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Originally posted on Penniless Promoters:
Most people won’t read this whole article. Once you start talking about the poor, needy, & how we should help, too many people turn away. We have become numb to the true needs. Or we look and think it is too big, saying to ourselves “I can’t make a difference, so I won’t do anything.” Or “What can my dollar do? It’s not enough.”
I love the name of this Ministry, Gleaning For The World. Gleaning in the dictionary means to gather bit by bit, little by little, to gather after the reapers or regular gathers, or to gather what is left by reapers.
What they do is work with many generous corporate donors, they collect surplus medical & other essential supplies which they then, are able to distribute where humanitarian help is needed worldwide.
Their Mission is to share the love of God at home and around the world…
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This was taken at our event at Notre Dame University on Nov. 2-3, 2013
This was taken on our Event at Notre Dame University Nov. 2-3, 2013
Due to the tremendous increase in my schedule it has been awhile since my last post.
Saw You at The Pole was totally awesome. 4 great Bands rocking out for Jesus and people praying in small groups all over the auditorium.. What a powerful event!! This weekend, we will be with more great bands as on October 11 we travel to Calvin College for Tim Timmons and All sons and Daughters.. Then on October 12 and 13 we will be at the Lakeshore Vineyard Fellowship with The Neverclaim. I will be preaching to an intercessors group in attendance at the college and making contacts for our upcoming revival season at both venues.
I am still working to get caught up on my new booklet on Prayer Precedes Revival and should have another excerpt for you shortly. It is truly a labor of love from my heart. Angie and I are somewhat connected with the Vineyard movement now as well as IHop, and it has been revolutionary in our hearts toward genuine revival.
One of my biggest struggles this past year are those who have dropped away. It caused a heaviness my heart until the Lord healed me of that. Sometimes the biggest battle a true leader faces comes from within the camp; the stubborn and rebellious, the disengaged, those with a spirit of competition and indifference. But God has special folks He is raising up in these days who walk in overcoming power; march in rank, and fill the gaps created by others who, for whatever reason are prone to wander… So thankful for all the provision on every level that Father gives…. Preaching on this aspect of leadership next week. May we all be thankful that the Lord loves us so much that He requires change from us before forward movement….. Its easy for a preacher to know who is with them and who is not…… As Long as Jesus is… Thats all that matters!
It can also be a battle to move through the shadows of yesteryear. Today i got a clergy appreciation card from someone who said and did terrible things a couple years ago and instantly saw the chance at restoration. Its a good thing when Gods people can come back into true unity based on mutual respect. i was totally overwhelmed by this simple act of contrition.. Humbling.
My prayer as of late: Dear Lord, Cause the Glory and Fame of Jesus Christ to become my greatest passion and pursuit.. Send revival Lord to make Jesus known throughout the earth and to fulfill your promises to exalt your Son.. (Eph 1:15-23; Col. 1:15-20)…
Angie and I love you all and will see you next time…
NOT SO FAST, GOLIATH, NOT SO FAST!
by Carter Conlon
“Now the Philistines gathered together their armies to battle…And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together…And there went out a champion out of the camp of the Philistines, named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. And he had an helmet of brass upon his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; and the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of brass…He stood and cried unto the armies of Israel, and said unto them, Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye servants to Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us. And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together” (1 Samuel 17: 1–5, 8–10).
Our present moment in history is very similar to the time in which the Israelites were living when they faced this situation. Remember, they were the people of God, called to represent Him in the world. The miraculous didn’t belong to the Philistines, it belonged to Israel, who had personally witnessed God’s power and deliverance. Earlier in 1 Samuel, we read of some of the previous victories they had, even under King Saul: “So Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines: and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them” (1 Samuel 14:47).
Yet now as they faced Goliath, the Scripture tells us that “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:11). Isn’t that amazing? After a record of incredible victories and of God’s faithfulness, the Israelites now stood trembling under one voice that cried, “I defy you!” Threatened by a challenge that would make them servants to godlessness, they had no spirit or will to fight back. It was as if they had forgotten why God had left them in the earth in the first place—to be a testimony and a blessing; a visible display of the power of God.
HOW WE END UP POWERLESS
How is it that God’s people end up powerless before the taunts of the enemy? We find a clue when David, who became king after Saul, said, “And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul” (1 Chronicles 13:3).
In Saul’s victory days, when it seemed as if nobody could stand against the Israelites, the people of God put away the prayer meeting. The Ark was the presence of God, representing His forgiveness, mercy, power and provision. Yet they put it away and began to walk in their own strength, only to find themselves facing a giant that they could not contend with. We might rightfully say that God’s order was breaking down, and another order was threatening to take its place.
Similarly, the Church of Jesus Christ in this country has had her share of past victories, yet today we see God’s order rapidly breaking down as another order comes to take its place. If you don’t realize how ominous this is, very shortly you will. It is time for the Church of Jesus Christ to get back to the Ark of God! We must drop all the foolishness that is masquerading as the presence of God and get back into the prayer meeting again.
REJECTING THE FULL IMAGE OF GOD
The Scriptures point to another reason why the people of God end up powerless. Paul explains it in his letter to the Romans: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them…When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man…” (Romans 1:18–19, 21–23).
The problem is not that people don’t have truth—they just don’t value it. It is not that people do not study it, they refuse to wholeheartedly embrace it. They do not want what truly represents the glory and full image of God to be made manifest, so they change the image of God into the image of man. In other words, they fashion a more palatable Jesus and ultimately discernment is lost.
What happens to a nation when the Church is backslidden to this degree—when she has lost her voice and is virtually cast out as a nonplayer while society marches farther and farther away from godliness?
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another…And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:24–28).
Consider how accurately Paul’s description seems to fit of the society in which we currently live: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:29–32).
Not only do they do these things while claiming to possess some measure of the truth, they take pleasure in those who do them, as well. In other words, they settle for a vicarious enjoyment of sin through other people’s lives. They watch television and movies, content to be entertained by fornicators, liars, murderers and thieves. According to one commentator, the final step of reprobation in a nation is when we will not do it ourselves, but we will be entertained by others who do.
As the people of God have seemingly retreated into a place of powerlessness today, the voice of godlessness is rising once again. Remember that in his taunts, Goliath said to the armies of Israel, “If you cannot put somebody forward to fight this battle and win, then you will be our servants.” That means that unless we get back to the prayer meeting—unless we embrace truth once again and allow ourselves to be empowered by the Spirit of God—we will become servants to godlessness, and the freedoms in the house of God ultimately will be lost. Sharing the burden to see people set free from sin, from homosexuality, and other lifestyles that are a robbery of what God intended them to be, will soon be considered hate speech. I feel we are not very far from the day that it will be against the law.
And so, in a time when it might cost somebody something to stand up and face the giant, we must ask ourselves: Who will have the courage to fight?
THE SECRET BATTLES
There is only one solution: God must have a people who are fearless because they have personally experienced His supernatural power in unseen places. That was the case with a young man named David.
The Bible tells us that David went to Saul and said, “…Let no man’s heart fail because of him; thy servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (1 Samuel 17:32). “I will fight! You all have the training and the armor, yet you have lost touch with God! You are no longer gripped with a passion to see the glory of God revealed in the earth again, to see captivated souls set free.”
“And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth” (1 Samuel 17:33). It was as if the devil was now using Saul to try to discourage faith from coming into the battle again. “Look how small you are, you are only a kid. How are you ever going to stand up against this giant?”
David essentially replied, “While I was keeping my father’s sheep, along came a lion and a bear. They took a lamb out of my flock—a lamb I was given by my father to keep. So I went after them, smote them and delivered the lamb. And when the lion rose up against me, I grabbed hold of its mane. The Spirit of God came upon me, and I killed this lion! I won the victory over the lion and the bear, and now this godless Philistine who is standing up and challenging the honor of God will be just like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God” (see 1 Samuel 17:34–37).
David had already witnessed the miraculous; he had already won battles in secret places. That is why I implore you—do not play games; do not pretend to be free if you are not! Go into that secret closet of prayer, lay hold of the victory of Christ and say, “Devil, you are not having my mind! You are not getting my heart or my home! I don’t care how big you are or how small I am in your sight. I have the Spirit of God upon me, and in the name of Jesus, I take authority over you!”
VICTORY BY FAITH ALONE
Finally consenting to let David fight, Saul then tried to fit David with his armor. Now Saul’s armor probably had some marks on it to which he could point and say, “Here is where I once won the victory.” In a similar manner, there are pastors who might say to me today, “Aren’t you a little extreme? After all, we tried these methodologies, and they worked. Our church grew from two hundred to four hundred!” I can agree, just as David could agree with Saul, that yes, there are nicks on your armor from some past victories.
Nevertheless, we now have come to a season when this armor will no longer suffice. It is faith alone that will win the battle. Imagine if David had approached the Philistine with a survey, saying, “Goliath, I’m sorry you are enraged against us, but what will it take to get you to come to our church? A nine-foot bed? A twenty-five foot swimming pool?” No! David had seen the miraculous power of God. He had won victories that were supernatural, partaking of strength that could come only from the Lord. He had found some other weaponry.
Paul speaks of this weaponry in 2 Corinthians 10:4–5: “(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strog holds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
What was the imagination in this case? Goliath imagined that because of his size and xperience, he would be victorious. Yet he failed to realize that he had exalted himself against the knowledge of God, and that all God required was somebody of faith to rise up again—somebody who was not playing carnal games in the house of God; somebody who had won battles that nobody else knew of.
David pressed past the threats and the scorn, just as we must not be hindered by the ridicule of the godless in this hour. “Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). In other words, “You have defied God! You stand here with your boasts and your weaponry, claiming that you can make us servants to godlessness. But I want you to know that you are not standing against us, you are standing against God!”
“This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee…and all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:46–47). The battle is the Lord’s! We are not going to match you force for force, and we are not going to win this in the political arena. We are going into the prayer closet, and we will come out strengthened by the Spirit of God!
“And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone…” (1 Samuel 17:49–50). In other words, David was not fighting with human strategy or effort. The only thing he had was complete dependence on God. He took off Saul’s armor and instead went to a brook and picked up five smooth stones. I don’t know how long those stones had been there before they were made smooth, but in a sense they were weapons that had been fashioned by the hand of God—just as we have been given the weapon of prayer, the weapon of being set apart, the weapon of embracing the Word to the point that it takes precedence over everything that this world is trying to tell us.
David went into the battle with only what had been given by the hand of God. We see this repeated over and over throughout the Scriptures—the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. God uses the Esthers and the Gideons; the barren wombs of Elisabeth and Hannah. The armies of Israel knew this truth, but they didn’t believe it. They instead resorted to human reasoning and natural strategies. This, too, has been the great folly of the church in America today.
IT IS TIME TO FIGHT
God help us now, for these dark and ominous days require men and women of faith. I challenge you to win those secret battles now. Don’t hold on to areas of unsurrendered defeat in your own life. Learn to live for the honor of God rather than the preservation of self. Go into the prayer closet and fight it out in the strength of God. Do not let the devil have even an inch, concluding, “All right, he took one lamb. I have ninety-nine left—big deal! Who is going to notice?” No! Go after it, for this is essential in the school of faith. We must learn to say, “We give absolutely no ground to the devil!”
The time has come to stand anddeclare the Word of God unashamedly; to fight for those who are lost, for unborn children, for our families, for our marriages, for the future of this nation! It is time to fight for what God has entrusted to us in this generation. Be aware that as you and I rise up to face the challenges of our day, everything we naturally fear will start moving toward us to convince us that our faith in God is useless. But that is when we must continue to press forward in the power of God, looking these man-made giants straight in the eye, declaring, “Not so fast, Goliath! Not so fast!”
©2013 Times Square Church
PRESSING INTO FEARFUL PLACES
by Carter Conlon
The book of Second Kings speaks of a time when the Syrian army surrounded Samaria in the northern part of Israel and cut off the city’s food supply. This resulted in an intense famine in the land, bringing people to a point of such desperation that they resorted to cannibalism.
Have you ever noticed that when things go wrong, people tend to blame God and His people? That is exactly what happened in this case. The king of Israel became infuriated at the prophet Elisha, threatening to take off his head because of the unspeakable hardship that had come upon the city. By the time the king appeared before Elisha, he was so weak that he had to lean on the messenger who was with him.
The word of God then came to them through Elisha: “Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). In other words, within twenty-four hours, provision would be available at such a cheap price that everybody would be able to afford it. There would be a supply beyond their wildest imagination! Yet, what was the servant’s response to this incredible news? “Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (2 Kings 7:2).
What a tragedy! Can you think of a more pitiful spiritual condition than seeing the provision of God right before your eyes but not being able to partake of it? That is exactly what unbelief does. It locks us out of the incredible provision of God.
Imagine, for example, that you were given a free ticket to one of the finest restaurants in town. You have the privilege of going in and ordering anything on the menu that you would like. The food is delicious beyond belief and will surely satisfy your deepest hunger. So you go down to the restaurant and stand on the street corner, peering through the window. You see all the people eating inside, and indeed the food looks good. But you are still on the other side of the window.
Somehow it is a strange affliction of humanity that we just cannot bring ourselves to go into unfamiliar places. Instead, we begin to think of all the reasons why we cannot go in and claim what was freely put into our hands. Will I be embarrassed when it becomes obvious that I have never been in a place like this before? What if I get inside and nobody serves me? What if I find out my ticket is not valid? How will I pay? And so we remain on the outside, looking in.
OUTSIDE OF THE PROMISED LAND
Sadly, that is how many people approach the Scriptures. They see what God says in His Word, they can quote His promises, they can sing about His faithfulness—but the question is, do they truly believe what He spoke? Oftentimes a deep, embedded fear remains in their heart, so they come up with a myriad reasons as to why they cannot claim the inheritance of God.
We find a similar response in the book of Numbers when Moses commissioned twelve men to spy out the Promised Land. “And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down from thence a branch with one cluster of grapes, and they bare it between two upon a staff; and they brought of the pomegranates, and of the figs…And they returned from searching of the land after forty days. And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel…and brought back word unto them…and said, We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it floweth with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it. Nevertheless the people be strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very great: and moreover we saw the children of Anak there” (Numbers 13:23–28).
The spies came back and essentially said, “What God said is true. We saw the provision, and indeed it is a land that flows with milk and honey!” However, not only did they see this incredible provision, they also saw the walled cities, the weaponry, the sons of the giants. As a result, ten of the spies focused on all the reasons why this Promised Land could not be theirs.
Now I want you to draw a parallel to the way we read the Word of God. You and I are always faced with a choice. We can see God’s provision and say, “Yes, it is there. It is true, and it is mine. I am going in to get my full inheritance!” Or we can stand there and say, “I see it; God’s promises are clear. But my parents told me I was useless. My teacher said I would never amount to anything. I don’t have much of an education. God, You know I am facing the giants. I see Your promises, but can’t I just admire them from afar? Surely You understand how limited my strength is and how big the obstacles are. Are You really offended if I choose to stay on the street and just look in the window?”
IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PAID FOR
Years ago, I received a complimentary dinner for four to one of the finest restaurants in the city. I saved it and took my father and mother there for their fiftieth anniversary. The maitre d’ sat us in one of the best booths, and we were presented with a menu offering an extensive array of dishes, listed at incredible prices.
When it came time to order, the poor waiter almost choked when my father said, “I would like a hamburger patty, mashed potatoes and gravy, and no vegetables.” My father was a miner, so he was accustomed to eating that way and was somewhat fearful of change. I remember how flustered he got when the waiter broke the news to him that they didn’t serve hamburger patties there.
How many of us do the very same thing, despite the fact that the Lord has set an incredible “menu” before us? “I’ll have a hamburger patty, please,” we say, when God says we can be an evangelist. God offers us the privilege of daily partaking of His very own life; of being led to places that are beyond the familiar; of experiencing something that is deeper than anything we have ever known. It is all available as part of our inheritance in Christ.
Jesus once told His disciples, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:12–15).
Jesus was saying, “The Holy Spirit is going to come to you; He will take what is Mine and show it to you because it is yours!” We now know that Jesus was referring to all that was purchased on the cross of Calvary. In other words, “I am giving you a ticket to everything that I have bought for you on the cross. I am giving you entrance into the victory that I won; every promise in the Bible is yours. The freedom, the vision, the healing, the supernatural empowerment of God to do the impossible—it is all yours!” However, although this is freely available to us as the children of God, we still must press in to lay hold of it.
LAYING HOLD OF GOD’S PROVISION
Continuing from our opening text in Second Kings, we see that the day did come when God made provision available, thus fulfilling the word He had spoken through the prophet Elisha. How exactly did He do it?
It all began with four lepers sitting outside the city gate finally coming to the conclusion, “Well, there’s no point in staying here! We are going to starve. We might as well go into the camp of the Syrians” (see 2 Kings 7:3–4). As the four of them headed down toward the enemy’s camp, the Lord made their footsteps sound like an approaching army, striking such fear into the Syrian army that they immediately fled. When the lepers arrived at the camp, they could barely believe what they saw—food everywhere, campfires still burning, horses still tied to their posts. Everything their hearts desired was right there before them!
Moved with compassion, the lepers gave word to the city’s gatekeepers about their discovery, and provision was eventually unlocked to the entire city. “And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him” (2 Kings 7:16–17). The king’s servant, the one who hesitated and refused to believe the word of the Lord, was run over and trampled to death. May that never become the story of any of the King’s servants today!
On the other hand, we see that a group of people pressed through to this promise of provision—just as multitudes have done over the years. Think about all who have pressed in and found the power of God—the weak who have been made strong; those who couldn’t put two words together who went on to become great preachers of the gospel; those who were once despairing and ended up bringing hope to others!
Even the early church, as frail and feeble as you and I, walked into the camp of Jesus’ victory and found incredible provision. Those 120 disciples must have been aware that stepping out of that Upper Room could have meant death for some of them. Nevertheless, they were willing to press in to that fearful place. They knew that something had been purchased for them on the cross, and they were determined to get it. The words that Jesus had spoken to them must have come back to their mind—that the Comforter was going to come to them, take the victory that Christ won, and show it to them because it was theirs for the asking.
I can picture these men and women rising up to possess what was theirs, as if they were walking straight into the Promised Land. They went in to lay hold of the resources of God that they needed—boldness, love, a willingness to lay down their lives, if necessary, for the sake of His glory. And when they came out of that Upper Room, the disciples were clothed in righteousness and the power of God. They had new minds, courage in place of fear, vision where they once saw only their own frailty. As they stepped out into the public sphere, the 120, gripped by the power of God, overthrew the whole known world of their time. Even Peter, who had previously denied Jesus out of fear, preached a sermon that moved at least three thousand people to give their lives to Christ. This early church had clearly taken possession of their inheritance of the incredible provision of God!
GET UP AND GO IN
The good news that I have for you today is: Nothing has changed! The provision of God is still available; the Promised Land in Christ is still ours. The strength and ability of God to take us into His life is still there. The only thing that we have to face is fear—the fear of change, the fear of rejection, the fear of God calling us to an arena that we are not familiar with. But that is what faith is all about. Faith does not take us to where we are comfortable or can manage in our own strength. No! Faith takes us to places where only faith can sustain us.
You and I must have a willingness to press in to these fearful places. Perhaps the fearful place for you means getting out of a cocoon of security or out of a relationship that you know is wrong. It may simply begin by getting out of where you shouldn’t be so that you can get to where you should be. Whatever the case, we must get to the point in our lives where we say, “Enough staring in the window, I am going in the door. I don’t care what people think. I have a paid ticket to the provision of God, so I am going in. I am going to sit at the finest table, and I am going to order everything on the menu!”
That is who we are in Christ, and we must not settle for less in this hour! This generation deserves to have a glorious Church; this generation deserves to have a witness and a testimony—a people who have pressed in to fearful places and laid hold of the strength of God in Jesus Christ. It is time we rise up and say, “I am not settling for mediocrity when God has called me to glorify the Name of Jesus Christ on the earth. I am not going to let the devil destroy my family when God said that if I believe, not only I but my household would be saved; that if I fear the Lord and walk in His commandments, my seed would be mighty on the earth. I am not settling for less than my inheritance. I am going to press in by faith and prayer, knowing that everything in this Bible is mine!”
As you make the choice to press in to these fearful places, people’s futures will be changed. There will be people at the throne of God who will put their arms around your neck and say, “Thank you for standing up in the workplace. I would not have known Christ if you hadn’t. Thank you for coming to me in my poverty. Thank you for being a visible demonstration of God to me!”
So get up and go in—that was the message of Elisha, and that is the word of the Lord to you today. Get up and go in, for there is a miraculous life available to all who are willing to claim it. Hallelujah!
©2013 Times Square Church
When we pray, it is essential that we pray with hearts of faith. We are not to merely shout into the atmosphere and expect an answer. Rather, we must know the character of the One to whom we are praying and understand that His heart is one of mercy. That way we can boldly approach the throne of grace to find help in this season of need that our nation is in.
God’s heart of mercy is evident all throughout the Scriptures. In the book of Ezekiel, we read of the nation of Israel coming to a place of impending judgment. God’s own people had grown casual and immoral; government officials were corrupt; prophets and priests were prophesying things out of their own minds, no longer hearing from the Lord. They were simply telling the people what would keep them happy and pacified, even though judgment was at the door (see Ezekiel 13).
The Lord said, “And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none” (Ezekiel 22:30). God was looking to give a reprieve, a season of mercy, but He could not find anyone. I don’t think the Lord was looking for somebody with mountainous faith or impeccable credentials in that generation. I think He was looking for somebody who simply would agree and understand that mercy is at the heart of everything God is and does.
Mercy is the reason the Lord did not destroy humanity in the Garden of Eden. Mercy is the reason why He left a family alive on the earth in the days of Noah. In His foreknowledge, God knew that you and I would be born into this world and had He destroyed it at any time prior to our being here today, we would have been lost to ever knowing life, to ever knowing God, to ever being part of the fellowship of the redeemed that will be around His throne for all eternity. God saw the loss, and because He is merciful, He stayed His hand.
I Desire Mercy A Pharisee once approached the disciples of Jesus and asked, “Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (Matthew 9:11). In other words, “Why does this Jesus, who claims an incredible proximity to God, waste His time hanging around those who have obviously fallen short of what we regard as the standards of godliness?” Keep in mind that the Pharisees were the ones who were supposed to represent the heart of God to their generation.
Though they were not speaking directly to Him, Jesus heard them and replied, “Go and learn what this means—I will have mercy and not sacrifice” (see Matthew 9:13). He was essentially saying, “I live on the side of mercy, but you pull back from the people and judge them by their ability to live according to your rules. You warn the people to taste not, touch not, handle not. You judge the weak; you judge those who might have pondered the things of God but ultimately walked away when they considered it too difficult.” That is exactly what religion without the heart of God becomes—a place where everybody feels judged.
Jesus later warned them, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” The word hypocrite means “actors.” In other words, you are role playing what God looks like. “…For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).
Jesus was saying, “Woe to you, for you give to the work of God to a certain point as His representatives, but you hold back from the people the deeper matters: judgment, mercy and faith.” The law should have taught them that without God, they were all under the same judgment as the sinner who walks in the door. As Paul said, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We, too, must remember that we all deserve judgment. We stand in the sight of God by His favor and His grace alone, for there is not one who is righteous. Seeing ourselves in this true light opens our hearts to the mercy of God.
Jesus said to the Pharisees and scribes, “If you had only recognized that you stand by mercy, then you would not have withheld this mercy from others. You would not be setting forth standards of outward holiness as examples of who God is, while withholding from the people what the law really teaches—that God is a God of mercy far beyond what our minds can fully understand.”
Knowing the judgment and mercy of God will ultimately bring us through to faith. When we truly see our own need and understand God’s willingness to miraculously supply what we lack, our hearts will be opened to believe that what God has done for us, He can do for others. He has shown us mercy, and He is willing to show others mercy. That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Can These Dry Bones Live? Later on in the book of Ezekiel, the prophet said, “The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, and caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry” (Ezekiel 37:1–2).
In a season of great trial, Ezekiel was taken out to a scene that strongly resembles our society today—parts were disjointed and disconnected, strewn across a valley. The Scripture calls it an “open valley,” which represents an open and unhidden trial. Not long ago, we were in a season when Wall Street was hitting all-time highs and many were prospering. At that time, people in trial were essentially hidden and pushed to the corners. But now we all are in an open valley, and the grandeur of the mess in America has become apparent not only to us but to the entire world. Unfortunately, much of the church body is in a similar condition, captivated by the seductions of this world and left very dry. Many churches have lost the heart of God.
Just as the Lord asked Ezekiel, I believe the question He asks us today is: “Can the church in America live again?” That means the whole body of Jesus Christ—every denomination. Can we once again become a testimony to the life and power of Jesus Christ?
If you do not know the mercy of God, you will be swallowed by the impossibility—by the word of all the statisticians, the prognosticators, the naysayers and the pessimists who list all the reasons why it cannot happen. But I am here to tell you the one reason why it can happen, and it’s called the mercy of God in Jesus Christ! Mercy will touch our pastors and fill our churches once again throughout the nation. Mercy will cause the body of Christ to start feeding the hungry again. Mercy will bring the presence of the Lord back into our prayer meetings. It’s all mercy! I am not saying that the economy will look the same as it once did, for the kingdom of God is not about saving temporal sandcastles. It’s about saving people!
“Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live” (Ezekiel 37:4–5). The Lord was saying, “Ezekiel, tell them what I am willing to do. I will give you strength! I will cause you to be able to rise up again and live and know that I am the Lord.”
May I encourage you to do something? Would you simply tell the people around you what God is willing to do? Think of the people in your office, in your neighborhood, in the grocery store or in the streets. Don’t hold back because of what you see with your eyes, for the kingdom we speak about cannot even be seen with the natural eye. Don’t be caught in unbelief; don’t be caught on the side of those who have lost heart. All through the Bible, we see people who claimed to know God, but they ultimately lost faith because they lost an understanding of His character. Recently I have had this cry: “Jesus, Your Name deserves better than this. I am coming to You not because of our righteousness, for we have not represented You the way that we should have. I recognize that we have nothing to present to You. Our schemes and plans have all failed and come to nothing. We cannot present any reason why You should do what we ask, other than the fact that we know who You are—we know Your character. We know that You are the God who did not destroy this world but instead sent Your Son to die on a cross. We know that Jesus did not come because He felt some legal obligation to redeem us—He came because He is a God of mercy!”
Call Out To The Breath Of God The Lord then said to Ezekiel, “Prophesy unto the wind…Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezekiel 37:9–10).
Pray and call out to the Holy Spirit; call out to the breath of God! There is no other strategy, no other power in this world. There is nothing else that will make any difference; nothing else that will be able to take down all the weapons that have been built against the testimony of Christ in our generation. We are not going to be revived by a new superstar emerging on the horizon. No, enough of that! Call out to the breath of God! Call out for God’s Holy Spirit to invade His house and His people once again.
It is time to gather with one heart and one prayer: Holy Spirit, come! Come to the Baptists, the Methodists, the Lutherans, the Catholic charismatics, the Presbyterians, the Salvation Army—all the churches in our cities! Give us the strength to pray and to work together, recognizing that there are no big or small people in the kingdom of God—we are all equally important. Help us to realize that nobody can do this alone; we need the whole body of Jesus Christ. Yes, we are allowed our distinctives, our differences, in worship style, for those things are inconsequential. What is important is that Christ is in the heart of His Bride one more time and we stand together to make a difference in our generation.
“Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Ezekiel 37:11).
The testimony of the people was: We have lost strength, and there is no living water flowing through us anymore. We can barely stand and get through our own trials and weaknesses, so how can we possibly believe for something greater than our own struggles? We are too far away to even get back to that place of faith.
How many people in the body of Christ have a similar testimony today? Yet we can still take heart, as we see in the Lord’s response to Ezekiel:
“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, and shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:12–14).
In the same way, the Lord promises to regather us even from the grave—from places of death where the stone has been rolled away and we have lost heart. God says that He will regather us from these places where we have made peace with death, and the life of Christ will be ours once again. It all has to start in the church of Jesus Christ. A spiritual awakening is not going to simply come to the streets and leave us behind sealed graves. No, it happens in the church first! That has always been the pattern of God.
No matter what area in your life is dead, it is time to get up and say, “God, breathe on me again! I give up—I am dry—I am dead. I cannot do this on my own. I cannot change the way I am; I cannot love the people around me; I cannot forgive those who have hurt me; I cannot stand up and speak with boldness. I am done trying!” I believe that is when suddenly all of heaven stands up and begins to rejoice—because finally there is another dead man whom Jesus can bring back to life. And the moment He does, the moment mercy floods your heart and faith begins to explode inside of you, it becomes easy to believe for others.
In this hour, I want to be a testimony of the mercy and glory of God. That is my message, and that must be your message. There are no how-to’s, no seven steps, no pamphlets to pass out. It is you and me going out to tell people what God has done in our lives—how merciful He has been! At the very core of our testimony is the understanding that what God has done in my life, He is willing and able to do in yours. Where God has taken me, God can take you. The healing that He brought into my life, He can bring into yours. It is all mercy! You can give me all your reasons why this nation cannot be revived, but I do not believe one of them, for I know who God is—He is a God of mercy!
Rise up, body of Jesus Christ! Rise up out of your graves, rise up out of weakness, rise up out of death and captivity! Rise up and let God be a God of mercy to you and to this generation! Hallelujah!
Carter Conlon ©2012 Times Square Church
“Jesus went unto the mount of Olives. And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them. And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
“Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
“And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:1–11).
Forgiveness—that is what this story is all about. How important is forgiveness? Well, very simply, without it we are not saved. It is conclusive in the Scriptures that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We have fallen short of who we were created to be, of how God designed our lives to be lived, of what kind of testimony we should have here on earth. We are truly amazed when we come to a place of understanding the depths of our sin yet recognize how God, in His mercy, chose through His Son to forgive us.
Forgiveness is also directly linked with mountain-moving faith. Jesus once told His disciples, “…Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe…he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore…What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:23–25). Jesus was saying, “I am willing to give you faith that can move mountains—all those things that stand before you and hinder what your life is destined to be. Whatever you are lacking, I will supply. But when you come to Me, if you have anything in your heart against others, forgive them, that your Father in heaven may forgive your trespasses.”
It is clear that without forgiveness, we cannot remain in the life flow of the blessing of God. Jesus went on to say, “But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mark 11:26). That does not mean that you lose your salvation every time you struggle with unforgiveness, for it is a struggle that no one is immune to. However, it does mean that when we harbor unforgiveness in our hearts, a sense of well-being is lost. That life flow and ability to hear from God becomes hindered because ultimately the kingdom of God is all about forgiveness.
AN OUTWARD DISPLAY
Picture for a moment the scene in our opening text: Jesus is sitting in the temple teaching the people when suddenly in bursts some scribes and Pharisees. Keep in mind that the scribes and Pharisees were the keepers of the law—the ones who were supposed to represent the testimony of God in the earth. To their credit, they started out with the desire to preserve the Word of God. Fearing that it might eventually devolve into something other than what God had originally meant, they set out to be purists. They intended to guard the Word and to exemplify what was written in the text of Scriptures that they had up until that time. However, they ended up being more of an example of how religious zeal and incomplete obedience to the full revelation of God in the Scriptures can leave people bearing very little resemblance to Jesus.
Into the midst of the crowd they came, bringing a woman who was of the family of faith but who obviously had fallen and failed. Casting her down at the feet of Jesus, they said, “This woman claims to belong to the family of Abraham, part of the seed of God’s testimony on earth, but we caught her in the very act of adultery. Our Scripture says that she should be condemned and stoned to death. What do you say, Jesus?” The Word says that they asked this question in order to test Jesus and have reason to accuse Him. Ironically, they were quoting the Word of God, but they were arguing with the author—trying to tell Him what He meant when He wrote the Book.
Consider as well the outward appearance of the scribes and Pharisees in this whole scene. They would have been spit-and-polished, with everything pristine—their garments pressed with precision, the borders of their sleeves and skirts measured to exactly the right length. They had prayer shawls over their shoulders and prayer beads attached to their sides so that they would be known as people of prayer. Standing there adorned with all of this paraphernalia, they also had one more thing—they had stones in their hands. Or at least they had stones very close at hand, ready to condemn anyone who failed to meet their religious ideals.
REWRITING THE SCENE
Now contrast this to Jesus, who, according to Scripture, identified with the common man. He was made in our likeness, He took upon Himself our frailty, and He understands our weaknesses. He had no outward display—no symbols of prayer and obedience—except the manifestation of the full power and purpose of God.
As a carpenter’s son, Jesus likely wore regular workman’s garments. There was probably dirt around His knees since He had stooped down to write on the ground with His finger. Although we do not know exactly what He wrote, we do know that it stung the conscience of the religious but gave hope to a woman who had fallen. In other words, Jesus rewrote a scene of judgment and death into a place of forgiveness and hope. He rewrote this woman’s future—perhaps giving her the reassurance that her past as well as present frailties were still covered by the mercy of God, for she knew she was a sinner in need of a Savior. On the other hand, those standing by with the stones had long lost the understanding that they themselves were outside of the kingdom of God, having failed to represent His heart of mercy.
Jesus could not have rewritten this moment in history if He, too, had been holding stones. The same holds true for you and me. If we are found with stones in our hands, we will not have any power to make a difference or to rewrite the future; we will be unable to represent God in our generation. After all, how can we represent a kingdom that is established on a foundation stone of forgiveness if there is unforgiveness in our hearts? It is simply not possible, which is why we must come to a place of total forgiveness. Of course, this is never easy. It means that we must learn to overcome grievances that have been learned or personally experienced—sometimes deeply embedded over the course of our lifetime.
HOW TO LET GO
I remember a time when I was betrayed by somebody whom I loved and trusted. The betrayal was so deep in my heart that it took me about a year to get over it. I cannot tell you how many times I went before God and said, “Lord, I am not even at forgiveness yet—I am dealing with trying not to hate somebody. You have to help me.” No matter how many times I attempted to put those stones down, my hands simply would not let them go. If I succeeded in throwing them down for a moment, it was as if a bungee cord was attached to them, and they eventually bounced right back up into my hands again.
Nevertheless, I persisted in the battle, not willing to be a hypocrite in the kingdom of God. I found myself in the same place over and over, praying the same kinds of prayers, until one day, the Lord spoke to my heart: “Here’s how to do it. Turn your hands over and let Me take the stones away.” I realized at that moment that it was impossible for me to put them down in my own strength. Only the Lord could take away the stones, and I found that He was willing to do it.
The Scriptures speak of another man who had stones in his hands. He dwelt in the mountains and in the tombs—one is a high place and the other is as about as low as you can go on the earth (see Mark 5:1–5). However, instead of casting his stones at other people, he was cutting himself with them. It is a picture of a person who hates himself for what he has done and for what he is becoming. Just like the Pharisees, this man needed the courage to say, “Jesus, take these stones from my hands.”
Likewise, many Christians today are unwilling to forgive themselves for the things they have done in the past. Although the Lord has cleansed them, they persist in calling themselves unclean. God alone can give them the grace to let go of the past—to release the stones from their hands.
REPRESENTING CHRIST IN THE DAYS AHEAD
Without forgiveness at the core of our being, we can talk about Jesus, but we cannot represent Him. People who merely talk about Jesus become concerned solely about the exterior—about their own reputation, about being called, “Teacher, Teacher” and having the best seats at banquets (see Matthew 23:6–7). These things become the whole focus of their life. The people who truly represent Jesus are the ones bending down, writing in the sand. They are rewriting into people’s lives the mercies of Almighty God, no matter what they have done or how they have fallen.
I believe very soon many prodigals will be returning to the house of God—men and women who perhaps gave their lives to Christ when they were young, yet somehow ended up on a wrong path. They took the life of Christ and went far beyond the borders of where they should have been living—but not beyond the reaches of God’s love. And now the Lord is giving His church the opportunity to represent Him, offering these people hope for the present and rewriting their future. Just as the father welcomed the prodigal son when he came home, we can put our arms around others, covering their failures and empowering them to become everything that God is calling them to be. We can put a robe over their shoulders, shoes on their feet, and invite them to join us on the journey. But before we can do this, we must put down our stones.
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to misrepresent Christ in this world. Yet if I am ever going to err, let it be on the side of mercy. Let it be mercy that rewrites my life and the life of everybody God desires to touch through me. I want to be a bridge builder, not a bridge destroyer. I want to see the church come to life once again in our generation—every race, every nationality, every denomination coming together as one body in Jesus Christ for this final moment of time. This means that all of us must drop our stones—denominational stones, racial stones, all the grievances that we have been holding on to. By the grace of God, we must be willing to stoop down, get our hands and knees dirty, and start rewriting the future in people’s lives.
It all begins by holding up our hands and saying, “Jesus, take the stones from my hands. I know that I do not have a right to carry these, but I cannot put them down. You have to take them from me.” Remember, Jesus is not angry with your frailty or your struggle. All He is asking is that you simply turn your hands over and trust Him. Trust Him to take away any unforgiveness in your heart, any self-condemnation, any inner judgments that you may not even be aware of. It is God alone who can help you to forgive and bring you into this place of mercy and faith that He speaks of. It is God alone who can enable you to stop beating yourself for your past failures.
If we do not come to God and allow Him to take away these grievances now, as the body of Christ we are going to be swallowed by the evil of this generation. After all, it is clear that we are living in an hour when society is becoming increasingly divided and civility has practically gone out the window. This comes as no surprise, for Jesus warned that in the last days, nation will rise against nation (see Matthew 24:7). In the original Greek, this means that ethnic culture will rise against ethnic culture. In other words, the world will be marked by bitter divisions and hatred. Yet in the midst of this, you and I cannot be found like the rest of society. If we end up embracing any part of this system that is throwing stones at each other, we will no longer represent the Christ who went to a cross. Let everyone else do the judging, but we are called to live by a higher law—the love of God, the mercy of God and the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus. It is the willingness to embrace what we would not naturally embrace; the willingness to call “clean” what others regard as unclean; the willingness to receive with hope
what others would call failed.
There is no other gospel that will change the hearts of men. It is not our garments, it is not our Scripture memorization, it is not our big Bibles —it is the love and mercy of God in our hearts that will make the difference. It is time to allow Jesus to take the stones out of our hands so that we can truly represent Him in this generation. As we learn to forgive, and as we are willing to stoop down and identify with people who the whole religious scene is about to write off in their ignorance, I believe there will be a harvest of souls in this generation beyond anything we ever could have imagined. Hallelujah!
©2012 Times Square Church