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Posts Tagged ‘churches’

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:  Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer” (2 Thess. 1:4,5)

What is Paul saying here? That persecution and tribulation are a sign of the righteous judgment of God? Does that mean that as we declare the righteous judgment of God on a sinful people, that we will suffer persecution?

There’s another scripture that comes to mind: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12)

Am I hearing this right? If you are walking in the Lord the way you are supposed to and declaring the difference between sin and righteousness, then you are going to have trouble. Why? Because people do not want to be told that they have to give up their sin, their pride, and their lusts. The world does not want to hear that there is a burning Hell. They would prefer to gloss over that little detail. And if you remind them of it, they will call you a judgmental legalist who preaches hate, and will persecute you as a result.

If you persist, you will find that you won’t make many friends.
If you are a pastor, you will find that many of your congregation will leave.
If you’re a Christian, what other choice do you have?

If we are easy going Christians – we make no waves, we cause no controversy, we never rock the boat or shake up the Church, we’re just really nice guys – then of course everyone will like us. I can think of a bunch of folks I know that everybody loves. Gosh, they’re so much fun to be around and they always make you feel happy when you’re around them. They never get into arguments or heated debates. It seems they would be the epitome of what we should strive to be like. Or is it just that they never take a stand for righteousness?

Avoiding arguments is good. Doctrinal debates can go round and round and never get anywhere, but what about judgment? What about declaring the righteousness of God? Is that just supposed to be a personal matter, or are we supposed to declare that which is right and that which is sin?

This wouldn’t be a big deal except for one thing – there’s a burning Hell. It Is real, it is eternal, and once you cross into eternity, there is no coming back. That, as they say, is the game-changer. People may not want to hear you tell them about Hell, but what is your responsibility?

Proverbs 24:11,12 tells us,

“If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?”

This life is not about having fun and enjoying the world, prospering and making money, or attaining to stature and fame – it’s about escaping the pits of Hell and getting into Heaven.

If that is so, why would you NOT warn people about Hell? Who cares if they don’t like it? Penn of the Penn & Teller Vegas show, a confirmed atheist, once asked, “If you truly believe the Bible, how much hate must you have for someone to not tell them about Hell?

They didn’t crucify Christ because He preached Love. They killed Him because He told them to repent.

Then, in the second chapter of 2nd Thessalonians, Paul turns his attention to the Church in the last days. He describes the Antichrist as one who would come in with all kinds of “power, signs and lying wonders” to deceive the Church. This is the same guy that Daniel says would also win the kingdom by flatteries. Which kingdom is that? Could it be the Church? Because after that, he talks about a great falling away and that many would be deceived because “they received not the love of the truth” (2nd Thess 2:10), but instead would be damned because they “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness”. (2nd Thess. 2:12)

It sounds like the Antichrist has the message that people want to hear in contrast to the kind of message that brings persecution. Isaiah tells us that people want to hear “smooth things” instead of the hard truth of righteousness. (Isaiah 30:10). They will believe what they want to believe in spite of the facts and use the Bible to justify themselves. They will then turn to a different gospel that is more to their liking, like that which the Antichrist will give them.

The great danger of a modern Christianity which is adverse to judgment and “legalism” but instead pursues a message of love, grace, and blessings is that it slides closer and closer to a worldly definition of truth which is much kinder and nicer than that old fashioned hard gospel of hellfire and brimstone. Feelings become more important than conviction for sin; grace becomes more important than holiness; being nice is more important than telling the truth.

And what we end up with is a church that can no longer recognize the difference between truth and deception. When people become easily swayed by signs and wonders and begin to run after false prophets to hear the latest “word of blessing from God”, they lose the strength to resist the Antichrist’s Pied Piper call to a flattering gospel with no conviction, judgment, or righteousness. “…and my people love to have it so” (Jer. 5:31).

As the Church wallows in a greater wealth than it has ever known, she becomes flush with the lure of prosperity and material blessings, and it becomes more and more difficult to discern a difference between the Church and the world. Leonard Ravenhill once wrote that there’s more of Hollywood than holiness in the church … and that was 20 years ago.

In Judges chapter 6, the Israelites allowed the Amalekites to come in, and in no time, they completely took over and destroyed the harvest. But because the Israelites no longer had a love for the truth, they did not recognize the danger and turned to Baal as the true god. Renegades like Gideon were therefore considered wicked and should be killed. The good becomes evil, and the evil becomes good. In like manner, today’s church is allowing the world to come in and is falling for a modern gospel and will be easily deceived by the flattery of the Antichrist and the False Prophet.

In 2002, I saw a vision of modern Christianity rushing in a stampede toward the edge of a cliff. As I yelled and tried to warn them, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Even if they could hear you, which they cannot, they will not listen.” They were too mesmerized with this new, modern gospel.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

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The African soul is tied closely to the earth, almost as if was somehow merged with the soil from which we have all come from. It’s not the bare feet or the rural setting that you find here, but more of a huskiness and an earthy feel to everything, from their art and music, to the brightly colored primitive designs of their fabrics that they wrap themselves in that lends color and atmosphere to the air you breath. It’s as if their connection with Mother Earth inhabits their very breath.

Western sophistication seems artificial in contrast. Our high-paced electric intensity, lit in the neon lights of our digital society, may seem brighter at first glance, but somehow loses a depth of color that hints at a depth of soul that is shallow in comparison. It’s something that is hard to put in words but can be felt when you are here, immersed in their midst.

True revival is not based on money or sophistication. Actually, I believe those things actually work against a true revival. When we become set on our own artificial substance and abilities, we lose the essential reliance upon God that is an absolute requirement for God to move among us.

Not” by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zech. 4:6)

Revival will break out in Africa first because they need Him more than we do in the West. Yes, they have a long way to go in other essentials, but their hearts have a childlike reliance on God that we have lost. They can learn to do those other essentials, but it is not so easy for us to change our soul.

I don’t know what to think about all these things. I look out over the patchwork of tiny garden plots amidst the shambles of worn out shacks, poverty, and dirt and I wonder how will God do this? Is this really possible that He will raise these simple, earthy people to a place of revival that the world will envy?

But then, that would be just like Him to do that.

Me? I will just keep on hammering out this message that He has given me. It seems to be working everywhere that I have brought it. Sometimes I wonder how that is possible to go to places no one else will go, to wring out my soul to a small people in small churches in desolate places, and watch them ignite in place after place.

The Lord gave me a vision once where I could see myself taking precious seeds and sticking them deep into foot-high furrows of soft brown earth. The seed will germinate in its time and miraculously reappear as a harvest.

I don’t have to know how; I just have to keep planting that seed into those soft furrows of earth and pray that the rain will soften the hard fallow ground back home.

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I love to sit on my porch in the mornings as the sun is coming up and watch the dragonflies bob and weave across the lawn, snatching up gnats like winged Pacman’s. The sun’s rays cut across the morning’s chill and catch their weaving flights like illuminated spots of light. They never seem to run out of gnats to pick up; the swarms are renewed every morning. By noon, however, they are all gone, disappearing under the heavy blanket of Texas heat as the sun asserts its dominance on the day.

In some ways, that reminds me somewhat of the Church. How many times has the exciting times that comes with the emergence of the Son in a time of spiritual refreshing slowly settle into the lethargy that comes with the afternoon’s heat. Like a heavy blanket pressing us into drowsiness, time has a way of reducing us into spiritual slumber.

As our fervor begins to wane, our prayer life becomes conversational and formal whereas it was once full of passion and fire. Services go from fiery calls for repentance and the fear of God to intellectual messages on theology and how we should live our mediocre lives. Altars for repentance, which used to be called “the Mourner’s Bench”, now have become havens for “pity lines” for the sins we never seem to overcome. We are encouraged to be nice to one another by “feel good” ministries whose reputations are bolstered by their best selling book rather than their prophetic effectiveness to call the people of God to repentance. (Jer. 23: 22)

“And my people love to have it so …” (Jer. 5:31)

Jeremiah makes the point that false prophets of peace and safety flourish in times like these. Prosperity is the ensign that our leaders wave in their pursuit of wealth so that they can show how God has “blessed” them (1 Tim. 6:5). We love the comfort of settling into a soft gospel that lulls us to sleep like the heat of a Texas afternoon. We are satisfied; we are comfortable; and we feel blessed.

Several years ago, I pleaded with God for the people in the American church. As I was wrestling in prayer, I cried out, “But God, they are really nice people!” There was that ominous pause, like what you feel before a storm breaks, and then the Lord answered me directly in words, “I will spue the lukewarm out of my mouth … and you think they’re nice?”

We are in desperate need of revival. The problem is that as the Church slides deeper into apostasy, they are less and less able to see it in themselves. There has to come a spiritual earthquake to wake them up. The deeper we fall asleep, the more we need a revival, the greater the calamity that is needed to awaken us.

“Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season:” (Jer. 5:24)

No revival comes without repentance. The harvest will not come without the former and latter rain (Joel 2:23), and they won’t come without our prayer life being gripped with the fear of the Lord to crack our knees in abject, heartfelt repentance. The kind that moves mountains.

Jonathan in 1 Sam. 14 had his earthquake after all Israel had fled because he climbed the mountain that was before him on his knees to engage the enemy and fight. We need to take on his same faith and tenacity to fight for the people of God and climb that mountain which is before us. If we won’t fight for this, who will?

It’s another hot, sultry dog day afternoon in Texas. The temperature is hitting 105 degrees and the heat smothers you. Tomorrow morning the air will be fresh and cool again and the dragonflies will be back, zooming around like dive bombers playing in the rays of morning sun, but then by noon, that oppressive heat will be back again, draining the life out of the rest of the day.

Lord, we need it to rain.

Brother Dale

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“…her candle goeth not out by night.”  Proverbs 31:18

I am struck by this passage when reading about the virtuous woman, the picture of the true Church in Proverbs 31.  Who burns their candle all night long?  And why would you do that?  I dare say that most of us turn the lights off when we go to bed.  But not the virtuous woman.  She keeps her light burning throughout the entire night.

As Christians, we rejoice in our salvation and celebrate our transformation from death, but for a truly converted Christian, it will not end there.  He will look back into the darkness and light a candle so others can see the lighthouse of safety and come out of that world of darkness.  That desire to hold up a light and to let it burn all night long so that others can see it is something that only comes from the grace of God..

Grace transforms us and changes the way we look at things. Those who have been truly transformed by grace are no longer satisfied with attending bland church services, fellowshipping with other complacent believers in ivory halls of contentment, and warming themselves by the coals of indifference. Something inside them cannot rest while others are dying. The realities of darkness become stark when seen from that place of light.  The dark seems darker and the despair seems more desperate. While others seek the calm serenity of their chapels and cathedrals, there are those who want to set up a rescue station one foot away from the very Gates of Hell.  Light the candle and let it burn all night long!

Grace is not just “undeserved mercy”. It is the fountain from which mercy flows. And mercy gives birth to charity, and charity is the very essence of the entire Gospel, the main theme of the Cross, the whole reason why Jesus died and the central reason of why we were called to salvation. Without grace, we are but tinkling bells and a sounding cymbal – plenty of noise and pretty music, but lacking substance.

Grace also produces righteousness. We assume that “works” are the antithesis of grace, but that is not so. Works are the evidence of grace. It is grace working in us that brings us to a place of righteousness before God. Grace was never meant to be a cheap and easy covering for sin, but is that which gives us the power to overcome sin. Grace produces righteousness, and righteousness establishes the promises of God and ushers us into His presence.

Grace is the river of Life that flows from the Throne of God through us so that we may be a reflection of His glory. The true purpose of grace is not to excuse sin, but so that world can see God as their savior to save them from sin. Grace is the Light of Jesus Christ burning in us to beckon those who are lost to come out of the darkness and into His glorious light.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)

 

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The call to bring revival to a nation is not something that can be accomplished through any strength or wisdom that we possess in ourselves. No matter how badly you want to plunge into the fray and proclaim liberty in the land, the power to bring the presence and power of God that will ignite the Church is not something that can be flippantly learned in Seminary or produced with any carnally designed program. Only God can do that, and only in complete surrender are we able to lend ourselves as crucified vessels that He can work through.  Frank Bartleman, in recounting an encounter he had with the Lord, wrote that the Lord told him after he had received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, “If you were only small enough, I could do anything with you.”

Ah, here’s lies the crux, almost a Catch-22 if you would.  How does one maintain, or better put, achieve that place of true humility so that God can use you to do His mighty works?  On the one hand, we strive to get to that place of righteousness to have power in God while at the same time, try to be stay in that broken, crucified walk in God so we can be yielded to His power.  How does one strike that perfect balance?  Sounds simple … or is it?

David had it; Saul did not.  Perhaps that was because, for Saul, it was always about Saul. When he was little in his own eyes, he was hiding amongst the stuff, but a couple years later, he was such a big shot that he didn’t think he had to wait on God’s prophet.  For David, on the other hand, it was never about David; it was always about God. Because of that, he was able to take on Goliath as a kid, and later as an adult with just two other guys, the entire Philistine army.  (2nd Samuel 23:9)

Any man of God who has had the power of God work through him will immediately be attacked by the enemy. Whether it is miracle healings, dynamic preaching, or supernatural revelation, no sooner does one experience the touch of God’s hand than that little wisp will pass through the back of his mind that, yes it was God’s power, but … ahem … He did choose to use you!  Satan will lightly sneak those thoughts in as subtly as he can. Obviously, if you think about it hard enough, you will recognize the devil’s handiwork, so he keeps as light a touch as he can … and then another … and then another, merging them ever so slightly into the several streams of your thoughts until he can find an anchor somewhere in your heart to attach his lines of vanity and plant his seeds of pride.

The challenge that faces a man of God who desires to be used in a supernatural way, therefore, lies in how to be “meet for the Master’s use” (2 Timothy 2:21) and yet keep his ego and self completely invisible.  God does not bestow His power on just anybody.  He may work through anybody, but He is careful to whom He entrusts His power. We must be careful that our desire to be used by God is not rooted in our own self-image or desire for position in God, but entirely upon the promotion of the kingdom of God.  As I Corinthians 13 tells us, you can all the faith to move mountains, but if you do not have charity, it is worth nothing.

Easily said; not so easily achieved.  Any fool can spout off religious platitudes that boast of unearned righteousness and spirituality, but it is an entirely different matter to fight your way through the spiritual swamp of fleshly ego and pride that you have to negotiate through to arrive at that place where God can use you.

I often hear young Christians naively spout off that they have been called to be a prophet. My first response is to tell them to pray and beg God to change His mind and please choose someone else because you will die a thousand deaths before you enter into that calling.

Ego, pride, and self-awareness must be burned out of you before you are ready to enter into that place of real power.  God will give it to you in pieces – just enough to lift you up so He can break you down again.  Line upon line, one step at a time, until you gradually become empty of self.  Jacob had his Laban, Joseph his prison, and Moses his desert, and you will have your desert place of cauterizing fire to take the “you” out of you so God can fill you up with Himself.  His goal is not to change you, but to kill you.  You are to be purified into transparent glass so that when people look at you, it is not you that they see, but the fire of God that is in you.

And so with the power that works through you, there is a deep innate understanding that it is not you but God who is working through you to do these miracles. You are nothing but dust and ashes; you don’t even own the breath in your body. You are dead in Christ, crucified to the world, numb to pride and arrogance. Any place that Satan could have gotten hold of has been broken away. You have finally surrendered to God.

When you are no longer mindful about yourself or your spiritual place in God – when you just simply do not care anymore – then you are finally “meet for the Master’s use” and ready to wield the power of God so that He, and He alone, will get the glory.

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I have a dozen or so booklets from different trips that I had taken in Africa.I was reading  the booklet I had written from the trip to Nigeria in 2012 and thought it would be good to pass along the first chapter. I think I will also send the other chapters in the next few days.


“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  (James 1:27)

Nigeria is like no other place I have been. As the most populous country in Africa, the pressure of their dense population tends to make them a stronger, more aggressive culture.  That is both good and bad – that which is bad is really bad, but that which is good is really good. I saw some of the really good this evening.

The church where I am preaching at for three days is on a campaign to start a true Holy Ghost revival.  As the revivalist guest speaker, I am a major part of that plan.  I tell them what to do to have revival, and they go out and put it into practice.  My goal is that they will grab hold of a vision that will claim their entire community for Christ, and have the faith to believe that they can change the world.  And they can … they just have to have to want it bad enough.

It has to start somewhere, and tonight they started with an open air crusade.  Outdoor crusades do not work well in America – at least as far as I have seen – but they sure work well here in Africa.  At the end of the service tonight, at least 50-60 souls came to the altar to get saved, got plugged into one of the local churches here, and were instructed on what to do next in their Christian walk.  This is pure religion.  It does not get any better, deeper, heavier, or more important than this.

In contrast, our churches have developed a more layered and sophisticated way of operating.  I guess it is only natural given that the Church today has become very much like a corporate business.  Aspiring pastors apply for positions at various churches just like a job applicant fresh out of business school. Once hired, salaries are set, job descriptions and responsibilities are defined, and positions are secured. They start at Youth Pastor (why do we put our most inexperienced clergy In the most sensitive position?) and move on up through the different departments until they arrive at the pinnacle of Senior Pastor.  Programs are instituted, goals are voted on, methods are applied, and the whole machinery of church is organized.

This is denominational religion.  Like it or not, complain, criticize, or praise it, this is how it is done — and I suppose it works well enough for what it is supposed to accomplish — but what I experienced this evening was pure religion. This was raw “go out and get ‘em” Christianity — out in the street, face to face where they live.  Nothing complicated.  Just do it.

I tell the churches I preach at that if they are sitting in church waiting for souls to come, they will wait forever.  They’re not coming.  You know why?  Because they are afraid they will become just like us.  (You can always hear everyone groan when I say that). “Go ask them”, I tell them, “They will tell you.”

What they want is the real thing. They’ve already heard the message – probably know it better than most “church people” – but they’re not interested in what you believe, what you say, or what new fancy programs you got going.  They want the real thing – they want to see the power.  They don’t want the Gospel that is the philosophy of God – defined, analyzed, organized, packaged, and digested in your theological books and scholastic dissertations.  They want the Gospel that is the power of God unto Salvation. Raw power; raw truth.  And if they don’t see it in your church, is it a small wonder why they are not coming?

Proverbs tells us that he that winneth souls is wise.  This evening, over fifty people out here changed their eternal destination and escaped burning in Hell for Eternity.  I saw more wisdom in the simple zeal and faith of these people to go out and do this one thing than in all the sophisticated Bible College programs that our modern religions can muster.

I’m sure the scribes will object … but then, they always have, haven’t they?

“Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out.

He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

(Luke 14:34-35)

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We are on the road to Tsavo, the area where man-eating lions once terrorized the railway workers many years ago. Richie is driving while I am writing this because I am way too tired by the time I get back to the hotel to write down our experiences. I have to do it on the road.

We just finished two days out in the bush country outside the town of Kibwezi. There is not much rain out here. A dry and gritty red dirt is everywhere, as are the big, fat Baba trees that have trunks that are ten feet wide with little stubby branches. There’s not much water out here, so the roots of these trees are unbelievably expansive and wide, searching for water in a dry and thirsty land.

The church here is a small mud building about 15×30. The walls are red mud packed into a lattice of sticks with the ever-present corrugated iron roof. Dirt floor, no windows, and a makeshift door – this is not your standard, everyday church like we would expect in America. This is the evidence of desperate faith and a desire to worship God where it is not convenient.

I was here with my two girls 10 years ago, and they still remember. They tell me that I am the only white guy who has ever come out here to bring the gospel. (I have heard that more than a few times before.) So yeah, naturally they remember me, but they also remember the Bibles I gave them and the Four Steps to Revival booklets. Some of them still have a copy after 10 years!

And they remember the message I gave. The pastor tells me that the church has grown and they have come from far to see me. He leans over and says, “They are so thirsty!”

I get choked up at that. All the big evangelists can keep the large auditoriums and huge church services. Let me have these little people out here who are so thirsty that they will walk 10 to 13 hours just to come hear the Word of God because “they are so thirsty”. Are they not the ones that the Lord told us to come to when He said, “Inasmuch as you have done this to the least of these, you have done it unto me”? (Matt. 25:40)

Sometimes I wonder how the Lord is going to turn this into a worldwide revival, but He quickly reminds me that He is God, and that’s what He does! Not my problem. My job is to show up; His job is to take it from there. All I can do is plant the seed in the dirt; He is the one that brings it to life. “Who has despised the day of small things?” (Zech. 4:10)

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
He hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all that mourn;
To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

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“And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she broke the box, and poured it on his head…” (Mark 14:3)
“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)

Simon the leper was probably the same Simon in Luke chapter seven who was also a Pharisee.  He must have been healed of his leprosy by Jesus otherwise no one would have been allowed to enter his house – hence the party that he threw for Jesus and his disciples. How exciting to be washed clean of that awful disease and to be free again! No longer did he have to suffer the loneliness, pain, and suffering of being leprous. He had been cleansed from his sin.

Into the midst of this party comes a woman who is known throughout the community as a prostitute. She is probably the same woman that Jesus delivered from being stoned by these same Pharisees in John chapter 8. While the disciples surrounding Jesus probably had no idea of what was going on with this woman, the religious attending the party must have been aghast at this her audacious entrance. Without so much as a nod to the host, she breaks an expensive alabaster box and anoints Jesus with a precious ointment. She then washes His feet with her tears and wipes them with the hairs of her head.

The alabaster box that she broke was her heart, and the costly spikenard she anointed Him with was her ointment of praise … and the odor filled the room!

What a different response than Simon’s! One in a celebratory dinner party hadn’t even washed Jesus’ feet; the other in broken-hearted humility of praise washed His feet with tears. There is a difference between thankfulness and praise.

Whenever there is a new beginning, there is an ending of something old. The depth of our reaction to that change sets the pace and intensity of our new beginning.

When we step into a new beginning with Jesus Christ, do we look back at the pit of sin that we were dragged out of with overwhelming thanksgiving and humble ourselves before our Savior in abject praise? Does the odor of your praise fill the room? Are you broken in humility before Him for what God has done for you?  Or do we consider our salvation merely a change in religious status?

Simon was thankful, but Mary was transformed. Simon’s new beginning lasted until dinner was over.  Mary’s will last into eternity.

“Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.” (Mark 14:9)

Brother Dale

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My wife hates the big discount stores like Walmart and Kmart.  It’s too big; too much stuff.  She gets lost in crowds.  But there sure is a lot of women that just love all the stuff!  Aisles and aisles of stuff.  Sure, you lose that personal touch that you get at the local Mom and Pop store, but the convenience is what draws them in.

Prayer is lot like that.

I’m not a fan of these prayer request shopping lists.  You know, the ones that have a long list of people that have dozens of needs from people all over the place.  A list of one-liners, no matter how serious, doesn’t give me that feeling of personal urgency.  It may be urgent for them (and I certainly don’t want to minimize their need), but it’s hard for me to feel the same sense of drive for a hundred different people every day.  I’m not God.  I’m sure He can do it, but I’m having a hard time keeping up.

Because we have an active website on the Net, we get a lot of prayer requests from people all over the world, and I sincerely try to pray for as many of them as I can.  But sometimes, I just get overwhelmed and try to slide by with a blanket form of, “Lord, you know what their requests are.  Can you just sorta cover them all for me?”

I don’t know if that works or not, but sometimes I wonder what really does work.  Do all our prayer requests go up into some huge database in the sky to get logged in, and then compiled into some report that God reviews for content and quality?  How does He decide which ones to act upon?  How do you get your prayers answered?

Is it a matter of repeating a prayer a certain number of times until it registers?  If that’s the case, maybe we could just sit down looking out the window while a tape player repeats a recorded loop a certain specified number of times until the magic number is reached.  Uh, I don’t think so.

Maybe it’s a matter of getting a certain number of people praying at the same time.  Surely, God will pay attention if the number of signatures on the petition reaches critical mass.  Or maybe it’s a matter of finding the right guy that God pays attention to.  If He won’t listen to Charley, maybe He’ll listen to Gladys.  I don’t think that counts either.  Either He hears you, or He doesn’t.

I’m sure there’s something to be said for the effort to ask huge numbers of people to pray for something, and there’s certainly a lot of charity to be considered with the folks that forward on long lists that are all-inclusive, but I just get lost somewhere in the crowd.  I want something personal; something special; something that will drive me to labor in prayer to reach the Throne of God and fight until I have my answer.

He’s a personal Savior.  I want a personal relationship with Him, and I want a personal answer to my prayers.  I want to know that if I bust my way into the Throne room of God, He will stop what He’s doing, turn to me and hold out that golden scepter.  I’ve got rights to the Throne through the Blood of Jesus Christ, and I’ve got the holy boldness to use them.  I will not be denied.

To reach that level, you’ve got to really mean business in prayer.  The need has to be felt on a personal level that will drive you to get past your flesh, and contend for an answer.  Elijah, the Bible says, was a man just like us, but wow, he knew how to prevail in prayer!

If Elijah could stop the rain, if Joshua could stop the sun, if the Apostles could heal multitudes and raise the dead, then surely we can get an answer to our prayers if we follow their same example.  Somehow, dropping your one-liner on the bottom of some lengthy petition seems more like trying to jump onto a bandwagon in someone else’s parade.

Leonard Ravenhill said something that I’ve never forgotten.  “God doesn’t hear prayer.  He hears desperate prayer!”  If you aren’t cut to the heart, how do you expect your prayers to get past the ceiling?

I guess these forwarded prayer lists are OK, but don’t let them lull you into a presumption that dilutes the potency of your need.  Walmart is great for finding a discount item that you need, but I when I have to have an answer in prayer, I don’t want to wait in the checkout line.

Brother Dale
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I received this email from an African evangelist:

“We are experiencing one problem, brother dale. Once we preach to people and take them to different churches, they come out saying that they do not feel like being there. We are even confused for pastors because they do not follow-up with these souls. We need your advice.  May God bless you.

My answer:

If I am hearing you correctly, you have the worldwide common problem of dead churches. Most of the active churches today were birthed in revival years ago. Revival is more of a revolution from the old dead religious orders than something that “revives” them. Once a body is dead, you cannot bring it back to life. The answer – God’s answer – is revival in a new movement of the Holy Spirit.

While you and your group of believers may be alive and in the Spirit, the churches that you’re trying to plug these new believers into are dead. That is a judgment call based on the results you have told me. Jesus told us in John 6 that it is God draws souls to repentance. (John 6:44) The Spirit of God is the active element in the winning of the lost. Therefore, if souls are not getting saved in your church, or in your case, once plugged in, they run out of there, then it is a simple step of logic to assume that the Spirit of God is not working there.

The solution? You have two that I can see:

1 – Take them to another church. You will have to pray, search, test the spirits, and find one. You will find plenty that sound good, look good, even smell good, but the depth and fire of any church is determined by their dedication to prayer and reading God’s Word. Hear me carefully – smiling faces do not necessarily indicate spiritual depth. Great music does not always mean true worship. Good intentions don’t always mean spiritual righteousness. What is the obvious presence of serious prayer in their church? Do they gather together as a church to cry out to God? The thermostat for any church is always the weekly prayer meeting. How many people show up, and do they pray with strong passion? Or is it a weak response to Holy Ghost conviction and a poor excuse for serious prayer? Just as your prayer life determines your place in God, so does a church’s corporate prayer life determine theirs.

You will find churches that do not even have a prayer room to speak of, whose Wednesday night prayer meetings have been cancelled for lack of interest, and yet they will consider themselves a “praying church” because, for 5 minutes during Sunday services, they pray for others. How can the Holy Spirit work without prayer? Avoid these places because, as you have seen, they will kill that brand-new excitement in these freshly born-again souls. Don’t look at appearances; look for substance. Look for the presence of the Spirit of God. If you can feel it, He is there; if you cannot, then look somewhere else.

2 – Start your own church. Many times in the past, the Lord would begin a new work because of these very same conditions. You’re winning souls but you have no place to safely put them. You can feel the responsibility that is upon you. Like the Good Samaritan who handed the wounded man to the innkeeper, you want to make sure that he is well taken care of. If you cannot find a place that is full of the same fire that birthed them into the Kingdom, then maybe you will have to start your own.

I understand well the difficulties that implies. Like you, I travel from one church to the next. Once a fire is started, I can only hope that the leadership will continue to fan the flames while I head to the next church. But you may be facing a little different situation than mine in that as an evangelist, you are preaching to and gathering new souls. They are now your responsibility to make sure they are taken care of. Maybe, just maybe, He is going to use you to start a new work where new souls can be raised up in the fear of the Lord, the depth of the Word of God, and the fire of the Holy Ghost.

It will be hard. So is everything we have to face in this battle for souls. But, if it is truly the will of God, then expect Him to present the solution, the means, and the opportunities.

The greatest problem we have in the Church today is our lack of desperation to seek the face of God. We just don’t need Him as much as we used to. Our blessings are killing us. As a result, our efforts to plumb spiritual depths are anemic. We hardly do any serious reading of God’s Word. Oh, we’ll read all these other books – Christian self-help manuals, opinions and personal revelations and advice, and carnally-based efforts at theology – but we won’t put forth a determined effort to get our answers from the depth of His Word. It’s like the children of Israel that sent Moses up into the mountain to meet God while they chose to stay at the foot of Mt. Sinai. We’ll pay someone else to do the work while we will wait for the next book to come out. It is a form of substitutionary faith.  We just aren’t hungry enough to be desperate for God, but that is what God wants before He will honor us with revival.

The other problem, very much like the above, is that we have come to rely upon theological scholasticism rather than spiritual edification and revelation. Our Bible colleges have pushed an agenda upon us that, first, you have go to college to preach the Gospel because you have to learn all this seemingly intelligent theological education in order to minister in the Spirit. What hogwash! Eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil does not give you wisdom – it only makes you desire it.  But to be carnally-minded is death. That process is fueled by pride, whereas to eat off the Tree of Life, you have to humble yourself and allow God to speak though you as a broken, totally surrendered vessel. What did God tell us? Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. As for carnal theological efforts, He tells us that there is no end to the making of many books, and much study (carnal study) is a weariness of the flesh. Hmmm. Let’s see. Which tree should I eat from?

What about prayer? Without a desperate, consuming need, our passion will dissipate into a routine obedience. We no longer need God for our healings, our daily food, our finances, or well-being. No, we are like the Church of Laodicea – we have arrived and are comfortable. Our prayer life can now be relegated to a more mundane part of our lives. We spend a few minutes during our “quiet time with Jesus” in “conversational prayer”, thinking that somehow we have done our duty. But it is passion that pierces the heavens, not passiveness.  Desperation gets God’s attention, not polite manners. If you want it to rain, you have to pray like Elijah! You cannot approach the Throne of God in timidity and fearfulness and expect to get an answer from God. That only shows a lack of faith in the power of the blood of Jesus. Holy boldness, which is generated by righteousness and the fear of the Lord, is what breaks down every barrier to victory.  Our forefathers prayed with a passion and furor that clamored to the Throne of God and refused to back down until God answered. Today, people are afraid to pray like that. No wonder there is no stirring in our churches!

Am I exaggerating? If I am, then please explain to me where are the miracles, the altars packed with lost souls, the evidence of God’s power, and the manifest presence of the Holy Ghost? If all is so well with the church, then where is the revival?  Gideon had the same question, but at least he realized that the problem had been created when they had let the Amalekites take over their land. We, on the other hand have let the world into our church, but we celebrate it!

You are faced with a battle. Only God has the answer for you. Remember, these are His souls, not yours. He will provide, but you have to seek His face with all your heart to get the answer. It is your prime responsibility. If you won’t do it, who will?

Brother Dale

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