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Devotions

The Brook of God’s Provision

Carter Conlon

Before the confrontation between Elijah and the false prophets took place on the top of Mount Carmel, the Lord gave Elijah specific instructions… He had just declared that there would be no rain for the next few years, and now he heard God telling him, “Go to this brook and camp out there. Birds are going to come and feed you” (see 1 Kings 17:1-4). How many of us would rather come up with a plan that sounds a bit more logical? Yet at these very moments we must remember that God’s ways are not our ways; his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

After a while, Elijah probably got rather comfortable living by the brook. In his heart, he may have thought, This is wonderful! The rain has stopped, and God is preparing the nation to turn back to him. As for me, I have this refreshing water here every day. …God left me here in a safe place.

Elijah represents a type of person today who lies by a spiritual brook, opening the Bible every day, enjoying the cool water and supernatural provision of God anytime he wants. Meanwhile, despair is all around him; people are confused; others are losing their jobs. All the while, he simply concludes, I’m just going to ride out the storm here. If that was Elijah’s plan, it certainly backfired. God moved him on from that place back into the lives of suffering people.

We may camp around the promises of God for a season, but there always comes a point when God must provoke us to move on and respond to the cry of those around us. We are not to turn a blind eye to the pressing needs all around us, settling for a shallow Christianity with no power, no provision, no purpose and nothing to give. Instead, I am confident that investing in people will once again become the hallmark of the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Here is the truth that will become known again in our generation: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6, NKJV). Those who know God and are willing to obey him will reach out to people who are losing heart.

Carter Conlon joined the pastoral staff of Times Square Church in 1994 and was appointed Senior Pastor in 2001. In May of 2020 he transitioned into a continuing role as General Overseer of Times Square Church, Inc.

Take the Lowest Seat!

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In the gospels, Jesus was invited by a certain chief Pharisee to his house. Other Pharisees had been invited as well, men who were leading keepers of the law. When the host called his guests to be seated, there was a sudden scramble for the chief seats at the head table. Scripture tells us that Jesus “noted how they chose the best places” (Luke 14:7, NKJV). It was a brazen display of pride, a need to be seen and recognized.

When Christ himself sat down to eat, he gave that roomful of Israel’s top religious leaders this word of rebuke. “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:8-11).

As he considered his audience at that Pharisee’s house, he was describing a particular type of leader: those who “love greetings in the marketplaces, the best seats in the synagogues, and the best places at feasts…for a pretense make long prayers” (Luke 20:46-47). In short, Jesus tells us, there are men and women who do good works only to be seen by others. These people love the spotlight and are constantly blowing a trumpet for themselves.

This applies to ministers, but it is also a word for every child of God. We must take this particular word from the Lord very seriously.

Why exactly did Jesus put so much importance on “Take the lowest seat in the house”? If we obey this command, Christ can then invite us to “come up higher” into a place of righteous honor and enter into the fullness of God’s touch. It opens our hearts to the call to have a richer intimacy with Christ. Only then will we become a more convincing, sure and righteous oracle of the Lord.

Obtaining a Good Report

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Scripture says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony” (Hebrews 11:1-2, NKJV). The Greek word for “obtained” here means “to bear witness, to become a testimony.”  Our ancestors in the Lord had a settled, unwavering and anchored faith. It became a testimony to God’s faithfulness in troubled times.

They had a witness within that God was pleased with them. They had trusted him through floods, mockery, bonds, imprisonment, torture, warfare, lions’ dens or fire. After it all, they knew the joy of the Lord smiling at them and saying, “Well done! You believed and trusted me.”

How do we achieve this too? Scripture plainly tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever we hold our faith position through hard times, we have the same affirmation from the Holy Spirit that says, “Well done. You are God’s testimony.”

When I can rest through storms, when I have cast every burden on Christ and I hold my faith position, then I have obtained a “good report.” I am becoming a beacon of hope to those around me. They can look at me in my hour of crisis and say, “There stands someone who has not lost faith in God. There is a fighter who will not quit. He trusts his God!” As calamities increase and the world falls into great distress, the believer’s response must be a testimony of unwavering faith. We have the Holy Spirit abiding in us, and we have the fully revealed Word of God. We cannot boast in our own flesh, but we can lean on His Word.

Over the years, I have gone out fully armed, determining, “I will set my heart and I will not fear. I will not listen to the doubts and fears of my flesh. I won’t waver and I won’t turn back. I will not pout, fret or wallow in self-pity.” Yet, often unbelief robbed me of victory.

I still have much to learn about “setting my faith.” But I have tasted the victory that comes when I trust the Lord in all things, when I purposefully lay my burdens on Christ and go my way at rest.

A Friend of Sinners

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

In the gospel of Luke, we read the story of a Pharisee named Simon who invited Jesus to his house to have a meal. I’m not sure why any Pharisee would invite Jesus for dinner, let alone bring in other strict religious men to eat with him. A likely reason for the invitation was that Simon and his friends wanted to determine whether Jesus was a prophet or, really, to discount him as one. The passage makes clear that Simon knew of Jesus’ reputation as a prophet (see Luke 7:39).

Scripture doesn’t tell us what this group discussed around that supper table, but we can assume it had to do with theology. The Pharisees specialized in the subject, and they had tried to trick Jesus on other occasions with fanciful questions. Christ knew what was in these men’s hearts, and it quickly became clear. The next thing we read is that a woman of the streets “who was a sinner” crashed the scene. Here I see Jesus showing us where our focus must be, not on false religion or false teachers but on sinners.

Jesus clearly stated “’Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven. …Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’” (Luke 7:47-48, 50, NKJV). Jesus was revealing why he came here : to befriend and restore the fallen, the friendless, those overtaken by sin. He is saying to us today, “This is what my ministry is all about.”

Likewise, says the apostle Paul, this is what our focus must be. We are not to judge a fallen person but to seek to restore them and remove their reproach. In fact, he said the test of true spirituality is a readiness to restore a fallen person. “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Paul then quickly added this instruction of Christ’s way: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). What is the law of Christ? It is love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).

Trusting God’s Mysterious Work

David Wilkerson (1931-2011)

Stop trying to figure out how and why you got hurt. Your situation is not unique at all. Whether you were right or wrong means absolutely nothing at this point. All that matters is your willingness to move on in God and trust his mysterious workings in your life.

Our marching orders come straight from scripture. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:12-13, NKJV).

Maybe you can’t understand why things blew up in your face when God seemed to be leading all along. In doubt, you consider how Judas was called by the Lord; he was destined to be a man of God. He was handpicked by the Savior and was used of God. The difference is that Judas aborted God’s plan and broke the heart of Jesus! What started out as a plan of God ended in disaster because Judas chose to go his own way. Lay off all your guilt trips. Stop condemning yourself.

Perhaps your heart asks, “Why did God allow me to get into this in the first place if he knew it would never work out right?” Most likely you did what you had to do. You moved in the will of God, honestly following your heart, willing to give of yourself. Love was your motivation. You did not abort the will of God; someone else did. If that were not true, you would not be the one who is hurting so. You are hurt because you tried to be honest.

Stop trying to figure out what you did wrong. It is what you are thinking right now that really counts with God. You did not make a mistake; more than likely, you simply gave too much. Like Paul, you have to say, “I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I am loved” (2 Corinthians 12:15).