Friday, January 29, 2016

WHERE ARE THE TIMOTHYS?

We live in a time when a worldwide threat of planned nuclear or chemical explosion looms. The hearts of millions of people are failing them for fear, and the Church of Jesus Christ is being challenged as never before in history. We are looking out at a world that is spinning into chaos.

As I survey all this, I ask: “Where is the voice of authority in Christ? Where are the shepherds, the congregations, the lay Christians who are thinking as Jesus does? Where are those who aren’t pursuing their own agendas, but are seeking the mind of the Lord in these times?”

Those focused only on bettering themselves are drifting away from intimacy with Christ. They may preach Christ, but they know Him less and less. And they’re opening themselves to great temptations.

I ask you: Is your church thriving, yet no one seems to be likeminded with Paul, setting their affections on Christ’s concerns? What about you? When you see someone who’s unemployed, do you pray for him? Do you seek ways to be of assistance, to serve?

Where are the young Timothys today? Where are the young men and women of God who will reject the siren call to success and recognition? Where are those who will set their hearts on fervent prayer, bringing everything in their lives under subjection to become true servants of Christ and His church?

Our prayer should be: “Lord, I don’t want to be focused only on myself in a world that’s spinning out of control. I don’t want to be concerned about my own future. I know You hold my path in Your hands. Please, Lord, give me Your mind, Your thinking, Your concerns. I want to have Your servant’s heart.”

“Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine (teaching); continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

LOVE AND CONCERN FOR OTHERS

It was from a jail cell in Rome that Paul wrote to the Philippian church and declared that he had the mind of Christ: “I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state” (Philippians 2:19).

This is the thinking, the outworking, of the mind of Christ. Think about it. Here was a pastor sitting in jail, yet he wasn’t thinking of his own comfort, his own hard situation. He was concerned only about the spiritual and physical condition of his people. And he told his sheep, “My comfort will come only when I know you’re doing well, in spirit and body. So I’m sending Timothy to check up on you on my behalf.”

Then Paul makes this alarming statement: “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state” (2:20). What a sad statement! As Paul wrote this, the church around him in Rome was growing and being blessed. Clearly, there were godly leaders in the Roman church. But Paul says, “I have no man who shares with me the mind of Christ.” Why was this so?

“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s” (2:21). Evidently, there was no leader in Rome with a servant’s heart—no one who had cast aside reputation and become a living sacrifice. Instead, everyone was set on pursuing his own interests. None had the mind of Christ. Paul could trust no one to go to Philippi to be a true servant to that body of believers.

Paul’s words here cannot be softened: “Everybody is out for himself. These ministers seek only to benefit themselves. That’s why nobody here can be trusted to naturally care for your needs and hurts—except Timothy.”

As we look around the church today, we see the same thing going on in many congregations. Ministers and parishioners alike are going after the things of this world: money, reputation, materialism, success. They are called to serve the Church of Jesus Christ, but they don’t know the mind of Christ. And Jesus’ mind-set is one of sacrifice, love and concern for others.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

THE HOLY SPIRIT WAS HIS TEACHER

If my heart is motivated by the approval of others—if that is my mindset, influencing the way I live—my loyalties will be divided. I’ll always be striving to please someone other than Jesus.

A few years after the apostle Paul was converted, he went to the church in Jerusalem to try to join the disciples there. “But they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).

The apostles knew Paul’s reputation as a persecutor. “[I] was unknown by face unto the churches of Judea which were in Christ: but they had heard only, that he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed” (Galatians 1:22–23).

Barnabas helped the apostles get over their fear of Paul, and they offered him fellowship. But Paul decided to itinerate among the Gentiles. Indeed, Paul is careful to describe his calling very clearly. He states that it came “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Galatians 1:1).

He then adds emphatically: “I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. . . . I conferred not with flesh and blood” (1:11–12, 16).

What Paul is saying here applies to all who desire to have the mind of Christ: “I didn’t have to read books or borrow men’s methods to get what I have. I received my message, my ministry and my anointing on my knees. I tell you, these things came while I was shut in with the Lord, interceding and fasting. Any revelation of Christ I have comes from the Holy Spirit, who abides in me and leads my life. I cannot allow myself to follow the trends and devices of others.”

In fact, Paul points out that before he ever considered going back to Jerusalem, “I went into Arabia” (1:17). He’s saying, in other words: “I didn’t get my revelation of Christ from the saints in Jerusalem. Instead, I went to the desert to have Christ revealed to me. I spent precious time there, being emptied of self, hearing and being taught by the Holy Spirit.”

Please understand: Paul wasn’t some proud, arrogant preacher. He had a servant’s heart and had emptied himself of all ambition, finding total satisfaction in Christ. Paul wouldn’t need a single person to show him how to preach Christ, or how to win sinners to the gospel. The Holy Spirit was his teacher!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

THE CONSEQUENCES OF NEGLECTING PRAYER

There are dire, awful consequences for neglecting prayer. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation” (Hebrews 2:3). How can any of us in Christ expect to avoid the consequences of prayerlessness?

I know what it’s like to have the highway of blessings in my life slowly become uncharted. I know what it’s like to have the well of living water choked at the spring and every blessing in my life dried up. That’s what happened during my periods of carelessness about prayer.

In those times, my prayer life consisted only of meditation and quiet times. I had no effectual fervency in prayer. Why? Because the cares of life robbed me of my time with the Lord.

So, what happened to me in those times? Servanthood turned to self-pity. Ministry seemed like a burden, not a blessing. And misery upon misery flooded my soul.

I battled loneliness, weariness, unbelief, a troubling sense of having accomplished little in life, even thoughts of quitting the ministry. And the blessings of God were hindered. My relationships soured, I lost discernment, and fresh revelations of Christ no longer came.

Yet I also knew the glory of returning to be with the Lord in prayer. As soon as I returned to my prayer closet, the blessings began flowing again. I had joy and peace, relationships were healed, and God’s Word came to life.

“[Uzziah] sought God in the days of Zechariah . . . and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him to prosper” (2 Chronicles 26:5). “[King Asa] sought the Lord . . . and he hath given us rest on every side” (14:7). “All Judah . . . sought him with their whole desire; and he was found of them: and the Lord gave them rest round about” (15:15).

Scripture makes it clear that praying servants find blessing and rest on every side.

“The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:17-18).

Monday, January 25, 2016

THE CALLING TO GIVE by Gary Wilkerson

It was the night of the Last Supper, and Jesus was winding down His final conversation with the disciples. Everything He said that evening was with the knowledge that He was about to leave them. He concluded the gathering with an encouraging prayer about things to come—a Church that would overcome and be triumphant; a people whose love for each other would be a testimony to the world; a divine power and authority flowing through His followers; and the glory of the Father resting on His people. These were all things Jesus would give to His Church through the Holy Spirit.

Think about what Jesus had already done. In three years of ministry He had healed the sick; restored eyesight to the blind; raised the dead; miraculously fed huge crowds; preached the good news to the poor; and taught the masses the truth about their heavenly Father. This is an amazing list of accomplishments by the Son through His obedience to the Father’s will.

Christ makes clear that all of this was a result of the Father’s giving nature. In His prayer in John 17, one word (give) comes up more than any other. “Father, you have given me . . . you have given them . . . I have given them.” In the space of 26 verses, Jesus uses some form of the word “give” seventeen times.

The first thing we notice in this amazing prayer is how often and generously the Father gives. It’s in His nature to give good gifts to His children. He listed all that He would give His Son when He sent Him: “I’ll give You the power and authority of My name. I’ll give You the people of the earth. I’ll give You words to speak and works to accomplish. And I will give You My glory.”

In turn, we see that Jesus has the same giving nature as His Father. In fact, His prayer recounts all the things Christ had already given His disciples—and the things He would continue to give! This passage powerfully spotlights the giving nature at the center of God’s heart.

In a sense, that evening Jesus gave the disciples His last will and testament. He was saying, “I established My kingdom by giving. And here’s how I want My kingdom to continue through you.” The last thing He gave His followers before leaving them was a particular calling—the calling to give.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

GOD DOESN’T GIVE UP ON US by Claude Houde

I grew up in an environment where no one expressed emotion. It was simply a question of survival! When I came to know the Lord, so many things changed. I will be eternally grateful for my first years in the faith and for those who so patiently taught me and guided me in my first steps with God. They are my spiritual mothers and fathers and I love them. However, in the mentality of the evangelical church of that era, the same attitude existed: We don’t talk about problems and pain; lift up your head and walk strong; we can do it, go, go, go! And that attitude, now wrapped in Bible verses, persists: “We can do all things . . . rejoice always . . . in everything give thanks . . . lift your eyes . . . lift up your head . . . you’re a soldier! Up! Up! Up!”

Dear friend, when we stand with our head held high, shoulders straight, and eyes toward the sky, His arms are carrying us. Now don’t miss this. When our eyes stare downward and we are weary and beaten, in the desert, through famines and sorrow, despairing because of what has been lost or destroyed, it is written, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” “A broken reed He will not throw away” (Isaiah 42:3).

The children who played all day on the banks of the lakes where Isaiah grew up (he is the one who gives us this incredible promise) knew this game. They would pick up a reed ever so cautiously, and as they blew into it, a high pitched, flute-like sound would fill the air as the kids laughed and screamed with delight. If the fragile reed broke, it would become useless, so they would throw it away and pick up another one. But God says, “I will not throw away what has been broken.” In essence, He is saying to you, “If your life has lost its melody, its song, if your prayer or praise is gone, if your silence screams for your altar at night, I will restore you. I will come and nurse the reed for as long as it takes, until you have recaptured your music and your joy before me.”

God says, “I don’t throw people away; I will not give up on you. Build your altar and I will rebuild you. I will not put out the flame that is still burning.”




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Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. 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, January 22, 2016

SEEKING GOD IN THE SECRET PLACE

The Holy Ghost came to Ananias, a godly man living in Damascus. The Spirit instructed him to go to Judas’ house on Straight Street, lay hands on Saul, and restore his sight. Of course, Ananias knew of Saul’s reputation. Yet, here is how the Holy Spirit recommended Saul to Ananias: “Behold, he prayeth” (Acts 9:11).

The Lord was saying, in essence, “Ananias, you will find this man on his knees. He knows you are coming; in fact, he even knows your name, and why you’re being sent to him. And he wants his eyes opened.”

When did Saul receive this inner knowing? How did he receive this vision, this pure word from God? It came through fervent praying and supplication. In fact, I believe the Spirit’s words to Ananias reveal what moved God’s heart about Saul: “Behold, he prayeth.”

Saul had been shut in with God for three days, refusing all food and water. All he wanted was the Lord, so he stayed on his knees all that time, praying and seeking God.

When I was growing up, my preacher father taught me, “God always makes a way for a praying man.” There have been periods in my life when the Lord provided indisputable evidence of this. As a young pastor in Pennsylvania, a deep hunger rose up in me that caused me to pray diligently. Something in my heart told me, “There’s more to serving Jesus than what I’m doing. Oh, Lord, I can’t live so far beneath what I read in Your Word. I’d rather die than live as selfishly as I have.”

So I spent months on my knees—weeping and praying for hours at a time—when finally the Lord called me to go to New York City to minister to gangs and drug addicts. That was several decades ago.

I also was on my knees seeking God with tears and loud crying when he called me back to New York to start a church in Times Square. Once again, the Lord said, “David. I want you to have My mind, My concerns.”

If I have ever heard from God, it did not come through Bible study alone. It came through prayer—seeking God alone. If there is any visible measure of Christ in me, it is because of spending time with Him in the secret place.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

RELIGIOUS AMBITIONS

“If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

Paul was a man who could say, “I once was somebody. All my peers, including my fellow Pharisees, looked up to me. I was a Pharisee among Pharisees, climbing the ladder, and I was considered a holy man, a powerful teacher of the law. I had a reputation in the land and was blameless in the eyes of the people. But when Christ apprehended me, everything changed. The striving, the competing—everything that I thought gave my life meaning—was surrendered. I saw that I had missed the Lord completely.”

Paul had once thought his religious ambitions—his zeal, his competitive spirit, his works, his busyness—were all righteousness. He had thought it was all for God’s glory. Now Christ revealed to him that it was all flesh, all for self.

Therefore, Paul stated, “I laid aside all desire for success and recognition and determined to be a servant.”

“Though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Corinthians 9:19).

Paul saw that Jesus took upon Himself the life of a servant. He was the very Son of God, yet with a servant’s heart. Likewise, Paul knew that he also had been made a son of God, by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But, like Jesus, he also desired to be a son with a servant’s heart. So he determined to become a bondservant to Christ and His Church.

Beloved, I, too, know that I am a son of God. Yet, like Paul, I also want the servant heart of Christ. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Having the mind of Christ means going beyond theology. It means submitting our own will to take on Jesus’ concerns.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

RENEWING THE MIND

When Paul states boldly, “I have the mind of Christ,” he is declaring, “I too have made myself of no reputation. Like Jesus, I have taken on the role of a servant” (see Philippians 2:7). And Paul asserts that the same holds true for every believer: “We [all can] have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

You may wonder: When and how did Paul actually take on the life of a bondservant? How could a man such as this, a former persecutor of believers, a killer at heart, ever have the mind of Christ?

Paul could pinpoint exactly when it happened. Acts 9 describes how and where his decision took place: in Damascus, on a street called Straight, in the house of a man named Judas.

At the time, Paul was still known as Saul. He was on his way to Damascus with a small army, intending to take Christians captive, bring them back to Jerusalem, and imprison and torture them. But Jesus appeared to Saul on that Damascus road, blinded him, and directed him to go to Judas’ house on Straight Street. “And [Saul] was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink” (Acts 9:9).

In those three days, Saul’s mind was being renewed. He spent the entire time in intense prayer, reconsidering his past life. And what he saw of it, he began to despise. That’s when Saul became Paul.

This man had been very proud. He had been full of misguided zeal and sought the approval of other high-minded religious men. But then, he said, “Christ came and revealed Himself in me, and I renounced my old ways. No more man-pleasing, no more following religious trends. I became Christ’s.”

“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

THE MIND OF CHRIST

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

“But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

“Be renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Ephesians 4:23).

These all are exhortations from the apostle Paul. He’s telling the people of God, “Let the mind that is in Christ—the very thinking of Jesus—be your thinking also. His mindset is the one we all are to seek.”

What does it mean to have the mind of Christ? Simply put, it means to think and act as Jesus did. It means making Christ-like decisions that determine how we are to live. And it means bringing every faculty of our mind to bear on how we actually can have the mind of Christ.

Every time we look into the mirror of God’s Word, we are to ask ourselves: “Does what I see about myself reflect the nature and thinking of Christ? Am I changing from image to image, conformed to Jesus’ likeness by every experience that God brings into my life?”

According to Paul, here is the mindset of Christ: “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).

Jesus made a decision while He was still in heaven. He made a covenant with the Father to lay down His heavenly glory and come to earth as a man. He would descend to the world as a humble servant and He would seek to minister rather than to be ministered to.

For Christ, this meant saying, “I go to do Your will, Father.” Indeed, Jesus determined ahead of time, “I am laying down My will in order to do Yours, Father. I subjugate My will so that I may embrace Yours. Everything I say and do has to come from You. I’m laying down everything to be totally dependent upon You.”

Monday, January 18, 2016

THE TRUTH THAT SETS US FREE

“Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4, ESV).

“Do I need both sanctification and justification?” The way you answer that question will change your life. It will be the difference between bondage and freedom—bondage to the old way, or freedom to walk in newness of life. Your answer to this question is key to your success in overcoming sin, temptation, Satan, and the world.

If both sanctification and justification are required, do they come from the same source? That’s an important question. If both are required, are they attained in the same way? Think about that for a moment, would you? Because I believe many of us believe that justification comes exclusively by grace through faith from God alone. And many of us believe the second comes by man, through man, and man alone. Many falsely believe that it is God who justifies us, but it is now up to us to sanctify ourselves—that it is His responsibility to get us into the kingdom but our responsibility to stay and perform as godly people once we’re in the kingdom. Many of us are saying, “I’ve attained justification by grace and now I must strive day in and day out to get and stay sanctified.”

What we’re saying is, “Thank You, God, for justifying me. Thank you that at the cross You made me right. Thank You that You pardoned my sin and paid the penalty. You stood in my place and took my sin upon You. Thank You for the work of justifying me and now in return, I want to do you a favor and show you how well I can sanctify myself.

The truth that sets us free is not the law that we know or our zealous pursuit in trying to keep the law. The truth that sets us free is in a person, Christ Jesus. He is the only source of freedom from our sin.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

THIS WAS A GOD I COULD WORSHIP by Nicky Cruz

God has a way of taking our moments of deepest confusion and doubt and using them to strengthen our trust and dependence on Him. He takes our seeds of faith and turns them into a tower of conviction and confidence. When we are most perplexed, He is most in control. When we are weakest, He is strongest. When we need Him, He is always there.

David Wilkerson, my friend and mentor, is a living testament to this truth. More than any man I know, he trusts God implicitly. He never allows confusion or doubt or other people to steer his decisions. Every worry, every question, every moment of concern is placed at the feet of Jesus until he hears an answer. He listens to God and God alone. That is why God has used him so mightily in his life and ministry.

David Wilkerson was just a country preacher from Pennsylvania when God told him to go to New York and reach out to the gangs. He had been watching a news program that discussed the gang problem in the inner city when God spoke to his spirit and told him to go. No one could imagine this skinny preacher being able to reach such a hardened group, yet he obeyed and went.

I’ll never forget his boldness in the face of danger. We cursed at him, humiliated him, screamed in his face, yet he kept coming back. I would never have stepped foot into a church building had I not been so fascinated by his guts, his complete disregard for his own safety. What would make a man do such a thing? What kind of God would give a man such confidence, such trust, such gumption that he could walk into the middle of hell and stare down the devil himself? What would make a scrawny street preacher think he could come onto our turf and tell us what to believe?

I had to know, so I went to his service at St. Nicolas Arena. In front of hundreds of strangers and dozens of my fellow gang members, I fell to my knees before the altar and surrendered to Jesus. I cried out for Him to save me, and He did. I gave up trying to do it on my own. I looked at David Wilkerson, at the love in his eyes, at the peace in his spirit, at the courage in his heart, and I knew that I wanted what he had. This was a God I could worship. This was a Jesus I could relate to.

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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, January 15, 2016

LIVING PROOF THAT JESUS IS ALL-SUFFICIENT

Where did the disciples start their ministry? Jesus sent them to the distressed, the poor, those who were bowed down with sin, bondages and life-controlling habits. “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and the hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).

I think of the Teen Challenge drug and alcohol rehabilitation ministry, with its 1100 centers worldwide. And I think of scores of other reapers who have gone to other countries and seen miracles of salvation as they’ve ministered to the neediest, poorest, most devil-bound people. They’re starting to reap exactly where Jesus started His harvest: among the lost sheep, the captives, the brokenhearted, the prisoners, the lepers, the blind, the poor, those who mourn, those with a spirit of heaviness, those who are distressed and disconcerted.

Consider Paul’s words: “Ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not . . . that no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).

Dear saint, Jesus knew what we were going to face in these last days: a generation steeped in sin far more than any other; stress and loneliness such as has never been experienced by man; financial disasters; rampant divorce; militant homosexuality; immorality that would bring a blush to even the worst sinners just thirty years ago.

This is why Christ seeks laborers who have submitted to the fires and forgings. He wants a people who will stand before the world and proclaim: “God is with me! Satan cannot stop me. Just look at my life. I’ve been through fire after fire, pounded again and again. But I’ve come through it all more than a conqueror through Christ, who lives in me. What I have preached has worked for me. I am living proof that Jesus is all-sufficient!”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

TIME FOR THE HARVEST

When Moses told Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” it was because God had announced the time for harvest. The moment had come for Israel’s deliverance from captivity!

But Pharaoh responded, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2). Pharaoh represents Satan’s demonic system, including false religions and oppression that hold people under bondage.

Before Israel could be delivered, the powers of darkness had to be shaken. So God struck Egypt with nine natural calamities. Yet those nine disasters only hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

Finally, there came a calamity so devastating that everyone in Egypt—from the rulers down to ordinary citizens—knew this wasn’t just nature out of control. It was God speaking. The Lord had sent an angel of death, and in one night the eldest son in every Egyptian family died, including Pharaoh’s son. The very next day, Israel paraded out of Egypt. Here was the harvest that came just before judgment.

Centuries later, when Jesus announced the ripe harvest in Jerusalem, He knew judgment was about to come. Years hence, Titus and his army would invade the city, and 1.2 million people would be killed. Many would be hung on crosses, and the city itself would be burned to the ground.

This is why Jesus warned His generation, “You say there are four months before harvest. But I’m telling you, the harvest has to begin now. You have to be about the will of God, because the greatest calamity is at your door. I’m commissioning you now to finish My work. The time to start reaping is today.”

How did Jesus describe the calamity that was to come? “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). Yet, before that calamity came, it would be time for the harvest.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

THE LAW OF THE HARVEST

Jesus understood men’s hearts and knew that we forget God in times of prosperity.

Christ knew that in times of distress and calamity, people are forced to face eternity. Suffering, fear and hard times ripen people for hearing and receiving the gospel. Consider the context of His words: “When he saw the multitudes . . . because they fainted . . . then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous” (Matthew 9:36–37, italics mine).

This truth has been demonstrated throughout the history of God’s people. Moses reprimanded his generation, saying, “God led you. He increased your numbers. And He greatly blessed you, giving you green fields, honey, butter, milk, sheep, oil, fruit. But you grew rich and rebelled. You lightly esteemed the Rock of your salvation, and forsook Him.”

“But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat . . . thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation” (Deuteronomy 32:15).

Scripture tells us Israel was brought low after this. Yet, in their distress, they called upon the Lord, and He delivered them: “Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses” (Psalm 107:6, italics mine).

Consider also David’s testimony: “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears” (Psalm 18:4–6, italics mine).

Trouble, distress and perplexity have always birthed a cry for help. This has been the pattern throughout the centuries. You remember what happened after the Twin Towers in New York fell: churches were packed! Prayer meetings were held in Yankee Stadium. Congressional leaders gathered on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, praying, and singing “God Bless America.”

For a season, God was the talk of the nation. Fear and distress had made people think about finding truth. And that sums up the law of the harvest: THE DARKER THE DAYS, THE WHITER THE HARVEST.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

THE HARVEST IS READY

Jesus gives us a picture of what the last days will look like. This last-days picture began at His ascension and it will end only when He comes again—and we are getting very close to that point now!

Jesus’ disciples wanted to know the condition of things as the last days approach and He answered by speaking of famines, earthquakes, tribulations, nations divided. False prophets and false Christs will deceive many and lead multitudes astray. Believers will be hated for even mentioning Christ’s name. And the love of many will grow cold, with some falling away because of the bold increase of sin and lawlessness.

“Upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26). In short, Jesus is describing the most anxious, depressed, stressed-out generation of all time.

So, are His prophecies happening now, right before our eyes? Think about it. This generation definitely is full of anxiety and worry. Multitudes are fearful as they watch incredible disasters unfold: hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, mudslides, tornados. Entire nations tremble with fear over the threat of terrorism. And heart failure is the number-one killer in the world today.

False religions, false prophets, false Christs are leading many astray. Millions are turning to Islam, with nation after nation infiltrated by Islamics. You would have to be in total denial if you didn’t see that everything that can be shaken right now is being shaken.

In the midst of all this upheaval and turmoil, I hear Jesus’ words: “The fields are white. The harvest is plentiful” (see John 4:35). I’m convinced that He is telling His Church, “People are ready to hear. This is the time to believe for a harvest. Now is the time for you to start reaping.”

Christ is the Lord of the harvest and if He declares that the harvest is ready, we must believe it. It doesn’t matter how wicked this generation becomes. It doesn’t matter how powerful Satan seems to have grown. Our Lord is saying to us, “Stop focusing on the difficulties around you. Instead, raise up your eyes. It’s time for you to see that the harvest is ready.”

Monday, January 11, 2016

CHRIST IS THE END OF THE LAW by Gary Wilkerson

“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, ESV).

Some things in your life need to be brought to an end. There is that sin, those patterns and habits, the struggles and problematic situations. All these cause us to be weary and worn out and they need to be finished.

The Holy Spirit has planted a hunger in the heart of every man, woman, boy and girl in the world today – a desire to live righteously and to do things right. Even those who don't know Jesus, people of other religions, all innately have within them a desire to live life well, to love others well, to try their best.

Because of the pitfalls of sin and Satan, many fall far short and become corrupt in their thinking. But deep within us, we all want victory over sin. We want to be cleansed. When we have invited Christ to be Lord and Savior of all that we are and all that we think and all that we desire, then the Holy Spirit puts in each of us a greater desire, a passion, to be holy and pure and righteous before God.

This word righteousness in Romans 10:4 means: to be in right standing with God; functioning in right behavior, right motives, right mind, right emotions. It means taking things that are wrong and out of sync with God and establishing a right alignment to the plans, purposes, will and heart of the Father. The Bible calls this the pursuit of righteousness.

Now, what is this righteousness? Is it just simply doing the right things? I would suggest not, because many people can do the right things with wrong motives. That is called a religious spirit and today many people are indwelt with that spirit. Outwardly they function and do all the right things, but inwardly they are dead men's bones.

The essence of what Paul said in Romans 10:4 is that Christ has already accomplished the purpose for which the law was given and as a result, all who believe in Him are made right (righteous) with God.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

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, January 8, 2016

REMEMBER GOD’S GOODNESS

Scripture shows us that David, Job and other Old Testament saints came out of their dark times by remembering God’s faithfulness to past generations. David wrote that whenever his heart was desolate, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands” (Psalm 143:5). Indeed, multitudes of godly saints throughout history have emerged from their depression and discouragement in just this way.

It’s a wonderful blessing to remember all our past deliverances. Deuteronomy tells us, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee. . . . Beware that thou forget not” (Deuteronomy 8:2, 11).

Yet, remembering God’s deliverances was more than just a blessing to the Old Testament saints. It was a necessary discipline. The Israelites devised all sorts of rituals and observances to recall the Lord’s deliverances in their lives.

Likewise today, the Church is called to remember God’s past deliverances. Yet, we’ve been given a way to remember that’s much better than in Old Testament times. You see, since the days of David, God has poured out His Holy Spirit. And the Spirit now abides in our human bodies.

The Holy Spirit not only comforts us in our dark times. He doesn’t just bring to our remembrance God’s past faithfulness. The Spirit also gives us an understanding of the purpose behind our fiery trials. And He does this so our faith won’t fail.

Dear saint, God has not forgotten you in your deep, dark trial. I leave you with this encouragement from the Psalmist: “Thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place…. Verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me” (Psalm 66:10–12, 19–20).

Thursday, January 7, 2016

GOD HAS NOT ONCE FAILED

Paul shows us God’s specific purpose in our deeply trying, dark times: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope of you is steadfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation” (2 Corinthians 1:3–7).

Do you see God’s purpose here? In the midst of our afflictions, the Spirit comforts us. And in turn, we’re able to bring comfort to others who suffer deep afflictions. This is the Spirit’s work: to bring comfort to His people through voices that have been tested. Therefore, we can know that as our own suffering grows worse, the comfort of the Lord becomes even mightier within us.

There are two dear brothers on our ministry’s mailing list named Israel and Jesse. Israel is 100 years old and Jesse is 102. One quit working at 92, the other at 97. They each love the Lord and have been receiving my messages for years.

These men are not only natural brothers but truly are “brothers in the Lord.” Both testify that out of a lifetime of great trials, the joy of the Spirit has deepened in them. They’ve witnessed terrible disasters for an entire century—the Great Depression, two World Wars, terrible droughts—and they’ve suffered personally throughout their long lives. Yet, at their advanced years, these men are able to smile and proclaim more confidently than ever, “Through it all, God has not once failed.” Their testimony after having “seen it all” is a Holy Ghost comfort to the rest of us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

HE WILL DELIVER US

Not even the godly, devoted apostle Paul was immune to times of discouragement. He wrote to the Corinthians, “Trouble . . . came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life” (2 Corinthians 1:8).

The Greek word that Paul uses for despair in this verse translates as, “We could not understand it; we despaired, even to death.” He’s saying, in short, “We longed to die, because we couldn’t comprehend what we were going through. We were pressed beyond our endurance.”

It’s hard to imagine these words coming from Paul. Who trusted God more than this fearless apostle? Who fasted and prayed more than Paul? Who had as many prayers answered? Yet there came upon Paul an hour of despondency such as he had never experienced. What was this condition?

Some Bible commentators believe it was a combination of trials. Among these was a deep mental anguish, caused by people whom Paul loved later turning against him. These close friends not only abandoned Paul but spread lies about him. They defamed his name. In addition, Paul was brought low by violent illnesses. He experienced shipwreck on more than one occasion, and evil plots were hatched against him, aimed at taking his life. On top of these things, Paul had anxiety over the care of many churches.

This would all seem too heavy for one man to bear. Yet even put together, all these things still don’t explain the deep despair Paul felt. He wrote, “I fell into such agony, I didn’t think I would survive. I thought it was going to kill me.”

Of course, Paul was delivered. He came out victoriously. But he never forgot that awful hour of despair.

“Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:10). Paul is saying, “God rescued us and He will rescue us again. We have put our confidence in Him and He will deliver us.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

THE LORD HEARS YOUR PRAYER

Have you ever known depression? Have you been so worried and perplexed that you endured sleepless nights? Have you had times when you were so low and troubled, no one could comfort you? Have you been so down that you felt like giving up, feeling your life was a total failure?

I’m not talking about a physical condition. I’m not referring to people who have a chemical imbalance or mental illness. I’m talking about Christians who, from time to time, battle a depression that hits them from out of nowhere. Their condition often comes not from just a single source, but from many. At times they’re hit from all sides, until they’re so overwhelmed they can’t see beyond their despair.

If you can identify with this, then Psalm 77 was written for you. It is meant to point the way out of your distress and fear. This psalm was written by a man named Asaph, a Levite from the priestly line in Israel. Asaph was also a singer, and served as David’s appointed choir director. He wrote eleven psalms and they were so filled with righteous instruction for God’s people that I would call this man a lay preacher.

Asaph wrote Psalm 77 after he fell into a horrible pit of despair. His condition grew so bad that he was beyond comfort: “My soul refused to be comforted” (77:2). This godly man was in such despair, nothing anyone said could bring him out of his anguish. And Asaph himself couldn’t manage to say even a word: “I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (77:4).

Yet Asaph was a praying man. We see this in the same psalm as he testifies, “I cried unto God with my voice . . . and he gave ear unto me” (77:1).

I’m sure Asaph had heard David’s very similar testimony, in Psalm 34: “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry” (34:15). David says earlier in this psalm, “I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. . . . This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles” (34:4, 6).

Monday, January 4, 2016

HE MAKES HIS HOME WITH US by Gary Wilkerson

When God’s glory manifests, it reveals His distinction from us—His purity, holiness and almightiness. Even the celestial beings in His presence see Him as separate and full of majesty. Right now multitudes of angels are in God’s presence, and they never stop praising Him day and night. Their nonstop song is, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). That is the effect of God’s holy nature: He invokes our praise at all times in all things.

Amazingly, this holy God tells us, “The world won’t see Me—but you will.”

The Jewish leaders knew the separateness of God but they couldn’t see His tenderness, and they were outraged when Jesus called God His Father. They saw it as blasphemy and wanted to kill Him for it. Yet Jesus took this audacious teaching a step further when He told the disciples, “Not only does your heavenly Father care for you, but He’s going to make His home in you.”

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23).

Picture yourself as one of the disciples in the Upper Room when Jesus said this. You were taught the same as your elders, that no one could see God and live. You knew that righteous Moses was able to behold only a small part of God and survive it. So when you heard Jesus’ teaching, you would have thought, “There’s no way God can make His home in me. He’s too holy, too awesome, too other. It can’t be!” Yet Jesus has entrusted to us these incredible twin truths: God is indeed holy and pure—and He seeks to dwell in us, His creation.

Think about what Jesus taught His fledgling church that night. He began by saying He would leave to prepare a home for us. And He ended by saying He would make His home in us. There is the paradoxical beauty of our God—holy and pure, yet intimate and caring. He is above us and with us—and He gives us peace we could never find on our own. That is a God worthy of our confidence in and through all things!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

POURED OUT FOR OTHERS by Carter Conlon

I am certain that it is the desire of every believer to love the way Christ does—to live what the Scripture says, to go the distance that Jesus was willing to go for lost humanity. And so we set out to obey His commandment to love others as He loves us . . . until we, like Peter, meet the limitations of our own ability to actually do so.

After all, opening your heart to other people always involves a risk. Many have loved deeply, given generously, opened their heart, and ultimately been stabbed in the back. Yes, sometimes these things happen. People may run away and deny they ever knew us; others who once leaned close and said they loved us end up taking off in our moment of need. But will we let that stop us from being given for them?

Jesus once said to His disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). There is no way you can take up your cross and escape the betrayal. There will come a point when people will spit in your face, but as a follower of Christ, you must continue to love them.

When Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you,” it was not a suggestion but rather a commandment. However, we must also understand that He was actually adding another commandment to a series of commandments that nobody had been able to keep. The Law and the commands of God were meant to highlight the hopelessness and futility of our trying to become godly in our own strength. Therefore, I think you will agree with me that the great need of this hour is another outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We need the love, compassion, and benevolence that marked the early Church, and it must be birthed and sustained in us by God.

It all starts with the willingness to say, “God, pour out Your Spirit, and help me to love like You do. I thank You for the blessings in my life, yet I am aware that they have been given to me for a reason—so don’t let me be blind to that purpose. Don’t let me simply take everything and use it for my own benefit. Oh, God, open my eyes and my heart; give me the courage to care. Take me where I cannot go in my own strength. Enable me to follow You to the place where You went—where You were poured out for others!”

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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.

Friday, January 1, 2016

FACING THE DEMANDS OF THE CROSS

Nobody can come under Christ’s lordship until he faces the demands of the cross of Calvary.

I realize this truth every time I stand up to preach. Each week as I gaze out from the pulpit into our congregation, scattered among the faithful believers I face nonbelievers who’ve walked in for the first time. Some are successful, self-made, hard-driving businesspeople. Others come from all kinds of walks of life. Yet all are laden down with secret sins. These people are living as they please, not under any spiritual authority, but they’re empty and disillusioned. They’ve become sick of pursuing pleasures that never satisfy.

I could preach all kinds of sermons about principles and rules of behavior, or how to cope with stress, or how to deal with fear and guilt. But none of this kind of preaching gets anyone “out of the world.” It doesn’t change anybody’s heart.

I simply have to tell the nonbeliever that his self-will, self-reliance and stubborn struggle to do everything his way will destroy him. And, in the end, it will bring him everlasting torment.

If I don’t give him this message, then I have forever shut up the heavens to him. And I have made him a twofold member of hell. His condition will be worse than before he came through our doors.

I have to bring that man face to face with the message of being crucified to his independence. I have to show him that he must come out of his deluded world of self-goodness. I have to tell him there’s no way to peace in this life except through full surrender to King Jesus.

Otherwise, I have deceived this man. And I’ve committed the horrible sin of the worst kind of pride: I have counted him as a “convert” to make myself look good. May it never be!

As a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I am obligated to speak His truth to everyone who truly repents: “All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).