Tuesday, March 31, 2015

KEEPING THE FAITH

The Lord desires a people who will keep faith even if they suffer the loss of all things.

“But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions . . . and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:32, 34). 


This is speaking of God’s people who had been greatly afflicted “after they were illuminated.” They had seen the light! Their goods were lost, but faith made them joyful because their eyes were on a more “enduring substance.”

If you lost all your earthly possessions, would you cast away your confidence?

Paul kept the faith in good times and bad times. In his final days he could boast, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). He could say, “Satan sent messengers to fight me in Jerusalem, Damascus, Asia, Ephesus, Antioch, and Corinth. But I kept the faith! Five times the Jews beat me with thirty-nine stripes. I’ve been cast into prison so many times, beaten with rods three times, stoned, robbed, even by my own countrymen—but I kept the faith!

“I’ve been so weary at times, full of pain, hungry, thirsty, cold and naked, loaded down with cares of all kinds, yet I kept the faith. I’ve been troubled, perplexed, distressed, persecuted, but never cast down, never destroyed, never shaken in my faith.”

These words will sustain us in the days ahead: “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord” (Psalm 112:7).

“The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psalm 121:7-8).

“For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5). “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).

Monday, March 30, 2015

KNOWING THE REAL JESUS by Gary Wilkerson

I believe it has never been more important for the Church and the world to know the real Jesus than it is right now. By “the real Jesus” I mean the only source able to satisfy every human need and longing; every desire to be loved, known and accepted; every hope to have a life of value, worth and purpose.

These things aren’t found in the world. Our culture is fully focused on American Idol-type fame, telling us we’ll be satisfied by money or good looks or popularity. As lovers of God we know that our deepest desires can be satisfied only by Christ.

And yet knowing this, we in the Church often try to reduce Jesus to our own image. Many of us want a Jesus who suits us—a right-wing Republican Jesus or a liberal-leaning Democratic Jesus. There is a black Jesus, a brown Jesus, a white Jesus (whom I call the Holiday Inn Jesus—the one with blow-dried, blond hair who seems to float through the air).

When I speak of “the real Jesus,” I mean the One who satisfies every human hunger and thirst. He cannot be reduced to some limited conception because the Bible says Christ can be known only in His fullness. It takes the whole counsel of God—the full biblical picture—for us to receive, know and faithfully serve Jesus. “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (John 1:16, ESV). In short, we are able to walk in Christ’s grace only as we know Him fully. Anything else is a diminished walk of faith.

John also says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (1:11). This speaks of Christ’s rejection by the Jews, but how much of our Lord do we ignore today? Do we emphasize some of His teachings over others because some are uncomfortable? To what degree have we not accepted Jesus in His fullness?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

THE KING OF SODOM by Claude Houde

In the book of Genesis, we see Abraham, our model of faith, grow, flourish and increase in his fulfillment of what God had prepared for him. Through his life and example, the Bible proposes a life of growth and progress to every believer where he or she who wants to can walk “from faith to faith and strength to strength.” In the 14th chapter of Genesis, Abraham reveals to us one of the most important and yet widely unrecognized secrets of the walk of faith. It will take “increase our faith” deep into our everyday lives and will be of eternal consequence (see Genesis 14:17-24).

This passage shows Abraham returning from the battlefields with a victory. As he came back, Abraham met two kings: the king of Sodom and the king of Salem. The king of Sodom came from the place of fire, of flames. The name “Sodom” means “a scorched place.” Please read his words carefully, for the enemy of our souls still speaks the very same today, in your life and mine. “The king of the place of fire, the scorched place, says, ‘Take the goods, I want the souls.’” Did you get it? Do you hear these words? They make me shudder. There is a modern-day, selfish and egotistical church, ravenously materialistic and hideously self-centered. Her only goal and preoccupation is her wealth and the only message she tolerates is one of blessing, prosperity and material fulfillment. She has been blinded by the eternal nature of this diabolical temptation inspired by hell itself.

Dear reader, have we been influenced by this gospel, obsessed with its own blessing? Have we surrendered the “souls” to our eternal enemy? Jesus teaches that there is a thief that comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. Faith that will refuse and resist in the secret place says “no” to the damning offer from the king of Sodom to live for the “goods,” for this faith is passionate about what is eternal. This faith lives for “the souls.” Faith that resists in the secret place is made possible by the daily renewing of His Spirit burning His divine character in us—pressing us, mobilizing us, renewing in us a passion to serve, to pray, to love, to give, and to simply and daily do whatever is in our power to fulfill that which is our eternal call: to win souls. We resist and refuse to “keep the goods” and lose the souls.

__________

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

Friday, March 27, 2015

THE LOVE OF THE FATHER

The New Testament has much to say about chastisement [educational correction]: “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5-7).

Jesus Himself declared, “As many as I love, I rebuke [correct] and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent” (Revelation 3:19).

Paul wrote, "We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).

The Old Testament, too, speaks of chastisement: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

What you are going through as a child of God is no accident or isolated calamity. Every test, every fiery trial is under His careful scrutiny and there is a purpose to it all. It is “for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

Chastening can seem grievous, as though some strange thing is happening to us. It is not joyous, but after it passes it produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” However, only those who want to learn and are willing to be trained by it will bear fruit.

Satan will speak to you as he did to Job, “The righteous do not suffer! If God heard you, if He saved you, if He loved you, if His promises are true, you should be rescued immediately. Your suffering should not be so prolonged. Where is your God? Is this what your faith gets you?”

Beloved, don’t cast away your faith! Satan is a liar! You are suffering because God loves you, because He cares! You asked the Lord to make you more like Himself and only He knows what that takes. He knows what is about to destroy you and He knows just when to make a way of escape. He won’t act until it is His time.

Don’t faint! God has everything under control, including that pain, that lingering sickness. You might not go all the way if He lifted it right now! Like Paul, you have a thorn that keeps pride away.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

THE REFINER’S FIRE

All the Old Testament prophets foretold God’s people going into the refiner’s fire. “I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried” (Zechariah 13:9).

“For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:2-3).

God said to Jeremiah, “Is not my word like as a fire?” (Jeremiah 23:29). And Jeremiah said, “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jeremiah 20:9). God is once again sending a fiery, refining Word as hot as the coals on His altar! He is turning up the heat. You will see it more and more as the Lord sends forth holy prophets who are purged messengers. “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven” (Malachi 4:1).

Whenever silver or gold is refined by fire, all impurities, alloys, lesser metals, dirt, little specks of waste and dross come to the surface. Satan comes around when God has you in this purifying process and you are sitting under His red-hot Word. As impurities are brought to the surface and hidden corruption is being separated by fire, the devil says, “Look in the pot and tell me what you see. Dirt and impurities of all kinds. The hotter the message—the more the dirt. Look at you, a refiner’s pot of dirt and corruption! You’re never going to make it! You’ve been under the Word for years and all you’ve got is dirt!”

You answer him, “Devil, see that One sitting beside me? That’s my Master, the Refiner. He’s fanning the flames and it is He who put me in this fire. And, devil, that scum is only surface deep! Below that the whole pot is filled with gold! The Lord is getting us ready. See that thing in His hand? It’s a strainer, and when He’s ready, He’s going to skim off the top of the pot and keep skimming until one day He’ll look in there and smile because He sees His own face reflecting back, right there in me!”

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES

God has given us a powerful weapon to use against any attack on our faith. “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Get your eyes off those falling around you. Instead, set your eyes on “the great cloud of witnesses” who have already made it to glory! This verse depicts an army of victorious saints of all ages hovering over us, as if seated in bleachers, cheering on the saints still left in the race! Listen to their cry: “Put away that sin; there is victory! We won! We fought to the death and did not fall—because God kept us! Our faith never wavered. Run with patience, move on, the truth works! We are overcomers!”

So a few preachers fall. So a few thousand preachers fall! So those you trust fall! Does that mean the devil is gaining power? Does that mean there will be only a few victorious ones? Look up and see a great cloud of witnesses, all dressed in white!

Was it worth it all? Ask Noah. “All my generation fell! Only eight of us kept the faith, but we held on for 120 years in spite of the violence, rampant sin and mockery. You, too, can overcome.”

Say to the devil, “If sin is so all powerful and you say everybody is a phony, then what about that great cloud? Where did that army of witnesses come from? If sin is so strong, how did so many get free? Look at that triumphant army of witnesses, waving palms, wearing crowns of righteousness. How did they make it?

“Satan, you robbed and spoiled their homes. You sent in your henchmen to throw their children in the rivers. You cut them in pieces; you cut off their heads, thrust swords through their bellies. You whipped and beat them. You cut their throats—and yet they would not bend. Their faith prevailed!”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

FAITH’S FIERCE WAR

Beloved, we are in a fierce war that is a life-and-death struggle for our faith. Satan is determined to shipwreck and destroy the faith of God’s elect, and the stronger your faith, the greater his attack against it will be.

When faith is shattered or lost, believers become weak and turn to idolatry and wickedness. Paul warned that some had cast aside their faith. He charged Timothy to fight the good fight by “holding faith and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck [ruined]” (1 Timothy 1:19).

He also warned Timothy, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Together with Timothy, Paul warned the church that Satan would attempt to overthrow the faith of some. “Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:18).

Peter came under a ferocious attack by Satan against his faith. His faith so enraged hell that the devil asked permission to sift it to see if it would stand. “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).

A Christian with unshakable faith is marked as “Enemy No. l” in hell and the reason is this: By faith and its released power; kingdoms are subdued; righteousness is born; promises of God are obtained; the mouths of lions are shut; satanic fire is quenched; and there is escape from the sword. Out of weakness the faithful are made strong and become brave in the battle, turning the devil’s army to flight. These faithful ones wake the dead and don’t give in when tortured. They gladly endure mockings, beatings, stonings, and, if locked in jail, they sing. Faith sustains those who possess it!

Monday, March 23, 2015

ALL THINGS ARE NEW by Gary Wilkerson

As a pastor, I’ve noticed a common problem when most people sit down in my office for counseling. “I’ve failed God’s standard,” they say wearily. “My sin has cut me off from fellowship with the Lord.” They think their sins cause the Holy Spirit to flitter away like a dove and then hover in the air until they get their hearts right.

These are all sincere believers, yet they could not be more mistaken about God. When we sin, that’s when we need Christ’s fellowship the most! Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our sin. He intercedes for us, going to the Father and sending the Spirit to remind us of His grace—a grace based on His shed blood, not our performance.

Yes, the Bible and the Holy Spirit convict of sin. But we are not to be anxious about the outcome of our sin. God’s grace is more powerful than any demon, our sinful nature, or any mountain of guilt. So the outcome of our sin is to rest in Him! We don’t have to reestablish fellowship with Him, because He is already at work convicting, washing and cleansing us. He never leaves us; His godly work in us never stops, even when we stop being godly!

This means you are no longer under the law of sin, but are set free to walk in the Spirit by grace. Your old man is gone; all things have become new. You no longer have to say, “I can’t do what I wish to do.” Your motto now is, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Yes, you can—not in your own ability, but through Christ, who has cleansed you and called you to righteousness by His grace.

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do” (Romans 8:3). We can’t strive our way to righteousness. God has established His righteousness in us through His Son, “in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4).

Are you anxious? Haunted by your failures? Do you wonder, “Is there really such a thing as freedom for me? Does this Christian life even work?” Jesus answers, “You have been set free.” This is the reality that God declares about you. Pray this prayer: “God, I know You have done this for me, but I’ve lived as if You haven’t. Settle it in my heart now. I can walk in the Spirit knowing You have done all to make me righteous. Amen!”

Saturday, March 21, 2015

THE PAIN OF HYPOCRISY by Nicky Cruz

I will never understand how some people can claim Jesus as their Savior yet live as if they had never experienced His saving grace. How they can ask God to redeem them while living unrepentant, unremorseful lives. How they can talk as if they know Christ when their actions show clearly that they know nothing about Him.

These kinds of people do more harm for the kingdom than Satan could ever hope to accomplish. They are the enemy’s greatest allies in a world that already looks for ways to discount the claims of Christ. Paul tells us, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). For too long Christians have conformed to the ways of the world. We have allowed the world to not only affect us but to completely infect us. To take over our hearts and minds and keep us in bondage to sin, even though we convince ourselves that we are free.

But Jesus promises to bring transformation to our hearts and minds, to renew us, to change the way we think and live and act. If we have not allowed Him to do that, we have not really accepted Him.

“Create in me a pure heart, O God,” wrote David, “and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). These words should epitomize the desire of every follower of Christ. They should be our prayer daily. To ask God for a new heart and a new mind, to plead for a pure life, to strive moment by moment to live with greater mercy and grace and innocence. To become more like Jesus with each passing day.

When the world looks at us, what they see will define their view of God. It will shape how they perceive our heavenly Father, what they think of Him, how they come to understand His goodness and grace. We are ambassadors for the kingdom of God in a lost and fallen world. And our actions, both good and bad, will reflect directly on God.

__________
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, March 20, 2015

DON’T GET STUCK IN BABYLON!

Babylon is falling! That merchandising world of greed and self is collapsing. “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of their sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).

We have so spiritualized Babylon that we have missed a simple, fundamental truth. It is spoken of in Revelation 18 and includes “delicious living” and “making merchants rich” (see Revelation 18:3).

There is nothing wrong with merchants becoming rich. But Babylon represents a spirit of greed—a spirit so powerful, so evil and driving that it says, “People don’t count. All that counts is the bottom line on the balance sheet!”

Merchants will weep in that day of terror, not for the multitudes who are burning in a holocaust but because their money machine is gone. Wall Street has been called the nation’s “greed capital,” but this spirit is not limited to location. It is sweeping society in general—even the Church!

The Holy Spirit is saying, “Don’t let your greed make the merchants richer. Don’t get carried away with the spending and the debt. Curb your appetites. Enough is enough! Get off the Babylonian greed-mill. Shake off the spirit that lusts for riches and more and more things! Do not partake of the sin of Babylon, which is merchandising with a spirit of greed.”

What an awesome preparation: Jesus wants me with Him! Since the day He left the earth, He has been preparing for my coming to meet Him in heaven.

Thank God for one more great preparation! Jesus said, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3).

I am deeply strengthened by such love. He is preparing for me and I, in turn, desire to prepare for Him!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

LOVE NOT THE WORLD

The Word says, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). Jesus warned, “Beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15).

Things—our possessions—can tie us down to this world. While heaven and hell prepare for war, we go shopping. Eternal values are at stake! The end of all we know is near—and we are busy playing with our toys!

Scripture says of Noah’s day, “They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark” (Matthew 24:38). And of Lot’s day, “They bought, they sold, they planted, they builded” (Luke 17:28).

Now this activity wasn’t evil in and of itself. I’m sure Noah himself had to buy and sell. After all, he was in a building program for 120 years! But the key here is that the people did all these things even up to the day of judgment so no one was heeding, listening, preparing. No one was letting go of the spirit of bondage to material pleasures!

A missionary friend recently wrote from Hong Kong that he had eighteen Chinese students sleeping in his tiny apartment. The students, who were fleeing Communism, had no money and possessed only the clothes they were wearing.

These Christians are an example of people who have “let go.” They weren’t escaping their country because they want Western materialism. Rather, they simply wanted to be set free! They wanted to live in a country where the soul is free to worship!

By contrast, the Church is not escaping but digging in—to its TVs, its VCRs, its conveniences, its “good life.”

Ringing in my soul are those awesome words that Jesus gave to His servants when He said that for every idle word “they shall give account” (Matthew 12:36). If we must give account of every word, will we not be called to account for idle time and wasted money as well?

We all are going to stand before the Lord and give account. So we had better ask ourselves now: What are our reasons? Why are we so ill-prepared? Why so selfish? Why so wasteful?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

THE FINAL BATTLEGROUND

“Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time” (Revelation 12:12).

Listen with your spirit to these words: Satan knows his time is short, for he has “come down” to the earth. This planet is the final battleground! He has prepared his forces, and his strategy is underway. All of hell is one big, satanic operations network!

Beloved, Satan’s main object is the elect of God. It is not the backslidden, apostate nation of Israel, nor a lukewarm, self-satisfied Church but rather, the spotless Bride of Christ! An elect, holy people consisting of blood-bought Jews and Gentiles—the true Church!

Satan is going to so thoroughly deceive the wicked that they will not repent even under the most severe judgment of God. “Spirits of devils, working miracles . . . to gather them to the battle of . . . God Almighty” (Revelation 16:14). They will not turn back to the Lord even if hell stares them in the eye. Only a people who are totally deceived could blaspheme God under a scorching sun that consumes!

The whole point of my message is this: While all heaven and hell have been put on alert, and everywhere in the spiritual realm the preparations are furious for the final hour, millions of Christians are fast asleep! This last-days spiritual sloth and sleepy unconcern have to be a source of bewilderment to both angels and demons!

The disciples slept through the Lord’s agony in the garden, and not much has changed today. Those followers were not prepared. They slept, and then they forsook the Lord and fled.

John the Baptist went before Jesus “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). The apostle John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, consisting of a people “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). Beloved, the Word is crystal-clear: We are to be prepared!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SILENCE IN HEAVEN

We are living in the days of final preparation. In heaven, in hell and on earth, tremendous activity is erupting as all of creation anticipates the culmination of man’s history.

If the Holy Spirit were to pull the scales from our eyes, we believers would be both joyful and horrified at what we saw. We would cry out, “What is going on? Why is everyone rushing about so determined, so intense? What is about to happen?”

Right now the heavens are ablaze with anticipation! Without question, a final conflict is coming—a time when every enemy will be put under our Lord’s feet. God is busily preparing!

If the veil separating the physical and spiritual could be lifted for a moment, what a sight we would behold! Everywhere we looked we would see preparations taking place. These preparations can be seen only as we are allowed glimpses into the eternal. And, without speculating, we can see what God has revealed in His Word about this final preparation taking place in heaven.

Revelation 6:1 says the Lamb opened one seal, and there was “the noise of thunder.” But following this is one of the most mind-boggling statements in all of God’s Word: “There was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour” (Revelation 8:1).

No angelic being cried, “Holy, holy!” No choirs sang—not a single sound was heard in all of God’s eternal kingdom! The heavens literally shook with a holy thunder but then God was silent. Christ and His Holy Spirit were silent. Why this silence? And why half an hour?

The prophet Zechariah provides a clue: “And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again. Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation” (Zechariah 2:12-13).

Here we see God ready to claim His inheritance. All things have been put into place. Seven judgment-angels stand before Him, waiting to be given assignments to go forth and smite the earth. The time that was appointed from the foundation of the world has now come.

The words used in Scripture here speak of a holy hush, a great calm before the storm. And this silence is too holy, too incomprehensible for human minds. We can’t even speculate as to why, in this period just prior to the final judgment, God in His heaven is silent.

Monday, March 16, 2015

DON’T BE ANXIOUS by Gary Wilkerson

Let me ask you a simple question: Have you been set free? You probably think, “Of course! I’ve been redeemed and made holy by Jesus, and I live for Him. That’s every believer’s testimony.”

Now here’s a follow-up question: Does your everyday life reflect the glorious freedom you’ve just described? Would your friends, your spouse, your children say that you’ve been set free? Or are you like multitudes of Christians who feel they’re on a spiritual seesaw? Is your walk with Christ continually up and down, seemingly spiritual one moment and carnal the next?

We accept by faith the great theological truths about Jesus’ work for us—salvation, redemption, sanctification, deliverance. Yet for many of us, these are “spiritual truths” that exist in another world. We sing and rejoice at church over what Jesus has done for us—but is His gift of freedom a reality in our daily lives?

At times we all struggle to remain pure in thoughts and actions. Whenever we fail in our walk with God—which is often—we wonder, “Has God really set me free?” If your answer to that is no—if you feel stuck in an up-and-down life—maybe you worry about your standing with God. Perhaps at times you even question your salvation. Friend, that isn’t freedom. So what does it really mean to be set free in Christ?

The first evidence of this comes from Jesus, who says, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? . . . Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:27, 33).

Lately I’ve been anxious about something very real: my age! When I was in my twenties, I looked at my dad in his fifties and thought, “He’s so ancient.” Now that I’ve reached my fifties and am well into the second half of life, I’m starting to freak out. What does Jesus say to me in my worries? “Gary, can you add a single hour to your span of life? Don’t be anxious.”

Christ offers the same words to all of us who fret about our spiritual lives: Don’t be anxious. Regardless of how broken down and teetering you feel about your walk with Him, He declares, “You are a new creation.” The moment you chose to follow Jesus, He made you new—and that never changes. Even when you think you’ve strayed too far, Jesus says the opposite: “Don’t be anxious. I have provided everything you need to have fellowship with Me.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

PRAYER REVIVAL by Jim Cymbala

Revivals have never been dominated by eloquent or clever preaching. If you had timed the meetings of old with a stopwatch, you would have found far more minutes given to prayer, weeping and repentance than to sermons. In the “Prayer Meeting Revival” of 1857-59 there was virtually no preaching at all. Yet it apparently produced the greatest harvest of any spiritual awakening in American history: estimates run to 1,000,000 converts across the United States, out of a national population at that time of only 30,000,000. That would be proportionate to 9,000,000 today falling on their knees in repentance.

How did this happen? A quiet businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier started a Wednesday noon prayer meeting in a Dutch Reformed church here in New York City, no more than a quarter mile from Wall Street. The first week, six people showed up. The next week, twenty came. The next forty . . . and then they decided to have daily meetings.

“There was no fanaticism, no hysteria, just an incredible movement of people to pray,” reports J. Edwin Orr. “The services were not given over to preaching. Instead, anyone was free to pray.”

During the fourth week, the Panic of 1857 hit; the bond market crashed, and the first banks failed. (Within a month, more than 1400 banks had collapsed.) People began calling out to God more seriously than ever. Lanphier’s church started having three noontime prayer meetings in different rooms. John Street Methodist Church, a few doors east of Broadway, was packed out as well. Soon Burton’s Theater on Chambers Street was jammed with 3,000 people each noon.

The scene was soon replicated in Boston, New Haven, Philadelphia, Washington, and cities throughout the southern United States. By the next spring 2,000 Chicagoans were gathering each day in the Metropolitan Theater to pray. A young 21-year-old, newly arrived in the city, felt his first call to do Christian work in those meetings. He wrote his mother that he was going to start a Sunday school class. His name? Dwight L. Moody!

Does anyone really think that America today is lacking preachers, books, Bible translations, and neat doctrinal statements? What we really lack is the passion to call upon the Lord until He opens the heavens and shows Himself powerful.

__________
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, March 13, 2015

A SINGLE STEP

Is it possible to really love the Lord, have a heart for God, spend time and money in His work, put God first, be dedicated to Him—and still hold on to areas of disobedience to the clear Word of God?

With all his heart Solomon wanted divine wisdom and discernment to know the difference between right and wrong. God appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give thee” (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon was given “an understanding heart to . . . discern between good and bad” (1 Kings 3:9). But God added this warning: “If thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days” (1 Kings 3:14). Solomon heard a powerful sermon from God Himself! He had the sermons of his father David ringing in his ears and also the example of his father’s sin and consequent judgment. He had the law and the judges, including Deborah, Samuel and the prophet Nathan. David warned, “Keep the charge of the Lord thy God . . . to keep his statutes, and his commandments . . . as it is written in the law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:3).

Solomon knew the Word. As a result of all God revealed to him, he wrote over a thousand songs and three thousand proverbs! In his proverbs, he warned against the evil power of strange women: “Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell” (Proverbs 5:4-5). Oh, how he knew the Word! How good he was at preaching it to others. World leaders came to consult with him. But as wise, discerning, and God-blessed as he was, he still clung to areas of disobedience in his life. 


Solomon took a single step of disobedience which eventually turned him into a hardened, sermon-proof, lust-driven man. He considered it a small indiscretion when he took the daughter of Pharaoh as his wife; to him it was just a marriage of convenience. He “took Pharaoh's daughter, and brought her into the city of David” (1 Kings 3:1). She was the strange woman Solomon warned against in his proverbs, the woman whose gate led to hell! The daughter of Pharaoh represents that single cord that still holds us to something of this world, a single, besetting sin that is not surrendered—that single compromise that always seems justified!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A MIND TO WORK

Prayer and humility, along with a hatred for sin, produces a “mind to work.” “So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Nehemiah 4:6). True revivals of holiness always produce workers. Books and seminars and lectures don’t—but revival does!

When God is doing something genuine among His people, Satan conspires against it. “But it came to pass, that when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites, heard that the walls of Jerusalem were made up, and that the breaches began to be stopped, then they were very wroth, and conspired all of them together to come and to fight against Jerusalem, and to hinder it” (Nehemiah 4:7-8).

The enemy became very angry and conspired to come up against them to fight and to hinder! His tactic was to secretly infiltrate the body by sneaking up on them unexpectedly. “Our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease” (verse 11).

They planned to bring into their midst a secret army of pretenders in disguise. The enemy had no sudden, open, frontal attack, but rather said, “We will come in the midst among them!”

The tactic was inside sabotage! The enemy said, “They will never know it is happening.”

And Satan’s strategy has never changed. Even now he is sending his “angels of light” into gatherings worldwide with doctrinal sabotage and seductions.

How can we detect them? What is our safeguard? “Nevertheless we made our prayer unto our God, and set a watch against them day and night, because of them” (Nehemiah 4:9). The key here is an intense hatred for sin, true brokenness, fervent prayer and constant vigilance—along with staying saturated with the Word of God. Beloved, allow the Holy Spirit to probe your heart very deeply and very thoroughly, that you may walk wholly blameless before the Lord in this late hour.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

GOD IS AT WORK!

In 1986 I walked through Times Square in New York City, weeping and mourning because of all the sin. I went back to my home in Texas, and for more than a year I wept and mourned. Then God said, “Go and do something about all the ruin.”

I had come and seen the destruction, but I was not fully broken until I was moved with hope to begin to rebuild the wall!

Have you been “viewing the ruin” in your own life? Like David, have you sinned and brought reproach on His name? Is there a breach in your wall, something that is not repaired?

Beloved, it is good to fall on the Rock (Jesus) and be shattered—to be broken into little pieces. When you see Christ in all His glory, the sight of Him will indeed shatter you. Even the good things in you—the talent, the efficiency, all your abilities—will be shattered when you stand before Him, helpless and drained!

Daniel said, “There remained no strength in me: for my comeliness (strength) was turned in me into corruption (ruin), and I retained no strength” (Daniel 10:8). Brokenness is the total shattering of all human strength and ability. It is recognizing the full reality of sin and the reproach it brings on Christ’s name!

However, brokenness is also recognizing this: “Stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent” (Daniel 10:11). It is the absolute assurance that things are going to change—that healing and rebuilding are going to come. Your ruins are going to be reclaimed for God!

It is a holy faith that says, “God is at work in me! Satan cannot hold me. I am not going to deteriorate or fall. My sin has grieved me, but I have repented. Now it’s time to rise and rebuild!”

Until you take hold of that hope, zeal and determination, you will not get past your tears. Your life may still appear to be a rubble heap, with mounds of dirt and broken-down places that need repair. But remember that you have His sword and tools in hand. And above you there is a big sign, posted by the Lord’s own hand, that reads: GOD IS AT WORK!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A BROKEN HEART

I once thought I knew what a broken heart was. I thought I had experienced much brokenness— until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to a deeper meaning of the word.

David said, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

Brokenness is more than weeping, more than sorrow, more than a crushed spirit, more than humility. Indeed, many who weep are not brokenhearted. Many who lie before God and groan are not broken in spirit. True brokenness releases in the heart the greatest power God can entrust to man—greater than power to raise the dead, greater than power over sickness and disease!

The Spirit said to my heart, “I will show you what God sees as brokenheartedness so that I can release in you the kind of power needed in a time of ruin.” This brokenness results in a power to restore ruins—a power that brings a special kind of glory and honor to our Lord in troubled times!

Brokenness has to do with walls: broken down, crumbling, ruined walls. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart. . . . Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:17-18). God associated the walls of Jerusalem with brokenheartedness.

Let me show you an example of a truly brokenhearted man: “And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God had put in my heart to do at Jerusalem: neither was there any beast with me, save the beast I rode upon. . . . Then went I up in the night by the brook, and viewed the wall, and turned back, and entered by the gate of the valley, and so returned” (Nehemiah 2:12, 15).

In the dark of night Nehemiah “viewed the wall.” The Hebrew word shabar is used here—the same word used in Psalm 51:17 for “broken heart.” Some would think Nehemiah became broken when he “sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4). Yet his weeping and confessing was only the beginning of the breaking. Nehemiah's heart was not fully broken until he came to Jerusalem, saw the ruin—and set himself to do something about it!

Monday, March 9, 2015

CONSTANT BATTLE by Gary Wilkerson

Why do we sense we’re in a constant battle? It’s like the cartoon where a devil sits on one shoulder and an angel on the other, each warring for attention. We are engaged in a battle, but not that kind. Paul addresses our real dilemma in Romans: “We know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. . . . I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:14-15, 18, ESV).

Paul doesn’t mince words here as he describes his condition: “I am of the flesh. I do evil all the time. No good dwells within me.” So, is this Paul’s basic description of a Christian? Is he saying, “All your days will be full of such conflict”? Not at all.

Yet Paul presses in further: “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (7:21-24).

Many Christians stop here and say, “That’s me—I’m saved but my life is wretched. There’s no way God could ever use me. I spend every waking hour just fighting off sin.” The problem is, these Christians don’t know who they are in Christ and that is exactly Paul’s point. He paints a full picture of our dilemma, describing our wretched condition, and asks, “Is there any way out? How can I ever be delivered from this? It’s impossible in my own strength.”

Then, in one of the most amazing passages recorded in Scripture, Paul gives us God’s response to the human condition: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! . . . There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (7:25, 8:1-2). There is a new law at work in you—because there’s a new sheriff in town! Jesus, the new sheriff, has run out the old, corrupt one—the “old man” of your flesh. You no longer live under the law of sin and death, for “the law of the Spirit has set you free in Christ Jesus.”

Saturday, March 7, 2015

ROLLING AWAY THE REPROACH OF EGYPT by Carter Conlon

The American church has long been captivated by the society around her. The theology of fallen society has become the theology of many of God’s people. But now another generation is rising up—people who are tired of the wilderness, tired of the powerlessness, tired of the name of Jesus being trampled underfoot.

The Lord is calling His own and saying, “If you want to inherit the life that I died to give you, you must choose to turn away from sin. You must refuse to walk in what is common practice in a fallen society.” It is an hour of the miraculous again, and God has invited each of us to be a part of it. We are a type of Joshua’s generation, about to go into the Promised Land, but we cannot go in until the reproach of Egypt is rolled away—until we are clearly marked as the people of God.

That is why at the end of his letter to the Corinthians, Paul said, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” (2 Corinthians 13:5). Examine yourselves!
How do you do that? It’s simple: Start by asking yourself some questions.

Am I living in victory? Do I have dominion over sin, or does sin have dominion over me? Do I try to present an argument to justify my sinful practices? Remember, Jesus gives His Holy Spirit to those who believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins, promising that sin will no longer have dominion over them. He declares that old things are literally cut to the root, and although they may appear to have life, in reality they are dead. In their place is new life—new power, new victory, new hope and a new future.

Ask yourself: Is my life a testimony of Christ? Are people asking me the reason for the hope that is within me? Am I drawn forward by an inner knowledge that the Lord’s plans for me are for good and not for evil, to bring me to an expected end—a place that my heart has always longed to go?

If you are determined to go God’s way, He will give you the grace that you need. You are going to find life and you are going to find it more abundantly.

__________
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, March 6, 2015

A TRUSTING HEART

Recently God has been showing me something about trusting Him that I’ve never seen before! The psalmist wrote, “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded” (Psalm 22:4-5).

Over and over David testified, “In the Lord put I my trust” (Psalm 11:1); “O my God, I trust in thee” (Psalm 25:2). The Hebrew root word for trust suggests “to fling oneself off a precipice.” That is, to be like a child who hears his father say, “Jump!” and trustingly obeys, throwing himself off the edge and into his father’s arms.

That is one aspect of trust. Some of you are in that place even now. You are on the edge, teetering, and you have no other option but to fling yourself into the arms of Jesus! Some have simply resigned themselves to their situation—which in reality is no more than fatalism. They call this trust—but it is not trust, it is numbness. Trust is much more than passive resignation! It is active belief!

Some of you have made our Lord out to be some kind of cosmic fire-and-rescue company. It is as if Satan sets your house on fire and you are stranded on the roof yelling, “Lord, help! Save me!” So along comes the Lord, with His angels holding a big net, and He says, “Jump!” You do jump, the house burns down, and you say, “Thank you, Lord, for getting me out!”

Many of us limit our trust to these rescue operations, as if to say to the Lord, “I trust You to come and put out all my fires, save me from all my troubles, and deliver me out of all my trials. I know You'll be there, Lord, when I need You."

The trusting heart says, “All my steps are ordered by the Lord! He is my loving Father. He formed all my parts when I was in my mother’s womb and numbered every hair on my head. I am the apple of His eye and He has an eternal plan for me.” God has everything under control!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

WASHED BY HIS WORD

Many Christians today want a blood covering for sin but not a cleansing! The ritual of the Old Testament Tabernacle provides a clear example of the kind of walk with God Christians should have.

The Tabernacle had an outer court where the sacrificial animal was slain. This provided the blood covering for sin. But outside, too, was a laver where cleansing took place. No priest could enter the Holy of Holies and commune with God face to face without being cleansed.

Some Christians believe they can bypass the laver which, for us, stands for the washing by the water of the Word. They believe they can push into the holy place with sin caked all over them and sinful habits deeply imbedded in their hearts. Just walk right in and boast, “I am the righteousness of God in Christ.”

The perfect heart is after more than security or a covering for sin! It seeks to be in His presence to have communion! Communion is talking with the Lord, sharing sweet fellowship, seeking His face. And that is what you get in the Holy of Holies! It comes in this order: covering, cleansing, commitment, communion.

Many believers, however, want nothing more than to be covered—a quick ticket to glory! No pain, no cross, no cleansing! They go about crying, “I’m under the blood! I’m safe!”

Yet they quote only one-half of the verse: “And the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Read all of it: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light . . . the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7). Jesus said, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you” (John 15:3).

We hear preaching that says, “You don’t need to be searched. All your sin is under the blood! All this digging and searching out of sin brings only condemnation and guilt.” In Revelation 2:23, Jesus says, “All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the [minds] and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.” Beloved, He was addressing the Church!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A HEART THAT IS SEARCHABLE

Once, during a long drive from the Teen Challenge farm in Pennsylvania to New York City, the Lord spoke to my inner man: “There is such a thing as a perfect heart. I want to show you what it is so you can seek after it!” At that time God revealed to my spirit that Christ commits Himself to those who walk before Him with a perfect, responsive heart.

“The Lord searcheth all hearts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). The perfect heart cries out with David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart . . . and see if there be any wicked way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24).

God also said to Jeremiah, “I the Lord search the heart” (Jeremiah 17:10). The Hebrew meaning for this phrase is, “I examine deeply.” Scripture says, “For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

In Revelation 2:24, Jesus speaks about “the depths of Satan,” of going down into the profound depth of sin. He was saying that evil goes down deep into the soul; that it has roots that go down into hell. David said of the wicked ones: “The inward thought of every one of them, and the heart, is deep” (Psalm 64:6). “For a prostitute is a deep pit” (Proverbs 23:27, NIV).

These passages all are holy warnings: “You don't realize how deeply this association with evil affects you. It takes you down into the depths of Satan himself, depths that are mysterious, bottomless, profound. This path leads to hell.”

In these final days sin has become complicated, subtle, sensuous and more sophisticated. It comes disguised as art, culture and education. I believe there are new depths to sin now. It has taken on stronger, deeper roots. Our children are confronted with depths of sin that we never did or never will know! “Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark” (Isaiah 29:15). The perfect heart wants the Holy Spirit to come and search out the depths of the innermost man, to shine into all hidden parts, to investigate and dig out and expose all that is unlike Christ.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

WITH A PERFECT HEART

It is possible to walk before the Lord with a perfect heart! God said to Abraham, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1).

God also said to the children of Israel, “Thou shalt be perfect with the Lord thy God” (Deuteronomy 18:13). David determined in his heart to obey this command. He said, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. . . . I will walk within my house with a perfect heart” (Psalm 101:2).

Scripture also points out that Solomon fell short of God’s command to be perfect: “His heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. . . . [He] went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father” (1 Kings 11:4-6).

We see the Lord’s command to be perfect in the New Testament, as well. Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Paul wrote, “That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:28). And in the same letter: “That ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (4:12).

And Peter said, “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you” (1 Peter 5:10).

Perfection does not mean a sinless, flawless heart. Man judges by outward appearances, by what he sees. But God judges the heart, the unseen motives (1 Samuel 16:7). David was said to have had a perfect heart toward God “all the days of his life,” yet he failed the Lord often. His life was marked forever by adultery and a notorious murder.

The basic definition of perfect is: completeness, maturity. In the Hebrew and Greek, the definition includes: uprightness, being without spot, without blemish, totally obedient. It means to finish what was started; a complete performance. Wesley called it “constant obedience.”

A perfect heart is a responsive heart. It quickly and totally answers the Lord’s wooing, whisperings and warnings. This heart says at all times, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears. Show me the path and I will walk in it.”

Monday, March 2, 2015

GOD’S GRACE AT WORK IN US by Gary Wilkerson

Most of us would admit we rarely feel God’s grace at work in us. That is why we are prone to doubting that His presence abides in us. Paul addresses this dilemma for us in Galatians when he writes, “I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, ESV).

It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But we tend to take Paul’s counsel here as a hard command to be obeyed with striving. We grit our teeth and say, “I will walk in the Spirit today.” Then once we stumble we think we aren’t “being spiritual,” so we try even harder to walk in the Spirit. Suddenly we’re under the law again because we’ve turned to our fleshly ability rather than trusting that we are already in the Spirit.

Paul says, “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). In other words, the Spirit of God abides in you, giving you access at all times to His grace, which empowers you. When Paul says, “Walk in the Spirit,” he means, “Walk under grace, not the law.”

Paul then shows us the result of a walk in the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). Take note: These things don’t come about because of what we do. They are the fruit of the righteousness God has put in us — the result of His work in us.

You may not feel very loving at times, but love is in you because God put it there. You may not feel joy and peace, but God has implanted both deep within you. His Spirit is at work in you every hour of every day, to His great glory and to your deep blessing.