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Posts Tagged ‘theology’

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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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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“It is the glory of God to conceal a thing:
but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.”  (Proverbs 25:2)

Everybody has those times when you just don’t know what to do.

It’s easy for someone to just tell us to simply seek the Lord for your answers, but oftentimes that means entering into a very misty arena where there are few clear-cut signposts to show you the way.

You want an answer?  Oh, well praise the Lord! Just pray!  Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  But you and I both know it isn’t always that simple.

Sometimes the right answers are elusive and are found hiding behind shadowy rocks and nebulous shapes in a misty landscape.

“He does want me to do the right thing, doesn’t He?  Why doesn’t the Lord make things more obvious?  Can’t He just tell me what I’m supposed to do and leave it at that?  Wouldn’t that make things so much simpler?”

Well, yes and no.

Sometimes He just wants to see how much you really want that answer and how many obstacles you are willing to overcome to get it.  Remember now, it is not to those who try, but to those who overcome that will eat of the Tree of Life.  It really strikes at the heart of our willingness to carry the Cross.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting us to realize how much we need Him.  If everything were easy, there would be no reason to seek His face.  After a while, the price that was paid on the Cross wouldn’t seem as big of a deal anymore.  Why, we could just snap our fingers and God would spring into action!  God loves us, doesn’t He?

Everyone would like a Gospel without a Cross — that’s why there are so many Prosperity preachers out there – but there is no such Gospel.  We are thrust into a war where the combatants are invisible, our choice of paths are often dictated by desires instead of sight, and the ultimate ends for our souls can only be taken by faith.

To negotiate the way before us requires a determination to resist the obvious comforts that our flesh pulls us toward, and reach through to the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, fueled by the hope of righteousness above all things.

That’s tough sometimes.  And that’s why the Lord puts us through those dark valleys that we must go through.

No, I don’t like it either.  But you know what?  Above all things, I want to go to Heaven.

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”  (Matt. 7:13,14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s missing.

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

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

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

Let’s start there and see where it leads.

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