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“For Demas hath forsaken me …” (2 Timothy 4:10)

How must that have felt to this old warrior who had struggled and fought to establish this Gospel that he knew was the only answer to saving the world from Hell. He had fought with demons and deacons, priests and princes. He had endured beatings, mockery and the threat of prison and death for this cause. He could have been wealthy and powerful, one of the ruling class in Jerusalem, but he turned it all away because he had met the Nazarene on the road to Damascus.

Paul knew what was at stake – Heaven for those who accepted this new revolutionary doctrine, or Hell for those who did not. Jew and Gentile alike faced the stark reality of a judgment that he must have known the utter devastating reality of. While Peter was given the ministry to the Jews, he was handed the enormous task of the rest of the Gentile world. And with that commission was the understanding that salvation would come to the Jews through the Gentiles as they fulfilled their dispensation. He had to succeed; he could not stumble and fail. Too much was hanging in the balance.

And then Demas forsook him.

I don’t suppose Paul was a soft-spoken kind of guy. Maybe he was a little too tough on Demas, or maybe he was too intense for him. He had a sharply divided sense of right and wrong, and he did not mince words to comfort hurt feelings. Rather, he made his points clear and blazingly lucid.

“Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” (2 Timothy 4:2)

In other words, tell them truth! Quit pussy-footing around. Do it in love, but stay true to the doctrine. Why?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.” (2Timothy 4:3,4)

I wonder if Paul self-examined himself first when Demas left. “Was I too hard on him? Did I not consider his feelings? Do I have a bad attitude?” All questions we ask of ourselves when a good friend abandons us.

But at some point, his prophetic spirit had to take back control and say no. Even if his attitude was not socially gracious, the truth is that we are engaged in an insanely ferocious war of eternity. The destiny for billions of souls is at stake.

True love, then, is not the creamy smooth gospel that most people find so alluring. It is the stark and sometimes sharp declaration of truth that cuts away the shrouds of death to liberate the soul to walk in true righteousness in the fear of God – a doctrine that is often not the favored choice of many.

Somebody has to take that stand. Paul did. Demas did not.

 

Brother Dale

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Mary at Christmas

“And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.  And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” – Luke 2:25,26

Thirty-three years later, old man Simeon was gone, and Mary was the sole survivor of all the witnesses of the birth of God’s Messiah.  This great event of the birth of Christ was the advent of a plan that had its beginning before Creation, and that had been spoken of by the prophets and dreamed of by all Israel for thousands of years.

The Savior of the world had finally arrived, but who was there to witness this greatest of all events?  Three wise men, a handful of shepherds (and maybe a drummer boy), an old woman prophetess, and Simeon.  Besides Joseph and Mary, very few people knew what had just happened, and fewer still understood the magnitude of it.

As Simeon returned the baby back to Mary, he must have looked deeply in her eyes as he realized that she alone of all these witnesses would remain at the end.  He and the prophetess Anna were old, the shepherds were scattered, and the wise men had returned to their homes.  Even Joseph would be gone.  Only Mary would be left.

Thirty-three years later, as she knelt at the foot of a cross on Golgotha and gazed up at her son, did her heart go back to those few precious moments so many years before when she held the promise of all mankind in her arms, and a cloud of witnesses surrounded her to testify that this indeed was the Son of God?  Now they were all gone, and she alone was left as the sole witness that His was truly a virgin birth, that this really was God in Man who had come to save the world.

But now, he hung upon a rough wooden cross, rejected by the church, the government, and the people.  Only a handful of outcasts clung to Him in the last dying moments, while all the crowds who had witnessed His mighty works had fled.  How many who had once believed but had now become troubled with doubt, had turned away, leaving her to weep for Him on top of that lonely hill?

Did she ever complain?  Did she ever once deny that His birth was truly the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit?  Never.  Her silence was her strongest witness, for she of all people knew who He really was and that the mission He came to accomplish could only end this way.  He had come to die.

As we gather round the Christmas tree and recite to our children the meaning of Christmas, let us never forget the young Jewish girl who once held God’s gift to mankind in her arms and, through her suffering at the foot of the Cross, gave the world an enduring witness that truly He was the Son of God.

Thank God for His wonderful gift and the price that was paid to give it to us.

 

 

Merry Christmas to everyone
Dale & Cindy

Elijah’s Desert Walk

Elijah’s Walk in the Desert

”But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.

And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.” (1Kings 18:5,6)

Three hundred miles, maybe more, depending on how circuitous a route he took and where Mt. Horeb was. Forty days walking. That’s a long, lonely walk.

Although prophets of God do not lead normal lives like most people, there can be seen glimpses of our own walks with God in them. You may not have called fire down from Heaven, but every time you stood up against the normal conventions of worldliness to declare the truth of God, you do pretty much the same thing. The world by nature does not like holiness, and it will resist anyone who steps out of the crowd to call it to change. And prophets are considered the worst.

But somebody has to do it, and that’s why God calls prophets. They do not possess pleasant personalities and are not the “life of the party”. They are not swayed by others’ opinions, nor would they be considered “nice guys”. Nor do they care.

Everything is black or white to them; there are no shades of grey. It is either righteous or it is sin. And for some reason, they feel compelled to tell you so.

Even if you are the king.

You will not find them in the spotlight of a big ministry receiving the accolades of the crowd. They just don’t fit in. The corporate ministries of today are foreign soil to them. They are more suited to wearing camel’s hair in the middle of a river than the Brooks Brothers suits and coifed hairdos of this generation’s spiritual leaders. And as a result, they walk a lonely path.

Few understand, and fewer appreciate them, and none realize the price.

We think they are made of some kind of steel that doesn’t feel the loneliness or the pain of rejection. Since they don’t bend to popular attention, we think their hearts are like stones that feel no affinity for others, but the truth is, they are people just like everyone else. They love, they hate, they need, and they feel just like us. They just have to walk a different path and keep on going.

Sometimes it is for three hundred miles with no food or water just to hear the voice of God.

I had a dream many years ago of myself walking in a desert of soft sand, much like the Sahara. Each footstep was difficult as it pushed through the sand. No water, a hot sun, and nothing but sand made it a weariness just to get to the top of the next sand dune and see if the city that I was trying to get to was there. But all there ever appeared was more sand.

I didn’t know where I was or if I was heading in the right direction, but I just kept walking, hoping that I wasn’t walking in circles. And then I heard a vehicle coming from behind me. A young man with blond hair and a bronze tan drove by in a Dune Buggy, waving to me as he passed by, “Hey, Mr. Garris. I’m off to my ministry! Praise the Lord!”. And off he drove over the horizon.

You have to wonder at times like that, what is wrong with me? Why am I here trudging along in this loose desert sand heading seemingly to nowhere, while this young kid is zooming along so effortlessly to his ministry? What did I do wrong? Will I ever reach that city that I am trying so desperately to find?

Do you ever feel like that? Does it seem so simple for others, when everything seems to be a battle for you?

Forty days trudging through the wilderness just to wait in a cave. Make sense to you? I doubt if it did to Elijah either. All that way, then up a mountain to sit in a cave to wait.

First the storm, then the earthquake, and then the fire. But still Elijah waited. And then the still, small voice.

Had Elijah not allowed God to take him through that crucified walk that strips the flesh and breaks the spirit, I don’t believe he would have recognized that voice like he did. It would have been just noise, indistinguishable from all the noise of the world.

You may not have to go for three hundred miles without food and water, or stand up against a king to declare a spiritual famine upon the land. You may not call down fire from heaven or raise a woman’s dead son, but you possess in your soul the ability to declare the righteousness of God to a worldly church that is mesmerized with an easier, worldly doctrine that mistakes grace for sin and covetousness for prosperity.

You will get the same results as Elijah did and you will go through the same lonely walk as he walked. But know that you are not alone – there are 7,000 that God had reserved – and you are not walking aimlessly. You will finally step over the hill of that last sand dune and see the City that you’ve been searching for and you will recognize the still, small voice of God as He speaks to you.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

 

The Winning Hand

You know, if the stakes weren’t so high, Life would be just a great game to play.  Kinda like an evening out with the boys playing Poker.

We all have our hands to play and we’re betting that we’re going to be the one that wins the jackpot.  We work our hands as best we can, and if we don’t win, oh well, there’s always another hand to play.

But Life isn’t that way.  This is the only hand you get, and you’re not going to bluff your way through this one.  You either win or lose.  That’s it.

Unlike poker, you choose your cards.  You can pick any hand you’d like – there’s one for every different belief that’s out there.  Many feel that it doesn’t really matter that much which hand you pick, as long as you pick something.  We’re all in the game together, so nobody really loses – or is it that nobody really wins?  Just play the odds and have fun.  No big deal which hand you choose.

Like I said, if the stakes weren’t so high, it would all be just a great game.  But the stakes don’t get any higher.  There’s only one winning hand.  You either win it all or lose it all, and there’s no coming back tomorrow night to try your luck again.  Better make sure that the hand you pick is the right one.

Unfortunately, everybody thinks that their cards will win and they play them for all they’re worth.  Looks good enough to them, so they should probably be OK. Maybe we should take some time, however, and take a good, long look at the cards we’re holding and see if they’re the ones that the Rule Book says will win.

If we don’t, then we’re gambling our eternal souls on chance.

Once Upon a Time

You know what the difference is between Fairy Tales and Heaven?  The Fairy Tales happened once upon a time.  Heaven is yet to come…at least for some of us.

In Fairy Tales, all your dreams come true.  You might have to kiss a toad, or take care of evil stepsisters while you play with little mice, but somewhere, sometime, somehow, your Prince will always come.  Heaven is not quite the same thing.  While we all would love the idea of living in a fairy tale existence where everything will be wonderful, reality paints a different picture — not everything works out according to Walt Disney’s script.  Life can be tough and you don’t always get to live in a castle, but there is a promise that there really is a place called Heaven.  There’s only one problem:  not everybody is going there.  The Prince is coming all right, but He’s not taking everybody with Him.

In Fairy Tales, the most wonderful magical things happen for free.  Make a wish, and Poof!, in pops your Fairy Godmother.  Sprinkle a little dust, wave a wand, say a few magic words, and presto, you are a princess. Heaven, however, requires a price that must be paid to enter in.  It is reserved only for those who have labored to enter into that place of rest, who have repented of their sins and asked Jesus Christ to save their souls, and who have then gone on to serve the Lord.  Not everybody wants to do all that.

One other thing. Fairy Tales are just that – nice stories that sound good. Heaven is real and it is good.  Unfortunately, Hell is real also, and it isn’t good.  Don’t get Fairy Tales and Heaven mixed up.  We aren’t going to get carried away to Heaven just by wishful thinking, it isn’t going to happen just because we believe in magic, and it sure isn’t going to happen for us unless we prepare for it.   If we don’t get right with God, it won’t be the wicked witch that does us in; it will be the Devil that sinks his claws in us and drags us down to Hell.

Don’t live your life in a fairy tale.  If you want to walk on streets of gold someday, you have to travel the path of a Christian.  That may not be as easy as making a wish, but it is the only way to make your dreams come true.

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:  Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (2 Thess. 1:4,5)

What is Paul saying here? That persecution and tribulation are a sign of the righteous judgment of God? Does that mean that as we declare the righteous judgment of God on a sinful people, that we will suffer persecution?

There’s another scripture that comes to mind: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Am I hearing this right? If you are walking in the Lord the way you are supposed to and declaring the difference between sin and righteousness, then you are going to have trouble. Why? Because people do not want to be told that they have to give up their sin, their pride, and their lusts. The world does not want to hear that there is a burning Hell. They would prefer to gloss over that little detail. And if you remind them of it, they will call you a judgmental legalist who preaches hate, and will persecute you as a result.

If you persist, you will find that you won’t make many friends.
If you are a pastor, you will find that many of your congregation will leave.
If you’re a Christian, what other choice do you have?

If we are easy going Christians – we make no waves, we cause no controversy, we never rock the boat or shake up the Church, we’re just really nice guys – then of course everyone will like us. I can think of a bunch of folks I know that everybody loves. Gosh, they’re so much fun to be around and they always make you feel happy when you’re around them. They never get into arguments or heated debates. It seems they would be the epitome of what we should strive to be like. Or is it just that they never take a stand for righteousness?

Avoiding arguments is good. Doctrinal debates can go round and round and never get anywhere, but what about judgment? What about declaring the righteousness of God? Is that just supposed to be a personal matter, or are we supposed to declare that which is right and that which is sin?

This wouldn’t be a big deal except for one thing – there’s a burning Hell. It Is real, it is eternal, and once you cross into eternity, there is no coming back. That, as they say, is the game-changer. People may not want to hear you tell them about Hell, but what is your responsibility?

Proverbs 24:11,12 tells us,

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?”

This life is not about having fun and enjoying the world, prospering and making money, or attaining to stature and fame – it’s about escaping the pits of Hell and getting into Heaven.

If that is so, why would you NOT warn people about Hell? Who cares if they don’t like it? Penn of the Penn & Teller Vegas show, a confirmed atheist, once asked, “If you truly believe the Bible, how much hate must you have for someone to not tell them about Hell?

They didn’t crucify Christ because He preached Love. They killed Him because He told them to repent.

Then, in the second chapter of 2nd Thessalonians, Paul turns his attention to the Church in the last days. He describes the Antichrist as one who would come in with all kinds of “power, signs and lying wonders” to deceive the Church. This is the same guy that Daniel says would also win the kingdom by flatteries. Which kingdom is that? Could it be the Church? Because after that, he talks about a great falling away and that many would be deceived because “they received not the love of the truth” (2nd Thess 2:10), but instead would be damned because they “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”. (2nd Thess. 2:12)

It sounds like the Antichrist has the message that people want to hear in contrast to the kind of message that brings persecution. Isaiah tells us that people want to hear “smooth things” instead of the hard truth of righteousness. (Isaiah 30:10). They will believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts and use the Bible to justify themselves. They will then turn to a different gospel that is more to their liking, like that which the Antichrist will give them.

The great danger of a modern Christianity which is adverse to judgment and “legalism” but instead pursues a message of love, grace, and blessings is that it slides closer and closer to a worldly definition of truth which is much kinder and nicer than that old fashioned hard gospel of hellfire and brimstone. Feelings become more important than conviction for sin; grace becomes more important than holiness; being nice is more important than telling the truth.

And what we end up with is a church that can no longer recognize the difference between truth and deception. When people become easily swayed by signs and wonders and begin to run after false prophets to hear the latest “word of blessing from God”, they lose the strength to resist the Antichrist’s Pied Piper call to a flattering gospel with no conviction, judgment, or righteousness. “…and my people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:31).

As the Church wallows in a greater wealth than it has ever known, she becomes flush with the lure of prosperity and material blessings, and it becomes more and more difficult to discern a difference between the Church and the world. Leonard Ravenhill once wrote that there’s more of Hollywood than holiness in the church … and that was 20 years ago.

In Judges chapter 6, the Israelites allowed the Amalekites to come in, and in no time, they completely took over and destroyed the harvest. But because the Israelites no longer had a love for the truth, they did not recognize the danger and turned to Baal as the true god. Renegades like Gideon were therefore considered wicked and should be killed. The good becomes evil, and the evil becomes good. In like manner, today’s church is allowing the world to come in and is falling for a modern gospel and will be easily deceived by the flattery of the Antichrist and the False Prophet.

In 2002, I saw a vision of modern Christianity rushing in a stampede toward the edge of a cliff. As I yelled and tried to warn them, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Even if they could hear you, which they cannot, they will not listen.” They were too mesmerized with this new, modern gospel.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

Saving Nineveh

“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly …” (Jonah 2:1)

I imagine it was a bright sunny day – blue skies, birds singing, gentle breeze blowing in from the sea. It must have been a beautiful day. At least it was for Jonah. After three days of hell, he had finally been delivered out of the belly of that whale.  He might have been slimy and acid-eaten, but he was standing on dry ground … alive!  Yes, it must have been a beautiful day.

But this ordeal wasn’t about Jonah. The survival of 120,000 people was depending on this. I’m not sure if Jonah did not want God to deliver the Assyrians, or if he was just plain scared to walk into the midst of this fierce, merciless people and tell them they were going to hell. The point is, he didn’t want to go.

But God did.

Acts of mercy that we perform are generated, not from our own wells of charity, but from the heart of God. He just allows us to participate. And it is prayer that unlocks the door to that mercy.

It may be hard for us to believe that our little tiny prayers could move continents and drop mountains into the sea, but are we limiting God or ourselves?  James 5:16 says that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Much – as in, a lot, because prayer unties the hands of God so that our works of faith become His works of action. True, there are conditions that God requires for effective prayer, but there are no limitations. If you can imagine it, God can do it.

Prayer is an act of mercy.  Mercy, even unintended, is still mercy. We may be praying for something entirely different – Jonah was certainly not praying for the Ninevites – but the effects of prayer, like the random twists and turns of a stream on its way to the sea, can often take circuitous routes to reach God’s intended purpose. We are just required to pray. And prayer moves God. And it may not be in the way you intended.

The works of faith can move mountains. They may not be the mountains you were concerned about, but sometimes God puts you into a situation where you have to pray your heart out, often for your own deliverance, just so He can work through your prayers to bring about unintended consequences and move in ways that you could not have imagined.

Including saving 120,000 people who you never intended to save.