Be Filled With the Spirit

“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”

  Ephesians 5:18

In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he reminds believers, especially in chapter five, to be imitators of God. He goes on to point out very specifically, areas of immorality, impurity and “deeds of darkness” to avoid at all costs.

He then encourages them to…”Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise.” Then he uses the imagery of wine as that which is poured out and poured into.

Many have used this verse to say God is using Paul to teach against wine consumption. This verse cannot be used to promote that idea. This portion of the verse, similar to other verses in the Bible, speaks against drunkenness.  In using this imagery, Paul is actually saying don’t be so filled with wine that you become drunk, but be so filled with the Spirit that you become transformed in essence, even in your behavior.

In the same way that wine can alter your essence and behavior shamefully, the filling of the Spirit can alter and transform richly and wonderfully. 

Paul then immediately goes on to discuss specific behavioral issues such as how to encourage one another, how to be thankful and how to be subject to one another. He continues on instructing in issues of marriage and our understanding of our position to the body of Christ, the Church.

Let me pause here for a moment and respond to some who may be thinking I’m in some way defending wine consumption. Neither my wife nor I consume any manner of alcohol. It’s simply a position we have taken and a personal conviction we hold. Scripture doesn’t speak against wine, but it’s quite clear on drunkenness and strong drink. To get hung up on the wine aspect of this verse is to miss the whole point.

The point is, “Be filled with the Spirit!” 

The actual Greek rendering of this would be, “Be being filled with the Spirit.” In other words it stresses the sense of continuation of filling and refilling.

Many have wrongly used this verse (along with some others) to suggest to a new Christian (or even mature Christians) that they may be lacking in some ongoing, subsequent work of the Spirit.

They would suggest that you are a Christian but perhaps have not yet received or been filled with the Holy Spirit. 

This is the point I want to discuss in this letter. I’ve addressed it previously at times in both my writing and teaching, but I believe it’s so important to get a proper biblical understanding of this that I am once again revisiting the topic.

Recently, on several occasions, I’ve had someone say something like this: “He (or she) is a Spirit filled Christian.” Or someone said, “I had some Christians pray for me but then I asked a Spirit filled Christian to pray.”

This kind of terminology begs the question, can a Christian not be Spirit filled? The answer is a resounding NO!

Sometimes when I’m teaching on this subject I like to ask my audience this question:  “Where is Jesus?” The answers range generally from, “In my heart, Heaven and everywhere” to an occasional finger pointed upward, I’m sure denoting Heaven (or perhaps on the roof).

All of these answers are to some degree or another correct (with the exception of the roof) but not quite specifically accurate. 

Specifically, according to scripture, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. Look up Acts 2:32-33, Acts 7:56 and Hebrews 8:1.

It isn’t altogether incorrect to say we received Christ into our heart, but it is really His Spirit that drew us, convicted us and took up residence within us when we trusted by faith in the finished work of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, believing in the reality of His resurrection and receiving the precious gift of salvation by grace through faith.

You may say, “Well, that’s just another way to say the same thing,” but it’s important to remember that Christ said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Holy Spirit) shall not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

What hope could we possibly have, especially as new Christians, if we did not have His Spirit to help, comfort and guide?

But does scripture clearly indicate that every Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit? The answer is a resounding YES!

“But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” Romans 8:9

This verse is crystal clear. If you don’t have His Spirit, you don’t belong to Christ. But if you do belong to Christ, you therefore have His Spirit. 

I am especially emphasizing the importance of knowing that as a Christian you are indwelt by His Spirit as we enter this new year. 

2020 is here! We must possess 20/20 spiritual vision as we go forward in life’s journey amidst ever increasing evil, apathy and distraction.

In the future I hope to discuss further aspects of the Holy Spirit such as, are the infilling and baptism of the Holy Spirit the same thing? What are spiritual gifts all about? Can we have a partial infilling of His Spirit? Is the Holy Spirit fully God?

These and other questions are worthy considerations for us to explore, but first and foremost it is absolutely essential that we understand that every true Christian is indwelt by the Spirit of God.

I recently read a quote by A.W. Tozer that challenged my thinking in this area and encouraged and directed me to write to you about these things.

“In most Christian churches the Spirit is quite entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the doxology and the benediction. Further than that He might as well not exist…

Our neglect of the doctrine of the blessed Third Person has had and is having serious consequences. For doctrine is dynamite. It must have emphasis sufficiently sharp to detonate it before its power is released…

The doctrine of the Spirit is buried dynamite. Its power awaits discovery and use by the Church. The power of the Spirit will not be given to any mincing assent to pneumatological truth. The Holy Spirit cares not at all whether we write Him into our creeds in the back of our hymnals; He awaits our emphasis.”

A.W. Tozer

I believe it can be argued that we as Christians today, live with the greatest privilege in the entire history of God’s people.  Since the day of Pentecost, the only true and living God has chosen to literally take up residence within us completely and continually. We must consider this great privilege fully and heed His specific command diligently. Be Filled With the Spirit!

Tis The Season

Yes, once again the holiday season is upon us and it seems to have arrived on a swifter schedule than last year and all previous years.

Like a line from a song I wrote years ago:

The years they come and go
Like clouds on a windy day
The moments pass so swiftly
Our lives just slip away

I stopped by our local hardware store just the other day and already, in the early part of November, Christmas decorations, trees, lights and all related items were up and ready for purchase.

It really does all come too quickly!

At the risk of having this letter read like one of those blow by blow, diary/travelogue volumes occasionally received at year’s end from some distant relative or friend (who you’re not totally sure you even know), I felt I should update you as to where we are and how we’re doing as a family. Also, I want to share some insight as to our future ministry plans. I do this because we’ve had so many friends email or write us asking about Linda’s health and the health of our daughter and son.

This year has been a tough and challenging one for our family. You may remember that at the first of the year our daughter was diagnosed with a rare cancer. At the same time, my wife, Linda, had a severe reaction to a new immunotherapy trial she was on. It put her in bed and eventually in the hospital. The total “down time” for her was almost six weeks. Then, in the midst of all this, our son began having severe anxiety attacks.

A friend of ours said, “You’re going through a cluster bomb attack!” That’s exactly what it felt like.

I’m pleased to report our son, Jeffrey, is doing much better. He still has occasional bouts with anxiety, but nothing like when it began.

Our daughter, Jennifer, is doing very well. The cancer was completely removed surgically. There were some lingering complications from the surgery that persisted for months, but these issues have been almost totally resolved.

Linda continues to wage war against her thirty-two year nemesis of breast cancer. It’s taken a lot from her through the years, most recently the craniotomy of almost three years ago now. Because of the effects of the craniotomy and subsequent radiation, her mobility and balance have been compromised. This has prohibited her from traveling with me most of this year.

Let me pause here a moment and assure you that God’s grace has indeed been sufficient throughout this “bumpy” part of the road on life’s journey.

I mentioned that much has been taken from Linda through the years of her struggle with cancer. However, I must testify that way more has been given to us because of God’s grace and faithfulness in the midst of the struggle.

A song Linda often sang says it best:

He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase
To added affliction He addeth His mercy
To multiplied trials His multiplied peace

Annie Flint Johnson

Linda and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on the 27th of this month. We have been abundantly blessed with a wonderful marriage, two wonderful children and five amazing grandchildren.

He has given us the marvelous privilege of being “co-laborers together with Christ Jesus” throughout the years of ministry, particularly through Praise Ministries. Many souls have been won to Christ, lives rescued, and families healed because of God’s faithfulness to use us in ministry.

We will continue to minister. People often ask me, “How long are you going to keep ministering?” I always reply by saying, “As long as I have breath and opportunity.”

Someone asked me the other day if I was retired. I responded by saying, “I don’t think so.”

We’ve had to cut back our traveling dates and will probably continue to do so because of health issues and age. (I turned 71 in November.) Not old, but I can tell you, I can’t do it all as easily as I used to.

Fortunately we live at a time when we can continue to minister very effectively without always having to travel somewhere to do so.

Many have commented how much they love and appreciate our online ministry through our website, Facebook and YouTube.

The newsletter, the daily posts, the “Stories Behind the Songs” have been such a blessing to so many, hopefully to you.

We plan to expand our ministry opportunities online in the coming year. I think you’re going to really like and appreciate that.

Stay tuned!

I’ll continue to take a limited number of concert dates and speaking engagements, but we’re at a point in our lives where we have to make some changes. Tis the Season of our lives!

I believe we’ll be even more effective in ministering to those God brings into our care, as we steward our time, talents and treasures of God’s grace.

Please continue to pray for us as we seek God for direction, for strength to run the race and for His Spirit’s anointing on all we do in the name of ministry.

I recently read a marvelous verse and comment by Charles Spurgeon that was a great encouragement and blessing to me. I share it here in hopes it will similarly encourage and bless you.

Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands.

Isaiah 49:16

“Behold,” is a word intended to excite admiration. Here, indeed, we have a theme for marvelling. Heaven and earth may well be astonished that rebels should obtain so great a nearness to the heart of infinite love as to be written upon the palms of His hands. “I have graven thee.” It does not say, “Thy name.” Thy name is there, but that is not all: “I have graven thee.” See the fulness of this! I have graven thy person, thine image, thy case, thy circumstances, thy sins, thy temptations, thy weaknesses, thy wants, thy works: I have graven thee, everything about thee, all that concerns thee; I have put thee altogether there.

Charles H. Spurgeon

As you celebrate the Christmas season, whether at a family feast, exchanging of gifts around a Christmas tree or just in simple solitude, remember the greatest gift; that of our Savior.

Remember, God’s great gift in a wooden manger and His great sacrifice on a wooden cross.

Remember the tiny Christ child’s hands that reached up to touch His mother’s face, but also remember these same nail pierced hands that reached out to save sinners like you and me.

And lastly, remember that we are graven in these same hands.

Reflect, Rejoice, Respond.

Tis the Season!

Christ and Him Crucified

Why do I do the things I do
Why do I say the things I say
Sing the songs I sing
Pray the prayers I pray
Why do I push myself so hard
To go the second mile
Knowing my reward
May only be a smile
Well there’s a picture in my mind
That time can’t erase
And there’s a memory from days gone by
That helps me keep my place

It’s in the front of my mind
In the back of my mind
To the left and to the right
There’s an image of a man on a cross

Image of a Man | Dallas Holm

A number of years ago I was making my way to the back of an auditorium where I had just completed ministering in concert and in word.

About halfway back a young man stepped in front of me and asked, “After all these years, what keeps you going?” Without a moment’s hesitation I responded, “The image of a man on a cross!”

In that moment, my answer seemed to satisfy the young man’s question. It also caused me to consider that it might be a good idea for a song, which as it turned out, it was.

The apostle Paul, in writing his first letter to the church at Corinth, prioritizes the essence of his ministry and the central issue of true Christianity when he writes:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:1-2)

It has been suggested that by the time Paul (previously Saul) was 21 years of age, he had the equivalent of two Ph.D.s in theology. It is not likely that Paul is saying, nothing else is important to discuss or that the only topic henceforth will be the crucifixion of Christ.      

He is not promoting the idea that any further discussions regarding such significant events as the resurrection, the return of Christ or any vast array of other important topics like grace, obedience and conforming to the image of Christ need not be articulated and considered. What he is doing, for the purpose of highlighting and emphasizing the central issue of the atonement through the shedding of blood, is using hyperbole.

R.C. Sproul puts it this way:  “When the apostle made that statement (I Cor. 1:1-2) he obviously was engaged in the literary art of hyperbole. The Greek prefix hyper is the source of our word super, and it indicates a degree of emphasis. Hyper takes a root word and makes it emphatic. In this case, the root word comes from the Greek verb “to throw”. So, hyperbole is literally a “super throwing”; it is a form of emphasis that uses intentional exaggeration.

Sproul goes on to illustrate how we might say to a child, “I’ve told you a thousand times not to do that!” Everyone, including the child, knows that statement hasn’t been offered a thousand times, but the exaggeration is born, not out of deceitfulness, but out of an intent to bring emphasis.

We know Paul wanted to teach the Corinthians about the character and nature of God the Father. He would instruct them about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. He would teach them Christian ethics, and about many other things that go beyond the immediate scope of Christ’s work on the cross.

Sproul puts it this way, “Paul was saying that in all of his teaching, in all of his preaching, in all of his missionary activity, the central point of importance was the cross. In effect, this teacher was saying to his students, “You might forget other things that I teach you, but don’t ever forget the cross because it was on the cross, through the cross and by the cross that our Savior performed His work of redemption and gathered His people for eternity.’”

Does the reality of the cross and what transpired through the substitutionary atoning work on Calvary’s mount, truly arrest our thinking and motivate our living?

Has the cross become just an emblem over the baptistry, an ornament around our neck, or do we remember, as Oswald Chambers states, “The most significant words ever uttered in a startled universe are the words, It Is Finished!”

Do we only consider the cross and Christ’s suffering in an historical context or do we actually consider ourselves “crucified with Christ”? Is it personal? Does it cost us?

Why should I care what others think
What do I care what others say
When He has won my heart
And I have found my way
What do I care what it may cost
Though it may cost my all
To walk the narrow path
And hear His silent call

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” (Gal. 2:20)

I’m constrained by the love of Christ
I’m compelled to express His life

Cause in the front of my mind
In the back of my mind
To the left and to the right
There’s an image of a man on a cross

I remember one day years ago my dear friend, Leonard Ravenhill, said to me, “Dallas, there are lots of Christians who like to hang around the cross. Not many of them want to get on it!”

I think perhaps, better than any other way I can imagine, that statement demonstrates exactly Paul’s understanding and perspective of the cross, both for himself and for these who he would teach, which includes us.

May we not be as those who just hang around the cross, but may we reckon ourselves crucified with Christ.

In all our learning, our experience and in the great adventure of life’s journey, may we each stay forever focused on the central bedrock and eternal fact of “Christ and Him Crucified.”

Called to be Saints

Just recently I was having lunch with a very dear friend of mine. He’s a wonderful man of God, a most effective minister of the gospel and a tireless discipler of men.

We’ve known each other for many years and in recent years we’ve tried to connect more often over a weekly lunchtime meal, though we rarely can get our schedules to cooperate every week.

Still, we manage to quite regularly get together. We often refer to it as an “Iron sharpens iron” moment as we encourage one another from the Word, discuss biblical doctrine and just enjoy the fellowship we have in Christ.

Recently, during one of our lunches my friend said something to the effect, “I would never be so bold as to compare myself to an apostle Paul.” I responded immediately by asking, “Why not?”

I remembered David Wilkerson preaching many years ago and in the course of presenting his sermon he challenged all those listening to consider that every great man and woman of the Bible had only twenty-four hours in a day, same as us.

What set them apart in the assessment of their lives, ministries and true sainthood is how they spent their lives over the course of those twenty-four hour days.

Shortly after my friend and I had that brief exchange over lunch, I read the following entry from Charles Spurgeon in his wonderful devotional, Morning and Evening. It seemed to put an exclamation point on our previous discussion.

“Called to be saints.”

Romans 1:7

We are very apt to regard the apostolic saints as if they were “saints” in a more especial manner than the other children of God. All are “saints” whom God has called by His grace, and sanctified by His Spirit; but we are apt to look upon the apostles as extraordinary beings, scarcely subject to the same weaknesses and temptations as ourselves. Yet in so doing we are forgetful of this truth, that the nearer a man lives to God the more intensely has he to mourn over his own evil heart; and the more his Master honours him in his service, the more also doth the evil of the flesh vex and tease him day by day. The fact is, if we had seen the apostle Paul, we should have thought him remarkably like the rest of the chosen family: and if we had talked with him, we should have said, “We find that his experience and ours are much the same. He is more faithful, more holy, and more deeply taught than we are, but he has the selfsame trials to endure. Nay, in some respects he is more sorely tried than ourselves.” Do not, then, look upon the ancient saints as being exempt either from infirmities or sins; and do not regard them with that mystic reverence which will almost make us idolaters. Their holiness is attainable even by us. We are “called to be saints” by that same voice which constrained them to their high vocation. It is a Christian’s duty to force his way into the inner circle of saintship; and if these saints were superior to us in their attainments, as they certainly were, let us follow them; let us emulate their ardour and holiness. We have the same light that they had, the same grace is accessible to us, and why should we rest satisfied until we have equalled them in heavenly character? They lived with Jesus, they lived for Jesus, therefore they grew like Jesus. Let us live by the same Spirit as they did, “looking unto Jesus,” and our saintship will soon be apparent.

If the true goal of our intimate relationship with God is conformity to the image of Christ, then is striving to attain a similar standing as the historical saints of scripture not only a possibility but a requisite?

Paul emphasizes this fact as by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he reminds the gentile believers in Rome (as well as us today) that we are “Called to be Saints.” (Romans 1:7)

His Way is in the Whirlwind

“In whirlwind and storm is His way. And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.”

Nahum 1:3

On Saturday, April 13th I left Lindale, Texas, my hometown, to travel to San Antonio, Texas, for a couple of ministry opportunities on the 15th.

I had been watching the weather report for a few days and they were all predicting bad weather and the potential for severe storms across central Texas into East Texas.

I had a choice to make. I could take I-20 west to I-35 and head south all the way to San Antonio. However, with storms in the forecast, I feared that one accident on I-35 might back it up all the way to Minnesota!

I chose to take Hwy 79 which heads southwest from near where I live to Austin, TX, and from there San Antonio is just a short jaunt.

Highway 79 is mostly two lanes meandering through the beautiful piney woods and small towns of East and Central Texas. I was in no big hurry and this route would have far less traffic and provide a much less stressful and more peaceful journey than the interstate…or so I thought.

As I continued to drive toward Austin, I encountered some rain off and on but nothing to be concerned about.

After about three hours of driving, the rain began to pick up some and the sky began to darken. I kept driving slower and slower as I turned the windshield wipers up faster and faster.

I had slowed to about 20 mph when suddenly I couldn’t see a thing, not the road, not the sky…Nothing!

I carefully angled over toward the shoulder (or where I thought it must be), turned my flashers on and came to a stop. I noticed just barely, through the wind swept rain and darkness, that there appeared to be a couple of vehicles very close in front of me with their flashers on as well.

Then the excitement began!

Extremely strong winds began blasting the driver’s side of my truck. Large tree limbs and various debris were sailing overhead from left to right. Then…sudden calm. I remember thinking in that moment, “I don’t think this is good.”

No sooner had that thought been completed in my brain than I was suddenly and violently slammed from the passenger’s side by even stronger winds. I felt something slam the rear of my truck, then the front and then multiple projectiles of various sizes pelted the right side of my truck.

At one point I gained enough visibility to look out to my right and see a large piece of corrugated metal roofing from a barn come sailing across the pasture in my general direction.

Then suddenly it became less general and more specific as it slammed the side of my truck, eventually scraping up and over and finding a resting place in a tree top across the road.

I felt on a couple occasions that my truck might take flight. I was extremely concerned that something might come flying through the side window or windshield and mess up my hair, not to mention the rest of my anatomy, which quite frankly, at 70 has begun to get a little messed up anyway! (Yes, humor intended)

Well, enough of all the catastrophic details. What did I learn from this buffeting from the elements?

I learned (later that evening) that I had come to a stop on Hwy 79 directly, and I mean directly, in the path of an EF-3 tornado. That’s 140mph winds!

I learned that I had stopped right next to the little town of Franklin, TX, which I did not know was even there until the storm passed. Fortunately no one was killed, though about half the town was destroyed. (I’m working on doing a benefit concert there sometime in the near future. Sort of feel a connection with those folks.)

I learned a car just in front of me had flipped upside down in the ditch. The couple in it were a little bloodied and bruised but otherwise okay. As “luck” would have it, I found the lady’s purse a couple hundred feet away from their overturned car. She was delighted; I was blessed! No luck involved, God’s kindness!

I learned my Toyota Tacoma is just heavy enough to not fly, though I believed it was sitting at a slightly different angle when the tornado had passed then where it was at the start.

Lastly and most importantly, I learned I can pray in great earnest with a really short vocabulary. It went something like this, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” and so on. You get the picture.

Franklin, TX, was devastated but no one was killed. My truck sustained over $9,000 worth of damage, but I am fine.

I was able to fulfill my two ministry dates and souls were saved, lives were touched by the gospel and God was glorified.

But how is God glorified in the whirlwind or perhaps we should ask, is He?

Is He the God of sunny days but not the stormy ones?

Isaiah writes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in chapter 45:6-7: “I am the Lord and there is no other, The One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity: I am the Lord who does all these.”

I’ve thought several times, “What were the chances of me driving about three hours, traveling at roughly 65 mph and intersecting with an EF-3 tornado at precisely the moment it’s crossing where I’m sitting on Hwy 79?”

I don’t think there’s any chance to it! If I’m walking humbly before the Lord, living in obedience to His word and moving by the leading of His Holy Spirit, then wherever I am is where He has me.

What are the chances of us traveling down the road of life enjoying the “Sonshine” of His love and then suddenly intersecting a dark storm and turbulent circumstances?

Again, nothing to do with chance! We must be ever maturing in our understanding of who He is and growing in our knowledge of the Word so that we are at peace both in the calm days and the stormy ones.

We must be assured of His presence in the midst of brilliant light as well as shrouding darkness. Finally, we must grow in our overall understanding and grasping of the sovereignty of this eternal, holy, awesome God we serve.

We are not as a ping pong ball getting smacked back and forth by some cosmic game of “Pong” between God and Satan.

We know from that oft quoted scripture that Paul writes to the believers in Rome, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord and are the called ones according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28)

The very implication of this verse, and that which would have been understood by those first to hear it is that “all things” would refer to the ups and downs, the easy and the difficult, the joyful and the sorrowful. All things!

It’s why I love that rather obscure little verse from that obscure little book of Nahum.

It assures me that whether I’m being buffeted from the left or the right; whether or not debris is whirling all around me and even if I take flight as I nearly did in my truck; I will fly to Him! He is my refuge. He is in the whirlwind and the storm, and the clouds…what about those clouds?

Scripture says, “They are but the dust of His feet.”

In other words, the clouds that often suddenly darken our day and loom ominously overhead, are actually the evidence of His presence. They are the dust of His feet!

Scripture tells us He goes before us, He is our rear guard, He walks beside us, He undergirds us and He sings over us.

Much like that tornado that enveloped me all around, on every side, above and below…”His way is in the whirlwind.”

God is Good!

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.”

Mark 10:18

We know intellectually that God is good, for scripture assures us He is. But do we know experientially that He is good, when we find ourselves in the midst of bad or difficult circumstances?

The last Praiseletter I wrote to you was entitled, “Be Anxious for Nothing.” In it we explored God’s admonition from scripture to have no anxious thoughts. We talked about prayer, supplication and thanksgiving when making our petitions known to God with an expectation then of His incomprehensible peace coming to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (See Phillippians 4:6-7)

The day after I wrote that letter our daughter, Jennifer, was diagnosed with a very rare cancer. Jennifer is the one who helps proof and type these letters.

It was a memorable and difficult moment to hand her my rough draft of the letter, “Be Anxious for Nothing” so she might read, proof and type it for our ministry friends.

Having just endured the shock of a difficult diagnosis it was wonderful timing on the part of the Lord to place that message in her hands in such a timely fashion.

Jennifer had surgery, the cancer was contained and removed. She has had some lingering post-op issues but we believe they will soon be resolved. She is doing really well; praise God!

A short time after Jennifer’s surgery, my wife became ill. We initially thought it was some kind of flu but her doctors felt it might be a severe reaction to the immunotherapy trial she had begun. To date she has been down for over a month with extreme fatigue, abdominal discomfort and some other unfortunate side effects.

As I write this letter we have calls into some doctors to get guidance in addressing this condition.

While Linda was down in bed and quite weak, her dear sister, Brenda, passed. Linda was too weak to attend the memorial service which, of course, was very hard on her. I officiated Brenda’s memorial and shared from scripture the wonderful hope we have in Christ in the midst of these difficult circumstances. Brenda was a beautiful Christian who loved and served the Lord faithfully, but it was so sad that Linda couldn’t be there.

As the TV info-mercials say, “But wait, there’s more!”

A little over two weeks ago our son, Jeffrey, began having severe anxiety attacks. It’s so unlike him to be anxious or panicked. Yet wave after wave would assault him almost daily, sometimes hourly. He’s doing better, praise God, but it’s been a tough stretch for all of us.

Why do I share all this bad news with you?

It’s kind of like a line from that goofy old song they’d sing on Hee Haw every Saturday night: “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Well this has nothing to do with luck, good or bad. It has nothing to do with some lack of faith or some hidden unresolved sin that is wreaking havoc with the lives of God’s children.

It has to do with God’s sovereign eternal plans and purposes to strengthen our faith through testing, conform us to the image of Christ through suffering and display living testimonies of God’s sufficient grace so that others may be encouraged and strengthened in their trials.

I really hesitated to share all these personal struggles because some of you are enduring things way beyond all I have shared. We know this to be true in our church family and we know it’s true in our family of ministry friends like yourself.

But in the midst of all this and on behalf of all of us I want to testify: God is good! He is faithful! His grace is sufficient!

“In all these things He is working for our good because we love HIm and He has called us unto Himself for His purposes.” Romans 8:28

Dear friends, please pray for us and know that we are praying for you! Say it with me, “God is good!” Say it out loud so your ears can hear what your heart believes.

“God is good!” “The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.”

Psalm 145:9

Be Anxious for Nothing

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

I wrote 2019 on something the other day and once again I was caught off guard as to how swiftly the previous year had flown by.

A new year suddenly stretches before us with all its unknowns; hopes for “smooth sailing” but always aware that the “storm clouds” could gather on the horizon at any moment.

What should our spiritual temperament be as we once again sail out through the breakwaters of a new year’s beginning into the vast sea of life’s possibilities?

The Apostle Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Philippi: “Be anxious for nothing!”

Is this some extreme concept of denial he is promoting? No, not at all. Another translation might say as follows: “In any and all of life’s circumstances, be not anxious.”

Then he (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) instructs us how to accomplish this. “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known.”

What’s the difference between prayer and supplication? One might say prayer is the method of our petitions and supplication is the attitude of our prayers. Supplication denotes humility in prayer. A humility that goes so far as to say, “Nevertheless not my will but Thine be done.”

I believe there is a direct correlation between the lack of our anxious thoughts and the maturity of our Christlike character as evidenced by the development of our faith and trust in Him.

Last Sunday as my wife and I were sitting in our Sunday School class, I looked around at my brothers and sisters whom we have come to know and love.

Our class is not large, maybe forty or fifty people. A couple rows away sat a young couple who just recently lost their teenage daughter in a tragic car wreck. Across the aisle from me sat a man who is in a stage four cancer situation. A couple rows behind us sat a lovely couple, about our age, who are now walking through the difficult journey of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in his body. Another couple with very heart-breaking challenges with a child. And there Linda and I sit, still waiting for some news regarding treatment for her cancer.

On and on it goes throughout our church family, in our community and undoubtedly in yours as well.

So, how can I/we minister to those all around us in similar circumstances? Always and forever by the truth of God’s Word!

I believe it was the next day after this assessment of the needs all around us that I read this wonderful writing from Charles Spurgeon that I would like to share with you in hopes that it will encourage you as it did us.

O child of suffering, be thou patient; God has not passed thee over in His providence. He who is the feeder of sparrows, will also furnish you with what you need. Sit not down in despair; hope on, hope ever. Take up the arms of faith against a sea of trouble, and your opposition shall yet end your distresses. There is One who careth for you. His eye is fixed on you, His heart beats with pity for your woe, and his hand omnipotent shall yet bring you the needed help. The darkest cloud shall scatter itself in showers of mercy. The blackest gloom shall give place to the morning. He, if thou art one of His family, will bind up thy wounds, and heal thy broken heart. Doubt not His grace because of thy tribulation, but believe that He loveth thee as much in seasons of trouble as in times of happiness. What a serene and quiet life might you lead if you would leave providing to the God of providence! With a little oil in the cruse, and the handful of meal in the barrel, Elijah outlived the famine, and you will do the same. If God cares for you, why need you care too? Can you trust Him for your soul, and not for your body? He has never refused to bear your burdens, He has never fainted under their weight. Come, then, soul, have done with fretful care, and leave all thy concerns in the hand of a gracious God.

(From: Morning and Evening
By: Charles Spurgeon)

I know I’ve said this before, but allow me to repeat it once again: “Fret not thyself, fear not and be anxious for nothing” must apply to any and every situation or they have no application whatsoever!

His sufficient grace must assure us and give us confidence that even in the midst of our “shipwrecks” He is doing “all things well,” contrary to our temporal observations and assessments.

And what is the fruit or benefit of this discipline of guarding against anxious thoughts?

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

As is often the case, many of us have embarked on the journey of a new year making various resolutions.

I’ve resolved (now that I’m 70) to take better care of myself: eat better, exercise more, lose weight and build muscle. You have probably made similar or varying resolutions yourself. Good for you! But wouldn’t it be far more beneficial to us all if we resolved, according to God’s Word to guard against anxious thoughts?

If we are His, He will always be faithful to grant us grace, minister His mercy and lavish His love upon us through every circumstance.

“Be Anxious for Nothing!”

Lord I’m Waiting

Just recently I was re-reading the chapter entitled “Waiting” from my book, Words of Hope and Comfort. I mentioned in the book that Waiting is one of my personal favorites of all the songs I’ve written. However, I couldn’t remember (and still can’t) exactly when, where or why I wrote it. I did surmise, after a brief examination of my discography, that I wrote it somewhere around 1985-1986.

I’ve often said that, personally, I most clearly discern God’s guidance by looking in the “rear view mirror”. In other words, I’ve never heard an audible voice telling me where to go or what to do. I move ahead by what I discern to be the leading and prompting of His Holy Spirit.

However, that leading and prompting must be consistent with and derived from the revealed truth of His written word. In this mode of traveling through life, faith is the key component. I must believe by faith that God is who He says He is, that His Word is true and that the Holy Spirit will be a faithful guide through all of life’s challenges and seasons.

Faith is vindicated when I look in the “rear view mirror” and see that God was surely faithful to lead and guide, even in those stretches where I had no specific or strong sense of His guidance.

Thus, when I now look back at the song “Waiting”, I see how God was preparing me for a stretch of life’s journey that was not yet in view.

Can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel
Can’t see that far down the road
Waiting in darkness I’m tempted to stumble
Weary from bearing this load
Desperately weighing all of my options
Scheming to find my own way
But after all of my planning is over
This is the most I can say

Lord I’m waiting Lord I’m waiting
And I’m not going to move
Till I’m able to prove Your will
Lord I’m waiting Lord I’m waiting
Listening for You with my heart

Nineteen eighty-seven was a most critical and significant year in Linda’s and my life as well as in our ministry. That year we disbanded as Dallas Holm and Praise and I began to minister as a solo artist. That same year Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer and thus began our now thirty-one year battle against this disease.

At this point I want to share with you where we’re at in our lives and ministry and where I think God may be leading us going forward.

As of the writing of this Praiseletter, I have just turned 70. Wow, seems like I got here faster than I planned! I’ve ministered in over 5,000 concerts, traveled somewhere between 3 and 4 million miles and am preparing to enter my 50th year in full-time ministry.

There’s nothing magical or uniquely significant about any of those numbers, but they do give me pause to stop, reflect and “wait” on God for direction in regard to the journey ahead.

In fact, after assessing the journey in the “rear view mirror” and trying to determine the path forward, I felt for the first time ever to literally take a brief sabbatical. After discussing this with Linda, my board members, my pastor and other ministry friends, Linda and I both felt strongly that this was directed of the Lord. Thus, you may have noticed we cleared our tour schedule for October, November and December.

We’re “Waiting” before the Lord.

Lord it’s so easy to find a solution
Something that seems right to me
But plans that are born out of my own confusion
Will not help my blind eyes to see
All of the steps that You’ve laid out before me
Steps that are Yours and not mine
So I’ll be content just to wait in Your Presence
Patiently biding Your time

In this sabbatical season of waiting on the Lord, Linda was faced with another issue regarding treatment for cancer. The medication she was on was creating some adverse side effects in her liver. Her oncologist took her off that and has been looking into and recommending a new immunotherapy trial for us to consider.

Our doctor went on to say, “One of the downsides of this protocol is that you’ll have to be home for a few months due to the checkups and monitoring of this particular therapy.” We had already made the decision to take a sabbatical. Now we knew one of the specific reasons why, it seemed.

As of right now, we’re still waiting on the details regarding the trial, if and when Linda will begin and what other options might still be available.

Linda is feeling well, has continued to strengthen since her craniotomy almost two years ago now. She sends her love and most sincere thanks for all the prayers and support you’ve given us through this long and often difficult ordeal. She says often, “We’re so blessed!” And we are!

Someone asked me recently, “Well, are you about ready to retire?” I responded by saying I’ve never come across any concept in scripture that would suggest retirement from ministry is a biblical idea. We may retire from certain vocational aspects of ministry and/or our calling can change and lead to different approaches to ministry, but retirement from ministry is not an option.

I can’t tell you what the next season of our lives and ministry looks like, but I can tell you we’ll continue to serve Jesus with our whole heart, mind, body and strength.

We may not travel as much but will still go out when and where God leads. I have a heart to mentor and help some of those younger in the ministry who may need and desire some parental, pastoral and seasoned input in their lives. It should always be the responsibility and privilege of the older to teach and help the younger.

Linda and I don’t know exactly what that looks like but we’re praying about it. Please pray with us.

We’re waiting on the Lord about all these things, both personal and ministry related. Will you wait with us? Will you pray with us and for us?

I often say, when we pray, God doesn’t start thinking up an answer but there already remains an answer. It’s just a matter of conforming to His will and patiently waiting for His perfect timing.

Lord I’m waiting Lord I’m waiting
And I’m not going to move
Till I’m able to prove Your will
Lord I’m waiting Lord I’m waiting
Listening for You with my heart

Rescue the Perishing

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave
Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen
Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save
(Fanny Crosby; William Doane)

I am writing this edition of the Praiseletter on the 17th anniversary of the 911 terrorist attacks, September 11, 2001.

Watching the news this morning and viewing the solemnity of individuals at “ground zero”, reading the names of those who perished that tragic day, I am once again brought back to the shock and horror of that terrible event.

Like most of you, I remember exactly where I was when the news of the attacks began to unfold. We had just left on a tour to Washington state. Somewhere around the Colorado, Wyoming border, heading north on I-25, we began to hear reports on the radio of a plane crashing into one of the trade towers in New York.

We pulled the tour bus over to the side of the road, turned on a TV inside the bus and began to process the horror of a terrorist attack against our people on our soil.

I think for many, myself included, some of the most shocking and heartbreaking images of that day were of the people who chose to leap to their deaths from that burning building rather than endure the anguish of the consuming flames.

Those of us who witnessed the events of that day will never forget. Those who were too young to observe or understand must be taught and reminded of the historic cost of freedom that this nation has paid and continues to pay.

The death toll of the 911 attacks stands at 2,996. That’s a staggering loss! Here’s a breathtaking statistic as well; In the U.S. approximately 6,775 people die every day! Disease, accidents, crime and a number of varied reasons account for this staggering number of daily deaths.

While I wrote that last sentence, the phone rang and the wife of a long time friend called to let me know that her husband, my friend, had just passed. This is the reality of life and of death. Scripture tells us clearly: “And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Everyone we know, everyone we see around us daily has an appointment that will be kept.

This may seem to be a dark and disturbing topic to cover in this letter, but I believe it’s imperative that we as Christians maintain a proper perspective on the reality of death so that we might live with a proper perspective of our lives as Christians and our responsibilities to those around us who are perishing.

Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness
Chords that are broken will vibrate once more

Continuing on the theme of “Gospel Missionaries” from last Praiseletter, I implore you to ever consider the call He has placed on each of our lives to rescue the perishing and care for the dying.

You are the most qualified person in the universe to reach someone God has placed in your sphere of influence, with the message of the gospel!

They won’t come to my concert, they won’t come to your church or perhaps any church, but because of the relationship they have with you (in God’s divine order), they may find life in Christ.

Then the question becomes, “are you prepared to share the gospel of Jesus Christ when the opportunity arises?”

In Christ, I was blessed just a couple days ago to have a conversation with the man who led me to faith in Christ. I thanked him for his obedience and concern to, all those years ago, talk to a young man who had a lot of “rough edges,” about the love of Jesus and His power to save and forgive. I also reminded him of a piece of advice he gave me early on in my Christian walk, which I now regard as perhaps the single most important piece of advice I’ve ever received.

One Sunday morning as I was making my way to sit down, my pastor (the one who led me to Christ) asked if he might have a word with me. I responded, “Yes, of course.”

During this early season of my Christian life I began to receive many invitations to come to various churches and sing and share my testimony. I was occupied many a weekend with this new and exciting ministry opportunity.

This particular Sunday morning to which I refer, my pastor gave me the following advice: “Dallas, you’re going to have all of your life to minister but only this one chance to prepare. Stay home (in church), let me teach you, disciple you and build a foundation for your life and ministry on the Word of God. Go out occasionally to develop your ministry and necessary skills, but most importantly take this time to prepare, study and grow in the knowledge of His Word.”

Too many Christians have experienced the life changing reality of the truth of the gospel because someone shared that truth with them. Yet they have not taken the time or effort to prepare and build a foundation on the Word of God so that they might present that same gospel to others.

We must be, as the saying goes, “ready, willing and able” to at any moment as the Spirit guides, share the truth of the gospel message with those who are perishing.

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

Rescue the perishing, duty demands it
Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide

Beck to the narrow way, patiently win them
Tell the poor wanderer a Savior has died.

My challenge in this letter to each and every one of us is to be sure we are prepared to share the wonderful saving, healing and comforting message of the gospel with those all around us who are perishing and dying.

Remember, we have each been commissioned to go, preach and disciple!

Direction for the “going” will be guided by His Word and His Spirit. The words of our mouths and examples of our lives must “preach” the reality of the gospel. “Disciples” will only be made as we build a foundation of the Word of God under their feet.

We can’t expect to replicate if we can’t articulate!

Let us each consider this an assignment to dig deeper, study more and prepare so we might effectively present the gospel to the needy who surround us every day. In so doing we will Rescue the Perishing.

Rescue the perishing, care for the dying
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save

Gospel Missionaries

I recently had the privilege of speaking to a missionary organization. As I was preparing for our time together, I thought of the many missionaries we have known through the years. I reflected with great joy on the missionaries we have been privileged to support through the years in such far away places as China, Africa, South America and Central America. We’ve also supported missionaries here in America serving among the Native Americans, inner city outreaches and prison ministries.

I have always been impressed with the sacrifices that these chosen ones are willing to make to spread the Gospel, win souls and advance the Kingdom of God here on earth.

I’ve long enjoyed reading books about missionaries; how they grew up, how they sensed God’s call on their lives and the great adventure of surrendering to that call.

Often times and it would seem in most cases, surrendering to that unique call of service brought with it tremendous challenges, difficult circumstances and often great sorrow.

I remember back in the 60’s, hearing of a man named J.W. Tucker, a missionary to the Congo, who was killed on Thanksgiving day, 1964. I was in bible college in 1966 when I was exposed to his story by way of a slide presentation. At the end of that presentation, the question was asked, “Who will go to fill this vacancy?”

At this point, I had only been a Christian for about a year and I had never considered such a possibility. The chapel where the Tucker story had been presented was finally empty of all the students except one. Me!

‘Til the wee hours of the morning, I knelt and prayed, trying to ascertain whether or not God wanted me to prepare to fill that vacancy in the Congo.

Finally, it was as though I sensed the Lord almost laughing (just an impression I had in my mind) as He resolved for me the issue at hand.

I concluded that it wasn’t that He wanted me to go to the Congo, but He wanted to know if I’d be willing, should He so lead (pretty sure He already knew). I settled that issue right there, long ago. Yes, I’ll live my life and exercise my ministry with a willingness to respond to Your leading, whenever and wherever that may be.

In reflecting on all these things as I prepared to share with the missionary organization I mentioned previously, I thought one of the most difficult and intimidating challenges for those called to bring the Gospel (especially to unreached areas) must be in considering how to tell someone about God who has never heard about Him.

This thought took me to Romans chapter one. I know I’ve read this book many times through the years but, as is often the case, this time I saw something a little more clearly.

In the sixteenth verse of Romans one, Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

In other words, the power of God to save the lost is inherent in the message of the Gospel itself. It is not our talent, our intellect or our persuasiveness that will “win the day”.

Neither is it our competency!

Understand, we should all employ the talents He has given, the knowledge and wisdom He has imparted and with a
passionate concern, seek to persuade those who desperately need a Savior. However, these are all just tools to present the gospel.

The power to save is not in the tools but in the message of the gospel. Competency might be defined as the ability to efficiently use all the tools at our disposal to help achieve a successful outcome.

But even in this, the power of the gospel to save is not resident within the realm of competency but rather and solely within the message itself.

This should be a great encouragement and relief to us all, as we are most aware of our own inabilities and shortcomings.

None of this is an excuse to resign to do less or settle for sloppiness but rather to illustrate the difference between the presentation of the gospel and the power of the gospel.

Let me say clearly here, we are all missionaries! We have each been commissioned to “Go into all the world, preach the gospel and make disciples.”

“All the world” may mean across the ocean, across the country, across the street or across the table, but every true believer has been commissioned. About this, there can be no debate.

Whether on some foreign field or in our own neighborhood, the question remains, “How do we tell people about God
who don’t even know there is a God?”

But wait, isn’t that question perhaps flawed, in view of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome?

Romans 1:18 goes on to say, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” Romans 1:18-19

So God has made that which is known about Himself both evident within them and evident to them.

Question: who is the “them” this verse is speaking to? Answer: the ungodly and the unrighteous!

Paul continues: “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

“Clearly seen,” “being understood” and “without excuse” are very telling statements. It reminds us of Psalm 19 where David writes, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2

This reminds me of a story told to me by a Lutheran missionary some years ago. The missionary was on a passenger boat traveling on a river in China. As he sat on a deck chair reading his Bible, an elderly Chinese gentleman sat down beside him. At one point the Chinese gentleman asked the missionary about the book he was reading. The missionary replied that he was reading the Bible. The Chinese gentleman asked what the Bible was. The missionary responded by saying it was a book about God, His love for mankind and His purposes and plan to redeem mankind from sin. The Chinese gentleman said “So, there is a God?”. The missionary responded, “Why, yes! The Chinese gentleman remarked, “I thought so!”

I love that story, that testimony! A man who never heard a sermon, didn’t go to church and didn’t even know what a Bible was had concluded there must be a God. “I thought so!”

How can that be, some might ask. Well, Paul has just told us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”

But this is not salvation! This is God going before, preparing the way, if you will.

This is God enlightening, wooing and influencing the ungodly and unrighteous.

But salvation comes by no other means then the message of the substitutionary, atoning work of Calvary’s cross.

“…And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” Hebrews 9:22. This again is why Paul writes, “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

Remember what we said earlier? It’s not the talent, intellect, persuasiveness or competency but rather the message of the Gospel. “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

This should be an encouragement to each of us as we realize, according to scripture, that God has already revealed Himself to the ungodly and unrighteous.

Our part or commission is to articulate, demonstrate and propagate the message of the Gospel, “For it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.”

Remember always, we as true believers, each and every one are Gospel Missionaries.