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Devotions

Programs and Plans but No Place for Jesus

Gary WilkersonMay 11, 2020

In John 2, Jesus enters the temple for an act that would signal the beginning of his public ministry. What takes place next is quite dramatic:

“The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, ‘Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.’ His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:13-17).

What Jesus does here is more than radical. Tell me, if you wanted to announce your ministry, would you go into a megachurch and start turning over tables and driving people away? Jesus was up to more here than just showing his authority. He was demonstrating that he was about to turn things upside down in every way.

Yet when Jesus began this upheaval, he was overturning more than the moneychangers’ trade. He was overturning a religious system that for millennia had relied on animal sacrifices to please God. Christ was stating in essence, “Your relationship to the Father will no longer be based on sacrifices of sheep and goats and doves. It’s going to be based on my once-for-all-time sacrifice for you.”

That scene in the temple offers an analogy for our time. A lot of congregations today are filled with noise and activity. They have many programs in place, from overseas mission trips to local outreaches to dozens of small fellowship groups. The worship services can be full of bright lights, powerful sound and amazing energy. Yet sometimes amid all this lively activity something is missing at the center: Jesus himself.

I’m not suggesting we start turning over book tables in church foyers. But without Christ as the focus of our activities, our church is dead. No matter how hard we work to do things that serve and honor his name, none of our “sacrifices” in themselves can achieve true kingdom results. From the outside our fellowship may look righteous, but if we don’t maintain a focus on Jesus we’ll be a church full of dead men’s bones.

As Jesus overturned all those tables he cried out, “Take these things away!” (John 2:16). Likewise today, our temples are to be cleansed of anything that takes the place of his rightful lordship. God sends Jesus to rid us of those things, to prepare room for the things he wants to fill us with. He wants our temple to be once again a house of prayer, faith and kingdom victory.

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The Strength to Go Again

Claude HoudeMay 9, 2020

“When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ The centurion answered and said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me” (Matthew 8:5-9).

The scripture goes on to describe how Jesus marveled at the great faith of this man. In fact, he told the man that he had never seen such great faith, such great conviction, persuasion and confidence. Then Jesus said to him, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you” (8:13). The man’s servant was healed in the same hour!

In the Old Testament, we see Elijah, a man of great faith and Christ-like compassion. There had been a drought in Israel for a very long time, and Elijah began to cry out to the Lord to send rain upon the land. He was so confident God would send rain that he proclaimed, “There is the sound of abundance of rain” (18:41). Then Elijah told his servant, “‘Go up now, look toward the sea.’ So he went up, looked and said, ‘There is nothing.’ Seven times, Elijah said, ‘Go again’ (18:43). All the while, Elijah contended in prayer until “there was a heavy rain” (18:45).

We go through seasons of drought, times when God says, “Go again; pray again; stand again; release again; love again; trust again; surrender again; worship again; praise him again!” True faith celebrates the rain drops before the abundance of rain comes.

Jesus marveled in wonder and joy at the faith of the centurion at Capernaum. God rewarded Elijah’s faith and patience with a mighty downpour. So do not give up on God’s promises to you. Ask God for strength to “go again” and again and again until your answer comes.

Claude Houde is the lead pastor of Eglise Nouvelle Vie (New Life Church) in Montreal, Canada. Under his leadership New Life Church has grown from a handful of people to more than 3500 in a part of Canada with few successful Protestant churches.

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Loving Others in Spite of Their Sins

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)May 8, 2020

One of the supreme marks of a mature believer is love for all of lost humankind. Such a Christian shows love equally for Jews and Palestinians, for Bosnians and Serbs, for everyone.

Only a full-grown, mature believer can accept these words of Jesus: "Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you and spitefully use you. If your enemy is hungry, feed him." I ask you: can you imagine spending a month in a Palestinian field hospital, nursing and feeding soldiers who want to destroy Israel? Can you keep your prejudices in check as you read inflammatory news reports in the coming days? Will you have the same spirit that was in Christ, who said as he was crucified, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"?

If you want to walk as Jesus walked, you can't allow your human passions to be inflamed by headlines. Christ died for every lost soul on this earth! Right now, our jails are filled with convicts who have become powerful witnesses of the saving love of Jesus, all because somebody loved them in spite of their sins.

Are you loving others in spite of how they may have hurt you, someone you care about or simply because they might be different than you? There are few things that make you more like Christ than when you sacrificially love someone, especially someone not in your circle or easy to naturally be around.

You can know you're growing in grace if you're able to pray for those whom the world hates. As we hear of terrible things happening, we're to stand against every prejudice that rises up in us, and declare, "I take Christ's authority over this. I will love humankind as my Lord did."

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A Heart That Can Discern the Times

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)May 7, 2020

When the economy collapses, jobs are lost and bills are piling up, what will people need? To be a part of a nice, fast-growing church, hearing messages on how to enjoy life? No, they’ll need answers. They’ll need someone with authority who can interpret what’s happening around them, someone who can read the times. And they’ll need a word from heaven to keep their hearts and minds in God’s peace.

Jesus, though God in flesh, faced the devil as a Spirit-empowered man. He didn’t fight Satan on any other grounds. Jesus’ disciples had this same power: “And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease” (Matthew 10:1). “I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy” (Luke 10:19).

The apostle Peter was made of flesh and blood, just like the rest of us, yet he wielded spiritual authority over the devil. He said to the lame man at the temple gate, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6).  The man was instantly healed and the religious leaders of the day recognized great power in Peter. They asked him, “By what power or by what name have you done this? (4:7).

Nowhere in the Bible do we see any suggestion that this same power isn’t meant for us today. What kind of God would empower his people in the wilderness when they needed it and embolden the crowds at Pentecost and then withhold it from his last-days church, when we need it more than any generation?

God entrusts his divine authority only to what Peter calls the “hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle spirit and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4). Paul says, “The inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Although the outward man is always on display before others, the hidden man is known only by God. The Holy Spirit is constantly at work in him, strengthening and preparing him to receive spiritual authority.

Beloved, you are being trained and matured in God’s mercy and you’re learning to grow in your hidden man. Trust in his Word in every crisis — and walk in your spiritual authority.

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How to Deal With Your Afflictions

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)May 6, 2020

Right now, many of God’s people are suffering — physical pain, emotional turmoil — and they may be questioning the reason for their distress. If you are one of these, you may feel tired and frustrated, wondering if God is mad at you for some reason. You ask, “Lord, you know I love you and my faith is strong. But I don’t know how much longer I can endure this trial.”

The apostle Paul’s life is an example of how we’re to deal with our afflictions: “For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

Trials and sufferings are appointed to devoted servants who receive revelations from the very heart of God. Paul testifies, “Lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me” (2 Corinthians 12:7). If you’ve set your heart wholly on Christ, you’re going to experience hard times and afflictions that cold, carnal Christians know nothing about. This was true of Paul’s life.

When Paul was converted, he wasn’t satisfied to learn Christ even from Jesus’ disciples. He wanted to know the Lord intimately for himself. Therefore, Paul said, “I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood” (Galatians 1:16). Instead, he shut himself off in Arabia for three years (see 1:16-18). The apostle testified, “I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:12).

Thank God for Bible teachers who open up the scriptures and reveal many wonders and mysteries of the faith. But the fact is, the revelation of Jesus Christ himself cannot be taught, it must be given by the Holy Spirit. And it comes to those who, like Paul, shut themselves up in their own Arabia, determined to know Christ.

It is all right to question God regarding your pain but don’t expect an answer. Once you’re in heaven, the Lord will explain all to you and you’ll see that everything was part of a perfect plan — orchestrated by a loving Father who knew what it would take to keep you on your face, moving toward him. And the wonderful news is that it will be more than worth every tear.

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