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Archive for February, 2009

“Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews.
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14, 15

In the Book of Esther, we see two pictures of the Church – the Esther church sits under the obvious blessings of God, residing in the palace, and the Mordecai church sits under oppression and persecution.

Esther was perfect in her natural beauty, and her refusal of worldly enhancements endeared her to the King, who loved her above all others and made her his queen. She is the very embodiment of the Bride of Christ, beautiful in grace, entering into the blessings of God honestly and humbly. Proverbs 22:11 says that he that loveth pureness of heart, the king shall be his friend. Esther was a perfect picture of that pureness of heart.

Mordecai, however, sat on the other side of the palace walls. As a devout Jew, he would bow to no one other than God Almighty, so when wicked Haman rode by, whose ambitions knew no bounds, he considered Mordecai’s refusal to bow as the ultimate insult. Haman, as with his predecessor Satan, aspired to be like the Most High, and was determined to gain that power using the same demonic methods of deceit and murder, so when he saw Mordecai the Jew refusing to give him homage, his hatred for the people of God welled up to overflowing. He ordered Mordecai hanged on the gallows and conspired to destroy the entire race of Jews.

So Mordecai went to the only place of refuge he knew was sure – he sat in dust and ashes at the king’s gate.

It is not enough that we say that we know God and that we trust that God will always deliver us. That is merely presumption. Presumption doesn’t seem that bad when times are good. If it works, great; and if it doesn’t, oh well, no great loss. But when utter destruction and severe persecution is looming over you, you have no room for chance, and all those great and swelling words of love, peace, and overflowing blessings wear a little thin.

Mordecai knew that he needed an answer from the Throne of God, and he was willing to sit at His gate in fasting and prayer until God moved. Even when honored by the king to be led through the town by Haman, proclaiming the honor bestowed upon Mordecai by the king, he went right back to his sackcloth and ashes. So often, we as Christians will seek the face of God for an answer in times of trouble, but as soon as we feel the winds of victory begin to blow across our face, we quit and assume that God will finish it all the way. Not so with Mordecai. He was determined to pray it all the way through to the victory.

As a young Christian, I was taught to pray like a warrior and stand before God in holy boldness and determination, claiming your answer before God. “One of us is going to move”, I would cry out to God, “and it’s not going to be me!” When you pray like that, be prepared to be tested, but like Mordecai, you are assured of the answer because you will not quit until you get it. The definition of Faith is not believing that God CAN do something – it’s believing that He WILL do it because you will not let go until He does!

While the people of God outside the palace were determined for destruction, Esther, at ease in the palace, was oblivious to their plight. It was only the sight of Mordecai in sackcloth that got her attention to realize something was wrong. The challenge he answered her with was severe – march into the Throne Room of the King and plead for the deliverance of her persecuted brethren. It was an act of ultimate courage, for if the King did not accept you, your only fate was death.

The Throne Room was not a place to wander in mindlessly. If so on earth with earthly kings, how much more with God Almighty? And yet, because we stand in the grace of God, we know without a doubt that God will hold out the golden scepter but it takes a certain holy boldness to march all the way up to the Throne (were not talking regular prayer here), and only righteousness in the fear of God will give you that kind of holy boldness and victory.

Esther could have made excuses to get around Mordecai’s request. She could have ignored the problems her brethren would face outside the walls and gone about with her life of peace and blessings – but she didn’t. She took upon herself the challenge that has always been placed upon those in the “Esther” church to stand in defense of her persecuted brethren and, taking her life in her hands, go in to storm the Throne of God for their deliverance.

But do we in America, as the most blessed and prosperous church that has ever been, hear the call of Mordecai? Do we do anything more than peer over the castle walls and muse amongst ourselves at how terrible it must be for those in 3rd world countries who not only live in a state of poverty that we cannot imagine, but stand to defend the Gospel with their very lives?

Sadly, the answer is no. Oh yes, we support our missionaries who have to take months off from ministry to come and plead with us for enough finances to subsist. We write a check and hope that all will be well, and we have a picture in our minds of a nice little missionary hut somewhere “over there”. But do we really know and understand the intensity of the hardships they are facing? Are we really willing to take upon us the same role that Esther did?

Mordecai’s answer to her is chilling. He knew God was going to deliver the Jews somehow – he knew because he was not going to let go of the horns of the altar until God did – but if Esther did not come to their aid in such a time, she would face destruction. God had placed her in this position for just such a time as this. She was part of the plan of salvation for God’s people, even playing a part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem years later. Is America any different?

It is amazing what we can accomplish when we yield to what God has called us to do, whether inside the palace or outside the walls. It was not the threat of destruction, but rather the brotherly love that marks us as true Christians that Esther responded to. “If I perish, I perish”, she replied as she prepared herself to present herself before the king, and went in to touch the golden scepter. Touching the golden scepter is that point of prayer we come to when, having done all we can, we submit to the mercy of God and reach that breakthrough in the prayer room. Only true prayer warriors know what that is like. And that is the point when your deliverance begins to roll.

God has a plan, and He calls us to answer the call. We can busy ourselves about our own lives and never notice what happens elsewhere, feigning ignorance and the importance of those things that surround us, but the call comes to us from over the walls.

An old man sits down there, slumped over in his cry to God, covered in garments of affliction, soiled by the dust of humility before God, and rocking back in forth in the agony of prayer. When we look closer, we see that it is our cousin, the persecuted church, afflicted by the forces of darkness and slated for destruction. We sigh and feel badly for him, but will we take upon ourselves the call to battle?

Esther made her choice without hesitation.

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“…one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered morter.”
(Ezekiel 13:10)

Two Gospels share the evangelical stage today.

Those who have welcomed the new, modern Gospel believe that they have been enlightened by a more sophisticated approach, bolstered by a social psychology that emphasizes a message of reconciliation and positive thinking.  We see it in the flow of all the new self-help Christian books and the messages that are poured out from our TV and radio evangelists.  We want to feel better about ourselves and shrink from the old, judgmental attitudes of the hellfire and brimstone revivals of the past, so we sway to the music with a “feel good” rhythm that sounds so good to our ears.

Gone are the critical messages that promote the fear of God, the spectre of Hell, and coming judgment for sin, and in their place we have embraced a message of love, embellished with promises of blessings.   It sounds so good that we feel that it is the one ointment that can soothe what we call “hurting” people.

Those old-fashioned folks who cling to a stricter Gospel are often patronized as … well, old-fashioned.  Their adherence to an older mindset  is considered archaic and ignorant of the newer perspectives of our modern world.  “Newer” is translated as “better” and, as a result, more enlightened.

We have incorporated into our religious thinking the spiritual philosophies that have emerged in the last 30 years, primarily from the Oklahoma prophets and promoted by the California televangelists, not realizing that these ideas have not always been the standard.  “Name it and claim it”, “Seedtime and Harvest”, “Speak it into existence”, “Prosperity, love, and blessings”, “God wants His people to be rich” are all accepted without challenge.  They are so accepted that it has become unthinkable that these modern ideas should be challenged or, heaven forbid, could possibly be wrong or at least over stated.

In the face of this push toward a new Gospel, the old-timers feel pressed against the wall of their foundational beliefs.  They view this new wave of “love” messages as a one-sided Gospel that ignores the cutting edge of the other side of the Word of God.  They don’t want to offend anyone needlessly either, but it seems increasingly apparent to them that a softer Gospel is leading to an anemic Church.  But to take a strong stand against it only invites ridicule.  They are looked upon as old, dried and hard – old winebottles that are not pliable and forgiving.

Sin has taken on a new set of clothes these days that are more stylish and less condemning.

I have heard one woman praise her pastor, not because he was strong and operated in the power of the Holy Ghost, but because “there is not one judgmental bone in his body”.  This is the new Gospel – love without condemnation.  But the Bible tells us that judgment will begin at the house of God.

Proverbs delineates between a fool and a wise man by how they regard reproof, not by how worried they are of offending someone. Are we so afraid that we might hurt someone’s feelings that we shy away from judging one another by the Word of God?  This is exactly what Satan wants. It is a formula for decay that negates God’s provision for correction and the strengthening of the Church.

Refusal to submit to godly authority and reproof has given way to a believer’s independence. Young Christians often feel righteous in refusing to submit to older authority.  Their libraries of modern spirituality books make many feel as if they have a “leg up” on the older Christians who hang on to old-fashioned ideas.  They no longer feel the need to subject themselves to any authority that contradicts their own ideas.  As a result, they never submit, never listen, and never learn.  Instead, “after their own lusts they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3)

This is not new.  That same refusal to submit under authority was Satan’s downfall.  It was the basis for the Temptation in the Garden of Eden, and is still seeping into the Church today, eating away at the foundations laid by our forefathers.  Paul faced the same problems and warned about it, the prophets that God raised up condemned it, and it is reflected in the fires that shimmered around the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai.

No matter how new and modern it may seem, it is as old as the Garden of Eden.

Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them …

And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.” (Ezekiel 22:26,28)

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“And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.   And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely:  Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.” Acts 16:22-25

How would you feel if you came into a strange city, excited with a new message of hope for the people there, but just as things are beginning to go well, everything goes wrong?  You know that it is the Lord who has brought you here, and you’ve done exactly what He has told you to do, and yet it seems that, instead of leading to success, it has lead to disaster.  What happened?

All of a sudden, the city has exploded, screaming and yelling all sorts of unfounded accusations against you, none of which are even remotely true.  What on earth did you do that was so wrong?  You simply shared the Gospel with some of the folks in town when this demon-possessed woman starts following you everywhere, mocking you and causing all kinds of trouble.  So when your patience came to an end, you turned and pointed at her, casting out the devils that were in her.

And now all this trouble has fallen upon you, not because you were causing trouble, but merely because this woman’s masters weren’t able to make a buck from her fortune telling any more.  Excuse me, but did it not occur to them that it was God that cast out that demon, and not Paul?  Of course, I don’t suppose that matters much when there’s money on the line.

So here’s Paul and Silas, not only getting tossed in jail, but beaten to a bloody pulp.  Then, to make things worse, they are thrown into the deepest, nastiest part of the dungeon with their feet clamped into wooden stocks.

Did they wonder why God allowed this to happen to them?  After all, they had been following what God had told them to do.  Was this the price for their obedience?  Did God abandon them?  Was He busy somewhere else and forgot that they were stuck in prison?  Why did God allow this to happen to them?

It was midnight.  It had been a long day for these men, and it promised to be a long night. They had no promise of tomorrow and no hope for deliverance.  They weren’t just tired – they were wasted, beaten, and done in – but they didn’t surrender to the exhaustion of their flesh or the cloud of discouragement that Satan tried to blanket them with.  No, they grabbed hold of victory by faith, and regardless of what the outcome would be, they lifted their voices to the Heavens and praised the living God.

Can you imagine how tough that must have been? How easy it would have been to succumb to their exhaustion and just roll over and go to sleep.  Worry about it in the morning.  But they didn’t.  In the darkness of that dank cell, they held up a light; smothered by a cloud of despair, they held up hope; and in the face of all adversity, they claimed victory.  They didn’t just pray – they sang!  They sang!

And guess what?  The prisoners heard them.

When I stop and think about that verse, “…and the prisoners heard them”, I am encouraged that God sees through all darkness, past the circumstances of our lives, and into the consequences of a faith that reaches far beyond ourselves and places our destiny firmly into the hands of an Almighty God who not only watches over us, but has given us the grace to allow Him to use us for His glory.

They sang … and the prisoners heard them.  I wonder if I could have had that same faith to let the joy of the Holy Ghost flow through me to sing in such a time as that.

But they sang, and an earthquake shook the foundations of that prison and loosed the bands of every prisoner that heard them.

That kind of faith in times of severe adversity, to not only trust God for whatever He has for you, but to sing a song of victory so that all the world can hear that there is nothing that can shake your trust in God, is the kind of faith that makes the earth to shake, that opens prison doors, and that looses the bands of those who are imprisoned by sin.

They sang … and their song is still heard today.

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The Stampede

In 2002, I stood at the edge of my porch and prayed for the Church, that God would send another outpouring of the Spirit of God like He had in times past. It had been so long since we had seen real power pour out over the pulpits that no one seemed to remember what it was like.

Many people have come to view church sermons as little more than a religious lecture every Sunday morning – filled with bulleted truths, eloquent ideas, and social advice, but stripped of anything supernatural. The pulpit had become the territory of the man behind the pulpit, not a conduit for the power of the Holy Ghost, and as a result, we leave our services elevated with religious ideas instead of inspired by the Spirit.

But it was not always so. The revivals of our recent past were filled with fiery displays where the Spirit of God would pour out on everyone there and fill them with the electricity of inspired faith and conviction. Sinner and saint alike could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit which transcended them past the words of the message and lifted them in the Spirit. When they left services, they were transformed.

How did things change so much so that we no longer even realized the difference? And what would it take to bring us back to that place in God that had birthed so many great revivals?

As I continued to pray, I watched as a mass of humanity rumbled before me like a herd of cattle in a mindless stampede. Thousands were running in a mad rush, shoulder to shoulder, not realizing where they were heading but just following the rest of the stampeding crowd. Their eyes seemed blank, only focusing on what was right before them as they rushed along.

A feeling that came across me was that this was Modern Christianity, chasing its dreams of prosperity and good times. It was as if they were hypnotized in a mindless euphoria, with no time for any warnings or anything that interfered with it. It was as if they were locked into it, and nothing could break their trance.

I could see in the distance off to my left that they were heading straight for the edge of a cliff which they would inevitably run over like a mad rush of lemmings, not understanding the destruction that was imminent. I started to yell and scream at them trying to warn them, but try as I might, I could not get their attention. Only a few briefly glanced at me before continuing their mad dash into the crowd. I could see a handful of other people way over on the other side of the stampede who were also waving their arms and yelling to them to watch out, but neither did they have any effect.

I was so frustrated that I didn’t know what to do. And then I heard the Lord speak quietly to me from over my left shoulder, “Even if they could hear you — which they can’t — they will not listen.”

“But Lord”, I cried, “we have to do something!”

It occurred to me at that moment that there were only two ways to stop a stampede. One was to let them run themselves out until they settled down again. But there was not enough time! The cliff was not far away and they were not slowing down at all.

The other way was for something explosive to happen to break their hypnotic trance.

“But that has already happened!” I thought as I remembered 9/11.

There was a break to the vision and a sudden stillness began to sink into me that something far worse was coming. That tragedy had only been a warning. The repentance and calls to God that we experienced after 9/11 had not lasted but a few months or so before we, as a country, had gone back to our old ways. It had shaken us, but it had not changed us.

As I looked again, it was as if I was seeing the aftermath of a huge explosion that had just occurred. I did not see the explosion, but it was as if an enormous shock had just gone through the air. Dust was settling everywhere, the landscape was barren, and only a handful of people were left stumbling around completely disorientated, as if in shell-shock. They remembered that someone had been yelling at them to warn them, but they couldn’t remember who.

I watched as one man stumbled up to me and asked, “What should we do?”

“Trust in God!” I answered as loudly as I could so the others could hear. “Trust in God!”

It was then that the Lord spoke once more to me from over my left shoulder, “How will you be able to tell them to trust me, Dale, if you don’t trust me.” And then, the vision broke.

I know that there will be many people who will believe that I only imagined this because this vision does not fit their view of Christianity or their view of the personality of God. I could spend pages and pages trying to defend this vision, but I have learned over the years that people are going to believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts, and they will use the Bible to justify themselves. Or, as the Lord put it to me that, even if they could hear – which they can’t – they will not listen.

During a broadcast in April 20, 2001, I said that something terrible was coming to shake America. When it came that following September, the Lord reminded me that this is what He had told me about. He also told me we would go into one war after another after another, like an avalanche snowballing down a mountain.

But now what was this? Something far worse?

There have been prophets that warned us of Katrina, even predicting the correct month it would come, but we dismissed it because we do not believe God would execute that kind of judgment on us.

Now we have this cataclysmic financial disaster to deal with, and our gods of gold and silver have been taken away. But still, few proclaim it as a result of sin.

But I fear that the worst is yet to come. I see in the Bible that God has always uttered His warnings through his prophets, but those warnings are largely ignored. Then God sends a warning that is only a precursor for the real thing. The people of God then quickly repent, but after the danger is past, they soon return to their old ways. Judgment is past and it wasn’t so bad, and so we are free to once again follow our hearts.

But know assuredly, that when God speaks a judgment, it will surely come – most often when we least expect it. We have heard the warnings, we have seen the signs, but what is coming will shake Christianity to its very roots.

“The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.”

Ecclesiastes 9:17

Dale Garris

dale@revivalfire.org

http://www.revivalfire.org

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