Monday, February 29, 2016

CLAIMING HIS RESURRECTION POWER by Gary Wilkerson

To remind ourselves of the radical results of the resurrection, my wife Kelly and I have learned to repeat a certain phrase to each other: “Jesus paid it all.” He finished the work, He rose again, and He has blessed us with newness of life. We are to claim His resurrection power, putting it on like a suit of clothes. “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:54, NIV).

Paul says boldly that without Christ’s resurrection there would be no reason at all to be a Christian. There are voices in the church that say it doesn’t matter whether there was a resurrection. Some have famously written, “I would be a Christian even if it were proved that there was no resurrection. Christianity has made me a better person and it has made the world better.” Some scholars hold that Jesus’ encounters after the crucifixion were just mythical stories meant to encourage the early church.

Paul rejects all of this in the strongest possible terms. He says that if Christ wasn’t resurrected, the consequences are dire: “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15, ESV).

Paul is saying, in effect, “If you don’t believe Christ was resurrected, then stop believing in God at all. Everyone stop preaching, evangelizing and doing good works in Jesus’ name. We’ll all be better off. You would do better to get wisdom from Dr. Phil or Oprah or a pop psychologist. They have more to say than someone whose every action is based on something that never happened.”

In short, the Christian faith is not some moral code to be kept. We don’t gather on Sundays just to get solace about eternity. Christ is either risen or He is not—and if He isn’t, then our sins were never forgiven.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

THEY WIN THE BATTLE by Claude Houde

“Amalek came to war with Israel. Moses stood on the top of the hill. The people were fighting in the valley. When Moses lifted his hands to God in prayer, the people of God won and overcame the enemy. Then the hands of Moses became heavy, weary. As Moses’ hands went down, God’s people were defeated and the enemy gained ground. God’s people were defeated and in great danger. Aaron and Hur held up Moses’ hands, standing on each side of him. Then Moses’ hands became steady again and God’s people were victorious against their enemy” (see Exodus 17:8-13).

When Moses stood on the mountain with his arms extended toward heaven, it symbolized his dependence, reliance and faith in God for victory over his enemies. “The battle is the Lord’s” (1 Samuel 17:47). “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but they are mighty through God, supernatural for the pulling down of strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). And the victory is acquired “not by might or human capacity, but by My Spirit, says the Lord” (Zechariah 4:6).

In the life of Moses, as in ours, the battles and conquests are the same. I can’t do anything in and of myself and I will fail miserably if I ultimately trust in my ideas, experiences, resources or efforts. In these moments of invisible and eternal warfare, when combat is fierce and our lives, families, ministries or futures are on the line, we find victory as we stand on God’s mountain in prayer, lifting our hands to Him in trust and surrender.

Something fascinating takes place on the mountain. Moses’ arms are getting tired and as they slowly lower, the wind turns on the battlefield and the enemy gains ground. Blood is shed, soldiers are wounded and killed, screams of pain and tears fill the valley, the enemy is galvanized and spine-shuddering, bestial war cries are heard. What’s happening?

The same army that was triumphant a moment before now is being massacred. Aaron and Hur grasp the far-reaching significance of what is taking place. They stand next to Moses, one on each side, and hold up his arms in a gesture and spiritual picture of unity, loyalty and support. It is as if they are saying, “We are with you, Moses. We recognize that God has placed you as our leader and we stand with you. We acknowledge the importance of this principle and we want to practice faith; we want to protect and empower God’s people battling in the valley.”

The enemy’s violent and devastating surge, impossible to stop just a short time ago, is now reversed. God’s people have no additional weaponry, but they are now invincible and their army is mighty. They win the battle!

__________
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, February 26, 2016

HANDS-ON MINISTRY

If we love the world and the things of the world, we can’t be God's: “"If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). If we covet, wanting more and more things, we are not one of His sheep: “Nor thieves, nor covetous . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10).

These believers will be goats, but not just because they lust for things or they didn’t help the needy. The Lord will tell them, “You misrepresented Me to the world. You caused the ungodly to identify Me with prosperity, money, success. You deceived the poor by telling them I wanted to make them rich. And you told the sick they were suffering because they lacked faith.

“I blessed you. I poured out My resources on you, because I loved you. But you didn't open your ears to the needy cries around you. Instead, you choked on your own goods. If you were Mine—if you loved Me—you would have obeyed My commands.”

You may say, “Brother Dave, this is too hard. Surely God isn’t like that.” Read the words of Ezekiel: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness . . . neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49, italics mine). When God judged Sodom, He didn’t mention their homosexuality or idolatry. It was all about pride, ease and neglect of the needy. They had no concern for the poor.

How can you get involved with the needy? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit. If you are convicted by this message, go to Him. He will lead you directly to the needs He wants you to meet, in one of these areas of hands-on love ministry. This is not meant to put you under guilt or condemnation, but to help you search your heart in light of Jesus’ words.

The Lord doesn’t expect any of us to do it all. But I know He expects us to be personally committed to hands-on involvement in at least one of these areas of need. Can you say you’re ready to stand before Christ on that day, knowing you’re helping feed or clothe the poor, visiting prisoners, blessing or visiting widows and the fatherless?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

YOU CAN DO SOMETHING

For months I have been praying for widows, the fatherless and the poor. We receive letters from destitute people who can no longer pay for insurance or afford housing. I’ve pleaded with God, “You are the Lord of hosts. Feed them. Meet their needs.” Finally, the Lord answered me, “You must do more than pray for them, David. You can do something about it. You feed them. It’s within your power to do.”

Make no mistake: no one can be saved by good works alone, but we will be judged by whether we did them. Yet the issue isn’t how many needy people I feed or clothe. The central issue is: “Do I profess Christ as my Lord, and then live only for myself? Do I misrepresent Jesus by hoarding and spending time accumulating things? Do I shut my eyes to the needs of the poor and helpless?”

Our witness to a sin-cursed world must include both preaching and manifestation, both Word and deed. Our proclamation of Christ can’t be divorced from our helping works. As James says, such works help to prove the power of the gospel.

“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (James 2:14-16).

Multitudes of Christians respond to Jesus’ prophecy in two ways. There are those of the “easy gospel” who say, “God isn’t that hard. This is all doomsday preaching. My God is too loving to judge that severely.” Then, those of the “hard gospel” say, “This is just too strict, too demanding. I can’t accept such a disturbing word. I can never measure up to it.”

So both gospels go their own way, justified and unmoved. One group continues staging revivals for the unsaved. Others keep holding prayer meetings, asking God to meet the needs of the poor. At Christmastime, we distribute baskets to needy families, and at other times, we slip a few coins to beggars. But, tragically, little is done about having a full-time, hands-on commitment to do as Jesus has commanded.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

HOLY GHOST COMFORT

We will never know God’s peace in our time of affliction until His purpose for it has become a settled truth in our souls. We have to understand that our dark hour, our painful testing, has been permitted by the Lord for His own glorious purpose. What is that purpose? Simply put, we are going to be the focus of incredible Holy Ghost comfort.

We are going to come out of the fire cleansed and stronger. And we’ll be given a ministry that is greater even than that of the world’s most famous preachers—the ministry of proven comfort and victory for a hurting people. The result of this ministry will be as Daniel described: “Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand” (Daniel 12:10).

What an incredible calling we have! We suffer great trials in order to become God’s comforting hands to others.

My daughter Debi and her husband Roger lost their twelve-year-old daughter, Tiffany, to brain cancer. I know the agony they went through, the nights of wondering, “What possible purpose could God have in this?”

Some time ago, Debi was in a mall when she saw a woman sitting on a bench with tears streaming down her face. Debi approached her and asked, “Can I help you at all?” The woman responded, “You could never understand what I’m going through.” Finally, Debi coaxed the woman to tell her about her pain. The woman explained, “I’ve lost a child to cancer.”

At that moment, the sweetness of heaven descended. Debi put comforting arms around that woman, and as my daughter shared her own story, both women found a measure of God’s healing love.

Dear saint, God has not forgotten you in your deep, dark trial. I leave you with this encouragement from the Psalmist: “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. Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:17-19).

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). In this very simple instruction, the apostle Paul is telling us in plain terms, “If the Holy Spirit is living in you, let Him have full control of your life. We are all to be led by the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit was sent to be our constant, infallible guide, and He abides in all who confess Christ as Lord and Savior. The Spirit claims our bodies as His dwelling place, reigning in residence in our hearts.

Most Christians have no trouble accepting that the Holy Spirit leads us to Jesus and that He is continually at work in us, at every moment. Most of us have called on Him countless times for comfort in our times of crisis. We give honor to the Spirit, preach about Him, and teach on His gifts and fruit. We pray to Him, seek Him, beseech Him to rend the heavens and revive His Church. Many Christians have experienced genuine manifestations of the Spirit, but it seems to me that we know very little about what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Understanding the truth about walking in the Spirit could deliver many from confusion, strife, distress, indecision, even the lusts of the flesh. So, what is this truth? Paul has summed it up clearly: “Let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

There are only two ways for a Christian to walk: in the flesh, or in the Spirit.

The flesh has its own stubborn will; it does whatever it chooses, then asks God to bless those choices. It rises up and declares, “The Lord gave me a sound mind, and I can make choices intelligently. I don’t have to wait for His direction. God helps those who help themselves.”

But walking in the Spirit is just the opposite. We surrender our will to the Holy Spirit, and trust His still, small voice to direct us in all things. Indeed, the Holy Spirit was sent to set up the complete government of Christ in our lives. The Bible tells us, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord” (Psalm 37:23), and the Spirit does this ordering. He desires to lead and direct our every move.

Monday, February 22, 2016

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE RESURRECTION? by Gary Wilkerson

Almost any Christian can tell you, “Jesus died for my sins.” But, surprisingly, few can say what His resurrection means in their daily life. They know certain parts of the story—that Jesus died and rose again—but not enough to apply God’s powerful truths to the way they live and believe. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Christ’s resurrection has radical consequences not just for eternal life but for everyday life. What is the purpose of the resurrection? Most of us associate it with eternal life, not with daily life on earth. How is the resurrection significant in our marriage, our job, our family? How does it affect a life inundated by 200 data messages a day, a life harried with errands, chores, obligations, demands?

Paul reminds us that Christ’s death, burial and resurrection are of first importance. “It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:24-25, ESV,my emphasis). What does Paul mean when he says Jesus was raised so that we might be justified?

Justification has to do with newness of life. Without it, we would be stuck in an unchanging cycle of sin and forgiveness. Think about the practical weight that sin carries in our lives. How many times have you lain awake at night grieving over something awful you’ve said or done? Shame, guilt and condemnation come with everyday life; we can’t get away from it. Yet Paul tells us Jesus was “delivered up” to cleanse us of these very things.

So, is it enough to be forgiven of our sins? That’s where the last part of the verse comes in: Jesus was “raised for our justification.” Not only are our trespasses gone, but we are justified—meaning, it’s as if we had never committed those sins. Now we are a delight in God’s eyes. In short, we are resurrected into newness of life—every day!

What a great and powerful truth. Yet, Christians often don’t experience this newness in everyday life. I admit there are days when I say to my wife, Kelly, “Is this really newness of life? I’m frustrated, cranky, disappointed.” Try as we might, we don’t personally possess the power to renew our lives. We can’t simply make ourselves new. That comes from Jesus alone—and it’s through what is called resurrection power.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

REACHING THE LOST by Nicky Cruz

Even now my mind is fresh with the faces of helplessness I saw in the heart of the Bronx. Faces of all shapes and colors and ages. Boys and girls, men and women, blacks, whites, Spanish, Asian. So many were lost. So many needed Jesus.

We were in the final stages of a six-week outreach to the inner cities of New York. For weeks we had been evangelizing in the streets, conducting events on neighborhood corners throughout the city, all the while inviting people to our final outreach in the Bronx.

I remember standing on the platform in front of several thousand people. Our stage was set up at the end of a long, narrow street in one of the most drug-infested neighborhoods in all of New York. High rise apartment buildings towered overhead on either side.

For several seconds I just stood, surveying the crowd. Gang colors were everywhere. Prostitutes, pushers and addicts were scattered throughout the crowd, waiting to hear what I had to say. I glanced at the buildings and noticed people hanging out their windows, children crowded together on fire escapes. Teens huddled together as mothers and fathers watched.

I prayed in my heart, “Dear Jesus. Look at them. So many poor and hurting people—people who need You. Open their eyes, Lord. Touch their hearts. Use my words to bring them to You!”

As I began to share my testimony, I sensed a calmness falling on the neighborhood. I couldn’t get over how attentive the people became. The feeling is impossible to describe. It is the presence of God. It is the wholesale retreat of the enemy as God’s Spirit moves in and settles on a crowd of people.

As I spoke I could feel the Holy Spirit enveloping the crowd, working on their hearts, bringing so many to conviction. Before I had a chance to invite people forward to accept Jesus, dozens streamed toward the stage, falling on their knees to the ground in repentance.

Hundreds came forward to receive Jesus that night. God brought such a wave of conviction that we were overwhelmed by the response. We were completely in awe of the work that God was doing in this hurting, forsaken neighborhood.

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:20).

__________
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.

Friday, February 19, 2016

YOUR WORD OF DELIVERANCE

Scripture says that during Elijah’s time in the cave when he was fleeing from Jezebel, “A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind” (1 Kings 19:11). God was not in that message.

“After the wind [came] an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake” (19:11). Do you expect to hear a fiery word? “And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire” (19:12).

God knows just the kind of word you need to hear when you’re bruised and wounded. And it’s not a word of judgment, not a hard word, not a red-hot sermon. I believe the Lord is telling us in this passage, “When you are bent down by your trials, I will not treat you harshly.” No, Elijah needed to hear a soft, kind voice: “After the fire [came] a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). Some manuscripts translate this phrase as “a gentle blowing,” meaning, “a soft, refreshing breeze.”

This same gentle, still small voice comes to us from the heart of the Father today. And its message is the same: “[Ye] have seen the [outcome] of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy” (James 5:11).

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger forever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. . . . Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm 103:8–11, 13).

Here is your word of deliverance: Rise up and trust! The time has come for you to believe Jesus is with you in your storm. He will give you the strength to endure it.

Don’t believe the lie that you’re going to be crushed. The devil will not have the upper hand. The Lord has said, “No matter how bruised you feel, I will not allow you to be broken. I won’t let the fire go out. My Spirit is going to blow on the embers, and your flame for Me will come back again.”

Thursday, February 18, 2016

GOD ISN’T MAD AT YOU

You have lived as a faithful servant, you have prayed diligently, and you have known God’s voice. You have won victories in the past, and you deeply love the Lord. But now you’re bruised deeply, wounded as never before, and you can’t even bring yourself to pray.

Beloved, this Christian walk is warfare. It means battles, weariness, wounds, and a ferocious enemy who is out to destroy you. And that’s when you’re most vulnerable to condemning thoughts. Your conscience tells you: “You’re not praying the way you did before. You don’t study the Word enough. You’re dried up and lukewarm, your fire is going out, and you’re simply not a good testimony. Now you’ve allowed Satan to rob you of the peace God gave you. You just don’t have what it takes.”

And we think, “I’ve let my Lord down. I have not obeyed His Word.” Your wavering faith is a wick that’s smoldering, and the devil is eager to see it snuffed out.

Like the prophet Elijah, you’re worn out and discouraged; all you want to do is sleep. Scripture says that is just what this godly man did: “He lay [down] and slept” (1 Kings 19:5). He simply couldn’t carry the burden anymore.

But the Lord didn’t rebuke Elijah for this. God knew His servant had come to a breaking point. I picture our precious Father saying of him, “Look at this faithful man, bruised and hurting. He has reached the end of his rope, unable to explain his pain to anyone. I have promised him, ‘I will not break a bruised reed.’”

So, what happened? “The angel of the Lord came . . . and touched [Elijah], and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kings 19:7).

Here is an incredible word for every bruised reed who is reading this message. It doesn’t matter how bruised you are, how bent down by your flood of testing, God has made you a promise: “You will not be broken. I won’t allow your flame to go out. Your faith will not be quenched.”

Dear saint, this message is to you from heaven. You are being touched with a word that calls to you: “Rise up now. God isn’t mad at you. And He’s not going to let you go down. He knows this situation is too great for you to handle. He will supply you with supernatural strength. He’s going to give you what you need to move on.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

INCREDIBLE LOVE

Jesus once turned to some of His earthly relatives and said, “The world cannot hate you” (John 7:7).

With these words, Jesus gives us the litmus test of a true church and a true disciple. I wonder how many churches and Christians these words could be spoken of today: “The world cannot hate you.”

Christ is saying, in essence, “You have so brought the world into the church—you’ve so diluted My gospel—that the world embraces you. You’ve become a friend to the world.” James gives us this warning in his epistle: “The friendship of the world is enmity with God . . . whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4).

Of course, Jesus was a friend to politicians and sinners. But it is also written that He was “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 7:26). He ministered to sinners, yet as one under submission to His Father. Like Him, we are called to be in the world, but not of it.

“Remember the word that I said unto you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). You don’t have to look for persecution. It won’t come because of your job performance, or your race, or your appearance. No, it will come simply because you make Christ your Lord.

Now let me give you a word of encouragement. Even though the world hates and persecutes Christ’s true disciples, we find a growing love and godly affection among the members of His Church. Indeed, that which causes the world to hate us causes our righteous brothers and sisters to embrace us all the more.

In the days ahead, the love in God’s house is going to become more precious. We’ll be hated by the whole world, mocked by the media, ridiculed by Hollywood, made a laughingstock by society. But when we come into God’s house, we’ll be entering a place of incredible love as we love one another as Christ loves us.

It won’t matter what persecution we’ve faced. We’ll be received with these words: “Welcome home, brother; welcome home, sister. Here is where you’re loved.” We’ll be built back up, to continue going out as our Lord commands us, with His true gospel.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

WHY DOES THE WORLD HATE THE CHURCH?

A true Christian is loving, peaceful, forgiving and caring. Those who obey Jesus’ words are self-sacrificing, meek and kind.

Common wisdom tells us that it is not natural to hate those who love you, bless you and pray for you. Rather, people hate only those who abuse, rob and curse them. Why, then, are Christians so hated?

Jesus says, “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. . . . If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20). Why is this so?

The Church is hated because of its mission, which is much more than just telling lost people, “Jesus loves you.”

You may draw back in surprise when I remind you of what our mission is. Simply put, our mission as Christians is to take back from the ungodly what is most precious to them: self-righteousness.

The most precious thing to a worldly person is his self-righteousness. Think about it: He has spent his whole life forming a good opinion of himself. He’s built an idol to his good works. He praises himself that he’s really good at heart and kind to others. He is sure that he’s good enough for heaven, and too good for hell.

This ungodly man has spent years beating down his conscience and searing it. He has taught himself to still every voice of conviction that comes to him. He enjoys a false peace and has become so deceived that he actually believes God admires him!

And now, just when he has shut down the voice of his conscience, you—a Christian—come along. And the truth you bring speaks more loudly than his dead conscience: “Unless you’re born again, you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Suddenly, you’re a threat in this man’s mind. You’re someone who wants to deprive him of his assurance that all is well with his soul. All this time he thought he was okay, but now you’re telling him that all his good works are as filthy rags.

I tell you, this man doesn’t see you as someone who’s bringing good news. No, in his eyes you’re a tormenter, someone who’s out to take away his peaceful sleep at night.

Monday, February 15, 2016

AGAPE LOVE by Gary Wilkerson

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection, He imparted one final lesson. It began when He asked Peter whether he loved Him. He posed this question to the disciple three times, and every time Peter answered yes. In turn, Jesus responded each time, “Feed My lambs—tend My sheep—feed My sheep” (John 21:15-17).

The word for love that Jesus uses here is the Greek agape, indicating selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. This kind of love says, “If you despise me, I will give to you. If you reject me, I will still give to you. And if you hurt me, I will keep on giving to you.”

Yet when Peter answered Jesus, he used a different word for love. Each time he pledged his love to Christ, he used the word phileo, indicating brotherly love. This kind of love is mutual—it receives as well as gives. Peter was saying to Jesus, in essence, “As You give to me, I’ll give to You.”

That response wasn’t sufficient for Jesus. It’s why He answered Peter each time, “If you love Me, feed My sheep.” He was saying, “My people need help, Peter. Tend to them. Feed them. Give your life for them.”

Jesus was commissioning Peter to a giving life. He knew the disciple was up for it because in the preceding weeks Peter had been broken deeply. What Jesus tells him next describes the very crux of the giving life— brokenness: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.’ (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, ‘Follow me’” (John 21:18-19).

With this final teaching, Jesus led Peter from a blessed life to a broken, giving life. In so doing, He handed Peter the very keys to the kingdom. Pain, anguish and sorrow awaited Peter in the giving life God laid out for him. Yet, as John’s gospel tells us here, even Peter’s death brought glory to God.

You and I may not get to do what we want in this life but we can have a life that reflects the glory of our Lord’s giving nature. By giving your all for others with agape, you may find yourself being poured out painfully, like communion wine. But in doing so, you will become others-centered, powerful, influential—and the world will see the difference. Your giving life will reveal God’s own glory—a witness to the world of His generous, loving nature.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

THE ADVOCATE by Jim Cymbala

During the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples—the students who had learned from Him and been friends with Him for three years—that He was going away. Imagine how upset the disciples must have been to hear such a thing! He was their leader. He was a miracle worker. He was the one with the perfectly wise response when the Pharisees verbally cornered them. When He spoke, He spoke with an authority unlike any they had ever heard. No one had taught like that before.

How could He leave them now when they needed Him most? And more confusing, He said that His leaving would benefit them. “But truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away” (John 16:7, emphasis mine).

That statement must have flabbergasted the disciples. How could it be good that Jesus was going away? This was the teacher they had eaten with, walked with, traveled with, watched and learned from. Any benefit from His leaving had to be impossible for them to understand.

Fortunately, Jesus explained the reason why. “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Then again He said, “But verily I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you” (16:7).

Now the whole picture began to unfold. The Father sent the Son to accomplish a specific work, to attest to God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he have his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God would show that love by sacrificing His Son on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And after the Son accomplished His work on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, the Son would send the Spirit.

Although the disciples couldn’t comprehend it at the time, it was better for them to have the invisible Holy Spirit in them than it was to have the physical Jesus with them. The divine Person who was coming would help them understand everything He had said.

__________
Jim Cymbala began the 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.

Friday, February 12, 2016

TENDER MERCY TIME

Does there yet remain a small remnant who will fight to rekindle the flame of God’s righteousness? A people who remember the Lord and are willing to take a stand for His name?

The Lord has said, “If I see a wick that’s smoldering, I won’t snuff it out. The flame may be gone, with no appearance of fire, but if I still see embers burning, I will not allow it to go out. As long as I hear even a faint cry from faithful servants somewhere, I will not allow that bruised reed to break” (see Isaiah 42:3).

God has not yet given up on us. But the fact is, we are living on “tender mercy time.” I see this everywhere I travel, especially in Europe. That continent is far more secular than the United States, a land that by its own choice has become absolutely godless. As you walk through the streets in some countries, you sense a spirit of antichrist and arrogance toward God.

Sweden is now one of the most affluent European nations, and the richer it grows the more apostate it becomes. At the same time, the evangelical church there is in danger of growing apathetic in its walk with Christ. Ireland, a nation that for decades suffered crushing poverty, is now becoming more prosperous. Yet the spiritual climate there is also one of apathy, with secularism creeping in.

The whole attitude in Europe seems to be, “So what if judgment comes? Let’s live it up, eat, drink and be merry.” There is no sense of urgency, no need of God.

I believe the Lord is speaking a clear message to the whole world right now. He has the power to stop any potential terrorist attack at any time. He could merely speak a word, and angels would bring down every evil power. Instead, He has chosen to send or permit international calamities, and all are signs that we truly are experiencing His tender mercies.

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth” (Isaiah 42:3-4).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A BRUISED SPIRIT

When Christ came to earth, Israel was living under the crushing rule of Rome. The Jews were heavily burdened by Roman taxes and laws. Meanwhile, a greedy priesthood was taking advantage of widows and the poor. The downtrodden were mocked and ridiculed, and the people were blinded by corruption. All of this is why so many of the prophets said Christ would come in an hour of darkness, bringing great light.

Jesus came into a society plagued by hypocrisy and rampant with sin. As He beheld the nation’s condition, He wept over Jerusalem (see Luke 19:41), prophesying that its house would become desolate. Yet He gave that society seventy more years of gospel preaching. And those years were filled with Spirit-anointed witnesses preaching hope and repentance, performing miracles, and issuing a powerful call to the kingdom. Jesus simply would not break the bruised reed that Israel had become.

Right now, that is a picture of America: a society completely bruised in its morality. We are also a nation that is depressed and disturbed, with people living in fear and mental agony. There are more psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors than ever in history, yet they can’t keep up with all the people begging for just a single hour of help. This is true even in the Church: Christian counseling teams across the land are overburdened by the press of people needing help for their problems.

Our children are being bruised by broken families, abuse and molestation. Teenagers are being bruised by immorality, materialism and numbness. Satan has unleashed a flood of evil upon the land, and it has left in its wake a bent and bruised people.

Much of the Church itself has this same bruised spirit. In letter after letter, I read of Christians drying up in megachurches where sin or righteousness is no longer preached. They’re bewildered, wondering, “Where can I find true worship? There’s no sense of Christ’s presence here. There’s no brokenness.” Pastors also write, confessing, “Brother Dave, I’m backslidden.”

The New York Times ran a story recently about a Pentecostal church of 10,000 whose message is, “We’re here to make you happy.” But that message is bringing false hope and only temporary relief.

“The smoking flax shall he not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). Somewhere in this nation, God sees wicks that are smoldering—wicks that once were on fire, aflame with fervor for His purposes and concerns. But now they’re barely smoking.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

JUDGMENT ON AMERICA?

Many believers today are asking, “Why hasn’t God turned America over to judgment? Why hasn’t He dealt with us according to our sins? He gave Noah’s generation 120 years of warnings, but after that He said, ‘Enough,’ and brought a flood. God has suffered America’s sins for a long time now, so why haven’t we seen His righteous judgment on us?”

I love this country, and I for one don’t want to see God’s final judgment come upon America. Like many, I am completely amazed at why God’s judgment has been delayed.

I do believe we are seeing the beginnings of judgment. I see the terrible calamities taking place in the world as warnings. Yet, because America’s economy hasn’t collapsed, and our nation is still able to function as it has, we seem to stumble along from crisis to crisis, being given chance after chance.

I’m convinced there is only one answer to this perplexity: it’s all because of the tenderness and longsuffering of our Savior. We find the proof in Isaiah’s prophecy: “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench” (Isaiah 42:3). America has become a nation of bruised reeds!

A reed is a tall stalk or plant with a hollow stem, usually found in marshy areas or near a supply of water. It’s a tender plant, so it bends easily when high winds or swift waters strike. Yet the reed can bend only so far before it finally breaks and is carried away with the flood.

Like a reed in calm weather, America once stood proud and tall, full of purpose and promise. Our entire society honored God, and the Bible was held up as the standard for our laws and judicial system. Even during my lifetime, school textbooks consisted of lessons and stories from the Bible. Jesus was acknowledged as the Son of God, the One who gives our country favor and untold blessings.

Yet, in our prosperity, we became like ancient Israel: proud and unthankful. And we’ve fallen a long way in a short time. God has been pushed out of our court systems, out of our schools, His name mocked and ridiculed.

Our society has totally lost its moral compass and as a result, the America that once stood tall is now crippled, like a bruised reed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A NEW REVELATION ABOUT THE MESSIAH

“Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isaiah 42:1–4).

This passage is all about Jesus. The Holy Spirit had moved upon the prophet Isaiah to bring forth a revelation of what Christ would be like when He comes. And Isaiah’s opening word here, “Behold,” signals to His listeners: “Prepare for a new revelation about the Messiah.”

The image that comes into focus from these four verses is clear: Christ wasn’t coming to force people to hear Him. He wouldn’t come with a loud clamor, He would come as a tender, loving Savior.

We find the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Matthew 12. The Pharisees had just held a council to plan how they might kill Jesus, all because He had healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Matthew tells us that “when Jesus knew [discovered] it, he withdrew” (12:15).

Christ didn’t retaliate in anger or rail against those who plotted His death. He wasn’t like the disciples, who wanted to call down fire on His opponents, even though Christ could have done that. Actually, He could have summoned a legion of angels to deal with His enemies but Jesus wasn’t out to take revenge.

It was this tender spirit, Matthew says, that reveals the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:19).

Isaiah was saying, in essence, “The Savior isn’t coming to force anybody into His kingdom. He’s not coming as a loud, boisterous, overpowering personality. No, you’ll hear Him speak with a still, small voice in your inner man.”

Monday, February 8, 2016

NEEDY CHILDREN by Gary Wilkerson

Christ often begins His ministry to us as if we are children with needs to be met. This happened throughout the gospels as He restored the blind man’s sight, healed the bleeding woman, and fed the hungry crowds. He met suffering people right where they were and gave them just what they needed. This was reason enough for people to follow Him. Even some of the Pharisees followed Christ because of His miracles.

I personally was convinced to follow Jesus after He met my deepest need. As a teenager I became uncertain whether God was real. I had descended from a long line of ministers, so how could I be sure that my faith wasn’t just indoctrination from my parents? Jesus came to me in my hurting soul and showed me what I needed to know: that Buddha didn’t love me, nor did Mohammed or Confucius—but Jesus did. He revealed to me the pure truth of His love—and it turned my life around.

Jesus does bless us in our time of need. But, you see, that’s only His starting place in our lives. He takes us from blessedness to brokenness because it’s the only way to bring us to real maturity. The broken path is how we begin to take on His giving nature.

Let’s face it, our flesh hates the thought of a giving life because it requires brokenness. Think about all those bestsellers whose titles imply blessings. Now imagine a different title on the shelves, this one called The Giving Life. You think, “I want to be a giver,” so you flip through the pages. You read of Paul, who speaks of being shipwrecked, beaten and stoned because he was called to give. You read of the other apostles who were persecuted because Jesus called them to a giving life. As you read along you soon realize, “This is not going to be a bestseller.”

That much was proven in Jesus’ day. The crowds stopped following Him when He began preaching difficult truths (see John 6). When the people turned for the exits, “Jesus said to the Twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’” (John 6:67-69).

Jesus’ question puts us in the same position as the disciples. We have to trust that He is good and faithful. You see, we don't get to choose the agenda for our lives. If we did, we would all be getters, not givers. That’s why Jesus sets the agenda. And when He leads us down a hard path, we can be sure He does so in love.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

THE WILL OF GOD by Carter Conlon

The revealed will of God is the practical part of His will, to which all of us are collectively called. You do not have to go searching all over the place for it—it is right there in the Bible. If you take a concordance and look under the word “will,” you will see that the will of God is clearly revealed throughout the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament. Let’s look at some examples.

The apostle Paul says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4). This is where we need to start, especially in this generation. We must turn away from sexual immorality in all of its forms. We must ask God for the strength to live a holy life, set apart for Him.

Continuing in First Thessalonians, we find another example of the revealed will of God: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). In everything give thanks—which means you ought to give thanks for the home you are in, the marriage you are in, the job you have, the family you are a part of. Learn to be thankful instead of constantly praying, “Oh, God, get me out of here and I will serve You; get me out of here and I will love You! There will be no greater worshiper than me if You will just get me out of this place!”

But the Lord says, “No, that is not My will! My will is that you learn to give thanks where you are. You are going to learn to win the victory where I have placed you.”

As you continue to read through the Scriptures, you will find that it is also the will of God that we learn to speak the truth. After all, this is a kingdom of truth, and we represent the One who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). It is the will of God that we be loyal and dependable, and that we do not quit when things do not go right. Be loyal in the workplace as an employee who shows up on time and leaves at the proper time.

Don’t be a person who does the will of God only when it feels right or if it is convenient. Ask God for a heart to genuinely care about other people.

__________

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, February 5, 2016

HE WANTS TO SEE YOUR SMILE

Suppose that just before Jesus ascended—as He envisions His Church and the harvest prior to His return—He foresees a falling away. His soul is grieved, because He sees rampant backsliding. Instead of reaping a white harvest, His people spend their time and energy seeking worldly success and material things.

So Jesus says to the Father, “They won’t get the harvest in. All the white fields lie dormant. I’m going to send a host of angels to do the reaping.” The Father agrees, and suddenly thousands of celestial beings appear on the earth, glowing with supernatural radiance.

What a sight this would be: otherworldly beings, clothed in glory, speaking in churches and in public. They are interviewed by newspaper reporters, and on radio and TV. They talk of the cross, the resurrection, the ascension, Christ’s love, and a final judgment to come. And they speak with such eloquence and conviction that everyone is enthralled. They’re like so many Jonahs, wooing and warning the world.

Now suppose that after a short time, these same radiant angels become enthralled with the world around them. They are taken in by fine foods, material goods, wealth and security. And soon they start striving for success, fame and fortune. Before long, they become jealous of each other, showing anger, pride, envy and covetousness.

In other words, they become just like the Church today! I ask you, how much influence would they have on the world? How could they expect to bring in a harvest, being so caught up in worldliness? Their testimony would be discounted and they would be drained of all spiritual power, going about discouraged, fearful and doubting.

Tell me, why would anyone want my gospel if they saw me in this state, stressed out and joyless? Why would they believe my message, “Jesus is sufficient, my everything, my constant supply,” if I am always fearful and worried, with no peace?

No one would listen to a word I said. Instead, they would wonder, “What difference does your Christ make? He doesn’t seem to be much of a physician if you’re always in this condition.”

Beloved, our countenance counts. Listen to what Christ says of His Bride in the Song of Solomon: “O my dove . . . let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely” (Song of Solomon 2:14). Christ is saying to us, in essence, “I want to see your smile.” Does that describe your countenance?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

IT’S TIME TO BEGIN REAPING

Jesus declared, “The fields are ripe, and the harvest plentiful. It’s time to begin reaping” (see Matthew 9:37-38). At that moment, the great, final spiritual harvest began among the Jews and Gentiles of Jesus’ generation. And this same harvest is going to last until Christ returns.

As I read this passage, I wonder what Jesus saw in His time that caused Him to say, “The harvest is ready, so now is the time to reap.” Did He see a spiritual awakening in Israel? Was there revival in the synagogues? Were priests turning back to God? Were scribes and Pharisees being convicted? What evidence was there that the harvest was ripe?

The gospels don’t reveal much evidence of any spiritual move toward God. If anything, they show the opposite. Jesus was mocked in the synagogues. The nation’s spiritual leaders rejected Him, questioning His integrity and divinity. One religious crowd even tried to throw Him over a cliff. Christ Himself upbraided Israel’s cities for not repenting at His message: “Woe, Chorazin! Woe, Bethsaida! Woe, Tyre and Sidon! Woe, Capernaum!” (see Matthew 11:21-23).

As for the multitudes, they were embroiled in chaotic despair. Scripture tells us, “When he saw them they were like sheep without a shepherd” (see Matthew 9:36). Here was a society that was fearful, stressed out, depressed. The people ran about wildly, like scattered sheep, looking for help anywhere they could find it. Yet it was at this very point of great distress that Christ declared, “The fields are ripe, and the harvest is plentiful.”

Do you think Jesus’ words about a ripe harvest apply today? Where do we see evidence that the fields are white and ready to be reaped? Are nations repenting? Is there a great stirring in our society? And is the organized church waking up? Are religious leaders hungering for revival, seeking Christ anew? Is there a cry for holiness in this generation?

With few exceptions, I don’t see any such things happening. Yet, none of these is what moved Jesus in His time. Rather, He was moved by the sad conditions He saw on every side. Everywhere He looked, people were overwhelmed with distress and He said, “It’s time to begin reaping.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

THE HARVEST INSTRUMENTS

“When he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:36–38).

Jesus made it plain: “The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few.” So, why are there so few laborers? Churches today are packed with believers who claim Christ is their very life. Millions of dollars are spent on erecting worship centers everywhere.


The truth is, if we’re not capable of reaping souls—if our lives don’t reflect the transforming power of the gospel we preach—then we have discounted ourselves as laborers. Our walk with Christ should offer proof to the world that God’s promises are true.


As laborers, we are the harvest instruments in the Lord’s hand. In the days of Christ, such an instrument was a scythe, a long, curved, single-edged blade with a long handle. It was forged by a blacksmith, who put it into a fire, then placed it on an anvil, where he pounded and bent it into shape. Then the whole process was repeated again and again, until the cutting edge was filed with a rough-edged surface.


The parallel is clear: God is forging laborers. He isn’t just pounding away at sin. And this forging process explains why the laborers are few. The majority of churchgoers are like the thousands who volunteered to go with Gideon in the Old Testament. God saw fear in many of them, knowing they wouldn’t endure the fire, the pounding, the hard times. And out of the thousands who followed Gideon, only three hundred were chosen.


The same thing happens today. Those who are truly called to harvest are called to endure the refining, shaping fires and the continual hammering. Yet, not many endure.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

REMEMBERING GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

Scripture shows that David, Job and other Old Testament saints came out of their dark times by remembering God’s faithfulness to past generations. David writes 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). Asaph, who wrote twelve of the Psalms, did the same: “I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old” (77:11). Indeed, Asaph says that all of Israel “remembered that God was their rock” (78:35).

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 of Jesus Christ is called to remember God’s past deliverances. We have been given a way to remember that is much better than in Old Testament times. You see, since the days of David and Asaph, God has poured out His Holy Spirit, and the Spirit now abides in our human bodies.

The Holy Spirit comforts us in our dark times and brings to our remembrance God’s past faithfulness. But He does more than that. The Spirit often gives us an understanding of the purpose behind our fiery trials so that our faith will not fail.

When we look at Asaph’s life we see that this devoted, godly man does not share any kind of understanding with us in Psalm 77. Simply put, we don’t know what his dark hour accomplished in his life. All he could tell us was, “Thy way [of God] is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known” (Psalm 77:19). Asaph’s conclusion was, “God’s ways aren’t known. I don’t know why He allowed me to fall into such depression and discouragement. I only rejoice that He has made me free.”

Monday, February 1, 2016

A GIVING LIFE by Gary Wilkerson

It is the Father’s nature to give. A child who grows up in a giving home learns to share, and Jesus has His Father’s giving nature. Now Jesus is beckoning us to carry on the family name through a giving life.

To do this, Christ supplies us with a powerful image at the Last Supper. He lifts up the bread and wine and says, “This bread is my body, broken for you. And this cup is my blood, poured out for you” (see Mark 14:22-23). Note what Jesus then does with the bread: He blesses it, breaks it and gives it. In doing this, Christ demonstrates to us what a poured-out life looks like. It is blessed. It is broken. And it is given away. That’s what it looks like to be a son or daughter of the living God.

This is the central difference between the average human being, whose primary aim is to meet his own needs, and someone who has found out life’s purpose and pours himself out for others. In Christ, we are called to move from a “getting” life to a “giving” life. Jesus empowers this transition for us in the Spirit, replacing our worldly spirit with His own godly Spirit. He tells us, “You have been blessed by Me and now you are meant to give those blessings away.”

This is a glorious theology—but it’s the hardest transition we will ever make in life. Over the past few years the top-selling Christian books have focused on the “getting” side of life. Their central theme is how God longs to bless His children. We know that’s true of God because of His giving nature; He wants to open the windows of heaven to pour out His mighty resources on us. He does indeed want to bless our marriage, our health, our finances. So these best-selling books have their place, and I admit I’ve drawn help from some of them myself.

But there’s something missing in these books. There is something much better than a blessed life of getting—and that is a broken life of giving. A getting life is easy; a giving life is difficult—and rewarding.

Remember, He blessed. He broke. He gave away. Often in the church this process breaks down after the first step. Many Christians don’t get past the blessing part. They don’t allow their lives to be broken before God, so they never make it to the last step—giving. Thus they never see the fulfillment of God’s purpose in blessing us.