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Posts Tagged ‘christian’

Oh God, where are you? Can you see me? Are you watching? Or are you busy paying attention to 7 billion other people who need you just as much, or actually much more, than I do?

Have you chosen to set yourself apart from us, just far enough back so that we can almost touch you, but not so close that it would dissolve faith? Sometimes there are miracles; sometimes all the crying in the world cannot get you to move. Sometimes I can feel the Spirit so strong I feel like dancing; sometimes it feels like the heavens are brass and the door to your presence is slammed shut.  Sometimes you feel so close that I feel enveloped in you; sometimes you are so far away that I wonder if you are really there or not.

Belief in God has never been natural for me. The whole concept of God watching over us seemed so foreign to me that it was much easier to believe in the postulates of science than in the hopes of Heaven. Why would God do things this way? How come He doesn’t show Himself in the sky so we can all settle this debate once and for all?  He does, after all, want everybody to go to Heaven, right?  So where exactly is He?

And really, where is Heaven? Is it some far out place way out in the cosmos or buried in some other dimension?  How come it is way out there and we are down here?

We are immersed in the reality of this tangible world and it therefore captures our attention.  Sometimes it’s a lot easier to not believe than to believe, especially when you’re praying your guts out and it seems like God is deaf.   Heaven can only be hoped for, not seen.

But then there are those times when God reaches down and touches you.  Or heals some blind person. Or answers some prayer of yours that was just impossible.  Or reaches out and touches you in a place way down in your heart that even you didn’t know was there.

Sometimes He just acts like God, and it is unmistakably Him.  And then you know.

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“What, me worry?”
(Alfred E. Newman, Mad Magazine)

My mother hated Mad Magazine. She thought their hilarious spoofs would teach me to be irresponsible, unholy, and generally wayward. Alfred E. Newman, the flagship personality of the entire magazine was especially abhorrent to her. He would be the ruin of me if she allowed me to be exposed to his reprobate way of thinking.

So I would stash my copies with my other contraband, like pocket knives and chewing gum.  Poor Mom. She never suspected how corrupt I had become.

Years later, I have discovered that Alfred was not so far off the truth. His philosophy on life is echoed by the Apostle Paul, only in a much different context. Paul’s repeated exhortation was to cast off your carnal worries and allow God to take control of your life.

“Be careful for nothing…” (Philippians 4:6)

“With food and raiment, therewith be content…” (1 Timothy 6:8)

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)

Jesus echoed this same sentiment with, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

So what are we worried about?

I spoke to a wealthy young man last night about his concerns that his latest tithing was not bringing back the results he expected. Normally, he gives heavily and there is an immediate response from the Lord in new deals and revenues, which he then, in turn, sows back into the ministries that he supports. This last time, however, he has not seen the usual response from God, and he was getting worried about going broke.  I might mention that he tithes over 50% of his income, and sometimes much higher.

I gave him my best impression of Alfred E. Newman. Don’t worry about it because it doesn’t really matter. If you’re giving just to get, you’re doing it for all the wrong reasons. If you’re giving because you really believe in this gospel, then it doesn’t matter if you get anything back.  If you want true prosperity, then you have to let go.

Prosperity is not measured in dollars and cents, but in the lack of financial stress. Your ties with the things of this world have to be cut so that you, as Paul also put it, are crucified unto the world and the world is crucified unto you. You no longer care. There is nothing in that world that you long for or lust for. The connection is severed and your treasure is now in Heaven, not in this world.

It may be that the blessing you are not seeing is the stretching of your faith by allowing you to walk without the tangible crutch of money.  Or food. Or home. Does it not say, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content”?  Food and clothing are the only things mentioned. And maybe God is doing that so your faith will grow as you learn to trust Him completely and thereby enable you to step up into a higher calling and a greater effectiveness than you have ever known … and thereby greater blessings.

When we come to the realization that we are dead to this world and alive only in Christ, and when the world no longer has any pull on us because we are dead to it, we then enter into a crucified walk in God, broken to His will, and yielded to His purpose.

It is then that the cares of this life are sloughed off like a dead layer of skin, and we are truly free.

Brother Dale
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For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.  Hebrews 6:4-6

Yikes!  Ever wonder about that scripture?  That’s pretty stiff.  We usually hear about how loving God is and how He will always forgive us, and we have a tendency to build that idea into our personal theology.  But there is a certain line that we can cross over from which there is no coming back.  And this is not the only scripture that alludes to that, either.  But how does one get to such a drastic point?

How this could happen to somebody?  How does someone get so far from the simplicity of the Gospel to allow themselves to fall so deeply into the chains of sin?  Especially when they know better. It doesn’t happen overnight.  It’s here a little, there a little.  Ignore a little conviction from the Lord here and there, and it is not long before they allow themselves to lean more and more into what they really want to believe in their heart.

My Bible says that the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things.  We’re not supposed to trust in our hearts, but in the Word of God.  The thing is, everybody has a little different take on the Bible. It’s often not a matter of what we read, but a matter of what we want to believe.  Flesh has a tendency to choose its own delusions. Faith, however, comes by hearing the Word of God.  That’s hearing, as in, having your ears open to hear the Truth.

It’s a fierce war out there, kids – a spiritual war.  Over a period of time, if we do not have ears that will hearken to the Word of God, we can fall into that deceptive, smooth doctrine that will tell us all the things that our flesh wants to hear.  In the depths of our souls we may be able to detect the ring of Truth, but, if we are not careful, we can ignore it so we can believe something else that is more palatable to our personal tastes. We end up, as it says in 2 Timothy 4:3, heaping up teachers to ourselves, having itching ears.  Keep sliding in that direction, and there comes a point when you just totally give yourself over to your delusion, and that is when you cross that line.

Now you know why I make such a strong stand for the importance of the real chilling fear of the Lord.  You can also see why the enemy of our souls has done his best to extract that message out of the pulpits for the last couple of generations.  Or at least water it down as much as he can.  He is pretty slick.  Satan knows that when you leave the fear of the Lord, you will forget your reading, prayer, and fasting.  When you forget your reading and praying, you lose your power in God.  It is not by your power or might, but by the Spirit of the Lord that we are able to overcome.

It’s a simple formula.  There’s no magic to it.  You don’t choose to go to hell.  Either you choose your own deceptions, or you choose to crucify that old flesh and submit to the Word of God.

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Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.” (John 12:3)

Praise contradicts pride. If you are praising God, He becomes your focus, not yourself. The fragrance fills the room and the presence of this world and its hold on you is squeezed out. Pride melts away along with your attention on self. You – your position, your title, your benefit and welfare, your prosperity and blessings, even your place in God – dissolves in the cloud of unfettered praise carried in the beauty of holiness.

Pride is really nothing more than putting yourself above everyone else, including God. It has a ravenous appetite and will take over every place it enters. Just as the flesh wars against the Spirit, so pride is the antithesis of praise., and just as sin separates us from God, so also is grace unable to function in the presence of pride.

If you do not let go of your pride, your praises to God will ring hollow, and it will not be long before you are bored with repeating the meaningless phrases of “praise you Jesus, thank you Jesus”. The flesh takes precedent over lifeless words and renders your praises impotent. Your connection to the Holy Spirit is then broken and your feet remain planted in this world.

How then do we anchor our praises in the Spirit, break the stranglehold of the flesh, and release true praise and worship? The answer, as always, is to immerse yourself in the Word. All power comes from the Word of God. The Word of God created the universe. It cleanses you, gives you light and understanding, and because it is the source of faith, it gives you the power to pray. And prayer is the key that opens the door to praise.

There is one more step, however, in releasing the full power of praise. You have to break your heart. Mary broke the alabaster box that held the ointment. In so doing, you break open the bars that hold praise captive, and liberate it to fill the room.

The power of praise is one of the secrets to answered prayer. You “enter His courts with praise” (Psalms 100:4). Praise opens the door to the Throne Room of God. When you are totally immersed in praise and worship, the Holy Spirit will cover you and carry you into the presence of God. Once you are standing before Him in all His glory, nothing else matters.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen H. Lemel)

 

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“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?”(Matthew 5:13)

Whenever I have a get-together, I always invite Barry.  Yeah, things can go just fine without him, but when he’s there, he adds an extra spice to the party. I guess he’s sort of half nuts, but the half of him that’s nuts is a real fun nuts. He’s kind of like the sweet and sour sauce that goes with your egg rolls … that is, if you like egg rolls. You can eat them dry, but without the sauce, it tastes like something is missing.

Church is a lot like that.  Oh sure, we have wonderful churches, with great pastors and real nice people. And I’m sure you all love your church services. But something just seems to be missing.

Ever wonder why so many folks out there are not flocking to your church? And I’m not talking about sinners – I’m talking about Christians!  Ask them sometime. You’ll find (if you can get around their initial polite responses) that they need something more than what they are finding at church. Something is missing and they are left still hungry when they leave. What is that thing?

It’s not the setting or the message or the music or the people. It’s something that is difficult to put your finger on, but whatever it is, it isn’t satisfying that hunger that so many people have in the depths of their souls.

I brought my family just recently to a service where someone was preaching that I knew was a real servant of the Lord. And it was good … sort of. All the right theological elements were in place, the preachers said a lot of great stuff, and it was good to be there.  But something was missing.

As we drove home, my wife pointed right to it – there was no anointing.  Great message, wonderful preachers, nice place … but no anointing.  Egg rolls without sauce.

Now I’m sure that a whole bunch of you are going to say, “But oh, we have the anointing in our services!”  Then why are hundreds of souls not flocking to your altar to get saved every week?

Think I’m being excessive? Back in the 1970’s, we had 30 to 50 souls at the altar every night and twice on Sunday! And it was because the power of the Holy Spirit was literally pouring out on us every night. Three hundred souls a week … for years.

If you haven’t been saved long enough to have experienced the revivals in the early 70’s, then really, you have no idea what you’re missing. If you weren’t there for the old Brush Arbor revivals then all you have to compare your services to are the narratives that were written by those who were there. We have not seen anything like it for 40 to 50 years. The Brownsville revival is the closest we’ve had and that was twenty years ago.

Once you have tasted of a Holy Ghost anointing, you will never be the same and you will never again be satisfied with “church as usual”. It is the sweet and sour sauce to your egg roll services; it’s the salt that flavors the meal that you are serving to saved and unsaved alike.  It’s the thing that draws souls to the altar in droves. It’s the very essence of the Spirit of God.

And it’s missing.

So what do we need to do to get it back?  I’m sure that everybody’s loaded up on volumes of Christian self-help books written by every pseudo-expert who has a new word from God to tell the rest of us … for $19.95 of course.

And maybe that’s the problem.  We’re so busy trying to figure it out that we’re not letting God take control. Maybe if we threw out our prepared messages and burned our theological books, we could be free to follow the leading of the Holy Ghost. But no, we’re afraid to do that. We have to do our Christianity according to the way we’ve been taught to do it. We have designed our System, and by God, we’re going to carry it out! God brought us to the dance, but we want to lead the way we learned at Arthur Murray’s Dance Class, so instead of waltzing with grace, we end up stepping on His toes.

When we are ready to admit our failure, God will be more than ready to pour out His anointing on us again, even more than what we have experienced in the past.  I have always said that the way to victory is through surrender; the way to wholeness is through brokenness; the way to God is through repentance.

Let’s start there and see where it leads.

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Introduction

In the 1970s, God swept across California with an outpouring of the Holy Spirit like had not been seen for years. Many of the older generation who had experienced the revivals of the 40s and 50s rejoiced to see the Spirit of God moving again. Their pulpits had grown cold over the years, their altars had been abandoned, and the Church world had settled into the same religious environment that they themselves had revolted from in their generation. The excitement was gone, and church had gone back to its normal sedate self.

But here, finally, was a brand new move of God.  It didn’t come the way they expected, nor to whom they expected – God came to the Hippies, the disaffected youth who were searching for Truth in any way they could find it. But the fire of God was undeniably burning, souls were getting saved again and God was on the move.

I got saved during those early days of the Jesus Movement.  We were so full of the Spirit that nothing else mattered to us. Every night, the lost would pack the church to hear a message of the power of God unto Salvation. The Holy Spirit would descend in such an overwhelming presence that there were times that the air literally shimmered from the glory of God. Lives were immeasurably changed as souls flocked to the altar to give their lives to Jesus Christ.

Night after night, week after week, year after year, we immersed ourselves in the flow of the Holy Ghost. We fully expected that the Lord’s return was surely imminent and we would ride this great wave of revival until He came to catch us up into Heaven for Eternity.

But as things always go, the revival dissipated after about 10 years, even sooner in other places, and we were left wondering what happened. People went back to their different paths of Life, pursued forgotten careers, raised families, and settled once again for a normal, sedate Christian life.

Many of us, however, never let go of the dream that had been kindled in our hearts during those heady days of revival. We never forgot what it was like to feel that power flowing through us during services, and we never let go of the great calling that we knew had been placed on our lives.

Winding the clock ahead 30 years, I’ve watched the Church in America slide into an plastic rendition of what we once had, trying to imitate the excitement of those days with upbeat modern music, Hollywood-like presentations on stage, and “feel good” messages designed to comfort rather than convict.

I now know how those old-timers felt as they watched the holiness and glory drain out of the movement that had been ignited by the old Brush Arbor revivals. I can now understand how they must have cried out to God on worn-out knees to send another outpouring of His Holy Spirit. The glory had departed and they were left with only a slim ray of hope that it would return.

For years, I had been preaching a message of revival on radio and in newspaper columns, but in 2004, I felt the Lord lift the burden and begin to turn my attention overseas. Even though I had little to show for all those years of preaching, it was hard to abandon what I had been doing for so long. I felt as if I had been dropped off in a desert with no direction. But all the while that I was wondering if I had simply been dismissed, God was making other plans.  He sent me to Africa.

I am not an accomplished evangelist, a learned theological scholar, nor a well-trained missionary. In fact, when I first headed to Africa, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no plans, no organization supporting me, and no expectations. I just showed up, believing that the God who had sent me would also show up.

What the Kenya Diaries relates is the beginning of an incredible journey. What started as a step of blind faith has led to a resurgence of hope in the power of God. The excitement that I have felt must have been just like what those old-timers experienced back in 1970 when they saw the Jesus Movement rise up. God had turned to a new people that the established Church had never expected, so that He could bring life in the Gospel back to the Church.  He is doing the same today. America brought the Gospel to Africa, but I believe that Africa will be bringing it back to America.

As you read the Kenya Diaries, I hope you get a sense of the same excitement that I had as I followed the leading of the Spirit in a journey that led into a growing move of God. I have no doubt that this new move of God will result in a blaze of revival that will be so hot that it will be felt around the world.

The Kenya Diaries is the start of that journey.

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“And the same time there arose no small stir about that way.”  (Acts 19:23)

We read in Colossians that the Laodiceans were to read Paul’s epistle to the Colossians.  What an event for them to get a letter from Paul!  You can almost feel the anticipation in the air.  This was a church under persecution with an enormous job before them. The whole known world was lying in pagan idolatry and on their way to Hell, but the Christians knew they had the Truth and they were excited!.

The name of Jesus was viewed as some new god that had come out of Judea which, in itself would not have created much of a stir, but Jesus’ followers wouldn’t let well enough alone.  They had to keep pressing their doctrine of salvation, repentance from dead works, adherence to the commandments of God (which most flesh does not enjoy), and this constant reproof that anybody who didn’t go along with their ideas was going to a place of torment for eternity.

Now the idea of Hades was not new.  Different shades of the concept had filtered down through the ages ever since Noah, but most often it was mollified by some simple deeds you could do in the temple.  You could light some candles, burn some incense, and mutter some repetitious chants over a string of beads.  And in case that didn’t work, there would always be a priest there who could intercede for you to the gods.  Especially to some mother figure like Astarte, who would have compassion because she was a mother and would go talk to God for you. (Wasn’t that nice of her?)  Then of course, there were always the statues of various gods which all had their own fields of specialty which you could pray to – travel, war, family, love, etc. As long as you showed up at the Temple, you were OK.  Does this sound familiar?

Why did the Christians have to be so pushy?  Just because everybody didn’t believe the same way, did that mean everybody was going to hell?  After all, they believed in god.  As long as you didn’t harm anyone, what was so bad about that?  Why couldn’t the Christians just leave everybody alone?

Persecution was rampant against that early church.  It would have been so easy for them to

adopt a policy of laissez-faire and be satisfied with just going to church, but there was a great commission hanging over them.  They had to win the world for Christ, and so they plunged into the challenge. They knew, without a doubt, that they had the Truth, and that if they didn’t evangelize the world, multitudes of people would be lost forever. God’s people have always grown under persecution, and languished in times of peace and prosperity.

Is it so different now?  Human nature has not changed.  The fashions may change, but the basic nature of man will always exhibit itself in the same ways.  There will always be those who are comfortable with a laissez-faire form of religion that makes allowances for the flesh, and would rather not be bothered with something that calls them to a deeper walk in God.  But then there are always those for whom this world is not worthy; those who need nourishment from the Throne of God; those who hunger for more than what can be seen with their eyes.  They feed off of Truth and the life-flowing Spirit of God.  Nothing else will do.  The great commission hangs over them.

There is a whole world out there that is lost and dying, and it’s up to us to tell them before it’s too late. No wonder there was no small stir!

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