In the book of Luke, we see yet another time that society was in total upheaval. People were clamoring for influence and authority and the place where the testimony of God physically dwelt was being dominated by a foreign power.
I am sure there were prayer meetings and people crying out to God, for there were religious and devout people in that generation. However, while everyone had a mental picture of what the power of God should look like, suddenly something came on the scene that was not understood.
THE WHISPER IN A MANGER
Nobody expected God to show His power and give His people strength to go forward in the manner He did. In the midst of all the voices, the chanting of religionists, the power of God appeared—and it was a child’s voice! It was not the wind, the fire or an earthquake—it was a whisper in a manger. Yet, who was able to hear it?
The religious could not hear it. The movers and shakers could not hear it. The self-focused could not hear it; neither could the Romans who were intent on dominating with power. And so God went to a few shepherds in a field, broke open the veil between time and eternity, and sent angels to burst forth singing, “Glory to God in the highest! On earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (see Luke 2:13-14). In other words, “Everything you have ever longed for has come.”
BE QUIET SO YOU CAN HEAR
Those shepherds rose up and went to the manger, only to find nothing more than a baby’s whisper. It would have been a voice so still that everybody had to be quiet in order to hear it. Yet in the end, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them” (Luke 2:20).
In the natural, this would have been regarded as foolishness! But the still, small voice was the power of God being made known to man once again.
Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 at the invitation of the founding pastor, David Wilkerson, and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001.
For many months, I searched and studied the Scriptures, pleading with the Lord to give me a message of hope and encouragement for these hard times. My spirit cried out, “Lord, please speak a word to my heart for Your children, for You alone have the words of eternal life. Only You can speak a word of comfort to us in such times.”
The Holy Spirit answered my prayer, speaking the following to my heart:
“I am going to give you a single promise from my Word. And if you will commit your very life to it, this word will keep you through any and all perilous times.”
EMBRACE THE TRUTH
Beloved, I know if we will especially embrace this one verse, fully believing it, it will be a daily power-source of faith. Here is the promise the Spirit showed me:
“YOUR FATHER KNOWETH WHAT THINGS YE HAVE NEED OF, BEFORE YE ASK HIM” (Matthew 6:8).
In Luke 12, Jesus enumerates the things He says our heavenly Father knows we need. In short, those needs are: food, drink and clothing.
“Therefore, I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. . . . If then God so clothe the grass, which is today in the field, and tomorrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” (Luke 12:22, 28).
I must ask you: As the storm rages, are you going to the Lord in prayer? If you are, then you’re gaining strength, because your mind is becoming fixed on your heavenly Father’s love. In His presence, He continually reveals His power to you and encourages you that you will make it through.
It is not God’s will that any of His children face the coming perilous times with paralyzing fear; in fact, biblical prophecy and warnings should not frighten us. Jesus’ heart on the matter is stated very plainly:
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
WARNING US IN LOVE
Jesus prophesied of world events to come that sounded frightful. He spoke of wars, pestilence, earthquakes in various places. And He warned His hearers: “You are going to be afflicted, and some of you will even be killed. Iniquity will abound. False prophets and messiahs shall arise, deceiving many” (see Matthew 24:3 through 41).
Later in Matthew, Jesus explains that He forewarned of these catastrophic events so that we would believe in Him when we saw them coming to pass.
HE IS LORD OVER ALL
Jesus wasn’t trying to put a burden of fear on us. Rather, He simply doesn’t want us to be surprised when we are hit by awful storms. He doesn’t want our faith to be shipwrecked when we suddenly face incredible suffering. And most of all, He wants us to believe there is a Lord over all these awful things, a Father who is loving enough to warn us about them and keep us through them all.
Scripture makes it clear that we are to heed every prophetic message delivered by godly men and confirmed in Scripture. We are to gather all the knowledge we can about the oncoming storms so that we can prepare our hearts for whatever we will face.
But we are not to let fear or anxiety consume our thinking or take hold of our hearts. Darkness is certainly coming and judgment is at our very door. But as God’s people, we cannot allow any cloud of darkness to hide the great light of His promises of love and mercy toward His people.
DON’T LET SATAN STEAL YOUR HOPE
We must be well informed by God’s Word and His prophets, but we are not to dwell on prophetic knowledge so much that it takes over our lives. The devil would love for this to happen. He knows he can’t get us to doubt the Lord’s Word concerning judgment, so he will attempt to take us to another extreme and drive us to a fearful obsession with perilous times.
Simply put, Satan wants to rob us of all hope by consuming us with foreboding thoughts. But we cannot figure out the future through being totally preoccupied with it. In reality, we can get bogged down in fear and obsessing about frightful events.
FIX YOUR THOUGHTS ON JESUS
The apostle Paul reassures us with this instruction:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8, my emphasis).
In other words: “You have heard all the warnings. Now, take heed to what God’s Word reveals and to what His watchmen are saying. And, finally, fix your thoughts on Jesus and His goodness.”
For years, I have been faithfully warning of a soon-to-come worldwide economic holocaust. Even now, we are seeing this coming to pass around the globe. I have warned that Christians are going to suffer, that there will be great loss and hardship, and already this is happening. Multitudes of precious saints all over the word are enduring great financial and mental stress.
As awful as these things are, none of them should be the focus of our energies and ministry. Rather, we must continue proclaiming the love of God the Father and the tender mercy of our Savior.
I know the American lifestyle — indeed, the lifestyles of those in every prosperous nation — are about to change permanently. I know everything is reeling and shaking. But when I get up in the morning, I don’t worry, “What are we going to eat? What are we going to wear? What about heat, light, security?” Jesus warned us not to do that.
I rest in my Father’s love. The fact is, I know that I am not God and He alone is in control of all these things. I simply do what the prophet Isaiah did: He put his mind to rest by fully trusting in his Lord.
“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” (Isaiah 26:3).
Isaiah the prophet declared this truth to believers in every age — and God cannot lie!
“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus’” (Luke 1:30-31, ESV).
God’s favor literally caused a circumstantial change in Mary’s life — a 180-degree turn. According to the Bible, she conceived. When God’s favor is on your life, He does not just say, “Things are going to work out; just try to think happy thoughts.” No, God changes your world; He turns things upside down.
A BIRTHING OF SOMETHING NEW
Mary conceived! When you receive God’s favor, He will cause a conception, a birthing of something new in your life. There are needs in your life, a cry in your soul. And as you come to God and receive His favor, blessings will be poured out upon you, and your life will be changed.
Mary understood this and she began to sing:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations
will call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).
THINGS WILL BE DIFFERENT
I love this phrase, “For behold, from now on.” From now on something will be different — and I want you to hold on to that. I want you to own that truth in your soul, in your spirit, and in your mind today.
“From now on” a transition is taking place in you. You are going from living for your own wants and desires to a life that is absolutely surrendered to Him, realizing that you cannot do anything in your own pride. Determine that you will trust in Jesus and Jesus alone.
A family in our church has a powerful testimony. The father had been abused, violated and beaten by a religious figure when he was young and he had burned with hatred for religion his entire adult life.
When he lost his job a few years ago, his wife started receiving aid from several services we offer to the families of our city. Later at Christmas, she became a volunteer, and then she made friends, and little by little, began attending church regularly.
I WILL NEVER SET FOOT IN A CHURCH AGAIN
A year later, when she was again volunteering during the Christmas distribution event, her husband warned her, “Feel free to go, but I will not pick you up! I will never set foot in a church again!”
At the end of her last day of volunteering, she called her husband and said, “Sweetheart, I’m so tired. Please come pick me up at the church.” For whatever reason, he reluctantly agreed. More than an hour later, she still hadn’t seen him so she started to be concerned for his welfare. Looking around the church, she found him in the sanctuary carrying a box of food!
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Well, I decided to come in and see all this for myself. They needed help so I’m going to stay for a little while longer, if you don’t mind.”
HE LOWERED HIS HEAD AND SOBBED
Two hours later, the couple got into their car in the church parking lot after seeing hundreds of families—the poorest of the poor—arriving at the church and receiving their baskets and gifts. The husband could no longer contain himself and lowered his head to the steering wheel and sobbed. His wife had never seen him like this.
Years of abuse at the hands of “religious” men who represented God streamed down his cheeks in those tears. He finally was able to say to his wife, “When I was a little boy, I loved to hear people talk about Jesus, and I wanted to help others like He did.”
This year their entire family volunteered at Christmas. They have become living stones, living epistles of His grace, read by all men, by the supernatural power of faith.
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.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit fell upon a prepared people who “were all with one accord [of one mind]” (Acts 2:1). So, what does it mean that the people were of one mind? Simply put, mercy was flowing through them. Let me explain.
Consider those who were on the scene at Pentecost, people we revere today as church fathers. Some of these men had sinned grievously against the Lord and against their brethren. They all had to be forgiven and their sins covered, or the church never would have moved forward with the work the Spirit was about to do.
Consider Peter. He had blasphemed horribly, wounding Jesus as well as the other disciples. That church body forgave Peter, and they covered him so his past would never be held against him. Consider also James and John, the “Sons of Thunder.” They too had sinned grievously, offending their fellow disciples when they professed to be greater than the rest. They also were forgiven and covered.
In truth, anyone present that day might have said, “Hold it, Peter. Who made you the leader here? You denied Christ.” No one did that, because their hearts had been prepared through mercy. And they were ready to receive the Spirit when He came in the great outpouring at Pentecost.
ISSUES OF THE HEART
Beloved, this is why in Peter’s epistles his focus is on the issues of the heart. He knew firsthand all these things had to be cast out and forgiven, lest the Spirit’s work be hindered by any flesh. The same is true for Christ’s church today, we who are to receive His mighty harvest rain.
Will we hinder that work of the Spirit by failing to forgive? Or will we be prepared by allowing mercy to flow through us to others?
The devil knows what is written in God’s Word and he is determined to hinder the great harvest he knows is coming. He has unleashed a furious attack on the church, using every weapon he can to remove the peace of God’s people.
The gloom and fear hovering over every nation has left people feeling helpless. In America, courts have made laws that glory in perversions, all against the will of the people. The result is hopelessness and stress, weakening the spirit, and even causing physical sickness.
In God’s house, sin has been downgraded and hell discarded. Entire denominations are splitting apart over gay marriage. Meanwhile, evangelicals — those who are the supposed torchbearers of God’s Word — are placing their energies in movements that are not Christ-centered.
The Israelites in Haggai’s day were discouraged over the new temple they were building. Their work seemed so insignificant compared to the magnificence of the former temple. As they reflected on all God’s past glories, they wept with despair at the modest house before them. Haggai asked the people, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” (Haggai 2:3).
DO NOT COMPARE
Beloved, the same question applies today. You may recall great revivals of the past, where the Spirit fell powerfully and multitudes were being saved. Tell me, do you see the life of the church today as nothing compared to those past times?
I tell you, the word God gave Haggai for his church is meant for us today: “My spirit remaineth among you. . . . The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace” (2:5, 9).
The prophets — from Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel down to the minor prophets — reveal that in the last days God’s Spirit will once again fall on a prepared people. This event is referred to as the “harvest rain.” It is promised to be greater even than the “former rain,” which was the Spirit’s mighty outpouring at Pentecost.
This prophecy of a “last rain” refers to Israel’s two annual rains. Their seasons were opposite to ours today, with the former (or first) rain coming in the fall, watering the newly planted crops. This typifies what happened at Pentecost, when the “first rain” fell in a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. That rain watered the seed of the Word, and it grew and spread to become the worldwide church we see today.
NO HARVEST WITHOUT RAIN
Israel’s “last rain” came in the spring, ripening the crops just before harvest. Zechariah refers to this last rain, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the last days (see Zechariah 10:1).
Moses said there simply could be no harvest without another rain. The Lord said to Israel through him, “If ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments . . . I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil” (Deuteronomy 11:13–14).
WAKE UP, CHURCH!
Finally, Joel 2:21-27 gives us a vibrant picture of what it looks like when this harvest rain comes, saying, in effect, “Wake up, church! Look around you. What you see happening has been prophesied. It is beginning to rain, and the Lord has made the clouds bright and full of water. The Spirit is preparing all things for the last great harvest.”
In his first letter to the church, Peter bluntly speaks of the last days: “The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7–8).
Peter also mentions the last days in his second letter, where he tells the church, “Shortly I must put off this tabernacle” (2 Peter 1:14). He’s saying, in other words, “God has shown me my time on earth is short.”
PETER’S MESSAGE OF WARNING
Peter’s message was meant for the New Testament church, both in the time he wrote it and for every succeeding generation of believers. It is a message of warning, as Peter prophesies the following:
“There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in [destructive] heresies” (2 Peter 2:1).
“There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4).
“[They will] walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government [the laws of the land]. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities” (2 Peter 2:10).
HASTENING THE DAY
“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10).
“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?” (2 Peter 3:11–12).
How does God’s refreshing affect our lives in practical ways?
REFRESHING OF OUR CIRCUMSTANCES
When God refreshes our circumstances, He changes old patterns that may involve our marriage, our finances, our work. He may expose unhealthy spending patterns and convict us to change them. He may even lead us to seek financial counseling that can help us replace bad patterns and teach us to be wise stewards.
He may want to disrupt old patterns in our marriage, patterns that keep us stuck in unloving ways. Our Father is ready to refresh us with abundant grace every time we need it. This kind of refreshing deals with our circumstances.
Then we have core refreshing — refreshing that goes beyond our circumstances to renew our souls, our lives, our inner being. This kind of refreshing flows not just into us but out of us. It fills us with joy for our marriage; for tithing and giving freely; for facing difficult relationships with hope and courage and energy.
In short, core refreshing causes us to anticipate every moment of life with Jesus. It stirs in us a heart that says, “I’m fully alive, not dreading the day. I’m thrilled to follow You, Jesus. You have made me bold, not fearful. Let me use this vast overflow of life for You!”
BRING IT ALL TO HIM
What is flowing out of you right now? Unbelief, grumbling, fear? Or faith, hope and love? Just as He did at the festival in Jerusalem, Jesus shouts to you to bring Him your unbelief, your bitterness, and your fear. He wants to replace it with contentment and contagiousness, to move you from emptiness to fullness.
He has promised, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart’” (John 7:37-38, NLT).
I wish you could experience the miracle that our family has experienced. I wish you could feel the difference between how we live now and how we lived during the days of my youth. Today I love my brothers and sister with a passion. There’s nothing I’d rather do than to sit around and laugh and talk and cry with my family.
LITTLE NICKY, BIG NICKY
The times that I get to travel back to Puerto Rico and visit are some of my most precious memories. When I go home I’m no longer Nicky Cruz the evangelist or speaker. To my older brothers I’m “little Nicky” and to my younger ones I’m “big Nicky”—just one of the family.
But we were not always so happy and carefree and loving. In my family we have a lot of pain in our past, yet none of us harbors feelings of resentment. When Jesus came into our lives, He brought with Him an explosion of love, mercy and forgiveness. No one holds a grudge. We hold nothing but love in our hearts among us. We don’t spend any time in regret; we just rejoice in the Jesus we know today—in the future He brings to us all.
ERASING THE PAIN
Jesus can do for the human heart what no one else can do. When He comes to live in your heart, He does more than forgive you, He leaves behind supernatural seeds of forgiveness that will not only erase the sin but erase the pain that sin has brought. Not only can these seeds heal our hearts, they can heal our relationships. They can spread through every hurt of our past and undo it.
I could never thank Jesus enough for what He has done for our family. For the forgiveness and mercy and grace that He brought, bringing us back together again.
And He can do the same for anyone. For any family. Even yours, if that’s what you need!
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
Peter was surely a godly man, and through him the Holy Spirit shows us exactly what God says about how to face these last days. Peter is telling us very clearly, “Here is your most important preparation: Get your heart ready. If this matter isn’t dealt with, all other preparations are in vain. Stay on your knees. And above all else, practice unceasing mercy and love toward your brothers and sisters. Forgive and cover their sins.”
COVER THE SINS OF OTHERS
We are commanded to “cover” those sins committed against us — meaning, we are not to expose the sins of others.
“Charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
Who has hurt or wounded you? Who has spread gossip about you? According to Jesus, if you do not forgive and cover that sin, you are like the man who was forgiven a great debt but later choked a man who owed him a few dollars.
“As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (4:10).
FILLED WITH JOY DURING TURMOIL
The truth is, Peter’s message here has everything to do with the future of the Church of Jesus Christ. You see, God is preparing His Church for a latter-day outpouring of His Spirit. According to the prophets, the Holy Spirit will come in a great wave upon the earth, filling God’s people with joy when the world is in upheaval. This won’t happen, however, where people hold grudges and wounds are left unresolved.
THE QUESTION: Do you want to be ready for what’s coming? Do you want to be fully prepared when all things are being shaken?
THE ANSWER: Then make sure you have nothing in your heart that hinders the flow of God’s Spirit.
Something wonderful is just ahead so make sure you are not left out of it!
Right now, many Christians are in panic mode. People who have testified all their lives that God is their keeper are now scrambling in fear as the storm clouds gather over us. Peter has something very simple to say to them, “Bring all your natural feelings under the control of faith.”
Next, Peter tells us to bring everything to God in prayer: “Watch unto prayer” (1 Peter 4:7). Only by seeking the Lord will we be able to control our anxieties about the times. According to Peter, the blacker things become the more we should walk in the peace and rest of the Holy Spirit.
AVOIDING PANIC MODE
Right now the secular world is desperate to find calm in the chaos. According to The Wall Street Journal, corporate leaders and others in high-stress jobs are turning to yoga, mantras, Chinese chants, meditation. But as Christians, our God promises to keep us in perfect peace if we will fix our minds on Christ above anything happening in the world.
Peter tells us we should be concerned with one thing above all others in these times. Let’s look at the final exhortation of this dying apostle:
“Above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
REACH OUT WITH MERCY
Peter’s summation is, “If you want to know what survival is all about — how God is leading His people through these times — then show unconditional love to your brothers and sisters. That has everything to do with the future of the Church of Christ.”
According to Peter, here is our most important concern. In light of the great mercy God has shown each of us — in light of His unconditional forgiveness toward our past sins, His compassionate longsuffering toward us — we are to reach out with mercy to those who have sinned against us. And we are to forgive them as if they had never committed those sins.