Tuesday, June 30, 2015

TRIED AND REFINED

What will it take to reach a lost and hurting world? A small army of soldiers that has been enrolled in the school of hardship and trials! God is seeking those who are willing to be tried by fire, whose faith He can refine and bring forth as pure gold.

Throughout my years in ministry, I have noticed a pattern in the lives of most Christians. Almost immediately after God saves us, He leads us into a wilderness of testing. Why? Because God is looking for a people who will trust Him in impossible situations before the whole world. This was true even in Jesus' life. As our Lord came up out of the baptismal waters, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He was sorely tested (see Luke 4:1-2).

We see this kind of trust demonstrated by Daniel. Daniel's jealous co-governors devised a plot against him, convincing King Darius to ban prayer for thirty days. Just as his peers expected, Daniel disobeyed the ban and kept praying three times a day. Although King Darius respected Daniel, he was forced by his own decree to cast this devout man into the lions' den.

Daniel was fully aware that the penalty for disobeying the ban on prayer was death. Yet he never stopped praying, because he trusted God. He knew the Lord would see him through his trial.

Throughout this ordeal, King Darius observed Daniel anxiously. He had tried every means possible to save Daniel, but he simply couldn't. Finally, just before Daniel was cast to the lions, the king assured him, "Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee" (Daniel 6:16).

If you tell the world that Jesus is your lord, your savior and your healer, a God who can perform the impossible, they will watch to see how you react in impossible situations. Their eyes are glued to everyone who boasts of God's goodness, power and glory. And the devil looks on, too, hoping our faith will fail.

The Psalmist writes, "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men" (Psalm 31:19). What is this "great goodness" that God lays up for those who trust in Him through trying times? It's an impenetrable, glorious testimony to the world that your faith can survive any situation.

How did God respond to Daniel's faith? He shut the mouths of those hungry lions (see Daniel 6:22).

Monday, June 29, 2015

REST IN HIM by Gary Wilkerson

Under pressure, most of us rehearse our need over and over: “If only I had this one thing. If I could just work on that one weakness.” But Jesus tells us not to fixate on our need but on our supplier. “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”(Matthew 6:25-27).

In the Old Testament when things looked impossible for King Asa, he fixated on his supplier, not his problem. When the kingdom was surrounded by a massive enemy with no hope in sight, Asa prayed, “Lord, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are fixed on you” (see 2 Chronicles 14:9-12)

Jesus shows us we are to give thanks in the midst of our situation. Facing the starving masses with just a handful of fishes and bread loaves, Jesus gave thanks to God: “Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them” (John 6:11).

Jesus thanked the Father before the need was even filled—and a miracle followed: “When they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, ‘Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.’ So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (6:12-14).

Your situation doesn’t depend on your resources—it depends on God’s. “My God will meet all your needs according to his riches in glory” (Philippians 4:19, NIV).

You may have cried your heart out over your need. Now is no time to review your failures; instead, it’s time to remind yourself of God’s goodness. It’s time to stop fretting over your vast need and instead give Him thanks. It’s time to draw on the strength of your faith-family when you don’t have it for yourself. Rest assured, your God is about to show Himself great in your life. Believe it—and find rest in Him!

Friday, June 26, 2015

TRUSTING HIM FULLY

Beloved, the Lord didn't save us simply so we could bask endlessly in His goodness, mercy and glory. He had an eternal purpose in choosing each one of us and that purpose goes beyond blessings, fellowship and revelation. The fact is, God still reaches out to lost humankind. And He's searching for a believing, trusting people He can shape into His greatest evangelistic tool.

Our Lord doesn't use angels to witness of His glory, He uses His people. He desires to train us as a special, "peculiar" breed (see 1 Peter 2:9). He is looking to prove His Word in our lives so that the world will believe it when we proclaim it. He wants to present to the unbelieving nations a faithful people who have been rocked by hard times, broken by deep trials, yet who continue to trust Him.

We see God searching for such a people in Gideon's day. When Gideon issued a call for volunteers to fight the Midianites, thousands of Israelites responded. But the Lord told Gideon, "The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands. . . . Proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart" (Judges 7:2-3).

God was telling Gideon, "If anybody here is afraid, tell him to go home now. I won't allow My army to be infected by fear." God was actually turning away volunteers for His army; in fact, at one point, some 22,000 doubters were sent home. Gideon eventually reduced the number of volunteers to 10,000 but God told him there were still too many. The Lord finally settled on 300 battle-tested soldiers.

This ought to tell us something. As the Lord seeks gospel messengers He can send out to the world, He is not going to recruit churches whose pews are filled with fearful, doubting, untested people. He won't look for powerful, efficient religious organizations or highly educated seminarians. God uses organizations and the educated, of course, but in themselves not one of these has the resources needed to be God's tried and tested messenger.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

DOUBTING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Of all the sins we can commit, doubt is the one most hated by God. According to both Old and New Testaments, our doubting grieves the Lord, provokes Him, causes Him much pain. We see a prime example of this in ancient Israel after God had delivered His people from the hands of Pharaoh.

The Psalmist laments, "We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly. Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red Sea" (Psalm 106:6-7).

The writer is making a confession here. What was the wicked sin that Israel had committed? It was their doubt that God would further deliver them, even after He had performed an incredible miracle for them at the Red Sea.

The psalmist is asking us to imagine God's people as they stood rejoicing on the victory side of the sea. The Lord had just performed one of the greatest miracles in the history of humankind, delivering Israel from the mighty Egyptians. Yet, how did these same people react as they faced hardship afterward? They doubted God's faithfulness.

The writer is saying, essentially, "Can you believe it? Our Lord had moved supernaturally on our behalf, delivering us from the enemy. Yet, even after this incredible miracle, we mistrusted Him. How could we ever provoke God that way?"

It was a different story altogether when Israel stood on the victory side of the sea. They sang and danced as they watched the mighty Egyptian army sink to destruction: "He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise" (Psalm 106:9-12).

The Israelites sang the right song—a song of praise to almighty God—but they sang it on the wrong side of the sea. Anyone can sing and rejoice after they have the victory. But Israel had failed miserably on the testing side of the Red Sea. There they hadn't trusted God at all.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

REAL SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

Most of us equate power with something visible, flashy, earthshaking. Yet this doesn't hold true with spiritual authority. Peter says God entrusts spiritual authority to “the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" (1 Peter 3:4).

The Greek word that Peter uses for meekness means gentleness. And the word used for quietness means assured, undisturbed. Peter is speaking of a heart that is always at peace with its position in Christ. Such a heart possesses real spiritual authority.

Of course, this flies in the face of all secular philosophies about power and authority. The world tells us, "Assert yourself! Use power through intimidation. Make eye contact, use body language, stare others down. Put your own needs first." We see this attitude reflected on the album covers of today's music groups. Band members scowl, menace, "get in your face." They equate such posture with having authority.

Our attitude as believers is completely different. We pursue power and authority for one purpose only: to put Satan to flight. We want to be able to stand up to his attacks on our lives, our churches, our families. And we must acknowledge that without a spirit of meekness and quietness in our hidden man, we have no real power.
David writes, "Thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great" (Psalm 18:35). The phrase "made me great" here means "abundantly increased my mercy for others." David is stating, "Lord, your gentleness toward me has increased my own capacity for mercy."

Think about what David is saying here. This king had doubted God's faithfulness to Israel. He had committed adultery and then even murdered a man to cover up his own sin. Yet the Lord showed David incredible mercy and forgiveness.

David was overwhelmed by how gentle and loving God was toward him during this terrible period. And now he said, "The Lord has been so tender in dealing with me. How could I ever be hard on anybody who goes through what I endured? God's grace toward me has enlarged my heart so now I want to show tenderness toward others—to my spouse, my children, everyone."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

THE INNER MAN

Paul speaks of our having an inward man (see Romans 7:22). To the Corinthian church Paul said, "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16). Indeed, there are two such selves in all of us. There is both an outward man and an inner, hidden man. The outward man is always on display before others but the hidden man is known only by God. This inner man doesn't display himself conspicuously. He resides where nobody else can see the work being done in him. And the Holy Ghost is constantly at work in him, strengthening and preparing him to receive true spiritual authority.

Peter illustrates this duality in us by giving us the example of a certain woman. This woman is decked out in finery, wearing the latest hairstyle and all manner of jewelry, rings, bracelets, chains. She's a living, breathing example of flesh appealing to flesh.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

It's clear that Peter is speaking here of the backslidden church. This church operates in the flesh, basing everything on outward appearances. It has no inner holiness and therefore no real authority. Tragically, many Christians are attracted to this kind of church. They're impressed by flashy services that possess nothing of God's true glory.

Please don't misunderstand: Peter isn't asking any Christian woman to throw away her makeup kit. Rather, he's saying, "If you want to move in spiritual authority, then stop trying to impress others by how you look or act. Instead, focus on the hidden person. That's the only way to obtain Christ's authority."

Monday, June 22, 2015

GOD IS SUFFICIENT by Gary Wilkerson

Over a hundred years ago, a French inventor came up with a marvelous innovation called motion pictures. He learned that by organizing a sequence of photographs and moving them quickly in front of a bright light, it gave the impression of real life being lived before his eyes.

This inventor knew he was onto something special, so he scheduled a premiere for what would be one of the most famous public showings of a movie ever. Expectations were high as dignitaries and guests filled the auditorium. The film, “Arrival of a Train at a Station,” was only fifty seconds long, but it had a powerful impact—too powerful, in fact. It showed a train chugging directly toward the camera, and some historians state that when the people saw it, they panicked. With no context for their experience, they thought an actual train was about to run over them!

Yet it was all an illusion! The people were convinced their lives were in danger when in reality what they experienced was mere smoke and mirrors.

This is the trick Satan plays on us whenever our faith is challenged. At such times, our needs seem to outweigh our resources. It looks like our God-given dream will be destroyed by a runaway train. That’s when the devil tells us, “It’s over. This is too much for you.” But the “reality” that Satan presents is superficial. The truth is, Jesus is greater than any hardship we face. He holds our reality in His hands, and that reality is victory.

When all seems lost in the face of an oncoming problem, Jesus tells us not to flee but to “sit down” (see John 6:10).

As Jesus faced a large, hungering crowd, “He himself knew what he would do” (John 6:6). Christ’s confidence was based on His sense of God’s reality behind every situation. And so He instructed the disciples, “Have the people sit down, because the Father is about to meet this need. It’s time to trust Him to provide all that this situation requires.”

Friend, God is sufficient for every circumstance we may face.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

SOLD OUT TO HIS KINDNESS by Nicky Cruz

From the moment I gave my heart to Jesus, I have known how little I was capable of bringing to our relationship. There are so many people more talented than me, more eloquent in the pulpit, smoother in their delivery, more knowledgeable in theology. People with greater gifts to lay at the feet of Jesus. But what I do bring is a heart that is completely and wholly sold out to His kindness! I’m so in love with Jesus that at times I feel as if my chest will burst from my body. My bones aren’t large enough to contain my adoration. My vocabulary can’t express the depth of my worship! My words can never do justice to the love and devotion I feel in my heart. There are times when I cry in agony because I can’t fully express my love!

When I read the psalms of David, I feel such a kinship. I wish I had his ability to communicate his feelings for God with such eloquence and grace. I wish I could write as he does. Play the harp as he could play. I can’t say that I share his talent, but I do think I share his heart. I know what he was going through. I understand what he must have felt, sitting alone in his cold, dark palace, longing for simpler days. Longing for God’s nearness and favor.

And that’s why God loved him so. That’s why God called David a man after His own heart.
Can you imagine a greater compliment? Can you think of something God could possible say about someone to bring more weight? God loved David’s heart. He connected with him. The two were one in the most intimate and powerful way possible. God related to David, not because of his looks or deeds or strength, but because of the state of his heart. The love in his spirit.

Is there a higher level of communion with our Creator? Can a person get any closer to God than to share the intimacy and thoughts of his heart? Don’t we all long to have God say to us, “I love your heart”?


__________

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, June 19, 2015

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF FAITH

David declared, "I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4). David's hidden man remained unmoved, undisturbed in heart, no matter what Satan threw at him. Why? Because he was fully at rest in God's faithfulness to perform His Word.

David was able to say, "I've had a revelation of my Father's love and patience toward me. Therefore, I will accept no more lies from the devil. I know better than to listen to him anymore, because the Holy Ghost has educated me. Let storms of trouble come, let demons rage, let enemies rise up on all sides. Let sickness and even death stare me in the face. My heart is at rest, because I know all things are in my Father's hands. And He's working everything for my good."

By contrast, hand-wringing Christians have no authority. All they can think is, "Why would God allow this to happen? What am I going to do?" Their lives are full of chaos, fear and murmuring, because they've forfeited all resources. They've neglected to hide God's Word in their hearts, so they aren't able to turn to it in times of crisis.

The only righteousness that frightens Satan away is the righteousness of faith. "The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever" (Isaiah 32:17). You can't stand against the devil simply because you don't drink or use drugs anymore. You may live by an entire catalog of do's and don'ts, but those aren't the essence of God's righteousness. Righteousness is believing that what God says is true, and committing your life to it. It's that simple.

When Isaiah says, "The effect of righteousness [is] quietness and assurance forever," the Hebrew word used for assurance means confidence. Simply put, faith in God's promise of forgiveness produces an unshakable confidence in us. We may still be sorely tempted, but we know Jesus is at work in us. In short, spiritual authority is this: I walk in full assurance of the reliability of God's Word. I do what it says, submitting to every command. And my faith in His Word to me puts my heart at rest. Satan can no longer linger in my presence. I need merely to say, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan," and he will flee.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

GAINING SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

When the disciples were helpless against the enemy, Jesus told them that power over Satan came only by praying and fasting. Why is this so? I believe it's because the Lord wants time to work on our inner man. He wants our heart completely attuned to Him. We simply cannot obtain any authority without having habitual communion with Him.

How can we expect to chase Satan out of our churches, our homes, our troubled children, if we don't pray? How can parents expect God to impart spiritual power to them when they argue, fight and gossip in front of their kids? How can they expect to possess authority when they go out drinking, and then fly into a rage when they learn their kids smoke pot?

Jesus could boldly say, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me" (John 14:30). If you can't say this too, you'll remain powerless. And Satan will run rampant through your household.

Peter gives us a key to spiritual authority when he writes, "Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives" (1 Peter 3:1). The word for conversation here signifies lifestyles or behavior. I believe Peter is talking about the Bride of Christ. And the image here is of a wife who possesses true spiritual authority.

This woman submits to her husband because the Bible commands it. And because she allows herself to be governed by God's Word, her “hidden man” is being conformed to His divine image. Peter says that such a woman doesn't need to chide, harangue or preach at her husband. She'll be able to win him to Christ without saying a single word. How? Her witness is in the silent eloquence and power of her godly walk. This woman's husband may be obnoxious and overbearing. She may have to bite her tongue time after time. But because she is in submission—to God's Word and, in turn, to her husband—she is gaining spiritual authority day by day. A mighty power is being released in her that increases her authority over the enemy's hold on her husband.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

POWER FOR TODAY

The apostle Peter was made of flesh and blood, just like the rest of us. Yet he wielded spiritual authority over the devil. He said to the lame man at the temple gate, "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk" (Acts 3:6), and the man was healed. The religious leaders of the day recognized this power in Peter and asked him, "By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?" (4:7).

Nowhere does the Bible suggest that this same power isn't meant for us today. When did the Lord ever say to His Church, "I've helped you so far. Now you're on your own"? What kind of God would empower His people in the wilderness when they needed it—would empower Israel's kings, prophets like Elijah, the crowds at Pentecost—and then withhold it from his last-days Church, when we need it more than any generation?

According to Scripture, Satan's power has increased in our day: "The devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Revelation 12:12). Why would God permit Satan to attack a weak, powerless church that has no defense? His people have never lost access to His divine power.

Unfortunately, a number of Christians have a skewed idea of spiritual authority. This is especially true in charismatic circles. I know of a series of "power" conventions, where preachers lay hands on people to endow them with an anointing of spiritual authority. Yet, when the recipients return home, their efforts against the devil still fail miserably. They end up asking the same question the disciples asked Jesus: "Why couldn't we cast out these spirits?" You can't obtain supernatural power simply by having someone lay hands on you. It isn't a gift, it's a way of life, of walking with Jesus. And not everyone who asks for such authority will suddenly be changed into a spiritual powerhouse. The fact is, God entrusts His divine authority only to what Peter calls the "hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible" (1 Peter 3:4).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

OVER ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY

I believe the Church today is in a full-blown crisis over its lack of spiritual authority. I regularly receive calls from pastors and parents who are panicked about their children. They plead, "I just discovered my child is a drug addict and I don't know what to do."

My heart goes out to these parents. They're brokenhearted, desperate to find true spiritual authority that will lead to real help. Yet, I have to wonder: Where is the spiritual authority in their home? In my opinion, many such parents think they're helpless when they're not. Somebody in the family has to have power to chase the devil out—out of their child and out of their house. I say to every suffering parent: You must lay hold of spiritual authority yourself. Even if your child shuts you out, you still can attain power in your secret closet of prayer.

You may protest, "But I'm not Jesus. He came to earth with divine authority." The fact is, Jesus, though God in flesh, faced the devil as a man, a Spirit-empowered man. He didn't fight Satan on any other grounds. Likewise, Satan always approached Christ as a man, even though he knew He was God's Son. The demon acknowledged as much, saying, "Let us alone . . . thou Jesus of Nazareth" (Mark 1:24). They addressed Jesus as a human being, born in a particular town in Israel. Yet, even though Christ was a flesh-and-blood man, He wielded full spiritual authority over every demonic power.

You may also think, "If only I had that kind of power over the enemy. But I don't possess the type of authority to make Satan flee." That just isn't true. Jesus' disciples had this very power: "When he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease" (Matthew 10:1). "I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy" (Luke 10:19).

Monday, June 15, 2015

DO I HAVE WHAT IT TAKES? by Gary Wilkerson

Early in his ministry, Jesus’ reputation for healings and wonders attracted huge crowds. “Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. . . . Lifting up his eyes . . . a large crowd was coming toward him” (John 6:3, 5, ESV).

Bible scholars estimate this crowd as being between 10,000 and 15,000 people. The sight of the vast throng must have encouraged the disciples. It confirmed that they were following the right Man and that more great things were going to happen. And it must have delighted Jesus to see their joy because they were learning to anticipate great things from Him.

Yet, as the crowd gathered, the disciples faced an impossible dilemma: “Jesus said to Philip, ‘Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?’” (6:5). No sooner had a dream been realized than hard reality set in.

Is this scenario familiar to you? Think back to the first great job you had. You were excited because it seemed like the first step in fulfilling your calling. But after a few days you learned your boss wasn’t who he appeared to be and you had to work with a colleague who seemed to resent you. The demands on your time were far greater than you were told, causing you to miss precious time with your family. You realized, “I had no idea it would be this difficult.”

That’s how I imagine Philip felt at that moment. Bewildered, he answered Jesus, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (6:7). That was a huge amount of money. In short, even if they had the means and ability to provide food, it still wouldn’t be enough to feed the crowd.

As I read Philip’s response, a phrase leaps out at me: “Would not be enough.” How often does this thought arise in our minds when we face obstacles? How often do we wonder, “I’m not sure I have what it takes. I don’t have the resources, and I doubt I have the ability. Am I strong enough in Christ? Do I have enough of the Holy Spirit? Lord, am I about to derail?”

We can know this for sure: Jesus had called Philip to a great victory that day but Philip just couldn’t see it yet. The same is true for us: God has called us to expect great things in our walk with Him. So, what happens when our situation requires faith? Do we believe Him for the miracle needed? Or are we derailed by our limitations? Jesus’ challenge here had a purpose: “He said this to test [Philip], for he himself knew what he would do” (6:6).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

STEPPING OUT AND TAKING RISKS by Jim Cymbala

When it comes to spiritual matters, you and I will never know our potential under God until we step out and take risks on the front line of battle. We will never see what power and anointing are possible until we bond with our King and go out in His name to establish His kingdom. Sitting safely in the shelter of Bible discussions among ourselves, or complaining to one another about the horrible state of today’s society, does nothing to unleash the power of God. He meets us in the moment of battle. He energizes us when there is an enemy to be pushed back.

In 1 Chronicles 11:12-14 (NIV) we meet Eleazar, who accompanied David into a major battle with the Philistines. We get an idea of how formidable the enemy was when the Bible says, “At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines.” This was no minor skirmish; this was all-out combat against a superior opponent. Many frightened Israelite soldiers saw the coming horde and ran for their lives.

But not Eleazar. He and David “took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory” (verse 14). Once again we see the combination of human and divine efforts. God did not act alone. He didn’t unleash a lightning strike from heaven to fry the Philistines. Instead, he was looking all across the horizon that day to see who would stay in the barley field and thus receive His supernatural aid. While others left in fear, these two—David and Eleazar—stood firm.

The account in 2 Samuel 23:10 adds even more detail about Eleazar. He “stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.” He swung his weapon with such grit, such adrenaline, that his muscles locked up on him; he couldn’t let go. Talk about a mighty warrior for God!

What the world’s situation cries out for today is this kind of determined and desperate faith that grips the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, and won’t let go until victory comes.

__________
Jim Cymbala began Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson and a frequent speaker at the Expect Church Leadership Conferences sponsored by World Challenge throughout the world. 

Friday, June 12, 2015

LOVING YOUR ENEMIES

One of the supreme marks of a mature believer is love for all of lost humankind. Such a Christian shows love equally for Jews and Palestinians, for Bosnians and Serbs, for everyone.

Only a full-grown, mature believer can accept these words of Jesus: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mathew 5:44). I ask you: Can you imagine spending a month in a Palestinian field hospital, nursing and feeding soldiers who want to destroy Israel? Can you keep your prejudices in check as you read inflammatory news reports in the coming days? Will you have the same spirit that was in Christ, who said as He was crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”?

If you want to walk as Jesus walked, you can’t allow your human passions to be inflamed by headlines. Christ died for every lost soul on this earth, including abortion doctors, murderers, rapists, child molesters. Right now, our jails are filled with convicts who have become powerful witnesses of the saving love of Jesus, all because somebody loved them in spite of their sins.

You can know you’re growing in grace if you’re able to pray for those whom the world hates. As we hear of terrible things happening, we are to stand against every prejudice that rises up in us, and declare, “I take Christ’s authority over this. I will love humankind as my Lord did.”

Here is the great promise that puts to rest all our feelings of doubt and uncertainty: “Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth . . . giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. . . . They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

WHEN IN A CRISIS

A sure sign of spiritual growth is that you take every problem and crisis immediately to Jesus. You have learned that you have a place to go.

“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).

Some Christians are forever in a crisis. Every time you meet them, they tell you another awful complaint: “I’m facing one thing after another. I don’t know what to do.” They are willing to describe their problem to anyone in the vicinity but they never take it to Jesus, as if He has nothing to offer them.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not referring to Christians who are going through real, legitimate problems. Every day our ministry receives dozens of letters from saints who are enduring severe suffering. Rather, I’m speaking of the “professional gripers” in the church. They are pros at complaining. As you listen to them, you want to ask, “Is your God dead? Why don’t you draw on the resources He’s provided you? Don’t you know He’s made you more than a conqueror?”

How pleasing it is to the Lord when you go to Him first with all your cares. You know you have someone who is faithful to see you through.

Here are several Scriptures for you to lay hold of:

“Casting all your care upon him; for He careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).

When you find yourself in a crisis, quickly run to God for comfort, provision and direction!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

FORGET THOSE THINGS

Satan has tripped up many Christians by convincing them they’ve lost something in the Lord. The fact is, it’s a terrible sin to doubt God’s love for you and to misjudge your position in Christ by your feelings. Your day-to-day standing with Jesus has nothing to do with your zeal, tears or intensity. It rests on faith alone.

Imagine how lost you would be if your salvation actually rested on your feelings. Paul urges us, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Philippians 3:13). You’re never to rely on past emotional experiences. What matters today is your trust. Do you trust His promises to you? Are you ready to partake of His divine nature in a truly biblical way—not by emotional trips or outward evidences, but by casting yourself on His glorious promises?

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4). Peter makes it clear: We obtain Christ’s nature by appropriating God’s covenant promises, and not by any other means.

A minister once boasted to me, “I’ve finally gotten back to the faith of my youth. I’m praying more, and the Bible is my meat again. God is giving me red-hot messages for my congregation and once again I have a great love for the lost. I feel so renewed.” Just a few months later, however, this man was back down in the pits.

God does bring renewal and fresh anointing to our lives. But that’s not the food we are to live on. We are to live on a constant faith in His covenant promises. His word is unshakable, no matter how low we may feel. Our Lord will keep His promises to us: “Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

FOLLOWERS OF GOD

Conversion experiences are often emotional, because they are new and so incredibly special. The change that occurs in our souls is so sudden, it can be overwhelming. It is marvelous to suddenly be turned from sin and bondage to a whole new life in Christ.

Our early spiritual growth is like a child learning to walk. It is wonderful and exciting when a baby takes his first steps. Dad and Mom smile, urging him, “Come to us—you can do it!” With wobbly legs, he takes two steps, three steps, and then down he goes. Immediately he’s picked up and praised. His siblings encourage him, “Good boy.” He’s the center of everyone’s attention and finally, when he makes it across the room, they all cheer. What an emotional experience it is for him.

But soon that baby is no longer the center of attention. Now whenever he falls, he picks himself up and walks all over the house, making messes. He pulls over plants, drags out pots and pans, rips clothes from dresser drawers. And he’s disciplined for it. Suddenly, things aren’t so exciting for him anymore. His first steps were charged with laughter and joy but now walking isn’t so spectacular or emotional.

Your spiritual growth is similar. When you were a babe in the Lord, you felt God giving you special attention. Every time you fell, He was there to pick you up. Yet, as Paul writes, you’re not to remain a child forever. Just as a toddler is taught not to go into the street, you’re taught not to walk into spiritual fires. Now, whenever you fall, you look around for someone to pick you up, but nobody is there. God is teaching you to stand on His Word and walk by faith, and not to crawl like a baby anymore.

“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor” (Ephesians 5:1-2).

Monday, June 8, 2015

CONSUMED WITH LOVE FOR GOD by Gary Wilkerson

There are many voices in our culture urging us to have the best life we possibly can. This concept has translated into the way many Christians approach church. They think God should bless them with everything they desire in life. But that’s not the way God blesses us. Yes, He seeks to serve us for our good—but the name to be lifted up as our central focus is His, not ours.

As Jesus overturned all those tables in the temple, He cried out, “Take these things away!” (John 2:16). Likewise today, our temples are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of His rightful lordship. God sends Jesus to rid us of those things, to prepare room for the things He wants to fill us with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of prayer, faith and kingdom victory.

“His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17). When Jesus drove out the moneychangers, His disciples got a picture of what passion for God really looked like. Jesus’ actions appeared harsh, but in reality they demonstrated God’s loving grace.

A lot of Christians today think of God’s grace as excusing passion rather than igniting it. But grace was never meant to leave us in a place of apathy. The opposite is true: When God’s grace is applied to our lives, it impassions us with zeal. It makes us more circumspect of heart, more desirous of a clean life, more zealous for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

In fact, grace evokes strong emotions. Scripture says that when Jesus’ disciples saw their Master in action, they “remembered.” These devout men had forgotten what zeal for God looked like. Now, as Jesus drove out the moneychangers, their hearts were stirred by the realization, “This is what it means to be consumed with love for God!”

Have you been robbed of your zeal? Has casual Christianity or consumerism overtaken your passion for Jesus? Invite Him today to overturn the tables in your heart. May His name rule supreme in your worship, evoking strong emotions. And may He bring to your remembrance the zeal that consumes your heart to serve your great and holy God. Amen!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

THREE LOAVES by Carter Conlon

The Bible tells us that a person came at midnight saying, “Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5-6). Now Jesus never just throws out a random number, so there must be some significance in this. Plus, I don’t know anybody who can eat three loaves of bread in one sitting. So what exactly is He referring to here?

This is the way I see it: The first loaf of bread represents the compassion of God the Father. The Scriptures tell us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). You and I need the compassion of God, for that is what will draw us out of living merely for ourselves. The compassion of God is what will cause us to move beyond saying, “Give us bread, give us deliverance, grant us forgiveness.”

When we move beyond ourselves with the compassion of God, we will also move into what I believe is represented by the second loaf: The courage of the Son. When Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, He said, “If it be possible, Father, take this cup from Me. Nevertheless not what I will, but what you want for My Life” (see Mark 14:36). You and I need that same courage in order to lay down our own will and lay hold of God’s—living as His witnesses in this generation. We will need supernatural strength to go out into the marketplace and stand for Christ in the midst of a hostile generation that is resisting its own salvation.

In light of this, I thank God that there is also a third loaf: The power of the Holy Spirit. This is the Lord’s promise to those who belong to Him and are willing to engage in His work on earth. It is for those who are no longer content to go into the prayer closet concerned simply about their own needs. Rather, they are moved by the needs of this generation. These are the people who will have power in their prayers.

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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, June 5, 2015

INCREASING IN CHRIST

“For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Every day you do things over and over that become boring and repetitious. For example, every weekday you get up at the same hour, eat the same breakfast and make the same drive to your office. You go to the same restaurant for lunch, stop at the same coffee shop on your way home, and listen to the same radio station during the drive.

The same can be true of our spiritual lives. On Sunday morning, we go to church and sit in the same seats. We sing the same choruses and hymns. Even our prayers can sound the same. We do the same things over and over and we are tempted to think, “I’m not doing anything more than I’ve always done. I read my Bible and pray. I sing in the choir. But there’s no variety to it. I’ve done these same things for years and I’m not growing at all.”

What lies your feelings tell you! Such thinking can rob you of God’s grace. The fact is, we all face endless repetition in our daily routines. That’s just life. The real proof of growth is that we haven’t quit. We’re still giving ourselves to God’s work, day by day, week by week, year by year.

You see, growing in grace doesn’t mean doing more or greater things for God. True growth comes in doing the same things over and over, with more heart assurance that we’re doing everything for Him. It’s like learning to write in first grade. You begin with looping circles and lines, forming big letters. But after a while, the letters become smaller and closer together and eventually, you learn to put words together and finally form sentences. Even though you’ve been doing the same repetitious things for a long time, you’ve been writing. The whole time, something worthwhile was being accomplished. I am convinced that spiritual growth occurs more in the repetitive things than it does by jumping from one ministry activity to another. It takes more grace simply to keep going when we’re tired, broken, downcast or afflicted than it does when everything is new. You may think you’re spiritually dead, going nowhere in the Lord, but most likely you’re increasing in Christ every day.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

THE INCREASE OF GOD

You may be totally oblivious to the tremendous maturing process taking place inside you. Paul likens our spiritual growth to the growth of our bodies. He says our souls are nourished in the same way as our physical joints, muscles and fibers. He calls this being “[increased] with the increase of God” (Colossians 2:19).

Such growth comes from the Head. Simply put, as you trust and abide in Christ, a never-ending flow of His life is pumped into your soul. Jesus is a constant life-force in your being, a living stream that never shuts down. Therefore, His life is constantly emanating into yours, even while you are sleeping. He provides a fresh supply to you every day, no matter how you feel on the outside.

How do you think Israel survived forty years in the wilderness? They lived on manna, bread sent from heaven. This “angels’ food” had all the nutrients needed to build up the Israelites’ immune systems. That is why God’s people never contracted any of the diseases of Egypt. All around them, the Canaanites and Philistines were dying of plagues, yet the whole time, Israel remained immune.

So it is with Christ, our manna today. He is the bread sent to us from heaven and He builds up our spiritual immune systems against sins of all kinds. We may not see outward signs that this manna is at work in us (just as we don’t see our physical bodies’ immune systems growing stronger). But God’s Word promises that all who love Jesus will grow stronger in their spiritual immunity. Think about it: At times you still may be tempted, but over the years you’ve found growing power to resist the world’s seductions. And you’ve grown more disgusted with the filth you see around you. You no longer think or talk as the world does. While your coworkers are howling, “It’s Friday—party time,” you’re thinking, “Only two more days till Sunday.” That’s because you are growing!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ABOUNDING IN EVERYTHING

The apostle Paul assured the Thessalonians that they had learned how to walk pleasing before the Lord. He told them, “Ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). Paul then added this exhortation: “So ye would abound more and more” (4:1).

To abound means to increase. Paul was saying, “You’ve been sitting under sound gospel preaching so now you have a solid foundation beneath you. Therefore, you ought to be increasing in grace in all ways—in your faith, your knowledge, your love.”

Paul also spoke of such abounding to the Corinthians: “As ye abound in everything, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also” (2 Corinthians 8:7). He said, in other words, “God’s Spirit has wrought major changes in your life. Therefore, you ought to be giving more of yourself in all ways—in your time, your finances, your talents.”

These passages make it clear that everyone who has been fed God’s Word is expected to grow in grace. God has endowed gifts to pastors, teachers, prophets and evangelists for the express purpose of causing His church to grow. No believer is to remain a babe in Christ. We are expected to grow in Him so that we are not carried away by any false thing.

Jesus Himself speaks of a constant increase in our lives: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Christ commended the church at Thyatira for having grown in grace: “I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first” (Revelation 2:19). Jesus was saying, in essence, “You’re more intense now than when you started out. You’ve allowed My life in you to grow more abundant.”

Proverbs echoes this: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18). And Job declares, “The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger” (Job 17:9).

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

STIR UP YOUR HUNGER

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).

Jesus is saying, “You may be a good person, someone who’ll do anything for anybody. You’ve got a good reputation among both the church and the world. You’re known as being truly alive in Christ, blessed of God. But an element of death has crept into your life. Something of the world has defiled you.”

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments” (3:4). What is the defilement referred to here? It is prayerlessness. And here is Jesus’ warning to us: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (3:2).

The believers in Sardis hadn’t been alert. They hadn’t been in prayer, waiting on the Lord, seeking Him as they once had. Instead, they allowed themselves to grow careless, not coming to God daily for help. Now defilement had been laid on them. The word Jesus uses for defiled here signifies a soil of sin, a black mark on a white garment. Christ is telling us, “If you don’t pray, you have no defense against the enemy. Your negligence allows your garment to be stained.”

Yet, Jesus declares of a few, “A few names . . . have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy” (3:4). He’s saying, “You still have a small flame of desire for Me. You don’t want to lose My presence, to be given over to barrenness. Quickly now, stir up your hunger again. Go back to the secret closet of prayer and call on Me. Set your heart like a flint. Fan the flame of faith before it dies — before death sets into your soul, as it has with so many around you.”

Don’t ignore your great gift of access to God in prayer. Your eternal future depends on it. Pray and seek the Lord. He has provided you with access and He promises to meet your every need.

Monday, June 1, 2015

GOD’S TEMPLE ON EARTH by Gary Wilkerson

We are God’s temple on earth, our bodies the dwelling place of His Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 6:19). Certain things don’t belong in our temple, however, things that can overtake our passion for Him.

When Jesus began overturning tables in the Temple (see John 2:13-17), He was overturning more than the money changers’ trade. He was overturning a religious system that for millennia had relied on animal sacrifices to please God. Christ was stating, in essence, “Your relationship to the Father will no longer be based on sacrifices of sheep and goats and doves. It is going to be based on My once-for-all-time sacrifice for you.”

That scene in the Temple offers an analogy for our time. Many congregations today are filled with noise and activity. Many programs are in place, from overseas mission trips to local outreaches, to dozens of small fellowship groups. The worship services can be full of bright lights, powerful sound and amazing energy. Yet, sometimes amidst all this lively activity, something is missing at the center: Jesus Himself.

Without Christ as the focus of our activities, our churches are dead. No matter how hard we work to do things that serve and honor His name, none of our “sacrifices” in themselves can achieve true kingdom results. From the outside our fellowships may look righteous, but if we don’t maintain a focus on Jesus, we’ll be churches full of dead men’s bones.

The system of animal sacrifice was never God’s fullest intention to represent His reconciliation with sinful humankind. Like the institution of kings in Israel, it was an imperfect system, yet God allowed it, using it symbolically to point to something higher and better.

God demonstrated this with Abraham. In that ancient time, eastern cultures sacrificed animals and even children to appease their angry gods. When the Lord instructed Abraham to take his son to the mountain to sacrifice him on an altar, Abraham obeyed unquestioningly. That reaction may seem strange to us today, but it suggests a trembling fear that ancient people had toward their gods. When your god spoke, you jumped—otherwise, you might face famine or pestilence. It was fear-based obedience.

But Abraham sensed his God was different. And, in truth, God was about to show Abraham He wasn’t like Moloch, to whom people sacrificed children. When Abraham raised the knife over Isaac, God stopped him (see Genesis 22:11-12). God then provided a ram to be sacrificed. He declared to His servant—and to every believer in every age—“I don’t need you to sacrifice for Me. I’m going to sacrifice for you.” God turned the tables completely, just as Jesus did when He entered the Temple.