Anyone who has traveled with a specific destination in mind knows that before you head out on the road, it helps to map out your route. If you're not lucky enough to own a GPS, then you at least need to use a road atlas or go online and map out your route using a mapping service such as MapQuest.
As many people travel down life's highway in search of happiness, they figure they'll run into it somewhere, someday. They head off in a general direction, assuming happiness will pop up on the way like a highway sign directing them which way to turn, how many miles to go, and what exit to take to get there. Happiness, however, isn't like a tourist attraction, an all-you-can-eat buffet, or a theme park. read more
Have you ever prayed and felt that the ceiling of the church was a sheet of brass? Has your worship ever felt as though you were speaking into a hollowed log? Or have you ever prayed for a specific need to be met and felt like your words were lost in outer space? Biblically, prayers can be hindered (see 1 Pet. 3:7), delayed (see Dan. 10:11-13), and under some conditions, not even heard by the Lord (Mark 11:25). If prayers can be hindered, then so can the manifestation of your healing. read more
On one of my lunch hours, I went out and bought a new cell phone. I was ecstatic about the great offer a co-worker had clued me into—more minutes for literally the same amount of money I had been paying for my previous service, and no roaming charges! What a deal!
But I had no idea when I walked out of the cellular store reveling in my purchase, bag full of manuals, brochures and terms of contract in tote, that this new phone had many more capabilities than the ones that had first attracted me to it.
Back at work, I set the phone on my desk, unable to take time at that point to go over the extensive directions. I figured I would just leave it there and wait until the weekend—or some other convenient time—to delve into them.
When I finally activated the phone three days later and set up my voice mail and ring tone, I found myself at a crossroads. Should I brave the textbook-sized user manual? After all, my phone was turned on and functioning. I knew how to send and receive calls. What more did I need? I was good to go.
But the salesman’s pitch about the numerous features my phone had still rang in my ears: “You’ve got caller ID, call waiting, free phone calls to other people in our network…” So, I peeled back the shrink-wrap from the owner’s manual and began to skim it.
At first I was in awe. “Wow,” I thought. “I can send an e-mail from my phone! And would you look at that, I can access the Internet…hmmm, it even has voice-activated dialing. I wonder what else this compact wonder can do?”
Soon, however, I was overwhelmed by the thought of trying to implement all the special functions. “Where would I begin?” I wondered. “I don’t have a lot of time to fool around with all these settings, and I’m not very good at high-tech stuff.”
Eventually, I gave up. “I’m not going to be able to figure this out. I can just use the phone for normal calls and not worry about all this other stuff. Or maybe I’ll get to it later.”
For several days I walked around in cell-phone ignorance, just moving my phone in and out of my purse, hooking it into the wall to recharge, answering and initiating calls. One day, on my 40-minute commute home from work, I realized that the way I was handling my cell phone is the way many Christians handle the gifts and talents God has given them. He invests so many “features” in us—yet, like me with my cell phone, we don’t take the time out to find out what they are and cultivate what He has placed in us.
Instead, we go on in blind ignorance, using only the features that are more obvious and easy to access. We fail to delve into all the “settings” that God has programmed into us not only to bless Him but also to bless others.
In my case, I saw that I had left areas untapped at times because of fear of failure or busyness or just plain laziness. Like the man Jesus described who hid the talent his master gave him (see Matt. 25:18), I too, had buried His investment in me rather than using it wisely so that it would bring Him a return.
Needless to say, this little epiphany changed my way of thinking. I don’t want to receive the same response from God that the servant received from his master. The master called the man a “’wicked and lazy servant’” and took away the one talent he had given him (vv. 26,28, NKJV).
Shortly thereafter I sat down at my kitchen table with my mound of cell phone instructions and plodded through them. I read a good portion of the manual, and you know what? I’m still finding new features available to me! May it be so in all our lives as we hunger after the Lord and truly seek to develop the gifts He has placed in us!
Is the door of your heart open toward God? Can the Spirit of Jesus Christ come in and speak with you? Are you defenseless to His voice? Can you sense both His pleasure and His displeasure? For us to become sensitive to divine realities, we must live with the door of our hearts open. It is impossible to do the will of God otherwise.
King Hezekiah commanded the priests to carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. The call to clean the holy place was not an option; it was a command. "So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the Lord they brought out to the court of the house of the Lord" (2 Chr. 29:16, NASB).
When the priests entered the holy place, they entered alone; the rest of Israel was in the outer court and beyond. Here, privately before God, they were to remove those things that were defiling this sacred place. No one else had seen these desecrations. They could have remained in secret, and none except the priests would have known; but they did not. They brought out the unclean things. What was unholy was exposed publicly and removed.
From where did these abominations arise? Predominantly they were the sins of their forefathers—the traditions and offenses handed down to them from the wicked generation who preceded them. The careless approach to holiness, the unbelief toward the promises of God, and the idolatry and worship of man-made things were the products of a generation turned from God. They gave to their children, as a legacy, a society oppressed by sin and the devil.
In the new covenant temple, the church, it is our private, inner lives that need this deep cleansing. We have inherited traditions that justify and reinforce darkness of soul within us. Most Christians have little hope that purity of heart is even attainable. The revival that will turn a nation begins in the trembling unveiling of our hearts, in the removal of what is defiled and hidden within us.
I will tell you a mystery. It is in this very place, this chamber of our deepest secrets, that the door to eternity is found. If the Father is near enough to "see in secret" He is close enough to be seen in secret as well. If He has entered us, we can, in truth, enter Him. The key to entering the presence of God is intimacy, and intimacy is secrets shared. To ascend the hill of the Lord, to stand in the holy place, we must have clean hands and a pure heart; we cannot lift up our souls toward falsehood (see Ps. 24:3-4). At this door of eternity we must renounce those things hidden because of shame and, in humility of soul, receive Christ's cleansing word.
Our goal is not merely to be "good" but to see God and, in seeing Him, to do what He does. However, John tells us that he who seeks to "see Him just as He is … purifies himself, just as He is pure" (1 John 3:2-3, NKJV). We can be assured that each step deeper into the Lord's presence will reveal areas in our hearts that need to be cleansed. Do not be afraid. When the Spirit shows you areas of sin, it is not to condemn you but to cleanse you.
Let me give you an example. My wife set herself apart to seek the Lord. Her cry during this time was, "Lord, I want to see You." As she sought the Lord, however, He began to show her certain areas of her heart where she had fallen short. She prayed, "Lord, this is not what I asked for; I asked to see You, not me." The Holy Spirit comforted her, saying, "Only the pure in heart can see God."
In the same way, the Lord desires His church to see Him as well. Thus, He is exposing the areas in us that are unclean. If we will walk as Jesus walked, we must remember that Christ did only the things He saw the Father do (see John 5:19). Out of the purity of His heart He beheld God and then revealed His glory.
This cleansing must become a way of life, but it does not have to take a lifetime. For Hezekiah and the people with him, it occurred in a matter of eight days.
Our prayer should be to bring all the defilement of our flesh and spirit out of the secret chambers of our hearts and give them over to the Lord so that our hearts would be purged.
"O God, thoroughly cleanse my heart; purify me quickly! In Jesus' name."
Adapted from When the Many Are One, by Francis Frangipane, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. In this book the author calls us back to oneness with Christ, and through Him oneness with other Christians. With the character and power of Christ in our midst, the church can again bring transformation to our communities, our nation and our world. To order a copy click on this link: read more
There is hope in the middle of darkness. Usually in the midst of our dark times in life, we find ourselves filled with trauma and loss. These elements hide in our very cells. Trauma is like a snapshot from a camera. The picture of the trauma is stored deep in our brains, but the Holy Spirit wants to move in such a way that we are sovereignly delivered. He wants to give us a new perspective on life and the world around us.
When we do not deal with trauma effectively, we allow roots to grow that entangle our feet and keep us from moving forward on our new path of success. Trauma imprinted on our memory systems is also absorbed deep into the tissues of our brain (the processor) and affects our thoughts and our hearts. Trauma becomes the flashbulb that determines what we see and how we define the world around us. read more
Ever since I was 12, in 1957, I have had a vision for ministry and the harvest field. In 1981 that vision began to include Israel, particularly Jerusalem. God was so wonderful to give my husband and me the opportunity to share the love of Yeshua with those living in Israel not once but twice. We served there for three years and returned home. In 2007 we were able to go back and serve there for three months before having to come home.
Both times we left I felt a sense of loss, frustration and failure in having to return home from the city that had consumed our hearts and lives for so long. After leaving Jerusalem I asked the Lord: "Now what? Am I supposed to just sit back and retire?" I could not shake the restlessness. I felt unfulfilled and useless and went through a deep mourning thinking my "vision" had died. read more
Not to sound cliché, but when I was 28 I finally had come to realize that fathers really do know best. Now before you start thinking 1950s TV show here, let me explain.
Years ago when I decided to move out of my parents' home into an apartment, I was overwhelmed with the choices out there. I researched for weeks and drove to at least 10 different apartment complexes to check them out.
But I grew discouraged. All the apartments I looked at were unacceptable for some reason. They were too expensive or in the wrong location or didn't have the amenities I needed. I had begun to think there wasn't an apartment out there for me.
But one day I discovered a place that fit my price range and mostof what I was looking for, so I figured it must be the Lord's answer for me. The upkeep wasn't great, and the apartments were kind of jammed in on a small piece of property, but I thought it would do.
However, I decided that before I signed a lease, I would take my dad to see it. It had to pass the "dad" test. As we drove around the complex and then went into the model apartment, I could tell he was not impressed.
I was thrilled to have finally found something, and I thought Dad would be happy for me. What was wrong? Did he not trust my judgment?
Finally he told me he felt it wasn't the best choice for me. I grew really disheartened because I have learned from experience that when Dad had a check in his spirit about something, he was usually right.
Dad suggested that we go visit a quaint complex that I drive by every day on the way to work. I didn't even bother to call there when I first began my search because I thought the complex had only townhouses and would be out of my price range. But when we spoke to someone in the front office, we found out that it was an apartment complex.
Further research revealed that the apartments not only had all the amenities I was looking for in my price range but were aesthetically pleasing as well. In fact, the complex was a place I would LOVE to live—trees everywhere, a balcony overlooking a pond, a front patio, and a lake on the property. It was like a miniature home.
Clearly Dad had been right.
I learned some valuable lessons from this experience. First of all, I realized that I had been ready to settle for less than God's best. Yes, the other apartment wasn't bad, but it wasn't truly what I was looking for. It came close but was nevertheless a counterfeit for what God had purposed for me.
I also began to see why we need other people in our lives, whether it be family, friends or mentors, to give us a different perspective and keep us accountable.
Finally, I recognized that my response to my dad's hesitation was very much like my response to the Lord at times. I don't always like what He has to say or what He is telling me to do, but I know He has only the best intentions and plans for me, just like my precious earthly father. When He says no, He is not trying to rain on my parade or withhold things from me but instead is insuring that I receive His best.
It's not always easy to embrace this truth, especially when there is nothing in sight that appears to be better. But time and again I have seen in my own life that when the Lord convinces me to give up something or release my plans to Him, He gives me peace and brings about a result far better than I ever could have imagined.
So, the next time your dad suggests that you not buy that car you've been eyeing or not date that guy he feels uncomfortable about or not make that investment you and your spouse are considering, STOP! He's probably hearing from our heavenly Father, whose heart is "for you," not "against you" (see Rom. 8:31), and who wants to ensure that you receive His best. If your earthly father is no longer involved in your everyday affairs, rest assured that God Himself is a "father of the fatherless" (Ps. 68:5) and will direct you by His Spirit to all He has for you. read more
Breathe deeply. Do it again, please. Now, touch the most solid object near you and answer this question: Which of these two is most important in sustaining your life—breath or material things?
Simple to answer, isn't it? Breath, of course. Without breathing we cannot live. Our bodies need a constant supply of oxygen, and it's important for our lungs and respiratory system to work efficiently.
It's the same with God's Spirit, infused with His Word, which together are the source and sustaining power of our spiritual lives.
The one thing in this world that you and I can touch with our fingers that has "eternity" written into its fabric is the Word of God. Every time I take a Bible in hand, I hold eternity, because the life force inherent in the Word exceeds all time and space. Jesus said, "'Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away'" (Mark 13:31, NKJV).
Those words hold the seeds of life. Your life becomes durable, fulfilling and successful in direct proportion to the degree that the Word of God becomes as vital to you.
The Gospel of John says of Jesus that "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). The Word of God is the source of all substance and life. "In the beginning God created ... " (Gen. 1:1). He did that with His Word. Christ was there at Creation: "In the beginning was the Word" (John 1:1).
All that is, as well as all that ever shall be, flows to man by Jesus Christ through the Word of God!
I want to do my utmost to ensure you that you know how to keep on receiving the Word of God. I don't mean how to read it, how to memorize it, or how to study it, though all those practices are very important. My primary concern is that your input and application of the Word—as the life-giving breath of God, the very Spirit of the Word—will fill and fulfill your soul continually. It's the only way to keep the "rebuilt you" built up and expanding.
The Word of God is not simply information or facts. It is a living Word, and it is life giving, healing, protecting and invincible. You need to know how to let it work in you. If the Word's reality is at work in you, there is no way you will ever be less than filled with abundant life and fruitful living (see 2 Pet. 1:4,8).
"No word from God shall be without power"(Luke 1:37, The Amplified Bible). This verse, translated elsewhere, "For with God nothing shall be impossible," is a mighty statement. It tells us that every word God speaks contains the power needed to actuate it. Every word of His that directs our behavior also makes the new behavior possible.
This is why Paul assures the Philippians, "It is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13, NKJV) And again, "He who calls you is faithful, who will also do it" (1 Thess. 5:24)—a promise that when God gives an assignment to us, His words include enablement.
This is truly a reason for joy. It builds our repentance upon the foundation of deep, trusting faith rather than upon guilt and emotionalism.
A few years ago in my pastorate at The Church On The Way, a new understanding began to dawn on my soul. I was seeking the Lord for guidance concerning my own teaching ministry and inquiring of Him specifically concerning the mood and manner of our congregation's worship services.
The result of my quest was a slow but definite transformation in my approach to leading our services. The continued call throughout the psalms is to praise and rejoice before the Lord: "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11). In the same spirit, Paul insists of the Philippians, "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4, KJV).
The Word that created all the worlds is the Word that is completing you. Rest in that assurance, and rejoice in His Word as He "rebuilds the real you," the "you" He intended when He created you. Rebirth, redemption, restoration and recovery are only a part of His mission. He wants to bring you to the full realization of God's purposes, patterns and promises for your life. You can face tomorrow with joy.
Adapted from Rebuilding the Real You by Jack Hayford, copyright 2009, published by Charisma House. This book is a handbook on personal growth and restoration; it unfolds a clear picture of how the Holy Spirit works to help build you up and make you all God intended you to be. To order a copy click on this link: read more
While walking through the Publisher's Outlet in the lobby of our building where we sell all the items we publish here at Strang Communications, I was surprised to see a book I had bought a copy of about 14 years ago at a Christian bookstore. I found that our company had secured the copyright to this wonderful book.
When I had first seen the book, my daughters were 5, 13 and 15, so I was always looking for something that might be of interest to them and at the same time, make a positive impact on their lives. The book, The True Princess by Angela Elwell Hunt, looked like something the girls may want to read, and the pictures were beautiful.
I picked it up and started reading the story, which was about a King who had a beautiful little girl whom he loved very much. She had everything any little girl could ever want. Poets wrote poems and musicians sang songs about her. There were maids to dress her and jokers to make her laugh. And she had a caregiver, Nana, who took care of her, and her father, the king, who loved her.
Her father suddenly had to go away and was leaving her in the care of Nana. The princess was worried because she didn't know who would feed her, dress her, sing for her or make her laugh. The king explained that one day she would help rule the kingdom but she had to learn many things first. He comforted her by telling her that Nana would be with her and that because Nana was following his wishes, the princess would never be out of his care.
The King and Nana knew the princess had to be kept safe so they put her in regular clothes and hid her away from the palace in a little bakery house because "no one would expect the child of the king to be living as a servant."
Nana taught the princess how to dress herself and sing songs from her heart, and when the little girl put too much yeast into a loaf of bread and the dough exploded all over the kitchen, the princess learned to laugh at herself.
One day, news reached the kingdom that the king would be returning soon. Everyone had looked all over for the princess, but she could not be found. Many girls in the kingdom thought they could take her place so they spent hours making themselves ready.
When the king returned and was ready to receive his daughter, the guards opened the door and the king surprisingly found 25 little girls waiting for him, 24 beautifully dressed and one in a patched dress at the back of the crowd.
The king smiled at the crowd and asked the first little girl to help his servant put on his cloak. The little girl refused and said, "A true princess has maids to do that." The king stopped in front of the second little girl and asked her to sing a song for the kitchen helpers. That little girl frowned and said, "A princess hires singers to sing for them." The king paused in front of the third and asked her to tell his soldiers a funny story. She told him to "Call the royal jokers. That's what a REAL princess would do."
The king looked at the group and asked if there was anyone who would be willing to serve him in any way. The quiet girl in the patched dress spoke up and said, "I'd be happy to, Sire," she whispered. "Because I love you." The king hugged the little girl close and said, "It is love that marks the true daughter of the king."
Tears streamed down my face the first time I read the story, and it still touches my heart deeply whenever I read it. Why? Because it's the love story that I have come to know so well through my relationship with God.
I have told it to my children and will tell it to my grandchildren. The King went away but He left His Holy Spirit to teach us all things, "to guide [us] into all truth" (John 16:13, NKJV), so that we will be ready when He returns for us. We must be diligent to learn all He wants us to know. And when He returns, He will know us by our love! read more
On one of my trips to Washington, D.C., I prayed with a prayer group at various sites and memorials dedicated to our veterans who had given their lives for the cause of freedom.
All around me from newspaper stands I read glaring headlines of bombings in the Middle East, rapidly spreading genocide in Sudan, and threats and more threats from terrorists. The voices for violence, genocide and terrorism seemed to be overtaking the voices for freedom.
As I glanced at the papers, I saw other headlines reporting men and women being imprisoned, beaten or put to death for their faith in Christ. In this dark hour of the church, the voices for Christ are surely threatened, held hostage and being snuffed out.
"Lord, what's next?" I asked in desperation. "What's to become of the voices for Christ?
Then came that still small voice of His Spirit: "Is a voice not made for the purpose of speaking?"
I had my answer. Jesus has given us His Great Commission to make disciples the world over (see Matt. 28:18-20). Isn't His Great Commission still in effect even today?
I was reminded of Peter who had been imprisoned for his outspoken faith (see Acts 12:4-8). Behind prison walls, Peter had been placed under the terrorism of four squads of soldiers, bound tightly with two chains and secured between two soldiers. In Peter's darkest hour, it seemed as if his voice for Christ would be silenced forever. It appeared that all hope was lost-that his cause for Christ was too weak a match for the enemy.
But in that darkest hour, voices were still speaking out for Christ. Acts 12:5 states that, "Constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church" (NKJV). The results were miraculous—an angel rescued Peter and led him to freedom.
You and I must not be thrown by the persecutions and threats that come against believers today. We must not be discouraged to the point of not praying or speaking out as voices for Christ. After all, God's Word reveals we might be persecuted, but we are not forsaken (see 2 Cor. 4:9).
In John 10:10 Jesus warned us that "the thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy." Jesus also stated that He had come that we might have life and have it more abundantly. Was not the second part of His statement our promise of victory over all threats of the enemy? So why should we be thrown by the threats and attacks against our Christian faith?
You and I need to keep on speaking out for Christ, never ceasing to be thankful for the freedoms of this great country that still allow us to do so. read more