Friday, April 29, 2016

CLOSET PRAYER

Closet praying happens when we’re alone, in secret. “Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).

But there is more to it. The Greek word for closet in this verse means “a private room, a secret place.” This was clear to Jesus’ listeners, because the homes in their culture had an inner room that served as a sort of storage closet. Jesus’ command was to go into that secret closet and shut the door behind you. And it’s a command to individuals, because this is not the kind of prayer that can happen in church or with a prayer partner.

Jesus set the example for this, as He went to private places to pray. Over and over Scripture tells us He “went aside” to spend time in prayer. No one had a busier life, as He was constantly pressed by the needs of those around Him and had so little time to Himself. Yet, we’re told, “In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). “When he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone” (Matthew 14:23).

Consider the command Saul was given in Acts. When Christ apprehended this persecutor of the church, Saul wasn’t sent to a corporate church meeting, or to Ananias, the great prayer warrior. No, Saul was to spend three days alone and apart, praying and getting to know Jesus.

We all have excuses for why we don’t pray in secret, in a special place alone. We say we have no such private place, or no time to do it. Thomas Manton, a godly Puritan writer, says this on the subject: “We say we have no time to pray secretly. We yet have time for all else: time to eat, to drink, for children, yet no time for what sustains all else. We say we have no private place, but Jesus found a mountain, Peter a rooftop, the prophets a wilderness. If you love someone, you will find a place to be alone.”

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A PLACE OF PRAYER

Our homes are to be places of prayer!

“If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:19). Some Christians call this “agreement praying.” You are deeply blessed if you have a devoted brother or sister to pray with. Indeed, the most powerful intercessors I’ve known have come in two’s and three’s. If God has blessed me at all in this life — if He has used me for His glory — I know it is because of a few mighty intercessors who pray daily for me.

The place where this kind of prayer takes place most powerfully is the home. My wife, Gwen, and I pray together daily, and I believe it holds our family together. We prayed for each of our children during their growing up years, that not one of them would be lost. We prayed about their friendships and relationships. We also prayed for their future mates, and now we’re doing the same with our grandchildren.

Sadly, very few Christian families take time for prayer in the home. I personally can testify that I’m in the ministry today because of the power of family prayer. Every day, no matter where my siblings and I were playing, in the front yard or down the street, my mother would call out the front door of our home, “David, Jerry, Juanita, Ruth, it’s prayer time!” (My baby brother Don wasn’t born yet.)

The whole neighborhood knew about our family prayer time. Sometimes I hated to hear that call, and I griped and groaned about it. But something clearly happened in those times of prayer, with the Spirit moving amid our family and touching our souls.

Maybe you can’t see yourself holding family prayer. Maybe you have a spouse who isn’t cooperative or a child who’s rebellious. Beloved, it doesn’t matter who chooses not to be involved. You can still come to the kitchen table and bow your head and pray. That will serve as your household’s prayer time, and every family member will know it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

BLOW THE TRUMPET IN ZION

What exactly are we to pray in times such as these?

Here was Joel’s prescription for Israel in that day of gloom and darkness: “Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children. . . . Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God?” (Joel 2:15–17).

Here was the call to the church: “Don’t be discouraged or give in to despair. You are not to believe the devil’s lies that there is no hope for an awakening.” Instead, according to Joel, the people’s cry was to be, “Lord, stop this reproach on Your name. Don’t let Your church be mocked any longer. Stop the heathen from lording it over us, taunting and asking, ‘Where is your God?’”

You may think, “What God promises here is only a possibility. He says He might hold back His judgment. That’s nothing more than a ‘perhaps,’ a ‘maybe.’ Everything He calls for from His people could be in vain.”

I don’t believe God tantalizes His church. And He won’t send His people out on a fool’s mission. When Abraham prayed for God to spare Sodom (where his nephew Lot lived), the Lord’s heart was moved to save that city even if only ten righteous people lived there. And Abraham prayed this as destroying angels were walking into the city! I’m convinced God’s people today are to pray to the Lord in the same way.

Joel’s prophecy regarding an outpouring of the Holy Spirit is found in Joel 2:28-32 and is repeated by the apostle Peter in his sermon in Acts 2:17-21. The prophecy begins, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

EVEN TO ME

“Therefore . . . saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness” (Joel 2:12–13).

As I read this passage, I am struck by the words, “Even to me.” As gross darkness fell over Israel, God appealed to His people: “Even to me — when you’ve pushed Me out of your society, when mercy seems impossible, when humankind has mocked My warnings, when fear and gloom are covering the land — I urge you to come back to Me. I am slow to anger, and I have been known to hold back My judgments for a season, as I did for Josiah.”

Do you see God’s message to us in this? As His people, we can plead in prayer, and He will hear us and answer the sincere, effectual, fervent prayers of His saints.

I have a word of warning to the church at this moment: Beware! Satan comes precisely at such a dark hour when disaster looms over the earth, when the heathen rage and terrorize nations. The devil knows we’re vulnerable, and he throws out this lie: “What good can you do? Why try to evangelize Islamists, when they want to kill you? You can’t change anything. You might as well give up on the sin-saturated world. There’s no use praying for an outpouring of the Spirit. All your repenting is futile.”

But God comes to us with this word from Joel: “There is hope and mercy, even now! I am of great kindness and slow to anger. And now is the time for you to turn to Me in prayer. I may hold back My judgments and even bring blessing to you.”

Even now — in a time of murderous Islamic extremism, of militant homosexuality, when our nation has lost its moral compass, when courts are driving God out of society, when fear grips the whole earth — it is time to turn to the Lord in prayer.

Monday, April 25, 2016

STEP INTO THE RIVER by Gary Wilkerson

The skeptics said to Joshua, "If we cross over the Jordan River, we're going to face enemies as never before. You know the reports. There are thirty-one different kings in the land where we're going and every one of them wants to do us in. Do you know how many kings we've defeated in the last forty years? Exactly two. What on earth are you thinking? How could this be what God wants?"

Joshua knew it would be difficult — in fact, impossible. But he also knew there was only one way for Israel to go: forward. They were going to cross over, and they would do it in faith, trusting that God had their best interests at heart.

We all know that in the end, Joshua and Israel possessed the land and were blessed.

The priests carrying the Ark stepped into the rushing river, and as soon as they immersed their toes, God supernaturally parted the water. After that, every evil thing the skeptics predicted was turned into good for God's people.

The people came to a great fortified city occupied by their enemy. When they marched around it, the impenetrable walls came tumbling down. A handful of kings that Israel thought would be hostile instead joined them and doubled the size of their army.

Did all this make super-saints out of Joshua and Israel? Not at all. At one point Joshua failed to obey God, but because he repented quickly, the Lord used the experience to strengthen him.

Are you willing to step into the river? God may be saying, "If you'll just commit to putting your toe in, you will see me part waves for you. It doesn't matter how many enemies and fortresses you face, I will carry you across to the other side. I have already laid out my plans for you and I'll see them through to fulfillment, all to My glory."

I urge you: Trust God to lead you across your Jordan. Let Him silence the voice of every skeptic. His “Plan A” for you won't be defeated. He is faithful — and He will give you victory!

“The Lord said to Joshua . . . As I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Joshua 3:7).

Saturday, April 23, 2016

THE CALL OF FAITH by Claude Houde

The beginning of David’s public ministry is this gigantic moment when he slays a giant named Goliath. David came from what today would probably be called a “dysfunctional family.” He was cruelly ignored and neglected. As a teenager he was left to tend to the flock in the mountains, a lonely and dangerous job.

When a man of God was looking for a candidate to replace Saul and become king, David’s father, Jesse, showed off all his sons, but ignored David. It was as if David didn’t exist. His brothers put him down, demeaned him and maliciously questioned and mocked even his noblest aspirations.

When David, in spite of them, slew the enemy and came out victorious in his fight against Goliath, he left his home, as King Saul took him under his wing.

Saul was a tormented and failing leader and he quickly became terribly jealous of David. Saul was threatened by God’s favor on David and by how much the people loved him. After having a father who seemed to ignore him, David suffered still further under an “adoptive father figure” who, irrational in his insecurities, finally tried to kill him.

It was in those days of his first and faltering steps of public ministry that David experienced his first victories. He was strong and filled with potential, and although supernaturally called, he was also terribly alone and extremely vulnerable. David said of himself during that period, “I am still weak though I have been anointed to be king” (see 2 Samuel 3:39).

God then sent Jonathan to David. Jonathan answered the call of faith with friendship, selfless support, and humility for a greater cause. This is a call that presses one to give and help someone else with no expectation or promise of anything in return. You cannot imagine the divine flow of blessing such a decision on your part can unleash in your life. This revelation can touch and change a marriage, a family, a church and even a nation. “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt” (1 Samuel 18:3-4).

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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, April 22, 2016

JESUS AND LAZARUS

As told in John 11, Jesus’ going to Bethany wasn’t so much about Lazarus’ death as it was about His own death. Think about it: When the time came for Jesus to face the cross, how would His followers ever believe He could be raised up? There was only one way they would believe it. That was for Jesus—there in Bethany with His beloved friends—to enter the most hopeless situation and work His purposes in the face of the humanly impossible.

I’m convinced Jesus would not have entrusted this experience to anyone outside His inner circle. Such things were reserved for those who were intimate with Him, who didn’t think as the world thinks. You see, it is only in such friends—people who know Christ’s heart and trust Him fully—that He can produce a faith which can’t be shaken.

The fact is, Jesus knew all the future hardships that would take place in the lives of these dear ones. He knew every illness and tragedy they would face. And He wanted to see in them a faith that would believe in His care no matter what calamity they faced.

When Jesus finally arrived, Martha’s first words to Him were, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (John 11:21-22). These words may sound full of faith on Martha’s part, but when Jesus responded, “Thy brother shall rise again” (11:23), Martha’s answer was revealing: “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day” (11:24). In other words: “It’s all over for now, Jesus. You’re too late.”

Jesus replied, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (11:25–26).

Christ was telling her, in other words, “No, Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Believe in Me and you’ll never die.” Again, He wasn’t just talking about Lazarus, but about His own death and resurrection. To Him, Lazarus’ raising was already a settled matter: “Martha, don’t you believe I can go even into the grave and do the impossible for you and Mary, all of your days?”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

WOUNDED BY UNBELIEF

We’re told throughout the Psalms and other wisdom writings that we have a God who laughs, weeps, grieves, and can be stirred to anger. Likewise, the New Testament tells us we have a high priest in heaven who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities; the same flesh-and-blood Man who was God on earth is now a glorified Man in eternity.

Without question, our Lord is a God who feels. And I have to wonder: How can Jesus not be wounded by the great unbelief taking place throughout the world today?

How often does the Church today wound the Lord by unbelief?

Think of the unbelief of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, as it began to flood from the roiling waves. How wounded Jesus must have been as they aimed these accusing, unbelieving words at Him: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

What about the times when Jesus miraculously fed crowds of people with only a few fish and bread loaves? Twice He wrought this miracle, feeding a total of 9,000, not including the women and children on those scenes. Yet, even after these incredible works, Jesus’ own disciples were still mired in unbelief. After one such miracle feeding, Christ spoke to them about the leaven of the Pharisees, and “they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread” (Mark 8:16).

Jesus must have been shocked at their words. He had just miraculously multiplied bread for the masses, before His disciples’ eyes. Clearly He was wounded as He replied to them, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? . . . How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mark 8:17–19, 21).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

THE PAYDAY OF UNBELIEF

Luke 19 gives us a powerful picture of Jesus making His final entry into Jerusalem. The image is of Christ approaching the city on a donkey with great throngs shouting His praises. He started at the Mount of Olives, and the closer He got to the city gate, the larger the crowds grew. Soon the people were casting down their garments before Him, waving palm branches, and crying, “He’s here! The hour has come for the King of Israel to arrive. Peace has come to Jerusalem. Finally, the kingdom is here!”

Why was there such loud rejoicing? “Because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11). In the people’s minds, Jesus heralded the arrival of God’s promised “kingdom on earth.”

Yet this didn’t mean they trusted Him as their Messiah. Their only thought was that God’s reign had begun: “Goodbye, Roman rule! There will be no more wars, because our king will rise up with a sword and cut down every enemy. We’re going to see peace in Jerusalem and in Israel, with no more bondage, no more food shortages. God has finally sent His expected king.”

No one on the scene that day expected what would happen next. As Jesus came down the mount and the multitudes shouted His praises, He looked out over Jerusalem—and broke down weeping. “When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:41). Here was God Himself in flesh, weeping!

The reason for His tears? It was the people’s blatant unbelief. You may think, “But these crowds were singing praises to Him, shouting hosannas. That doesn’t sound like unbelief to me.” Yet Scripture tells us Jesus knew what was in men’s hearts.

Jesus saw the payday of unbelief coming. And He prophesied to that crowd, “The days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of the thy visitation” (Luke 19:43–44, my italics).

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NO OTHER NAME

There is a growing wrath in the hearts of wicked men against the very name of Jesus. All over the world, there is arising a red-hot hatred for God’s Word. The Bible is despised, mocked and cursed by ungodly men. I ask you: What is it about Jesus’ name that stirs up such anger by its mere mention? No name is so despised, yet there can be no salvation in any name but His. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

We know that Jesus’ name has always been hated by wicked men, but now that hatred has turned into a demonic rage. Christ’s name is slowly and subtly being erased from society, by legislative mandates in nations all over the globe.

I received word from a very reliable source about an astonishing development in the U.S. military. An attempt is being made to rule that no chaplain, Catholic or Protestant, can mention the name of Jesus Christ. The reasoning behind this is unbelievable: “We must have spiritual maturity in a pluralistic society.” What a deception! Think of it: first, forbidding any mention of the name of Jesus, and then saying it’s a matter of spiritual maturity. This is straight out of hell!

Why is there such rage against the Son of God? Why do wicked men shudder at the mention of His name? It is because of what Christ’s name represents—deliverance from sin. His name means freedom from the dominion of sin. It means death to the old, fallen, sinful nature, and entry into newness of life. It means power to forsake and deny all ungodly lusts and pleasures.

God’s Word tells us the destruction and blasphemy being brought about by man’s wrath won’t last much longer. “Surely the wrath of men shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain” (Psalm 76:10). How will this happen? Simply put, the more intense the wrath of men becomes, the more God will pour out His grace. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Romans 5:20).

Monday, April 18, 2016

A PATH IN THE MIGHTY WATERS by Gary Wilkerson

Israel's crossing of the Jordan happened at harvest time. During that season, the banks of the river weren't just full, they were overflowing. Humanly speaking, it was the worst possible time to cross over.

The skeptics around Joshua surely would have scoffed, "You picked the wrong time, Joshua. We've got pregnant women, sick people, the elderly. This isn't of God."

Yet God does call us to things that are humanly and physically impossible. He looks at our situation and says, "The conditions are perfect for Me to move on behalf of My people. Now the world will see how I rejoice to supply all to My servants."

Right now you may be thinking, "God, I feel You leading me to make a tough decision. I know I don't have what it takes to pull this off." That's right where He wants you. In our weakness, God is made strong. And in our lack, our God is great. We say it is impossible, but with God at the center, nothing is impossible. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:26, ESV).

Up to that point in their history, God had parted the water for Israel but this time He was asking them to step into the water first. Specifically, He commanded the priests to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the rushing river by faith.

Imagine the skeptics' voices! "God has never led us to do this before. He has always parted the water for us. This isn't obeying Him, it's tempting Him!"

Even Joshua may have had his doubts. "Lord, I've been down this road before with You and I know how it works. You always part the waters first. Why would You have us step into this rushing, muddy water? It doesn't make sense."

It never matters how risky or challenging the path is that God has put before us. If we step in with faith, He'll part the water. And we can move across on dry land.

“Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters” (Isaiah 43:16, ESV).

Saturday, April 16, 2016

GOD’S ARMY by Nicky Cruz

If there is one thing we have learned through our ministry—through facing the enemy on his own turf time and time again, day after day, week after week—it is that Satan is a coward. He picks on the most defenseless among us, the most hopeless and desperate. Like a playground bully who runs for cover as soon as a kid his size shows up, Satan retreats at the first sign of real power.

Do we truly understand the power we have at our fingertips? Do we grasp the significance of the message that we bring to a lost world? Do we comprehend how easily evil can be beaten and revoked by simply opening ourselves up to the moving of the Holy Spirit?

Do we know what God is capable of doing among us?

How I long to see a day when Christians stand shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, in this war with Satan and finally draw a line in the sand, right in the middle of his path. A line that stops him dead in his tracks. A line that says, “You’ve had your day! You’ve had your fun! But your day is over. In the name of Jesus, you can go no further.”

I long to see an army of soldiers rise up against him. A regiment of soul-obsessed believers, taking up arms in this fight against evil. An army of men and women with hearts that burn for God and lives that are dedicated to His will.

Isn’t that the kind of army you long to be a part of? Don’t you wish you could play even a small part in such a huge battle for God? Isn’t this what you’ve been waiting for, what you’ve been hoping for, what you’ve been praying and believing that God would bring your way?

If so, then God wants you to know that the army is already in place. The war is being waged. All you have to do is take up your sword and find your place in His ranks!

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).

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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, April 15, 2016

JESUS ALREADY REIGNS AS KING

King David was overwhelmed by the anti-God spirit of his day. He cried out to the Lord, “Consider mine enemies; for they are many; and they hate me with cruel hatred” (Psalm 25:19). Likewise, Psalm 124:2-3 tells us: “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us.”

David expresses what many in the Church feel today. At times it seems that we’re helpless to stand against the evil forces amassing. I can hardly believe how, day after day, the morals of our country are being trampled into the dirt.

Will the Lord allow this wrath against Him and His Church to go on until our society becomes like Sodom, with every man a law unto himself? No, never! Right now, we are experiencing the Lord’s incredible patience. He is going to bring judgment, but all His judgments are meant to redeem. Isaiah gives us a wonderful picture of this:

“And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, that trust in graven images, that say to the molten images, Ye are our gods. Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see” (Isaiah 42: 16-18).

Beloved, the divine grace Isaiah describes turned Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle. It raised up a multimillion-member church in communist China. It’s sending refugees fleeing from terrorism and war into the loving arms of devoted servants of Christ. And right now, a Teen Challenge center in a country dominated by false religions has raised up five hundred converted drug addicts who are eager to preach Christ. God is indeed pouring out His redeeming grace in these last days.

We are not to fret over the battles that Satan seems to be winning. The battle we are in is an eternal one and the gates of hell will not prevail against Christ’s Church. Our Father has declared it: Jesus already reigns as King!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

HE IS LORD OF ALL

Today, a radical, pagan religion is a kind of Babylon with mad leaders like King Nebuchadnezzar. This religion is threatening the whole world with its demand to worship its deity. Terrorist organizations with religious support are demanding: “Bow to our god, or we will blow up your airplanes. We’ll bomb your towns, trains, buses and tunnels. We’ll kidnap you, torture you and behead you. Our religion is going to prevail.”

As we consider such demonic forces, we should turn to the story of Nebuchadnezzar and those three faithful servants of God that is related in Daniel 3. It tells us that in a single hour, the Lord came down and delivered His servants—and that changed everything.

Everything looked different when the Lord manifested His power, causing the king to cry out: “Blessed be the God of [these three men], who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God” (Daniel 3:28). Immediately, Nebuchadnezzar issued a different decree. This one stated that the only God to be worshiped was that of the three young Jews: “Because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Daniel 3:29).

Let’s turn now to the Psalmist, who asked why the heathen nations rage against the Lord. According to him, here is how God responds to such wrath: “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure” (Psalm 2:4-5).

The Lord Himself then declares: “[I have] set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. . . . Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee” (Psalm 2:6-7). Religiously supported terrorists and other heathen religions may hope to install their gods as king, ruling the globe. But Jehovah God says, “I have already installed My Son, Jesus Christ the Messiah, as king of the heavens and the earth. He is even now Lord of all.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP

In Daniel 3, King Nebuchadnezzar set up a golden god in Babylon and demanded that it be worshiped. Every official, leader and citizen in over one hundred provinces in Babylon had to fall down before this god or face death. There were but two choices: bow or burn. If anyone refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, they would be roasted alive in huge ovens.

After the decree was issued, three devout young Jews in the kingdom refused to bow. In a rage, Nebuchadnezzar had them dragged before him and demanded to know: “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15). Here was their answer: “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:17-18).

The response of the demon-gripped king was predictable: “Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury . . . and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated” (Daniel 3:19). This was purely demonic hatred against Jehovah God. The truth is, all who stand for Christ can expect to encounter such rage. Their obedience always stirs up the rage of those who take directions from Satan.

So, what was the outcome? Whose God prevailed in Babylon? In the midst of this contest, Jesus Himself manifested His glory and power. When King Nebuchadnezzar peered into the red-hot oven, he was shocked at what he saw. He cried: “We threw three men into the furnace, but now I see four men. They’re walking around in the fire, and they’re not being burned. In fact, they act as if the roaring flames are nothing. And the fourth Man has the appearance of the Son of God!” (Daniel 3:25, my paraphrase).

When Jesus shows up, His enemies have to cower before Him.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AN UNWAVERING FAITH

Once, while taking a “prayer walk” and talking to God about my concerns over the health of several family members, a Scripture passage became very real to me: “But with whom was he grieved forty years? . . . And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?” (Hebrews 3:17-18). I found myself praying through tears: “Lord, those people made You cry! Have I also made You cry because of my unbelief? I’ve had precious times with You for over fifty years, Jesus. I love You and I know You love me, but lately I’ve harbored some doubts. I’ve wondered why some prayers have not yet been answered.”

Since then, I have heard His sweet, still voice, saying, “I will always love you, David. I will keep you from falling, and I will be faithful to present you faultless before the Father. But, yes, I am wounded by your times of unbelief and wavering faith.”

So, dear saint, are you in the middle of an overwhelming trial right now? Have you prayed, wept and pleaded for help, yet things look hopeless? Maybe your situation has gone beyond all human possibility, and you’re thinking, “It’s too late.”

I tell you, you have been entrusted with your crisis. God could have moved in at any time, but this is His opportunity to produce in you an unwavering faith that you need. He’s looking for trust in Him not just for what you’re facing now, but for every impossible problem from now until you go home to be with Him. Make no mistake: He rejoices over you. Yet He also loves you enough to build a faith in you that will see you through it all.

Pray with me: “Forgive me, Lord, for making You weep. Help my unbelief now.” Then make this verse your own: “Without faith it is impossible to please him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Monday, April 11, 2016

FOLLOWING GOD’S CALLING by Gary Wilkerson

Think about the challenge Joshua faced by asking Israel to take a step of faith and cross the Jordan into the land God had promised them. There were well over one million Israelites, not including children and babies. Think of the effort that had to be expended, with planning, all the workloads, and the many responsibilities.

Here is where many Christians get hung up. They tell themselves, "If it's going to be that difficult, it can't be of the Lord. Can it?"

Following God's calling isn't always easy. But it is grace–filled. Peter tells us the finished work of the cross has accomplished everything we need in order to live for Him. "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness" (2 Peter 1:3, NIV).

You don't have to live by your own strength; the Holy Spirit lives in you with power. He will provide you with all the energy you need to do what God says. You'll never burn out if you live and walk in the Spirit, drawing your strength from Him.

Whenever you seek to cross over the Jordan, you will encounter people who don't agree with you; in fact, you may make some of them angry. And if their voices become overpowering, you may wonder whether you should risk going forward at all.

Think of the pressure Joshua faced. He had provided strong leadership to that point and had earned a great deal of trust from people. That was important for a leader whose nation was continually at risk from the surrounding dangers.

Maybe you can identify with Joshua's dilemma. If you're going to cross over your Jordan, be prepared for skeptical responses from your family, your friends, your coworkers:

"You want to start a business—in this economy?"

"You want that kind of ministry? Why?"

"You want to do what with your life? I can't support you. I don't think God is in this."

Now, let me add this: A bold move of faith won't just draw skeptics, it will also draw an army of God's people around you. You'll find prayer, support and energy from faithful sources you never expected.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

HOPELESS WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT by Jim Cymbala

The world is full of books about God the Father who created the universe, and more books are written about Jesus the Son of God than anyone who ever walked on this planet. But isn’t it interesting that far fewer books have been written about God the Holy Spirit?

When teaching on prayer, Jesus declared; “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13, emphasis added). You would think that promise would create a huge desire to know more about this promised Helper—who He is and what He does. And it would be even better if we were to experience Him as a living reality the way the early believers did.

The Holy Spirit is God’s only agent on earth. He is the only experience we can have of God Almighty, the only way we can have the work of Jesus Christ applied to our lives, and the only way we can understand God’s Word. Without the Holy Spirit, we are like the disciples before Pentecost—sincere but struggling with confusion and defeat.

More than a hundred years ago, Samuel Chadwick, a great Methodist preacher in England, said: “The Christian religion is hopeless without the Holy Ghost.”

The early church provides the perfect illustration of that hopelessness. It was made up of simple men and women. The leaders were former fishermen and tax collectors who fled in fear when Jesus was arrested and needed them most. They weren’t courageous and faithful. In fact, they lacked faith and courage. They were the least likely to be put in charge of any Christian enterprise.

Yet, after the events in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit was poured out, those same nobodies were suddenly transformed. With courage and faith, they turned their community, and eventually the world, upside down. That wasn’t due to their seminary training, because they didn’t have any training. But one thing they did possess was the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told them to rely on Him for everything. The early believers knew all too well that Christianity was hopeless without the Holy Spirit.

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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, April 8, 2016

ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND

“We see that they could not enter in because of unbelief” (Hebrews 3:19). Only one sin kept Israel out of the Promised Land.

Canaan represents a place of rest, peace, fruitfulness, assurance, fullness, satisfaction, everything a true believer longs for. It is also a place where the Lord speaks clearly to His people, directing them, “This is the way, walk in it.” But Israel could not enter the Promised Land because of one sin.

That sin was not adultery (and Scripture calls these Israelites an adulterous generation). It wasn’t their rampant divorcing (Jesus said Moses granted divorces to that generation because they were so hardhearted). It wasn’t rage, jealousy, sloth or backbiting. It wasn’t even their secret idolatry.

The sin of unbelief prevented God’s people from entering Canaan. Therefore, Hebrews urges us today, “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief” (Hebrews 4:11).

I have known many Christians who decided to get serious about their walk with the Lord. They determined to become more studious in His Word, and they fasted and prayed with renewed conviction. They set their hearts to cling to God through every situation in life, and as I observed their lives, I thought, “Surely all their devotion will bring a glow of joy. They can’t help but reflect God’s peace and rest.”

But all too often, the opposite was true. Many never did enter into God’s promised rest. They were still unsure, restless, questioning God’s leading, worried about their future. Why? They had a habitual leaven of unbelief and all their devotion and activity had been rendered ineffective because of it.

The believing servant clings to God’s New Covenant promise: “I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). He also clings to this Word: “I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me. . . . I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble” (Jeremiah 30:21 and 31:9).

Thursday, April 7, 2016

NO FRESH REVELATION

Luke 1 includes one of the most revealing cases of the seriousness of unbelief. You remember the story of godly Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Zacharias was a devoted priest who suffered because of a single episode of unbelief. His story illustrates just how seriously God takes this sin.

Scripture says Zacharias was “righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” (Luke 1:6). Here was a pious man who wore the robes of his respected position. He ministered before the altar of incense, which represented prayer and supplication, acts of pure worship. In short, Zacharias was faithful and obedient, a servant who longed for the Messiah’s coming.

One day as Zacharias was ministering, God sent the angel Gabriel to tell him his wife would have a son. Gabriel said the son’s birth would be a cause for rejoicing for many in Israel, and he gave Zacharias detailed instructions on how to raise the boy. Yet, as the angel spoke, Zacharias trembled in fear. Suddenly, this devout man’s mind was filled with doubt, and he gave in to terrible unbelief. He asked the angel, “How do I know you’re telling me the truth? After all, my wife and I are old” (see Luke 1:18).

God didn’t take kindly to Zacharias’ doubt, and he passed this sentence on the priest: “Behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words” (Luke 1:20, my italics).

What does this episode tell us? It says unbelief shuts our ears to God, even when He is speaking clearly to us. It shuts us off from fresh revelation and it keeps us from intimate communion with the Lord. Suddenly, because we no longer hear from God, we have nothing to preach or testify. It doesn’t matter how faithful or diligent we may be; like Zacharias, we bring on ourselves a paralysis of both our ears and tongue.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

IN OUR TIME OF NEED

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

What is our “time of need”? It is whenever we have failed our blessed Lord. The moment we sin, we are in need of grace and mercy, and God invites us to come boldly to His throne, with confidence, to receive everything we need. We’re not to come to Him only when we feel upright or holy; we are to come every time we are in need.

Moreover, we do not have to wait to get our souls cleansed. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). John says we are not to try to work at being cleansed, over hours, days or weeks. It happens instantaneously, as soon as we come to the Lord.

So, do you have the faith to believe in God’s instantaneous forgiveness? Can you accept instant, uninterrupted communion with the Father? That is exactly what Scripture urges us to do. You see, the same faith that saves us and forgives us is also the faith that keeps us. Peter says we “are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). What an incredible truth.

Yet, our unbelief prevents us from accessing God’s keeping power. And over time, as we face sin’s continual onslaught, we may start to despair. Beloved, this simply shouldn’t be. God has given us wonderful New Covenant promises, but they are of no use unless we believe and appropriate them. Our Lord has pledged to put His law in our hearts, be God to us, keep us from falling, implant His fear in us, give us power to obey, cause us to walk in His ways. But we have to fully believe this.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

HIDING FROM GOD

Sin makes us want to hide from God’s presence. Here is the essence of unbelief among Christians: when we sin, failing God, we tend to run from His presence. We think He is too angry to want to commune with us. How could He possibly share intimacy with us when we’ve sinned so grievously?

So we stop praying. In our shame, we think, “I can’t go to God in this condition.” And we begin trying to work our way back into His good graces. We’re convinced we just need time to get ourselves clean. If we can stay pure for a few weeks, avoiding our sinful habit, we think we’ll prove ourselves worthy to approach His throne again.

This is evil unbelief, and it’s a crime in God’s eyes. When we confess our sin, including our besetting habits, God doesn’t interrogate us. He doesn’t demand proof of repentance, asking, “Are you truly sorry? I don’t see any tears. Do you promise never to commit this sin again? Go now, fast for two days a week, and pray for an hour every day. If you make it that long without falling, we’ll commune again.”

When Jesus reconciled us to the Father at the cross, it was for all time. That means that if I sin, I don’t have to be reconciled to God all over again; I’m not cut off from the Lord, suddenly unreconciled. No, the veil of separation was rent permanently at the cross, and I forever have access to God’s throne, through Christ’s blood. The door is never closed to me: “In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 3:12).

The Bible states clearly that if one of us sins, we have an advocate with the Father in Jesus Christ. We may stand outside the door of His throne room, feeling rotten and unclean. But if we stay there, refusing to go in, we’re not being humble; we’re acting in unbelief. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Monday, April 4, 2016

CROSSING OVER by Gary Wilkerson

Over the years, many sincere Christians begin to drift in their faith—perhaps because of deep disappointment in a previous experience. To step forward in faith, they must "cross over" that disappointment, trusting God in a new way.

Perhaps you're trusting God for a blessing to your family or children. Or you're believing Him for a certain ministry to be fulfilled in your life. Maybe you are seeking God for freedom from a habitual bondage or you want to break free from some inner struggle that holds you back from trusting Him.

Some of us need outright miracles, supernatural interventions in our lives or in the life of a loved one. In short, God has called all of us to cross over. When Israel came to the Jordan River, God desired that not one of His people be left behind.

Any experienced Christian will tell you that there is never a time when you're more subject to fear, anxiety, doubt and uncertainty than when you're poised to cross over your Jordan,. Why? Because you're on the brink of possessing the land God has called you to inhabit. That's the time the enemy—and our flesh—put up resistance.

Life is always easier on this side of the Jordan because it's comfortable; nothing is being asked of us. But when God stirs us toward movement, suddenly the things that once made us comfortable become uncomfortable to us. They begin to feel static, decaying, even death-like. If we persist in staying in our comfortable place, we risk losing our vision and passion for life in God.

Joshua wasn't immune to this temptation. When God called him to action, here was the first instruction He gave: "Be strong and courageous" (Joshua 1:6). God spoke this to Joshua three times within four verses because He knew that Joshua needed to hear it.

To do what the Lord has called us to, we each must summon our strength to take it on. We have to stir up courage. For some, this could mean the courage to forsake things that have given a false sense of comfort. If you're stressed, disturbed or disrupted in your spirit, ask the Lord to show you why. If He is asking you to let go of something, that could be your first move in stepping forward with faith.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

LEST WE OFFEND THEM by Carter Conlon

“Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27, NKJV).

Although Jesus had just explained that they were actually exempt from the temple tax, He tells Peter, “Lest we offend them.” In other words, lest our testimony be diminished in their eyes; lest they should be able to point to us on the street and say, “Thieves! They don’t pay the temple tax!”

The Apostle Paul said it this way: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23, NKJV). Yes, there are things that may be permissible in our Christian walk, but we must still consider the potential impact on those around us.

Let me give you an example of this. The man who led me to the Lord began by coming to my door week after week, sharing the Gospel and telling me about how he used to be a drunk, a womanizer, and a gambler. Although I outwardly resisted his words, I could not deny that this man stood before me as a life completely transformed by the grace of God. It was something I had to reckon with. I even offered him a beer one time in order to test him. You see, if he had taken it, or if I had gone to his house and seen him with a glass of alcohol at his table, I might not be a Christian today. I would have assumed that he was a man just like me who had simply added religion to his life. Sure, he could have argued, “But it’s just a little thing!” However, in my opinion, things were black or white. If he were truly a new creation, as he explained Christians were, old things should have passed away. There was no middle ground as far as I was concerned.

And so to this day, I recognize the significance of Jesus’ words when He said, “Lest we offend them.”

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Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.

Friday, April 1, 2016

THE IMPACT OF PRAISE

In Daniel 3 we are given a powerful example of the power of praise during a time of affliction in the story of the three Hebrew children, whom King Nebuchadnezzar threw into the fiery furnace. These men weren’t being tested to see if they had faith; the fact is, their faith was what put them there. Clearly the Lord was after something else. Think about it: The heathen Babylonians weren’t influenced by these men’s prayers or preaching. They weren’t impressed by their wisdom and knowledge or by their holy living. No, the impact on Babylon came when the people looked into the furnace and saw these three men rejoicing, praising God in their most trying hour (see Daniel 3:24-30).

Jesus appeared in that furnace, and I believe His first words to the Hebrew children were, “Brethren, rise up now, for your bonds are loosed. Let this heathen government and godless people see you rejoicing and praising your God in your hour of affliction.”

The men did just that, and Scripture says Nebuchadnezzar was “astonished” at the sight. He rose up in haste, crying, “What’s going on here? We cast three men into this furnace, but now there are four and all their bonds are gone! Look, they’re singing and praising that fourth Man” (see Daniel 3:24-25).

That is the impact our praises bring during our trials. So, how have you been reacting in your hour of affliction? Are you drinking from the cup of trembling, feeling weak, with no power to resist the enemy? It’s time to shake off the heavy bands and lift up holy hands in praise to your Redeemer. You are free, no matter what your trial. Rejoice and be glad, knowing that the fourth Man is in the furnace with you. Christ will reveal Himself in your trial, and the fire is going to burn off all the cords that bind you.

Most likely you are not being tested but trained!