Thursday, March 31, 2016

THE FURNACE OF AFFLICTION

“If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:17–18).The apostle Paul is saying that in light of the glory that awaits him, what is his trial in comparison?

Likewise, he wants us to turn our eyes from our present sufferings and focus on what is coming, which will change everything. One minute into our new home in eternity, Paul says, we won’t remember what came before. His point is to start praising now, rejoicing over the joy that awaits us. “By him [Jesus] therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).

God has chosen those “refined . . . not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:10). The people to whom Isaiah offered this vision of a new world had just endured the fury of a raging enemy. Now they were reeling from their tribulation, bound by fear and weariness. They felt that God had forsaken them, and they were afraid of what the future held.

So what word did God send them? It’s the same word he gives his people today: “Wake up! You are not undone, as you think. The Lord, your strength, is still with you. So, get up out of the dust of discouragement, and sit down in the heavenly place I have promised you. You have not lost your righteousness, so put on your robe. Shake yourself, talk to yourself, give yourself a lecture. And tell the flesh and the devil, ‘I am more than a conqueror through him who saved me’” (Isaiah 52:1–3, paraphrased).

“And I will . . . refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 13:9).

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A SCHOOL OF WORSHIP

How did God get the children of Israel out of Egypt? He had to put them in a furnace of suffering to bring them to the point that they cried, “Enough of this! I don’t want to be here anymore.” Then, when the time came for God to say, “Go,” they were ready to uproot and move into His Promised Land.

God help us to get disengaged from the materialistic spirit of this age, and to transfer our every affection to the New Jerusalem.

Isaiah prophesied that the world God was creating is a place of praise, where the inhabitants rejoice. “Be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:18). The Hebrew word for create in this verse means “to bring into being.” Do you see what Isaiah is saying? God is creating not only a new world, but also a special people. He’s bringing into existence a bride who hasn’t just been weaned from this world, but has learned to praise her way through trials.

The fact is, our present sufferings comprise a school of worship. And all the ways we’re learning to praise Jesus, especially in our trials, are training for that glorious day. What does this mean for Christians who live with constant fret and worry? How can those who live as if God were dead suddenly know how to praise their way through a trial?

How we react in our present trial is very important. When Israel was in their hour of great suffering, they gave up hope. They decided they couldn’t take any more, so they simply sat down in the dust. Here were God’s people, with rock-solid promises, yet they sat there with a chain around their necks.

Likewise today, some Christians give up at this point. They don’t abandon their faith, but they stop pursuing Jesus with their whole hearts, thinking, “I can’t live under this kind of intensity. It seems the closer I get to Christ, the more I suffer.” They wonder how Paul could say, “I . . . rejoice in my sufferings” (Colossians 1:23–24).

Here is exactly how Paul could make such a claim: he had been taken up into heaven, and he saw the glory that awaits us. Because of what he saw, Paul was able to embrace his trials and afflictions in this life, learning to praise God through every ordeal. He was determined to learn gladness of heart no matter what his situation, and he began practicing praise in preparation for the world to come.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

OUTSIDE THE GATE

Abraham passed a great test of faith when, in obedience to God, he offered his son as a sacrifice. Yet, even more than his tested faith, Abraham was weaned from this earth—a fact proven when he offered up Isaac. He had faith that there was a purpose greater than the one he could see. Here was a man truly in the world but not of it, seeing his citizenship in another world.

Now consider what Hebrews says of Christ: “[He] suffered without the gate” (13:12). Jesus suffered as an outsider—always on the outside of formal religion, outside of accepted society. Yet Christ was also “outside” in the sense of having no place here on earth to even lay His head. In everything Jesus did, He always looked to heaven.

Like our Savior and our forefather Abraham, “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (13:14). We live and work on this earth, but we are aliens here; our true homeland is in the New Jerusalem. Thus, Hebrews urges, “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” (13:13). Until we also are “outside” the camp—outside this world’s lusts and materialism—we won’t be where our Bridegroom is.

I live in a nice home and drive a nice car. But I continually guard against such material things ever taking hold of my heart. The fact is, you can have a mighty faith and still not long for Christ. “Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not [love], I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:2).

Sadly, as I look around today, I see multitudes of believing Christians who have great faith, but have no longing to be with Jesus. Instead, they’ve set their eyes on the things of this world and how to obtain them. I find that such people don’t want to hear about focusing on heaven or being weaned from this world. To them, such a message means an interruption from the “good life” they enjoy here.

Thank God, He has a wonderful way of pushing us outside the gate. He tells us, in essence, “If I’m going to give My Son to you in marriage, there can be no other attraction in your life. I want to be sure you’re not lusting for something or someone other than Christ. Your most exciting dream, the deepest pull on your heart, has to be a desire to be with Christ.”

Monday, March 28, 2016

THE VOICE OF THE SKEPTICS by Gary Wilkerson

We all have a calling from the Lord. And at various stages of our lives, He has set before us a preordained plan we are to fulfill. Moreover, God promises that if we act in faith, trusting Him, He will bring that plan to fruition.

Yet, this isn’t always easy. As everyone who has walked with Jesus for any length of time knows, following His high calling means we’re going to encounter obstacles, the most common of which is the skeptic’s voice. As we seek to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land, we’ll hear every kind of voice telling us not to go. They murmur to us in very reasonable tones, “It’s just not going to happen. Let me explain why.”

Three types of skeptical voices appear in the life of every Christian:

First, there is an outward skeptic. This is a friend, acquaintance or family member who challenges what we believe we are to do to obey God.

There is also a demonic skeptic. This is the voice of the evil one, who seeks to derail us from our trust in the Lord.

Finally, there is an inner skeptic. This is the voice inside our own minds that raises every kind of argument against obeying what God has asked of us.

Joshua heard all three of these voices as God stirred him to lead Israel to cross over the Jordan River. The crossing held all the promise of God’s future glory for His people on earth. You can be sure there was no way they would make that crossing while hearing the shrill voices of skeptics trying to dissuade them.

Our God wants to obliterate every skeptical voice that would keep us from obeying His direction for His greater glory. Whenever He asks us to take a step of faith, He is leading us to “cross over” to a measure of trust in Him we’ve never had before.

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, ESV).

Saturday, March 26, 2016

THE ADVOCATE by Claude Houde

The Bible describes Satan as the accuser of the brethren. In Revelation 12:10 we read that Satan “accused [believers] before our God day and night.” Whenever Satan is present in Scripture, someone is being accused. He is there in the form of a tempting snake in Genesis and we see Adam and Eve mutually accusing each other cruelly. The people murmured in the Old Testament, plagues devoured them, and the apostle warns: “These things happened for our teaching, our understanding. Do not murmur as they murmured and were destroyed by the destroyer” (see 1 Corinthians 10:10-11).
We are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2.11). Peter “accused” the Lord, and Jesus answered him, “Get thee behind me, Satan, you don’t realize by what spirit you are speaking” (see Mark 8:33).This spirit of the accuser is real and terribly active in our world today. Husbands accuse wives, teenagers accuse their parents, nations and entire regions of the world are torn apart by one group, nationality, color or clan endlessly accusing and attacking the other. Believers and leaders blame pastors, and ministers complain one to another, “Today’s believers are not like they used to be.” That is the spirit of the accuser. However, you can choose a different life. You can cry out, “Father, fill me with faith with a revelation and the Spirit of the Advocate.”
The Bible teaches that “we have an advocate (a defender, and intercessor) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous and . . . He ever lives to make intercession in our favor” (see 1 John 2:1 and Hebrews 7:25).
We can also be filled with and live in and by a Spirit that prays, intercedes, stands with, loves and forgives. Each day we truly have a choice to make: division or destiny; resentment or restoration; breaking or building; to hurt or to heal; to be bitter or to bless; to release or to be reduced; pettiness or power; my agenda of advancement or His authority; the accuser or the Advocate!
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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, March 25, 2016

THE JOURNEY OF FAITH

Right now, God is at work preparing a new world—a new heaven and a new earth—for His people. And this new creation will comprise a New Jerusalem, including a home for Christ’s Bride. Isaiah saw this new world that God is creating, and the sight of it must have overwhelmed him. God says through the prophet, “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17–18).

God is making a powerful statement here to the Bride of Christ. He’s saying, in effect, “In the midst of your present trial, fix this truth in your mind: the present world is not your home. Everything you see is going to pass away—earth, moon, sun and stars. I am creating a new world, where there are no fires, floods, devils, trials or afflictions.”

Do you get the message? Your trial is going to end, and your troubles will pass away. Therefore, focus your eyes on Christ, and set your affections on spending eternity with Him in the new world. According to Him, the world we toil in now, with all its pain and sorrow, will not be remembered when that day comes. It won’t even enter our minds!

Beloved, this tells me that the trial many are enduring right now isn’t testing—it’s training. We are being prepared for a world where there will be no more pain. And that world is going to be populated with brand-new bodies. Paul tells us the body that goes down into the grave won’t be the one that comes out of the grave. We’re going to have a brand-new body, one with the DNA of Christ Himself.

Abraham is an example of one who was focused on the world to come. The Bible says of him, “By faith he sojourned . . . as [an alien] in a strange country . . . for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:9–10).

Thursday, March 24, 2016

THE BRIDE OF CHRIST

The truth is, not all our trials are tests of faith. Often, the Lord is after something more when we’re in the furnace of affliction. Indeed, the closer you walk with Christ and the deeper your trials, the more He is working in you to accomplish something other than faith.

Yet, don’t misunderstand: whenever our faith wavers, tests of faith will come. We will never be completely beyond such testing. But here is another of God’s purposes in our trials: The Father is preparing a Bride for His Son.

He wants more from us in our trials than greater faith. This Bride is going to be tried severely, and her love for the Bridegroom will come through the fire. Her trust in Him will be refined through fires, floods and afflictions. Yet, these trials aren’t a matter of testing her love and devotion. Rather, they’re about refining a love that is already fully committed. Let me explain.

I believe many reading this message are fully committed to Christ. Jesus is the great love of your life, and your trust in Him is flourishing. Certainly, there still are times when that trust is tested. But God is looking for something else from you, something more. His preparation of the Bride requires that He do a supernatural work in you.

This Bride—Jesus’ chosen beloved—must be consumed with a longing to be with her Bridegroom. She has to be weaned from all other attractions. She must be obsessed by a desire to always be in His bodily presence. Paul refers to this longing when he writes of his own desire “to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

This was not a morbid fixation with death on Paul’s part. The apostle clearly lived a full, useful life, but he said, “Something in me yearns to be with the Lord, where He is. I long to be face-to-face with Him.” To make such a claim, Paul had to be completely weaned from this world and its attractions.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

FAITH THAT PREVAILS

Paul testifies of being afflicted with trials yet finishing his course having won the faith test. He writes, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Of course, Paul knew he still had much work to do. There were great trials and suffering ahead for him. But he was able to honestly say:

“I may not have apprehended Christ as I wanted, and I haven’t been perfected. But when it comes to faith, and trusting God through every trial, I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded. When the enemy comes in like a flood, I know the Lord will raise a standard against it. And I learned all of this in the furnace of affliction.”

I share this testimony with Paul. By the grace of God, the Holy Spirit has enabled me to come through a number of trials in recent years, the hardest being the death of our twelve-year-old granddaughter, Tiffany. The Lord provided strength and faith through that excruciating ordeal, and I came out of it saying, “I know whom I have believed, and I know he has a plan. God would not allow this kind of deep hurt to come upon me or my family without a purpose behind it all. Oh, Lord, I give this over to you by faith.”

Think about your own present ordeal or trial. Have you had doubt, fear or anger as you’ve endured it? Have you accused God of putting too much on you, of placing you in your trial needlessly? Are you on the verge of giving up, thinking, “I’ve been faithful to pray, to read the Bible, to go to church, but nothing is working”?

Or, can you still look to heaven and say, “I know the Lord is good and I’m going to trust Him through this. I will not live in doubt. He will bring me out, to His glory.” If this describes you, then your faith has endured the fire. But if it doesn’t, I have a question for you. How many more trials and afflictions must you endure before you are able to say, “My faith has prevailed”?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

THE TRIAL OF YOUR FAITH

God takes no delight in the testing of His children. The Bible says Christ is sympathetic toward us in all our trials, being touched by the feelings of our infirmities. In Revelation 2:9 He tells the church, “I know thy . . . tribulation, and poverty.” He is saying, in essence, “I know what you’re going through. You may not understand it, but I know all about it.”

It is essential that we comprehend this truth, because the Lord does test and try His people. Scripture says, “Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried” (Psalm 66:10). “Your faith . . . be tried with fire” (1 Peter 1:7). “The Lord trieth the righteous” (Psalm 11:5).

Indeed, everyone who follows Jesus is going to face afflictions. The Psalmist writes, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous” (Psalm 34:19). Paul speaks of having “much affliction and anguish of heart . . . with many tears” (2 Corinthians 2:4). And Hebrews describes saints who are “destitute, afflicted, tormented” and “[enduring] a great fight of afflictions” (Hebrews 11:37, 10:32).

The fact is, the Bible says a great deal about suffering, trials and troubles in the lives of believers. According to the Psalmist, “My soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave” (Psalm 88:3). Likewise, David writes of enduring “great and sore troubles” (71:20).

I can’t name a single follower of Jesus who hasn’t endured all of these things that Scripture mentions: trials, tribulations, troubles, afflictions, anguish. I know I can say along with David, “I have endured sore and great troubles and trials.” And I know that many others reading this message can say, “That sums up my life right now. I’m facing several anguishing trials and afflictions.”

For this reason, every Christian has to know and accept that God has a purpose in all our sufferings. No test comes into our lives without His allowing it and one of God’s purposes behind our trials is to produce in us an unwavering faith. Peter writes, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Peter calls these experiences “fiery trial(s)” (4:12).

Monday, March 21, 2016

HAPPINESS FROM THE LORD by Gary Wilkerson

Does God want us to be happy? That’s a loaded question for many Christians. From beginning to end, the Bible gives us a very clear answer, and it’s meant to transform the way we live.

Yes, God wants us to be happy! His desire for our happiness is solidly grounded, a biblically-based truth proven in Scripture. Every modern version of the Bible speaks of happiness over and over.

The Holman Christian Standard Bible, one of the newer translations, tells us, “Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Yahweh, they walk in the light of Your presence” (Psalm 89:15). “I will turn their mourning into joy, give them consolation, and bring happiness out of grief” (Jeremiah 31:13).

The New Living Translation, another respected version, reads, “And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness” (Isaiah 65:18). The GOD’S WORD Translation reads, “The people ransomed by the Lord will return. . . . Everlasting happiness will be on their heads as a crown” (Isaiah 35:10). The following verse actually addresses the malaise of the present generation: “You didn’t serve the Lord your God with a joyful and happy heart when you had so much” (Deuteronomy 28:47).

Do you need a word on happiness from the New Testament? “Although you have never seen Christ, you love him. . . . You are extremely happy with joy and praise that can hardly be expressed in words” (1 Peter 1:8, GOD’S WORD Translation).

Altogether I found 2,700 Bible references that speak of happiness, joy, gladness, cheer, delight, even pleasure. Each of these emotions makes up part of the amazing adventure we live in Christ.

Can you regain happiness when it has escaped you for so long?

How is happiness possible when you’re in physical pain, when you’re troubled in soul, when your family is in shambles? Let me give you just a few helpful words:


  1. Believe that He wants happiness for you! You’ve been given biblical evidence that God wants happiness for you.
  2. Believe that the happiness He gives is a solid reality, not a pipe dream.
  3. Renew your mind on this subject through His Word. Don’t allow the enemy to rob you of His truth.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

EXPERIENCING THE POWER OF GOD by Nicky Cruz

No matter how many times I experience the power of God, I never get used to it. I never grow complacent with the way He can bring even the coldest, hardest neighborhood to conviction. The way He can dissipate evil within a matter of seconds and expose the deepest parts of a person’s heart, bringing him to his knees before the cross.

No matter how much it seems that Satan is winning this war, I know it’s just a matter of time before God steps in and takes charge, before God blows His breath, sending the devil cowering into a dark corner.

During a crusade rally as I was standing on that platform in the Bronx, NY, feeling the power of God’s Spirit settling on us, moving among us, blowing like a cool northern wind, I felt completely invigorated. Like I could take on all the forces of evil and send them back to hell! It’s something I feel every time the anointing of God is near. Every time His Spirit takes charge. Every time we go to battle against evil with Jesus by our side.

You could feel God moving among the crowd, ministering, healing, doing miracles in the hearts of those who needed Him. His Spirit echoed between the buildings, moving in and out of windows and doors, between corridors, down hallways, into apartments. Hearts of sin were broken. Minds of filth were filled with thoughts of remorse and shame. Bodies ravaged with drugs felt the healing power of salvation.

This is how God works. This is how He moves. This is where you’ll find Him at war with Satan. And in the middle of this war is where I most long to be.

“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

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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, March 18, 2016

A WATERED-DOWN HALF-GOSPEL

A watered-down half-gospel is an abomination to the Lord. You see, I could write to you saying, “Jesus loves you and wants to bless you. He wants you to enjoy your life. He desires to give you miracle after miracle.”

But that is only half the truth of the gospel. The whole gospel also includes warnings against the deceitfulness of sin. It includes repentance and godly sorrow, preparation for persecution, and a yearning for the coming of Christ. Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms, “Follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). The gospel of Christ always confronts man and then brings comfort to him. It will never accommodate the likes of sinful men.

Yes, Jesus ministered miracles. He delivered up bread and meat to the multitudes. But the day came when He no longer performed or preached miracles. Instead, He told His followers, “Unless you eat My flesh and drink My blood, you have no part in Me.”

I am not a prophet, but the Holy Spirit has led me to deliver some prophetic messages that have been considered by many to be too hard. Some people have called me a doomsday preacher. And I readily admit I’ve preached some messages that caused me to walk right out the church doors, go home, and weep. Yet this was all because of one verse: “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 17:15).

Occasionally after a service, I will put on earphones and replay the message I just preached. And sometimes I tremble as I listen, asking the Lord, “Oh, God, did I cross a line? Did I condemn your righteous saints here? Did I unconsciously wound your servants?” On other occasions, I ask, “Jesus, did I preach only half of Your gospel in this sermon? Did I give a sermon that makes people feel good about their sins? Did I give them false comfort by watering down Your call to turn from iniquity?”

The only hindrance to His gospel is the unbelief in our hearts.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

THE UNSTOPPABLE GOSPEL

“If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:31–32). So, how are we to judge ourselves, as Paul says to do?

Here is the criterion by which I constantly judge myself: I ask, “Have I in any way hindered the gospel of Christ?” We know that the world cannot hinder the gospel, but the fact is, we who preach it can. Paul judged himself on this matter, writing, “[I] suffer all things, lest [I] should hinder the gospel of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:12).

The apostle is telling us, in essence, “I have to be careful about how I present the gospel. If I’m materialistically minded, or if I harbor covetousness or lust, I cannot possibly represent Christ accurately. It would cause a hindrance to the gospel I present. No, the way I live has to be a part of the gospel I preach.”

Consider the Corinthians in Paul’s time. They were bringing fancy foods to the feast table, while the poor among them didn’t have any food at all. Paul told them, in so many words, “You’re not really concerned about the needs of Christ’s Body if your eye is fixed only on how to better your own life. You simply can’t be focused on God’s concerns if you don’t care whether your brother has enough money for his next meal.”

Any works or ministry that’s done with such a mind-set won’t endure the Lord’s holy fire. Large numbers, successful methods, and monumental achievements won’t mean anything in that hour because God judges the motives of the heart. The question we have to ask ourselves today is, “Am I doing this for recognition? To be somebody? To secure my own future, with no regard for my brothers or sisters in need?”

Make no mistake: The gospel of Jesus Christ goes forth unhindered, mighty and unstoppable. But this happens only when it is preached and taught in its fullness. It has to be delivered in the context of “the whole counsel of God.” As Paul says, “I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, italics mine).

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

OPERATION ROME

What God did through Paul’s imprisonment in Rome was amazing. The Lord did not need fancy methods in order for His gospel to go forth. He needed only a single servant, and this one was hidden away on a backstreet, in a small rented house, under armed guard. Yet for two years, a steady stream of hungry souls from all walks of life came to him in his makeshift jail (see Acts 28:30-31).

In fact, that little rented house served as the Holy Ghost’s Grand Central Headquarters for “Operation Rome.” Inside, God’s Spirit was raising up a devoted body of believers who would come out preaching the gospel with power and anointing. And they would take the good news of Christ to the farthest corners of the empire.

What is God trying to tell us through this account? Could the Lord be telling us here not to look for bigness in ministry, not to focus on numbers or techniques? Simply put, God is telling us that the Holy Spirit can lay hold of any common person, bring him to a place of total dependence, and through him reach communities, cities, even nations, from the most insignificant places.

Why did these people come streaming into Paul’s house? Why did they respond to mere word-of-mouth information to hear a poor, non-celebrity preacher? I say it was because that house was filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus was present there, the Holy Spirit convicted all who entered, and Christ’s presence healed their hungry souls.

Don’t misunderstand: I’m not preaching, “Be small.” I’m preaching, “God can use the most humble.” He can use anyone who is willing to be stripped of all confidence in the flesh and be dependent on Him for everything. And the Lord can do that with any Christian, from any walk of life. I know, because I’m an example of it. God found a skinny preacher in the Pennsylvania countryside and sent him to New York City to work with gangs and drug addicts. What could be more unlikely?

“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” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

THE GOSPEL CANNOT BE HINDERED

The Book of Acts closes on an amazing note. The final two verses find Paul in chains, under house arrest, and guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet, read the joyous note with which Paul’s situation is described: “Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:30–31).

The original Greek for forbidding here actually means “hindering.” The New American Standard Version says Paul preached and taught the gospel “with all openness, unhindered.” What an amazing statement, given that Paul was imprisoned. The gospel was “unhindered,” meaning unstopped, unobstructed. The author uses this testimony to close Acts with a powerful declaration: “The gospel cannot be hindered!”

Make no mistake, there were hindrances on all sides to Paul’s message. When he called on the Jewish leaders in Rome to visit him in his chains, they were indignant. They said, “We don’t even know you. Who are you to us?” When Paul finally did preach Christ to them, they ended up squabbling among themselves. At the same time, the Emperor Nero was torturing and killing Christians in the streets of Rome.

Given these mountainous hindrances, how did God plan to impact the godless Roman Empire? What would be His method for building a church in Rome that would influence the world throughout the Empire for ages to come? Could it really be this jailed, Jewish former terrorist, whose speech was said to be contemptible? Was Paul God’s best instrument to evangelize Rome and all its vast territories?

For two years, the apostle was shut up in this nondescript house on a side street. He had no associate evangelist, no Timothy or Barnabas, to work alongside him. He had no microphone to broadcast his messages. He had no consultants or political connections to help him. Paul simply had no planned program or agenda. And even if he had, there was no way to advertise it. He couldn’t go door-to-door evangelizing or hold street meetings.

He declared, in so many words, “Here I am, Lord. Use me as You see fit.”

No, Paul was just there. And yet he was absolutely content with where God had had placed him. He declared, in so many words, “Here I am, Lord. Use me as You see fit. I don’t know Your plan, but I do know You put me here. Your gospel will go forth unhindered.”

Monday, March 14, 2016

CHRIST’S REMEDY FOR FEAR by Gary Wilkerson

Many in the Church today live as if they’ve accepted defeat. Their thoughts are ruled by doubt rather than belief and they live with habitual patterns of sin. They keep their faith to themselves, thinking that if they struggle so badly, how could they possibly help someone else? This is what the Christian life looks like without resurrection power.

Actually, that’s what the disciples’ lives looked like after the crucifixion. So what was the first thing Jesus did after the resurrection? He dealt with His followers’ fear: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (John 20:19).

The disciples had literally locked themselves in, afraid of the world outside. They feared mockery, derision, persecution, even the possibility of a death such as the one Jesus experienced. But Christ came straight through those walls to meet them in their fear and His first words to them were, “I give you peace.” Even then they were still afraid, so Jesus had to say it to them twice: “Peace be with you” (see 20:19, 21). Christ didn’t berate or judge them for their fear; instead, He met them at their deepest point of need.

The same thing happened about a week later. Again the disciples had locked themselves away in fear, and once more Jesus entered bringing peace: “Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (20:26).

Sometimes Jesus has to say things to us more than once. Even so, He didn’t judge the disciples for their fear; instead, He showed them all patience. Earlier that week Thomas had expressed disbelief, but now Jesus invited him to examine His scars to remove any doubts. “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (20:28).

Here in Thomas’s response we see Christ’s remedy for our fears: believe! Jesus proclaims this to His Church, and His Church proclaims it every week to all who enter its doors: “Peace be with you. Don’t be afraid. Believe on Him.”

Saturday, March 12, 2016

THE BIRTH OF THE CHURCH by Jim Cymbala

The Christian church was born through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we read through the book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament, we see a picture of the early church the way God intended it to be. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42).

Here was a community of believers who freely loved the Word of God and were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. No one needed to badger or coerce them to love the Word. Instead, the Spirit within them inspired it. The same Spirit who wrote the Bible created an appetite inside of them for what it said. They shared with one another the deep love the Spirit had put in their hearts. They also became bold witnesses for Christ, filled with wisdom beyond their training. Their hearts were full of the Holy Spirit and they experienced surprises as God did things that no one could anticipate.

Not only had the Holy Spirit been sent to earth, but He acted in and through His people—demonstrating His power to glorify Christ. The early church experienced Him moving in their hearts and in their lives. Because of the hostile environment around them, they were repeatedly driven back to God for a fresh supply of the Holy Spirit, and they were wise enough to yield to His direction. Is the Holy Spirit moving like that in our lives? And in our churches?

I sometimes wonder if the early Christians were around today, would they even recognize what we call Christianity? Our version is blander, almost totally intellectual in nature, and devoid of the Holy Spirit power the early church regularly experienced. How much loss do we suffer because we don’t expect the Spirit to show up as promised? Everything we read about the church in the New Testament centered on the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the Christian believers. Sadly, for many of us this has not been our experience.

I believe it’s time to return to the kind of faith we see in the New Testament church. They believed God’s Word, they expected the Spirit to do great things, and He came through as promised.

He will do the same for us today.

__________
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, March 11, 2016

ZEAL FOR THE LORD’S HOUSE

When Jesus was on earth, He testified, “I am consumed with zeal for my Father’s house” (see John 2:17). Now His message to the Christians in Sardis, and to us, is this: “You enjoyed My favor, with a good reputation all around. You were blessed with powerful worship and preaching. But instead of moving forward, you began to think, ‘We have arrived.’ So you relaxed. You were no longer watchful, and indifference began to set in. Now you’ve settled into a spiritual comfort zone. You didn’t go on to fulfill the mission I gave you.”

God’s Word shows us what happens when we neglect His house and give first place to our own interests. It’s all illustrated in the book of Haggai.

When Haggai prophesied, God had just delivered His people out of Babylon and led them back to Jerusalem to rebuild His house. The Lord desired a “lampstand church,” where He could visibly manifest His presence among His people. He wanted the nations to see the transformed lives of the Israelites and a land filled with His blessing and glory. So He commanded Israel, “Focus on My church—that is your first mission. If you will be faithful to take care of My house, I will take care of yours.”

The people started out doing as the Lord instructed them, beginning to rebuild His temple. But after a while, they said, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). The interpretation here is, “We don’t have time to do that work. We’re too busy.” The truth is, they got consumed with building their own fine homes and businesses.

What was the Lord’s response? He said through Haggai, “Mine house [lies in] waste, and ye run every man unto his own house” (1:9). The prophet was saying, in essence, “God delivered you and set you on a mission to build His house. But you’re so busy building your own homes, you’re neglecting His. The Lord’s concerns are no longer your focus. You’re all wrapped up in your own interests.”

Are you guilty of the same defilement? Do you have energy to run everywhere to attend to your own concerns—but have no energy for the Lord’s interests? Do you have time to work on your own house, but only a few hours on Sunday morning for the house of God? Do you make time to shop or watch TV, but find little or no time for prayer? More importantly, do you have the capacity to be stirred by these words from the Lord?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

THE DEAD CHURCH

The church in Sardis started out in great apostolic power, with God’s blessing and favor. In Revelation 3, Christ tells the pastor at Sardis: “I know you started out with a powerful reputation, but you have allowed the life I gave you to ebb away. Tell this to your congregation: ‘You are dead. Will you have the capacity to hear this word, accept it and be aroused by it?’”

Beloved, if Jesus calls a congregation dead, it is dead! Yet Christ tells us there was also in that church a holy, wide-awake remnant, and says He still has hope for them: “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments” (Revelation 3:4).

When Jesus speaks of “defiled garments” here, He is describing spiritual death. What caused the defilement of those believers in Sardis? It happened because something had hold of their hearts, a “special interest.” At one time, the center of everyone’s life was God’s interests: charitable works, a missions mindset, the faithful gathering of His Body. Simply put, Christ’s work had been their chief concern. But now, everyone was running after his own interests.

Sardis was a prosperous town, known for gold smelting and the making of fine garments. Evidently, the Christians in Sardis became enamored of the surrounding culture of prosperity, and their focus shifted. They quickly began drifting away from the Lord’s interests toward a materialistic mind-set.

By all outward appearances, nobody could fault these Christians for their pursuits. They were making a living, building up their businesses, and taking care of their families. Yet these things became so all-consuming that they began to neglect the works of God. So Jesus issued a warning to the faithful remnant there: “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect [finished] before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent” (Revelation 3:2–3).

What does Jesus mean here when He speaks of things “that are about to die”? He’s saying, “Beware! The excitement you once had for My house—your passion for My Word, your joy of public worship, your love for one another—has been dying. Slumber is falling over your eyes, and you’ve grown lukewarm. Wake up now! If you don’t, you could end up spiritually dead.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

THE STILL, SMALL VOICE

Like the enemy of our souls, our flesh clamors to be heard. It always insists that it’s okay to appease its desires from time to time, that all we need is a friend to agree with us, and God will bless our decisions.

The Lord provides us with another great and precious promise here. Scripture says the Spirit fights within us against everything that is of flesh: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other” (Galatians 5:17). Paul is saying that the battle against the flesh is not ours to wage. Only the Holy Spirit can mortify our flesh.

The voice of the Holy Ghost will urge you to take His word to prayer and also to confirm it in God’s Word. We have been given all these promises of protection for any and every situation. And they’re available to us in every conflict that arises, no matter how small or large.

Whenever the flesh or the devil comes in like a flood, the Holy Spirit is always faithful to rise up and crush the attack, if we will trust Him.

Today, an entire generation of Christians is making decisions without consulting the Holy Spirit. Many believers are acting out of fear or despair, with no faith in God’s promises. They simply decide what to do on their own, based on what they think is best.

What is the outcome for such believers? What happens when God’s servants operate outside the complete government of the Holy Spirit—when they devise their own plans, refusing to yield to the leading and direction of the Holy Spirit? They stir up a spiritual bees’ nest, bringing not rest but distress, pain and confusion.

There have been many times when I didn’t listen to the Spirit’s voice. In fact, I could write a book about all the times I ran off to do my own thing, following my own direction, and things went terribly wrong.

I have learned over the years to listen to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. And I have determined to say “yes and amen” to His absolute government in my life. I know He will lead me into all truth, that He will guide me, and that He will show me things to come. Yes, I can testify that such a life is possible. And, as He has taught me, I just say yes.

Will you?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

SAFEGUARDED BY THE SPIRIT

You may wonder, as I have, “How can I be certain that I’m hearing the Holy Spirit’s voice, and not another?”

First of all, the Holy Spirit cannot, and will not, govern any believer who isn’t wholly surrendered to His will. The Spirit speaks to those who are prepared to obey His voice. And something else concerned me as I thought about walking in the Spirit. If walking in the Spirit involves total confidence in hearing His voice and being led by it, how can we be safeguarded against deception? How can we know we’re hearing the voice of the Spirit, and not our own, or that of the devil?

I’m convinced that multitudes of Christians have developed doubts about listening to the Spirit because of bad experiences in the past. They wonder, “How can I know if it’s the Holy Spirit speaking this time? I thought I heard clearly the last time, but it turned out not to be Him at all. I felt deceived.” And still others have been turned off by the bizarre antics of those who go about saying, “God told me this; God told me that.”

This important matter requires of us another emphatic “amen” to trusting God’s promise of protection. Paul points out that such trust demands an act of faith: “Taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Ephesians 6:16). This is a promise from the Lord that He will shield us from delusion and error.

The voice of Satan constantly shouts all kinds of accusations at us. And the only way to shut out these fiery darts is to turn to the promise God has given us: that no weapon formed against us can prosper (see Isaiah 54:17). Satan’s weapons include condemnations and lies, and the Holy Ghost is faithful to expose them all to us. The voice of the enemy would urge you to act impulsively, without checking with God’s Word. But every word of the Spirit will be confirmed by the Bible.

Monday, March 7, 2016

CHRIST'S RESURRECTION POWER by Gary Wilkerson

“For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

As a teenager, I had doubts about God and I started looking into other religions. At that time I found the Baha’i faith appealing because it basically says that all religions are true and all roads of faith lead to heaven. But then I read the great Christian author C.S. Lewis who corrected my loosey-goosey thinking. He wrote that all of Christianity rests on one question: Was there a resurrection or not?

If we cannot answer yes to this, then it doesn’t matter whether there was a literal Noah’s ark or a six-day creation period or an actual Garden of Eden. If Christ’s resurrection didn’t take place, none of those things matter at all. But if there was a resurrection, then everything else became possible: Lazarus could be raised from the dead, people could be healed, sins could be removed, heaven could be a reality. That is resurrection power—and it gives us something Paul calls our blessed hope—“Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

The more I read as a teenager, the more I came to a firm belief about the witnesses who saw Jesus after His resurrection: “Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6). I began to see the resurrection as not just an additional event, but the culmination and consummation of the work of Jesus’ death for us. And the blessed hope that was planted in me became a source of life each day.

If we don’t claim Jesus’ resurrection power in our everyday life, we won’t experience what His resurrection won for us.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

THE UNIQUE WILL OF GOD by Carter Conlon

The unique will of God has led me into many places throughout my life, and it has been an incredible journey. However, we must learn to do the first things first. Come back to your first love if you need to; open the Word of God and begin to read it. Don’t live in an illusion that one day this mystical will of God will fall into your lap while you are choosing to ignore the revealed will of God.

Scripture says, “This is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:15). The revealed will of God is this—doing good; speaking the truth; caring in an uncaring time; praying when nobody else prays; studying when everyone else is writing off the Word of God; speaking the name of Jesus when everyone else wants to curse His name. This is where character is formed! You have to win battles in secret before you can win them in public. Remember, you will not become a super evangelist who loves everybody if you have not learned to love people in private. That is how it works. So do not worry so much about finding the unique will of God for your life; it will come to you. Concern yourself today with the revealed will of God, and the unique will of God will surely follow.

Paul said in the book of Ephesians that we “should do the will of God from our hearts” (6:6). I encourage you to ask God for the will to do His will. Come to Him and say, “Lord, open my heart to what You have for my life. Don’t let me consider anything as too small or undignified. Help me to be the one who sees a piece of paper on the floor and picks it up. Help me to be kind, truthful, and faithful; a builder rather than a destroyer. Help me to be the one who will promote unity in the midst of a divided society. Yet, let me also be willing to take a stand for truth when everyone else is content to deal with lies. Lord, give me the courage to follow You fully.”

As you trust God for the will to do His will, I believe Jesus will be revealed to You in a way that you have never known Him. You will be absolutely amazed at where God is going to take you and what He will do through your life.

__________
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, March 4, 2016

THE HOLY SPIRIT AND GOD’S PROMISES

Consider these promises God has made to us and see if your response to them is “Yea and Amen”:

1. The Lord has established you, sealed you, filled you and anointed you with His Holy Spirit. “He which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God; who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22).

You can’t walk in the Spirit until you believe you’re filled with the Spirit. And the truth is, the Holy Ghost is with us at all times, even when we have done wrong. In fact, we need Him as much when we have done wrong as when we’re doing right.

2. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would “abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth. . . . He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:16–17, 26). In short, the Spirit fills our minds with truth and guides us by that truth. So, have you committed a divine “yes” to this promise? Are you able to say, “Amen, Lord, let it be so in my life”?

3. Jesus promised that the Spirit would be the inner voice to guide us, to glorify Christ in us, and to show us things to come. “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth . . . and he will shew you things to come” (16:13). Are you still wavering as to whether such a great promise could be true? Does it seem just too good that the Spirit wants to direct you in every step of your life? Or can you say, “Yes, Lord, let it be so”?

4. God has promised to provide you with direction for all your ways. “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6). Have you accepted His direction for your comings and goings—literally every step of your week, your day, this moment? Have you fully committed to this kind of walk? Is it yes and amen to you?

Thursday, March 3, 2016

JUST SAY YES!

I asked the Lord to open up to me the meaning of Paul’s phrase, “Let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). As I approached this subject, I prayed, “Lord, make it all clear and understandable to me.” Here is how I believe the Spirit answered me: the golden key to understanding our walk in the Spirit is not complicated. It requires no theological training. In fact, it’s so simple that most of us can’t see it. Yet, if we’re able to grasp this one truth, we can enter into a life that’s free of distress, full of assured direction, and marked by perfect rest. The Spirit impressed on me these three simple words: “Just say yes!”

JUST SAY YES!

As soon as this phrase flashed into my consciousness, I replied, “Lord, that truly is simple. But what does it mean?”

It all goes back to a verse that Paul wrote to the Galatians. The apostle boldly stated, “All the promises of God in him are yea [yes], and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Corinthians1:20). According to Paul, walking in the Spirit begins when we give a confident, intractable “divine yes” to all of God’s promises. It means having the unwavering confidence that the Lord will keep every promise in His Book. It is saying, “Father, I have read Your promises, and I say yes to all of them. I believe Your word to me.”

Consider James’ admonition: “Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6–7).

Now we know what a “divine yes” is. So, what does Paul mean by the “Amen” in the same verse? The word itself means, literally, “So be it. You can trust it.” In the context of the passage, “Amen” means saying, “I believe Your word to me, Lord. So be it in my life.”

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A CLOUD TO FOLLOW

Whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed. At the commandment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord” (Numbers 9:22–23).

The cloud that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness was eventually lifted up to heaven. But another cloud descended from heaven centuries later, at the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The Holy Ghost—the same Spirit who had hovered over the wilderness tabernacle—came down and hovered over 120 worshipers who had gathered in the Upper Room after Jesus’ death. This cloud came farther down, into the very room where the people sat, and it dwelled upon the people’s heads as cloven tongues of fire.

The Greek word for cloven means “thoroughly distributed.” In short, this cloud of fire had split up and sat on each person in the Upper Room. Then the flames possessed the people’s bodies.

At that point, Jesus’ followers were “in the Spirit,” with the Holy Ghost living in them. Yet it is one thing to have the Spirit abiding in you, and something else entirely to live in total submission to the Spirit. You can be filled with the Holy Ghost, but that doesn’t mean you’re walking in obedience to His leading and allowing yourself to be governed by Him.

We who love Jesus today also have a cloud to follow. We may be filled with the Holy Spirit—praying and singing in the Spirit, or experiencing manifestations of the Spirit—but we still have to commit to taking orders from Him. If we don’t wait for His direction in all things, we simply aren’t walking in the Spirit. Paul’s instruction makes this distinction clear: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

SUBMITTED TO FOLLOW THE HOLY SPIRIT

We are to walk in total submission to the Holy Spirit, just as Christ walked in absolute submission to the Father. Jesus testified, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise” (John 5:19).

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (5:30).

How can we possibly think we don’t have to depend on the Father for all things, when Christ Himself said He did? As lovers and followers of Jesus, do we dare think we can do what our Savior and Lord couldn’t do? Jesus waited on the Father, always seeking to have the mind of God.

If we are honest, we’ll admit that heaven is often the last place we turn when we need direction. Most often, we run to counselors, or spend hours on the phone with friends, seeking advice: “What do you think? Is it a good idea for me to go in this direction? Do you think I should do that?” Sadly, we go to the Holy Spirit as our last option, if we go to Him at all.

In Numbers 9, we read of a cloud that came down and covered the tabernacle in the wilderness. This cloud represented God’s constant presence with His people. And for us today, the cloud serves as a type of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

At night, the cloud over the tabernacle in the wilderness became a pillar of fire, a warm glow in a dark place: “So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night” (Numbers 9:16).

The children of Israel always followed this supernatural cloud, however it directed them. When it rose above the tabernacle, the people pulled up stakes and followed it. And wherever the cloud stopped, the people also stopped and pitched their tents. They moved or stayed according to its clear direction.

The Israelites were careful to move only as the cloud moved, because they knew it was God’s provision of guidance. It might move every day, or every week, and then not again for months at a time. Yet, day or night, the people always moved as it directed them (see Numbers 9:18-19).