Archive for December, 2014

Three Wise Women

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:”

It has been said that, if the three wise men at the Nativity had been three wise women, they would have asked directions, arrived on time, cleaned the stable, helped deliver the baby, and given practical gifts.

Of course, had it been one of us men, we would have probably booked a room in the King David Hotel, hired a doctor to be at the bedside, and ordered something off Amazon.com.

I reckon so. But the Lord didn’t do it that way, did He?

Why did God decide to bring forth His Savior through common childbirth? Why couldn’t He have just stood up in the sky and expose His Glory for all to see, and just tell us what to do? That would have dissolved all doubts. That’s how we would have done it, wouldn’t we?

When the Lord does something, He often moves in ways that the carnal mind would never have chosen. We purchase programs with sets of instructions, plan out campaigns, take surveys, place ads, and pursue anything else that we think will bring about the desired responses. Too often we end up with something that may look good, but which does not carry the same eternal weight that it would have had if we had allowed God to do it.

God, on the other hand, chooses foolish things to confound the wise. He calls His prophets out of nowhere, raises up preachers with unpopular messages, and relies on the prayers of people simple enough to believe Him. To bring about His purposes, He uses yielded vessels to carry out His work, not sophisticated intelligent men.

But if it’s going to work, it has to be God who does it.

Funny how He works in ways we would never have figured, but you know what? He always gets incredible results.

He chose the most humble of births, and died the most desecrating of deaths so that we would have the opportunity to choose Him.

Unto us a child is born. But who would have ever thought that He would have chosen a stable for his birth? But the world has never forgotten it.

And 2,000 years later, wise men still seek Him.

Merry Christmas to everyone,

Brother Dale

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Did you ever wonder about prayer lists?

I get lists of prayer requests emailed to me every day. Sometimes it feels like the lists are so long that they seem endless and almost overwhelming. You wish you could just snap your fingers and everybody would be healed, everybody would get saved, and everybody would be happy.

Yesterday in particular, I got one in which there was so much desperation and anguish that it choked me up. Instead of taking a moment out as I usually do to add my instant prayer for the daily list, I looked up and asked God why. Why is there so much suffering and so many unanswered prayers?

Ask any pastor why God heals some people and not others, and he will probably tell you he doesn’t know. There are purposes that God works out in our lives in many different ways that are hard for us to understand on this side of Eternity. God uses trouble as a tool to work out those purposes just like He uses valleys to shape us and make us into something that we would not do ourselves.

That’s a good answer – and it’s true – but it doesn’t satisfy a desperate soul.

Another answer is that we are in a time of spiritual drought, just as the Bible has prophesied would come. There are outpourings and healings here and there, just as it was prophesied in Amos, but a flood of spiritual power has not really been seen in generations. Where are the local Faith Healers on your block? Any in your church? Your community?

There are basic principles that must be applied to receive that kind of powerful anointing, and modern Christianity has not had the guts, the drive nor the desire to pay that kind of price. We’re too satisfied with church as usual.

Well, that kind of answer explains a lot, spiritually speaking, but it doesn’t do a lot for a person who is in anguish for a miracle.

What does it take to get a miracle from God?

There have been times when I prayed over someone and the answer was instantaneous. No work, no sweat, no hand-wringing, no wrenching of the soul. Just lay on hands and pray, and they were healed.

And then there’s other times, when you work your guts out in prayer, but see no results. You may feel the Spirit come down, and you know that God has heard you, but you didn’t get the healing you prayed for.

Hope and Faith are sisters, but Desperation is sometimes only a distant cousin. Real faith cannot be turned on like a light switch — it is something that you build through hearing and walking in the Spirit of God over time. Faith incorporates Hope, but travels far beyond it.

Hope, on the other hand, comes from Faith, but it may be the very last thing you have when everything else is gone. It will, however, keep the door of Faith open to the very last crack.

Although Desperation retains the same family resemblance, it doesn’t come from the same seed. We may be desperate for an answer from God, but if we are not walking in the same principles that build Faith and Hope, it remains an empty cry.

And yet, there is mercy with God.

Desperation can re-ignite Hope, which can rebuild Faith, and God does hear such cries of the heart. Faith when it does come, however, dissolves Desperation because it initiates a broken submission to the Will of God. If you have real Faith, you will trust in Him all the way in all things. No longer is it about what you want, but Faith turns the focus on what God wants.

And in that lies the real miracle.

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“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

One Sunday morning, my two girls wanted to read about Noah. It’s a cute story with lots of animals and rainbows. They’ve seen all the pictures of a chubby old Noah in his brown robe and sandals looking over the side of the boat with all the friendly animals crowded around him. Such a fun story!

Of course, the reality of it all was much different. It was a severe time of trials, persecution, hardship, and death. I’m sure Noah would never want to go through it again.

One passage stood out to us as we were reading. Noah and his family were in that boat for seven days before the first drop of water fell. I wouldn’t be surprised if that seven days wasn’t the hardest time of all for them out of the whole trial.

Noah had been a preacher of righteousness to a world of scorners, and must have been the most unpopular man on the face of the Earth. Nobody likes to hear that they are going to Hell, and I’m sure his generation was no different. It wasn’t that they didn’t know about God – they were only a handful of generations away from Adam and Eve. It’s just that they did not want to give up sin, and figured that, somehow, they would be able to get away with it.

We’ve all heard the Cosby-type jokes of how much jeering Noah must have suffered. After all, for 100 years all he had to show for his faith was a boat in the backyard, and to the rest of the world, that was a huge monument to folly. But Noah believed God, and moved with fear to construct that Ark of Safety.

And then came the word to enter in the Ark. Seven long days, cooped up with all those animals. No ventilation, no sunlight, … and no rain.

I can just imagine the echo of the howls of laughter coming from outside the boat. The old fool had cooped up his family inside that smelly monstrosity, and now he was locked in. But inside, the feeling of anticipation was thick and heavy.

Tell me you wouldn’t have been wondering during those seven days.  Why wait another week? Why couldn’t God have just flipped the switch as soon as they got inside? Why this final test of faith? Hadn’t they endured enough?

We see this same pattern with God several times throughout the Bible. After all you’ve gone through, there is often one more final challenge of faith to overcome before you get the final victory.

Faith in God is not determined by what you know or what you have seen. It is never a matter of how many miracles or personal experiences you have had with God. You cannot count on past victories or things that you have done in the past. Your faith is measured by where you are in God today.

Faith is built in your heart by a continuous determination to seek the face of God each and every day, and like a flame in your heart, it goes out when it runs out of fuel.

How many times I have heard people say that they believe in God, and even bolster it by pointing to their church attendance. But when times of severe tribulation and testing come, how often we fail. When you dig down into it, you find that it was a faith in name only.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and immersing yourself in the Word of God gives you the power to pray – not just muttering a bunch empty words, but real, heart-wrenching prayer. That, in turn, brings you deeper into the Spirit of the Lord to absorb more of the Word of God. And that builds your faith – one step at a time.

Do you think you can accomplish the same things by skimming the Bible in a year? Or throwing God some casual requests when you’ve got the time?

No, only a driven heart will seek the face of God and be able to receive the faith to stand in the times that you will need it the most.

Noah had that kind of faith because he relentlessly sought the face of God. And it carried him and his family like a solid rock through those final seven days.

“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” Psalm 42:1

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Ah, it’s that season again – Christmas! Children’s eyes light up, sparkles and tinsel are seen everywhere, red and green decorate everything, and there’s that unmistakable feeling in the air again – it’s Christmastime!

It’s also time to rehash the same old debate about whether we should celebrate Christmas or not. The argument goes (I’m sure you’ve heard it by now) that Dec. 25th was set up by Constantine on the winter solstice and is therefore a pagan holiday. (Actually, the solstice is on the 21st, but why let that get in the way of a good argument?)

While that makes for a good debate, I wonder if it misses the entire point? True, Jesus was not born on Dec 25th, so why celebrate it? Actually, the Bible indicates that he was born on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (see: In a Stable), but we don’t celebrate that, do we? And after all, He told us to celebrate his death, not his birth. And of course there’s the argument about the Christmas tree being pagan idolatry, etc., etc.

All valid points to make an argument to shut off the season and turn to a more ascetic life. At least we would be technically correct and stripped of anything that smacks of pagan idol worship, amen? (Does that mean we have to tell the kids there’s no Santa Claus?)

Sigh. Does it really have to be that way? Is this really such a big deal with God?

My first pastor gave me what I have always thought was the best answer. She acknowledged that although Jesus wasn’t born in December, nevertheless, there was a spirit of peace that seemed to blanket the entire world during that season. It was as if God Himself honored Christmas by giving us a taste of His Spirit and suppressing, if only for a short time, much of the ugliness and hate that we had to wade through the rest of the year. It was special, even supernatural. It was Christmas! And just for a season, everything became special, almost magical, and the human psyche with all its arrogance and self-centeredness was pushed into the background. That is, of course, except for the self-righteous Grinches out there.

Perhaps there are bigger issues to be concerned with. It seems to me that the ones who make the biggest noise about this issue are the least likely to show mercy on the lost, but instead are so wrapped up in their own self-righteousness that they have lost sight of the whole purpose of Christmas.

I wonder. Perhaps God allows us to make a mistake on the date so that He can show us in sparkling terms the love that He has for all humanity – the real meaning of Christmas.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: … Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.”    (Matthew 23:23)

Merry Christmas to all (even the Grinches) from the Garris family.

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I got a letter from a pastor in Nigeria that I thought I’d share with you. When I read these letters, it really brings home some themes that are important in snapping us back to the reality of the spiritual war we face – even if we don’t see it here in America.

“Brother dale,

         No doubt we have our problems out here in Nigeria, I believe that this is a good platform for the power of the cross to crush the satanic stronghold over our land.
         As for me and some of my colleagues out here we have made a covenant with God to wait on Him in the revival labour room of prayer until Nigeria be made a praise in our generation.
         As for the newsletter I will be so glad to receive it regularly. I pray that the Lord of harvest will make your ministry fruitful in the field of souls. Shalom.

                               Pastor Kayode”

Wow. Tell me that doesn’t grab you!  They made a covenant – a promise, a vow unto God. These guys are so determined that they have sworn that they will overcome, no matter what. They will stay the course through whatever storms or tribulations come their way. They have claimed Victory and believe that God will honor His Word unto them.

And they are willing to wait for it.

Where will they wait for it? In Sunday services where they wave their hands in Praise & Worship songs? In church basket socials? In fellowship ministries where they hug each other? In theological discussions of doctrine? In wearing “Jesus T-Shirts” or putting a fish on their bumper? Or in being nice guys?

No. In the revival labor room of prayer.

They will claim victory by waging war. They will storm the Throne of God until they break through and force the Almighty God to move. They will wait in the intensity of battle. They will not be denied; they will not give in; they will not give up; they will never surrender. They will overcome by the Blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony.

And how much will they believe God for? How big is their Faith?

Is it for a job, or a new house, or more finances? Are they praying for Aunt Mary to feel better? Or even for God to “enlarge our tent stakes”?

No. They believe that God is able to turn one of the most wicked countries on Earth into a “praise in our generation”. And they don’t think that’s too much to ask for — not if they are willing to pick up the Blood-Stained Banner and fight for it. They don’t see a problem – they see an opportunity!

They have Rachael’s Cry – “Give me children, or else I die!

When is the last time you have heard a message like this over the pulpit that inspired you to pick up your weapons of war and charge into the battle for lost souls?   Have we become so sedate in our prosperity that we no longer feel the need for sacrifice? Are we no longer cut to the heart for lost souls so that we are willing to prevail in prayer?

Whatever happened to our all-night Prayer Meetings? When is the last time we fasted for days for revival? Where is the focus of our hearts?  Has our Faith diminished to a level of profane dimensions where we only believe God for what is before us in our daily lives? … Or do we no longer care?

If you want it to rain, you gotta pray like Elijah.

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Ephesians 6:18

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“…and His truth endureth to all generations.”  Psalm 100

Think of that!  We get to have the same Truth that Adam had, and Noah, and Abraham, and even the Apostle Paul.  The very same Truth!

But we live in a world today that feels that the times they are a-changing.  How we look at what is right and what is wrong is relative to new sets of morals.  That may be OK for Bob Dylan, but it doesn’t work for God.

I have written that the problem started when Satan entered the Bible Colleges – not as a student like everybody else, but as one of the professors.  Let me take that back – not as a professor, but as the chairman of the Board.

Once Satan was in charge, the fiery edge of the Gospel was diluted to be more “socially conciliatory”.  No more “hellfire and brimstone”; no more trembling fear of God; no more judgment for human sin and failings.  Everything is relative, and everybody is “nice”.

It’s a simple formula.  Change the personality of God, and guess what?  You get a new modern Gospel – one that is kinder and gentler, and more “loving” to include more people into “God’s Love”.  They tried the same thing at the foot of Mount Sinai when Moses went up the mountain.

God is wearing new clothes these days.  Yep.  He has changed out of them old white robes and has put on some new fashionable digs.  They probably have him dressed out in bell-bottom jeans and a T-shirt.  In some cases, they’ve even traded in His old clothes for a dress!  I’ve heard that He may even be a She.

With all this confusion, is it a long stretch to believe that Jesus Christ was a homosexual?  Believe it or not, there are those who believe that.  So I guess it’s OK to have homosexual Bishops.  It all falls into their definition of “God is Love”.

Am I dreaming, or am I living in a world of idiots?  What, you can’t read?  The Love of God is not some warm, fuzzy emotion – it’s the keeping of God’s commandments.  At least that’s what God says.  And since He wrote the Book, I’ll go along with Him.

Ah, but there’s the rub, isn’t it?  We don’t read the Bible anymore.  We listen to our new, modern-age preachers who tell us all the new stuff they’ve learned.  We watch TBN that tells us that everything is love – that is, as long as you send them your money.  We study Christian self-help books as if they have the answers to Life.  We are now embracive of all religions because, after all, we all worship the same God.  As for that old-fashioned King James Bible, well, it’s a simple stretch to re-phase it to change the words that we don’t like, and if necessary even omit whole passages.  And we’ll call it a new International version to make it seem easier and more in tune with our new world that we have built.

And you wonder why our church world has lost its power in God?  Then again, maybe you don’t wonder because it’s been so long since you’ve experienced a real outpouring of the Holy Ghost that you don’t even know the difference anymore.

That same Bible that we’ve relegated to a dusty bookshelf warned us that these days would come, and here they are.  And it will get a lot worse before it gets better.  Soon, they’ll be hunting down anyone that holds to the original precepts of the Bible and will kill them thinking they’re doing God service.  Standing against sin will be considered a “hate crime”, and preaching repentance will leave you open to lawsuits for hurting people’s feelings.  Saying that Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which a man can be saved will be deemed intolerant, judgmental, and divisive – a crime against humanity.

The Word of God is not a textbook or a novel.  It is the very Bread of Life, and without it you will never be able to see through the subtle deceptions that are coming upon the face of the earth.  It is Light, and if you don’t read it, you can’t see.  It is Life, and if you don’t eat it, you will die.  It is Truth, and without it you are in a lie.

The Word of God will not change, no matter how many secular versions they come up with.  The Truth will endure throughout Eternity, and I, for one, will never compromise it.  I will not back down, back up, or give in.  I will stand for it because it is the only truth upon the face of the earth and it will never change.

I’m not interested in being “nice”, and neither were the prophets of God. I’m interested in being right with God.

I’m not worried about hurting anyone’s feelings.  They will hurt a lot more if they end up in Hell.

I’m not interested in being socially or religiously “correct”.  I’m interested in the Truth.

I don’t want to be part of the majority.  Only the few that choose that narrow path will make it to Heaven.

A revival is coming, folks, but it is not coming through the established church world.  It is going to come through a fierce people set in battle array that will not break their ranks and will not surrender to a changing world.  You may not recognize them because they won’t look like your polished, theological seminary graduates.

They’ll look like John the Baptist — and he had his head cut off for preaching the truth.

 “And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”   Job 28:28

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“Set the trumpet to thy mouth. He shall come as an eagle against the house of the Lord, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law.” Hosea 8:1

While there are those that use the judgments of the Lord as a proof of Replacement Theology, I believe that Israel is more of a thermometer to warn us all.

God’s Word is forever. The judgments that He has spoken are not for a particular point in time, which then fade into oblivion because we now have a new covenant. They still apply because human nature has never changed.

How foolish to think that we are only supposed to read the Old Testament only 10% of the time! The warnings of the prophets are more important and relevant now than ever. Christianity has become the Zion of today, and like the Zion of old, we have fallen into the same traps and snares that brought their downfall.

Like the children of Israel, we have the same tendency to choose a religion of convenience, a faith of comfort, and a message of unconditional love. But we have left off to fear the Lord.

Judah refused to believe that Babylon would breach the walls of Jerusalem because they rested in the belief that God loved them and would deliver them from the enemy. The intense warnings of the prophets did nothing to bring them to repentance because they really didn’t think that they applied to them. They were, after all, the people of God.

Today we trust in the same walls of religion and church to save us, and while modern-day Babylon amasses outside the gate, we cannot conceive of the destruction being able to breach our walls. But it will, because the judgments of God have not changed.

Our hearts have changed, and, as Hosea says, a spirit of whoredom has entered the church that has caused us to err in judgment. We heap to ourselves prophets of peace and stock our shelves with “Christian” books for positive thinking and prosperity; we flock to preachers of entertainment and allow an ecumenical move to accept all beliefs; we wag our finger in the air with a Howdy Dowdy grin and chant that Jesus loves us while we sway back and forth to repetitive songs of blessings … but we have left off to fear the Lord.

Just like Zion of old, we cannot see our apostasy and therefore can no longer repent. The warnings of the prophets that God has sent us are rejected because they are too critical and judgmental. (As one woman told me, “the Bible says we are not supposed to offend anybody”. How nice.)

And all the while, the wheel of judgment slowly turns.

There were those of us who warned that 9/11 was coming … and we knew why. Predictably, the Christian world turned for a while to seek the face of God, but once the specter of judgment faded, they quickly turned back to their old superficial ways, just like they did after Josiah’s death. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

There’s another judgment coming. This one will be far more severe than 9/11. It will breach the walls that we have trusted in, and destroy our city of Zion. But in that judgment there will be the seeds of a true revival, and God will raise up stones in our place that will fearlessly declare the glory of God and will march forth in the fear of God to victory.

Be careful that you do not miss it.

“Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”

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Mornings here are crisp and fresh and the sun feels sharp and strong. How refreshing it is to get up and meet the morning here!

My focus, however, is not so clear. We have been hard at it for over a month, starting with a 3-day conference in Rwanda, on to a week of services in the Congo, Burundi, back to Rwanda, and now finishing up in Uganda. We’ll have done 35 services by the end of tomorrow and I’m getting a little foggy. That’s why I haven’t written many articles on this trip. I’m just too tired.

But the reactions have been great. Service after service, these people get lit up and excited about the message. I suppose I should feel good that it feels like it has almost become routine. You know (yawn), just another supernatural service with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down. What else is new?

But it is anything but routine to these people. The Africans I meet in these small rural churches, and even in the bigger urban ones, have incredibly soft hearts. It is not hard to fall in love with them just by looking in their faces. Small wonder that after 10 years I keep coming back.

I will miss them. I will miss the rousing song services that lift your soul into the arms of God. I will miss the fresh exuberance they exhibit when they grasp what you’re saying and the light goes on in their heads. I will miss hearing them pray. And the altar calls of broken hearts crying out to God in deep passion for who knows how long. I will miss getting the reports of how the message transformed them and gave them the impetus to win souls, not only expanding their church, but planting more and more. They tell me, “You said to go out and win souls. So we did.” Hahaha. So you have. Keep going!

There comes a time when you have to step back from the sowing and allow the harvest to grow up out of the ground. Others will water and prune. And still others will harvest the crop. In the end, it is enough that I was here and had a part of what God is doing. I have always believed that the Great Last Days Revival spoken about in chapter 2 of Joel and in Isaiah 32 will begin here in Africa. Nowhere have I heard of a people with such a desperate hunger for God. God has to answer them.

The mornings are crisp and clear here and full of promise. A new day is beginning here. I may be tired and foggy, but I can feel the rays of promise cutting through the air.

Revival is coming.

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