Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A HOUSE OF PRAYER

According to the prophet Zechariah, there are three places where prayer is to be made: (1) God’s house (the church); (2) every home; and (3) the secret closet. The Lord told Zechariah: “I will pour upon the house of David . . . the spirit of grace and of supplications. . . . And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart [signifying the church] . . . the family of the house of Levi apart [the family or home], and their wives apart [individuals]” (Zechariah 12:10, 12–13, my italics).

As Zechariah spoke this, Israel was surrounded by enemies bent on destroying them. There was great trembling and fear, but in the midst of it came this wonderful word: “God is coming to deal with those evil powers who are against you. So, start earnestly praying in the sanctuary. Start praying in your home. And pray in your secret closet. The Holy Spirit is coming, and He will supply you with the spirit of supplication and grace, enabling you to pray.”

Do you see God’s message to us in this passage? He is telling His Church in every age, “In times of terror and trembling, I want to pour out My Spirit upon you. But I must have a praying people upon whom to pour it.”

All the Old Testament prophets called God’s people to corporate prayer. Jesus Himself declared, “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer” (Matthew 21:13). The fact is, world history has been shaped by the prayers of Christ’s Church.

Think of it: The Holy Spirit was first given in God’s house, at the Upper Room. There the disciples had “continued with one accord in prayer” (Acts 1:14). We’re told that Peter was released from prison by an angel, while “many were gathered together praying” (12:12). Corporate prayer had been made continually for Peter’s release.

Clearly, God releases much power because of the prayers of His Church. Thus, the call to such prayer cannot be underestimated. We know the church has been commissioned to win souls, to do charity, to serve as the gathering place for God’s Word to be preached. But first and foremost, the church is to be a house of prayer. This is its primary calling, since all these other aspects of church life are birthed in prayer.

Monday, May 30, 2016

PREVAILING PEACE by Gary Wilkerson

It is no sin to say, “Lord, this time in my life is overwhelming and uncomfortable. I need Your strength and courage.” He invites that kind of confession and prayer. But God does have a problem with Christians who say, “I moved out in faith but when I began to feel a lack of peace, I knew it wasn’t from the Lord. So I stopped.”

Here is the problem with that line of thinking. If we stopped walking in faith every time we had a lack of peace, we would never do anything in obedience to the Lord.

Yes, we should have a prevailing peace that undergirds all we do. Such peace comes from God’s immovable Word. But we have to know that if we are about our Father’s business, our peace will be rocked from time to time. Even a man of faith like Joshua could be shaken. That’s why God told him, “Be of good courage; don't fear” (see Joshua 1:6, 7 and 9).

I know my father, David Wilkerson, never would have gone to New York City to work with gang members if he had thought every lack of peace was God telling him to stop. There are times we have to hear God’s voice in the midst of being rocked. His desire for us in chaotic times is not to quit but to discern the Spirit’s voice. That’s how we find peace when our world is being shaken.

A century ago in China, many faithful missionaries spent decade after decade toiling with very little to show for their efforts. Some had only one or two converts; others had none. They suffered under decades of harsh, repressive conditions and many died or were kicked out. There was no reason to believe their efforts amounted to anything more than one massive failure.

Today, tens of millions of Chinese Christians worship God in the underground church alone. Sociologists say that by 2050 the church in China will outnumber all believers in the rest of the world.

Were those missionaries’ efforts a failure? Not at all. Those servants faithfully planted seeds, not knowing what would result. And most of those missionaries died never knowing the results. I urge you, take their example to heart. Whenever we face negative circumstances, it is our call to obey Him. The results are up to Him.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

WATCH GOD BLESS YOU by Claude Houde

I had just shared the Word at Times Square Church, the congregation in Manhattan pioneered by Pastor David Wilkerson. He and I had eaten supper and as we were walking back together, I wanted to ask him for counsel, as our church was due to open in several months. Pastor Wilkerson, the author of more than forty books, founded the Teen Challenge Centers that are bringing freedom to addicts all over the world. He began World Challenge, a Christian organization supporting missions around the world, as well as countless other ministries. In his later years, Pastor Wilkerson spoke in conferences to thousands of pastors face to face and is considered to be a man who truly marked our generation for God.

I was a bit nervous. Pastor Wilkerson was a very humble man, nice, kind and considerate, yet he was also extremely serious and very intense. I love, respect and admire him and am so grateful for all he has done for me and the work of God in the French world.

As I was walking with him through the crowded streets of New York City, lit as brightly as if it were daytime, I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. I finally got up the courage and just blurted out, “Pastor Dave, we are soon going to begin our church. Do you have a key, a piece of advice you would like to share with me? What I’m trying to say is, if there was one thing that I should do or that I should know, what would you say it is?”

I was astounded by his answer. He stopped dead in his tracks and began to say with amazing intensity and a burning passion, “You want to know what the key is? Do you really want to know?”

I answered him in a faltering voice, “Yes, sir, I really would like to know.”

All of a sudden, his expression and tone of voice changed, and his entire face lit up. Like a child who knows a secret, he said, “Find the poor! Give to the poor! Help the poor! Put your heart and your passion into helping people who will never be able to pay you back or do anything for you.” Then he paused for a second and with absolute joy, he added, “And then watch God bless you!”

“Blessed are those who help the poor” (Proverbs 14:21, NLT).

__________
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, May 27, 2016

PROMISES TO RENEW AND STRENGTHEN

I am convinced that right now the faith of the Body of Christ is under fierce satanic attack.

We know that Satan has always brought intense attacks against God’s people, causing awful suffering. For centuries, the blood of martyrs has been spilled. Godly saints like Job have been tried severely. But the onslaught against the faithful we see today is Satan’s last stand.

Just as wickedness abounds around the world today, so do the afflictions and trials of God’s Church. We’re seeing an unprecedented barrage of sickness, affliction, trouble after trouble, one problem after another—all of which make an overcoming life seem impossible to any believer.

Our faith and strength may grow weak, but in our times of weakness, God has given us marvelous promises to renew and strengthen us. Here are some of His promises that sustain me:
  • “God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect. . . . He sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me: for they were too strong for me. . . . He is a buckler [protector] to all them that trust in him” (2 Samuel 22:33, 17-18, 31).
  • “Thou hast girded me with strength to battle” (2 Samuel 22:40).
  • “The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11).
  • “The God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God” (Psalm 68:35).
  • “Forsake me not when my strength faileth. . . . I will go in the strength of the Lord God” (Psalm 71:9, 16).
  • “Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee. . . . They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God” (Psalm 84:5, 7).
Do you believe your God is strong, as the Psalmist declares? If He is, no power can stand before Him. Commit everything into His mighty hand of strength and He will make a way. Most of all, believe His word: “In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).

Thursday, May 26, 2016

IN TIMES OF AFFLICTION

I may not see the evidence, but God is always at work. Every moment of the day, every hour I sleep, He is making a way for me. And His plan is right on schedule, at all times, even when there seems to me to be a delay in His holy work. He is getting at things deep down in me that must be settled so that He can fulfill His promises.

One day I will look back at these trying times and say, “Lord, now I see. You were there all the time, working my miracle!”

Those who are in despair may be tempted to shut themselves out of communion with God. Yet doing so can be fatal. In Psalm 88, you may find a description of what you are going through. A godly man named Heman tells of his hopeless situation:

“My soul is full of trouble. I have been brought down to the pit, and I am among the dead. God has laid me in the lowest pit in darkness, and his wrath lies hard on me. My friends have forsaken me; I am shut up, closed in. I mourn because of my affliction” (my paraphrase).

Heman then challenges God: “Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee? Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? Or thy faithfulness in destruction? Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? And thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?” (Psalm 88:10–12).

Heman is saying, in effect, “I need a miracle now, Lord, not at the resurrection. This is my last hope. Soon it will be too late, because I’ll be dead. You face a deadline here, God. Help me! Why are You casting me off? Why do You hide Your face from me? Why don’t You answer my cries?”

This is hopelessness, despair, an apparently impossible crisis.

What can a godly soul do? How does a righteous soul react? Like Heman, we are to cry night and day: “O Lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee. Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry. . . . Unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee” (Psalm 88:1–2, 13).

Here are three things I do in my times of great affliction:
  1. I receive and believe in the love and delight of my heavenly Father.
  2. I pour out my heart before Him, crying to Him in silence.
  3. I encourage my soul with His promises daily.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

THE SCHOOLROOM OF PRAYER

Sometimes we are too casual about prayer. But in times of trouble we find ourselves wrestling with the Lord in prayer every day, until we are assured in our spirit that He has everything under control. The more we want to be reminded of that assurance, the more we go to our prayer closet.

The truth is, God never allows an affliction in our lives except as an act of love. We see this illustrated in the tribe of Ephraim in Israel. The people had fallen into great affliction, and they cried out to God in grief. He responded, “I have surely heard Ephraim bemoaning himself thus” (Jeremiah 31:18).

Like David, Ephraim testified, “Thou has chastised me . . . as a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke: turn thou me . . . for thou art the Lord my God” (31:18). In other words: “Lord, You chastened us for a reason. We were like a young, untrained bull, full of energy, but You chastened us to tame us for Your service. You brought our wildness under control.”

You see, God had great plans for the tribe of Ephraim, fruitful, satisfying plans. But first they had to be instructed and trained. Thus, Ephraim declared, “I repented; and after that I was instructed” (31:19). They said, in effect: “In the past, when God had us in the classroom preparing us for His service, we couldn’t take correction. We ran away, crying, ‘It’s too hard.’ We were stubborn, constantly slipping out of the yoke He put upon us. Then God put on us a tighter yoke, and He used His loving rod to break our stubborn will. Now, we yield to His yoke.”

We also are like Ephraim: young, self-centered bulls that don’t want to be put under a yoke. We avoid the discipline of plowing, experiencing pain, being under the rod. And we expect to have everything now—victory, blessing, fruitfulness—by merely claiming God’s promises, or “taking them by faith.” We chafe at being trained in secret prayer, at having to wrestle with God until His promises are fulfilled in our lives. Then, when affliction comes, we think, “We’re God’s choice people. Why is this happening?”

The prayer closet is our schoolroom. And if we don’t have that “alone time” with Jesus—if we’ve eased off from intimacy with Him—we won’t be ready when the flood comes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

IMPORTANT TO JESUS AND HIS KINGDOM

Grandma Carosso, my wife Gwen’s mother, died at age ninety-five. She was a praying woman, quiet and unassuming.

After she went to be with the Lord, in her closet Gwen and I found a cardboard box filled with checkbook stubs dating over many years. Grandma Carosso had spent little on herself, but the records showed she had supported missionaries for many years. She sent in small amounts at a time: five, six, ten dollars.

All that time, Grandma Carosso had thought she didn’t do much in the work of the kingdom. She would say she had no talent, no ministry. But she was just as important to Jesus and His kingdom as the many missionaries she supported over the years with her sacrificial gifts.

When our blessed Lord rewards those wonderful missionaries she supported, Grandma Carosso will share in all the spoils of their front-line spiritual victories. Remember what Jesus said of the poor widow who cast two pennies into the offering: “She has cast in more than all the others” (Luke 21:3). The widow had given all she had.

My wife, Gwen, stayed at home while I traveled for years on the front lines of evangelism. Gwen is much like her mother: quiet, unassuming and very dedicated to her family. During the decades when I traveled the world in ministry, I was away from home much of the time. Gwen had to stay behind to care for our four children; she was always there when they came home from school, always there when they expressed a need.

When I returned from trips, Gwen rejoiced with me at the reports of numerous souls being won to Christ, or addicts and alcoholics being healed. Yet she wasn’t able to go and do this work herself.

Many times I heard my wife say, “I can’t preach or sing. I’m not a writer. I feel I’m doing so little, if anything, for the Lord.” But Gwen came to believe that her calling was to be a faithful wife and mother (and, eventually, grandmother).

While writing this message, I told my wife, “On that day when I stand before Jesus, if I have been used to win souls or raise up godly works that please Him, if there are any rewards to be had, Gwen, you will share in them equally.”

Monday, May 23, 2016

LOVE GOES THE EXTRA MILE by Gary Wilkerson

Some Christians think peacemaking means avoiding conflict—but doing that only leads to further division, strife and disorder. When was the last time you avoided a necessary confrontation with someone? Did you end up being passive-aggressive toward that person and withholding kindness? Did your e-mails or Facebook posts about them contain an edge?

There’s nothing Spirit-led about avoiding conflict, per se. In fact, Jesus commands us to do the opposite. He even gives us specific instructions on how to go about it. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” (Matthew 18:15, ESV). Jesus’ instruction here is packed with wisdom. Confronting a person in private preserves one’s dignity in the face of their sin. It also allows truth to shine its light on sin.

Yet, confronting someone this way isn’t a one-time solution. Why? First, it may not work, as Jesus points out. “But if he does not listen . . .” (18:16). Also, this isn’t just a cut-and-dried command, where afterward we can walk away and say, “Well, I did what Jesus said. That’s that. I won’t have to deal with this guy anymore.” According to Jesus, we have more to do—because love goes the extra mile: “If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (18:16).

It doesn’t even end there. Love keeps going the extra mile, on and on: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (18:17). This last phrase sounds like a final rejection but that isn’t accurate. Our actions are meant to reflect back the sinner’s behavior so that he might repent and enjoy fellowship again.

This sequence of actions shows us something else. It teaches us the lengths to which God extends His grace—and the cost to us as agents of that grace. God’s heart is always to bring the lost sheep back into the fold. How far does this grace extend? As Jesus told Peter, we’re to forgive our sinning brother “seventy times seven”—meaning as many times as it takes. Once again, this requires a lay-down-your-life-on-the-cross kind of love. It’s a love that says, “I’m still here for you. I’m not going anywhere.” This love requires a Spirit-filled walk because our flesh simply isn’t capable of it.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

EMPOWERED FOR GREAT THINGS by Nicky Cruz

You and I have been given a gift greater than we could possibly imagine or ask for. We’ve been entrusted with the most powerful blessing we could ever receive—the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s Spirit. The Spirit that is God, that lives within us, directing us, guiding us, empowering us for great and mighty things.

And with this gift comes great responsibility. We are to take it and use it for God’s glory. Use it to further God’s glory, to further the work of the kingdom.

When we move in the blessing of God, we can never forget the source of this blessing or the reason He blesses us. It’s not to keep us comfortable, but to empower us for greater service.

No one is more obsessed with saving souls than God. His heart burns for those who need His love and forgiveness, those who refuse to trust Him with their future, those who have yet to understand just how much He loves and cares for them, how much He wants to hold them in His loving arms, kiss away the pain, and bring them into the fold of eternity!

God lives to see the day that heaven is literally bursting at the seams with souls, and He has trusted you and me to see that that happens. He has put His faith in us to carry this burden for Him, to carry His message of hope to a lost world. He longs for us to develop a soul obsession in the depths of our heart.

If you haven’t embraced the passion for souls that God wants each of us to have—the passion that Jesus displayed during His days on earth—then begin today by asking God to burn it into your heart.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8, NIV).

__________
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, May 20, 2016

FACING IMPOSSIBILITIES

I have a special word for all who face impossibilities: “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Here is a glorious revelation of the steadfastness of God’s love for His people. Scripture tells us He rests and rejoices in His love for us!

The Hebrew word for “rest” here means God hasn’t a single question concerning His love for us. In other words, He has fixed, or settled, His love for us, and He will never take it away. In fact, we’re told God is so satisfied in His love for us that He sings about it.

Can you imagine this? There is a manifestation in heaven of God’s delight over you. John Owen interprets the passage this way: “God leaps, as overcome with joy.”

Moreover, Paul tells us, everything that is out of divine order—all that is of unbelief and confusion—is changed by the appearance of God’s love. “After that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4).

In the preceding verse, Paul says, “We ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived” (3:3). In other words, “Everything was out of order. Our faith was not an overcoming one. But the kindness and love of God appeared, which the Father shed on us abundantly through Christ.”

When Paul says the love of God “appeared,” he uses a word from a Greek root meaning “superimposed.” In short, the Lord looked down on us poor, struggling souls, full of fear and questioning, and He superimposed this revelation: “My love will deliver you. Rest and delight in My love for you.”

I thank God for the day His love “appeared” to me. There is no faith that can stand against impossibilities unless everything—every problem, every affliction—is committed into the loving care of our Father. When my situations are at their worst, I must rest in simple faith.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

MOVE ON IN FAITH

I tell you, we are in the midst of war! You are facing evil powers, fighting for your faith against the father of all lies. He is the one who has planted all those little thoughts: “Where is your God? Things are going from bad to worse. Your pain, your suffering, your needs keep mounting. God has promised to make a way of escape for you. So, where is the way? Where is your God now, when you need Him most?”

You are now being shaken and sifted. And in the midst of it all, your faith seems to have failed. Beloved, I have good news for you: God is not mad at you.

You may ask: “Doesn’t Jesus suffer when we mistrust Him? Doesn’t the Lord grieve when we waver and question His Word and His faithfulness?” Yes, yes, He absolutely does. But those who have failed in faith can still keep their eyes on Jesus.

How patient is our Lord, how merciful. He hears all our murmuring and questioning, He sees so many doubtful thoughts in our minds, and yet He looks upon us with forgiveness and compassion.

After Peter denied the Lord he was restored and lived out a great life of faith. Remember, Jesus had given him this word of encouragement at Passover: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32). This is the Lord’s word for you and for me, as well. He tells us just as He told Peter, “Keep your eyes on Me. You are going to come through this. And you’re going to help your brothers and sisters in My house.”

Later, in the book of Acts (see Acts 12:1-10), we find Peter locked up in an inner prison. An angel comes to him, shakes off his chains, and tells him to get up and leave. At that point, Peter never looks at the impossibilities around him: the iron gates he had to go through, the many guards and soldiers he had to pass by at his own peril. Instead, Peter rises in faith at the angel’s instruction, and when he comes to the iron gates, they open of their own accord.

So it will be for you, dear saint, if you are willing to get up and move on in faith.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

FULLY PERSUADED

Abraham did not stagger in his faith. Rather, he was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21). He recognized that God is able to work with nothing. Indeed, our Lord creates out of a void. Consider the Genesis account: Out of nothing, God created the world. With just a single word, He creates. And He can create miracles for us—out of nothing.

When all else fails—when your every plan and scheme has been exhausted—that is the time for you to cast everything onto God. It is time for you to give up all confidence in finding deliverance anywhere else. Then, once you are ready to believe, you are to see God not as a potter who needs clay, but as a Creator who works from nothing. And out of nothing that is of this world or its materials, God will work in ways you never could have conceived.

How serious is the Lord about our believing Him in the face of impossibilities?

We find the answer to this question in the story of Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Zacharias was visited by an angel who told him that his wife, Elisabeth, would give birth to a special child. But Zacharias—who was advanced in years, like Abraham—refused to believe it. God’s promise alone was not enough for him.

Zacharias answered the angel, “[How] shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years” (Luke 1:18). Simply put, Zacharias considered the impossibilities. He was saying, “This isn’t possible. You’ve got to prove to me how it will happen.” It didn’t sound reasonable.

Zacharias’ doubts displeased the Lord. The angel told him, “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, which shall be fulfilled in their season” (1:20).

The message is clear: God expects us to believe Him when He speaks. Likewise, Peter writes: “Let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19, my italics).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

FAITH THAT PLEASES GOD

“Being not weak in faith, [Abraham] considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah’s womb” (Romans 4:19).

The essence of true faith is found in this single verse. God had just promised Abraham that he would have a son, one who would become the seed of many nations. Remarkably, Abraham didn’t flinch at this promise, even though he was well past the age of siring children. Instead, when Abraham received this word from the Lord, we’re told he “considered not his own body now dead [nor] . . . the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”

To the natural mind, it was impossible for this promise to be fulfilled. But Abraham didn’t dwell on any such impossibility. According to Paul, the patriarch gave no thought to how God would keep His promise. He didn’t reason with God, “But, Lord, I have no seed to plant. And Sarah has no life in her womb to conceive. My wife is past the ability to bear children. So, how will You do it, Lord?” Instead of entertaining such questions, Abraham simply “considered not.”

The fact is, when God is at work producing a faith that is tried and better than gold, He first puts a sentence of death on all human resources. He closes the door to all human reasoning, bypassing every means of a rational deliverance.

The faith that pleases God is born in a place of deadness. I’m speaking here of the deadness of all human possibilities. It is a place where man-made plans flourish at first but then die. It is a place where human hopes bring temporary relief but soon crash, adding to a sense of helplessness. Have you been at this place of deadness? Has it seemed that you have no options left? You can’t call someone to advise you. The heavens are like brass when you pray, your requests falling to the ground.

I declare to you, this is God at work. His Spirit is working to get you to stop considering the impossibilities—to stop looking to human ways and means—to stop trying to think your way out of your situation. The Holy Ghost is urging you, “Quit hunting for help from some man. And quit focusing on how hopeless you think your situation is. Those are hindrances to your faith.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

THE ONLY SOLUTION by Gary Wilkerson

The way Paul writes to the Corinthian church, it’s easy to assume that it was rife with gross sins. The truth is, however, they were greatly gifted by the Holy Spirit. Indeed, it’s because of the Corinthians that we know about the gifts of the Spirit; Paul’s letter to them shows how powerfully those gifts were operating in them. But even though the Corinthians had a great knowledge of the things of God, they lacked the love that Jesus commands of us. Paul hit them hard on this point:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Note Paul’s operative word here: nothing. That’s what the love of the Corinthian church was worth. He was telling them they could never accomplish God’s purposes. Christ’s love—the lay-down-your-life-on-a-cross kind of love—is a tall order, one that’s impossible except through the Spirit.

Now, this may sound to you like a surprising interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. Most of us know this chapter as the Bible’s “love chapter.” Even non-Christians are familiar with it because it is read at so many weddings. In that context, 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t much more than a greeting card sentiment. In truth, this chapter is a counterpoint to all the carnal sins Paul listed in 2 Corinthians 12. That list includes quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. Note the contrast:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). When we compare this list with the other, we begin to see 1 Corinthians 13 as a spiritual solution to a problem of sin—indeed, the only solution.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT by Jim Cymbala

Let’s remember how one becomes a Christian. Before a person can feel the need for Jesus Christ as a savior, that person must first be convicted of sin. “When [the Spirit] comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8, NIV). The Holy Spirit shows us our sin and our need for a savior. That is what every believer experiences in conversion to Christ.

Jesus also taught that entrance into the kingdom of God (being “born again”) can happen only by the Holy Spirit’s work: Jesus told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5).

It is the Holy Spirit working inside of us that causes us to turn from our sin and fix our eyes on Jesus. While we may be tempted to think that we can create emotional environments for this to happen, the truth is that this kind of rebirth or transformation can happen only through the work of the Holy Spirit.

The apostle Paul taught that believers are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and because the Spirit lives inside of us, that make us different from the rest of the world. If the Holy Spirit doesn’t live inside a person, no church membership or even a sincere effort to live a good life can make that person a Christian. Only true faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, makes us a new creation. The Spirit inhabiting every believer is just another way of saying, “Christ in us,” for the Holy Spirit’s presence represents Jesus.

When God looks down on earth, He doesn’t focus on ethnicity, and He never acknowledges religious denominations. He just sees two kinds of people: His children who have the Spirit living inside of them and unbelievers who don’t have the Spirit living inside of them. It’s as simple as that. Today we split hairs about doctrinal positions to validate our faith, but to the early church the definition was simpler. Either we are temples or we are not temples. “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9). It would have been impossible for the apostles to consider someone a true believer in Jesus without the accompanying witness and work of the Spirit. The Spirit of God was the bottom line.

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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, May 13, 2016

CHRIST-LIKE CHARITY

Jesus told His disciples to begin their work in Jerusalem, their home city, before going to the uttermost parts of the world (see Acts 1:8). This tells me our first mission has to be to our own hearts. In other words, the Holy Spirit has to do His work in us before He can work through us.

A few years ago, I began asking the Lord to enlarge my own vision for missions. At the time, I had begun traveling the world holding ministers’ conferences, and I’d seen some of the world’s worst slums. My heart burned to know how to answer the desperate cries coming from those slums, so I spent hours before the Lord in prayer, seeking His burden and asking for direction.

The first word I received from the Holy Spirit was this: “David, first of all, take the lowest seat in the house. If you want a heart to reach human need, humble yourself.”

I prayed for God’s grace to do this. I also began to preach this word in our church, so our missions-minded congregation would receive the same word I was hearing from the Lord.

Then, later in prayer, I received the following word: “Mortify the remnants of your pride. I can’t work through you in fullness unless you deal with this. Reaching human need is strong business, and all pride must be dealt with.” Again, I asked God for His grace.

Then later came this word: “Deal with your temper. You are still easily provoked at times, in your work and with family. That must be mortified by the Spirit.”

In all of this, the Spirit kept reminding me of Paul’s words: “Yes, there is faith, and there is hope. But the greatest of all is charity” (see 1 Corinthians 13:13).

Right now our ministry is putting roofs over churches in Kenya. We’re helping finance a Kenya Kids program for orphans in the capital city of Nairobi. We help dig wells in poor areas. We’re helping support a center for addicts and alcoholics. We help feed hungry children. The Lord has clearly called us to do each of these works of compassion.

Yet all these works would be without profit if they were not flowing out of true Christ-like charity.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

OUR PLACE IN HIS BODY

It is important that you not be frustrated because you are not a missionary in Africa or some other mission field around the world. The Lord never brings condemnation to any of His children over a calling when He Himself has placed you where you are in His body. “God has set the members in the body, as it has pleased Him” (1 Corinthians 12:18, paraphrase mine).

Of course, it is important to stay open and willing to hear from the Spirit about serving elsewhere. But we are to surrender the issue completely to the Lord’s stirring and direction. God knows how to inspire us and open doors to ministry, at home and abroad.

The apostle Paul brings a deeply convicting word on this matter of serving the Lord. He was a world-traveling missionary with a heart of love for the poor. He heard the cries of the poorest in every nation he visited and he instructed every pastor and evangelist under him, “Remember the poor.”

Paul regularly took up offerings for the poor, at one point traveling to several cities to raise money for Jerusalem when a famine was imminent. Of anyone who ever lived, Paul understood the cry of human need. Yet, as much as this godly apostle sacrificed—even to the point of dying a poor martyr himself—Paul gave a convicting warning:

“Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3, my italics).

I have to wonder: Are we ready to accept Paul’s convicting word here? He is saying, in effect: “You can weep over the desperate cries of the poor. You could go to Africa to the filthy slums. You could be ready to die a martyr. But if you have not laid hold of charity, everything you do is in vain—whether at home or as an overseas missionary.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

OUR HIGH CALLING IN THE LORD

On the day of accounting, I picture the apostle Paul being called forth. All of his soul-winning victories will be recounted, as well as all the churches he established. Then a number of unknown men and women from Antioch will be called forward to stand next to Paul. These are the people who fasted and prayed for the apostle, who laid hands on him and sent him out as a missionary. They also supported him with sacrificial gifts.

Why will these others be handed a portion equal to the apostle’s? It is because they played a part in every soul Paul won, every church he built, every trip he took.

God desires that we all rest—and rejoice—in our calling. Many Christians feel guilty that they’re not serving on a foreign mission field. But staying home is also a high calling in Jesus Christ. If you love the Lord and walk in His Spirit, you can be sure of your calling. God’s Word assures us: “Now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him” (1 Corinthians 12:18).

Do you see what Paul is saying here? If you’re a church elder, you have a high calling in the Lord. The same goes for those who teach Sunday school. Yet the same is equally true for any single mother striving to raise her children for Christ. She has a high calling right where she is.

If you’re a businessperson, a lawyer, a doctor, rest in your calling. If you’re a salesperson, a mechanic, a teacher, a food service worker, you don’t have to try to work up a calling to some mission field to please God. Unless the Spirit Himself is stirring you, you can be at rest where you are.

“Ye are the body of Christ. . . . And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:27–31).

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GOD’S PRESENT-DAY BACK-UP ARMY

I want to speak to every Christian who can’t go to a foreign mission field because of circumstances. I’m referring to those who are faithful in prayer, sacrificial in giving, supportive of missions. To all such believers, here is a clear message from 1 Samuel 30:24: “As his part is that goeth down to the battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.” You are the supply line to the battlefront and the spoils of war are yours, too.

On that glorious day when our battle has ended—when we are finally able to lay down our spiritual swords—many will stand before the Lord thinking they are empty-handed. These unsung, unknown saints will say to themselves, “I have nothing to present to the Lord. I didn’t do much of anything. I never led many souls to Christ.”

Yet, what a glorious moment awaits them, as Jesus begins to divide the spoils. They’ll be overwhelmed with joy, as their eyes are opened to see just how important they were to the battle. Those who thought they had no good works or deeds to present are going to share equally in the spoils! Among these will be widows, shut-ins and retired people who gave sacrificially to support missions work.

As I think of these unsung saints, I picture the American women who maintained the home front during World War II. While their husbands, brothers and boyfriends did battle on the front lines—in the Pacific, Europe and Africa—these women manned huge assembly lines. They worked around the clock, toiling and sweating, with the factory’s loud noises constantly whirring in their ears.

Circumstances didn’t allow these women to be on the battlefront. So they “stood by the stuff” in support of their loved ones. And without the fruit of their labors, their faithful production on those assembly lines, the war never could have been won.

Beloved, this is the true picture in eternity of every unknown saint who thinks he has nothing to present to Jesus.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A GROWING FAITH by Gary Wilkerson

“And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the LORD” (Genesis 13:10).

Pay attention to the Bible’s record of what Lot was doing. He looked at the land with his eyes. He wasn’t looking for instruction, for guidance, for wisdom from the Lord. He saw what he wanted with his own eyes and he aggressively moved to take possession of what he wanted, what his flesh desired.

“It looks good to me. It’s almost like the Garden of Eden; it’s so beautiful, I’ll choose that.”

Lot was looking with his eyes at the situation rather than looking to God. Some of us get ourselves into so much trouble. If we could just know the end of the story, what God is going to do. He is calling us to avoid this or that, but when our eyes of flesh are enticed, we tend to move in that direction because we are not focused on Jesus.

So here’s the simple instruction on this type of passive faith. Faith has to keep its eyes on Jesus. Faith has to keep itself focused and centered on the Lord or it won’t have the discernment to know which way to go. It won’t know whether to go to the left or to the right.

Lot chose what we know as Sodom and Gomorrah. Many of you today have been making choices with your own eyes because something looks good to you. The temptations of the flesh are appealing to you and you are easily lured to go after those things. God is calling His people to avoid operating in a soulish realm of fleshly ambition but to move into a realm where your spirit is growing while your flesh is decreasing.

That’s called discipleship. It’s called maturing. It’s called walking in a growing faith with the Lord. He’s calling us to move into that place.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

SUPERNATURAL PROVISION by Carter Conlon

“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 to them for Me and you” (Matthew 17:27, NKJV).

We understand that Jesus wanted to make sure they paid the temple tax. The question is, Why didn’t Jesus simply reach into His pocket and give Peter the coin? Why did He give him the elaborate instructions of going down to the sea, casting in a hook, and finding money in the mouth of the first fish that he pulled up? After all, if Jesus didn’t have the money in His pocket, He surely could have manufactured it there as much as He could in the mouth of a fish! What was the point of all that?

Here is what Jesus was teaching Peter, which is the same lesson He is trying to teach us today: “If you will deal with the little things now, I will open to you the way of supernatural faith and provision. I will open to you something that will bring honor to the name of God.”

Imagine Peter going down to the seashore and explaining to the people that God had instructed him to catch a fish because it had money in its mouth to pay the temple tax. The other fishermen would conclude, “This guy has lost it! He has been hanging around with this Teacher too much!” Yet, when Peter returned an hour later with the coin in his hand, he would be able to testify, “It was just as the Lord told me! I caught a fish, opened its mouth, and there was money in it—enough for me and Jesus to pay the tax.”

This is a picture of how when you and I make the choice to do right, we will find the supernatural provision that we need—provision to be honest, provision of joy, provision of comfort that we might have been trying to obtain elsewhere. And it all starts when we allow Jesus to go into the corners of the temple (that temple being you and me) and say to us, “I want to talk to you about something.” When Jesus was talking to Peter in the temple, Peter easily could have walked away and said, “Okay, I’m free, so I am not going to pay the temple tax.” Yet, thank God he didn’t, for Jesus was teaching him something about the supernatural.

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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, May 6, 2016

OBEYING THE VOICE OF THE LORD

In 1988, God called our ministry to go to New York City and start a church in Times Square. Leaving our comfortable Texas environment and coming to the city required a great step of obedience. We had no congregation, no building, and little money. The only thing God told us was, “Go, and I will be with you. I will bless you. I’ll be your reward.”

So we did go—and the Lord became a shield to us, giving us Himself year after year. Decades later, we have a growing, maturing, missions-minded congregation in the midst of Times Square that stands as a testimony to His miracle.

God’s Word abounds with special, specific promises for those who are called to step out in obedience. Here are just a few of those promises to carry with you to the throne of God. You can lay your life on the line by these:
  • “If ye will obey my voice indeed [with no halfway commitment], and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a [special] treasure unto me above all people” (Exodus 19:5).
  • “Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you” (Jeremiah 7:23).
We also have an ironclad promise that the Holy Ghost will be with us through all our steps of obedience and in our times of testing: “We are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him” (Acts 5:32).

If God is telling you to lay down something, step out and do it. The Bible clearly says that if you obey the Lord, He will give you the Holy Spirit to be your guide and your strength. He will provide you with everything you need to complete the act of obedience.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

GOD IS OUR SHIELD

When God asks His servants to step out into the unknown, it is not a one-time event. It is a walk that is required our entire lifetime. Yet our obedience wins us a great reward: “The word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1).

God is making a glorious statement to us here: Those who obey Him—who step out not knowing what will happen to them, yet blindly trusting in His Word—will never be outside of His protection. He says, “I will hover over them as a shield. And I will be their reward. I’ll give Myself to them.” “For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favor wilt thou compass him as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).

A former member of our church, an acclaimed actress, was asked by God to give up show business completely as an act of obedience to Him. She knew in her heart the Lord was telling her to leave it all behind. So she set aside a best supporting actress award and stepped out into the great unknown. She had no job or guarantees of work of any kind; she went out not knowing where she was going.

The very next day her agent called to tell her she had been offered a starring role in a movie with three of the best-known actors in the business. After she hung up, she said, “No, Satan, I know what you’re trying to do. I won’t change my mind.”

Beloved, that’s the way it is going to be for many. Whenever you step out in faithful obedience, the devil will bring some enticement to draw you back to the side of disobedience. Obedience will always cost you something!

That same week, the actress went to court and won a great victory in a child custody battle. Her shield was working for her! She had won Christ, and her reward had been the Lord Himself.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

FOLLOWING GOD’S PROMISE

God demanded an incredible act of obedience of Abraham: He asked him to step out into an unknown future. Abraham was able to take this step with nothing more tangible than this promise from God: “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Genesis 12:1).

The writer of Hebrews says, “Abraham, when he was called to go out . . . obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went” (Hebrews 11:8). The Lord didn’t lay out before Abraham a neat, detailed travel plan. Instead, he said simply, “Gather your family, pack up your belongings, leave your kin, and go to a place I will tell you about.”

At seventy-five years of age, Abraham was asked to cast himself fully upon God’s faithfulness. He was given no explanation or warning of the possible dangers involved. And so Abraham went out—not knowing. All he had to rest upon was this promise: “I will show you. And I will bless you.”

His wife, Sarah, probably was no different from any modern-day woman. She may have asked the questions any wife would ask: “Are we going south or north? What kind of clothes should I pack? Will we settle down or stay on the move?” All Abraham could answer was, “God said to go, so we’re going. He’ll show us the next step, as soon as we get moving.”

We sometimes think that when God commands us to do something and we obey, everything will be smooth sailing. We think He’ll be grateful for our obedience so He will place us on a four-lane freeway to blessing. Abraham obeyed God’s Word, but the fact is, one act of obedience doesn’t add up to a walk of obedience.

Abraham had a promise from God, but along the way he had to go through the Negev desert, over snow-covered mountains, through another desert, and past the warring people of Canaan. Then he ended up in the midst of a famine in Egypt. I’m glad God didn’t tell Abraham about the path he would be walking!

This particular path was like no other Abraham had walked. Yet, through it all, he was never in any danger. Nobody could touch him. God was his shield and protector every day. And because of his faith, Abraham was becoming a friend to God.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TRUSTING THE LORD

Every Christian claims to trust the Lord. Yet, in reality, many of God’s children aren’t ready to face the black storm coming upon the world. Unless we lay hold of a special, unshakable trust in our Lord, we won’t be ready for the hard times, now or in the future.

When the full fury of the storm breaks and uncertainty falls over humankind like a cloud, multitudes of Christians will not be able to handle it. Overcome with fear, they will lose their song of victory. Who are these believers who won’t be prepared to endure the storm? They are those who haven’t cultivated a life of prayer with the Lord and are not grounded in His Word.

For years godly shepherds have urged Christians to set aside a time each day to meet God in prayer. Thank the Lord, many have learned to pour out their hearts to Jesus and they are being rewarded with a holy faith and trust. Indeed, their faith grows daily by their reliance on His Word.

You see, communion gives birth to trust. By pouring out to the Lord all our worries, we come away with His rest and assurance: “Trust in him at all times . . . pour out your heart before him” (Psalm 62:8). According to this psalm, “trusting” and “pouring out” are inseparable. If we are to trust God at all times, including the darkest times, then we must be pouring out our hearts to Him without ceasing.

As the days become more frightful, there will arise a people of God who become bolder and bolder. These are believers who call daily on the name of the Lord, “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Revelation from God’s Word will uphold them in the hardest of times.

David learned to call upon the Lord in every crisis of his life. Time after time this godly man ran to his secret place, emptying all his fears before the Lord: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God: and he did hear my voice out of his temple, and my cry did enter into his ears. . . . He delivered me” (2 Samuel 22:7, 18).

Monday, May 2, 2016

LOVE ONE ANOTHER by Gary Wilkerson

If you had to name the pinnacle of Jesus’ teaching, what would you say it is? We gain some insight from His final night with His disciples before going to the cross. He had only a few hours left with His closest friends, so He concentrated all that He’d taught them into one word: love. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

When we talk about love in the Church—in fact, when we read this verse—our minds go in gentle directions. We think of kindness, generosity, being good to others, and, indeed, the New Testament says a lot about this kind of love. It uses the phrase “one another” about fifty times, with commands to treat each other with patience, encouragement, generosity. The book of Ephesians uses the word “together” often, emphasizing Christ’s great command to love in community.

The disciples would have no problem with this command; in fact, they probably thought they were already pretty good at it. They had just spent three years in full-time ministry with their Master, learning how to do what He taught them.

But in this scene, Jesus speaks of love in a very different context. It becomes clear in His next sentence: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Now that’s a serious kind of love. I picture the disciples looking at each other wondering, “Would I die for this guy next to me? Sometimes he really irritates me.” Maybe they didn’t love each other as well as they thought they did.

My point is that when Jesus commands us to love as He loves, it’s no light thing. It isn’t some romanticized idea based on feelings or ideals. What He commands of us is gospel love—powerful, unconditional, sacrificial love that has its roots in the cross of Christ. Jesus was about to demonstrate for His followers the most powerful act of love anyone could ever experience by going to the cross for our sins. In doing that, He would show how this love applies even to our enemies—because He gave His life for them, too.