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Archive for April, 2015

There are times when I see myself standing in an empty church courtyard, looking up at a tall, silent bell tower.  High up inside the white stone spire that points up to God, hangs a huge, silent bronze bell.  It’s been silent for years now. The silence is heavy, and the solitude hangs around me like a thick wool blanket.

Where is everyone, I wonder?

The courtyard used to be full of activity and noise, the doors to the church were opened up wide, and people with bright faces came in and out.  And the bell that rang out its call from God could be heard for miles.

But now, I only see an abandoned structure; a shell of what once was.

There was a time when you could hear the thundering echoes of the giants in God, filling the air with the excitement of the power of the Holy Ghost.  Souls stirred in response, and multitudes responded to the call.  But now, I stand in the silence and peer into the shadows of a ghostly cathedral.

I realized something the other day.  All those old giants that once stood in the incredible power and authority of God are now dead, and they have taken the vibrancy with them.

There’s a more modern church down the street now.  It’s a beautiful building, and hundreds of cars are parked outside.  I hear songs and laughter, and see pleasant faces with complacent smiles on everyone there.  Everything seems so nice, but somehow, it’s just not the same.

The sharp edges have been smoothed over, and in their place is a sheen of appeasement.  The bell no longer rings out the alarm of war, but in its place I hear the mindless, repetitive 8 bar phrases of Maranatha music.  No more blood-washed songs of that raw, old-time Gospel music that called us to repentance.  No sirree!  We’re in a new age now, and everything oozes of peace and love.

There are no more warriors anymore.  We don’t need them.  Everyone here is so nice and pleasant.  Even our modern day prophets are bringing forth a new kind of message that promises us of blessings and love, peace and prosperity.  There’s no more war, and we are at peace with everyone.

Maybe it’s just me.  As I turn into the late afternoon sun, I feel like an old veteran who has lived long past the time of the old glory days, and is somehow out of place in this new pastoral setting.

I turn to walk out of the parking lot, and as I look up, I see a darkness setting in just over the horizon.  It will soon be night, but not the night of a warm, summer evening.  It is the darkness of an impending storm on its way that I see.

I turn my collar up against the chill breeze that comes gusting through, and I wonder if anyone can see the storm that is coming.  It will be a big one.  The worst we’ve ever seen.  And there is no bell to sound the alarm.

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“And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole.” Matthew 9:19

There is something about the doctrine of predestination that just goes against the grain. Its proponents are quick to point out their usual levy of scriptures and then shrug their shoulders as they hold up their hands with the inevitable reproof that this is just simply the way it is, that God is sovereign and can do whatever He pleases.

Yeah, I suppose that’s true, but somehow it just doesn’t fit the personality of God as it is written in the “volume of the Book”. And when something doesn’t fit, you usually have the wrong jigsaw piece in the wrong spot. Yes, you can cram it in there, like forcing a round peg into a square hole, but it never truly fits and you’re never completely comfortable with it. Or to quote James 3:17, it’s not “easy to be entreated.”

Could it be that old John Calvin got himself an idea and wrapped his ensuing theology around it, hammering it tight with some of the nails he found scattered throughout the Word of God? Could it be that just maybe there’s something more than what is apparent on the surface, a deeper dimension, shall we say, that encompasses a grander vision of God?

Physicists grapple with two realities that are both mathematically sound, and yet refuse to work together in synchronization. Both Newtonian and Quantum physics are correct and both contradict the other. We know there has to be something more that will give us a great unifying theory. We just don’t know what it is.

Not so with theology! There seems to be a compulsion to prove that we are right. As it was with Mr. Calvin.

Calvinism states that no matter what you do, you have no say so over whether God will pick you for Heaven or for Hell. That sounds suspiciously like Islam. Only those who die in jihad can get to Heaven and get the 70 virgins (and hope they are not some toothless old hags from the Ganges River.) The rest of the Muslim world has to hope Allah capriciously chooses to let them in. That’s called Election and it is the same for Calvin as it is for Mohammed.

Let me ask you this, if the doctrine of predestination is correct and you cannot change your election, why did Jesus speak in parables?

I believe in the utterly miraculous gift of free will. I believe it is so far beyond carnal understanding that we can only grasp it by faith. I may not have all the answers, but I do have a grip on the substance of faith, that Jesus Christ died for my sins and it is my choice to follow Him or reject that Grace. While I could fence with a raft of scriptures to prove my theological point, I refuse to argue. I just believe. And that is what we are asked to do – take it by faith because you can never figure it all out.

Calvin tried his best to untie a spiritual Gordian knot and just got tangled up in the process. I on the other hand prefer to throw my lot in with the simple woman with the issue of blood who believed.

“But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Matthew 9:20

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Peter’s Wife

“And when Jesus was come into Peter’s house, he saw his wife’s mother laid, and sick of a fever.  And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose, and ministered unto them.”  Matt. 8:14,15

Think about it for a minute.  Who was paying the bills while Peter was off running around the countryside following this new prophet from God?

Peter was a fisherman.  It wasn’t like they had a shop that his wife could take over while he was gone.  He made his living out in a boat – not exactly a place for a woman to take over.  I imagine she made do somehow, as all women do that find themselves in that situation.  But she may have been a little less than thrilled about it.

I wonder if she shared the same enthusiasm that Peter had.  She could hear the excitement in his voice and could see the light and fire in his eyes as Peter went on and on about Jesus and how wonderful it was to be in His presence. That was all fine and dandy, but it didn’t put bread on the table.  On top of that, she had her mother to take care of.

“How long, Peter, were you going to run off after this new avatar from God and forsake your responsibilities at home?  Doesn’t the Bible say that you’re supposed to take care of your family first?  What about us?”

Then came the day that Peter brought Jesus to his house.  Was his wife hostile?  Quietly bitter?  Gritting her teeth in submission as she offered the required hospitality?  Maybe she was just as excited as Peter, but it doesn’t really say.  Mom was in the back room, sick and unable to help, so it was all up to her to greet these new friends of her husband.

And then Jesus touched her mother’s hand.

Talk about excitement!  Wow!  I can just picture that old lady jumping up out of her bed that she had lain in for who knows how long.  She wasn’t just healed!  She jumped up and started setting the table!  You had one excited old lady!  She had been touched by the hand of God.

Was this the miracle that Peter’s wife needed?  It’s one thing to hear and even believe the Gospel.  It’s a whole ‘nother thing to have your own personal revelation with God.  As they say in Texas, “It’s better felt, than telt.”  Now she knew.  It had come home to her right where she was at.  One simple touch made her know that this truly was the Son of God.

Every one of us needs our own personal revelation in God.  There has to be that miracle in your life that opens up your heart and soul to the reality of the Truth.  Once the hand of God has touched you, you will never be the same again.  Until that happens in your life, however, you may be just following a program by rote.  You know it, but you don’t feel it.  The passion has to come from His touch.

And what about Peter?  The other disciples had no responsibilities tying them down like Peter had.  While they could just get up and go, Peter had to drag along this weight of family responsibility that had to have had an effect on him.  He probably needed this even more than his wife did because Peter was about to embark on a path that would lead him around the world in a life of sacrifice.  This one simple act set him free to go.

Have you felt the calling from God to drop your nets and follow Him?  It isn’t always as simple as it sounds, is it?  There are so many things in Life that stand in the way.  And yet the Lord stands there in the path of your life, beckoning you to drop those nets anyway and to follow Him. No matter what the obstacles may be, the Lord is faithful to those who will take that step of faith to follow him.

Even if it means healing your mother-in-law.

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Well, I got another letter 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 labor 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?

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;”  Colossians. 4:2

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         I’ve been going through my old columns, sprucing them up and getting them ready for publication when I came across this old one I sent several years ago.  I got all choked up reading it again and thought I’d share it with you one more time —

A Little Girl Named Hope

It was midnight when my daughter, Kelly, called.  I was alone on the porch outside praying, just me and God.

I had been wrestling in prayer for God to rip out all the ugly stuff that was buried deep in my heart.  I had felt for some time that I had hit a brick wall in my spiritual life that God just wasn’t going to let me get around.  It was as if God had turned off my motor and I was stuck – I wasn’t even idling.  I had come to a complete stop, and I wasn’t going anywhere.

Over the past several years, the Lord had allowed me to do some remarkable things.  I was so excited!  I had done things that I never thought I would have ever been able to do, and not only had I been able to do them, but had witnessed the incredible power of God flowing through me during those times.  I felt like I was getting to do some really great things, and had finally come into the ministry that I had been waiting for all my life.  I felt like I was running full tilt at 150 mph.

And then He clamped down hard.

I could feel it before I could see it.  Something was missing.  That feeling of confidence was eroding, and things weren’t happening for me like they used to.  I had seen lots of miracles, healings, and special words from God, but now there was silence. Dead silence. If I prayed for someone, nothing happened. Doors started closing around me, and I felt like I was out in the middle of a dry desert.

Now, I’ve been through the desert before, so I figured this was just another growing time, but this time it felt different.  I don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it was as if there was something blocking my way.  Something I couldn’t see.  I kept trying to dismiss it, but it was there no matter what I tried to do.  I began to realize that it wasn’t something external – it was me.

I felt like my pride had caused me to be such a failure that I might have lost whatever calling I had in God, and very possibly would never again feel the anointing flow through me over the pulpit or through my hands when praying over others.  But that was okay.  I was ready to surrender my place to someone else who would be much better than I had been, and I was resolved to accept whatever lowly position God granted me, whether it was sweeping the floor, or cleaning the toilets for the saints – it didn’t matter.  I just wanted to serve the Lord.  I surrendered my pride and asked for forgiveness.

There’s a place where we sometimes have to go to that is far away from the outside world – a quiet place deep inside you where everything around you stops.  Like the Garden of Gethsemane, you have to go there alone, taking nothing with you but your raw, naked soul.  It is there where you strip away everything you hold onto, every crutch that you hang onto for support, and all the lofty ideas that you have of yourself, so that you come stripped down and naked before God.  It is the place where you come to a realization of who you really are before God, and accept the searing humility that we are nothing but dust and ashes, and He is God.

I was in that place when my daughter called.

A little girl she knew had just been in an accident and was not going to make it. Her name was Hope.  My daughter wanted me to pray for God to restore that little girl back to life because she thought God would hear my prayers.  At that moment, I didn’t know if God would hear me or not.  Seriously.  I felt as low as I had felt in a long time.  But we prayed anyway.

Almost right away, the Spirit of God crashed down on both of us like a lightning bolt!  I was so excited that I was jumping and dancing all over the porch, shouting and praising the Lord.  I didn’t care what the neighbors thought.  God had answered, and I really believed that He was going to raise that girl from the dead!

Two days later, however, the hospital still had the girl on life support — not really dead, but not really alive.  I cried out to God wondering what happened, and a little voice went off in the back of my head, “She’s still alive, isn’t she?”  Amen, Lord, she’s still alive.  Maybe God was waiting for an opportune time or something.  Surely, He would raise her up now and show the world that He is still sitting on the Throne and still answers prayer.

But that night, she died.

I don’t get it.  What happened?  We felt the power of the Holy Spirit crash down on us.  God, I thought You were going to heal her!  Did I not pray hard enough or long enough?  Did I quit too soon just because I got such an immediate answer?  Or was it me?  Would I have taken credit for her healing and strutted around about how powerful I was in God?  Why did God allow her to die?

You can imagine how devastated I was.  Maybe I really was as bad as I thought I was.  Maybe it was my fault.  Maybe God couldn’t heal her because of me.

But, you know, sometimes it’s not all about you.  The world doesn’t hinge on your performance or how great your accomplishments are.  It doesn’t matter how much stuff you know, or how good you are at doing anything, or what a failure you have been.  God is not limited by your limitations.

The next day, as I was dragging myself through my discouragement, I got a picture from the Lord.  It wasn’t much, just a glimpse. But it was enough. I could see Jesus standing up high overlooking the world, and standing beside Him with His arm wrapped around her was that little girl.  They stood at that place between this life and the next, on the edge of Eternity, with the entrance to Heaven behind them, and He was asking her if she wanted to go back to Earth.

“No”, she said. “I want to stay here with you, Jesus.”

“Yes”, He said as He hugged her a little closer.  “I want you to stay here with Me, too”.

And they both turned and walked into the gates of Heaven.

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Manasseh

Notwithstanding the Lord turned not from the fierceness of this great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had provoked him withal.”  2Kings 23:26

I am always struck by the bedrock determination of the judgments of God.  It is written that God is not a man that He should repent, but for some reason, that is a difficult concept for us to grasp because we have assimilated the idea that if we say we are sorry, all will be forgiven and everything will be OK.

Well, maybe it will be forgiven, but that doesn’t mean it will be OK.  I’ve heard it said before that the judgments of God are like a great stone wheel, rolling slow but sure, crushing all wickedness under it.  Simple apologies do little to stop great stone wheels.  Once judgment is set, it is set.

But ingrained into our culture are two things that are unique to the modern age:

  1. The lack of the fear of absolute rulers, and
  2. The lack of the fear of judgment.

We cannot grasp the fear that ancient peoples had for kings and emperors because democracy and the rise of the common people have eradicated their absolute power.  We can read about the chilling fear and trembling that was upon the people who stood before these great monarchs, but our minds have no reference point to be able to grasp what that must have been like.

The lack of the fear of God’s judgment is similar.  As successive generations water down the Word of God (just like it describes in the Book of Joel), we get farther away from the stark lines of the fear of God that our forefathers once possessed.  Either we are more enlightened than they were back then, or we are just plain stupid.

The judgment of God that was placed upon Judah because of Manasseh was proclaimed AFTER Manasseh repented before God and had come back to try and make things right with Him.  His efforts gained him a reprieve, but it did not stop judgment.

So it shall be with us.  America was established on the Old-Fashioned Gospel that was based on the fear of God, but it has morphed into a theologically scholastic plastic shadow of what it once was.

Where our services once thundered under the anointing and power of God, we now have animated social gatherings for Christians to listen to our pastor’s opinion of Scripture.  We call it church.

Where we once looked upon God with fear and trembling, we now talk about “awesome respect for our Daddy” as we sit in His big, comfy lap.

Where we once emphasized righteousness, we now languish in a warm, fuzzy concept of Love.

And where we once believed that judgment, once set, was sure, we now have convinced ourselves that because God loves us so much, surely He won’t do all those terrible things to us.

But the great wheel continues to turn.

After 50 million abortions, the rise of the predominance of homosexuality, the rampant saturation of lust, and the success of greed and corruption in our society, you have to ask yourself how it is that you really think God is just going to ignore everything and forget the mountains of sin that we have heaped upon ourselves. If the Lord were to halt judgment, would He not have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah?  And if He did, could we really rely upon Him to be righteous? I fear that He really is righteous, and that He means exactly what He says, and therefore great judgment is determined upon us as a fallen nation and world.

And, to me, the proof of that coming judgment is how few of us believe it.

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