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Posts Tagged ‘new age’

It feels like I’ve been in a whirlwind here in Liberia. After a quick introduction on Sunday, I was launched into a fierce set of meetings, morning and night, for three days.

I am not a calm and casual preacher. I pour my heart and soul into the message the entire time I am on my feet. Actually, it is more a matter of allowing the Holy Spirit to pour like a river through me. When I am done an hour later, I am completely drained, soaked in sweat, and barely able to stand. This is how it always is for me.

After the morning service, my driver takes me back to the hotel where I collapse for a couple hours, shower, and head back for the evening session. Then back to the hotel when we are done and repeat. I’m okay, but I’m getting a little fuzzy.

But the response is great! The Spirit of the Lord connects with everyone immediately. It’s as if they are already prepped and ready with open hearts to receive everything God has for them, and He rejoices in giving to them. I rarely know what I am going to say before I get up, but as soon as I do, I can feel the Lord turn me into His message for the service. Then it is a matter of just hanging on and following the flow of the river that He pours out. For the next hour, I am in that flow and am barely aware of anything else. And then when it is done, it is done.

I am told that this is the way preachers in America used to preach back a generation or so ago. It was never a matter of preparing your message, but more a matter of preparing yourself to yield unto the leading of the Holy Ghost. Open your mouth and He will fill it. But now, Bible colleges teach our young all the methods of outline and organization to fully prepare your speech or lecture to the congregation. And if you feel lost, that’s okay because you can simply purchase your message off the internet for a small sum, complete with video, outline and bulleted points. How convenient! Maybe they also have the canned applause.

But stale bread and sour wine will never inspire hungry souls.

There’s no faking it here. The Spirit of God is moving too strongly with these people. I am continually told that they don’t like American preachers because we do not preach the same message we did 50 years ago. I have literally heard that hundreds of times. They like our money and will come to the great mega crusades because we pay their pastors to bring their churches, but the next day after they are gone, everything goes back to the way it was.

Is it a small wonder that we are seeing so many miracles here and so few in America? Yesterday, just to make a point, I had one person who was in pain stand up and another person come over to pray over her. Healed! Then I did it again. And again. Each time the healing was immediate. I can do this all across Africa, from Kenya to Liberia any day of the week.

Why is that? Maybe they just expect a miracle. Maybe they just need God more than we do. Maybe a lot of things. I honestly don’t know. I will leave it to the smart theologians to write a book on how to do healings – they’ve never done it themselves, but I’m sure they can tell us all about how its supposed to be done.

What is my point? Theology and modern religion has lost it’s heart. We’ve become institutional and programmed to the point that we have lost the art of surrender. We know too much. The Bread we bring forth is no longer fresh from the oven of the Altar. It’s stale, hard, dry and tasteless. Our wine has gone sour and is more like vinegar than the wine of the Holy Spirit. We need revival so bad that it hurts.

But we are the last to realize it.

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“And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.”  Isaiah 25:7

Jesus looking over world

Picture this for a moment.  World opinion has moved against Israel to the point that she has become a burdensome stone for the entire world.  The only hope that world leaders have for a lasting peace is to subjugate Israel and force her to bend to their decrees of submission.

Israel doesn’t want to do that.  They flat out refuse.  So the world press paints a picture of Israel as a rebellious, renegade nation that, in the eyes of the world, makes Israel look like such a serious threat to world peace that she must be forcibly crushed.

The armies of the world join to surround and destroy her.  Crowds cheer as they read that half of Jerusalem has been taken in ferocious fighting.  The Jews’ back is against the wall, the Death Knell has begun to ring, and victory is at hand.

And then, surprise, surprise!  Jesus Christ splits the skies and descends to fight for His people in a fury that the world has never known and will never forget.

Oops!

Now they know.  But how had they become so blinded?

According to the Scriptures, it is because they listened to their prophets.  They had been convinced that they were executing a righteous cause in the name of Peace.  They had chased all the old-fashioned preachers from the pulpits because they didn’t bring messages of peace and love, and the prophets that had called for the righteous indignation of the Lord were considered mean, divisive, and judgmental.

Didn’t those hellfire and brimstone preachers understand that the only way to peace was to accept all religions into an ecumenical World Religion?  Didn’t those hateful prophets understand that God was Love and all those divergent lifestyles were just a different way of approaching God?  Why were they preaching Hate?

Well, I guess the only real answer I can give is because it was the Truth.

Real prophets of God are not nice guys – they aren’t supposed to be.  And if my Bible is correct, they never appeared to be real high on whatever the religious order of the day was.  And some of them were pretty nasty about it.  But Preachers of courage divide between sin and righteousness, and will suffer persecution as a result of it.
(“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” 2Timothy 3:12)

Just in case you’re wondering which side God is on – He hates sin … and He hates the workers of iniquity (Psalms 5:5).  Pick your side … but choose wisely.

One only has to read the newspapers to see the march of radical individualism and humanism along with unrestrained Liberalism moving us into the free licentiousness of Sodom and Gomorrah. And it’s considered a godly and loving thing!  Boy, are we suckers.

But it’s all because we have chosen our own delusions, and we have allowed our prophets of peace and love to sell us a candy-coated gospel that seems so …um … nice.  This is the hour of temptation that will come to try the whole world.

It would be so easy to say that the way to see through this deception is to simply read and pray.  However, if that is not mixed with the fear of God, your understanding will be superficial at best.  Unfortunately, the fear of God is gradually being relegated to a four-lettered word and translated to the more acceptable “reverence” and “respect” instead of that “trembling” stuff or that “dread” that is written in the old King James.

But when that covering is cast away, we will see Him as He really is.

And then we will know.


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[This is a re-post from 2015]

Touch the Cross

Jesus on the Cross“If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous. Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.”  
– Bildad the Shuhite, (Job 8:6).

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.” 
– Paul, (Philippians 1:29)

There has been a shift in our view of the personality of God.  I noticed it taking hold of the evangelical church world about 30 years ago, and it has established itself more firmly ever since.

The old fashioned view of a God of judgment has been mollified to one of a kinder, gentler God who was more attuned to a loving relationship with His children.  The old brush arbor revivalists are considered too hard in their outlook, mocked in Hollywood films, and are brushed aside as narrow-minded zealots who did not understand the mercy of God.  We have assumed that we have a better understanding of God because we are somehow more enlightened.

We have shifted our focus to the blessings, the love and mercy, and the goodness of God.  Yes, judgment is still there, but has been relegated more to the shadows off-stage than out in the spotlight.  The Fear of God, although undeniably written throughout the Word of God, has been analytically digested and presented as being more by the precept of men (Isaiah 29:13) than the emotionally charged issue of actual dread and fear (Isaiah 8:13).  God is now our Daddy.

Because there has been no momentous outpouring of the Holy Spirit in recent memory, we, like the Israelites of Sinai, feel that Moses had taken too long to come down from the mountain, so we’ve fashioned our own gods that have supposedly delivered us out of Egypt.

Seems to work pretty well.  It certainly feels much better, and is much more palatable than walking around under the cloud of intense holiness like our forefathers did.  It makes much more sense to the carnal mind.  After all, if you get saved, God will love you and pour out His unconditional Love all over you, right?.  No more dark valleys to walk through, no more refining fire to strip away your flesh, and no more sufferings of the Cross to bear.

It made sense to Bildad the Shuhite.

But not to Paul.

We are inundated with an easy Gospel that promises a wonderful time in Jesus.  We proclaim that there will be a great revival soon, and we sing and dance to the rhythm of the message, but we have not considered the price.  Our pastors who have taken over the pulpits in the last 20-some-odd years have regurgitated the message they heard in Bible College and are not even aware that something is missing.  But hey, it sure feels good, doesn’t it?

So we continue to sing and dance and line up for someone can touch us so we can fall down on the floor in euphoria, but we never notice our lack of depth and brokenness, nor do we consider that old crucified walk that our fathers trod to establish the Church.

We want to touch the Cross; but not bear it.

 

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When I think of the two gospels that I see in America, I sometimes think of that Robert Frost poem, “two paths diverged in a yellow wood …”. One gospel is so well accepted that not many people today even know that there is another one. Sure, they’ve heard of it, but often with criticism and distain. They are much more enamored with a kinder, gentler gospel that has been tailored for this generation. It is almost universally accepted today as a much more enlightened view of the love of God than those old fashioned folks that used to preach about fear and hell. They don’t even remember anyone who has preached that old gospel.

I must be older than I thought. I’ll be 70 in a few weeks, so I guess I am. I still remember that old-time gospel. It was what I got saved with. And it was the message that we saw thousands of others get saved with. Our altars were full every single night and twice on Sundays. People were repenting on their knees in the church, on the phone, on the streets, and over the radio. In the course of ten years, we saw close to 100,000 souls get saved, and it was with that old fashioned gospel of hell, fire, brimstone, and the fear of God.

It sure seemed like it was working to me, but then, hey, what do I know? Nowadays, these kids have titles and degrees and fancy diplomas to hang on the wall that certify that they know stuff. All kinds of stuff.  And lots of it too.  I guess eating off the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil can really fill you up because the Bible says that “knowledge puffeth up”.

Leonard Ravenhill once said that we used to have preachers with no degrees but lots of heat, but now we have preachers with lots of degrees and no heat. I wonder if there is a connection.

Those who pursue ecclesiastical paths rarely see their divergence from the message that their forefathers preached, and when they do, they dismiss that old fashioned gospel as old, caustic, and unnecessarily hard. And yet, you would think that the vast difference in results would give them a clue. The altars of those old-timers were hot and on fire. They won thousands of souls on a continual, daily basis, whereas the altars of this generation are bare and cold with mere handfuls of repentant souls. When we need it the most, we have the least response.

Perhaps our ears are so full of “church” that we can’t hear.

“… and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked”. (Revelations 3:17)

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“And his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11)

What makes the difference between a nominal Christian and an on-fire one? Are they both variations on the same theme or are they on two very different trajectories heading for two very different destinations?

A mountain stream splits when it encounters an obstacle that divides it. One part of the stream goes one way; the other goes the other way. They both will tumble down the mountain for miles, twisting and turning back and forth. They do not run in parallel, but each takes its own unique path as it heads to its final destination. Those destinations can be very different. One can end up in the Atlantic Ocean while the other tumbles down to the Pacific.

Our lives run in much the same way.  When we encounter that fork in the road or the boulder in the stream, we make a choice as to which road we will go down. What is it that determines that decision? Very simply, we choose the path that appeals to us the most.

What happens when that choice is between an easy-going Christian walk with all the amenities of the world or a walk of holiness and hardship in the fear of God? The worldly path is a wide path that offers comfort, prosperity, blessings, and all the good things we would like to pad our lives with. It’s easy, wealthy, and fun. We celebrate Jesus as if we were at a party with balloons and streamers. If that is what appeals to our hearts, then we will follow our hearts.

I can look down the easy path and see many Christians sitting on their pews every Sunday assuming that they are at rest with God. The reality is, however, that while their motors are idling they are stuck in neutral and are not going anywhere. They think this Pollyanna Gospel they adhere to will usher them in past the gates of Judgment while they sail off on the Good Ship Lollipop.

The other path leads to a rough and narrow path. There are no promises of some easy lark as we saunter down the road of Life. Conversely, there are plenty of promises of hardships, suffering, persecution, and a crucified walk that is designed to strip away all the trappings of the easy path. The joy here is not of the flesh or what we find in the world, but a joy that is found deep in the Spirit of God. The flesh here is called to pay a price, and sometimes a very heavy price.

I do not want to walk this entire journey of Life only to find out at the end that I came up just a little short of goal. Jesus said that many would come to him in that day expecting to be ushered into glory but would hear Him say, “I never knew you”. Can there be anything more horrible than that?

What is it that will make us want to choose the hard path over the easy one? What forges our desires for righteousness over apostasy?  2nd Thessalonians 2:10-12 tells us that God would cause those who did not have a love for the truth to believe a lie. He would damn them because they loved unrighteousness.  That’s pretty terse. How do I shear away from being someone who has lost his love for truth and righteousness?  There is no switch that I can turn on; no button to push; no mouse to click. How do I make sure I make the right choices? When I stand at that split in the stream, how do I make sure my heart will choose the beauty of holiness over the appeal of flesh?

Philippians 2:13 says that God will work in us to give us both the will and the power to do His pleasure. In other words, God will put the desire in our hearts to do His will and serve Him. Sounds simple, right? But there is one question: how do I get God to work in me?

Again, the answer is simple, as most things in God are.  If you want God in you, you have to read His Word. But the Word alone is not enough. It must be anointed by the Spirit of God to have life. Paul said the “letter” kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Corinthians 3:6). You must have both, and you must have them in a sufficient depth to make enough of a difference to break up your stony heart and transform it into a soft and open heart that can receive the Spirit of God.

In Judges 6, we see that Gideon saw the apostasy and sin that the church had fallen into and he made a decision to separate himself from them. He threshed his wheat by the winepress in secret. Wheat stands for the Word of God, the Bread of Life. The winepress is the place of prayer. So Gideon did not warm the proverbial church pew like the others. He sought the face of God in that secret place of the Most High (Psalms 91:1) through reading and prayer.

Remember, you get what you pay for. How bad do you want God? That is reflected on how much you give yourself to seeking Him through His Word and serious, prevailing prayer. That is what gave Elijah the power to call down fire. That is what gave Paul the drive to push through the persecution to establish the Gospel with the Gentiles. That is what made the difference for Gideon and is why he was chosen by God to bring in a revival.

So in the final analysis, the choice is not whether you want to go to Heaven or not, or whether you want to be a strong Christian or not. It is the little choices you make everyday on whether or not you will read His Word and pray.  Everything in Christianity – everything – comes down to those two things – read and pray.

Brother Dale

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This morning I was reminded of a pastor I met in northern Nigeria some years ago that would go out without any money and plant churches. He had few resources but would raise the church up until it was healthy and firm, and then he would go off to another area to plant the next church. When I met him, he had already planted several churches this way, taking nothing for himself for money or support. He just went on by faith.

I am also reminded of another pastor that I ministered with who was given $50,000 as an offering from a UK-based church. Instead of buying himself a nice home or car, he used that money to build the foundations for over 150 churches across northern Uganda. He remained dirt poor and didn’t have the money to finish many of those buildings, but they were functioning churches, and that was what mattered for the hundreds of people that worshipped God in them.

I know several men and women of God like that.

Is this what I see here in the modern church world in America where the preachers expound more about blessings and prosperity than the sufferings of the Cross and the fear of God? They proudly display their wealth across the television networks as a sign of their blessings from God. I am tired of hearing that it’s not the money, but the love of money that is root of all evil, all the while using that same scripture as an excuse to pursue more wealth. As the scripture says, they think “gain is godliness” (1 Tim. 6:5). But the admonition is to turn away from them because they are destitute of the truth.

And as the shepherd goes, so goes the flock. Our church world has, in many areas, taken on a worldly sheen that even the unsaved can recognize. They can see it, and we can’t. Small wonder that so many refuse to darken the doors of any church. They don’t see anything in the modern church world that they want.

Do you see what I am seeing? Can you feel that something in the church world is just not right, but you’re not quite sure what it is? Does it seem difficult to pick out any one thing that you can point to as wrong, but still there is that feeling that something is off? A friend of mine calls it cognitive dissonance.

How did we get so far off course? This was not the way the church was a couple of generations ago. Certainly we’ve seen men of God that were blessed and enjoyed a certain amount of wealth, but not to the degree of the lavish lifestyles we see today. The difference that is so startling is not about the money, but the attitude.

Are we focused on the comforts of the crown, or the sufferings of the Cross? Are the rewards we pursue measured in coin or in souls? Are we trying to get our rewards now, or lay them up for Eternity?

Paul said that he would not glory except in the cross, “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal 6:14) The apostle John agreed and warned us to not love the world, neither the things in the world, for if we did, the love of the father would not be in us. (1John 2:15). Even James told us that friendship with the world is enmity with God. (James 4:4)

So how did so many of us lose our bearings? Perhaps it is a matter of what we are focused on.

I see so many Christians in the churches dive off into their own ministries, which seems encouraging until I notice that they are running around ministering to each other and have forgotten the commission that was given to them to go unto the lost. They seem to be run more like a corporate business than an outreach by faith. Few are willing to give up the security of a paycheck to run off into the bush to plant a church with nothing in their pocket. Neither do many feel the call to sacrifice everything they have in life just so they can go.

Is this generation focused only on their own lives, what they want, and how they want it, rather than the crucified sacrifice that fueled our forefathers? Is it all about us and how we want it instead of blindly throwing yourself at God and let him take you through the valleys of death to strip the “you” out of you? Or like Gideon who refused to compromise with the worldly church that the Israelites had become, but instead threshed his wheat in secret by the winepress of God, away from the religious ways of a carnal church.

Paul echoes Isaiah as he cried out for us to come out from among them and be separate people unto the Lord. Jesus said just as he was preparing to go to Calvary that “ye are not of the world”. If you were, as John says later, the world would hear you (1 John 4:5,6). Peter says we are supposed to escape the pollutions of this world by cutting off our desire to be like them. (2 Peter 2:20)

Is this what I see in the modern church world today? Is this the example that is set by our affluent clergy and wealthy congregations? Or, is this the same spirit that led the children of Israel to worship golden calves at the foot of Mount Sinai?

Choose a path. I don’t believe you can have both. The deception of the world is too strong to dabble in. Like skating on thin ice to see how far you can go, you may not find out until it is too late.

“Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria … That lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock … and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph.” (Amos 6:1-6)

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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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