Friday, August 30, 2013

IGNORING GOD’S WORD

I am certain that Jehoshaphat was convinced he was acting righteously when he pledged to join Ahab in war. In fact, Scripture says, "Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today" (2 Chronicles 18:4). He said, "Let's ask the Lord for His counsel on the matter. We won't act until we hear from Him!"

God made His word to Jehoshaphat and Ahab clear, leaving no doubt as to what He thought about the whole affair: "It's doomed! Go at your own risk. Nothing but death and defeat await you on the battlefield" (see 2 Chronicles 18:16).

At this point, Jehoshaphat seemed willing to obey a true prophetic word and do everything God told him. Yet, for centuries, Bible scholars have marveled at what happened next: When the clear word came, Jehoshaphat ignored it!

Beloved, you can boast all you want about loving God and wanting to obey Him. But if you do not break away from the deception of ungodly friends and seek Holy Ghost discernment, you will end up ignoring God's Word!

You may accompany your friend in his war but when the chips are down, he will hand you over to the enemy. That's just what happened to Jehoshaphat when he went to war with Ahab. The evil king set up Jehoshaphat to be killed; he told him to dress in his kingly robes, while Ahab himself dressed as a soldier. That way, Ahab reasoned, the enemy would go after Jehoshaphat instead of himself.

Ironically, Ahab was killed by an arrow that pierced him through a tiny slot in his armor. And suddenly, Jehoshaphat was surrounded by enemy soldiers, who were ready to cut him to pieces. The king knew he was facing death and he cried out to God for help. Scripture tells us, "And the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him" (18:31).

The war was a disaster. Israel's army fled in disarray, like sheep without a shepherd. And Jehoshaphat retreated to Jerusalem, his friend Ahab dead and his armies defeated. It was only by God's grace that he escaped death!

I can imagine the thoughts that must have raced through Jehoshaphat's mind as he hurried back to Jerusalem: "Oh, God, thank You for delivering me! Now I see the danger of walking with an ungodly companion. Never again, Lord! I won't be a part of that worldly system anymore. It's all over now!" 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIP

If you are a follower of Jesus—if you are now in the blood lineage of Christ—Satan will try to bring into your life someone to destroy everything godly in you!

Right now, you may be thinking, "Wait a minute! I don't want to start doubting my friends or suddenly become suspicious of them." If they are true friends, knit to your heart in the Spirit of Christ, you have nothing to fear in examining your relationships with them. You should look at all your friendships in the light of Scripture.

It is easy to determine whether your close friendships are of God, or if they have been planted by the enemy to destroy you. Simply think of your best friend, and then answer these questions:
  • Does he (or she) gossip, backbite or speak evil of others? 
  • Is he argumentative about Scripture, a continual debater, never coming to truth? 
  • Does he call godly people "Pharisees"? 
  • Do you detect in his words a spirit of disobedience, envy or suspicion? 
  • Does he spew out poisonous words against his spouse? 
  • Has he succeeded in planting unkind thoughts in your mind about others? 
  • Have you begun to join him in spewing out bitterness? 
If your friend fits this description—and you are being drawn farther away from Jesus because of this friendship—then you can know the devil has planted that person in your life. He has the spirit of Ahab and he has been sent to destroy the work of Christ in you!

On the other hand, a true, godly friend will always take the side of God's Word in any matter, and not just your side because you are friends. Such a friend will not counsel you in the bitterness of sin. Instead, he will love you enough to tell you the truth.

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Proverbs 27:6) 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A SOOTHING SEDUCTION

Let me show you what happens to every child of God who enters into a relationship with a bitter, unrighteous, rebellious person. There are awful consequences.

"The fear of the Lord fell upon all the kingdoms of the lands that were round about Judah, so that they made no war against Jehoshaphat" (2 Chronicles 17:10). Jehoshaphat’s kingdom, Judah, was blessed and prospered abundantly, and nobody dared come against them.

But after Jehoshaphat entered into a relationship with Ahab, Scripture says, "Ahab . . . persuaded [Jehoshaphat] to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead. . . . And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war" (18:2-3). Jehoshaphat willingly got sucked into a hopeless war, one that God had no part in.

The Hebrew word for persuaded in this passage means "a soothing seduction." Jehoshaphat allowed himself to be seduced into war by Ahab, answering, "I am as you are." In other words, "I'm your friend, so I'm with you all the way. I won't let you down. You can count on me!"

Is your close friend full of bitterness, hatred, anger—and pursuing a war of some kind? Is he involved in a marriage war, a family war, a personal war? And are you like a Jehoshaphat to him, offering help and encouragement? If so, look out, because you are about to be seduced into it all.

That's right, very soon you will find yourself smack in the middle of your friend's mess and you will be asked to take a stand. If your friend is in a troubled marriage, for example, you are going to be forced to take a side. And you will end up sympathizing with him—all the way through his divorce!

Beware, Christian, because whenever you extend comfort or encouragement to someone who is in rebellion, you take sides against the Holy Spirit. And that makes you are a partaker in that person's sin. Tragically, when Jehoshaphat joined Ahab's war, he only hastened his friend along the path of destruction! 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A BREAKING OUT!

Micah brings to our attention one of the most glorious of all Old Testament prophecies. He prophesied of a people who would follow the Lord to new pasture. “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep . . . in the midst of their fold” (Micah 2:12).

Micah saw a people of God being released, a people whose hearts beat as one, a people so led by the Spirit they would be called outcasts by the apostate church. "In that day, saith the Lord, will I assemble her that halteth, and I will gather her that is driven out, and her that I have afflicted; and I will make her that halted a remnant, and her that was cast far off a strong nation: and the Lord shall reign over them in mount Zion from henceforth, even forever” (Micah 4:6-7).

Who makes up this holy remnant? Not the proud, the self-centered ministries, the polished, applauded stars. No! These are a tested people who have been in the fires of trial. They include the unknowns, the outcasts, those who are considered lame in comparison to the high and mighty established church, and those who raise their voices against corruption in God's house.

God says, "I will put them together!" All human efforts to bring God's servants together is in vain. God must do it and the one thing that brings this remnant together, causing them to see eye to eye, is a repentant heart in union with Christ.

Jerome, one of the early church fathers and a Bible scholar, describes them as "those children of God who are repentant and who rise above worldly things and aspire to heaven." This is a heavenly-minded people, weary of lightness and compromise, a people who yearn for holiness in God's house. Even now there is a holy remnant leaping forth from among men. Every man and woman of God whose heart is broken over the sin and corruption in God's house can sense this leap of the Spirit! There is a coming out, a breaking out just ahead! 

Monday, August 26, 2013

THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

“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).

I feel that we in the church have not begun to scratch the surface of grace. We take a few sips from the cup of grace from time to time in our walk with God, and then we gradually start to rely on our abilities the rest of the way.

We cannot pick and choose our areas of obedience. We are required to do what the Lord calls us to do. When Jesus says we are to be born again, to have faith, to pray and seek His face, to love our neighbor, to love our wife as Christ loves the church, His every command is yes and amen. Yet some churches prefer certain areas of obedience over others. They emphasize evangelism, or social justice, or political activism, or serving the poor, or prayer. They may not admit it, but they see other churches’ emphases as lesser in God’s eyes.

No church is pleasing to God when it runs on one cylinder instead of eight. He simply will not allow us to ignore certain of His commands. Read Revelation 3 to get a picture of His displeasure when we do that. Any person or church who is not obeying God’s commands is living in disobedience. Yet, perfect obedience is not within the realm of our ability. The reason we tend to emphasize certain areas of obedience in our lives is because they are easier to fulfill than others. We may even get rewarded for doing them. But that misses the point completely.

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 God’s commands. I was taught as a child in church that I could manifest spiritual changes by my own will. Youth leaders told us, “You can change yourself so that temptations don’t return. You can pull yourself up out of anything.” It does not take us long to see how futile this is.

The point is not to make changes in ourselves. The point is to allow God’s grace to empower us to transformation—in ourselves and in our world. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

MICAH’S PROPHECY

Micah was a prophet who saw the church through God's eyes, and it caused his soul to wail and lament! He was seeing in the Spirit what God saw—the deep, hideous sins of the people, of shepherds and leaders. He saw idolatry! A harlot church making a harlot's wages.

"Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked. . . . For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem" (Micah 1:8-9).

Listen to Micah's lament: "Evil came down from the Lord unto the gate of Jerusalem. . . . For the transgressions of Israel were found in thee" (Micah 1:12-13).

Micah saw an incurable disease among God's people and an inescapable judgment. Look at what God calls rebellion and see the cause of His controversy with them:
  1. A new scheme of covetousness concocted by mercenary servants of God, having to do with money, property, success. 
  2. An emphasis on self: "Woe to those that devise iniquity . . . because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields . . . and houses, and take them away: so they oppress [my people]" (Micah 2:1-2). 
  3. Rejection of the prophet's warnings and telling the people that judgment preaching is not of God, that it is contrary to His character! "Prophesy ye not . . . Is the Spirit of the Lord [impatient]?” (Micah 2:6-7). 
The false prophets and robbing shepherds told Micah to shut up! "Don't preach so much judgment! We are God's people; He loves us. There will be no judgment on us." The literal interpretation means, "Drop it! Drop this message of judgment on God's people! Stop reproaching good people! This is not of God."

But listen to Micah's answer! "Say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame” (Micah 2:6). In other words, if this message is not preached, the reproach of this place will never be turned back. "Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?" (Micah 2:7). 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

FROM GLORY TO GLORY

Paul speaks of a ministry that every Christian is called to, one that does not require particular gifts or talents. It is to be undertaken by all who have been born again, both recognized ministers and laypersons. In fact, this ministry is every believer's first calling and all other endeavors must flow out of it.

No ministry can be pleasing to God unless it is birthed out of this calling. I am talking about the ministry of beholding the face of Christ. Paul says, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

What does it mean to behold the Lord's glory? Paul is speaking of devoted, focused worship. It is time that is given to God simply to behold Him. And the apostle quickly adds, "Therefore seeing we have this ministry" (4:1). Paul makes it clear that beholding the face of Christ is a ministry we all must devote ourselves to.

The Greek word for beholding in this verse is a very strong expression. It indicates not just taking a look, but "fixing the gaze." It means deciding, "I won't move from this position. Before I do anything else, before I try to accomplish a single thing, I must be in God's presence."

Many Christians misinterpret the phrase "beholding as in a glass" (3:18). They think of a mirror, with Jesus' face being reflected back to them. But that is not Paul's meaning here. He is speaking of an intensely focused gaze, as if peering at something earnestly through a glass, trying to see it more clearly. We are to "fix our eyes" this way, determined to see God's glory in the face of Christ. We are to shut ourselves in the holy of holies, with but one obsession: to gaze so intently, and to commune with such devotion, that we are changed.

Paul says the person who is shut in with Christ, beholding Him, is being transfigured. What happens as a believer beholds the face of Christ? Paul writes, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

THE CALL OF CHRIST TO THE LAODICEAN CHURCH

To the last church, the Laodicean church, the Lord cries, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me" (Revelation 3:20).

That is the last call of Christ to the church. There will come a spirit of lukewarmness and multitudes will grow cold. But He is saying to His people, "I'm asking to be heard. Open up. Let Me into your secret closet. Let Me talk with you and you with Me. Let's commune. That's how I will keep you from the hour of temptation that is coming on all the world."

John, in his revelation, talks about a day when our Lord's heart shall be lonely no more. “And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. . . . And God himself shall be with them . . . and [God] said . . . I will give him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely” (Revelation 21:2-6).

That means free and full communication with no middle wall of partition; no dark glasses; no partial knowledge, but face-to-face conversation! We think of how glorious it will be to spend an eternity praising our Lord, bowing at His knee. But have you ever tried to realize what that great homecoming will mean to our Savior? All His children home, free to share His very being. He will make us all sit down, and out of His innermost being will flow rivers of glorious truth. As He did on the road to Emmaus, our Redeemer will begin at Moses and take us all through the prophets. He will share the secrets of the universe; He will unfold every plan. Every cloud of darkness will be dispelled. Christ will share for an eternity!

I see that the real joy of heaven is not just ours, but His. Our greatest joy in heaven will be to see His joy as He talks to us freely, face to face. We will see Christ fulfilled, His needs fully met. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

THEY LAID DOWN THEIR ARMOR

"And when Moses saw that the people were naked; (for Aaron had made them naked unto their shame among their enemies:) then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me" (Exodus 32:25-26).

The Hebrew word used here for naked is para, meaning “to loosen, expose, dismiss.” It also implies "a new beginning."

A modern beer commercial admonishes this generation to "turn it loose tonight." It simply means to throw off past moral inhibitions, shake free of all law, begin pleasing yourself. Do your own thing, whatever makes you happy.

Merely taking off their clothes was not corruption; it was the signal, the message they were sending to the heathen looking on. Can you see the Amalakites on the surrounding mountains, far off, looking on this peculiar scene? These enemies, who had trembled when they saw God at work among them, now laughed and mocked, "Look at them. They are just like us! Their God has no power. They don't even trust in Him! They want to lust and party and play just like all the rest of us. What hypocrisy!"

In that one act of nakedness they belittled their God in the eyes of the ungodly! They made God seem heartless, cruel, uncaring and helpless. They besmirched the honor and majesty of an omnipotent God. They were no longer an example, no longer admired or feared or respected.

They had laid their armor down to party! They put in jeopardy God's plans for their salvation. They were saying to the world, “We don’t want to fight any more enemies! We don’t want to resist! We have had enough of rejection, of sacrifice, of future hopes and far-off blessings. We want to live now! We want to enjoy ourselves! We want the good times to roll."

The corruption was this: This was to be their new beginning. No more combat! If they were going to have to exist in a hard, cruel wilderness, then they would quit the struggle and make do the best they could—on their own. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

THE GATE OF GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

Isaiah prophesied, “They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations” (Isaiah 61:4, ESV). Isaiah’s listeners could not fathom the kind of freedom and exploits he was describing here. For generations God’s people had been crushed under the Law, devastated by its burden.

The same was true for the people of Jesus’ day. They were hard on themselves, accepting the legalistic burdens placed on them by religious leaders. That is why Christ’s words were so revolutionary when He quoted directly from Isaiah to announce His ministry: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (Isaiah 61:1, ESV).

Jesus knew that the gift of grace would set us free completely. And His message was not just for the unsaved. When He spoke of setting captives free, He was speaking to believers: “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, ESV).

Today we are just as hard on ourselves as the people of Jesus’ day were. We think of grace as being soft, easy, getting a pass. But grace is the mightiest power you will ever see at work in your life. It is also the only power that brings real fruit to your walk with God—your prayer life, your witness, your good deeds in His name. Only as we enter fully into God’s grace will His church be stirred and empowered to walk in the glorious works He has set before us.

After reading this, are you still striving to be perfect? There is only one entrance to the path of perfection: the gate of grace. You are already perfect in God’s eyes through the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. Now, here is your responsibility: Stop striving.

Your efforts only send you backward, not forward. They cause you to miss God’s grace completely—grace that brings freedom, joy and power to do all that God has called you to do. The fact is, you are going to need grace upon grace as you go forward with Jesus. So now is not the time to redouble your efforts. It is time to trust that Christ has provided all the grace you need—at every step—to walk in the unique calling He has for you.

Friday, August 16, 2013

THE UNGODLY ALLIANCE

King Jehoshaphat was a righteous man who ruled over Judah when the kingdom of Israel was divided. This man's heart was fully set on God, and he was blessed and honored above all others in his generation: "And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David" (2 Chronicles 17:3).

Yet, Scripture says, Jehoshaphat made an alliance with evil King Ahab, who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel: "Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab" (18:1). The Bible says of Ahab, "[He] did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him" (1 Kings 16:33).

You may wonder how a righteous king like Jehoshaphat ended up joined in alliance with such an ungodly man. I believe there is only one reason: It was part of a satanic plot to destroy the righteous Jehoshaphat!

You see, Jehoshaphat had purged the land, driving out all the idols of Baal and slaying the idolatrous prophets. Yet Ahab's wicked wife, Jezebel, worshiped Baal and she knew what Jehoshaphat had done to her idols. So she set her sights to bring down this godly man!

Jezebel devised a plot with her wicked daughter, Athaliah, to infiltrate Jehoshaphat's godly court. Athaliah met Jehoshaphat's son, Jehoram, and she used all her charms to win his heart. The plan worked and Jehoram chose to marry Athaliah. He asked his father for his blessing and foolishly, Jehoshaphat granted it.

Because of this marriage, evil had entered Jehoshaphat's inner circle and the devil must have danced with glee! Jehoshaphat could have warned his son that Athaliah was a rebellious woman who would lead him away from God, but he didn’t. He could have counseled him to drop the relationship right away but, instead, Jehoshaphat said nothing.

Jehoshaphat had the Scriptures available to him; David had stated very clearly: "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful" (Psalm 1:1). Jehoshaphat knew this yet still he would not take a stand! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

CLOSEST FRIENDS

Who do you name as your closest friends? Believe it or not, this question is a matter of great concern to the Lord because your friendships speak loudly, both to God and to the world, about the condition of your heart.

"Lord, what do You think of my friendships? Are they pleasing to You?" Have you ever thought to ask Him these questions? The fact is, a righteous friend can provide a link to the blessing and favor of God, because he encourages you toward a godly lifestyle. On the other hand, an unrighteous friend can be a chain to every kind of evil, leading you into terrible bondages.

As I use the word friend throughout this message, I am not referring to immediate family members. My definition of a friend here is someone with whom you are closely associated, one in whom you naturally confide. In short, a friend is someone with whom you walk and talk and to whom you bare your soul.

You probably have various circles of friends: a "business" circle, which includes your coworkers, partners or clients; a "social" circle, which includes those with whom you associate on a surface level. You also may have contact with ungodly acquaintances. The apostle Paul says it's impossible for us to avoid these kinds of contacts; otherwise, we would have to leave the world altogether!

Yet the circle God cares about most is your intimate circle, your bosom pals. These are the people you love most, and who most influence your life. You are naturally attracted to one another, and you agree on most things so you feel safe opening your heart to each other.

The Bible tells us we are not to be ignorant concerning Satan's seductions. And one of the devil's most common attacks against us is to bring into our inner circle of friends someone who is walking in deception, an agent of hell who is on a mission to destroy us. Satan especially uses this ploy with lonely or compassionate Christians. He tries to turn an undiscerning person's kindness into an affinity with an evil spirit!

“Do not be deceived: evil communications [companions] corrupt good manners [people]” (1 Corinthians 15:33). 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

PAY IN PRAISE

God never complains about the power of His enemies, but rather the impatience of His own people. God wants us to rely on His love because love is the principle He constantly acts from and from which He never swerves. When He frowns with His brow, rebukes with His lips, or strikes with His hand, even in all this, His heart burns with love and all His thoughts toward us are of peace and goodness.

All hypocrisy lies in distrust, and the soul that cannot rely on God cannot long be true to Him. Once we start to question His faithfulness, we begin to live by our own wits and care for ourselves. Like the backslidden children of Israel, we are saying, "Come, make us gods . . . we do know not what has become of [Moses]" (Exodus 32:1, NKJV).

How can love for God be preserved in the heart that grumbles? The Word calls it “contending with God.” Only a foolish person dares find fault with Him. He will challenge such a person to lay his hand upon his mouth or else be consumed with bitterness.

The Holy Spirit within us groans with that unutterable language of heaven that prays according to the perfect will of God. But the fleshly grumble that proceeds out of the heart of the disenchanted believer is poison. Grumbling kept an entire nation out of the Promised Land, and today it is keeping multitudes from the blessings of the Lord. Groan if you must, but God forbid that you should grumble.

God's promises, which He says will hold us, are like the ice on a frozen lake. The believer ventures out on it with boldness but the unbeliever with fear, lest it should break under him and leave him floundering.

If God is delaying, it simply means your request is gaining interest in His bank of blessings. The saints of God were so assured of His faithfulness to His promises that they rejoiced even before seeing any conclusions. They went on joyfully, as if they had already received. God wants us to pay in praises before we receive the promises!

The Holy Ghost assists us in prayer, and is He not welcome at the throne? Will the Father deny the Spirit? Never! That groaning in your soul is no less than God Himself—and God will not deny Himself.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

FAITH SHOULD HAVE A GOOD MEMORY

The believing soul, after he has unburdened his heart in prayer to the Lord, resigns himself to the faithfulness, goodness, and wisdom of God. The true believer will leave the shaping of the answer to God's mercy. Whatever way God chooses to answer, the believer will welcome it.

David prayed diligently for his household, and then committed all to God's covenant: "Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant" (2 Samuel 23:5).

Those who prescribe to God how and when to answer actually limit the Holy One of Israel. Since God will not bring the answer in the front door, they are not aware of His coming in the back. They trust only in conclusions and not promises. But God will not be bound up to time, manner, or means of answering. He will forever do exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or think of asking. He will answer with health, or grace that is better than health. He will send love, or something beyond it. He will deliver, or do something even greater.

He desires that we simply leave our requests lodged in His powerful arms, cast all our care upon Him, and go forth with peace and serenity to wait His answer. How tragic to have so great a God and so little faith in Him.

When you are down, and Satan whispers in your ear that God has forgotten you, stop his mouth with this: "Devil, it is not God who has forgotten, but it is me. I've forgotten all His past blessings, or else I could not now be questioning His faithfulness."

Faith should have a good memory. Our rash and hasty words are results of our forgetting His past benefits. With David, we should pray, "This is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old" (Psalm 77:10-11). 

Monday, August 12, 2013

EMPOWERED BY HIS GRACE by Gary Wilkerson

God’s grace has to cover whatever He calls us to do. See if these words describe your walk with the Lord: burdened, stressed, heavyhearted, mentally drained, fatigued. These are the outcomes whenever we double our fleshly efforts to please God. They are clear signs that the law, not God’s grace, is in operation.

The freedom Christ won for us on the cross is not just good news for the lost, it is good news for every believer. Yet many continue to live under a cloud thinking they are not a quality son or daughter to God. They think He loves them because He has to. The gospels tell us differently. Jesus called all twelve of the sinful, flawed, imperfect disciples to Him because He wanted their friendship: “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, ESV).

Jesus chose to share the deep desires of the Father’s heart with these friends. He has also done that with you when you chose to follow Him. So when you go to Him in prayer or walk into church, His attitude isn’t, “Not you again.” The opposite is true! He wants to be with you, to sit beside you, to be your friend, because He is actually pleased with you.

You may think, “How could that be? Nothing I see in my life could possibly be pleasing to the Lord.” That’s why Scripture tells us, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4, ESV). It is impossible for anyone to live according to the law for very long. We may keep telling ourselves, “I’ll get it right tomorrow. I just have to reenergize myself ,” but we cannot maintain it. Eventually we are overcome by an impossible burden, and we come to the end of ourselves. Jesus is the one waiting for us at the end of all our self-efforts. Only in Him do we find true freedom. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

THE POWER OF PRAYER

When we question the power of prayer, we lose it. The devil is trying to rob us of hope by making it appear that prayer is no longer effective.

How clever Satan is, as he tries to deceive us with lies and unnecessary fears. When Jacob was brought the false news that Joseph had been killed, it sickened him to despair, even though it was a lie. Joseph was alive and prospering, while all this time his father grieved in sorrow, having believed the lie.

Unbelieving fears rob the believer of joy and confidence in God. God does not hear all prayer, He hears only believing prayer. Prayer is the only weapon we have against the enemy and must be used in great confidence, or else we have no other defense against Satan's lies.

We think God has not heard us because we see no evidence of an answer. But you can be sure that the longer a prayer is delayed, the more perfect it will come forth at last. Also, the deeper the silence, the louder the answer!

Our lack of patience is proof enough that we do not expect much from prayer. We leave the secret closet of prayer, ready to go on muddling our way through; it seems we would even be shocked if God did answer.

Abraham prayed for a child and God answered. Yet, how many years went by before he held that child in his arms? Every faithful prayer is heard the moment it is prayed, but God chooses to answer in His own way and in His own time. Meanwhile, He expects us to rejoice in the naked promises and feast on hope while we wait for the fulfillment. Also, He wraps His denials in the sweet package of love, to prevent us from falling into despair.

“For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

PRAYER AND OBEDIENCE

We sometimes go to God in prayer as if He were a rich relative who will support us and give us all we beg for, while we lift not even a hand to help. We lift our hands to God in prayer, and then put them in our pockets.

We expect our prayers to get God to working for us while we sit idly by, thinking to ourselves, "He has all the power; I have none, so I will simply stand still and let Him do the work."

It sounds like good theology, but it is not. God will have no idle beggars at His door. He will not even allow us to be charitable to those on earth who refuse to work.

"We commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

There is nothing unscriptural about adding sweat to our tears. Take, for example, the matter of praying for victory over a secret lust that lingers in the heart. Do you simply ask God to take it away miraculously, then sit by, hoping it will die on its own? No sin has ever been slain in the heart without the cooperation of man's own hand, as in the case of Joshua. All night long, he lay prostrated and mourning over Israel's defeat. God set him on his feet saying, “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them. . . . Up, sanctify the people” (Joshua 7:10-13).

God has every right to rouse us from our knees and say, "Why sit around lazily, waiting for a miracle? Have I not commanded you to flee from the very appearance of evil? You are to do more than simply pray against your lust—you are commanded also to run from it. You cannot rest until you have done all that is commanded."

Do not blame God for not listening to your prayers if you are not listening to His call to obedience. You will end up blaspheming God and accusing Him of negligence, while all along you will be the culprit. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DELAYED AND DENIED PRAYERS

“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3).

God will answer no prayer that adds to our honor or assists our temptations. In the first place, God does not answer the prayer of a person who harbors lust in his heart. All answers are dependent upon the plucking out of our hearts the evil, the lust, and the besetting sins.

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" (Psalm 66:18).

The test of knowing whether or not our request is based on lust is very simple. How we handle delays and denials is the clue. Prayers founded on lust demand hasty answers. If the lusting heart does not get the desired thing quickly, it whimpers and cries, swoons and faints—or it breaks out in a spell of murmuring and complaining, finally accusing God of deafness.

“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not" (Isaiah 58:3).

The lustful heart cannot see God's glory in His denials and delays. Yet did God not get more glory by denying Christ's prayer to save His life, if possible, from death? I shudder to think of where we would be today had God not denied that request.

God, in His justice, is obligated to delay or deny our prayers until they are purged of all selfishness and lust.

Could there be one simple reason why most of our prayers are hindered? Could it be a result of our ongoing flirtation with a lust or besetting sin? Have we forgotten that only those with clean hands and pure hearts can set their feet on His holy hill? Only a total forsaking of a pet sin will throw open the gates of heaven and unclog the blessings.

Instead of yielding, we run from counselor to counselor, trying to find help to cope with despair, emptiness, and restlessness. Yet, it is all in vain because sin and lust have not yet been plucked out. Sin is the root of all our problems. Peace comes only when we surrender and forsake all secret sin. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

ABORTED PRAYERS

We are not at liberty to pray randomly for whatever our selfish minds conceive nor are we permitted to come into His presence and vent our silly notions and mindless ramblings. If God signed all our petitions without discretion, He would end up giving away His glory.

There is a law of prayer, a law meant to weed out self-centered prayers, while at the same time making it possible for honest seekers to ask in confidence. In other words, we can pray for whatever we will, as long as it is His will.

"And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:14).

The disciples were not praying according to God's will when they prayed with vindictiveness. They petitioned God thusly, “‘Do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what manner of spirit you are of’” (Luke 9:54-55, NASB).

Job, in his sorrow, begged God to take his life away. What if God had answered his prayer? Such praying was contrary to the will of God. The Word warns, "Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God” (Ecclesiastes 5:2).

Daniel prayed the right way. First, he went to the Scriptures and searched out the mind of God. Then, after receiving clear direction, and sure of God's will, he ran to God's throne with a mighty assurance. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer” (Daniel 9:3).

We know too much about what we want and too little about what God wants. Our prayers are aborted when they are not according to His will.

Monday, August 5, 2013

GRACE AND RESPONSIBILITY by Gary Wilkerson

I have a default system at work, a reflex that springs into motion whenever I fall short in my walk with the Lord. I’m talking about my tendency to turn to works rather than to God’s incredible grace to reestablish my standing with Him.

I believe most of us have such a system; it is why Paul emphasizes God’s grace again and again throughout the New Testament. In letter after letter, he hammers home the sufficiency of grace for our right relationship with the Lord.

Yet this default system—the urge to turn to works to make up for our shortcomings—is constantly at work in us. The reason I preach grace so often is because I need it! At times my church must think I overdo it, because people say to me, “I know I’m under grace, but what is my responsibility?” That is a good question. In a covenant of grace—one in which God has done everything required for our salvation—what part do we play?

For many of us, the concept of grace holds no power in our daily walk. We know God has bestowed on us precious, costly gifts in His Son and the Holy Spirit; therefore, we think we should not fail or fall short. So when we do, we’re surprised. It does not compute that we could still be awful sinners after all God has done for us and we picture Him shaking His head in regret.

We convince ourselves we can do better and so we double our efforts at prayer, at Bible reading, at getting involved in ministry. We do this knowing full well our works do nothing to gain right standing with God. Do we really think more works are what God wants from us? Two hours of prayer instead of one? Does He really want us busier?

Only two things result from these efforts to save ourselves. First, we avoid facing up to our sinfulness. Second—and much worse—we rob ourselves of drinking from God’s deep well of grace. Paul faced this dilemma early on in the church. When the Christians in Galatia tried to please God through works of the law, Paul confronted them: “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” (Galatians 3:1-2, ESV). Paul was asking, “Do you really think you can improve on the cross?”

Friday, August 2, 2013

TROUBLERS OF ISRAEL

Who are the real troublemakers in the house of God today? It is not the Elijah company, who sigh and cry over the abominations of the church. It is not those who expose sin and testify against the wicked deeds of religious leaders and those at ease in Zion. No, all division is caused by compromise. All trouble in God's house is the result of apostasy and the forsaking of the Lord's commandments. "For where envying and strife is, there is disorder and every evil work" (James 3:16).

Paul warns the brethren to "mark them which cause divisions . . . and avoid them" (Romans 16:17). But who were these who "caused offenses contrary to the doctrine taught?" They were none other than a self-centered, backslidden group who "served their own belly" (verse 18). This proves that division is caused by proud, arrogant catering to self-interests. Paul said, "By good words and fair speeches [they] deceive the hearts of the simple (unsuspecting)" (verse 18). Those who are soft on sin, overlooking evil deeds and crying unity, are the real divisionists. The true body of Christ has never been nor ever will be divided. Those in holy union with Christ are already united to each other. Sin is the divider!

Paul and Silas were brought before the magistrates of the city of Philippi, having been accused of "exceedingly troubling" the city (Acts 16:20). They were beaten and cast into prison as a result of the trouble they had caused. What was this exceeding great trouble? Paul and Silas had cast a fortune-telling spirit out of a damsel who had "brought her masters much gain by soothsaying. . . . And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas" (Acts 16:16 and 19).

When self-interest is threatened in any way, the cry goes up, "Troublemakers! Division! Threat to unity!" Paul and Silas had uncovered a religious con game, a demonic deception under the guise of religion. It was a very profitable scheme for a select few who knew how to manipulate undiscerning crowds. What raised the cry, "Division"? It was a revival of cleansing. Those who accused Paul and Silas of causing dissension had ulterior motives and they refused the call to repent and walk in holiness.

God, give us more troublers of Israel who are not afraid to stand up against religious hypocrisy and disobedience! 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

ELIJAH

Elijah's hatred for the sins of Israel sprang out of his very strong love for God's people. He was not a people hater, only a sin hater. He was not a man of revenge, but rather a man whose heart yearned for Israel's return to the Lord. To understand the spirit and power that was upon Elijah, you must hear his heartbroken cry on Mount Carmel: "Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell . . . and when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces" (1 Kings 18:37-39).

Elijah was not at all interested in being validated as a prophet. He wanted only to see the honor of God restored and the backslidden in heart "returned to the Lord." True prophets, though they may sound hard against sin, are at heart merciful, kind and patient. And when they see real biblical repentance, they are builders and restorers of breaches.

I believe there exists today an Elijah company of true shepherds. Not all preachers are backslidden or self-serving. I am hearing from a growing number of holy shepherds who have been wounded and rejected by uncaring sheep. Some are being literally driven out of their churches for preaching holy standards. But cruelest of all are the so-called prophecies and denunciations from harsh "prophetic voices" that have no mercy or redemptive quality to them.

If you should ever hear a "prophet" pronouncing curses on anyone, you can be sure he is not walking in the Spirit of Christ. He is often a proud, self-proclaimed Elijah, full of arrogance and lust. The Word says clearly, "Bless, and curse not" (Romans 12:14). Those who go about speaking of cursing ought to shudder at these warnings: "As he loved cursing, so let it come unto him: as he delighted not in blessing, so let it be far from him. As he clothed himself with cursing like as with a garment, so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones" (Psalm 109:17-18).

The Elijah company is comprised of a weeping people and any prophetic word that comes forth from their lips is bathed in tears. In brokenness and godly sorrow, they walk in repentance. They refuse to wink at sin and they fear no man or devil when it comes to standing up for the honor of Christ.