What about the “freaky stuff?” How concerning is it when supernatural manifestations are rare in the church today?
My four-year-old daughter Eva just said something as I’m sitting here writing this article at a Starbucks in Branson, Missouri. While scanning through cartoons to watch on Netflix on her tablet, she zeroed in on one.
“I want to watch this one. But I don't. It's freaky and I love freaky stuff. But I also hate freaky stuff.”
I just had to laugh. In a way, that might sum up the tension of the Christian heart. Discerning good and evil is important for all of us. I’m proud of Eva at her young age!
Further, from an entirely different angle, it may also be the way many people think about the supernatural. Church experiences widely range from absolutely stoic and dead to bizarre and flamboyant. Freaky.
I think there are many mildly hungry yet cautious Christians out there in the middle who are intrigued by the “freaky stuff” but, then again, are tired of the ridiculous manifestations in many churches that aren’t Spirit-driven at all. It's just people acting strange in the name of freedom. Too often, they default to calm and safe instead of wild and risky. Many pastors fall into this category as well.
America needs to take a bold, confident step toward wild and risky. We need the freaky stuff in the church to emerge as it did at Azusa.
On Friday evening, March 1, His mighty power came over me, until I jerked and quaked under it for about three hours. It was strange and wonderful and yet glorious. He worked my whole body, one section at a time, first my arms, then my limbs, then my body, then my head, them my face, then my chin, and finally at 1 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, after being under the power for three hours, He finished the work on my vocal organs, and spoke through me in unknown tongues. (http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Azusa-Street.html)
Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings at Azusa with the following words:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival)
WE NEED MORE THAN EXPLOSIVE CHURCH SERVICES
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
It’s true that I firmly believe we need a massive shift toward “groaning churches” with atmospheres of searing hot intercession that cause the building to shake. I’ve been in many, but nowhere near enough, such services that have left me in tears, trembling and under the influence of fire, drunk on something out of this world. The supernatural moments, in very legitimate ways, forever marked my life and my relationship with Jesus. When you add authentic experience to life-changing truth, you can’t help but be transformed from someone who is simply “devoted to Jesus” to someone who is raging in love, undone, undignified and suddenly alien. Everything changes through authentic encounter with Jesus. Nobody can remain the same.
Too often we presume we can achieve such an electric atmosphere in our church services through charisma, exuberance and a decent dose of exciting worship and expressive prayer. This is common in your more “alive” churches. People are just deep and hungry enough to “jump a little higher than before,” as the song goes (which, at some point becomes humanly impossible. Insert grinning emoji here.).
The point I’m making is this: It takes a leadership team and a zealous people who are setting a culture of deep and extreme prayer, sharp spiritual discernment, and who are wildly prophetic to experience breakthrough into the supernatural.
Natural and predictable church services are the result of spiritually lazy and naturally minded people who are not moving into the realm of the invisible.
FREAKY STUFF WILL SET THE STAGE
My life in ministry has been shaped by unusual and powerful supernatural conflicts and encounters. I say that not because it’s really cool, but because I’m really dumbfounded. A simple man praying fervent prayers has somehow triggered invisible entities into manifesting in the natural. As I started witnessing more and more, I began to understand how absolutely critical it was to live, walk, breathe and legislate in the Spirit—especially for those engaging in a dark world with an apostolic assignment.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)
How many Christians are actually confronting evil forces as a part of their ministry strategy? This takes way, way more than simple prayers. We must go deeper than ever. When we do, the fight is on and it will absolutely manifest in the natural realm. Get ready for some wild church services!
Definition of Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.
Check out this breakdown of a powerful passage of Scripture:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVEN IN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Paul was praying for the Ephesians to be awakened to the reality of the power that God has given them. Growing in that revelation is key for anybody assigned to a church (that’s all of us). We must know our assignment and we must be equipped to conquer via the Spirit of God. When we are assigned by God in a region, as an authority, we have the power and right to give orders, to enforce obedience in the spiritual realm. This is a governmental, supernatural call.
One key principle I discovered years ago was invaluable. God will establish authority in regions, and it’s absolutely mandatory that those governing leaders learn how to discern in the spirit and conduct business in the spiritual realm.
Shortly after my wife Amy and I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we started experiencing some powerful and revealing things. Our primary ministry method was prophetic intercession. We’d prayer walk that quirky town day after day. We’d receive fresh prophetic revelation and instructions by the Holy Spirit. After it was all said and done, I bet those streets had been prayer walked thousands of times. One particular target of our prayer was a specific church, the largest of five churches in Manitou Springs. This church was part of an apostate denomination and led by a man many considered, including the police department and City Hall, to be the pastor of the city. This man admitted to someone in my church that there was no Hell and demons didn’t exist. He refused to participate in a ministry alliance in the town because he didn’t want to offend his “pagan and Muslim brethren.” Clearly, this individual walked in unholy authority and had significant influence in the spirit in Manitou Springs, and that reality demanded a confrontation.
Our young family moved into an old home in Manitou Springs near the beginning of our ministry time there. Instantly I started discerning something very heavy. Every morning I’d wake up with a distinct “taste” or feeling in my spirit. It was demonic, disorienting and honestly a bit debilitating. Strangely, I couldn’t pray it off or shake it off, but as the day wore on, it would dissipate. This happened every day.
Some time went by, and I received an invitation to meet the pastor of the apostate church. The church building was just beyond the back yard of our house, so I walked there one afternoon for our meeting. The heavy oppression that I woke up with every day had worn off that by then and I was eager to connect with this city leader. I wasn't prepared for what was about to happen. The moment I walked through the doorway of the church, the EXACT same taste, the same distinctive oppression that I had experienced for so long every single morning, slammed me with force. I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face and shook hands with the pastor. We sat down and engaged in small talk. I mentioned to him that their church was very close to my house. He asked me to describe the house. I told him what it looked like and where it was located. We then compared notes on what it looked like inside. What he then said rocked me. “Oh, yes! My family and I lived there for years!”
I didn’t have to be a math genius to put two and two together. The demonic anointing the pastor walked in lingered. I bet those demons were quite surprised when a man of God on assignment moved in. After that fateful meeting with the pastor of the city, the oppression stopped. God communicated what I needed to understand. From that point on I was able to govern in the Spirit with precision. The spirits that were anointing that man’s “ministry” were uncovered.
Rumor has it that past city officials have also lived in that house. It was clear that, for whatever reason, authorities had lived there and I needed to consider what my apostolic, governmental responsibility was. I sensed in the Spirit a baton had been passed to me and our team. That revelation was invaluable as I truly understood God had our back and we could be confident in our advance.
WE CANNOT SURVIVE AS A CHURCH WITHOUT THE SUPERNATURAL
From that time, our prayer and apostolic strength increased. We would pray on the top of Pikes Peak and in caves under the earth. Many undeniable supernatural happenings would stun us time and again. We’d confront witchcraft and watch God work wonders. Demons would come out in the middle of services leaving visitors wide eyed. One deeply resistant and demonized young man vomited in the parking lot the moment we were praying for him with his girlfriend in the church. Moving in authority brings a shift to the atmosphere as demons can’t help but respond in obedience.
And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:36
Is our ministry causing people to be amazed? If not, go deep into the spirit and, as it happened at Azusa, you won’t be able to stop the presses. Word will get out and the amazement and mocking will both commence! Some will run to your church. Many will flee.
And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
The message I’m attempting to communicate is that we must go extremely deep behind the scenes. We have to stand in our authority. We must learn how to decree and declare and legislate in the Spirit. Leave the prayer lists and prayer topics behind. Defer to tongues and prophetic intercession when you don’t have a theme to focus on. Let revelation drive your prayer meetings. Lean not on your own understanding.
As I look back at my time in Manitou Springs I know it would have been impossible to break through and do what we were called to do without constant prayer meetings, prayer walks, engaging the enemy, moving in the Spirit, stimulating a prophetic culture, having dreams and visions and moving in great authority.
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
My recommendation is to avoid trying to manufacture a vibrant atmosphere. Many worship teams and charismatic preachers are very skilled at this, but those who are sharp spiritually can see right through it. Let’s just stop the production and go deep Monday through Saturday and come into our Sunday services rocked and shocked by the revelation of Jesus and the spiritual battle we’ve run to. Live a life that provokes demons and angels. Expect the supernatural to happen. Shake Heaven and Hell. Enlist people who know how to groan and intercede night and day. When that happens, the lid will blow off our Sunday meetings. Whatever you do, DON’T PUT THE LID BACK ON! Let the supernatural scare away the resistant, awaken the sleepers and activate the remnant!
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)
If you don’t stand in your authority, how will the church advance? If you don’t pray non-stop, how will you have strength and insight to advance against witchcraft and all that the enemy is bringing against you? Most curses and strategies that witches and others are targeting local churches with go unnoticed. People have no idea there are demonic beings wrapping their arms around the congregation like a vice.
I could share story after story of shocking and bizarre and absolutely critical encounters in the invisible realm we’ve had over the years. We must learn how to see in the Spirit. What is happening? How should we contend in prayer?
The American Spirit-filled church simply isn’t Spirit-filled enough. We are barely touching the surface. We are too concerned with keeping the visitors. A church full of those who would be scared away if God showed up is a church full of false-positives. Those particular people in the pews may very well not even be saved. We can’t just have happy services with laughing and dancing and handshakes and presume all is well. There is warfare raging and spiritual forces to be exposed, confronted and taken out.
I’ve said many times, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Supernatural, messy services that break human control must come. The only way human control releases is if those humans encounter God day after day. God has to convince them.
When we dig deep and uncover the demonic roots in our regions, and invade the darkness, and refuse to ask the Holy Spirit to “settle down,” the church will experience powerful advance.
It’s time for the freaky stuff to return to the church.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
#metoo proponents need a fresh understanding of what love and forgiveness really look like.
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Luke 23:34 (ESV)
I’m a holiness preacher. I am feverish in my pursuit of revival that will be marked by purity in the church and mass, glorious repentance in the nation. As is true with many of today’s prophetic messengers, there’s an urgency in my spirit that can’t be shaken. We must see a move of God that both initiates and is a response to tears and mourning over the state of the church and the debauchery of our nation.
The egregious moral condition of America and the entire world is sickening beyond description. Recent news reveals the grotesque and depraved state of our culture.
For example, an abortion doctor recently boasted about her method of murder that ensures baby’s cries can’t be heard:
On Sunday, Leah Torres, a Utah abortionist who is active on Twitter, responded with gruesome detail to someone criticizing her work.
When someone asked Torres if she hears the screams of the babies who she aborts, she replied:
You know fetuses can’t scream, right? I transect the cord 1st so there’s really no opportunity, if they’re even far enough along to have a larynx.
I won’t apologize for performing medicine. I’m also a “uterus ripper outer,” if that’s how you’d like to describe hysterectomy. https://t.co/lng0W3ta5J
— Leah Torres, MD (@LeahNTorres) March 11, 2018
Just today, a suspected mail bomber in the Austin, Texas area died as one of his bombs detonated as police were closing in.
Of course, we have recent mass shootings and other heinous assaults that are becoming normal. Hollywood movies are becoming more vile. Pornography is rampant even in the church. The status of our nation is nothing less than depraved and desperate.
Jesus Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Romans 4:25
Jesus died so we might have life. He died so others might have life. He died so our very dark sins would not keep us from a relationship with him. He died so other people’s sins, including the sins of murder, abuse and hatred, would not keep them from a relationship with him.
When I watch crime stories or hear news reports about the trials and convictions of murderers, rapists, abusers and others who have committed absolutely horrifying crimes against humanity, I find myself especially grieved when something specific happens. Time and again, I hear the family members and friends of those who were the target of the various crimes say, “I’ll never forgive him.” Those words wreck me. They are sealing their fate, a fate of darkness and despair that will never be escaped without true forgiveness.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
Those who have been abused or who have been affected by the hateful crimes of others most certainly are scarred deeply, beyond what words could ever describe. I’m a father of five and the husband of a wonderful, beautiful wife. If anything ever happened to them at the hands of another, I would experience a range of emotions that would rock me. Anger, despair, fear and other responses would be expected. But, as a Christian, forgiveness and love for the perpetrator must follow. I must shift from accuser to intercessor so both he and I are free, forgiven and healed.
Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. (Matthew 6:12)
A common violation of truth occurs when we presume our sins worthy of forgiveness while the sins of others must result in punishment. The true condition of our heart is revealed as we accuse.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it’s mandatory. Even though forgiveness is potent, we can’t always expect a perfect resolution to immediately follow. Restitution may not occur. Forgiveness isn’t about us, it’s about setting free those who have wounded us. Jesus could have screamed #metoo and demanded justice. Instead, he shouted #iforgive, as people continued to abuse and humiliate him by casting lots for his clothes. His forgiveness didn’t move them, but it moved Heaven and rocked the planet.
And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. Matthew 27:51 (ESV)
Forgiveness will set the abuser in place for freedom should they accept it. Forgiveness will set the abused up for healing. True love does just that. It heals and sets free.
I am so blessed by the courage and true love exhibited by a true victim–Rachael Denhollander, who, instead of shouting #metoo declared #iforgive:
A former gymnast is offering forgiveness for the unspeakable crimes Larry Nassar has been convicted of – and she’s being recognized by the media for it.
“Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you. I pray you experience the soul-crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.” (From lifenews.com: http://www.lifenews.com/2018/01/26/pro-life-christian-gymnast-rachael-denhollander-powerfully-forgives-usa-gymnastics-doc-larry-nassar-for-sexual-abuse/)
Don’t misunderstand me. We need the dark side of our culture exposed. The evil in Hollywood and throughout the fabric of our nation is so vile that most of us would be shocked if we saw it in fullness. Everything from sex trafficking to the porn industry to immorality in movies that fill our theaters to drugs, addiction, murder, abortion and so much more is destroying millions of people. That darkness must be exposed and those who are perpetuating it must be held accountable.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV)
Part of the response that the guilty must offer is legitimate repentance. If porn industry leaders, sex traffickers, Hollywood moguls who are abusing women (and men), drug traffickers and others would openly repent and surrender to Jesus, I think the earth would shift off its axis! This must be what drives our intercession, not retribution!
…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. Colossians 3:13 (NKJV)
As we have been forgiven, we must forgive. We pay it forward. Our declaration must be #iforgive.
The heart of the #metoo movement is vengeance. It’s not driven by a heart of love and forgiveness, but on the contrary, one of anger and hatred. The question is simple: Will you forgive those who have abused you? Will you love them? Will you truly decree #iforgive just as you, as a child of God, have been forgiven?
Can you imagine the shockwaves that would have resulted if Harvey Weinstein’s victims looked him in the eyes and said, I forgive you. God loves you. I don’t want you to be tormented because of what you did to me. I don’t want you to experience shame. I want you to know the love of Jesus.
Wow! Imagine the Oscar speeches and news reports that would have followed! What if the #metoo movement truly was an #iforgive movement!
The spirit of vengeance and hatred that is rising up in our nation as a result of a very real darkness being uncovered is also deeply evil. Yes, we must stand firm for holiness. We absolutely must see corruption and crimes and assaults against innocent people exposed. Yes, for those who have committed crimes, there is a very real price to pay. Yes, those who are a danger to others must be apprehended. The darkness must be uncovered. There is no question about it.
What we must ask is, how will we respond to those who are exposed? Will we heap up hatred and vengeance upon them? Will we say, “I will never forgive you.” Will we shame them? Or, will we do as Rachael Denhollander did and extend forgiveness?
Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32 (NKJV)
Isaiah reveals a powerful strategy:
When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:15-18 (NKJV)
God is ready to cleanse all who repent. For both those who abuse and those who refuse to forgive, God is revealing the blood on their hands. When we are clean, we most certainly can seek justice. We can trust God to expose the darkness and judge right versus wrong. We will rebuke oppressors and intercede for the weak, the fatherless, the widows—and I guarantee many of those who sexually abuse others are fatherless. The cry of our heart must be not only for our sins to be washed away, but for the sins of those who oppress us to be as white as snow. Our cry must not only be for justice but for mercy.
…In wrath remember mercy. Habakkuk 3:2 (NKJV)
Will we be #metoo accusers or #iforgive intercessors?
Our heart should follow the heart of God:
“Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 10:17 (NKJV)
For those who have been abused, my heart is broken for you. I am so sorry you had to endure that. My belief is your healing will rapidly come as you forgive. Forgiving doesn’t mean you minimize the pain or what has occurred. It simply means you make a decision to set the abuser free. You learn to love them and desire for them to know Jesus intimately. You let them know Heaven won’t be the same without them. You can’t fathom the thought of them being tormented forever in Hell. You become their greatest intercessor.
You simply do what Jesus did. Instead of focusing on himself by saying #metoo he focused on those who were killing him. He loved them in the midst of the assault. He said, #iforgive.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (ESV)