I have a short message for those who are experiencing a painful, overwhelming situation. I am not speaking to those who now enjoy a time of rest from suffering, who are not in any kind of pain or sorrow. Thank God for those times of quiet rest.
Rather, I receive many letters from precious followers of Jesus who are living with incredible inner sorrow and crisis situations: divorce, children on drugs or in jail, the death of a spouse. A woman deeply in love with the Lord grieves over the death of her children, who suffocated in a fire. A pastor grieves for his wife, who left him and his children for a lesbian lover.
I have a message for you godly people who are suffering. In Psalm 40, David cried, “Innumerable evils have surrounded me. . . Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; O Lord, make haste to help me!” (Psalm 40:12-13). “Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You. . . But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God” (40:16-17).
I have been so blessed and comforted by this one line in verse 17: “The Lord thinks upon me.” Imagine that! The Lord who created all things, the God of this universe, thinks about me. Even now, in your hour of need, His thoughts are about you.
When Israel was captive in Babylon, mourning over the loss of homes and families, God sent word to them through Jeremiah: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). God said to His people, “Your nightmare is going to end. I have only good, loving thoughts toward you, and if you seek Me with all your heart, you will find Me.”
Pour out your heart to the Lord. He is thinking of you!
The Holy Spirit prompted me to read Exodus 12, which contains the account of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt.
On the door of every Israelite home, the blood of a lamb was stricken on the two side-posts and lintel. This was to protect God’s people from the passing angel of death. When the day came, a multitude of Israelites marched out of captivity, including 600,000 men plus women and children. “On that very same day . . . all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41).
In the next chapter, I stopped at verse 3, which reads: “For by strength of hand the Lord brought you out of this place” (13:3). God’s people were delivered by the Lord’s strength alone, not by human means.
David declares, “God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. . . He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me; for they were too strong for me. . . He is a shield to all who trust in Him” (2 Samuel 22:33, 17, 18, 31).
Our faith and strength may grow weak, but in our times of weakness God has given us marvelous promises to renew and strengthen us.
Beloved, do you believe our God is strong? If He is strong, no power can stand before Him. Therefore, commit everything into His mighty hand of strength and power. He will make a way. Most of all, believe this word: “In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul” (Psalm 138:3).
Jesus said to His disciples, “The fields are white, ready to harvest.” The harvest is an ingathering of souls in the last days and the law of the harvest is that the darker the days, the whiter the harvest. Right now, many souls are ripe for harvest all over the world.
But there is another harvest in these last days. The Lord was speaking prophetically about what He foresaw coming in our time: a harvest of golden-ripe faith in the hearts of His people. Our Lord wants a tested, suffering people who will rise up in the midst of distress and trouble and proclaim, “I trust my God!”
Jesus does not expect faith from the worldly crowd. When He wondered aloud, “Will I find faith on the earth when I return?” He was not speaking of sinners. But we who love Him are also told, “He who trusts in the Lord, mercy shall surround him” (Psalm 32:10). God promises that His goodness is “laid up . . . for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men” (31:19).
I can say with the Psalmist David, “I have known trouble, much suffering, financial need, the sorrow of the death of loved ones, the slander of those I loved who turned against me. I have known personal pain. There were times I thought things were hopeless. Times of temptation. Times of weeping until no tears were left.”
Some of my suffering was self-imposed, caused by ignorance or foolishness. But now I can boldly testify: God has never failed me. Through all the trouble, pain and sufferings, I have come through with joy and a strong trust in the goodness and faithfulness of the Lord. Here is the testimony He desires to hear from all of His tested children: “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice . . . and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (32:11).
Growing numbers of Christians are no longer fully satisfied with Christ. The Lord is being dethroned by what He Himself called thorns — which He defined as the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the lusts of other things entering into the heart. Christ said these are the thorns that choke the Word and cause it to become unfruitful (see Mark 4:7).
Is the Lord more on your mind today than a year ago? Do you spend more time in His presence today than a year ago? Is your passion for Him growing or withering?
Many of those who were once passionately in love with Christ now run about pursuing their own interests. They’re burdened down with stress and problems, chasing after riches and the things of this world. They have grown cold or lukewarm, and they have less and less time for Jesus. The Lord and His church now get only an hour of their time — on Sunday mornings.
Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered” (John 15:6). In other words, that person is drying up, no longer drawing life from the true vine. He is deceived by thinking all is well, because he still speaks the language of the intimacy he once enjoyed with Christ.
The Holy Spirit is calling people back to their first love. Back to hungering and thirsting for more of Christ. Back to spending quality time in His presence; loving His Word; casting all cares upon Him; depending on Him for guidance.
Christ yearns for His beloved to return to Him with love and obedience. The Holy Spirit is stirring our hearts to draw us closer to Himself.
God told the prophet Amos, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. . . Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21, 23-24). God is saying to every generation, “It’s not the song or the sound that I seek from you. It’s the righteousness that flows from your worship and the deeds it stirs you to do in My name.”
We can no longer measure a song’s power by its entertainment value or any other manmade standard. We measure it by whether it calls forth what the Holy Spirit wants for His Body in that moment. Our worship is to be an everflowing stream of His righteous presence. Thus, we dare not allow on stage those “who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp . . . who . . . anoint themselves with the finest oils” (Amos 6:5-6). This speaks of leaders we anoint based solely on their talent, skill, and cleverness. God is calling us to clear the stage of any standard other than this: “Surely you are in this place, O God!”
I speak to myself when I say to all pastors, “Do we place more confidence in strategies, structures and programs than in God’s leading? If so, we need to clear the stage of such things.”
Churches may have all the makings of a dynamic body. We may make sure every sermon is tightly articulated, every song perfectly tuned, every espresso machine filling people’s cups — but it’s all worthless if God’s presence is nowhere to be found.
It is time to discard surveys that ask people what they want from church rather than asking what God wants. If surveys dictate our direction, we may as well take down our sign that reads CHURCH because we won’t be one. We’ll be a professional organization that seeks success based on market demands. And that’s not the gospel!
Once you are determined to set things in order in your life, don’t be surprised if the enemy comes and tells you that you are not going to make it. Even Jesus had to face these lies, but He knew it was only a fox trying to destroy the fruit of the vineyard that God had given Him.
The Scriptures tell us of a time when “some Pharisees came, saying to [Jesus], ‘Get out and depart from here, for Herod wants to kill You.’ And He said to them, ‘Go, tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected”’” (Luke 13:31-32, NKJV).
“Perfected” means that He will reach His goal. The devil will no doubt attempt to get you off course, saying, “This pathway is too hard for you. Take an easier way. You don’t have to do things God’s way!” Yet notice Jesus’ response, “No! I cast out demons and healing is flowing. And on the third day I am going to attain my goal by the power of God!”
You, too, have the power to speak to the foxes in your life: “I will entertain you in my life no longer! By the grace of God, I will be rid of you. I have been given power to confront evil,and healing is flowing through my life. I am not bringing something to my workplace that calls itself Christianity but stinks as I pass by. No, I am bringing that sweet presence of God with me everywhere I go! I am going to finish my journey, and I am going to reach the full potential of what my life is called to be! No little fox is going to drive me from the plan of God for my life!”
Speak to the foxes and then trust the Lord for His grace and provision!
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.
During my prayer time the Holy Spirit led me to Psalm 56. This word is meant for those who have been wounded — whether by family, friends, or the words and actions of the ungodly.
It is a word also for those who love the Lord yet who shed tears and carry burdens that seem to grow heavier by the day. Some believers wake up every morning under a cloud of fear and despair. Financial problems can crush and frighten. Others face serious health battles and insufferable pain. Some grieve over family members who are in deep trouble, perhaps in rebellion against the Lord.
Hear the blessed Word of God directed to you in your hour of need:
Psalm 56:3: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. [I shall not be afraid].”
Psalm 56:4: “I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Psalm 56:8: “You number my wanderings; put my tears into Your bottle: are they not in Your book?”
Psalm 56:9: “When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back: this I know, because God is for me.”
Psalm 56:13: “For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living?”
These are anointed words from the Spirit of God. I encourage you to pray over each verse listed and lay claim to it by faith. The Lord knows all about your struggles and pain. He knows every detail of your situation, and He hears even the unspoken cries of your broken heart.
In Acts 3:19 Peter speaks of “times of refreshing” that would come from being in the Lord’s presence. I am convinced that even now, amid times of global turmoil, the Church is experiencing such a time of refreshing. It is an event in which Jesus is manifesting His presence worldwide.
Yes, there is much spiritual deadness and dryness in many churches. Multitudes of believers have compromised their walk with Jesus, while others have gone mad after worldly pleasures.
But something glorious is happening all over the world, even in Islamic nations. There is undeniable evidence that the Holy Spirit is hovering over nations, and the awesome presence of Christ is manifesting powerfully. It is happening throughout Russia, China, South America, Africa, Asia and nearly every nation on earth. God is stirring people in Mongolia and in the former Soviet states. In India the Spirit of God is mightily at work.
I hear of such times of refreshing touching various towns and cities in the United States. Pastors are growing desperate for a true manifestation of God’s presence in their churches.
This refreshing of Christ’s presence is the result of exaltation of Him alone — not signs and wonders, not spiritual gifts, not “revival” that soon fades. This is a last-days revelation of the glory and power of Christ. Many write to me saying they go to church yearning to experience the actual presence of Jesus. They want to hear from a shepherd who has been shut in with the Lord. They don’t want any more entertainment, showmanship or empty methods. Now they are crying, “Give me Christ. Give me the melting, healing, awesome presence of Jesus.”
May this be the heart-cry of all God’s people in these days.
I am deeply blessed by God’s message to His people in Psalms 37. I recommend that you read this Psalm before the day is over. It is one of the richest, most encouraging passages in God’s Word. No matter what you are going through, no matter how trying your situation, this Psalm will be a source of great strength and encouragement to you.
Psalm 37:7 is of special interest to me in light of what is happening in the gay community. States are passing laws that pave the way for gay marriages and hundreds of homosexuals have gotten married. I was so deeply grieved at this lawlessness and mockery of true, God-ordained marriage, that I cried, “Oh, Lord, they are stealing our nation. They are mocking your Holy Word. America is now indulging in a sin not even known in Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no biblical record of homosexuals marrying in those wicked societies.”
Then I read Psalm 37:7: “Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.” In other words, “Do not let it get at your spirit. Do not get worked up about it. God hears the deep inner groanings of His people, and He is very patient.”
Let no evildoer think for a moment that God is going to overlook blatant disobedience and mockery of His Word. All through the Bible, we see the Lord sending judgment when lawlessness envelops a society.
Pray for our nation amid these times. God hears the prayers of His people!
The following word, given to me by the Holy Spirit, is for those who need an answer to prayer, who need help in time of trouble, and who are ready and willing to move God’s heart according to His Word.
Lay hold of the covenant promise in Psalm 46:1: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The phrase very present means “always available, immediately accessible.” Faith must rest in the assurance that God’s Spirit abides in us all hours of the day and night, continually. And because He took up a habitation within us, He listens to our every prayerful thought and cry. We can be sure that if He hears us He will grant our petitions. Indeed, the Holy Spirit will move heaven and earth for any child of God who takes time to pour out his heart to the Father.
Read and believe Psalm 62:5-7. This is the prayer of David that touched God’s heart. David said in essence, “Wait on God only! Expect help from no other source. He alone must be your provision, your only hope and defense. Only He can supply you with the strength to keep going until your answer comes.”
Here is the heart of it all, the secret to prevailing prayer that every saint throughout history has learned: the pouring out of the heart before the Lord. “Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8) Hannah is our example in doing this. Desperate for a child, she “poured out” her soul to the Lord (see 1 Samuel 1:15). And Scripture says, “Her face was no longer sad” (1:18).
God wants to bless and favor you. He longs to enrich your life, your marriage, and your spiritual life. He wants to give you wisdom, understanding and discernment so that your decisions will lead to blessing in your life.
Once we receive the blessings of God, we must be careful that we do not turn them into something selfish.
Luke 12:16 tells us about a man who was blessed. “And [Jesus] spoke a parable to them, saying, ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.’”
God is generous and loves to pour out gifts on His children. But this story quickly took a wrong turn, as we see that this man “thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’” (verse 17).
Now, whose crops were they? Everything belongs to God, so this man was revealing his selfish nature. He began to see all his talents, his relationships, his many gifts from God as things to be used for his own benefit. That selfishness began to permeate the very fiber of who he was.
“So he said, ‘I will . . . pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry”’” (verses 18-19).
God loves to bless His children but He is concerned about what you do with those blessings. What is His purpose in blessing you? Is it merely to heap goods upon yourself and create a perfect little cocoon of comfort that you have always wanted? No! As we see from the very beginning of His covenant with mankind, you are blessed to be a blessing to others!
A number of years ago on the opening night of a crusade in London, England, the crowd that gathered was a diverse one — hippies, punk rockers, addicts, Goths, hookers, homeless people, and more. Everywhere I looked were kids with purple, green and orange hair. Most were wearing black clothes emblazoned with satanic symbols, and their bodies were pierced in just about every conceivable place. I had never seen so many confused and broken young people.
My wife, Gloria, had a seat on the front row of the auditorium. As I was preparing to go on stage, I looked over in her direction and saw a young man sit down in the seat next to her. He looked frightening — a Goth with all the trimmings! As he shifted to one side, I noticed something crawling over his lap. I looked intently and realized it was a black rat on a small leash.
Gloria is terrified of rats and at first she didn’t notice; I hoped it would continue that way. But when the young man turned his head away from her, I saw her glance in his direction, just in time to see the rat crawling across his lap.
Gloria knows that I love her and would never allow anything happen to her, but I would not kick a person out of a crusade, especially someone so obviously in need of Jesus. So catching her eye, I motioned for her to stay calm. I’m not sure she got the message but she remained in her seat, stiff as a board throughout the whole service — a real trouper.
Later, during the altar call, this young man was the first to step forward and receive Christ. He stood down front with the rat in his hand and his head bowed. Tears rolled down his face as a volunteer worker laid hands on him and prayed with him to receive Christ.
“And then He told them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone’” (Mark 16:15, NLT).
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.
When Moses heard the voice of God come from the burning bush, he was surprised at what God asked him to do: “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). God tells every Christian today the same thing He told Moses: “There is only one ground upon which you can approach Me and that is holy ground. You can have no confidence in your flesh because no flesh will stand in My presence.”
Why did God focus on shoes in the Exodus passage? What does that have to do with putting off the flesh? Our feet are tender parts of our body and shoes are a protection of our flesh. They protect us from the elements, from stones, from snakes, from filth and dust, from the hot pavement.
So to Moses, God was using an everyday, ordinary thing to teach a spiritual lesson, just as Jesus did later using coins, pearls, camels and mustard seeds. God was saying, “Moses, you wear protective garb to keep your flesh from injury but no amount of fleshly protection will be able to keep you. Where I am about to send you will require a miracle of deliverance.”
Where was God sending Moses? Into Egypt — that den of iniquity — to face a hardened dictator. Moses had to put aside all reliance on his flesh: his meekness, zeal and humility. All his abilities would be worthless unless God sanctified them. Moses had to put his total trust in God’s name and power.
Indeed, Moses faced all kinds of tests and trials. He was about to lead some three million people into the desert where there was no place to buy food or no place to obtain water. He would have to depend wholly on God for everything!
God would ask the same question to us as He asked Moses. Are we willing to put down our own abilities and ambitions and trust wholly in Him? Will we put all our confidence in Him instead of in our own gifts and plans?
I believe every episode or story in the Old Testament is full of truth for New Testament believers. Whenever I have difficulty understanding a New Testament truth, I turn back to its foreshadowing in the Old Testament. One such example concerns Moses at the burning bush. I believe this particular story is full of profound New Testament truth regarding holiness.
Alone on Mount Horeb, Moses was herding the sheep of his father-in-law when suddenly a strange sight caught his attention. A nearby bush was burning brightly — yet it was not consumed!
“Then Moses said, ‘I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.’ So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush” (Exodus 3:3-4). Going in for a closer look, Moses heard God call out to him from the bush — living proof that God was present, a visual representation of His holiness. Indeed, wherever He is, that place is holy!
“As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16). In other words, “It is written, recorded, settled once and for all that we are to be holy, even as our God is holy.”
“For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7). God has not called us just to salvation, or to heaven, or to receive His pardon. Rather, these are benefits of our one true call — which is to be holy as He is holy.
Every believer in Jesus Christ is called to be holy — to be pure and blameless in God’s sight. So, if you have been born again, holiness must be the cry of your heart: “God, I want to be like Jesus. I truly want to walk holy before You all the days of my life.”
“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
This passage from Revelation tells us that Satan has declared all-out war on God’s people. It also mentions that the devil has a deadline to complete his work: Because he knows that he has a short time.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are constantly to be aware that the devil is out to destroy us. Therefore, Paul says that we need to know as much as we can about the enemy’s tactics and plans: “Lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). This does not mean the devil is hovering in the cosmos somewhere giving orders to his demonic hosts. We know that Satan was cast down to earth when Christ defeated him at the cross. Thus, the devil’s kingdom is limited to the here and now (see Revelation 12:12).
Some Christians believe that Satan is omnipotent (possessing all power) but he has been defeated by Jesus and stripped of all authority. And Satan is not omniscient (he cannot read minds!) nor is he omnipresent. He cannot be everywhere at one time.
But Satan does have principalities and powers stationed throughout the earth and these hosts of demons feed him intelligence at his beck and call. They hear you when you pray, and they see your obedience to God. That is what stirs up Satan’s wrath against you!
When the Word says the devil has only a short time, it is not referring to the time he has before the return of Christ. It is about continual deadlines, a series of short times he has in which to accomplish his work and make war against God’s saints.
Sincere Christians have asked me, “Whom do we believe? I have read the works of many ministers through the years who seemed convinced that the end was very near. Yet over and over they’ve missed it. I think some were just trying to sell their book while others truly thought God was telling them the end was upon us.”
At times I have been utterly broken before God, loudly crying out to Him, “Lord, for many years I’ve been preaching that judgment is at the door. I’ve delivered warnings about a coming economic crisis, yet I only see the opposite happening. I see America prospering and going cheerfully on its way while killing babies in the womb, sliding into the pits of filth, and pushing you out of every institution. How long, Lord?”
Jeremiah spent years faithfully prophesying events that had not yet been fulfilled. He cried out, “O Lord, You induced me, and I was persuaded; You are stronger than I, and have prevailed. I am in derision daily; everyone mocks me. For when I spoke, I cried out; I shouted, ‘Violence and plunder!’ Because the word of the Lord was made to me a reproach and a derision daily” (Jeremiah 20:7-8).
But Jeremiah could not stop warning God’s people. Even though his prophecies seemed to be unfounded, he kept prophesying. I feel the same fire burning in my soul that Jeremiah felt and I’m more convinced than ever that God has “set His face” against this nation for its bloodshed and arrogance against His name, and His judgment is due!
On the other hand, I thank God for the many promises in His Word to protect and bless His people in and through all storms. God’s praying people do not need to fear, nor should we worry or fret.
“The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:9-10).
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us” (Ephesians 1:7-8, ESV).
We in the church haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of grace. We take only tiny sips from the cup of grace from time to time in our walk with God before we begin to rely on our own abilities.
When Jesus says we are to be born again, have faith, pray, seek His face, and love our neighbor, His every command is yes and amen. We are required to do what He calls us to do, not pick and choose our areas of obedience.
Some churches prefer certain areas of obedience over others. They emphasize evangelism, social justice, political activism, serving the poor, or prayer. But no church is pleasing to God when it runs on one cylinder instead of eight. Any person or church that is not obeying God’s commands is living in disobedience! He simply will not allow us to ignore certain of His commands.
Yet perfect obedience is not possible; it isn’t within the realm of our ability. The reason we choose certain areas of obedience is because they are easier to fulfill than others.
Having a life of joy and victory does not hinge on whether we succeed or fail at obeying God’s commands; it has everything to do with how we go about obeying His commands. When I was young, one of my youth leaders told me, “You can change yourself so that temptations don’t return. You have the ability to pull yourself out of anything.” Really? It doesn’t take long to see how futile that really is.
We cannot make changes in ourselves. We must allow God’s grace to empower us and bring transformation — in ourselves and in our world.
The Bible has several symbols for the Holy Spirit. One is wind, which in the original Greek in the New Testament is the same word as breath. Wind helps us to visualize the invisible and mysterious movement of the Spirit (see John 3:8).
A dove symbolized the Spirit during Jesus’ baptism. “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove” (Mark 1:10). The Holy Spirit is all-powerful yet strangely gentle and sensitive in His dealings with us. We can all too easily grieve Him.
Oil is a symbol often used for the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. The anointing of the Holy Spirit is likened to the oil that was put on almost everything in the tabernacle. When it was built as a place of worship, not only were the temple objects anointed with oil, but so also were the priests. Later the elders of the early church were instructed to pray for the sick and to anoint the ailing believers with oil as a symbol of the Holy Spirit (James 5:14).
Fire is one of my favorite symbols for the Holy Spirit. It is used to represent the power and presence of God. When John the Baptist came on the scene before Jesus appeared, he said, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Luke 3:16, emphasis added).
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.
Even though our organization employs many modern, high-tech methods, we do not receive our direction from these “ministry tools.” We spend time on our knees, seeking the Lord for direction in every area of ministry.
Today, “experts” have taken over the reins of the church. Sin is viewed in psychological terms and is called a disease. Prophets of holiness have been replaced by psychologists and social workers spouting the latest jargon, and altars have been replaced by counseling rooms. Jesus is being dethroned and Freud is being exalted.
Many years ago God led me to start a ministry to drug addicts and alcoholics. With no money and no how-to books — only our total dependence on the Holy Spirit — we hung a sign in our office that read: “NO ONE SHINES HERE — ONLY THE HOLY GHOST!” During our chapel services, we prayed, “Lord, our help is not in psychology, but in the Holy Spirit. We cannot work on the head unless You change the heart.”
Nicky Cruz, one of the first gang members we encountered in New York City, was a killer at heart. A psychiatrist took an interest in his case and after a full day with him, he decided that Nicky was incorrigible, hopeless. (Nicky delighted in confusing all “head doctors.”)
Yet Jesus had plans for Nicky! At an altar, Christ accomplished in five minutes what the experts said could not be done. God sent an arrow straight into his heart, an arrow of truth that cried out, “Nicky, Jesus loves you!”
In an instant, Nicky’s heart of stone was replaced with a heart of flesh. He wept and hugged everyone around him as he was supernaturally transformed by the power of God. After society’s experts had written him off!
Over these past years, I have watched with alarm as the church has slowly but surely taken Christ off the throne and enthroned the wisdom of the world. But once again, Jesus must become the power behind God’s people.
Let me give you four tragic results of dethroning the Lord.
“Israel empties his vine; He brings forth fruit for himself” (Hosea 10:1). Everyone in Israel was looking out for himself and the result was total emptiness. Hosea was speaking here to believers, showing them a picture of what happens to all who push the Lord out of their lives. Such people become selfish and miserable — and their every pursuit ends in emptiness.
“Their heart is divided . . . He will break down their altars; He will ruin their sacred pillars” (verse 2). Our nation’s heart is divided. Americans pay lip service to God and religion, but they don’t worship the Lord in truth. That has led directly to the breakdown of all our hallowed institutions. Our society no longer trusts God, turning instead to the government, the educational system, Social Security — all in an effort to find some kind of stability. God is saying, “If you don’t trust Me, I’ll make all your trusted institutions fail. You won’t have anything left to believe in.”
“You have plowed wickedness; you have reaped iniquity . . . because you trusted in your own way” (verse 13). Hosea is saying, “You stopped trusting in the Lord and now you’re going to reap a harvest of iniquity!” Humankind today is sophisticated, educated, but we have rejected the Bible and prayer. And where has all our sophisticated learning brought us?
“We have no king, because we did not fear the Lord” (verse 3). The heart of king of Israel was full of idolatry. So when Israel’s backsliding began, he was powerless to stop their loss of faith. His words carried no authority and the people murmured, “We have no leadership, no direction. We are drifting!”
The same thing is happening today in our churches. Many Christians mock their pastors, ridiculing their authority. Why? Because their words carry no power! People say, “We no longer have any leadership in our church. We’re lost and confused.” Sadly this is the payday for dethroning the Lord.
God had blessed and prospered Israel, giving them houses they had not built and vineyards they had not planted. He had raised up godly men to speak as prophets and given the people clear words of direction. For years the people had proven God faithful, listening to His counsel and never turning to the flesh. Whenever God spoke to them, they obeyed, and they were miraculously delivered from powerful enemies.
But an apostasy had come over Israel and the Lord accused them of being guilty of wickedness. The prophet Hosea describes the terrible harvest reaped by those who reject God’s lordship and turn to the arm of flesh. When Hosea wrote his prophetic message, he addressed a people whom the Lord had carried in His arms for years.
“They are deeply corrupted . . . [and] all their princes are rebellious” (Hosea 9:9 and 15). What awful sin had God’s people committed? Drunkenness? Sexual perversion? Covetousness? Adultery? Murder? No, God said their wickedness was in turning away from His counsel, ignoring His word and obeying man.
“God will cast them away, because they did not obey Him” (verse 17). In God’s eyes, the greatest wickedness a believer can commit is to no longer depend on Him!
In essence, the Lord was telling Israel, “You no longer trust in Me. I’m no longer your guide and you are turning to the wisdom of man. You are running back to Egypt for help, back to the place from which I delivered you, rejecting My word and turning from Me.”
A great Puritan prophet once wrote: “Pure power is never anxious for cooperating. It just demands.” In other words, God doesn’t say to you, “You do your part and I’ll do mine. Just check in with Me occasionally.” No, absolutely not! God is pure, raw power and He demands that we follow Him, first and foremost, in all that we do. Anything short of this maligns His kingship over our lives.
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth . . . whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).
“And He is the head of the body, the church . . . that in all things He may have the preeminence” (verse 18).
God the Father enthroned Christ as king over all nations and all nature, and as Lord over the church. Paul is saying, “It doesn’t matter what things look like on the outside. Everything may seem out of control and it may look as though the devil has taken power. But the truth is, God has put all things under Jesus’ feet. Christ is still king over everything!”
These passages prove that almighty God has given Jesus Christ dominion over everything. Yet all around us we see our society and government refusing to acknowledge Christ’s authority and kingship. We are removing God from our schools and courts and ignoring Him in the making of our laws.
I believe America’s rejection of Christ’s lordship is the reason behind all the bloodshed, violence, racial hatred, moral decay, drug abuse, and even the outbreak of deadly sexual diseases in our society. Lawmakers, educators, and the media have made God an unspeakable subject.
Even worse, Jesus is being dethroned in churches throughout the land and in the lives of multitudes of believers. It’s understandable that ungodly people would want to dethrone Christ, but how it must grieve the Father to see Him dethroned by those who call themselves by His name!
Because God has made Christ to be all things to the church, we are to have no other resource, reference or counselor before Jesus. All the church’s government, guidance, and counsel are to come from Him: “The government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).
Many Christians today are exhausted by their efforts to ward off sin. They are drained of every last ounce of joy, and the victory Christ won for them gets lost in their dogged efforts to establish a righteousness of their own.
Righteousness that is pursued by anything other than faith will always fail. You see, there cannot be both God’s righteousness and our own. That would mean there are two gospels: His and ours. We cannot mix our self-righteousness with God’s holy righteousness.
But aren’t we supposed to put forth some effort? Doesn’t the Bible say we are to avoid sin? Yes, but there is only one way for us to avoid sin and that is through Jesus. He is not just a truth we accept, He is the living God and His sanctifying work never stops day or night.
Paul answers the question of self-effort in Romans 9. He speaks of a people who actually attained righteousness: “[The] Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith” (Romans 9:30). These people did not get worn down by their own efforts; they were not weighed down by their failures. They put all their faith in Jesus’ work on the cross for them — and they were sustained by His abundant life.
“Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). This verse has brought freedom to all generations of believers. Christ is the end. There is nothing else! “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).
Friend, are you worn down from trying to do better? Are you weary of the endless cycle of recommitment and failure? Then put it all behind you; let your striving end. Your right standing with the Lord does not depend upon your will but on God, who has mercy on us.
Most agree that the Song of Solomon is a representation of Christ and His Bride. In this book we find an important verse, a request to the Bridegroom coming from those who know Him: “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, while our vineyards are in blossom” (Song of Solomon 2:15, NASB).
When you consider the size of a vineyard, a fox seems fairly insignificant. Nevertheless, a little fox has the potential to eat up the grapes and diminish the beauty of a blossoming vineyard. In the same way, you and I may find ourselves in a fruitful season — a time when things we have prayed and believed for are coming to pass. Yet we must take heed, for often there are little things in our lives that, if left unattended, can greatly diminish our testimony. We see an example of this in the book of Matthew.
“When [Jesus and His disciples] had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes’” (Matthew 17:24-25, NKJV). Up to this point, almost everything in Peter’s walk with Jesus had gone well. It was a fruitful season! However, Jesus knew that small things in Peter’s life needed to be dealt with, lest his future fruitfulness be diminished.
When Peter was approached by the collectors of the temple tax, he lied! Neither he nor Jesus had actually paid the temple tax. Later Jesus explains to Peter that they are not required to pay that tax (see Matthew 17:25-26). “Only strangers pay taxes. We are sons of the One who owns the temple! Therefore, there is no penalty for us.”
This is a type of you and me realizing that our sins are covered. Because we came to Christ, we have been forgiven. All our failings and shortcomings were fully covered by the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary.
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.
Do you wake up every day in anguish over a besetting habit or lust in your life? God knows all about the sin remaining in your heart. He knows you hate it and have wept over it and He wants you to hear this word: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him and I am helped” (Psalm 28:7).
Satan wants you to be afraid that you will never be delivered, never be free. But David said, “I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).
God says to all grieving, hurting saints, “Fear not! I see and know all your suffering and I will not allow Satan to destroy you.”
You may ask, “But what am I to do? How can I have the Lord’s peace in all this?” The answer is found in God’s word to Moses and Israel. With the sea before them, an enemy behind them, and no place to turn, God commanded them, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. . . . The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:13-14).
This last phrase, “Hold your peace,” means no more worrying, no more trying to figure everything out on your own. Instead, trust God to make a way for you.
Joshua and his army had to march all night to Gibeon, where they faced a massive military machine. Joshua looked down at the battlefield and saw the valley filled with mighty chariots and well-trained infantrymen — yet, all he had was a band of weary, unskilled troops.
“The Lord said to Joshua, Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you” (Joshua 10:8).
God declared victory even before Joshua went into battle! He said, “The victory is already won. Now, go and fight, knowing I have promised you the victory.”
That is the message of the cross! The victory has already been won for us.
“You shall not be afraid of them” (Deuteronomy 7:18). For Israel, “them” represented the massive, well-armed heathen nations they faced. For us today, “them” represents every problem, trouble, and overwhelming difficulty we face in life.
God tells us that we are not to fear! And because He says so, no other explanation is needed. He is all powerful and wholly aware of the satanic strongholds we face. He knows every trial and temptation that Satan will ever throw at us. And still He commands us, “You shall not fear any of them!”
Abraham was living in a strange country, surrounded by powerful kings, not knowing where he would end up. Yet, God’s first word to him was, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward” (Genesis 15:1).
The meaning of this verse is, “I will be a wall around you, your protector, your defense.” In essence, God was telling Abraham, “You are going to face difficulties but I will protect you through them all.” Abraham responded by believing God’s word to him: “And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (verse 6).
Abraham’s son Isaac also lived in a hostile environment, surrounded by Philistines who hated him, harassed him, and wanted him off their land. Scripture says that every time Isaac dug a well for a supply of water, the Philistines filled it back up (see Genesis 26:15).
Everywhere Isaac went he felt nothing but contention. A cloud of doubt formed over him and he wondered if he could ever make it. But God gave Isaac the same word He had given Abraham: “Do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for My servant Abraham’s sake” (Genesis 26:24).
Today, like Isaac, we are the children of Abraham and God makes the same promise to us: “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
Satan has a strategy to deceive believers and make them doubt the faithfulness of God in answering prayer. He would have us believe that God has shut His ears to our cries and left us to work things out for ourselves.
A great tragedy in the Church today is that so few believe in the power and effectiveness of prayer. Without meaning to blasphere, multitudes of God’s people can be heard complaining, “I pray but I get no answers. I’ve prayed so hard for so long without any results. All I want is a little evidence that God is changing things. How long must I wait?” These believers no longer visit their secret place of prayer because they are convinced that their petitions, born in prayer, are somewhere miscarried at His throne. Others are convinced that only “spiritual giants” can get their prayers through to God.
In all honesty, many saints of God struggle with doubts: “If God’s ear is open to my diligent prayer, why is there such little evidence of His answering?” Have you been praying a certain prayer for a long time without receiving an answer? Have even years gone by and still you wait, hoping . . . yet wondering?
Let’s be careful not to charge God with being slothful, unconcerned about our needs and petitions, as Job did. Job complained, “I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me” (Job 30:20, ESV).
Job’s vision of God’s faithfulness was clouded by his present difficulties, and he ended up accusing God of forgetting him.
It is time for Christians to take an honest look at the reasons our prayers are aborted. We might be guiltyof charging God with neglect when all along our own behavior is responsible.
“Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt you to inherit the land” (Psalm 37:34).