crazy faith.” Crazy faith is believing that no matter how good things are, the best is yet to come. It’s a faith that says, “As much as we dream and do big things for God’s kingdom, His vision is always greater.” What the Lord has done in the brief existence of the church I pastor has exceeded my wildest expectations. Not a week has gone by when someone has not given his or her life to Jesus—and most weeks it’s multiple people. Whenever we distribute food to the poor, many of them ask, “Why are you doing this?” We answer, “It’s Jesus,” and they give their lives to Him.

This is all happening miraculously. In a few short years our church attendance has grown phenomenally. New believers are quickly maturing into faithful disciples, growing in their knowledge of God. They are well on their way to our ultimate goal for them: to become radically devoted missionaries for Jesus, wherever He may lead them.

God isn’t just exceeding our expectations, He’s showing us what His expectations are, and it is amazing to see. There are still a quarter of a million people in our area alone who don’t know Christ, and the Lord stirred us to plant two new churches here, one in a troubled area of the city. I’m simply astonished by God’s great works.

Here is the craziest part of all: I believe greater things are yet to come.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, ESV).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

HIS HAND OF LOVE by Jim Cymbala

Maintaining doctrinal purity is good but it is not the whole picture for a New Testament church. The apostles wanted to do much more than simply “hold the fort,” as the old gospel song says. They asked God to empower them to move out and impact an entire culture.

In too many places where the Bible is being thumped and doctrine is being argued until three in the morning, the Spirit of that doctrine is missing. William Law, an English devotional writer of the early 1700s, wrote, “Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so delighted with it—yet it will leave you as poor, as empty and unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full union with and dependence upon Him.”

One way to recognize whether we suffer from this disconnection is to look at our concern for people who are dirt . . . people who are “other” . . . people who don’t fit the core group’s image. The idea that a church could be called to serve just one designated class is not found in the New Testament. The ravages of sin are not pleasant—but they are what Jesus came to forgive and heal. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). The Spirit of God is a Spirit of mercy, of compassion, of reaching out.

Yet Christians often hesitate to reach out to those who are different. They want God to clean the fish before they catch them. If someone’s gold ring is attached to an unusual body part, if the person doesn’t smell the best, or if the skin color is not the same, Christians tend to hesitate. But think for a moment about God reaching out to us. If ever there was a “reach” that was it: the holy, pure Deity extending Himself to us who were soiled, evil-hearted, unholy. God could have said, “You’re so different from Me, so distasteful, I would really rather not get too close to you.” But He didn’t say that. It was our very differentness that drew His hand of love.

Jesus didn’t just speak the healing word to lepers from a distance . . . He touched them. “And He put forth His hand and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him” (Luke 5:13).

__________

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 and longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson, Cymbala is a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world.

Friday, February 13, 2015

IT IS WRITTEN

“It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (4:7). “For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (4:10). When Jesus was confronted with the devil’s schemes, He overcame them with God’s Word.

Today we have yet another, “It is written”—“I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). You can tell the devil, “You may try to tear down my faith, but you need to know this: my Jesus is praying for me!”

Peter’s faith was tested, shaken, and because of his pride he stumbled. But in answer to the Master’s prayer, the roots of his faith had not been destroyed. Just when Satan was shouting with glee and it looked as if the Lord has lost an anointed friend, Peter looked into the eyes of Jesus and melted! “And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. . . . And Peter went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:61-62).

“Wept bitterly” in Greek means “a piercing, violent cry.” “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice” (22:61). I picture this man walking toward the Judean hills, falling on his face with hands outstretched, crying, “Oh, Father, He was so right! I did not listen. He warned me that Satan would attempt to destroy my faith. Die for Jesus? Why, I couldn’t even stand up to a maid! Forgive me! I love Him! To whom shall I go?”

I believe Peter’s faith took hold of something else Jesus had said: “And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). How many times did Peter play this over in his mind and heart, pondering to himself, “Didn’t Jesus say converted? Didn’t He say I still had a ministry? After what I did, I’m supposed to help others?”

God answered His Son’s prayer. I can see Peter standing up with the Spirit of God flowing through him, hands raised to the sky, saying, “Satan, be gone! I failed Him, but I still love Him. He promised—in fact, He prophesied—that I would come back and be a strength to others, a rock. I’m going back to my brothers and sisters!”

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I HAVE PRAYED FOR YOU

The Lord said to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:32). I look at this wonderful example of Christ’s love and realize I know almost nothing about how to love those who fall. Surely Jesus is the “friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

Jesus sees both the good and the bad in Peter and concludes, “This man is worth saving! Satan desires him, but I desire him all the more.” Peter truly loved the Lord and the Lord truly loved Peter even though He knew his personality traits.

Jesus said, “I have prayed for you!” not, “I will pray!” Jesus probably had spent many hours with His Father talking about Peter—how He loved him, how needed he was in the Kingdom, how He valued him as a friend.

Lord, give all of us that kind of love! That way, when we see someone compromising or heading for trouble or disaster, we will love them enough to warn them as firmly as Jesus did Peter. Then we will be able to say, “I’m praying for you!” We need to say it in love, not in an accusing way.

Take those people to God’s throne; plead for them to come through their trials with their faith intact. Jesus did not lecture Peter. Rather, Jesus said simply, “I’ve prayed for you.”

“I have prayed for you.” In the Greek, you is plural, meaning “all of you.” Jesus was speaking not only to Peter but to all the disciples—and to us today. “I pray for them; I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. . . . Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me. . . . I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil” (John 17:9, 11, 15).

No matter what you’re going through, no matter what lies ahead of you, if you have a heart full of love for Jesus, He is praying for you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

GIRDED WITH GLADNESS

There is only one way to cheer up your heart and stay in gladness. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. . . . My tears have been my meat day and night. . . . I pour out my soul in me. . . . Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance” (Psalm 42:2-5). This is God’s message to all who are “cast down”—all those who are sad, defeated, low, blue, discouraged and joyless.

Why am I depressed? Why am I gloomy and sad? Why am I overwhelmed? Why do I mourn? David does not even try to answer these questions in this psalm. All he can say is, “Hope in God! He is the help of my countenance.”

To those who patiently, expectantly wait on God, “the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me” (42:8).

God has given clear warning that it is a most serious matter to Him when we do not serve Him with gladness. In Deuteronomy 28, we learn of all the curses and diseases that overtake the unbelieving: “All these curses shall come upon thee. . . . Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness, and with gladness of heart, for the abundance of all things” (28:45-47).

God says, “You have focused on some little hurt, some wrongful thing, and in doing so you have forgotten all the blessings and wonderful things I have done for you!”

Christ will turn your hopelessness into rejoicing and clothe you with gladness—if you will release your faith to Him. “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11). Saints, rejoice in the God of hope—and live!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

THERE IS A RIVER

“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalms 46:4-5).

Yes, the river is Jesus—His very presence. The moment you cast down all doubt and fear, and cry out, “Lord, I believe, and in You I have hope, abounding hope,” you will be transplanted to the banks of this river by the power of the Holy Ghost.

The reason it is so important to get your roots down deep in God is because the worst is yet to come!

“If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”(Jeremiah 12:5).

These are supposed to be good times. We live in a mild shower compared to the coming storm. This is child’s play compared to the troubles ahead. You may think you are going through something pretty awful, but it is peaceful in light of the distress that is soon coming upon the earth!

We are going to have to get our roots down deep! If you are not drawing strength from Him today, you will not endure when gross darkness covers the earth. You and I are now being tested by “light afflictions” (2 Corinthians 4:17) to drive us to the Lord, to make us dig deep to get into the secret reservoir of life.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. . . . He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8, ESV).

Monday, February 9, 2015

THINGS DEVOTED TO DESTRUCTION by Gary Wilkerson

The Lord warned Israel against taking any spoils from the enemies they defeated. Why this prohibition? It was so they would not trust in the power of man or try to conquer their enemies for material gain. God wanted their eyes fixed on things above, not on things “devoted to destruction” (material goods that would fade like the grass—see Joshua 6:18).

But one man, Achan, decided to take some things for himself. “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them” (Joshua 7:21, esv). It wasn’t much, really—just a pretty coat and a handful of silver and gold. Yet it’s always just one little thing that God puts His finger on. Why? Because He knows that one thing can hinder the fulfillment of His whole destiny for us.

Do you have something you’ve been negligent about—one thing that could hold back God’s best for you? For many of us, these could be reasonable things. Perhaps a desire to hold on to savings that the Lord wants us to give away, or clinging to a demanding career that takes us away from our family. Like Achan, we can hold on to something “insignificant” without considering what it does to our hearts. God says to us, “Yes! Take out that thing that doesn’t belong. Get at it because just one small hidden thing can hinder the unparalleled victory that I want to give you.”

Our God wants to do mighty things through us. He wants to express His love to the world through us. So if we’re clinging to one thing that gets in the way of His accomplishing that—some willfulness, some refusal to trust Him for everything—He points it out to us.

What is the Lord putting His finger on in your life? Is it to take away one small thing? Or to add something you’ve neglected? Don’t delay in your response to the Spirit’s faithful voice.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

THE DEADLINESS OF SIN by Carter Conlon

“Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children. And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 12:14-15).

These are the words of Paul, a man whose heart and life were an embodiment of Jesus Christ. Paul’s life was given for the people of God, as is the case with every true servant of God. He was willing to travel through storm, flood and fire; to endure personal longing and want; to be pressed above measure to the point where he even despaired of living—all in order that he might come to the people of God with a message of His love. However, Paul found that the more love he would express, the more certain people would pull away. Why would that be the case?

I believe we find the answer in the next chapter: “This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. I told you before, and foretell you, as if I were present, the second time; and being absent now I write to them which heretofore have sinned, and to all other, that, if I come again, I will not spare” (2 Corinthians 13:1-2).

Remember, the Corinthian church was coming out of what could be considered an immoral abyss. In the middle of their city stood a major temple with more than a thousand prostitutes—prostitution was actually considered an act of worship in that society. Clearly, wrong had become right, and right had become wrong.

Paul was an apostle and pastor, so he was aware of the deadliness of sin. He understood the peril of those who fall into the trap of continually justifying wrong. That is the dilemma of the human condition—the longer we do something the Word of God defines as sin, the more our fallen nature rises to the fore and begins to determine what is wrong and what is right. Paul knew that if the people continued to willfully do wrong, making peace with those things from which Christ died to set them free, the victory of the cross could not be rightfully claimed as their own.

After all, those who do so would be left with only an illusion; in other words, they would have knowledge with no power behind it. And so, as a true spiritual father to the Corinthian church, Paul was attempting to bring them into a right way of thinking and living. That is why he said, “I will not spare.” Sadly, that is the point where many chose to draw back.

__________ 

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, February 6, 2015

DRAWING WATER FROM THE RIVER OF LIFE

Why are some believers full of peace and joy, radiating the glow of spiritual life and health to all they meet? Is it because they don’t have my problems? No! The truth is, they may have more than you—in fact, more than most people!

But these saints learned the secret of having roots in God’s river. If you are rooted in the river, you don’t need a revival; you don’t need showers of blessings; you don’t need a special outpouring; you don’t need a flood of sudden victory. And because you enjoy a constant hour-by-hour flow of life-giving water, you are not constantly moving from dry spell to blessing, from lows to highs, from revival to coldness. Spiritual famine doesn’t touch you; the scorching heat of apostasy doesn’t faze you because you are drawing water from the river of life!

If I had to choose between revival and roots, I’d take roots any day. For long after revival is gone, I would still thrive because of my roots, which would supply me daily with all I need.

Ezekiel saw a river of life issuing from the sanctuary. “By the river upon the bank thereof . . . shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit . . . because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine” (Ezekiel 47:12).

God showed this prophet a river coming out of His holy temple. As time went by, it swelled from a trickle to a river in which he could swim. Ezekiel saw a man measuring the growing stream of life, until it became “a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in” (Ezekiel 47:5). You see, the early Church experienced water that reached the ankles; the Reformation had water reaching the loins. And in this day and age, the water has risen so much that we now have water to swim in!

On the bank of this river are many trees, all green and bearing fruit. And who are these trees? All those with roots of trust in Him. “And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and everything shall live whither the river cometh” (Ezekiel 47:9).

Thursday, February 5, 2015

IN THE RIVER OF GOD

 “For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters” (Jeremiah 17:8). Here the secret of living in constant hope is revealed—the secret of being full of joy and peace in the Holy Ghost. It is not found in trying to reform, in making promises to God that you can’t keep.

The person who experiences this promise can no longer be hurt by people because he does not hope in them. His expectations are all in the Lord. He does not care what man says or does; his eyes are on the Lord alone. And the Lord never fails or lets him down!

“For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river” (Jeremiah 17:8). An amazing Hebrew word is used here for “planted”—it actually means “transplanted.” Faith uproots the dry, fruitless desert-shrub that is scorched, lonely and ugly and transplants it by the living stream of the waters flowing from Lebanon.

David said, “There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city [people] of God. . . . God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early” (Psalm 46:4-5). And David said of God: “Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water . . . thou blessest the springing thereof” (Psalm 65:9-10).

Put your roots down deep in His river and you will not fear when the heat comes. For your “leaf [appearance] shall be green [fresh, alive]” (Jeremiah 17:8). The drought—the dry spells—will not affect you, and you will constantly bear fruit.

You will not be continually tired, weeping, lonely, dry and feeling forsaken. Instead, you can be transplanted simply by giving Him your trust and faith by resting in His Word. And soon you will grow roots down deep into His river of life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

DRAWING WATER FROM THE LORD’S WELL

One of the great wonders of America is the incredible New York aqueduct. Made of bricks, it is all underground and runs for miles and miles from upstate, bringing water to this metropolis. What would happen if that aqueduct were cut off and suddenly there was no water supply flowing to the city? New York City would become a “parched place . . . a salt land and not inhabited” (Jeremiah 17:6). We can exist without gas but not without water.

The same thing happens in our lives! When people lose hope, rather than run to the Lord they clam up and run inward. They curl up on the inside and give up hope, and their hearts become a parched place, a salt land.

Today many Christians are experiencing overwhelming despair, much like what I have just described. But God is saying this to His people: “You are in despair because you do not trust in Me. You turn to others—to doctors, to friends, to counselors, to medicine, to finances. You are not uplifted by My promises; you feel dry, empty and lonely because you are not drawing water from My well.”

In Jeremiah 18:13-14 God points out an incredibly horrible sin being committed by His own people. “Therefore thus saith the Lord; Ask ye now among the heathen, who hath heard such things: the virgin of Israel hath done a very horrible thing. Will a man leave the snow of Lebanon which cometh from the rock of the field? Or shall the cold flowing waters that come from another place be forsaken?”

What is this horrible thing God’s people are committing?

Like the cold, refreshing waters that flow down from melting snow, God gives an unceasing supply of power to His people. This water is the water of strength, available and unfailing. Yet God’s people often continue on their way—dry, empty and sad, saying, “We have been left to ourselves. We’ll just go our own forsaken way, unwanted!”

This is a picture of despairing Christians who have forgotten the promises of God, who sit dejected beside a flowing stream of God’s love, thinking, “The Lord is not at work in my life. I’m just going to have to grit my teeth and do the best I can. It’s no use hoping anymore. I have to do what I can to survive!”

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

ENJOYING PEACE AND JOY IN THE LORD

“Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5-8).

Jeremiah introduces two immutable laws of spiritual life here: One leads to life and hope and the other to death and hopelessness. These are the keys to understanding why some Christians enjoy constant peace and joy in the Lord, while others grope in despair and hopelessness.

How can you know when you are trusting in man rather than in God? If you fall apart when someone else lets you down, or if the actions of others affect your walk with God, then you know you are leaning on the arm of flesh!

If you put your trust in man, you are guaranteed to get hurt because at some point someone will let you down and deeply disappoint you. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Much of the hurting and hopelessness you experience is a result of being let down by someone you trusted. A wife may argue, “If only my husband would change, I’d be happy! He really has hurt me deeply. He neglects me and doesn’t even try to understand. He is killing my love.”

Your problem is not a husband problem, it is a God problem. Jeremiah says you are like a shrub in the desert—not seeing when the good comes, but rather inhabiting the parched places in the wilderness. This means you are cut off from your true supply of happiness and hope. You have neglected the Lord and are not drawing on His living water. You have become like a dead, dry desert shrub—fruitless and barren!

Do not trust in someone or something other than God to bring you happiness and hope. What you think will solve your problem might only make you feel worse.

Monday, February 2, 2015

PREPARING FOR BATTLE by Gary Wilkerson

The first six chapters of Joshua describe the glorious work God did among His people when they first entered the Promised Land. Israel had been freed after four hundred years in bondage and then they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years. But now they were at the border of Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey that He had promised them years before. So they crossed over—and what happened? Immediately Joshua turned to the younger generation of men and separated them unto God. Scripture uses the word “circumcised” to describe their preparation, but the deeper meaning is, “They were made ready” (see Joshua 5:2-7).

Why did Joshua do this? Now that they had crossed over the Jordan River, they faced the thick, impenetrable walls of Jericho. In the natural, conquering this enemy would have been impossible for the ragtag Israelites. Yet God was telling them, “I have blessed you with My incredible riches these recent years, but your work is not yet finished.”

How did the Israelites prepare for this battle? They didn’t sharpen their swords and shine their armor. Instead, the preparation took place inside their hearts. God commanded them to circle the city singing songs, praying and waiting on Him. Finally, He had them raise up their trumpets and issue a single blast. In an instant, those mighty walls came tumbling down.

Joshua and his men then performed mighty exploits, defeating their enemies, inheriting greater lands and seeing victories as never before. In fact, Joshua did something even Moses did not do: He defeated thirty-one kings. That was a tenfold increase over the kings Moses had defeated. I believe this is a picture of what the Lord wants to do in all our lives. He wants to bring a tenfold increase; He wants to pour out His Spirit in amazing ways! And He wants us to believe He wants to do it all. In short, He wants us to possess a crazy faith.

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you’” (Joshua 3:5, ESV).