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“And his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11)

What makes the difference between a nominal Christian and an on-fire one? Are they both variations on the same theme or are they on two very different trajectories heading for two very different destinations?

A mountain stream splits when it encounters an obstacle that divides it. One part of the stream goes one way; the other goes the other way. They both will tumble down the mountain for miles, twisting and turning back and forth. They do not run in parallel, but each takes its own unique path as it heads to its final destination. Those destinations can be very different. One can end up in the Atlantic Ocean while the other tumbles down to the Pacific.

Our lives run in much the same way.  When we encounter that fork in the road or the boulder in the stream, we make a choice as to which road we will go down. What is it that determines that decision? Very simply, we choose the path that appeals to us the most.

What happens when that choice is between an easy-going Christian walk with all the amenities of the world or a walk of holiness and hardship in the fear of God? The worldly path is a wide path that offers comfort, prosperity, blessings, and all the good things we would like to pad our lives with. It’s easy, wealthy, and fun. We celebrate Jesus as if we were at a party with balloons and streamers. If that is what appeals to our hearts, then we will follow our hearts.

I can look down the easy path and see many Christians sitting on their pews every Sunday assuming that they are at rest with God. The reality is, however, that while their motors are idling they are stuck in neutral and are not going anywhere. They think this Pollyanna Gospel they adhere to will usher them in past the gates of Judgment while they sail off on the Good Ship Lollipop.

The other path leads to a rough and narrow path. There are no promises of some easy lark as we saunter down the road of Life. Conversely, there are plenty of promises of hardships, suffering, persecution, and a crucified walk that is designed to strip away all the trappings of the easy path. The joy here is not of the flesh or what we find in the world, but a joy that is found deep in the Spirit of God. The flesh here is called to pay a price, and sometimes a very heavy price.

I do not want to walk this entire journey of Life only to find out at the end that I came up just a little short of goal. Jesus said that many would come to him in that day expecting to be ushered into glory but would hear Him say, “I never knew you”. Can there be anything more horrible than that?

What is it that will make us want to choose the hard path over the easy one? What forges our desires for righteousness over apostasy?  2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12 tells us that God would cause those who did not have a love for the truth to believe a lie. He would damn them because they loved unrighteousness.  That’s pretty terse. How do I shear away from being someone who has lost his love for truth and righteousness?  There is no switch that I can turn on; no button to push; no mouse to click. How do I make sure I make the right choices? When I stand at that split in the stream, how do I make sure my heart will choose the beauty of holiness over the appeal of flesh?

Philippians 2:13 says that God will work in us to give us both the will and the power to do His pleasure. In other words, God will put the desire in our hearts to do His will and serve Him. Sounds simple, right? But there is one question: how do I get God to work in me?

Again, the answer is simple, as most things in God are.  If you want God in you, you have to read His Word. But the Word alone is not enough. It must be anointed by the Spirit of God to have life. Paul said the “letter” kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). You must have both, and you must have them in a sufficient depth to make enough of a difference to break up your stony heart and transform it into a soft and open heart that can receive the Spirit of God.

In Judges 6, we see that Gideon saw the apostasy and sin that the church had fallen into and he made a decision to separate himself from them. He threshed his wheat by the winepress in secret. Wheat stands for the Word of God, the Bread of Life. The winepress is the place of prayer. So Gideon did not warm the proverbial church pew like the others. He sought the face of God in that secret place of the Most High (Psalms 91:1) through reading and prayer.

Remember, you get what you pay for. How bad do you want God? That is reflected on how much you give yourself to seeking Him through His Word and serious, prevailing prayer. That is what gave Elijah the power to call down fire. That is what gave Paul the drive to push through the persecution to establish the Gospel with the Gentiles. That is what made the difference for Gideon and is why he was chosen by God to bring in a revival.

So in the final analysis, the choice is not whether you want to go to Heaven or not, or whether you want to be a strong Christian or not. It is the little choices you make everyday on whether or not you will read His Word and pray.  Everything in Christianity – everything – comes down to those two things – read and pray.

Brother Dale

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“And his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11)

What makes the difference between a nominal Christian and an on-fire one? Are they both variations on the same theme or are they on two very different trajectories heading for two very different destinations?

A mountain stream splits when it encounters an obstacle that divides it. One part of the stream goes one way; the other goes the other way. They both will tumble down the mountain for miles, twisting and turning back and forth. Thtwo streamsey do not run in parallel, but each takes its own unique path as it heads to its final destination. Those destinations can be very different. One can end up in the Atlantic Ocean while the other tumbles down to the Pacific.

Our lives run in much the same way.  When we encounter that fork in the road or the boulder in the stream, we make a choice as to which road we will go down. What is it that determines that decision? Very simply, we choose the path that appeals to us the most.

What happens when that choice is between an easy-going Christian walk with all the amenities of the world or a walk of holiness and hardship in the fear of God? The worldly path is a wide path that offers comfort, prosperity, blessings, and all the good things we would like to pad our lives with. It’s easy, wealthy, and fun. We celebrate Jesus as if we were at a party with balloons and streamers. If that is what appeals to our hearts, then we will follow our hearts.

I can look down the easy path and see many Christians sitting on their pews every Sunday assuming that they are at rest with God. The reality is, however, that while their motors are idling they are stuck in neutral and are not going anywhere. They think this Pollyanna Gospel they adhere to will usher them in past the gates of Judgment while they sail off on the Good Ship Lollipop.

The other path leads to a rough and narrow path. There are no promises of some easy lark as we saunter down the road of Life. Conversely, there are plenty of promises of hardships, suffering, persecution, and a crucified walk that is designed to strip away all the trappings of the easy path. The joy here is not of the flesh or what we find in the world, but a joy that is found deep in the Spirit of God. The flesh here is called to pay a price, and sometimes a very heavy price.

I do not want to walk this entire journey of Life only to find out at the end that I came up just a little short of goal. Jesus said that many would come to him in that day expecting to be ushered into glory but would hear Him say, “I never knew you”. Can there be anything more horrible than that?

What is it that will make us want to choose the hard path over the easy one? What forges our desires for righteousness over apostasy?  2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12 tells us that God would cause those who did not have a love for the truth to believe a lie. He would damn them because they loved unrighteousness.  That’s pretty terse. How do I shear away from being someone who has lost his love for truth and righteousness?  There is no switch that I can turn on; no button to push; no mouse to click. How do I make sure I make the right choices? When I stand at that split in the stream, how do I make sure my heart will choose the beauty of holiness over the appeal of flesh?

Philippians 2:13 says that God will work in us to give us both the will and the power to do His pleasure. In other words, God will put the desire in our hearts to do His will and serve Him. Sounds simple, right? But there is one question: how do I get God to work in me?

Again, the answer is simple, as most things in God are.  If you want God in you, you have to read His Word. But the Word alone is not enough. It must be anointed by the Spirit of God to have life. Paul said the “letter” kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). You must have both, and you must have them in a sufficient depth to make enough of a difference to break up your stony heart and transform it into a soft and open heart that can receive the Spirit of God.

In Judges 6, we see that Gideon saw the apostasy and sin that the church had fallen into and he made a decision to separate himself from them. He threshed his wheat by the winepress in secret. Wheat stands for the Word of God, the Bread of Life. The winepress is the place of prayer. So Gideon did not warm the proverbial church pew like the others. He sought the face of God in that secret place of the Most High (Psalms 91:1) through reading and prayer.

Remember, you get what you pay for. How bad do you want God? That is reflected on how much you give yourself to seeking Him through His Word and serious, prevailing prayer. That is what gave Elijah the power to call down fire. That is what gave Paul the drive to push through the persecution to establish the Gospel with the Gentiles. That is what made the difference for Gideon and is why he was chosen by God to bring in a revival.

So in the final analysis, the choice is not whether you want to go to Heaven or not, or whether you want to be a strong Christian or not. It is the little choices you make everyday on whether or not you will read His Word and pray.  Everything in Christianity – everything – comes down to those two things – read and pray.

Brother Dale

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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.

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“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” Revelations 14:13

That’s exactly how I feel sometimes. I’m looking forward to dying so I can get a break. But I don’t want any more work following me. I’ve had enough work to last for a lifetime!

Have you ever felt like that? Everything is a struggle and nothing ever seems to go smoothly? It’s like you’re pushing a cart through Life and the road is always going uphill. When do we get to sit on that cart and ride it downhill?

I realize that work is what we got out of the Garden of Eden. Whether it’s fair or not, we have inherited our ancestor’s foolishness. (Thanks a lot, Dad.) Did God allow this to happen so that we would really appreciate Heaven when we finally got there? If that’s the case, then I’m ready, Lord. You can beam me up any time.

Maybe that’s why the Bible says we need a vision. We would actually perish without one because we’d have nothing to strive for, no reason to push through the hard stuff, no light to give us a direction. We need something to get us through those times when we feel like we have the best product in the world (and we do), but nobody wants it, and you are just beating your head against a wall. It’s times like that when we need those anointed people who light a torch of faith and hope that inspires us to keep going.

David was like that. In one of his many times of darkness, he wrote in Psalms 37, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree, Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not.” Your time will come. The superficial never last long, and the chaff always get blown away, but that which you have planted and worked so hard for in the Lord will follow you one day.

Does it seem dark and fearful right now? Does it seem like God has forgotten you and is a million miles away? David answered again, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

The nature of faith is that you face the direction that your heart wants to go in and you choose to believe. The inspiration to keep going springs forth from the seeds of that faith that you planted.

Keep going. You’re almost there.

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”  (Psalms 126: 5,6)

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I read a chapter of Proverbs every day. Whatever today’s date is, that’s the chapter I read, and there’s always something in there for me that day. The one that stopped me today was Proverbs 16:4 –
The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” 

Wow. What is that supposed to mean? There’s another scripture in Isaiah 45:7 that says, I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”  There are some other Scriptures in the Bible that can really scramble your theologies about the nature of God if you stop and think about them.

Now, I’m not a genius but I’m smart enough to realize how stupid we are. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t think we will every grasp in their entirety until we get to the other side. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, it is as if we are looking through a glass darkly – we can’t see clearly – but when we die we will see things the way they really are.  Isaiah said it even better when he said, And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations.” (Isaiah 25:7).  There is a veil over our eyes, a covering that keeps us from seeing things the way they really are in the scope of Eternity.

(Sigh) It seems like the more I learn, the less I understand.  But Voltaire once said that to know that you know what you know, and that you don’t know what you don’t know is wisdom.  Yeah, I get it. We really don’t know, do we. We just think we know.

But one thing I do know is that God is really real – not just as a theological idea or a point of belief or doctrine to be argued over, but real, as in more real than real. I’ve had a lot of supernatural experiences with God and I know a lot of other people that have also.  Maybe not everybody gets to hear God speak out of the heavens, but it does happen.  And it is not all that uncommon.  And then there are visions, instant healings, and other sorts of miracles.  I’ve seen this stuff with my own eyes.  And I have heard Him speak to me.  I would never have believed if I hadn’t.

But I get a little reticent when speaking about this stuff because a lot of people have not experienced things like that and I’m always afraid they will start looking at me narrowly if I mention them.  As if to say, “You know, he’s really a nice guy, but he’s just a little nuts.”   Sorry, but why should I be afraid to mention these things?  I mean, I didn’t do them to myself, and by golly, there’s a lot of other people that have had the same experiences, so why, as Paul once said, should it seem a thing incredible?  If God can raise the dead, why can’t He speak?

All I know is that God really is real.  He’s there.  And no, I don’t understand how or why God created evil … but He says He did, and that’s good enough for me.  It says in that same chapter of Proverbs that the highway of the upright is to depart from evil and that he that keeps his way preserves his soul.  I guess that’s all I really need to know.

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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Everybody I know is going to Heaven. (Let me think for a minute … yep, everybody). From the Alpha+ personalities that charge ahead in their own self-righteousness to the casual believers who relax in their own languid reassurance that all is cool with the “Man Upstairs”. The only folks I know who say they’re not going to Heaven are the ones who don’t believe in Heaven anyway! Well, I guess that just makes everything convenient then. We can all relax and be raptured.
But somewhere there is a line.
If everybody is right, then nobody is wrong; and if everybody else is wrong, what makes you think you are right? Peter said that he knew and was sure that Jesus was the Christ. That’s all fine, but it’s not God who I am wondering about — I trust God. It’s me I don’t trust.
A guy named Howard Pitman had an experience years ago when he died in an ambulance and went up before God. God showed him the Day of Judgment where he saw billions of people going up before God to be judged. Multitudes were shot down into Hell like showers of sparks. Some souls went up to Heaven, but nowhere near as many as those who went to Hell. But every once in a while there would be one who would come up before God and there would be a pause … and then they would be shot down into Hell. He said that when he asked what that was, God replied that those were the self-righteous who thought they were supposed to go to Heaven and stood there justifying themselves to God.
It’s been years since I listened to that vision, but that one scene has never left me. It lines up with the admonition Jesus gave us of the broad and narrow paths. While we may all have our own perspective of what is required to get to Heaven, only one perspective matters – and that would His.
Let us be careful that we don’t walk so squeaky clean that we become Pharisees or so detached from righteousness that we think that going out and looking at the trees is a religious experience with God. Some will echo the old assertion of “I don’t smoke, and I don’t chew, and I don’t go with them that do”, all the while sitting completely stagnant in their lack of mercy for others. Others will float around in their spiritual effervescence, dispensing feel-good prophesies laced with love and sugar plums so that everyone will know they are loved but be clueless as to the holiness that God demands.
There is a walk in the Spirit that found in neither of these extremes nor anywhere between them. It is a completely different path, a different perspective, and an entirely different goal. It is a place of surrender before God where you no longer matter. It is being as porous as an open window so that the Spirit of God can pass through you to shower the true mercy of God on others. You will never gain that place in God through your own efforts or spirituality – only through surrender.

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     “Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. 
     And Elisha said unto her, what shall I do for thee? Tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not anything in the house, save a pot of oil.”  (2Ki 4:1,2)

 Here is a picture of the church in a time of spiritual recession. Her husband had been a prophet so she had at one time known the ways of the Lord, but now he was gone and she sat alone in poverty, powerless to save her own sons from bondage.  Elisha did not give her money, but instead asked her what she still possessed in herself.

A pot of oil.  Just a residue of the anointing that she once had in abundance.  How like the Widow of Zarephath with Elisha’s predecessor who in the time of spiritual famine only had a little meal (the Word of God) and a little oil (the anointing).  But unlike the Widow of Zarephath whose task was to support the prophet until the appointed time, this woman’s task was to exercise what she still possessed in God.

Bring in all the vessels you can find, borrow from anyone you can, and bring them into the House of God that they may be filled with Oil. Do you believe God? Do you REALLY believe?  Then bring in the vessels, not a few. Bring in the souls to the House of God that they may be filled. Do you really believe in Salvation?  Do you really believe in Hell?  And when your faith is done, then close the door. The extent of your vision is determined by the depth of your faith.

Faith allows God to multiply the anointing.  He will not pour out His Spirit on a church that does not believe Him. But when faith grows, so will the outpouring.

Is this the formula for revival? I believe so. While I am loud in proclaiming that no revival comes without repentance and that all revivals have to be prayed in with a desperation that drives us past the limitations of our own flesh, I am adamant that revival is first, foremost, and always about winning the lost. It is the primary principle to understanding revival.  In the Book of Joel, God cries out to us to be ashamed because the harvest of the field is perished (Joel 1:11), and that He has cut off the corn, the wine, and the oil from the House of God as a result.   When we turn our focus away from a burden for winning lost souls, we turn off the faucet to the Spirit of God.

The solution to seeing the anointing flow once more in the Church is to fix the problem that caused it to cease. Cry out to God, not for your personal blessings and prosperity, but for God to shower us with His Holy Ghost conviction.  Dear God, allow us to see, allow us to repent, allow us to return.  Have mercy on us so that we may, in turn, have mercy on others.  Our children are sold to be bondmen to the world because they see no power in the Church. The anointing we once had when our husband was alive in the church has dissipated to a fading memory. We have a form of godliness, but we have denied the power thereof. We have a House, but it is nothing but a shell of the glory that it once had.

     “And Gideon said unto him, Oh my Lord, if the LORD be with us, why then is all this befallen us? And where be all his miracles which our fathers told us of, saying, Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt? But now the LORD hath forsaken us, and delivered us into the hands of the Midianites. 
     And the LORD looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?  (Judges 6:13,14)

 

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