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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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You know, if the stakes weren’t so high, Life would be just a great game to play.  Kinda like an evening out with the boys playing Poker.

We all have our hands to play and we’re betting that we’re going to be the one that wins the jackpot.  We work our hands as best we can, and if we don’t win, oh well, there’s always another hand to play.

But Life isn’t that way.  This is the only hand you get, and you’re not going to bluff your way through this one.  You either win or lose.  That’s it.

Unlike poker, you choose your cards.  You can pick any hand you’d like – there’s one for every different belief that’s out there.  Many feel that it doesn’t really matter that much which hand you pick, as long as you pick something.  We’re all in the game together, so nobody really loses – or is it that nobody really wins?  Just play the odds and have fun.  No big deal which hand you choose.

Like I said, if the stakes weren’t so high, it would all be just a great game.  But the stakes don’t get any higher.  There’s only one winning hand.  You either win it all or lose it all, and there’s no coming back tomorrow night to try your luck again.  Better make sure that the hand you pick is the right one.

Unfortunately, everybody thinks that their cards will win and they play them for all they’re worth.  Looks good enough to them, so they should probably be OK. Maybe we should take some time, however, and take a good, long look at the cards we’re holding and see if they’re the ones that the Rule Book says will win.

If we don’t, then we’re gambling our eternal souls on chance.

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You know what the difference is between Fairy Tales and Heaven?  The Fairy Tales happened once upon a time.  Heaven is yet to come…at least for some of us.

In Fairy Tales, all your dreams come true.  You might have to kiss a toad, or take care of evil stepsisters while you play with little mice, but somewhere, sometime, somehow, your Prince will always come.  Heaven is not quite the same thing.  While we all would love the idea of living in a fairy tale existence where everything will be wonderful, reality paints a different picture — not everything works out according to Walt Disney’s script.  Life can be tough and you don’t always get to live in a castle, but there is a promise that there really is a place called Heaven.  There’s only one problem:  not everybody is going there.  The Prince is coming all right, but He’s not taking everybody with Him.

In Fairy Tales, the most wonderful magical things happen for free.  Make a wish, and Poof!, in pops your Fairy Godmother.  Sprinkle a little dust, wave a wand, say a few magic words, and presto, you are a princess. Heaven, however, requires a price that must be paid to enter in.  It is reserved only for those who have labored to enter into that place of rest, who have repented of their sins and asked Jesus Christ to save their souls, and who have then gone on to serve the Lord.  Not everybody wants to do all that.

One other thing. Fairy Tales are just that – nice stories that sound good. Heaven is real and it is good.  Unfortunately, Hell is real also, and it isn’t good.  Don’t get Fairy Tales and Heaven mixed up.  We aren’t going to get carried away to Heaven just by wishful thinking, it isn’t going to happen just because we believe in magic, and it sure isn’t going to happen for us unless we prepare for it.   If we don’t get right with God, it won’t be the wicked witch that does us in; it will be the Devil that sinks his claws in us and drags us down to Hell.

Don’t live your life in a fairy tale.  If you want to walk on streets of gold someday, you have to travel the path of a Christian.  That may not be as easy as making a wish, but it is the only way to make your dreams come true.

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There is one question that I have never been asked:  “How do you know you are saved?”  Really, in 47 years, no one has ever asked me that.  That amazes me.

I’ve been challenged why I believed certain things, and, as the Bible commands us, I have studied so I can give a good answer for them.  I certainly don’t want to believe something just because somebody told me so.  I did that when I was a kid, but I learned quickly that grown-ups aren’t always right – and, surprisingly, even teen-agers aren’t always right.  No, you have to let God reveal His Truth to you through His Word so you know for sure what is right.

I’ve also been told that I’m a lot of things – some not so good.  Well that kind of goes with the territory when you take a stand for what you know is right (see the paragraph above) — that is, if you’ve got the guts to make that stand

But nobody has ever asked how I knew that I was really saved.  Why is that?

Maybe it’s because the proof of my salvation does not lie in religious expositions of theological nonsense, or a piece of paper that says I have been “confirmed”, or an adherence to a tradition of showing up for church every week, or even that I said a prayer once upon a time at the altar.  To me, that’s not proof of anything.

I know I’m saved because I can feel the Spirit of God.

That’s it.  It’s just that simple.  I can actually feel the Spirit.

I may not be floating around on some ethereal cloud all the time, but when I go to the Throne of God in prayer, the Spirit of God responds.  Jesus said the Spirit was like the wind, and that makes sense to me – you can’t see it, but you sure can feel it.

When I read the Word of God, there are times when He will open up a scripture with what you can only call a supernatural revelation.  Is that so hard to believe?  Paul talks about it happening in his churches all the time.  Boy, when that happens, you know you just heard from the Lord!

There are other times when the Lord has literally spoken to me.  I’ll tell you what, when that happens to you, ain’t nobody can tell you that you ain’t saved!  Now, I realize that’s a hard nut for some people to swallow, but what do you want me to say?  That it didn’t happen?  It’s not like I’m the only one that the Lord has spoken to or shown a vision to.  Lot’s of folks have that happen to them.

I know some people will immediately say that you can’t go by “feelings”, but that you have to base your faith on the Bible because it is the ultimate authority.  True, but the Bible plainly says that the Spirit and the Word agree.  If you’re in the Spirit, you will line up with the Word, and if you’re in the Word, you’ll be in the Spirit.  What’s so hard about that?  Maybe if you don’t feel the Spirit then you need to read and pray more – and try your hand at some fasting while you’re at it.

I’ll tell you how important I think this is – if I did not feel the Spirit of God, I’d be scared to death.  Although there are times when you have to go through “faith walks”, you always come out of those valleys with increased faith, and the Spirit of God is always right there to pour out on you when you come out.  But, if I didn’t feel the Holy Ghost, I would feel like I was cut off, and that’s worse than scary.

I’ve got something real to base my faith on.  I know I’m right with God because He is right there with me and I can feel His Holy Spirit, and that is enough to sustain me through anything.  It is the Shekinah Glory that makes me know that I am in the Spirit of God.

If you know what it is like to actually feel the Holy Ghost, then you know what it is like to have that communion with God and know that you know that you know that you are right with God. But If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re missing out on the most wonderful thing in Life, and you need to find out soon.

The Spirit of God gives you a life and an excitement that actually makes you glow from the inside out.  Without it, though, all you’ve got is religion — and religion can’t save your soul.  There is a difference that can be felt.

Maybe that’s why I’ve never been asked that question.  It must show on my face.

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Dear friends,

Noah from Uganda called this morning to let me know that his mom had just passed away.

While we are all happy for her new adventure in Heaven, we need to remember the family, especially Elijah, her husband, and all the children. This has been a long, drawn-out illness that is finally over, but still, they need prayer.

I would like to share what the Lord showed me about this lady for just a moment.  We were in Uganda at a gathering somewhere off the beaten track, having services under some tarps on top of a large hill. The power of God was flowing through there like the wind. We saw some very special healing miracles happen, some while I was praying and some that just happened on their own. The atmosphere was like being in Heaven itself. It’s hard to describe what it was like – you’d have to have been there to really get it.

Noah’s whole family was there – brothers, sisters, Mom and Dad.  While Ruth, Noah’s sister, was singing and we were literally swimming in the Holy Spirit, I looked over at Noah’s Mom and Dad and the Lord opened my eyes to see them as He saw them. They were royalty in His eyes. Their testimony and their depth in God is a long story that will not be fully told until Eternity, but suffice it to say that I could feel the depth of it and I knew who they were in God.  Royalty.

Noah’s mom was a prayer warrior that will be sorely missed. When she began to pray, things moved in the unseen world, veils were pierced, and God listened. I pray that God raises up others to step into her place, willing to go through the sufferings of the Body of Christ that those who choose to walk in His depth must go through, to come out of severe battle in victory and see Him and Him alone exalted.

Good travels, Mama. I can almost see the smile that is on Jesus’ face as He welcomes you home.

Brother Dale

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep going. You’re almost there.

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

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Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.”   (Isaiah 8:7-8)

 Hezekiah was one of Judah’s best kings. 2nd Kings says that there was none like him amongst all the kings of Judah. Then why did this happen to him? Sennacherib, the king of Assyria swallowed up the entire breadth of Judah, reaching all the way up to the neck, even the very gates of Jerusalem. That was good news for the folks shuttered up in Jerusalem, but it must have been hell for everyone out in the countryside and all the other cities. If Hezekiah was so righteous, then why did God allow this to happen to the rest of Judah?

The answer goes back to his father Ahaz, the wicked king who ruled before him. Ahaz was facing sure destruction from Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah, the king of Israel, but instead of calling upon the Lord for help, he hired the king of Assyria to pull them off him. In gratitude, Ahaz took a trip to Damascus to meet him and, I guess, to thank him for his help.

While he was there, he saw a pagan altar that impressed him so much that he sent the design back to Uzziah the high priest to have one made just like it. It must have been real nice and shiny because he set aside the Brazen Altar that was before the House of the Lord and replaced it with this new modern version. He instructed the High Priest that all the offerings and sacrifices would now be done on this shiny, new modern altar, but had the audacity to say that when he wanted to inquire of the Lord, he would go over and use the old Brazen Altar that now sat on the north side of the Temple. He discarded the established way the Lord had set down to initiate a new, modern way that was based on agan worship.

Sounds crazy, right? But have we not done the same thing in dismissing that old-fashioned Gospel of the fear of the Lord for a new and gentler modern Gospel of peace, love and prosperity?

I heard one of today’s modern preachers declare himself as “grace oriented” and not as judgmental as his father was. His father and the preachers from a couple generations ago preached a message of righteousness and holiness in the fear of God. There is quite a difference in those two definitions of grace – one is used as a covering for sin, while the other is defined as the power God to overcome it. We have put aside the old in favor of a new modern gospel that our fathers did not recognize. Did not Jeremiah cry out, … ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, we will not walk therein.” (Jer 6:16)

I’m sure Ahaz had plenty of justifications. After all, the Brazen Altar was an old design, wasn’t it? So what’s the harm in upgrading it a little bit? Besides, it was getting old and burnt around the edges and probably needed some touch ups and a new paint job. This new altar was bright and shiny. And yeah, it was patterned after a pagan altar, but it’s not like he was going to offer up his children on it as a burnt sacrifice. So what was the problem?

When we operate outside the fear of the Lord, we set the stage for our own judgment.

Isaiah’s resulting pronouncement against Judah came to fruition, not in Ahaz’s generation, but in his son’s. Hezekiah felt the full impact of Ahaz’s foolishness and had it not been for his extraordinary righteousness before God, Jerusalem would have no doubt been overwhelmed.

Many times in the Bible when the great stone wheel of judgment would begin to roll because of their sins, God would raise up a solitary man to stand in the gap for His people — Noah, Joseph, Elijah, Gideon, and many of the judges. Hezekiah was just such a man to stop the full brunt of his father’s sins so that the seed would be preserved to bring humanity to the ultimate of saviors, God Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.

Mercy is not free; neither is it cheap. And although God delights in mercy, He is first and foremost a righteous God and there is a price to pay for sin in the form of judgment. If we, as a people, ignore the warnings against a lighter more modern version of the Gospel, all the while making excuses and justifications for our shiny new altar, we will face the same results our fathers have faced. Let us pray that God will raise up unto us a way for repentance to stave off the results that our lack of the fear of God will most surely bring to us.

“O Israel, thy prophets are like the foxes in the deserts. Ye have not gone up into the gaps, neither made up the hedge for the house of Israel to stand in the battle in the day of the LORD. They have seen vanity and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word.”  (Ezekiel 13:4-6)

 

 

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