“I just can't sit through one more church service!” This is the cry of our current remnant generation. Pastors, are you listening?
My wife and I were so excited to reconnect with a couple of friends yesterday. This couple has been invested in the prophetic and in the local church as powerful regional leaders for years. We spent the evening talking about the state of the church, and how the new wine simply must come, yet the church is far from ready.
One of them simply stated, “I just can't sit through one more church service!”
Such a simple statement yet it resonated powerfully in my spirit. I can't either.
Listen to a powerful podcast on this subject…
This afternoon I talked on the phone with another regional leader, a pastor who is more done with church as usual than any I've ever met. He's longing for God to identify like-minded pastors and leaders who are absolutely desperate for reformation and revolution in the church. He's crying out for revival and he is discovering it's challenging to find remnant leadership, fiery, broken and hungry pastors who no longer care about growing their church, adding programs, gaining notoriety, raising funds or seeking after “success.” His passion is to connect with others who are done and undone and longing for a pure, holy move of God.
PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH IN DROVES
Research by Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, reveals:
In the early 1970s, about 38% of Americans attended church nearly every week or more. A third rarely or never attended church, while the rest attended once in a while. That all changed in the early 1990s, when the rarely/never attending category began a slow and unmistakable climb. Today nearly half of all Americans attend church once a year or less, and only about a quarter attend on a regular basis. A similar number attend once in a while.
I believe the bottom line is that a growing number of people see little purpose for the church. To them, the value of participating is greatly diminished. Why even go?
The last thing we need is a natural, logical solution to this problem. I believe it's critical that we function as the church, and gathering together as the ekklesia is commanded in Scripture. However, more programs, minor tweaks, practical adjustments or gimmicky ideas is not what is needed.
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
We need a full deconstruction of today's model. Full-blown reform is required.
Today's powerless, predictable, boring church service simply must go.
SO, WHAT IS CHURCH AS USUAL?
When I talk about church in this article, I'm mostly talking about the gathering, the local, regularly scheduled church service that most usually takes place on Sunday mornings. Yes, I know the church isn't a building. That drum has been beat to death. The church must gather, and it's usually nice to do so indoors out of the heat or cold, rain or snow.
Most anybody who has attended church in the last several decades has a good idea of what it looks like. Greeting, worship, announcements, sermon, prayer, dismissal. Repeat next week.
In this context, there are key reasons why so many are leaving the church. It's true that a good number of those are leaving for selfish reasons. They are misguided or simply immature. They are pouting and leaving.
There are also many remnant Believers who, like my friend so clearly articulated, “can't sit through another church service!”
They are yearning for more. They can't handle another perfectly crafted, wonderfully produced, humanly orchestrated mess with just a sprinkle of supernatural flavor for good measure. They are done.
Specifically, I believe the remnant is fed up with a few things that should be fixed, like yesterday.
Pastors, we can learn what you are attempting to teach us from much more gifted preachers and through brilliantly written Bible resources online. I'm not trying to be cruel, I'm trying to make a very important point. People don't want your regurgitated Bible info forced on them over an agonizing 45 minutes. They want to smell the aroma of the Holy Spirit radiating from you!
The real point isn't boring preaching, it's a lack of fire and revelation due to a nonexistent spirit of prayer. When pastors spend most of their time on their knees right in the middle of the furnace of intercession night and day, the flames of anointing and revelation will rage out of them when they stand behind the pulpit. Weeping, groans of intercession, cries of repentance, an uncontrollable tremble and the brooding of the Holy Spirit will mark messages birthed in the prayer room.
FEAR OF MAN
Please pastors, stop with the careful wordsmithing and unoffensive sermon points. It's time for the troublers of Israel to arise! Preach on fire and shake the casual out of their stupor!
Say what needs to be said and let the big givers storm out with their money still in their pockets. Preach! Tear down strongholds, confront wickedness and scare the pretenders out of the holy place God has called you to steward.
It's time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It's time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. ~It's Time to Start Scaring Visitors Away From the Church
TIRED ORDER OF SERVICE
Disenchanted remnant Christians are longing for church services that start with choruses of intercession, are filled with prophetic utterances and eventually end with decrees and declarations!
Eliminate the time for handshakes and Christian side-hugs, the painfully irritating announcements that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit, the unnecessarily invasive offering sermonettes and the perfect timing that ensures everything fits within a two-hour window.
Pastors, let go of the structure! Open the mic for people to pray with passion! Cancel your lunch reservations! Fill the service with fiery intercession, prophetic decrees and exhortation of powerful truths of Scripture as the Holy Spirit ebbs and flows in perfect violation of human order!
NO REVIVAL EMPHASIS
If there's one thing I can discern it's the spirit of revival. I've heard pastors talk about revival, but it's rare to find one that truly gets it. You'll know they don't get it when their revival talk centers around the hopes for their own church to grow instead of contending for a regional outpouring that has little to do with their local church.
I believe we need to see prayer and revival centers launch in cities all over the world. These are prophetic centers of intercession that burn continually for a move of God. They couldn't care less if the outpouring is centered in their own ministry or not. Their prophetic and apostolic assignment is much greater than that.
Churches and ministries that will draw the disenfranchised remnant are those that are fully devoted to partnering with the Holy Spirit in the region. They have no desire to find a nice local community where they can connect with new friends as they hold hands and sing some songs as they “do life” together. Nope. These are warriors. They aren't in it for the benefits. They are in it to the death, and they are ready to lay it all down for the sake of revival.
THE PROPHETIC IS MINIMIZED
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)
I personally believe that churches that don't embrace prophetic ministry are significantly out of line. Without an active, vibrant prophetic culture in the church, it will feel dead, be misguided and it will muzzle those who have a mandate to release critical revelation to the body.
A prophetic culture will result in an electric, urgent and supernatural atmosphere that is fueled by a constant spirit of prayer. The body will watch the leadership function from their knees with a tremble in their spirit and will model that lifestyle. Prophetic unction will flow from all, and the release of revelation will powerfully mark the corporate gathering.
FOCUS ON CHURCH GROWTH
The focus on church growth must cease. The remnant doesn't care about a larger building or a growing population. Of course, they are consumed with passion for souls, but this is the difference between today's typical church strategy and the one today's revival minded people have adopted.
Typical church leaders equate success with a larger crowd. They argue that more people in the church equals more souls in the Kingdom. This is not usually the case. It's an immature and unrealistic strategy.
The remnant church, however, values the presence of God over the presence of people. They would rather gather together with twenty or thirty firebrands who have been marked by the Spirit of God instead of five hundred spiritually curious people. They want the Upper Room 120, not the thousands who were too busy to truly invest.
The strategy is prayer induced revival. When the small group of fully surrendered and sold out remnant revivalists pray on fire together, they are building a foundation for the harvest. They aren't looking for an extra few hundred people in their meeting, they want the millions!
In fact, growing with people who are not raging on fire for Jesus will only result in a watered-down experience where all sorts of compromises are made to ensure the moderates are satiated. Remnant Christians are done with such foolish distractions.
NO SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY
A church without signs, wonders and miracles, without dreams and visions, without the glory of God, is a church without a strategic, powerful and supernatural prayer culture. A prayerless church is no church at all and remnant Believers refuse to waste their time with such a humanistic endeavor.
I hear about people scrutinizing churches that are functioning in the supernatural. I have often suggested that churches that do not operate in the invisible realm where the wonders of God manifest should be questioned. Why is God not moving in your midst?
As we cultivate a prayer-infused church where everybody prays with tongues of fire and prophesies and contends against the darkness, we'll have a church on fire that is driven by the winds of the Holy Spirit. People are so hungry for this but it is exceptionally rare to find a church that flows this way.
CONTROLLING AND RESTRICTIVE LEADERSHIP
Pastors, we must raise up people to outshine us! Get out of the way and celebrate the callings and gifts in others. Allow God to move mightily through them and step aside when God is ready to use them.
We need revival churches that are raising up sons and daughters and releasing them into the world! We need revival leaders who will drop the reigns and allow the messy, unpredictable and supernatural to happen!
I've known pastors who are completely lost without a perfectly timed order of service. They need to step off the platform and hit the altar and let the Spirit of God rage!
NO LEGITIMATE VISION
Why are we even gathering together? What is the vision? What's the point?
When many pastors are asked about their vision, they often share their ministry goals. The two couldn't be more different. You may have goals to add a certain number of people to the pews or to build a second campus, but that is not vision.
Vision is a supernatural infusion of the impossible. It's the burning purpose of the ministry. It's the very reason the leader is gathering people together. True vision will grip the pastor night and day. It's costly. It's deeply personal yet the body is invited to participate.
Revival-minded people want to run with a leader who has had their hip taken out by God, who has no other reason for living than to fulfill their mandate. The vision is alive, burning, raging, all-encompassing and humanly impossible to fulfill.
MISPLACED EMPHASIS ON WORSHIP
In many churches that consider themselves to be supernaturally motivated, a spirit of prayer has been replaced by a strategy of worship. Emphasis has been placed on an excellent musical experience, believing that it's the highest form of supernatural expression and the quickest route to fulfilling the goal of introducing a spiritual element into the service.
A sixty-second prayer as the worship team members hold hands in a circle on the platform is usually followed by an hour or so of practice.
I'll say this as clearly as I can: a spirit of true worship cannot come without a spirit of fervent prayer leading the way.
Some of my favorite worship experiences have been in churches with a single, ragtag guitar playing leader, sometimes with other musicians and sometimes not, who just bleeds intercession. You can see it. You can feel it. They play spontaneously, in the Spirit, with no song list, no script, no karaoke sing-a-longs. Intermixed are songs in tongues, tears of passion and powerful prayers and declarations. The people are undone, rocking, trembling and deeply hungry as the Holy Spirit whips through them like a mighty wind.
Compare this with highly polished, well-orchestrated worship sets with surface-level, manufactured exuberance that any discerning remnant Believer can pick up on with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs.
Again, no spirit of prayer, no spirit of worship. Period.
Remnant Christians can't stand one more church as usual service. We are done!
It's time for unusual church. It's an unscripted, spontaneous, risky, messy, open-ended, explosive and often offensive environment where God blows in with might.
My pastor friend's plea is real. He wants to connect with pastors and leaders who are yearning for an unusual church experience. I do too.
My prophetic friends who last night cried out for anything but church as usual are not alone. There are many remnant Christians who are desperate for the new wine. I hear from people all over the world on a very regular basis asking me if I know where they might find such a church, an unusual church on fire. Sadly, I must confess most of the time that I do not. This must change.
Come on pastors, no more church as usual. For real this time.
Many seduced by unbalanced grace theologies misunderstand the desperate need for the church to contend for a move of God.“I felt such release when I realized I didn't need to work and contend like I had been taught by pastors and preachers. Instead I'm just relaxing in God and it is so freeing!” “There's no need to work, war or battle. God's love for you is immeasurable! Nothing you can do could cause God to love you more!” “Your identity isn't defined by what you produce, it's in a revelation of God the Father.” “God is with you in your struggle. No need to beat yourself up over sin.” I've heard these defenses of grace-centric ideologies many times, and while some of the statements do absolutely contain irrefutable truth, there is still some serious concern to deal with. Of course it's true that our identity is in Christ and not in what we produce, but it's honestly not as simple as that. To dismiss the command to respond to the directives of God, to be productive, would raise the question of whether we are in Christ at all. The parable of the talents makes that clear.
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:26-30 (ESV)
DYS-GRACEFUL MINDSETSI believe there are churches and ministries that are all in on the grace teachings of Scripture, and unlike false-grace doctrine there is legitimacy to what is being communicated. However, the problem comes when these grace truths are adopted to the exclusion of the full counsel of Scripture. It's dysfunctional. I propose there is a radical misunderstanding of the purpose of grace, and today's translation of it can result in a self-idolatrous culture. If the focus is mostly on how we can benefit, on who we are and on eliminating Kingdom responsibilities from our lives we can know we have fallen for a distorted view of grace. Grace actually empowers us to do, to obey, to work, to move, to heal, to deliver, to respond to God's Kingdom mandates. I was stunned several years ago when someone actually admitted to me that they were praying against the prayer movement! I'm not sure if they appreciated the irony. They rejected the idea that we have to do anything in order for God to be revealed in our lives. Our identity, he said, is not in proving ourselves or in coercing God to move. He believes the prayer culture is damaging to our ability to understand our identity. We are sons and daughters and we don't have to do anything to convince God to love us or to move in our lives, or so he argued. News flash: movements of intercession have little to do with us, though it seems so much of today's grace movement is very much about self. When we contend in intercession, we are pounding Heaven and assaulting Hell. We are seeking and knocking, warring and resisting. It's a governmental position of authority where we stand in our identity in Christ and move mountains, rebuke demons, establish truth and tear down strongholds. It's about other people! We are fighting for the freedom of others, we are moved to tears as we contend for freedom in other people. When we contend for revival, it's a strategic advance in the spiritual realm against barriers, demonic strongholds and wickedness. We are not doing this to discover our identity or to convince God that we are lovable. That is ridiculous! We do this to expose the darkness and rescue the perishing! We do this to awaken the sleepers and to prepare the Bride of Christ for his return! To all of my grace friends out there, I'm thrilled that you have discovered the wonder of resting in your true identity in Christ, if that has truly happened. I appreciate and promote that same revelation without reservation. It's impossible to do what God has called us to do without it. And, that's where I probably lost some of you. You see little need to “do” anything. You just want to be. After all, we are human beings, not human doings, right? Yeah, I've heard that more times than I can remember.
RESOLVE THE LOVE ISSUE ALREADYGod loves you. It's settled. While I agree that there are never-ending realms, expressions and revelations of God's love, and that we will forever be experiencing new encounters in his love, it's time that we simply understand that we are loved, and then get on with the mission. The problem comes when people discover a supposed fresh revelation of God's love that removes the very mandates and responsibilities that Scripture reveals he has placed on us. A revelation of love that minimizes or eradicates God's assignments doesn't exist. You have been deceived. It's possible to be deeply loved by God while not being usable to God. Both being loved and being available impact our relationship with God and our eternities. Heaven and Hell lay in the balance. Obedience plays a role just as enjoying intimacy with God does. The parable of the Talents along with many other truths in the Bible make this clear. Our very purpose of living on the earth is to bring God glory and to advance the Kingdom. As we develop intimacy with Jesus and as we grow in revelation of his love, we cannot help but to emerge as mighty warriors advancing against the darkness and setting the captives free. God loves you. Now from that place of love, serve the Master with passion. Don't sit around for the rest of your life celebrating how free you are while the extent of your relationship with God is soaking in his presence and sitting in his lap. God loves you, but from here on out it's not as much about you as it is those God has called you to rescue. Remember, you aren't attempting to coerce God to love you more. That argument from the grace camp is true. However, the identifying mark of the dys-graced camp is to stop doing anything that smells of work, effort, contending or sacrifice and to simply focus on enjoying him. The appropriate response is to settle the love issue and to get moving, get working and change the world!
BEATING YOURSELF UP OVER SINIn all my years, I've never seen the a collective shrug that I'm seeing in much of today's church regarding sin. The dys-graced movement is perpetuating this by promoting the idea that God is unconcerned with our sin and, over time, if people discover God's love in greater measure, the sin will auto-magically take care of itself. This is deception.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV)No we shouldn't beat ourselves up in condemnation if we are truly repentant. However, the above passage sure seems more extreme than an internal, emotional beat down—and God sanctioned it. He suggested it. The reality of eternity in torment, darkness and maddening terror in Hell is so severe that we must go to whatever extreme necessary to avoid it. Note, he didn't suggest following more closely or becoming a part of the family as they “do life” together. Nowhere do we see him unconcerned with sin. Quite the opposite, he makes it clear that continued sin will result in never-ending Hell. Stop and think about this for a moment. Today many Christians would say it's ridiculous to think anybody could be free from lust. I've had people rebuke me for suggesting that. In fact, a “Christian” sex therapist scolded me in a long email after I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article and confessed that he actually prescribes sexual fantasy about other people to struggling married couples! In fact, it's quite common for those in the dys-graced religious system to lambaste those who would encourage people to stop sinning. An angry retort often follows: “You can't put such a burden on them! It's not loving! Quit judging!” Tell that to Jesus, who also famously once said, “Go and sin no more.” With the high percentage of Christians regularly involved in pornography, and a huge percentage of pastors involved in the same sin, and with lust, greed, apathy, unforgiveness, gossip and other spiritual crimes rampant, how can we not shout from the rooftops, “Repent!” We need loving, zealous hellfire preaching in the church again! The reality is that the Bible gives very clear guidelines regarding all of this:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)When is the last time you heard of a church obeying God's guidelines regarding immorality? It's extremely rare. Why? The infiltration of dys-graceful philosophies into the church. Do we not understand that it's a powerful expression of love to trust God's wisdom in the handling of sin in the camp? He desires redemption and he understand that it takes severity to get people there at times.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)That is love in action. It should not be done with a heart of retribution, but rather with tears streaming down our cheeks we should intercede passionately for them. We have no choice but to obey God and administer his prescription for their behavior.
TRUE GRACE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND SHAKE THE PLANET!True grace empowers us to do the impossible. Who wouldn't want to sign up for that? What a life we can live if we step into the current of the Holy Spirit's movement on the earth! As we trust God's Word, preach the truth and move in supernatural grace we will live miraculous lives that will pierce the darkness and topple demonic kingdoms…and rescue precious souls.
A basketball legend is suddenly gone, yet the world carries on mostly unconcerned about where people will spend eternity.
Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Southern California, according to a TMZ report confirmed by Variety and the Los Angeles Times.To say that I'm sick in my spirit would be a woefully weak attempt to explain the internal trauma I'm experiencing right now. I'm certainly saddened by today's tragic news of the loss of Kobe Bryant, and my heart goes out to his family, his many friends and his fans who loved him. However, the source of my grief isn't limited to the loss of several people who entered eternity in a helicopter crash today. It's much, much deeper, more comprehensive and incredibly serious than even today's awful events were.
The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list. James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.Mamba 4 Life. Those haunting words adorned on the sneakers of LeBron James are almost too much to bear. Life would last less than one more day for Kobe. I feel raw, and if I were to be completely honest, a little hopeless. For years I've been sounding alarms to a sleeping, casual, unconcerned and presumptuous people, mostly Christians, who refuse to adopt a fearful tremble in their spirits. Other men and women much more anointed, effective and reputable then myself have been doing the same, yet there are millions of people, both lost and saved, who have no sense of forever. Too many are slipping right into eternity and down into an indescribable, eternal fire. The parties continue. The intoxication on entertainment is non-stop. Fame, wealth, notoriety, pleasure and greed drive our culture, and so many in the church have likewise been seduced. Listen to the podcast… We need awakeners to arise in the world, those who will power through the false ideologies and theologies and excuses and accusations and shout, “Wake up! You are in great, imminent danger! The earth is about to swallow up the casual, unconcerned sleepers! Arise before it's too late and repent!”
THE ONLY REASON WE ARE ALIVEThe purpose of this sliver of time on the Earth before we launch into eternity is to glorify God and to advance his Kingdom. That's it. Please listen to me, we are called to be fiery, passionate lovers of Jesus every moment of our existence. As we live our daily lives, we must be consumed by God as we walk and live and pray in the Spirit. We go to sleep praying, we wake up praying, we worship throughout the day, we live holy. we battle the enemy and we advance with great anointing as God leads. Yes, we are to enjoy our lives. Yes, our families are precious. Yes, we can fall in love. Yes, we can be entertained. Yes, we can relax. Yet none of this should ever compromise our unrelenting zeal for Jesus. We are aliens from another world with an other-worldly mission that should consume us every second of our lives. Kobe Bryant and Eternity from John Burton on Vimeo.
DEADLY DOCTRINESI won't take the space to debate theology right now. I'm not in that state of mind. I'm wrecked and undone. I'm provoked and irritated. Irritated enough to go for the throat of deadly doctrines that so many are selling their very souls for. I'm upset at those who have been seduced, but I'm enraged at the pastoral impostors who are selling this snake oil. Without hesitation I'm shouting from the rooftops with everything I have that false-grace and eternal security theologies are seductive poisons that are leading untold numbers to Hell every day. I believe it's quite rare for someone to enter Heaven. Of course, I could never confirm this, but just like you I have the right to an opinion. I believe following Jesus is a much more serious, sobering and costly endeavor than most realize, and I wonder if maybe one in 500 enter Heaven instead of Hell when they die. Point two percent. The level of surrender that's required is well off most people's grids. They erroneously lean on the story of the thief on the cross to affirm their casual position and their belief that all it takes is a “prayer of salvation.” I don't believe any of us will ever understand the level of surrender that man committed to.
THIS ISN'T ABOUT KOBE BRYANT…IT'S ABOUT YOUKobe Bryant isn't on the earth anymore, but he is somewhere right now. We don't know where. You or I don't know what the level of his passion for Jesus was. This article isn't about him, however, It's about you. It's about me. It's rare to find people who are on fire, who are surrendered, who are living holy lives and who are preaching raw, offensive truth. It's this truth that will wake the dead and provoke the sleepers to arise. Eternity is upon us. 150,000 people die every day. It's 5pm right now. This means, since Kobe Bryant died, in the neighborhood of 31,250 more people have died and entered into eternity. Since I started writing this article about a half an hour ago, approximately 3,125 people have died. …30 minutes later, as I'm proof reading the article, another 3,125 people have died. Is it possible that of the 150,000 people who die today that only around 3,000 will be with Jesus forever? 147,000, give or take, will be tormented non-stop as they are gripped with indescribable, maddening terror that will never end? Yes, it's absolutely possible. We can't know for sure, but the sheer possibility should crush us. You can see why I'm broken and heartsick. You can understand my holy rage.
WE NEED HELLFIRE PREACHERSI'm done with the ridiculous, passive and biblically unsound messages of “love and kindness” that are choking out the fiery truths of Scripture. Of course, we need a greater revelation of the love of Jesus, but, man, how people have twisted that reality! I implore you to read some articles that speak directly to this issue:
- The Great Love Deception : A False-Love Movement is on the Rise
- “Damn John Burton to Hell!” The Return to Convicting Preaching that Riles Demons
- Is It Time for Hell-Fire Preaching Again?
- 5 Marks of the False Grace Message
“I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play,” James said.Bryant congratulated James via Twitter not long after his historic basket. sin into your life? What about pornography? Lust? Greed? Unforgiveness? Hate? Unbelief? Are you a walking furnace of intercession, or are you devoid of fire? Have you lost your first love? Please don't ever presume you are safe because of a prayer you prayed. You are not. Salvation requires endurance and it must be worked out with fear and trembling. Remember, you are not alive to fulfill your personal dreams. The selfish pursuit of dreams and the entertainment induced drunkenness must come to an end. You are alive for a single purpose—to serve the King and to know him intimately. I implore you to wake up, to get serious and to embrace the call to martyrdom. Lay your life down, and do it now. We are all one breath away from leaving our physical bodies and stepping into forever.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
Traveling ministers and the pastors who invite them most both welcome correction.
The money changers’ sin was simple—they attempted to use God’s temple for personal gain. They were focused on making a profit. This resulted in one of Jesus’ most violent reactions, and I believe a similar reaction is coming to a corrupt ministry scheme today. ~Snake Oil MinistryOf my nearly three decades of ministry, I've spent many years as a pastor inviting guest ministers in and I've spent many years as the guest minister, traveling to serve a pastor when called. Wholesale reform in this exchange must come if the impact we are hoping for is to be realized. Of course, there are many humble and pure-hearted itinerant preachers and many local church pastors who are godly and ridiculously amazing. And, of course, there are many who are not. Caught in the middle, I suppose, are many more who are simply unaware of what appropriate itinerant ministry looks like. My hope is that we can shine a light on the issue and call for an adjustment.
REVIVAL CAN COMEI propose the reasons for inviting in a guest minister are few. The underlying desire should absolutely be to pursue an outpouring and to stimulate the fires of revival. A move of God is the motivating factor. The guest minister will certainly carry something the preachers of the house don't. Their ministry should be valued and given room to bring impact. Again, revival is the goal. However, in order for this greatest of pursuits to have even the slightest hope of kindling, we need to see significant change come. Listen to the podcast…
HOW ITINERANT MINISTERS MUST CHANGE
Don't travel unless you are truly carrying the burden of the Lord.If you don't have a burning message from God seared into your spirit, you should question whether you should accept an invitation to minister. Today we have too many professional guest speakers who are regurgitating messages that may have held impact years ago but are now nothing more than spiritual information devoid of anointing or timely weightiness. I propose you pray and seek God for a heavy, transforming word for the people you are about to minister to. The pastor and the people are paying greatly (or, they should be) to bring you in. Anything less than full investment is dishonoring to them. Bring the new wine and a “now word” of God, not a collection of lifeless notes from yesteryear.
Get out of the green rooms.If a guest minister isn't engaged with passion in the worship service and is instead hiding away in the green room or the pastor's office awaiting the perfect moment to make their appearance, they should stay hidden away. Go away. Don't take the microphone. If revival is the goal as it should be, the itinerant preacher has no option but to be right in the middle of the flow of the service. They should be interceding, discerning the atmosphere, declaring breakthrough, engaging in spiritual warfare and worshiping with abandon.
Stop with the marathon money grabs (I mean, offering times).It's the pastor's job to ensure you are very well taken care of financially (we'll get to them in a moment). Leave that part of it alone and focus on the job at hand. You are called to preach and to ignite the fires of revival, not breaking in the middle for 30 minutes to receive (or, actually, take) an offering. Becoming a distracted money-changer when you should be flowing in an overwhelming anointing for breakthrough is dishonorable. Oh, and if you attach their breakthrough to their giving in that service, I fear for your soul.
Weep with the people.If you can't feel the hearts of the people and if you aren't invested deeply in their freedom, you have no business standing behind another leader's pulpit. It's easy to know when itinerant ministers are simply professional public speakers. They confidently deliver their well polished message and are already thinking about selling some books, heading out to lunch and jumping on their flight to their next destination. We need those who will be in the moment, people who will weep when the people weep and dance when they dance. Develop relationships, fight for their breakthrough and go to battle for their souls!
Stop the embarrassing theatrics.Quit pushing people over at the altar. Quit measuring success by how many people come to the altar. Quit hyping up an atmosphere. Just quit. Many times when I travel and minister I won't have an altar call at all. I won't attempt to create some sort of faux energy or stimulate a hypnotic atmosphere. While I'm all for wild and bizarre manifestations of the Holy Spirit, I'm certainly not going to manufacture it. Preach with passion. Fight from the platform. Engage the enemy. Welcome the Holy Spirit. Respond accordingly and get out of the way. You may not have an Instagramable pic of people flooding the altar, but that's okay.
Be submitted in a local church.Itinerant preachers, be they prophets, apostles, evangelists or whatever, must be covered in a local church. They should be active members and in a position of learning as they sit under another's leadership. Itinerant ministry is not a promotion out of the church. It's an expression of the church. I personally wouldn't be comfortable inviting in a guest speaker who isn't locked into a local church. I've done it in the past and much of the time there was a strong, prideful, independent spirit at play in their ministry. Pastors can't afford for their people to be infected with that.
HOW PASTORS MUST CHANGE
Be prepared to give a lot of money to your guest.
Itinerant ministers aren’t being paid for only one hour of preaching. They have given more than that. They have invested much by leaving their family, expending energy as they travel, paying for their food on the road, sleeping in unfamiliar beds and, possibly most importantly, stepping out in faith believing that God would provide their every need. If their monthly family budget (you know, money to pay for their teenage monsters to devour entire sides of beef, braces for crooked teeth, Christmas presents, car payments, vacations, toilet paper, shoes, etc.) is $6000 a month, that means anything less than $1500 puts them in a compromised position. It’s usually their spouse who is handling the bills and taking care of precious and wild kids who gets hit the most when the finances aren’t coming in. Being an itinerant minister is an extremely challenging life and I want to do my best to relieve the financial pressure from them and their family. ~Snake Oil MinistryI personally believe $1000 per time your guest speaks is a bare minimum, and, by all means, send them home with the honorarium. Don't expect them to be happy about your lack of preparation when you tell them you'll have to send it to them in the mail the next week. Remember, I'm coming at this discussion now from the perspective of pastors, not the itinerant minister. Traveling ministers travels must be willing to do what they are called to do for nothing. But, pastors shouldn't put their guests in that position. They should also have integrity with the offering:
I have found that people love to give, especially when I tell them 100% of the offering will be going to the guest speaker (after expenses are covered). If one million dollars comes into the offering, the church receives nothing and the guest is now a millionaire! I believe this approach deals with any scrutiny that may be in people’s minds when giving. They love the fact that they are able to have 100% of their gift go directly to the guest! ~Snake Oil MinistryI've had some cringe worthy experiences as a traveling preacher. While the vast majority of visits have been amazing, there are a handful that still make me shudder! I'm going to battle for traveling preachers everywhere because I know that leaving after a grueling, tiring weekend filled with long travel and uncomfortable situations with only a few hundred dollars can be tough.
Give them room to minister.If revival is the goal, you can't expect even the most anointed guest speaker to move everybody in that direction in 30 minutes. The people should be well aware that it's a special day and what is normal in their culture is about to be violated. You should have done your homework before you invited them in, meaning you are fully comfortable with their ministry and you can confidently release the reigns. Let them know they are free to preach as long as they'd like about anything God puts on their hearts. No limits. Now, back to the guest speaker for a moment: if you are boring, losing the crowd or if it's just an off day, stop the bleeding and put the people out of their misery. Get off the stage and head off to lunch with everybody else.
Get them a nice hotel.I'll sleep on the floor if necessary to bring the burden of the Lord to the people God is sending me to. That being said, I can't express how blessed I am, and relieved, when I hear my host is putting me up in a hotel instead of a host home. Staying in a place where I can be alone to rest, study and pray is priceless. While many host homes have been amazing and I've had a lot of fun spending time with the host families, it's almost always better to stay alone. For example, I stayed in a beautiful home with an absolutely amazing family many years ago. I can't express enough how impressed I was with them and how much I enjoyed hanging out. However, I was unable to rest as my calendar was filled up with activities and my sleep schedule was disrupted as I was served an incredible 7am breakfast. The problem? I don't eat breakfast and I stay up very late at night. I was exhausted. I know that sounds like a silly or even a selfish, thankless complaint, but the cost of that scenario is a de-energized preacher who isn't able to pray and get alone with the Lord in preparation for the services. Just get them a hotel and ask them what schedule they'd like to keep.
Don't try to undo what they did after they leave town.Again, the purpose of bringing in guests is to be catalysts for an outpouring. They are supposed to do things differently than the pastor and local leadership. They carry a different anointing and they can break through things in a different way. Many are called to disrupt, to trouble and to initiate a great shaking. Allow that process to happen. Unless clear heresy is being preached, don't try to set back up what the preacher has been called to upset. I once heard about a pastor who tried to put the people back at ease the week after I preached with fire, sending God wanted to remove them from their ease. It was a fearful message of holiness and salvation, and, unfortunately, the pastor encouraged the people, correcting what I said and ensuring that they were nice and saved and should not be concerned in any way. Honestly pastor, if you are going to do that, don't waste my time. It's costly enough to preach a message like that without it all being undone the moment I head for the airport.
THE BOTTOM LINEHave a pure heart, contend for revival, give largely, honor deeply and give God a lot of room to move. Revival has launched through the ministry of guest preachers before and it can happen again, but I believe it's clear we need reform in this area before we can legitimately expect it to happen.
It seems to be uncommon if not rare to find churches today that are preparing people for the end-times.“I'm not a pre-tribber, a post-tribber or a mid-tribber. I'm a pan-tribber. I believe it will all pan out in the end!” That's the whimsical, fantastical argument many casual, unconcerned people are making today regarding the most critical season in all of human history. In fact, I've heard many pastors defend their reluctance to address eschatology by saying similar things. No, it absolutely won't all pan out in the end if we don't prepare with intense and strategic discipline. In fact, I believe innumerable current Christians may spend forever in torment because of a failure to prepare. As I jump into this, I implore those of you who are already chomping at the bit to defend your eschatological position with determined ferocity and great verbosity in the comments—just don't. This article is not a study of the eschatological timeline. I will present some suppositions, and I don't hide the fact that I firmly believe the church will be here during the Tribulation, but if you are looking for an end-time Bible study, you won't find it here. Your comments would be better served addressing the precise topic I am presenting here: preparedness.
SALVATION ALONE WON'T PREPARE US, AND MANY WILL FALL AWAY
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NKJV)I'd like to present a question. What if many of the varied end-time theologies prove to be wrong and, one day in the near future, we find ourselves face-to-face with the Anti-Christ? Suddenly everything in our life will change. Again, I'm not diving into the specifics regarding precise timing or chain of events. I'm keeping this very simple. Will the church be ready to face such unimaginable, demonic pressure that will seek to crush those who are weak in their faith during the Tribulation? The idea that salvation alone will prepare us for the coming end-times is honestly quite hysterical yet so many are convinced it will.
Our world is in a season of acceleration toward two momentous events: the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the greatest hour of pressure and trouble in all of history.I'll state it plainly. I believe a life of consecration, intercession and depth in the Word are mandatory if we hope to survive the pressures of the Great Tribulation. Yes, it will be extremely easy and even common sense for those who are the least bit casual and those who have not truly died to their own desires to embrace the Anti-Christ with open arms—and go to Hell.
THE PRESSURESI personally believe there must be Holy Spirit activity in our lives at an extremely explosive degree if we hope to survive the troubles.
The Church will be victorious in love with power during the most dramatic time in history. This view gives us confidence and urgency to dynamically participate with Jesus now and in the coming revival. ~Mike BickleA vibrant and devoted life of prayer cannot be substituted. Dreams, visions and a sharp prophetic daily life will help greatly. Intimacy with Jesus that is only nurtured as we pray without ceasing is mandatory. Additionally, heavenly revelation and the faith necessary to combat the convincing assaults of the enemy will come to those who are filling their lives with the Word of God. They must eat the scroll.
3 And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Ezekiel 3:3 (NKJV)If simple temptations like lust, greed, gossip, pornography, apathy and other common sins are captivating the high majority of professing Christians today (for example, 68% of men and 50% of pastors view porn), then what makes us think we will have the spiritual strength to say no to the most powerful wicked manifestation in history, the Anti-Christ? If we aren't wildly consecrated, intimate with Jesus, praying in the Spirt and dead to self we won't be. Understand, the pressures won't be limited to rejecting run-of-the-mill sins. Consider this: We know in the Tribulation we won't be able to buy, sell or trade without the Mark. As a Christian parent, what would you do if your children had absolutely nothing to eat and had no fresh water to drink? It will be easy, and it will feel like love, to make the decision to take the Mark so your family is cared for. What happens when a family member has an asthma attack with no access to a life-saving prescription rescue inhaler? Again, it will feel like love and absolutely obvious common sense to take the Mark of the Beast so they can save them. Certainly God would sanction such a selfless act, right? Wrong. It will be very easy for those who have adopted the doctrine of eternal security to take the Mark. After all, the falling away doesn't apply to them and nobody can snatch them out of God's hand, right? Do you now see, if this end-time view is correct, how millions of current Christians can end up in Hell? Once you take the Mark, there is no turning back. Repentance will not be an option. Their remaining time in the Tribulation will be a vacation compared to their soon coming eternal season. Partial Preterists and others who deny a future season of trouble is coming will also have little issue taking the Mark. It's easy today to fall, to live in sin, to live every day thinking all is well while living compromised, lukewarm lives. Not one of us can imagine how easy it will be to give in when the cost of standing strong in Jesus becomes so great. Only those who are truly living in the Spirit, walking in that other-worldly, supernatural realm where the Holy Spirit is manifesting with extreme power can hope to survive without falling away. The seriousness on this matter is beyond what I can express. Being a “pan-tribber” would be laughable if that position weren't so eternally deadly. Pastors, you must prepare the people. Those who are simply showing up each Sunday morning, smiling, shaking hands, giving offerings, saying prayers and listening to your Bible teachings are in an extremely vulnerable place. If they aren't deep in God, praying with fervency, encountering God, living in the Spirit and allowing the Word of God to sear their hearts, they have little hope of surviving our current world, much less the one that I and many others believe is coming very, very soon.
A beautiful child died and Christians mocked the relentless faith of a church family.
A little time has passed since the heartbreaking death of Olive Alayne, the daughter of a Bethel Church worship leader. While the news story has settled down, I still can't deny the grief that I am feeling. My spirit is deeply troubled. In fact, I don't believe it's too strong to say that I'm sickened by the response of so much of the church during this tragic time. No parent wants to go through the unspeakable pain of losing a child. When it happens you must have the love and support of a faith-filled family surrounding you. A spiritual family like Bethel Church in Redding, California isn't going to offer simple “hopes and prayers” as most everybody in the world does at the time of crisis. No, they are going to contend for a miracle. Of course they would, right?
Kalley Heiligenthal stomped her feet and waved her arms, dancing her way from one side of the bright-lit stage to the other.
“Come alive, come alive!” the congregants at Bethel Church in Redding, California, shouted in expectation as they clapped and sang praises.
The faithful shared these scenes on Instagram Tuesday night as they prayed for Heiligenthal’s 2-year-old daughter, Olive Alayne, to be raised from the dead.
A CHILD DIES AND CHRISTIANS MOCK
Other evangelical Christians are beginning to question the church’s ongoing calls for resurrection. Author Wade Mullen, who writes about abuse within evangelical institutions, cautioned that attempted resurrections are often associated with cults.I'll admit I was quite shocked when I started to hear about Christians on social media voicing disapproval of such an effort to contend for a resurrection. Who wouldn't pray with passion in such an unspeakably terrible situation? Who wouldn't take a step of great faith and gather as many prayer warriors as possible to believe with them?
52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. Luke 8:52-53 (ESV)Jesus experienced something similar when he suggested a pending resurrection. He was laughed at. The laughing continues today. I propose it's to the shame of the church that supernatural happenings are rare and so resisted in our Western culture. The default for every life crisis should be a corporate war in the Spirit for wonders to come. Help from deity is required. A faith-filled cry should echo out of us as otherworldly aliens who live by a set of different rules and live in a very different realm.
OUR OWN FOR RESURRECTIONMy wife and I have lost seven children to still-birth and miscarriage, and we have battled in tears for each of them. I'll never forget one night several years ago when my wife and I were a part of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Amy was pregnant, and using her at home doppler heartbeat monitor, she frantically searched for the baby's heartbeat. There was none. After a confirming visit to the emergency room, sadness overcame us and we devised an unusual plan to match our heart-wrenching desperation. Within hours we were on a flight to Lakeland, Florida. We were going to do whatever it took to gather with other faith-filled people who would agree with us for a miracle. At that time all we knew was that God was moving extremely powerfully and thousands of people were converging under a massive tent, hungry for encounter with God. The intense anointing we felt there as 10,000 people were worshiping with passion was undeniable. Hindsight would give us a glimpse into the assault of the enemy against what God was doing, and, unfortunately, how Todd Bentley would fail. I'll tell you this. Todd's failure and exposure in no way diminished the faith, passion, hunger and legitimate love for Jesus that the people under that tent had. God was manifesting unusually, remarkably, powerfully. I wish I had the space to share the mind-boggling way the Holy Spirit orchestrated the events there. We were back stage throughout the night, doppler in hand, as people hovered around my wife and decreed and declared resurrection nonstop. Their love for two total strangers will never be forgotten. No laughing. No mocking. Only love. After many dramatic encounters and untold expressions of determined faith by two humbled, broken people, we flew home. There was still no heartbeat. The next night a spontaneous “resurrection service” took place in one of the classrooms at the International House of Prayer. Well over one hundred people worshiped with fiery zeal, cried out for God to move and then, one-by-one, lined up and took turns commanding our dead daughter, Livi, to live. With tears in their eyes, they pointed at my wife's pregnant belly as she sat in a chair, hands lifted, eyes swollen and faith raised, and shouted, “Livi, come forth!” The next day at the hospital she was induced and a tiny, lifeless body emerged. She was dead. The following night we had a memorial service, and most of those who were at the resurrection service were there. We worshiped intensely, refusing to surrender to unbelief even in the midst of failure. God was still God. Suddenly, in the midst of the worship, faith hit me powerfully. God pointed out a friend of mine across the room who was totally blind. God told me to pray for him. As the loud worship music filled the room, I started commanding his eyes to open. Nobody heard me, nobody knew what I was praying. Moments later it was my turn to preach. I released a bold message of faith and revival. I refused to allow this to defeat our belief in a miracle-working God and I determined to see revival come as a result. That was the passion of my heart. That was the message of the night. After I was finished I was called over to my blind friend. He said, “John, I just need you to know, when you were preaching on revival, my eyes started to burn. I wondered if I was about to be healed.” He had no idea I prayed for him. God was doing something.
IT'S TIME FOR THE CHURCH TO BELIEVE AGAINThe moral of this true, emotional story? We don't have all the answers. We don't always know how to react in the time of trial. I firmly believe the Lord revealed to me that all of this was training ground for my wife and me. You see, walking in increasing faith requires much learning and revelation. There's a way to walk in the Spirit and there's a realm of faith that simply requires becoming familiar with how things function in that realm. Simply “believing” and quoting Bible verses won't cut it. A life of supernatural faith demands much more. Did this, along with the lost of six other babies, damage our hearts? Honestly, yes. Did we question God? Yes. Did we evaluate our faith? Absolutely. Did the enemy try to overtake us, to shame us, to mock us? Oh boy did he. Are we closer to seeing blind eyes open and dead people raised after experiencing this overwhelming season of our life? Yes. I believe we are. It's time for the church to wake from its secular humanistic slumber into a supernatural reality. Read the reports. Around the world blind eyes are opened, dead people live and miracles are normal. In fact, read the Bible. It's all in there. I've never met the parents of Olive Alayne, but I'm confident that, even in the midst of mourning, they are growing deeper in faith and they are learning how to function in the Spirit. They may not feel it, they may be limping and they will never forget this tragic season of their lives. I would never pretend to understand their private, personal heart response, but I do know their daughter will forever be in their hearts and they will see her again very soon. Oh, and I'm convinced they don't regret the fight for her life in the least. Kalley Heiligenthal, Olive's mom:
“Olive, we miss you, love you so much and we'll see you soon. We know now more than ever that King Jesus is good and His every word is worth believing and following at any cost. That's the song we'll sing until we're with you again and we finally sing it together. We cannot wait.” “It's a new day, and we're awake for it. This is a victory story,” she concluded.
Don't be too hard on Harry and Meghan. How many followers of Christ are similarly renouncing their callings in favor of chasing their dreams?
The couple will no longer use the titles His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness, but they are not being stripped of them. Harry will remain a prince and sixth in line to the British throne. (wyff4.com)I am fully convinced every blood-bought Believer was born with a divine, royal calling. I'm saddened at how successful the enemy has been in either convincing Christians they are worthless and common or in seducing them to forsake their identities for more self-satisfying pursuits. In fact, many today argue they are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus regardless of how they respond to the heavenly mandates Christ Jesus has given them. Okay, as long as we are legitimately following Jesus, yes, we are seated with him. Prince Harry will remain a prince even though he's relinquishing the expectations that come with that designation. I'm confident you can see the problem this presents, however. This article isn't a judgment on Prince Harry and Meghan. Instead it is an indictment on the church, on God's royal family.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
DREAM CHASERSWhen we come to Christ, we die. I'll never forget a dramatic, life-altering experience I had with God decades ago. In remarkable fashion, in a way words could never faithfully express, God asked me point blank if I was willing to be a martyr. After some of the most intense minutes of my life ticked by, I ultimately said, “Yes. Life would not be worth living without being fully surrendered to Jesus, even if it means I die.” The power of the Holy Spirit flooded me so powerfully I can still remember the encounter many years later. No, we are not called to chase our dreams. We are called to come alive as we joyfully serve the King. How many Believers today have forsaken their royal duties to chase their dreams? How many are doing so while arguing they are still “in line to the throne?” People who have surrendered their divine callings have casually presumed upon the thrown to honor and facilitate their plans instead of honoring the King and his plans as humble servants.
The palace continued: “With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations. While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty. (foxnews.com)What a tragic situation. In parallel fashion, many of today's Christians are seeking the King's blessing to disconnect so they can “maintain their private patronages and associations.” The result? The inability to represent King Jesus while “endeavoring to uphold the values of His Majesty.” This lukewarm, abdication of royal responsibilities makes upholding divine values mostly impossible. This is the state of much of the church today. The King is no longer represented.
RELINQUISHED MILITARY ASSIGNMENT
The new “model” will take effect this spring, though the palace did not announce an official date. As part of the new agreement, Harry and Meghan will step back from all royal duties, including official military appointments. (time.com)I've argued often that the church is a potent, strategic and necessary instrument of spiritual war. It's a military, though many seek to turn it into a spa, an indulgent, personally satisfying experience. What we have in church today is a company of inactive soldiers who are absent without leave. Their motivation is, again, personal satisfaction and the fulfillment of temporal dreams. Those who have laid down their weapons and disengaged from the fight have empowered a deadly supernatural enemy who seeks to destroy. Every Christian was born with a mandate. While there are many variations of duties, we all have at least one that will drive us through life. That assignment ends on our death bed, or, sadly, for many, much earlier as they seek blessing from His Majesty to step aside.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11 (ESV)I pray the new “model” of life adopted by Prince Harry and Meghan will be rejected by today's remnant church. We can't afford for people to step back so they can focus on their personal endeavors. Instead we need every holy soldier armed and ready for the clash of battle. I pray the best for Prince Harry and Meghan. Again, this article wasn't about them. It was about a mirrored reality in the spiritual realm. It's a violation of what is pure and right to accept the designation of royalty while rejecting the assignments of royalty. Church, arise. Arm yourselves. Lock in with your fellow warriors. Obey the King. Run to battle. Annihilate the enemy. Rescue the perishing. Fulfill your assignment.
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
President Trump heroically affirmed school prayer. Maybe he can help return prayer to the church as well.
Claiming that “there’s a growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict and even prohibit religious expression,” Trump guaranteed that while he’s in office, “we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)Of course, President Trump is referring to the issues of religious freedom and prayer in schools, but if that quote was ever-so-lightly reworded, one might think he was talking about the current expression of church in America. Of course, nobody would balk at somebody offering up a prayer during a church service in most local churches today, but the spirit of intercession is certainly quenched, restricted or even fully rejected in too many places with the word church etched above the doorposts.
“It is a culture war,” Trump said. “You have two sides and you have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and they’re being restricted and it’s getting worse and worse and I think we’ve made a big impact,” he added. (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)Now, that statement by President Trump could even more easily be applied to the church. There most certainly is a culture war and those who are contending for an atmosphere of Spirit-driven prayer on Sunday mornings are being restricted by those who would be uncomfortable by such an atmosphere. It's the remnant versus the religiously curious. Understand, I'm not talking about saying prayers. I'm not referring to prayer requests or telling God about our ailments. When I say prayer I mean a furnace of intercession where people throughout the congregation are decreeing, declaring and pounding Heaven with fiery zeal that would wake the dead. Literally. The sleepers must arise and the comatose must be shaken out of their slumber. A corporate spirit of prayer does just that.
PRAYER IN SCHOOLS?Let's bring it back just for a moment to the news of the day. President Trump is proving himself to be a champion of religious freedom, and that should be applauded.
The president announced from the Oval Office that his administration was taking “historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)I'd like to present a question. Does this proclamation carry any weight, will it have any impact, if it doesn't result in prayer movements being launched in public schools? If nobody is praying, is this announcement a wasted effort? No, I don't believe it is, but let's unpack it just a bit. The analysis can also be applied to the church. I do believe affirmation of prayer in public schools accomplishes one important thing. It officially acknowledges God and everybody's right to worship him, both privately and publicly. It authorizes students and teachers to bring deity into the conversation. I believe President Trump's decree has authority in the spiritual realm and you better know the enemy is going to fight against it hard, just as he did in 1962 when prayer in schools was outlawed. So, instead of a vehicle for actual intercession, this move by our President accomplishes something else—it establishes authority for Christians to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord. Here's another question. Is it better for prayer in schools to be authorized yet the schools are devoid of a spirit of prayer or for prayer in schools to be banned which results in an underground movement of intercession? Of course, the right answer would be for prayer to be authorized and for the spirit of prayer to overtake our classrooms. We want both. Consider this as we leap from the school system to the church.
PRAYER IN CHURCH?Prayer has not been legally banned in the church in America, for now at least. Sadly, generally speaking, the first scenario I presented above seems to be manifesting in the church. Prayer is allowed yet churches are devoid of a spirit of intercession. I propose that if most people in a local church are only attending one service a week, most probably on a Sunday morning, that service must be a strategic, passionate and supernatural prayer meeting. The power of prayer is too great to relegate it to an off day at an unusual hour in a side room. Prayer is too important to shelve it in favor of a little music, unnecessary announcements and boring public speaking. The best prayer meetings are filled with decrees, declarations, spiritual songs, proclamations of Scripture and prophetic revelation. Yes there will be anointed preaching and yes there will be explosive worship but they will be driven by an atmosphere of intercession. Church cultures will change from natural to supernatural and people will finally, many for the first time, have a personal encounter with the One they decided to surrender their lives to. I suggest it's actually a bit embarrassing that a leader of a secular society, our President, is doing more to advance the cause of prayer than many leaders of Christian congregations are. Are the parallels perfect? Of course not. I understand that. However, I invite you to think about this. Is there freedom of intercession in your church or is it minimized? Are intercessors shunned? Are there passionate cries of fervent prayer on Sunday mornings or is the spiritual temperature kept at a comfortable level so the lukewarm won't grow uneasy? I made a promise to every person I had the privilege of giving leadership to over the years: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Prayer must be front and center as the driver of the culture of every church. Let the visitors be uncomfortable and the pretenders get convicted. It's time for the burning ones to awaken and for pastors to lead people into passionate, heart-wrenching, wonderful prayer as the foundational expression of their local assemblies. We must stoke the coals in the furnace of intercession in our churches. President Trump is doing it for us in the schools.
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
Lauren Daigle is becoming one of the most popular Christian artists of all time right before our eyes. This could be a problem.Lauren Daigle is a ridiculously talented young lady and she has been provided platforms few will stand on. Her rendition of the National Anthem at the 2020 National Championship game for college football was beautiful. Her song “You Say” is now officially the biggest song ever, spending a record 69 weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart. That song just hit Platinum for the second time. Lauren also won a Grammy and a Billboard Music Award in 2019 and she recently won awards for artist of the year and contemporary album of the year for “Look Up Child” at the 50th annual Dove Awards Ceremony in Nashville. She has been featured on numerous news programs and talk shows including the Ellen Degeneres Show. Listen to the podcast… In response to criticism to her appearance alongside Ellen, who is famously and unashamedly homosexual, Lauren said this:
I don’t have all the answers in life, and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission right? (www.theatlantic.com)That makes sense. However, when pressed, a problem was made clear—a problem most of Christendom seems to have ignored.
This week, another radio host asked her directly about whether she believed that homosexuality was sinful, and Daigle responded that she wasn’t sure. “I can’t honestly answer on that,” Daigle said. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” (www.theatlantic.com)The Atlantic continued by referencing a Charisma News article I wrote on the issue:
The conservative-Christian author John Burton claimed that Daigle’s ambiguity compromised biblical truth and that now “millions are at risk of deception.”
THE DANGER OF SUPPORTING LAUREN DAIGLEMuch of the world simply cannot understand why we as Christians are so intent on fighting the culture wars. Why can't we simply love and celebrate when others are discovering their identities and bravely living the way they feel is most authentic? My personal passion is not to restrict or to renounce others for the sake of winning a battle or as leverage to prop myself up as superior. To do so would require a measure of wickedness on my part. What drives me, and what drives most Christians who are absolutely heartbroken over the current state of affairs in our nation, including the normalization of abortion, homosexuality, pornography and other vices, is very basic. We are desperately attempting to rescue people from never-ending, unspeakable, maddening torment in Hell. That's it. Honestly, if people choose to get high on drugs, dive deep into porn or marry someone of the same sex, my energy would be wasted attempting to convince them why such behavior is unhealthy. Sure, arguments, even good ones, can be made, and many people brilliantly make them. However, that fight pales in comparison to another one I believe we should be engaged in. The context is eternally different then one with such a temporal focus. I am gripped by the reality of forever. The fact that, to date, based on what I have derived via public media sources, Lauren has not renounced homosexuality as a sin. As I argued in my Charisma News article, this is a problem. A clear and present danger. Christians continue to affirm her “ministry” and to support her art. Christian radio stations scoff at the idea of removing her songs from the playlist. Individuals are listening to her music in record fashion. What does this communicate? Holiness is a non-issue.
Do you understand how easy it will be now for people to embrace homosexuality due to Daigle's comments? Many others probably already have shifted their position to affirming homosexuality as acceptable for Christians. Others are now taking the casual approach that Daigle did, abandoning any urgency to promote righteousness. When influential public figures make damaging comments or promote destructive theologies, it's the responsibility of prophetic messengers, pastors and every Christian to look out for those who are at risk. To do otherwise would be an abdication of our responsibilities. Love demands we don't stay silent. (Charisma News)The fact that such a basic biblical truth is confusing to Lauren should result in alarms sounding and flags flying. I'm sure Lauren is an amazing young lady. I'm confident I'd enjoy taking with her and getting to know her. There's much going on in her heart, and so much of it is really good. However, we can't stop there. That can't be the end of the story as the narrative is unresolved. To affirm anyone who stands for Christ while also refusing to renounce that which will result in eternal separation from Christ is a mistake we cannot make. Regarding her position on homosexuality, Lauren said:
So when people ask questions like that … that's what my go-to is. I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I'm learning too.'Lauren, the Bible settled this matter long ago. She also revealed:
“While we were making this record we were constantly studying the greats that came before — Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Andre Crouch, Lauren Hill — there’s just a plethora of artists that we listened to, over and over,” she said. Interestingly enough, the young artist did not mention Jesus or God throughout the interview, sticking to general phrases like “faith,” while placing a large emphasis on the importance of love.I want to let Lauren know that love doesn't require affirmation of destructive behaviors or belief systems. I want her to understand that I'm not attacking her. I am excited about her future and I pray God anoints her powerfully. I am excited about a spirit of intercession and worship flooding through her into a dark and desperate culture. She could be a catalyst for repentance and revival in the world! I also want her to know that she's playing with fire, and those she loves—along with millions who are under her influence—are at great risk of Hell if she doesn't speak up, reveal the urgent truth and do all she can to rescue them. Lauren, if they don't know they are drowning they will not take your hand.