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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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Dead Trees

This morning, I looked out over my yard and considered the great big Weeping Willow out there that had suffered terribly from last summer. It reminded me of the 1st chapter in the Book of Joel.  What the drought didn’t wither, the grasshoppers had finished off. Whole limbs stood out from the ground up to 30 feet high that were just about dead, brown, and dry.  Here and there were a few new outcroppings of growth.  A few leaves here; a few leaves there.

I stood looking at the mass of dead branches, figuring out which limbs I was going to have to cut down, and which could be spared.  I’m told that you should cut major limbs only at certain times, otherwise you’ll hurt the whole tree.  But they’ve got to come down eventually. If they don’t, they will sap the tree of its strength and potency.  All that dead weight will keep the tree from the beauty and health of vibrant growth.

How much like the Lord with His church.  The dead branches are allowed to hang in there for a while in hopes that they will sprout some new life and bear fruit. However, if they do not come back to life, they’ve got to be cut down or they will sap the entire Body of its strength.

Souls are not drawn to dead churches any more than they are drawn to dead trees.  The husbandman would not be worthy of his hire if he allowed them to remain unpruned.  No matter how nice or how easy it would be to just leave them alone, the axe has to be laid to the root of the tree if it does not bear forth good fruit.  And where do they throw the dead branches?  Into the fire.

The Lord always raises up vinekeepers to work His garden, and they are responsible to make sure the vines produce good fruit.  Theirs may be a thankless job – nobody enjoys being told that they are dead – but in the end, the plant will prosper and grow.  To not proclaim the call to righteousness and Holy Ghost conviction would make them derelict in their duty, and the tree would die.  There are those who are dying to see a Holy Ghost revival that will set the church on fire, and there are those who are content with the status quo and would rather be left alone with their comfortable churches.  We choose our own destiny.

Jesus told his disciples that they were chosen so that they would bring forth fruit and that their fruit would remain.  In other words, the whole reason you got saved was to go and tell others the Truth so that they could have Life. There has to be an excitement alive in the church to produce new growth and vibrancy.  You know you’re growing when there is a constant flow of brand-new lost souls coming in to get saved.  If there’s no moving of the Spirit to bring in new souls to Life, then the sap is not flowing, and you’re just a dead branch waving in the wind.  A branch that doesn’t bring forth good fruit is … well … it’s dead.

And you know what happens to dead branches.

Brother Dale, dale@revivalfire.org

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Door-Knocking

I went knocking on doors today to invite people to church. They call it Visitation down here in Texas.

One guy hadn’t gone to church in ages. But hey, he was okay. He still considered himself a church member even though he couldn’t remember when the last time was that he had been there. Besides, he said, he didn’t come because the seats were too uncomfortable for his wife. We had cushioned chairs, but she needed the old wooden pews for some reason. Go figure.

His neighbor was different. No, he didn’t go to church anywhere, and he probably wasn’t going anytime soon. Yeah, his brother got saved and he knew it was real, but it just wasn’t for him.

What are you supposed to say to these folks? The cushions hurt your back so you’re not going to go to church? I couldn’t help thinking about the people in Africa who would walk for 10 to 12 hours just to come to our revival services. And then sleep on the ground on a bamboo mat for three days just so they could hear the Word of God. But you’re not going to come unless the church has the right kind of chairs?

Or his neighbor who knows that salvation is a real experience but consciously turns his face away so he can ignore it. What is he thinking? That if he doesn’t look at it, it will dissolve? God will go away if you ignore Him? Hell won’t burn if you wish it away?

Unfortunately, these responses are so common that I would venture that most people fall into one category or the other. Either you convince yourself that because you consider yourself a church-goer then you don’t have to worry about your eternal destiny anymore, or you convince yourself that if you don’t look at the truth, it will go away. Both are self-induced delusions.

But whose fault is it that so many people are like these two?

I am not making a case for church for church’s sake, but I do believe that the church is the place that we are supposed to gather to as believers, where we get nourished, reproved, and inspired. When you cut yourself off from the hierarchy of believers that God has set up, then you are setting yourself up for a fall.

But many would say that the churches are not what they are supposed to be anymore, that they are dead in comparison to what they once were. Agreed, but will that excuse hold water when you stand before God? It was the Church’s fault? Adam tried to blame Eve in the same way. It didn’t work for him. Do you really think it will work for you?

Maybe the churches have failed you. So what? Then go find a group of believers like yourself, or start your own church, but for heaven’s sake, don’t stick your head in the sand and ignore it. The problem will not go away if you don’t do something about it.

Yes, we need a revival. Desperately. I don’t think many people realize how badly. We need a revolution in our churches. We have become like the children of Israel who spent 400 years in slavery. Why so long? Because they got used to the slavery and settled into their bondage. It wasn’t until God, in His mercy, sent a Pharaoh who was so bad that he started killing their babies that they began to cry out to God for deliverance.

But when they cried unto God in their desperation, He heard them and sent a mighty deliverance.

Are we at that point yet? Or will God have to send something that is so terrible that it will make 9/11 look small in comparison. If He does, it will be in His mercy to bring us to our knees. Only then will He be able to answer our cries for help.

Revival does not come cheap and it does not fall out of the skies. It has to be sought for with all your heart. But it is always worth the price.

The alternative is Hell

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“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.” Titus 3:1

(Sounds like good advice for our political candidates.  I wonder if any of them have read this.)

Of all the commandments in the Bible, these have been some of the hardest for me to keep.  The big sins that we all know about are obvious – don’t commit fornication, don’t get drunk, don’t lie, don’t steal, etc.  It’s relatively easy to avoid them because they are so blatant.

If I want to shoot some Pool, I need to go to the Bowling Alley instead of a topless bar.  If I want some trinket bad enough, I need to go to work and pay for it instead of stealing it.  If I am caught in a tough situation, better I should just shut up than lie my way out of it.

Okay.  That seems simple enough.  I can do that.

Then there are all those commandments that we make up.  And there’s a bunch of them.

Like you have to go to church on Sunday and sit through some theological dissertation that is intellectually endowed, but spiritually lifeless.  Somehow that misses the whole purpose of church.  I want to go where the power of God is experienced, not just talked about.

Or, you can’t wear lipstick, or you can’t talk about religion, or you have to be nice, or you have to dress nice, or you can’t have long hair, or you can’t smoke a cigarette, and on and on.

Yeah, I can do all those things too.  I don’t think that’s what is going to get me into Heaven, but that’s all right.  It’s a lot easier to go along with a lot of this stuff just to avoid the hassle.

But I really get stuck on attitudes and social skills.  It’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes when I see things that are just dead wrong — especially when it concerns people who are supposed to be in authority as leaders of the Church.

Is it speaking evil when you call a preacher to task for being lukewarm?  Is it being a brawler when you confront the con artists on TV that make lying promises based on how much money they can suck out of poor unsuspecting Christians?  Am I required to obey some supposed spiritual big shot when they are leading the people down a path that leads to Judgment just because they have a Ph.D.?

Does meekness mean being submissive to leaders who have no power in God and have lost their way?  Am I just supposed to be nice?

I guess I’m just a very baaaad boy.  But I take comfort in the fact that I’m in good company.  The old prophets were the same way – in fact, they were worse.  Even Jesus whipped them out of the Temple and called them some pretty nasty names.  And don’t get Peter, Paul, and James started!  They had a few choice words also.

I guess I’m just an old-fashioned, Holy Ghost Texas preacher with a New York attitude who doesn’t give a rip what they think.  If they’re a Jack of Spades, then they ain’t no Ace of Hearts.

I once asked the Lord back when I was preaching on the radio if we could please tone these messages down a bit. The messages were fierce every week. And they were directed by name to the local pastors. They were hearing all this outrageous rebukes. And I do mean outrageous.

“After all”, I explained, “I’m not making any friends here.  In case you hadn’t noticed, God, these guys are not exactly asking me to go bowling with them on Fridays.”

You know what the answer was?

While I was praying, the Spirit of God came down, and I could feel that ice cold feeling like, “Uh oh, I’m in trouble again”.
He spoke directly to me (and yes, God does speak directly to us):

“That is not your broadcast,
and that is not your message,
and they are not your people.
Now, you tell them what I tell you to tell them … and you tell them I sent you!”

And He didn’t sound very nice when He told me that.

Brother Dale

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“Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him…” Mk 6:20

If you picked up a newspaper today and saw that John the Baptist was holding revival services at a local church, would you drop everything you’re doing to make it there?  How about Elijah?  or Peter?  Would it be because they are famous?  Or is it because you would expect to hear a man speak with authority in God?

Souls are drawn to men of God who can stand up in the power and authority of God.  Revivals are poured out on anointed vessels to whom people flock to hear the Word of God and see the amazing outpouring of the Holy Spirit work.  They came to Jesus to be healed, but stayed to listen because He spoke with authority.

We need that authority today.  Actually, we are desperate to see a man of God stand up in that kind of power and authority.  We have a lot of nice preachers, quite a few charlatans, and a whole pile of evangelists who would have you believe that they are the vanguards of the next great move of God, but we don’t have any John the Baptist’s, Elijah’s, or Paul’s.  Why is that?

Search the Scriptures and you will find that the kind of power and authority we are referring to only comes the hard way.  We all read and pray, but how many of us STORM the Throne?  We fast, but how many of us crucify our flesh?  And what is it that we seek the face of God for?  For ourselves, or for the lost souls of others?  All this only lifts us up to a higher plateau in God.

The real holy boldness, the real strength and power in God, and the genuine authority in God only comes through the fear of the Lord.  That is what gives a man strong confidence, makes his face to shine, gives him that entrance into the presence of God’s power.  Moses’s knees smote together, David’s flesh trembled, the prophet’s spoke of Him being their dread, Paul feared and trembled.  It is the common attribute for every powerful man with authority in God.  And we need that today.

In the last 20 to 30 years, the message of the Fear of the Lord has been extracted from our pulpits and has been preached out of our hearts to the point that most Christians don’t even believe it anymore.  They’ve been told that Love is the most important element.  Read carefully, my friend.  The Love of God is not possible without the Fear of the Lord.  Neither is wisdom, understanding, depth, or power.  And we will not see revival, nor a strong move of God, nor another strong man of God to stand up in the kind of authority we so desperately need without the Fear of the Lord.

Brother Dale

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