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Mud and Vision

A heavy blanket lies over the city of Bukavu.

I read that at one time this was a popular tourist attraction and thousands of people flocked here for vacation. That was some time ago. There isn’t a trace of that left today. Today, you have a depressed city, coated with a layer of mud, broken roads, and crumbling buildings, teeming with too many people crawling around a cacophony of confused traffic. Everyone seems to be pushing against each other to get where they are going. Joy is notably missing from the streets, and it’s absence filters into everything around it. This is a difficult place, and yet there is hope.

After our pastor’s conference, I was brought to one of the churches for 3 days of messages. The intensity of the praise and worship was more intense than anything I have seen in a long time — and I have seen a lot of praise and worship across Africa the last 15 years. It was as if the joy that was suppressed on the outside had burst it’s bonds here in the church. The praises from 200 people packed into a small church at the top of their lungs was so loud that it actually shut my hearing off. That was the praising. Then came the dancing! The dancing that followed was so intense that I had to wonder if it was a a cultural holdover from pagan worship or just the intensity of a much needed release from the hard life outside. Whatever it was, they certainly made themselves heard in Heaven.

And then came my message of repentance.

Many have an idea in their head that revival is about wonderful times of worship when the Spirit comes down and overwhelms us and when the glory of God is so intense that you can see and feel the very air glisten from the Schekinah glory. We see it as a time of great rejoicing and glory. And it is. But revival is not about singing and dancing – it is about winning souls. That is why God sends revival to the Church – so that we will be a light to the world that the unsaved can see and know that there is power in the Blood of Jesus and life in the church. But that’s not what comes first.

No revival comes without repentance. None. Search history and you will see. Repentance, not only for our own secret sins and little gods, but also for the sins of our people, our country, and most especially, the Church. We have not fulfilled the one thing that Jesus asked us to do. We have been too focused on ourselves and what God can do for us. Instead of denying ourselves, picking up the Cross and following Jesus out to the streets to proclaim liberty to the Lost, we have settled into our complacency on our little wooden pews and plastic chairs, waiting for God to send us revival. And God tells us to be ashamed because we have let the harvest of souls perish (Joel 1:11).

All of a sudden, as soon as the message turned to repentance, this church quieted down into a muffled deadness. Everything was great while we talked about how wonderful everything was, but as soon as I turned to the subject of paying a price, of sacrifice and repentance, and the burden of the Cross, everything died.

My translator thinks otherwise. He thinks they just feel guilty. I hope so. That was the point.

But it may be that life is so hard for these people, that putting one more burden on them just snuffs the happiness out of them. And yet, no revival comes without repentance. The path to real joy and happiness goes through the Cross. Everything else is an artificial gospel that uses an cheap grace to lead the simple away from the Cross.

Tough message. And sometimes hard to receive. But the principles of revival do not change.

It is here that we need a vision. There has to be something to inspire the people. They have to believe in it, feel it, and clutch it tightly to their hearts to push through every obstacle, hardness and challenge that they will face in the pursuit of a true revival. This is war, and the spiritual battles leading to revival can be fierce.

I tell people that a true vision is not one that you can see with your eyes, but one that lies over the horizon that you can only see with your heart through faith. But you also have to be able to see the path that will take you there. No matter how steep or long the path, you have to see the way to get there, otherwise your vision becomes unobtainable and is nothing more than wishful thinking.

This is where we need anointed preachers who can plant that inspiration in our hearts and pull back the curtains so we can see the vision that is before us. We need men and women who have chosen a crucified walk so that they can bear the Anointing oil and touch a light to our souls. Then people will see past the mud, depression, and hardship to see the glory of God.

Lord, send them now and revive us again.

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Usually when they tell you 200 pastors will be there, you can expect half of them to actually show up. Not here. Pastor John kept reassuring me that they will all come. They had not only sent out invitations, but had followed up with phone calls and emails to make sure. I was beginning to believe Pastor John because of his almost childlike zeal and excitement, but I was still skeptical.

I have been to the Congo three times before and have found it to be different than the other African countries I have been to. It is difficult to describe exactly what it is different, but there is a certain dark feeling you get to this place as soon as you cross the border. Is it the mud that is everywhere? Or maybe the extreme poverty and feeling of hopelessness? Maybe it is that dead look that you see in the eyes of so many people. Have the years of warfare and horror killed their souls? There has been so much pain and sorrow here that too many of these people have that look about them. It’s as if they have died inside and a darkness has settled over their souls.

Whatever it is, you can feel it everywhere you go. This is a place of great darkness, and by contrast, a place of great challenge, hope, and promise. The Light we carry is greater than the Darkness that Satan has covered this land with. What is that saying? The greater the darkness, the brighter the light? That’s the Congo.

So coming to this conference, I really didn’t expect to see the entire 200 pastors. And I didn’t. I saw 300 or more. I know because we handed out 300 books, Four Steps to Revival, and we have to print another 100 copies to take care of everyone. Silly me. Did I not believe Pastor John when he kept telling me, “They are so thirsty!” Yes they are. Desperate is a better word.

Each service has been great. The place is packed and they are sitting on the edge of their chairs writing down everything I say. It doesn’t matter that they have a copy of the book. They don’t want to miss anything.

And they don’t. Throughout each meeting, they are with me every step of the way. And when it comes time to pray, oh brother, get out of the way! It is like setting off an explosion. And they keep praying! There is nothing fainthearted or quiet about the way they cry out to God from the depths of their hearts. These men and women are desperate.

I heard several times that the message I preach is not being preached in the churches today. They remember that it is the same message from many years ago when revival was moving across Africa in the 1970’s. They heard it 50 years ago, but no more. Now all they hear is about grace, blessings, and love. The message of repentance in the fear of the Lord, holiness, and a crucified walk in God has been missing. And as a result, the Church has lost her fire and power. They can see the difference. They wonder why we can’t.

It is an understatement to say they are excited. They can see the path to victory clearly. They are like the Israelites standing on the banks of Jordan smelling the fragrances of the fruit blossoms from over in the Promised Land. They can see it, they can smell it, and it is in their grasp. They just have to cross that river.

I believe we broke through some strong barriers and have inspired a cadre of warriors that will take the battle to the streets and hold up a burning torch for the Lord Jesus Christ. They know there is a price for revival. They also know that they will be persecuted for preaching this message of repentance. But they don’t care. They have waited for this for too long to stop now.

Revival is coming, and these are the guys who are going to usher it in.

Evidence

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:10-13)

They had just come down from the mountain – Peter, James, and John. They got to see what no one else had ever seen nor would see. They saw Jesus in His glory. Plus they saw Moses and Elijah! Are you kidding? They were there! They could have reached out and touched them!

Not only that, but the most unbelievable thing that could ever happen had just happened to them – they heard God the Father speak. And He spoke to them, directly, personally!

Who are you going to tell? Who is going to believe that God the Father actually spoke directly to you? The other disciples all believed in Jesus as the Christ, but c’mon Peter, aren’t you stretching things a little? Who do you guys think you are? Oh sure, you saw Moses and he was having a chat with Elijah. Uh-huh.

And forget about telling anyone on the outside. They’re having a tough enough time deciding whether or not Jesus is really the Messaiah that should come or just another crazy false prophet. The Lord knows they had enough of them, especially during that particular time. If they went out telling everyone what they had just seen, people would really think they were crazy.

So who do you tell? And yet, they knew that they had seen this incredible thing.

But now they are struggling with how to answer the Pharisees and the gain sayers, the doubting clergy who thought they knew so much more than these stupid, uneducated fishermen. The Scripture plainly says that the Messiah must be proceeded by Elias. It’s right there in Malachi. Look around you. Where’s Elijah? We don’t see anybody coming down riding his chariot of fire, and it’s sure not one of you guys. So where is he? And — the follow up to that — if there is no Elijah here, then Jesus cannot be the Christ.

And yet they knew. They saw with their own eyes. They heard the voice of God. But how do you answer this?

There are times when you don’t know what to say but you have that gut feeling, a confidence of faith, that you know that you know that it is true. You may not have the answer, and you have nothing to counter your critics with, but you know it is true.

Their will be times like that when you can feel Satan laughing in your face because it looks like you have lost the argument. But as they say, he who laughs last, laughs best of all. Hang onto the solid substance of faith that you have anchored in your heart and declare your faith, for you are NOT wrong, even though you may not know the answer. Declare your victory no matter what for we are saved by faith, not by sight!

Oh, and as for Elijah? That’s easy. It was John the Baptist. Any other questions?

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

Brother Dale

www.Revivalfire.org/subscribe

Prophetic Spirits

“A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.” (Proverbs 14:25)

I am worried about a trend I see in today’s churches that seems to have caught on without any restraints or even any questioning as to its validity. I am talking about our rush toward pursuing this “prophetic spirit” that so many have been enamored with.

Churches these days are rife with schools for prophets, even initiating schools for children to learn how to develop a prophetic spirit. How we long to hear from God!  But is this a talent that can be learned or taught?  The retort always points to the references in the books of Samuel and Kings.  But were these classrooms to teach young people Prophecy 101?  Is there a Five Step program to becoming a prophet?  Is there something that can written down in a manual for would-be prophets?

The Bible does not mention a school of prophets – it talks of a “company” of prophets. The Hebrew is “hebel”, a union or group that is woven together like a rope.  It is related to “habel”, which has to do with a pledge or a security taken.  In other words, there were groups of prophets who were bound together by their commitment to one another and to God.  No schools. No course of education. No seminars for 99 bucks to sign up for and be the first on your block to have a “prophetic spirit”.  A true prophet of God is called, not schooled – and God calls you, not the other way around.

I have noticed a remarkable telltale sign that is universal with these “prophetic spirits” – they never talk about repentance, judgment or the fear of God.  It is always something warm and fuzzy about how God is going to bless you and how you are about to “enter into your harvest”, or something innocuous like that.  How nice.

But that’s not what I see in the Bible. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah declares that when a prophet of peace utters a word of prophesy, we are to wait and see if it happens first. (Jer. 28:9). According to the Bible, the effectiveness of a prophet is measured by his ability to bring the people of God to a place of repentance. (Jer. 23:22)  Maybe we should read the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah again before we start spouting off with our “fair-haired boy” prophesies.  Or is that not in the syllabus for our schools of prophets?

The job of a prophet is to stand in the gaps of the wall that has been broken down and declare unto the people of God their sins and transgressions so that they may repent and come back to God.  But those prophets always have a difficult time getting any traction in the Church. They’re not polite, neither do they seem to care if they hurt our feelings.  Maybe that’s because they really have heard from God, not from their ethereal thoughts.  They know exactly what the message is and who it is that has told them.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe it – you will soon enough. There are no misfires or mistakes because they could only “prophesy according to the measure of their faith”. But our prophets today keep their message “positive” and “edifying” so that it always appeals to the crowd with “itching ears”.

A solitary prophet, who tried for years to get Israel to repent from their “churchy” ways, sat in a ruined city after everything he had tried to call them to had failed, and cried out,

“Thy prophets have seen vain and foolish things for thee: and they have not discovered thine iniquity, to turn away thy captivity; but have seen for thee false burdens and causes of banishment.”  (Lamentations 2:14)

If we find ourselves in the same situation, we can expect the same results.

What we are chasing is not some prophetic spirit from God, but a spirit of divination from the powers of darkness.  It is designed to lead the Church away from a place of repentance through the fear of God and into a “Pollyanna” type Gospel where everything is beautiful and it is all about grace and love. But honestly, they are only telling us what we want to hear. They are the Gypsy tea leaf readers of the church today. And we respond by buying their books and videos as they lead us like a Pied Piper onto the Good Ship Lollipop to sail away with them.

But the reality is much harsher.  This is war, and Satan has done his job well in defusing our outlook into one of détente, one that leads away from repentance.  As we are lulled to sleep and drift off into a kinder and gentler Gospel, we lose our sharp edge and our ability to see with a spiritual clarity that only comes from the fear of God.  We have forsaken the right way and chosen for ourselves and our children an easier path that leads away from the Cross, not toward it.

Jonah gasps to us from the belly of the whale that those who observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. Let us take care that the “word from the Lord” we are itching to speak over others is from the Throne of God and not some enticing spirit of divination.

“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;”  (1st Timothy 4:1)

by Cindy Garris

God gives me rewards—Rev. 11:18:       
I like rewards.

God makes me happy—Prov. 28:14:
        Doesn’t everybody want to be happy?

God prolongs my days —Prov. 10:27:
        I’m not sure if this is a blessing or not!

I’ll be praised—Prov. 31:30:                   
:>) 

My soul  dwells at ease—Psalm 25:12:
        I like that feeling!

I have wisdom—Psalm 111:10:               
I hope all my friends and kids agree with how wise I am !

God takes pleasure in me—Psalm 147:11:
        WOW, is that cool?

I have strong confidence—Prov. 14:26:
        I like this feeling too.

Angels surround me—Psalm 34:7:
        That is exciting to think about.

God fulfills my desires, He hears me, AND He saves me—Psalm 145:19
        He HEARS me!

I flee from evil –Prov. 16:6
        Absolutely.

God delivers me from my enemies—2 King 17:36
        Thank you!

Jesus did—Heb. 5:5 .
        That is a pretty good reason right there.

 

 

 

Where is the Wise?

Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.  (1 Corinthians 1:20-24)

Paul had a problem with these Greeks. They thought they were so smart that they were going to figure everything out. Everyone had their own ideas, but, like rambunctious little children on the playground, it only led to confusion and division.  If the foundation for the Church of Jesus Christ was ever going to be established so that the light of this gospel could shine to the rest of the world, then this pride and arrogance would have to be purged. The problem was that everyone thought they were the ones who were right.

But it wasn’t about who was right or wrong. It was about operating in a totally different dimension than the carnal world. It was about being in the Spirit and not being subject to the pride of carnal wisdom.

The world by wisdom, Paul cried to them, did not know God. So God decided to use something that the world didn’t know to save them.  God decided to use preaching. The Jews could not receive that as being theologically correct and the Greeks thought it was stupid. Instead of figuring out which religious rule it fit into, God threw away the rules. Instead of making analytical sense so that the Greeks could use their prestigious abilities of reason to figure it all out, God used the foolish, the weak, the base, and the despised to confound them. He used things that are not and things that do not hold substance in this world, that cannot be seen, felt, or handled to bring to nothing the things that our carnal minds are able grasp. He used faith, which is the substance, not of the world but of things not seen, to save us.

For three chapters, Paul rips back the carnal covering of this world’s reality to plead with the Corinthians to turn their thinking inside out. Instead of eating of the fruit off the Tree of Knowledge that is desired to make one wise, he pleads with them to humble themselves and realize that God doesn’t need their fleshly excellence. Instead God uses a hidden wisdom that the natural man cannot understand and that defies all reason to bring about the great works of God.

How much like America they were! We are so theologically sophisticated that we have the arrogance to dismiss the Old Time Gospel as out-of-date and the hard message of hellfire as something wrong. This generation seem to think that they know better than those old-timers who carried the Cross through times of persecution, paid the price in deep prevailing prayer, and changed the fabric of our society. We are much more enlightened now, so much so that we have redefined the meaning of Grace and adjusted and smoothed out the sharpness of the cutting edge of the Word of God.

The rest of the world is viewed as dimmer lights to us. Europe is cold, Asia is for the most part unconverted, South America is Catholic and Africa is primitive and poor. We still see ourselves as the same Light upon the Hill that the Puritans believed in, and we are eager to usher the rest of the world into our new enlightened state. But are we?

I am reminded of King Ahaz’s brand new brass altar in 2ndKings 16 that he copied from the king of Assyria. Oh, it was made with bright and shiny brass with a really modern design, and was much better than that old Brazen Altar of the Lord. So he moved the Brazen Altar of the Lord over and put this shiny new brass altar in it’s place. It sure seemed like a good idea at the time to trade the old ways for the new ways, but new and modern is not always right and good. In a short while, that same king of Assyria overflowed the banks up the neck of Jerusalem and almost destroyed Judah, just as Isaiah had prophesied (Isaiah 8:8).  Was that not because of Ahaz’s indiscretion? Is that not like what we are doing when we choose a modern Gospel that is more to our liking than that hard message of righteousness and the fear of God?

I have one question for us – a litmus test, so to speak. If we are so good and the gospel that has evolved over the last 50 years with this generation is so much better, then where, as Gideon once asked, are the miracles our fathers have told us about?

Mark tells us that these signs will follow them that believe. (Mark 16:17-18). Then where are the signs? I’m not talking about weak-kneed excuses for the anemic show of faith. I am talking about the supernatural demonstration of the Spirit that Paul boasted of in 1 Cor. 2:4. Where are the healing lines where everyone gets healed? Where is the supernatural Presence of the Holy Spirit that fills the room like a cloud of righteousness, which makes the air shimmer from the glory of God and drives sinners to the altar in droves?  Where are these signs that were once so abundant?  We used to have them 50 years ago. Where are these supernatural signs today?

I see them in Africa. Yes, that same Africa that we patronize as if they were lesser lights and children in theological sophistication.  And yet, God shows up in Holy Ghost power over there with miracles, healings, and revival. And we think we are somehow more enlightened than them?

Our grandfather’s generation knew God in power and, like Paul who gloried in the fact that he knew nothing except Christ Jesus and him crucified, they rested in their reliance in being led by the Spirit, not their lexicons, outlined sermon notes, visual aids, smoke, or mirrors.  No, they yielded in the pulpit and allowed the Spirit of God to preach the message. Something that we have lost the ability, courage, or faith to do anymore.

Only when we crucify our flesh, dispense with our carnal theological wisdoms and our stubborn rebellious ways will we ever be able to humble ourselves and fully take on the mind of Christ. Only then will God ever allow us to enter into that place of true power in God.

And then, God will get all the glory, not us.

Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. (Jeremiah 6:16)

 

Changes

“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance;” (1stThessalonians 1:5)

I have been traveling across Africa for the past 15 years. During that time, I have preached in over 1,000 churches and spoken to tens of thousands of people. One of the recurring complaints I keep hearing is that Americans are no longer preaching the same message that they brought to them 50 years ago. I have heard that a hundred times if I have heard it once, and I have heard it from Kenya to Nigeria.

We used to preach about righteousness and holiness in the fear of God. Grace was the power that God gave us to overcome sin, the flesh, and the world. The formula was simple – “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Eccl. 12:13), and Grace gave us the power to do that.

Today, the focus of Modern Christianity is different, as are the definitions of the words we use.  We are more “grace-oriented”, as one mega-preacher put it, and our emphasis is on the love of God rather than on His wrath. Today, grace has become more of a covering for sin than a cure for it. The sharp lines of judgment have been blurred to the point that no one is really sure any longer of who is saved and who is not. We now accept all denominations and all religions without prejudice because, after all, who are we to judge?

In 50 years, we have changed the basic tenets of the Gospel more than they have in generations. Those in today’s Modern Church who see this change applaud it as enlightening. The younger generation, who never experienced the power of the old fashioned Gospel, are not aware of the difference and so have whole-heartedly accepted this new Modern Gospel as if it has been the standard for all time.

But there’s more missing than just a change of focus. The power is gone. So are the miracles. Our sermons are now “in word only” with 5 bulleted points and a video clip, whereas they used to be delivered under the Anointing that pierced the depths of your soul. You used to be able to feel the tangible power and presence of the Holy Spirit like a cloud of glory. Now, we forget the message five minutes after we cross the threshold. We have traded the guts of the Gospel for an increase in sophistication and scholasticism, a fruit that is “desired to make one wise”.

The Africans can see this clearly. They wonder why we cannot.  Perhaps it is because we don’t want to, but instead, like the Church of Laodicea in Revelations, have chosen the golden calves at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

When and how did this change happen?  I believe things began changing in the 1960’s. Starting in 1964 with Billy Graham’s admitted shift in his messages and the ecclesiastical changes in some of the denominations, the tide of the Church began to turn. Fifty years later, the direction has fully turned. The truth is that 2,000 years of Gospel was upended in a very short time.

Today, Jonathan Edwards, Billy Sunday, A.W. Tozer, and many other giants would not be welcome in today’s church. They were too harsh; too judgmental; too strict; too hateful. That which was good is now considered evil, and that which was apostate, is now considered blessed.

The encouraging thing, however, is that today’s climate is very much like it often is just before God sends revival. There will be prophets to declare the old-fashioned fear of God – and they will be rejected – but there will be those who are hungry for something more than “church as usual”. Their hunger for the real power and presence of God will drive them to their knees, and that is what will bring revival.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20)