Friday, May 29, 2015

PRAYERLESS CHRISTIANS

Prayerless Christians don’t realize what danger they are in. You may object, “So what if some Christians don’t pray? They’re still believers—blood-cleansed, forgiven and going to heaven. Where’s the danger in growing a little lukewarm?”

I believe our heavenly Father realizes we live in a busy age, with many demands on our time and energy. And Christians are caught up in busyness and activities as much as anyone else. Yet I cannot believe God takes lightly our rejection of His access, which cost His only Son His life.

God has made Christ our strong tower. But only those who “run into it” are safe (see Proverbs 18:10). If you don’t go in, then you’re still outside the door. You stand where Israel stood but God doesn’t meet anyone at the door anymore. All the provision we need is inside: forgiveness of sin, mercy in time of need, power to overcome.

Imagine the pain of rejection felt by the Father and Son. I envision this conversation taking place between them:

“Son, You were beaten, mocked, crucified, buried. It so pained me, I shut my eyes at the sight. Yet You fulfilled the everlasting covenant. You provided acceptance and access for all who would trust in You. Because of You, a last-days people would be able to come to Me. And they would grow mighty in My strength, building reserves of faith against a devil who would tempt and try them as at no other time.

“Yet, where are our beloved children? Monday passes and we never see them. Tuesday arrives, and still no children. Wednesday comes, with no sight of them. Thursday, Friday and Saturday pass, yet still we don’t see them. Only on Sunday do they approach us, while they’re in church. Why don’t they come? Don’t they love us?”

God asked Adam the same question when he hid from the Lord in the Garden of Eden: “Adam, where art thou?" (Genesis 3:9). The Lord knew where Adam was all along. He really was asking Adam why he had rejected fellowship and showing him that there was danger in hiding from His presence.

Indeed, Christians who don’t appropriate access to the Father end up in a “Sardis condition.” The Lord instructed John, “Unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God . . . I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1).

Thursday, May 28, 2015

ACCESS TO AN OVERCOMING LIFE

When Jesus walked the earth, He made Himself accessible to the whole population. He taught in synagogues, on hillsides, on boats. He healed the sick, performing wonders and miracles. He lifted His voice at the feasts, crying, “I am the living water. Come to Me, and I will satisfy your thirsty soul.” Anyone could draw near to Him and be satisfied.

But our Lord’s invitation was mostly ignored. He cried over the people, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathered her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” (Matthew 23:37). He was saying to Israel, “I’m here now, available to you. I’ve told you to come to me for healing and to have your needs met. But you won’t come.”

How did Jesus respond to the people’s rejection of Him? He declared, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (23:38). The word Jesus uses for desolate here signifies loneliness, waste, unfruitfulness. He said, “Your church life, your household, your spiritual walk—they are all going to dry up and die.”

Think about it. If parents don’t seek God daily, their children certainly won’t. Instead, their home will be filled with worldliness, spiritual barrenness, a loneliness beyond description. Eventually, that family will end up in total desolation.

Keep in mind, Jesus spoke these warnings in a day of grace. He added, “Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:39). The meaning here is, “I’ve given you all the access you need to live an overcoming life. But you’ve ignored My offer. I’m sorry, but your decision is going to bring desolation to your life and home. And you won’t see Me again until eternity.”

When was the last time you came to God to find everything you needed for life? Were you in trouble, facing a crisis with your family, your job, your health? There’s nothing wrong with appropriating access to God in times of severe need. Isaiah writes, “Lord, in trouble have they visited thee, they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them” (Isaiah 26:16). The Psalmist testifies, “I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble” (Psalm 142:1-2).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

THE GREATEST PAIN OF CHRIST’S SOUL

What is the greatest pain Christ’s soul could ever experience? I believe it is that a generation that has received full, unrestricted access does not come to Him.

For centuries, God’s people yearned and longed to see the blessing of our day. The access we now enjoy is the very access Moses yearned for. It is the same access David’s heart could see but could not obtain. It is the access Daniel never had, though he prayed to the Lord three times a day. Our forefathers saw this access happening in our day, and they rejoiced for us.

Yet we who have been given the right to this wonderful gift take it for granted. The door has been opened for us, yet we refuse to enter for days and weeks at a time. What a crime! Every time we ignore the access Jesus bought for us, casually walking past the door, we take His blood lightly. Our Lord told us we have all the resources we need if we would only come to Him. Yet we continue to snub His costly gift.

Scripture admonishes us, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. . . . Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)” (Hebrews 10:22-23). This passage clearly speaks of prayer. God is urging us, “Come into My presence often, daily. You can’t maintain your faith if you’re not drawing near to Me. If you don’t enter My presence boldly, your faith is going to waver.”

You may know Christians who were once on fire for Jesus, always making quality time for the Lord, searching His Word and shutting themselves in with Him. They knew to draw to Him to keep their faith alive.

Yet now these same Christians merely “think” their prayers. Or they rush into God’s presence for a few minutes just to say, “Hello, Lord. Please guide Me today. I love You, Jesus. Goodbye.” Their seeking heart is gone. The unhurried communion they once enjoyed is no more. And when you ask them about their abandoned prayer life, they claim to be “resting on faith.”

I tell you, prayerless people soon become faithless people. The more they forsake the gift of access, refusing to draw on God’s provisions, the more they drift away.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

UNRESTRICTED ACCESS

In one sudden, glorious moment, Jesus provided total, unrestricted access to the Father. The Bible says that at Golgotha, on a blood-stained cross, “Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Matthew 27:50-51).

At the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the temple in Jerusalem was literally ripped apart. That’s the moment our destiny was sealed. In the instant that our Lord gave up the ghost, we were given total, unrestricted access to the holy of holies: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19).

This tearing of the physical veil represented what took place in the spirit world. Finally, we were able to enjoy something that generation after generation could not. We have a privilege even Abraham, Moses and David did not have—access to the Holy of Holies, the very throne room of almighty God. The door was no longer shut to us. Unrestricted access was made possible.

Moreover, at His death, Jesus became our High Priest. He ascended to the New Jerusalem, to a temple not made with hands, where He took on the role of high priest. He walked right into the holy presence of God and, with the incense of His own intercessions, presented His blood at the mercy seat. Then He sat down at the Father's right hand, with all power, might and glory.

At that point, Jesus claimed His Covenant right to receive into one spiritual body all who would repent and receive Him as Lord. And He sent the Holy Spirit to issue a call to His children: “I have opened the door to the Father. You are now accepted simply by being in Me by faith. So, come boldly to the throne! I’ll take you into the presence of My Father, who is now your Father. You have unrestricted access to Him, day and night.”

Monday, May 25, 2015

CLEANSING THE TEMPLE by Gary Wilkerson

Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would be sufficient for all time. His saving, forgiving, cleansing power and victory are available to every person in every era, from the most devout believer to the most hardened sinner.

Even as a young boy, I understood my need for Christ’s gift of salvation. I knew that when I accepted Jesus, His saving work on my behalf had been achieved once and for all. But not long after I accepted Him my anger erupted at one of my siblings, as happens so often among kids. Suddenly I was aware that I needed Jesus’ cleansing blood in my life all over again. I felt utterly lost, wondering whether my salvation was real.

Eventually I learned that I needed not only Christ’s salvation but His cleansing power in my life daily. Jesus demonstrated our need at the Last Supper when He took a towel and basin and began washing His disciples’ feet. Peter puzzled over this symbolic act, saying, “Lord, if You’re going to wash my feet, why not clean my head too?” (see John 13:9). Jesus answered, in essence, “Peter, you’re going to be saved by My blood. But you still live in a dirty world, and as you walk through it you’ll get dust on your feet. You’re going to need Me to wash your feet just as much as your heart.”

It’s true that Jesus has made us new creatures, having justified us once and for all. But as we walk through the mire of a dark and evil world, we can’t avoid picking up flecks of its anger, lust and hardness. Jesus says to us, just as He told Peter, “If your life is going to be pleasing to Me, I have to rid you of these things daily.”

To walk in His holiness, we must realize that Jesus wants to drive things out of our lives. In Matthew 21:12-13 when He ran the moneychangers out of the temple, He was ridding the church of a certain callousness that had overcome them. It wasn’t so much the exchange of money that upset Jesus; that practice had existed for years, as a convenience to faithful believers who traveled great distances to Jerusalem. What upset Jesus more was the focus on commerce, which had overtaken people’s passion for God. In their hearts, a house of prayer had been turned into a house of trade.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

THE SONS OF SCEVA by Claude Houde

“A group of Jews was traveling from town to town casting out evil spirits. They tried to use the name of the Lord Jesus in their incantation, saying, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!’ Seven sons of Sceva, a leading priest, were doing this. But one time when they tried it, the evil spirit replied, ‘I know Jesus, and I know Paul, but who are you?’ Then the man with the evil spirit leaped on them, overpowered them, and attacked them with such violence that they fled from the house, naked and battered.

“The story of what happened spread quickly all through Ephesus, to Jews and Greeks alike. A solemn fear descended on the city, and the name of the Lord Jesus was greatly honored. Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices” (Acts 19:13-18, NLT).

What a story! We see in it, clear as day, a picture of thousands of churches, ministries and believers today. Notice a few characteristics of the sons of Sceva. They had a religious background, a second-generation tradition with a history of rituals and religiosity. They had standing and reputation in God’s house, for they were sons of the High Priest. They knew the Scriptures, and they had learned well the jargon of spiritual warfare.

But they were pathetic parakeets repeating the words, intonations, and prayer formulas while having no true communion and relationship with God. They had the lingo down pat, but there was no victory, no true supernatural authority. They knew how to keep up appearances, but had no power, no divine capacity to deliver; they were just a pale imitation with illumination. They wanted to cast out demons but they had not developed their relationship with God in the secret place. The result was dreadful and dangerous.

Are you thirsting for an anointing of freedom, authority and victory? Do you burn with the desire to walk by the faith which “gives life to what was dead”? Cry out with me, “Lord, increase my faith.” There is no limit to the delivering power, protection and strength that will be yours if you stand against the enemy with faith that says, “To men this is impossible; but to God all things are possible” (see Matthew 19:26).

__________

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, May 22, 2015

GOD’S PLANS FOR YOU

As the New Covenant was being made, the heavenly Father and His Son foresaw that many would neglect Christ. These people would grow lukewarm or cold, eventually falling away. So, the Father and the Son made an agreement: If any sheep got lost or went astray, Jesus would go after it and bring it back to the fold.

The truth is, dead humanity can be brought back to life by a fresh flow of healing waters. “These waters . . . go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed” (Ezekiel 47:8). When God’s healing waters begin to flow, green things start springing up all around—a blade of grass here, a small plant there. Soon an entire garden is thriving.

Dear saint, God still yearns over you and He still has plans for you. In fact, you can start your life over today. He promises to restore everything that has been eaten and wasted from your life, no matter how long it has been. “I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten” (Joel 2:25).

You can still be His habitation, still learn His secrets and receive His revelations. Here is your way back: Acknowledge that you have neglected Him. Admit you’ve been too busy, with time for everything but Him. Confess you have not listened when He has called you. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

Cry out to Him now: “Oh, God, heal me. Awaken my soul. Shake me out of this slumber. I want to change. I know you have to do the work in me, Lord. I long for Your fresh touch.”

Jeremiah shows us God’s heart toward a people who neglected and forgot Him: “Return, thou backsliding Israel . . . and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord . . . Only acknowledge thine iniquity . . . turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you . . . and I will heal your backslidings” (Jeremiah 3:12-14, 22).

God is saying to you, “My child, for a while I was angry with you. I gave you over to your emptiness and loneliness. But now I’m going to restore to you everything the devil has destroyed.”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

RIVER OF LIFE

God’s Word warns: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). There is a great price to pay for ignoring Christ.

Ezekiel 47 speaks of a river of life that flows from God’s throne. This river is made up of holy, healing waters and as it flows through the desert, it brings life to everything it touches. It expands ever wider and deeper, until there is enough water to swim in.

“These waters . . . go down into the desert, and go into the sea: which being brought forth into the sea, the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that everything that liveth, which moveth, whithersoever the rivers shall come, shall live” (Ezekiel 47:8-9).

This river of life represents the preached gospel and it has been flowing since Calvary. Today, millions who hear and receive God’s Word are being healed and the truth of Christ is awakening them to their neglect, sloth and apathy. Now their eyes are wide open, and they delight in Jesus. They seek Him daily, love His Word, share intimacy with Him.

So, what has happened to you? Are you swimming in God’s healing waters? Or do you allow this river to flow right past you? Note what happens to the desert areas where these waters don’t flow: “But the miry places thereof and the marshes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt” (47:11).

Maybe you are guilty of ignoring Jesus. You have been prayerless, disobedient, neglectful of His Word and now your neglect has become a way of life. In truth, you have aborted all the anticipation Jesus once had for you.

What does it mean to be “given to salt,” as Ezekiel states? It means total barrenness . . . fruitlessness, emptiness, dryness, loneliness. Think of the Dead Sea in Israel. It is a body of water totally given over to salt. No fish can survive in it and no plant can grow in it or around it. It is completely barren.

Have you become this kind of miry place—an isolated, dried-up marsh? Is your life barren of fruit for God? Is your daily existence empty, dry, lonely? All around you, others are bearing fruit and growing in Christ. They have been healed by God’s holy waters but you don’t possess any of the resources they have. You have become a Christian in name only.

It’s never too late to start over! Let the Lord make this the first day of a new beginning for you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A DELIGHT TO HIS HEART

Jesus rejoiced over us before the world was made. He anticipated coming to dwell in us and making us His habitation. And He rejoiced that we would cling to Him, forsaking all others. We would seek Him daily and spend quality time with Him. He would share His secrets with us, and we would unburden our hearts to Him. We would delight in His ways, searching His Word for revelations of His righteousness, and we would tremble at the revelations His Word gave us.

The Bible states clearly what Jesus expected us to be His habitation. So, are you fulfilling His expectation? He anticipated spending a lifetime with you so is your intimacy with Him increasing? Or, do you neglect Him for days on end?

Your Bridegroom had in mind to draw you close to Himself. He wanted to open His heart to you, to have sweet fellowship with you daily. He longed to show you many things, things no one else had seen. He desired to mold your life, to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit in you. And He wanted to take away your weaknesses, your fears, your feelings of inadequacy.

In turn, you were to be a delight to His heart—by your tears, your intimacy, your clinging devotion. Your words to Him were to be those of a bride: “I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste” (Song of Solomon 2:3). “Let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice” (2:14).

The very thought of this relationship with you caused Christ to rejoice long before the world was created. Yet, now that the time has come to enjoy that relationship, you neglect and ignore the Lord. You have time to watch television, shop, surf the Internet, garden—but you have no time for Jesus. I ask you, Do you believe He will inhabit the heart of a bride who is bored with Him? Why would He continue to dwell in someone who has no time to be with Him, talk to Him, listen to Him?

Here is a solemn warning: Jesus will not abide in those who neglect and ignore Him. You may object, “But I love my Lord. I haven’t given Him the cold shoulder.” The fact is, if you have neglected prayer and His Word for weeks at a time—if you have no private, intimate relationship with Him—then you have made your statement. You have declared, “My actions prove I don’t have a passionate love for Jesus. My family, career and personal desires come first.”

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

LONGING TO HEAR GOD’S WORD

The psalmist David waited daily to receive word from God’s and he delighted in the word he received. He testified, “I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 199:16). “Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors” (119:24). “I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved” (119:47). “Thy law is my delight” (119:77). The literal Hebrew meaning of this last verse is, “I enjoy your Word.”

Proverbs 8:34 says, “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.” What is the gate referred to here?

The psalmist gives us the answer: “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord” (Psalms 118:19). I believe these “gates of righteousness” are also the “strait gate” Jesus speaks of (see Luke 13:24). They refer to anyone who turns daily to God’s Word to learn His righteousness.

Such a believer is determined to walk upright before the Lord. He gets excited at every revelation that points him on the path to a holy walk. He tells himself, “I want truth in my inner man. I know I won’t get it just by listening to sermon tapes or reading books. I have to wait patiently on the Lord so that He will open His gates to me.”

Faithfully, God’s Holy Spirit comes out to meet this believer every morning. And He invites him inside, whispering, “Welcome, friend. Let Me show you something new today about God’s righteousness.”

What does it mean to “wait at the posts of my doors”? This refers to every believer who trembles at God’s Word. The phrase comes from Isaiah 6, when the prophet waited at the doorposts of the temple, longing to hear from God.

As Isaiah stood there, he heard the seraphims singing, “Holy, holy, holy,” the skies ringing with their praises. Then suddenly, a mighty voice boomed forth from heaven, a voice so loud and clear that it shook everything: “The posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke” (Isaiah 6:4). Isaiah is an example of someone who “waits at the posts of my doors.” This believer longs to hear God’s Word.

Monday, May 18, 2015

THE BEGINNING OF HIS MINISTRY by Gary Wilkerson

In John 2, Jesus enters the temple for an act that will signal the beginning of His public ministry. (His earlier miracle at Cana, turning water into wine, was not a public declaration.) What takes place next is quite dramatic:

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:13-17).

What Jesus did here was more than radical. If you wanted to announce your ministry, would you go into a megachurch and start turning over tables and driving people away? Jesus was up to more than just showing His authority. He was demonstrating that He was about to turn things upside down in every way.

This all happened during the Passover season. At the first Passover, Jewish families had to slay a lamb as a ritual sacrifice, draining the blood and applying it on the doorframe of their house. The idea was that when the angel of death arrived and saw the blood marking the door, he would pass over that home. It was a symbolic ritual that reenacted God’s saving deliverance of Israel from Egypt, when He set His people free from all bondage and slavery.

Now Jesus came on the scene as the Lamb of God whose sacrifice would provide our deliverance from the curse of sin. John the Baptist was aware of this, having already declared of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). In less than three years’ time, the world would behold Christ’s finished work as the sin of all humankind was laid upon Him.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A MAN AFTER GOD’S HEART by Nicky Cruz

Even as a boy David knew the power and protection of God. Grown men cowered at the sight of Goliath, the giant, but not David. He took on the giant with nothing but a slingshot in his hand and brought him down. He faced lions with his bare hands and bears with nothing but a spear. God took a small, insignificant country boy, a shepherd, and turned him into a mighty warrior-king!

No ruler had the kind of love and respect that David enjoyed. The people adored him, his servants obeyed him without question, his wives fulfilled his every need and desire. What man has ever lived in such blessing, such favor, such grace and approval from the Creator?

Yet all of that paled in comparison to his relationship with God. He loved God with a passion and worshiped Him with abandon. Even in the midst of his many duties, David spent hour after hour writing songs and poems to God, singing to Him from his heart, courting the Creator of the universe as one lover courts another. All the gold and silver and riches in the world meant nothing to David compared to his relationship with God. That was the secret to his power. That was what made David such an awesome ruler and king.

David knew without any reservation that he could no nothing without God. He knew that God provided the strength in his bones, the blood in his veins, the wisdom in his mind, and the courage in his heart.

“It is God who arms me with strength,” wrote David, “and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he enables me to stand on the heights. He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You give me your shield of victory; you stoop down to make me great. You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn. I pursued my enemies and crushed them; I did not turn back till they were destroyed. I crushed them completely, and they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet. You armed me with strength for battle; you made my adversaries bow at my feet” (2 Samuel 22:33-40, NIV).

__________

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, May 15, 2015

MAINTAINING THE SPIRIT OF REJOICING

God had heard the Israelites’ cry, and He had shown mercy to them, turning their mourning into mirth and allowing them to shout and rejoice. And now He called them to gather for yet another meeting.

If Israel’s joy was to be maintained—if it was not to be lost once again—God had to dig a little deeper. Certain areas of people’s lives still weren’t conformed to His Word. Yet the Lord had allowed everyone to rejoice for a season, because He wanted them to know they were secure. Now, during this state of acceptance and joy, He asked them all to commit to a greater separation from the world.

God said to these joyful souls, “I am well pleased with you. You have revered My Word, repenting of your sin, rejoicing in My mercy, and promising to obey Me. Now, it’s time for you to act on My love. I want you to separate yourselves wholly and break away completely from the worldly influences that have crept into your hearts and homes.”

You see, while the Israelites were in captivity, they had become cozy with the heathen, slowly adopting their language and ways. Israelite men had married heathen wives, and Israelite women had purchased heathen husbands with dowries. The Israelites had also allowed unsanctified things to become a part of the worship in God’s house.

Beloved, we can’t go on to fullness in Christ if we don’t increasingly separate ourselves from this world. If we’re not becoming more heavenly minded and less like the unsaved people surrounding us, we’ll slowly lose all the joy of our repentance.

Israel didn’t want to lose their great spirit of rejoicing so they assembled again to obey God on this matter: “The seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins” (Nehemiah 9:2).

“They . . . entered into a curse, and into an oath, to walk in God’s law. . . that [they] would not give [their] daughters unto the people of the land, nor take their daughters for [their] sons” (10:29-30).

How do we maintain the joy of the Lord? We do it the same way we obtained His joy in the beginning. First, we love, honor and hunger for God’s Word. Second, we continually walk in repentance. And, third, we separate ourselves from worldly influences.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A WAVE OF BROKENNESS

A half-day of preaching by Ezra wasn’t enough for the hungry Israelites. They wanted even more of God’s Word, so they formed groups, with seventeen elders besides Ezra leading them in Bible studies the rest of the day. “[They] caused the people to understand the law . . . so they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:7-8).

As these people grasped God’s law, they began to mourn over their sin. “All the people wept, when they heard the words of the law” (8:9). Picture the scene: Fifty thousand people lay scattered on the ground, mourning their sin in unison. Like a hammer, God’s Word had broken their pride. And now their weeping echoed over the hills for miles.

Is this what revival is all about? Is it a word so piercing that people are driven to their knees, weeping and repenting before God?

I have experienced such holy gatherings myself. When I was a child, our family attended “camp meetings” at the Living Waters Campground in Pennsylvania. Jesus’ Second Coming was preached with such power and authority that everyone was convinced He would return within the hour. A holy fear fell, and people were driven to their faces. Some cried as if they were hanging over hell by a thread—wailing, broken, sorrowing over sin.

Often, God’s Word was preached all day and into the night. Early the next morning, people could still be found lying prostrate in the prayer room, grieving over their sin. Some even had to be carried out.

It was on such a night that the Lord called me to preach, at the age of eight. I was in the Spirit for hours, broken and weeping, God’s Word coming alive in my heart. Christ’s return burned within me as an imminent reality and I will never forget that wonderful experience.

God’s testimony is never that His people are lying on their faces, crying rivers of tears. No, the testimony He wants to bring forth in His people is joy—genuine, lasting joy. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This joy—which results from biblical preaching and true repentance—brings true strength to God’s people and draws sinners into His house.

Most Christians never associate joy with repentance. But repentance is actually the mother of all joy in Jesus. Without it, there can be no joy. Yet, any believer who walks in repentance will be flooded with the joy of the Lord.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

SERMON TASTERS

You may have heard the phrase “sermon tasters.” This term is almost 200 years old, originating in London during the mid-1800s. At that time, the great preacher C.H. Spurgeon delivered sermons to five thousand people every Sunday at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. Across the city, Joseph Parker also preached anointed messages and other fiery pastors preached throughout London, delivering deep, revelatory, prophetic words.

It became a popular sport among wealthy Londoners to hop into their carriages and race across the city from one church to another, sampling the preaching of these ministers. Each Monday in Parliament, exclusive meetings were held to discuss which preacher delivered the best sermon and who brought forth the deepest revelation.

These gadabouts were dubbed “sermon tasters.” They always wanted to lay claim to some new spiritual truth or revelation, but very few practiced what they heard.

At the water gate in Jerusalem, however, there was no eloquent preaching, no sensational sermon. Ezra, the priest, preached straight from the Scriptures, reading for hours on end. And as the people stood and listened to God’s Word, they grew excited.

At times Ezra was so overcome by what he read, he stopped and “blessed the Lord, the great God” (Nehemiah 8:6). The glory of the Lord came down powerfully, and all the people raised their hands in praise to God: “The people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands” (8:6). As the Word was read, “they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (8:6). The people humbled themselves before God, in brokenness and repentance. Then, after a while, they stood up to experience more.

Please note that this meeting did not include any exciting stories to stir up people’s emotions. There was no manipulation from the pulpit, no dramatic testimony. There wasn’t even any music as yet. These people simply had an ear to hear everything God said to them. I believe the Lord desires to move among His people in the same way today. I see His Spirit stirring up churches wherever there is a hunger for His Word.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

HUNGER FOR GOD’S WORD

“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). At the time these words were proclaimed, the Israelites had just returned from captivity in Babylon. Under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah, the people had rebuilt Jerusalem’s ruined walls. And now they set their sights on reestablishing the Temple and restoring the nation.

Nehemiah had called a special meeting at the city’s water gate, within Jerusalem’s rebuilt walls. “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate” (Nehemiah 8:1). Some 42,360 Israelite men were on hand for this meeting. Standing alongside them were 7,300 servants, including 245 singers. Altogether, about 50,000 people were gathered.

First came the preaching of God’s Word. Scripture says the people were hungry to hear it: “They spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses. . . . And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding” (8:1-2).

These people didn’t need to have God’s Word pushed on them. A consensus of hunger had developed among them and they were fully prepared to submit to the authority of His Word. They wanted to be governed by it, to make their lives conform to its truth.

Amazingly, Ezra preached to this crowd for five or six hours—“from the morning until midday” (8:3). Yet no one even noticed the time. “The ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law” (8:3). These people were totally captivated by God’s Word.

What an incredible scene! You simply would not see such an occurrence in any American church today. Yet, I tell you, true revival can never take place without this kind of all-consuming hunger for God’s Word. Indeed, when God’s people grow weary of hearing His Word preached, a spiritual death begins—and the joy of the Lord departs.

Monday, May 11, 2015

THE FIRST OF HIS SIGNS by Gary Wilkerson

Scripture tells us that at the wedding in Cana there were “six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons” (John 2:6, ESV). Obeying Jesus, the servants filled up the large pots with water, which miraculously turned into a rich, tasty red wine.

That wine represents Christ’s redeeming blood. In the Old Testament, God used Moses to turn a river of water into blood as a sign of His judgment. Now, in contrast, Jesus turned water into wine to introduce God’s New Covenant. Through this miraculous act He was signaling, “Your purifying rituals will only cleanse your outer self, not the deepest core of your heart. My cleansing blood is needed to accomplish that in you.”

In short, the old way was passing into history as Jesus ushered in the new. The host at the wedding literally tasted the new wine wrought by Jesus’ miracle. He marveled, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now” (2:10).

Yet it wasn’t just the host who was blessed. Everyone present benefited from this amazing work, including the disciples who accompanied Jesus: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (2:11). If Jesus’ disciples needed final proof that He was the Messiah, this miraculous act provided it. It persuaded them to follow Him with their all.

What a beautiful picture of our service to the world in Christ’s name. The world is desperately in need of His redeeming blood, poured out for us and flowing freely in our lives through His sacrifice. And the gift is meant to be poured out to others in turn, blessing the world as we have been blessed.

Many Christians today are content only to receive God’s blessings, limiting their devotion to Sunday services. Others are so eager to experience His blessings that they travel from one revival to another, crying, “Pour it out on me, Lord!” All their energy, focus and resources are spent on receiving God’s blessings, not pouring them out to others. That isn’t the point of the blessings. Don’t misunderstand—it’s right and good to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit. But as Christ’s living Body, we are called to do more than taste; we are commanded to serve His rich blessing to others.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A GREAT CHALLENGE by Jim Cymbala

Unfortunately, seeking the Lord wholeheartedly does not exempt us from outside attack. After ten years of peace, Asa’s corner of the world was suddenly invaded by a huge Cushite army for no apparent reason. Asa was Solomon’s great-grandson but his godliness did not guarantee a smooth road for the rest of his life.

In such a moment, seekers after God have built up a reservoir of ready faith to meet new problems. They know exactly what to do:

“Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. O Lord, you are our God; do not let man prevail against you’” (2 Chronicles 14:11).

Asa’s faith was not some kind of instant cake mix stirred from a box. He and the people had already been calling out to God for a decade. Hence, there was no panic. They cried for the Lord to arise—and He did. The Cushites (Ethiopians) were decisively wiped out, despite their overwhelming numbers, “for the terror of the Lord had fallen upon them” (verse 14).
This is a classic example of a principle of God’s dealing with humanity. Hebrews 11:6 expresses it best: “Anyone who comes to [God] must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” I cannot say it strongly enough: When we seek God, He will bless us. But when we stop seeking Him . . . all bets are off, no matter who we are. It doesn’t matter how much talent we have, how many diplomas hang on our walls, what word of prophecy was proclaimed over us, or anything else.

On Asa’s way home from the battle, a prophet stopped him and his army along the road to reinforce what had just happened: “Listen to me. . . . The Lord is with you when you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you, but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (2 Chronicles 15:2).

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Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn 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, May 8, 2015

THE GOD WHO FAITHFULLY PROVIDES

When we set our hearts to obey God’s Word—allowing His Spirit to expose and mortify all sin in our lives—the Lord Himself causes us to rejoice. “God had made them rejoice with great joy” (Nehemiah 12:43). I believe this poured-out blessing includes abundant joy, even in the midst of our trials. The Lord opens heaven and baptizes us with “Jesus joy”—with shouting, rejoicing and singing—no matter what our circumstances.

Nehemiah reminded a rejoicing Israel of how God had provided for their forefathers in the wilderness. The Lord had poured out manifold mercies on them. He had taught them by His Spirit and led them by the cloud and the pillar of fire. He had supernaturally provided them with manna and water. And, miraculously, He didn’t allow their clothes or shoes ever to wear out (see Nehemiah 9:19-21).

How do these kinds of blessings sound to you? Manifold mercies, clear direction, God’s Spirit teaching you, all your physical and material needs supplied. That all sounds wonderful to me! And, indeed, all these blessings hold true for us today. The Lord, in His great mercy, has promised to provide them all for His people.

Yet, we can still choose to live in a wilderness, as Israel did. Nehemiah pointed out that their forefathers had rebelled against the Lord, ignoring His law: “Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs. . . . Yet many years didst thou forbear them . . . yet would they not give ear” (Nehemiah 9:26, 30).

Can you imagine the awful spiritual death these people brought upon themselves? Forty years of Sabbaths without any joy or mirth. Forty years of funerals, without ever entering the Promised Land. These Israelites were rich with blessings, increased with goods, needing nothing—but they were lukewarm in spirit.

This is a picture of Jehovah Jireh—the God who faithfully provides for His people even when they become hardened to His Word. The Israelites had become bored with the things of God and were just going through the motions. In His mercy, the Lord continued to direct their daily affairs and provide for them. But these people would never enter into His fullness. Is it any wonder their clothes and shoes never wore out? They simply weren't going anywhere.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

JESUS JOY

Where God's Word is revered, the inevitable result is an outpouring of genuine “Jesus joy.”

Nehemiah and Ezra told those who had returned to Jerusalem, “You’ve been excited about God’s Word—hungering for it, loving it, allowing it to work in your heart. You’ve repented, wept and mourned and God is pleased with you. But now it’s time to rejoice. Take out your handkerchiefs and wipe away your tears. This is a time for great joy and mirth” (see Nehemiah 8:9-10).

The glory of the Lord fell on Israel, and the people spent the next seven days rejoicing: “All the people went their way to eat, and to drink . . . and to make great mirth, because they had understood the words that were declared unto them” (Nehemiah 8:12).

The Hebrew word for mirth here means “glee, merriment, gladness, happiness.” This kind of mirth isn’t merely a good feeling, it’s an inner joy, a deep exuberance. Its expression may look different in each of us, because such joy takes place deep inside. But it is clear to everyone around us that our wellspring of joy comes from heaven.

Whenever Israel turned to sin and idolatry, the Lord removed their mirth: “I will also cause all her mirth to cease” (Hosea 2:11). “I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness . . . and this whole land shall be . . . an astonishment” (Jeremiah 25:10-11).

At times, Israel put on a false joy to try to cover the sins of the people. We see this happening in many churches today, as well. We may witness singing, dancing, manifestations, loud praising—but those who love God’s Word can discern whether it is true or false joy.


You may recall Israel’s shouts as they danced around the golden calf. When Joshua heard the people, he said, “There is a noise of war in the camp” (Exodus 32:17). But Moses replied, “It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery” (32:18). Moses was saying, “That’s the shout of a people still in bondage. They haven’t mastered their sin.” Gold had become Israel’s god, and it brought a shout to the lips of the people. Yet it was a shout of false joy—a noise that signaled God’s impending judgment.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SOUL-SATISFYING JOY!

What is missing in multitudes of churches today is the thing most needed by the lost: genuine, soul-satisfying joy.

I often hear Christians say, “We prayed down a revival in our church.” But I say that this cannot happen by prayer alone. There can’t be any such awakening unless both the pastor and the people hunger diligently for God’s Word. And they must wholly commit their lives to being governed by the Scriptures. We can’t obtain heaven’s joy until the pure Word has convicted us of sin, breaking down all pride, prejudices and false dignity.

When David disobeyed the directions of the Lord, he lost the joy of the Lord. That joy could only be restored by true repentance and so he prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. . . . Purge me” (Psalm 51:2-3, 7). David also prayed to regain what he had lost: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (verse 12).

I believe this explains the death pall that hangs over many churches today. In short, there is sin in the camp. And it’s impossible to maintain the joy of the Lord if sin is present. How can the Holy Spirit pour out joy on a people who continue to indulge in adultery, addictions and materialism, living like the unsaved?

The Lord lifted His glory from Shiloh because the high priest, Eli, refused to deal with sin in God’s house (1 Samuel 2:22-36). Eli had become accustomed to the easy life—and if you’re addicted to pleasure, you won’t be motivated to expose sin. God finally wrote the word “Ichabod” above the door of the sanctuary, meaning, “The glory has departed.” Then he held up Shiloh as an example of what happens to a church when sin is ignored. God’s glory—including all gladness and joy—dissipates in individuals and in the corporate body.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

WATCH THE ENEMY FLEE

“I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground” (Isaiah 44:3).

Has the Lord brought you His thirst-quenching Word? Has He come to you in your dry spells and flooded you with His Spirit? Are you drinking the pure water of His Word?

If so, you are ready to claim another covenant promise: “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses” (verses 3-4).

As you may know, willow trees grow fast and tall and they spread wide. You often see them growing beside streams or bodies of water. God is saying here, “Because you are My chosen, I’m going to pour My Spirit out on your children. And I will cause them to grow tall and strong in the Lord.”

As you read and reread these verses, I urge you to fill in your children’s names who are not following the Lord. Claim God’s promise to you by praying, “Lord, You said You would pour Your Spirit on my child. Now, bless my son, [put in your son’s name here]. Pour out Your Spirit on my daughter, [put in her name here]. Cause both of them to thirst for Your living water and to turn to You.”

Finally, God says your children will testify, “I am the Lord’s” (verse 5). What an incredible promise!

Yet these promises are not for everyone who merely says, “I am of Christ.” They are only for hungering, thirsting parents—those who drink in God’s Word daily, pray regularly, and ask the Spirit to pour out on them His power and presence.

If this describes you, then trust God’s promises—all of them! Claim them as yours, and hold the Lord to them in your intercession. Then bathe your family in prayer and watch the enemy flee.

Monday, May 4, 2015

SIMPLE OBEDIENCE by Gary Wilkerson

At the wedding in Cana of Galilee, Christ’s mother, Mary, saw that the wine had run out. She directed the servants to her Son and said, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5, ESV). The King James Version renders her instruction more powerfully: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

For many of us, the filling of God’s Spirit may take place in our prayer closet or within our circle of fellowship. But many Christians will be filled only as they begin to obey God’s clear commands in earnest. I’m convinced the hang-up constraining many believers is a casual attitude toward God’s Word and His voice in their hearts. By neglecting His direction for their lives, especially regarding His holy purposes, they are easily robbed of freedom and confidence.

I was speaking with a young, single Christian man a few months ago when he told me he had decided to move in with an unmarried couple who were living together. I challenged him, saying, “That doesn’t sound like a very healthy environment for you.” He answered, in effect, “I feel like it’s a safe situation. I don’t think God will be upset with me for doing it.” He said this not in faith, as though he believed it, but as if he were a teenager sneaking out of the house.

Eventually, the unmarried couple broke up and soon the Christian young man was romantically involved with the woman and eventually became sexually entangled. I tell this story not with judgment but as a simple illustration: The best way to be filled with God’s Spirit is simply to heed His voice and obey His commands. Doing so provides us with peace, safety and joy and allows us to speak for God with authority. As Mary told the servants at the wedding, “Whatever He tells you to do, do it!”

We may run to the altar seeking the wine of God’s Spirit, but for many the answer lies in simple obedience.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

THE LORD’S PRAYER by Carter Conlon

In Luke 11:2-4 Jesus taught us about prayer. Let’s briefly examine some of the basics that He taught.

Our Father”—We must understand that we are now in relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. This grants us the right to stand before His throne and make our petitions known.

Which are in heaven”—His ways are higher than our ways; His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. He lives in a place of absolute and total victory. There is no possibility of defeat in God.

Hallowed be thy name”—God’s name and reputation can be trusted. He is just and will never speak anything to us that is contrary to truth.

Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth”—The way things exist in His heart and His mind are how they should be on earth. As you and I walk with God, we will have a growing inner desire to see His kingdom come in glory and in power; to see His will done on earth as it is in heaven. There is a shift that ought to take place in our prayer. It should no longer be all about us but should now be focused on others. This is where the true power of prayer is found!

Give us day by day our daily bread”—God will give us our daily provision as we ask Him for it and acknowledge that He is our provider.

And forgive us our sins: for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us”—You and I are ambassadors of the kingdom of forgiveness. It is therefore imperative that we forgive others, lest we be unable to represent the forgiveness of God on the earth.


And lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil”—We must trust God to lead and deliver us, recognizing that we are not smart enough to get through this life on our own. We are deceptive to the core of our beings, and we can create what we think is the leading of God, even though it is actually the leading of our own heart. We simply must not assume that the pathway we are on is right, even if it may appear so in our sight. According to the Scriptures, “There is a way that looks right unto man, but its end is the way of death” (see Proverbs 16:25).

Friday, May 1, 2015

PRAYING PARENTS

One day we all are going to stand before the judgment seat and answer to the Lord for how we raised our children. And in that moment, none of us will be able to offer excuses or blame anyone else. Therefore, we have to examine ourselves today, asking: Have we brought up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Have we modeled for them a life of love and reverence for God?

I remember playing outside as a boy and hearing my mother pray for me from the third floor of our house. Her example remains vivid in my memory. Later, when Gwen and I were bringing up our children, we did the same, praying for our kids according to God’s Word: “Lord, make our sons as oaks beside the waters of life. And make our daughters as polished stones in your palace. Keep them all from the schemes of the wicked one” (see Isaiah 61:3 and Psalm 144:12)

Every Christian parent has high hopes for his child. I see this regularly in our congregation, as parents bring their children forward to be dedicated to the Lord. Our pastoral staff prays for God’s love and protection over these little ones. Then we anoint them with oil and ask the Holy Ghost to put a wall of fire around them.

But occasionally, I can’t help wondering: How many of those precious children are going to end up in the devil’s clutches—on drugs, into crime—because their mom or dad got careless about the spiritual atmosphere in their home? Will they end up in ruin because their parents were wrapped up in their own problems, never giving them attention or proper discipline?

Maybe you’re a parent who hurts because your grown son or daughter no longer serves the Lord. Or, perhaps you’re heartbroken because your youngster is hooked on drugs or alcohol. You’ve seen your once-tender child grow bitter, hard and lost.

This message is not meant to condemn you. No one can take back his or her past. But I do have a question for you. As you look back on your parenting years, ask yourself: Were you a true guardian over your home? Did you cover your children in prayer daily? Or were you too busy? Did you allow your kids to intimidate you?

That is all in the past now. Yet there remains something you can do: You still have a calling to pray diligently for your child’s salvation. That’s right, you can make up in prayer today what you might have missed in past years. You can still seek God’s face, bathe your loved one in prayer, and call down Holy Ghost conviction on him to bring him to the cross.