Disqualified people are rushing to social media to establish illegitimate ministries. Are pastors to blame?
There's a level of toxicity regarding the prophetic in today's churches that must be addressed if we hope to hear God's voice and advance with clarity and power in these end times.
People who have had their ministries rejected in the church are taking their services to Facebook and other social communities in hopes of developing influence. The problem? Influence without authority is birthed out of deep dysfunction and it can lead people into that same dysfunctional, unauthorized spirituality.
They would argue they receive their authority and their authorization from God directly. This tired argument is evidence of resistance to being rightfully responsive to flesh and bone people that God has called us to serve and honor. We don't have the option to reject human authority while, in the same breath, attempting to establish ourselves as an authority. It's silliness.
Listen to the podcast on this topic…
PROPHECY IS CRITICAL IN THE CHURCH TODAY
We cannot go on without pure, potent and mature prophecy filling our churches every single week. The lack of God's rhema voice is telling as churches are resorting more and more to sociological mind tricks instead of advancing according to supernatural revelation.
It has become quite rare to see a body that's healthy and strong in the prophetic as people are rightly equipped and released to communicate oracles from heaven. Faith is epidemically low as millions of Christians have no idea what God's voice sounds like.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
The word “word” in the above verse is translated as rhema. This is the “now” word of God, the revelation whether it's a prophetic word or the words of Scripture leaping off the pages. When this active, precise and timely message from God pierces a people, faith skyrockets.
Not only does a strong prophetic culture give a local church body the ability to move ahead in the direction God has determined, but everybody involved is wildly invested as a result of hearing God speak. True prophetic messages don't stop at the ears or the mind, but they sear our spirits and impact our emotions like no other message can. When this happens, faith goes up and we respond in unity, power and joy.
Sadly, most churches could not be described as prophetic churches. There are reasons for this. Blame rests both on the pastor and on the people. Let's deal with the people first.
10 REASONS WHY PASTORS DON'T LET YOU PROPHESY IN CHURCH SERVICES
ONE: A LACK OF HUMILITY
I'll begin by communicating loud and clear something many prophetic people won't want to hear: never, ever start attending a church with the intention of mentoring, teaching or refining the pastor via prophecy or otherwise. What arrogance it must take for you to presume such an uninvited role in your church. If your wealth of wisdom, knowledge and experience are needed, be sure the pastor will request your counsel. Otherwise, keep quiet.
Whether in this scenario or another, pastors have no use for people who want to minster to those they have been commissioned to protect if they aren't truly humble. Meekness is a prerequisite for prophetic ministry as any measure of arrogance or selfish ambition will taint the messages being delivered.
This following passage of Scripture speaks to this issue perfectly:
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. James 3:13-17 (NKJV)
Wisdom is demonic if self-seeking and envy is what drives it. Follow the advice in verse seventeen and be willing to yield.
Speaking of being willing to yield, undisciplined prophetic people tend to enjoy rebelling against the order of the house. Influencing the service with the spiritualized sound of their voice is what drives them.
Many years ago as I was planting my first church a visitor asked me about our prophetic protocol. I explained that we value prophecy and that she could deliver a prophetic word to me or leadership for review during the worship service. She didn't like that answer. She went on to say that she would have to interrupt the service, even if I were preaching, if God gave her a prophetic word for the body.
Ummm, nope. She presumed her supposed prophetic insight was important enough to violate order. We were interested in investing in her and in her prophetic gift and in developing a very active, life-giving prophetic culture, but she didn't want to function within those boundaries. She ended up leaving the church and we were the better for it.
There's a difference between someone who is actively and willingly growing in their gift and someone who refuses to grow up. Those who are intentionally undisciplined and who are not giving themselves to everything that needs to be done to grow and develop their gifting should not be set free to prophesy in the church. A lot of damage can be done.
These people love to prophesy, but you don't see them in the prayer rooms. They are unresponsive to leadership. They aren't in the Word.
12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Hebrews 5:12-14 (NKJV)
Those who are prophesying are most definitely functioning in the arena of spiritual discernment. If they cannot discern spiritually due to a lack of maturity, there's no way they can be trusted to deliver prophetic words. Does this mean their prophecy is always wrong? No. But it means they are reckless in their devotion to stewarding their gift, and if they are driven by the wrong spirit, they can do damage.
FOUR: ADVERSE TO CORRECTION
There's no pastor alive who should allow someone to influence the body who won't take correction. This is not only an indicator of immaturity, but also of a dangerous, unsubmitted person. It reveals their heart and that's a heart that should never be trusted to minister.
1 Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid. Proverbs 12:1 (NKJV)
FIVE: YOU WON'T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
The pastor has the right and responsibility to refuse to allow someone to deliver a prophetic word (or to minister in any fashion) if he chooses. If someone reacts wrongly to this, that's evidence enough that they shouldn't have been allowed to share the message.
Understand, much of the time a leader will disallow a prophetic word simply because he doesn't feel it fits. It may have nothing to do with the character of the person who desires to share the word. It may just be a timing issue. We need to yield to our leaders and not get uptight or feel rejected if they don't believe our ministry is appropriate at that time.
If you are a prophetic person, you need to understand that what you wish to share in a public setting isn't always what others feel should be shared. Since you are a person under authority, you need to be okay with the reality that your leaders may not want you to share your revelation at times. If not, you'll grow bitter very quickly, and then we should run far and fast from any prophetic word you try to impose on us.
SIX: A POOR TRACK RECORD
It wouldn't make sense for a pastor to allow someone to preach on a Sunday morning if they have a history of teaching error. Further, they shouldn't allow someone to minister as a part of the worship team if they are always off key or don't show up for rehearsals on time. This simple and obvious realty applies to prophetic people as well.
If they repeatedly deliver wrong, confusing or unscriptural messages, they can't be allowed to continue. Pastors must ensure truth is communicated and if someone can't be trusted to deliver truth, they must be benched until they can grow as a Believer.
This is a big, big point and I want to make sure I have your full attention: If you are attempting to use your supposed prophetic gift to steer the church in a direction not sanctioned by the leadership, you are functioning in witchcraft. You are in rebellion and your ministry is dark and it should not be tolerated.
Charismatic witchcraft is rampant and we must have bold pastors who fear God more than man to deal very aggressively with it. If you are operating in this unruly spirit and attempting to pass it off as prophecy, you need to go. Leave. Don't come back. I'd be quick to show someone like this the door, unless they were truly repentant.
Don't underestimate the damage that such a demonic spirit can do in a church, especially if the leaders God ordained to protect the flock refuse to act. Their silence can kill an entire church, and it happens every day.
God will protect a leader who is “wrong” (I'm not talking about sin, I'm talking about organizational direction) before he affirms a prophetic person who is “right” yet manipulative, rebellious and fueled by an evil spirit of witchcraft.
EIGHT: DOMINATING THE SERVICE
There goes Sister Linda again! Oh, Brother Joe is about to stand up and deliver a word…I can just feel it!
We know the all too predictable scenario all too well. In many churches there's one or two people who, week after week, dominate the prophetic culture by delivering word after word after word after word after word…you get it.
Again, the counsel is to yield! Do you have any idea how much cringing goes on in the church, by the pastor and by most of the body, when the same people are giving nearly the same words in most every service? Oh, it's true. The cringe factor is high.
Pastors, the body is often wondering why you don't put a stop to it. You need to do your job and lovingly encourage these types of people on how to rightly minister in your local church setting.
Closely related to manipulation, and equally as deadly, is gossip. Sadly, unrestrained prophetic people are famous for their ability to gossip. Stopping with a manipulative prophetic word is definitely not enough for them. When leadership doesn't change the course of the church after repeated doses of prophetic pressure, their next step is to gather people around them and to sell their perspective. Any good charismatic witch would do just that. All it takes is a Christianized coven meeting to give real power to their motives.
Gossips are some of Satan's most anointed salesmen, and when that person is looked up to as a prophetic voice, you have some incredible manipulative, supernatural and extremely evil power behind their words. They can destroy a church overnight, and they cannot be tolerated.
TEN: YOU ARE NEEDY/YOU HAVE IDENTITY ISSUES
People who need to minister for the sake of affirmation, or to feed their misguided identities, shouldn't be given a platform, unless that platform is at the altar. Too many wounded prophetic people have developed a craving for affirmation in their gifting, and that weakness has compromised that gift, no matter how precise or developed it is.
Our identity must be found in nobody and nothing else than Jesus. It should be easy to lay our gifts and callings down, with the only grief coming from our passion to see lives transformed. Our own need to minister should never be a factor.
Those who need to minister should not be allowed to minister. Instead, they should spend time with Jesus and give themselves to the process of healing. Then, they will be free, healthy and trustworthy when it's time to step into ministry again.
PASTORS, THIS IS WHAT PEOPLE NEED FROM YOU REGARDING THEIR PROPHETIC CALLING
A key reason there's so much dysfunction in prophetic people today, and a reason they are running to Facebook to minister, is because pastors have failed to equip them. It's as simple as that. Prophetic people are yearning to be trained, but it's nearly impossible to find a church today that includes a prophetic school as a part of their foundational culture. Heck, you can barely find a Sunday School class focusing on it.
Pastors, it's your responsibility to equip the people in the prophetic. How can you hear what God is saying if you don't? Church is a corporate venture, and while you are the point person, and while God will speak directly to you in most situations, you need others to confirm those words and to introduce additional revelation that's critical for the mission.
If you shut down the prophetic in your services to avoid the issues I addressed above, you are wrong. It's as clear as that. Their failure is most often your failure.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
TWO: AN OUTLET
People need an outlet. Prophetic messengers especially must have a place to release their revelations. If not in the church, then where? If not in a safe place with the oversight of leadership it will happen unmoderated, uncontrolled and undisciplined in public.
Pastors, you have no option but to nurture your prophetic culture in such a way that the body can minister the various impacts the Spirit of God is having on them. If they are muzzled they will most usually break free and unleash those words from a place of rebellion. Their rebellion is not only their fault. Very often, it's also yours.
26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (NKJV)
Prophetic people want feedback. Those who are thin skinned will be revealed, which is advantageous to you. Those who are truly humble and teachable will come alive as you share your heart regarding their ministry.
Did they prophesy from a healthy heart? Let them know. Was their message a little confusing? Coach them. Be invested in their development and your church will be the better for it.
FOUR: NO FAVORITISM
First things first. It's okay for pastors to acknowledge prophetic people who have passed tests, proven themselves and been faithful. They absolutely should be favored. Further, those who have failed the tests should not be favored.
That being said, all things being equal, it's important that pastors give room to everybody who's healthy and ready to minister. The young need room to grow, the new people need a family to thrive in and those who have been trusted for years need to mentor the next generation.
If you want to ensure a church stays in a spiritual rut, refuse to acknowledge anybody except those who have been in the inner circle for decades.
FIVE: A RIGHT RESPONSE
Prophetic people don't simply want to share a legitimate word from God. They are excited about the shift in the atmosphere that it will bring. Too often, pastors want to grab the reigns as fast as possible after a prophetic word is given and redirect back in the previous direction.
Pastors must humbly admit that God will use prophetic people to bring fresh wind that demands the sails are repositioned so the boat starts moving the direction the Holy Spirit desires. These prophetic people simply want to see the fruit of their obedience to release oracles instead of the resistance and rejection that is so commonplace in the church today.
Everybody needs encouragement, especially prophetic people! Speak life into them and let them know how blessed you are because of their ministry. Thank them for their heart, for their devotion to humility, for their growth. Let them know you see them developing and that you appreciate them. A healthy, loved and encouraged prophetic person is a valuable member of your team.
There comes a time to publicly validate a ministry. This holds true for every ministry, but it seems those with prophetic callings are all too often overlooked. If someone has passed tests and proven themselves, over an extended period of time, let the body know you trust them and that their ministry is valid.
Not only will this encourage the individual and give them a track to run on, it will show everybody else the type of person and what it takes to be validated. It will give them a goal. It will communicate that others, who have not proven themselves, are not affirmed, at least not at that level.
A bunch of the above points could be applied to the other party. Pastors also must be humble. They shouldn't manipulate. They must be mature, teachable and not a gossip.
The prophetic person should encourage their pastor. They should have a right response to leadership.
However, lets start the way I laid it out. We must see health come to the church, especially today, and most certainly in the arena of the prophetic.
God has a lot to say to us.
Innumerable Christians are willingly engaging in occultic behavior, and it's not only on Halloween.
17 For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Luke 8:17 (ESV)
I once heard about a Spirit-filled pastor who strategically avoided watching certain, questionable movies at theaters in his home town, instead driving an hour away to watch them in obscurity. He didn't want his choice of entertainment to be known, so he would head to the city to hide. This is an occultic maneuver.
oc·cult | \ ə-ˈkəlt : not revealed : SECRET: to shut off from view or exposure : COVER
Sadly, it has become common to hear about yet another Christian pastor or minister who has been exposed. Their secret life of sin was discovered, and the fallout is always devastating. Many go to great lengths to cover up their indiscretions, and they leave a trail of destruction that reaches far and wide.
The Bible gives us a clear instruction to expose the darkness, yet today, too many Christians are doing the opposite, living secretive lives, sinning regularly and enjoying their dark, temporarily pleasurable deception.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. Ecclesiastes 12:14 (ESV)
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Before you start pointing a crooked finger at others, consider your own life. Is it possible you are driven by the occult as well? Have you created a system of checks and balances to ensure your private life is not exposed? How well does your mask fit? Are you sweet, holy and appropriate in public and altogether different in private or with your family? This is the occult at work, and it is a killer spirit. It's one thing to expose someone else's darkness, and it's something entirely different to deal with your own deception.
HALLOWEEN EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR
I personally believe it's absolute foolishness for Christians to participate in Halloween, and I've written on it quite a bit in the past.
You can read one of my articles titled Halloween: The Invitation HERE.
Here is a portion of the article that speaks to our topic:
Over my last 25 years of ministry, I have had many encounters with witchcraft and the evil that is celebrated on Halloween, and I implore you to trust me: If you participate in Halloween at any level, you are at risk. There is nothing innocent about it and there is no way to sanctify it. The stories I could tell would make your skin crawl.
The level of demonic activity around the world on this night should result in millions of Christians gathering together to pray on fire in response.
We must understand that a key role for us as Christians is to expose darkness. Strangely, instead of doing that with anointing and passion, when October rolls around, Christians—actual blood bought servants of a holy God—are actually enjoying and promoting darkness. If we understood the evil that surrounds this unholy day, we’d shout from the rooftops the danger and evil that is overcoming our culture.
It might shock you to consider that you may oppose Halloween while still vigorously affirming the occult. It's one thing to stand opposed to the clear, demonic and evil activities that surround Halloween, but if we embrace those same demons in the hopes they will help us hide our 365 day-a-year sin, we are deeply deceived—and in a lot of trouble.
As dark as Halloween is, and it is extremely dark, I propose the occult that's present in so many devoted Christians the rest of the year is even more deadly. Covering up immorality will devour even the most devoted religious person.
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
PORN, LUST AND OTHER SECRETS
8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), Ephesians 5:8-9 (ESV)
I believe one of the most valuable attributes of a healthy marriage is transparency. Not only is it a catalyst for intimacy, but it diffuses the darkness.
When Amy and I we were first married 24 years ago, we agreed to alert other the moment we found ourselves even the slightest bit attracted to someone else in an unhealthy manner. If there was an emotional connection initiating, or if unrighteous thoughts attempted to come in regarding another person, we were quick to share that.
The result? It was diffused. Our voluntary accountability and devotion to bring things into the light not only immediately diffused a few specific situations, it resulted in a culture within our marriage that was not conducive to immoral and threatening feelings and behaviors flourishing.
This commitment to each other has expanded to most every part of our lives. My wife, Amy, knows she can access any device I own, any computer, any phone, any tablet, and freely search through them. She can check my history. I can do the same on her devices. Any inappropriate pictures, videos, messages or material would be easily discovered. We are both grateful to God that porn, lust or impure media is not a part of our lives, and our entire marriage from start to where we are now is a testament to that. It feels good to be squeaky clean, and thanks to the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the darkness never has to overtake us. The occult must give way to the light!
12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (ESV)
I want to encourage you to reject deceptive, occultic strategies. Don't hide the various compartments of your life, but rather be an open book. Don't live in fear of being exposed, but readily invite scrutiny in. You can be completely, entirely free from lust, pornography, anger, addictions, immorality and every other behavior and vice!
This means you will make a dramatic shift in the direction of holiness. Celebrate the opportunity to eliminate questionable television and movies. Get excited about shutting out secular music in favor of Holy Spirit anointed worship music. Allow joy to replace your anger. You can finally be free from everything you've been trying to hide. The light of Jesus will certainly bring freedom to you and your family!
You will then become a mighty threat to the darkness, ready to expose it, devoted to assaulting the devils that are celebrated by so many this time of year.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:11-14 (ESV)
Three simple yet powerful truths will help unlock your financial future.
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When my family of seven moved to Branson, Missouri, we were in uncharted territory after twenty years of local church ministry. We were excited to jump into this new season, yet we knew we'd have to get creative with our financial strategy. The Ozark Mountains have millions of beautiful trees, but money doesn't grow on any of them.
Super long story very short, we decided to start a new business in this tourist destination. Specifically, a new escape room attraction was our plan, and we had a lot work ahead of us in the next six weeks (yes six!) before we opened the doors.
THE SECRET SAUCE OF FINANCIAL FREEDOM
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Today, the escape room industry is quite saturated and it's difficult to start one in most cities. Competition is fierce. In late 2015, however, that was not the case. Nobody had started an escape room in Branson, and we felt it made sense to move toward being the first as being first to market in this industry is critical.
We believe this was a “God idea,” and we didn't hesitate in our planning for one minute. Time was of the essence. From that point on, we remained prayerful and diligent as we covered every base we could find, and then several we didn't even knew existed! We consulted with experts, researched (and visited) many other escape rooms in the nation and learned all we could about starting a business. We studied nonstop.
Understand, God absolutely has given us the power, the ability, to create wealth. What does this mean? He paved the way, but he's not going to do it for us. He has set us up for success. He's ready to move miraculously as we move obediently. He is the one who will bring the increase, yet, it's you and I who must move out and build the systems, do our due diligence and work smartly in the creation of wealth. Of course, we must be very careful to understand that it's God, and not us, who enables this wealth creating ability. (Wealth is simply financial resource, money and material goods that we can use in our lives and to advance the Kingdom Wealth and wealthy are not one in the same.)
For us, this step of applying wisdom also included hiring the best architect, consulting with the city's planning department, following every one of their rules perfectly, choosing the right colors and design for our logo and other branding, researching how to best market and how much to spend on ads and so much more. In fact, our diligence resulted in passing a state audit a few years later with flying colors. They were gladly surprised to see such honesty and attention to detail. Precise record keeping, among other disciplines is wisdom, and wisdom is one of the three keys to financial breakthrough.
When we understand God gives us the power to create wealth, it's important that we believe it, that we respond to it and that we do it rightly.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
In the midst of learning how to relate to the fire department, the planning department and other city officials, it got a little scary. The little money we had was being devoured by the thousands, and if this didn't work, we were in trouble!
Even though the Branson, Missouri city leaders and employees are absolutely amazing, we were in the dark regarding approval processes and how much there was to do when opening a business here. At one point Amy, my wife, was in tears and ready to stop everything. It was too much. Today she shares that it was my faith that kept her on board. She's so thankful that we stayed the course!
As a side note, it's wonderful being in a relationship that exhibits such diverse giftings, strengths and weaknesses. Amy is absolutely brilliant in the wisdom department. Faith regarding finances specifically is a strength of mine. We both have to consistently monitor all of our various ventures in life to ensure both faith and wisdom are working together. Leaping out in faith without being wise is a recipe for disaster. Wisdom without faith will keep us hiding out in caves!
Knowing that God has promised to supply our every need makes it easier to keep moving forward. Faith is a result of trusting truth found in Scripture. God has gone before us and he understands we are fully reliant on him.
23 The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)
This final ingredient in our secret sauce is one that may trigger financial breakthrough for many. Peace.
Peace is a manifestation of faith, and the above verse has been a very important one for the Burton family. God knows faith requires risk, and he doesn't want us holding back due to overreaching “wisdom,” which is actually fear. He wants us jumping, moving, shifting and advancing!
So, he makes it clear that, as we do this, he has our back. He's ordering our steps. As long as we are living rightly, moving ahead the best we can, trusting his voice and refusing to allow any measure of fear to keep us paralyzed, that he will keep us on the straight and narrow. Wisdom plus faith equals peace. If we aren't at peace, we need to evaluate why before moving forward. It may reveal a lack of wisdom or misguided faith.
God is not waiting to crush us under the weight of his disapproval. He is cheering for us! Even if, after investing in the process that wisdom demands and after doing our best to respond to God's instructions in faith, we fail, he's got us! He will make things right. He will order our every step. We don't have to hesitate, delay or be afraid. God will take very good care of us, even if we stumble.
Miraculously, we opened Escape Code in Branson, Missouri six weeks after having the first thought about starting a new business. The sign was up, the rooms designed, the website published, marketing launched and the open sign turned on—and people started coming! Wisdom, faith and peace were the secret sauce that caused this to happen.
Since then we've received awards and recognition including being voted the fifth best escape room in the nation by USA Today in 2017! It's exciting to see God moving in a project from concept to implementation!
A NEW TEST(IMONY)
Tests are simply an opportunity for a testimony.
We believe it's important (and wise) to develop multiple streams of income. In addition to Escape Code I make a little (very little) selling my books and we enjoy producing travel videos on our YouTube channel that has recently become eligible for monetization (we can't wait for our first $100 check!). In addition to those endeavors, we decided to implement our wisdom/faith/peace strategy again by opening two additional businesses, both of then right next door to Escape Code in the same shopping mall.
The Axe Game's build out was more expensive than we had expected and Sagas Mysteries would have to wait an additional twelve months before we opened it, even though we were pouring money into the lease for an empty storefront (which we had to secure so we didn't lose it).
The investment and monthly expenses, even though we applied as much wisdom as we could have, and moved out in faith, with peace, resulted in a difficult season. It greatly impacted our overall financial situation.
The solution? This might seem insignificant, but it's what God prescribed: In addition to our regular tithe and our already established additional monthly offerings and other giving, in the midst of financial crisis, we were to start giving an additional one percent. We did that, and last month the entire investment in our new businesses was paid off! New seasons will have new tests, but if we implement wisdom, faith and peace, God will always be there!
It's wise to give. It takes faith to give. We should be at peace when we give. Add increased giving to the other strategies that also require wisdom, faith and peace and you'll start to see a new financial culture developed in your life and family.
Oh, and by the way, this secret sauce isn't really secret at all. It's all right there in the pages of Scripture.
Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
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However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
The uniting of two sinister forces, hyper-grace and hyper-love, has created a ferocious monster that is devastating lives.
I'm going to do something I've never done, because I believe right now, in light of the current false-grace/false-love crisis, the message of my book “The Coming Church” is an urgent one. I'm giving away the ebook version of this 300 page nuclear bomb of prophetic revelation for FREE. Download your copy immediately HERE.
I believe there are two evil, powerful and seductive demonic spirits that are roaming freely in churches all over the world, and people are celebrating them, promoting them and imparting them into millions of others. These spirits, dark and crafty entities that have already caused extreme destruction in innumerable people, are: hyper-grace and hyper-love.
The reason I call these two mindsets, philosophies and theologies “spirits” is simple: Satan has devised a scheme to deceive the church to such a degree that people believe themselves to be radical followers of Jesus while living in such a way that disqualifies them from an eternity with Jesus. Those infected by hyper-grace and hyper-love are at great risk, with many of them already surrendering their salvation and many others moving in that direction.
I was at Jimmy Swaggart's confession in 1988. I helped give leadership to a city-wide prayer movement with Ted Haggard approximately 15 years ago. My wife and I had a private meeting with Todd Bentley in Lakeland in 2008. All three had a powerful, undeniable anointing. All three failed dramatically. Hyper-grace didn't restore them. Hyper-love didn't remedy the destruction.
I remember John Bevere sharing the story of him visiting Jim Bakker in prison. John asked Jim, “When did you stop loving God?” Jim shocked John Bevere by saying, “I never stopped loving God. I stopped fearing God.”
Listen to the podcast…
For a closer view into this topic of hyper-love, read one of my more popular articles titled, “The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise,” HERE.
When we encounter love, we will be presented with a view of God that is quite different than what we previously understood to be true. God’s love can be expressed in a very direct, uncomfortable way that breaks you and may even wonder how a loving God could act that way. God’s expression of love will often put you at risk, threaten you and trouble you. ~The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise
I'll say it loud, clear and repeatedly until it's finally received: The love of God that results in glorious breakthrough and warm feelings, no matter how great the revelation, is not nearly enough to keep us calibrated with the heart and expectations of God. (Yes, contrary to the love camp, God absolutely has expectations. If you read your Bible, you can't miss them.)
I've heard from countless people, most of them wonderful yet deceived, that all we need to do, whether its in evangelism, in our personal relationship with Jesus, in ministry or in any place in our life is to focus on God's love. Reveal God's love. Preach God's love. Grow in understanding of God's love. Go deep in God's love. Meditate on God's love. Study about God's love. Minister God's love.
I'll be the first to say that I agree we have the glorious opportunity to do what they are campaigning for. Going deep in revelation of God's love will mark us, transform us and overwhelm us. God's love is powerful beyond description. However, it's not enough.
The fear of God is critical (and fear here doesn't always translate as reverence. It's also translated as terror in places.) We must embrace both God's kindness and severity. We must minister both.
Someone mentioned to me that God would forgive him if he starts dating a girl who wants to have sex prior to marriage. He knew that this sin was wrong, but he didn't believe it was a big deal, and God certainly wouldn't send anybody to Hell over it. He argued he could just ask for forgiveness later and all would be well.
While most might not be as brazen as this young man, millions would actually agree with him. The percentages of people who profess Christ while also living in sexual sin is staggering. Fornication, pornography, lust, adultery and other sinful lifestyles are a pandemic in the church. A misunderstanding of God's love has led to this. The bible is clear on just what appropriate love looks like in this case:
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 5:11-13 (ESV)
True love protects the flock, and true love trusts God's wisdom. True love obeys God even when it doesn't feel like the humanized love so many have adopted.
When leaders are the ones in sin, love demands we handle it immediately. Ministry must stop for that individual. Restoration into the ministry is not the next step. It's possible they will never step behind a pulpit again. That's okay. Ministry has become an idol for too many. True love will expose that in someone's heart and deal with it.
True repentance is so rare today. I am waiting for the day the failed minister is more broken over the lives he destroyed than he is endeavoring to start preaching again. That is true love in action.
We as Christians are not exempt from judgment or from the repercussions of sin. If we are in Christ, there is no condemnation, but if we are deceived by false theology into thinking we are in Christ, while actually living in disobedience, we are in trouble. We are not in Christ and there is condemnation. No salvation. The wrath of God remains on us. False-grace doctrine is eternally deadly. There are many people following Jesus today in an unsaved condition. ~Five Marks of the False-Grace Message
When you add the deception of hyper-love to hyper-grace, a rampant theology that actually encourages Christians NOT to confess sin, you have a two-headed monster that is bringing widespread destruction to the church.
Those who subscribe to both deceptions promote God's love and forgiveness to the exclusion of his severity, and they believe God is indifferent to sin. This monster creates the perfect environment for sin to be nurtured, and to kill.
15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:15 (ESV)
So, the response to sin is tepid. The threat is wildly minimized.
Instead of a severe and immediate response to sin, “love” and “grace” is enacted, believing all is well and that is all that's necessary to see happy restoration take place. This fallacy has put millions in the path of unrepentant ministers and has caused many of those millions to adopt doctrines of demons as a result.
When true love and true grace are in play, it looks very different than the passive, mild response we see today. People presume that we are all sinners (we are not) and that we all sin daily (we should not) and therefore the sexual sin, sins of leadership, unforgiveness, lust, greed and any other number of evil acts are minimized, deemed benign. In reality, unrepentant, unresolved sin is eternally deadly, especially for Christians.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
False-love coupled with false-grace will rip people to shreds spiritually. It's already seduced untold numbers of people.
I want to encourage you to read a bold, sobering and tear-driven message from Jeremiah Johnson regarding the recent controversy regarding Todd Bentley and Rick Joyner. It was written with much prayer and fasting, and the message it contains will have us all trembling in the fear of the Lord. You can read the message titled, “An Open Letter To The Body Of Christ 8/26/19,” HERE.
If you'd like more details on the current crisis, read a Charisma News article titled, “Revivalist Todd Bentley Accused of ‘Sexual Perversion' With Male, Female Interns,” that was released today HERE.
Bethel Church has an opportunity to correct a seriously flawed post regarding LGBTQ+. They are on the clock.
(I'd like to offer to you my most potent and critical book, The Terror of Hell, for FREE. More info below.)
It was a day, not unlike every other day, doing what most every person on the planet does: flicking through posts on Facebook. Then, something caught my attention. I did a double-take and read it again. And again. I was shocked.
At the time of this writing, the post in question had over 2.5 thousand comments, and it seems that a large number of them voiced grief and great concern. Also at the time of this writing, clarification has not been given and the post has not been taken down nor reworded.
CHANGED, a ministry of Bethel Church in Redding, California, wrote the post and included the following statement in it:
God loves all people, LGBTQ+ and straight. The message of CHANGED has never been “All Must Change.” We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!
Of course, this was immediately troubling to me as it seemed as if Bethel Church was moving closer to the false-grace, hyper-love philosophy that is bewitching so much of the church today. However, I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. I don't believe it's appropriate to launch into attack mode, as many of today's “protectors of truth” tend to do. It's important to honor even when questions and controversies arise. I am believing that Bethel Church will bring clarity to a murky and concerning situation.
Listen to the podcast on this topic…
Here's my response to their post:
Oh no. Please, Bethel Church, PLEASE rethink this. Reconsider your wording. The following that you wrote is NOT GOOD. Did you possibly word it incorrectly?
“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in identifying as LGBTQ+. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”
Since then, there's been quite a stir among many who are equally troubled about their apparent stance. Some Christian news sites are picking up the story as well.
Bethel Church bashed on social media for being ‘weak’ on LGBTQ+ stance ~Premier Christian Magazine
Today, I received a response from Bethel Church to my request for clarification:
We believe you can fully love someone who you disagree with, Jesus modeled this for us well.
Of course we must love those we disagree with. This is such an obvious concept that it makes one wonder if they are attempting to toe the line or to completely cover something up. What do they really believe? Right now, nobody knows.
We still don't know if:
1. You simply worded your original post wrongly.
2. You actually believe Christians can identify as LGBTQ+ and for those who are fulfilled and happy, there is no further action necessary.
I'm curious about what would happen if they were addressing another issue in their ministry, and posted the following:
“We share these stories specifically for Christians who are unfulfilled in viewing pornography. For those of you who feel fulfilled and happy as you are, we love you!”
You can switch out the key word with any. What if they are unfulfilled in child abuse? Pornography? Fornication? Hatred? It's clear that Bethel Church must clarify their statement. The confusion can be catastrophic for those who are convinced that respected, well-known Christian leaders are affirming their lifestyles. Yet, they are available to talk if they should ever want to change, if they stop enjoying their lifestyle. I honestly don't think their position could be any weaker, more confusing or more dangerous.
ALL MUST CHANGE
Contrary to the message that Bethel Church is communicating, very directly and boldly I might add, radical, wholesale change is absolutely required for those who desire to follow Jesus.
A revelation of our debauchery and hopelessness is the critical starting point when sharing the Gospel with someone. We cannot cover up this reality out of fear that someone will get defensive, offended or resistant to the message. Do we even understand anymore in our hyper-modern age that God is holy? If we modify the message of truth in hopes of ensuring a longer, more “successful” audience with a sinner, we are in serious violation.
Simply revealing the love of God to someone is NOT evangelism. In fact, it can have devastating results. It takes much more than a love revelation to draw someone into a legitimate relationship with Jesus.
As was done with the Rich Young Ruler, you must make it hard, not easy, to follow Jesus. You aren't a salesman, you are a representative of a holy God. Address sin, hell, the fear of the Lord, surrender, the cost of following Jesus and the personal loss that will result.
They will lose friends, leave immorality and selfishness behind, surrender all and sign up as a martyr should God call them to that.
If they eagerly repent after you share all that, you'll know they are starting their Christian journey the right way. If you only share God's love with them, they are at great risk of living their entire lives convinced all is well while actually following Jesus in an unsaved condition.
STOP minimizing the cost of following Jesus and hiding offensive truth in the hopes that people will get saved.
If they don't like God as he is or if they get offended when faced with their own wickedness, let them walk. They have zero bargaining power as they are mere moments away from entering Hell. That sounds harsh, but it's truth. God is who he is, and we can't attempt to make him more attractive. He truly is a loving and fearful God.
Of course, their decision to walk should rip at our hearts, launching us into tears and intercession for them. True love looks just like this. Refusal to confront with truth is damaging beyond measure, and Hell is growing larger because of it.
The idea that Bethel Church is propagating (even if they erred in communication) that you can identify as both a Christian and as LGBTQ+ is extremely dangerous, not to mention fully and completely wrong. Can you be a Christian pornographer? A Christian adulterer? A Christian serial killer? A Christian witch? It's lunacy. Until Bethel Church refutes this idea and corrects their error, this is what people will be led to believe.
Today many are arguing that all sin is the same, and that Christians are in fact themselves sinners, and that homosexuality is no different than lying. I'd encourage you to read an article that I wrote titled, “No, Not All Sin Is The Same—Here's Proof.”
First, it's untrue that all sin is the same. That idea is fully unbiblical, and the article I linked to above will bring clarity on the matter.
Second, Christians are not sinners. We absolutely should not be living a life of sin as the world does. If we do, we are in trouble for sure.
We are living in a time when the high majority of evangelical young people are having sex outside of marriage. A huge percentage of Christians, including pastors, are regularly viewing pornography. The Bible clearly reveals that continuing in sin as Christians has dire, eternal consequences. Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27
I'd like to offer the ebook version of my book The Terror of Hell to you for free. It's a short read but a troubling and revealing—and life-altering—account of an encounter I had with the forces of Hell. God placed a disturbance in my spirit that has lasted nearly 30 years, right up to this very moment. He said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.” My life was forever changed. My life message was given to me.
You can download the book here: https://burton.tv/the-terror-of-hell
This is why I'm so disturbed by messages like the one that Bethel Church is communicating. I believe they, if not more careful, can lead millions to the slaughter. Hell can absolutely be the result of faulty theology.
Now, all of this being said, I am absolutely holding out hope that Bethel Church will bring better clarification than what they offered me in the comments of the Facebook post.
They are tackling a very important issue in our generation, and I pray they are able to do it with utmost biblical integrity instead of sociological, philosophical, psychological strategies.
A defiled, confused version of sexual satisfaction bombards our culture. It's time for a new sexual paradigm.
So, I told my wife I was writing an article on sex. She laughed and said, “You don't know anything about sex!” After my crushed ego was healed (not really), I laughed right back and said, “I know! But, people need to hear about the amazing resource we discovered this weekend!”
So, with that in mind, if you are a married, Christian couple, read this. All of it. You'll thank me!
You can listen to a podcast on this topic here…
Then, I want to encourage you to jump at the chance to participate in a retreat at Focus on the Family that my wife Amy and I attended this past weekend.
Discovering Passion: Keys to Sexual Fulfillment in Marriage at the Focus on the Family retreat center in Branson, Missouri was phenomenal! It was eye-opening, fun and refreshing. In fact, our previous retreat several months ago was so life-changing, that we had to come back for more! You can read about that powerful experience in a Charisma News article HERE.
God is ready to breathe life into your marriage and into your sex life. Healing awaits. A life of intimacy and adventure is God's desire for you and your spouse!
21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced. 2 Corinthians 12:21 (ESV)
Why are Christians tapping into the same evil seduction in the realm of sex that a vile, defiled and confused culture is? Sex between a married Christian couple should be absolutely nothing like the spirit of lust and sexual deviation that drives unbelievers, yet sadly, many Christian married men and women seek to “lust their way” to satisfaction.
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. Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)
Christians have all too often been duped by the same crafty demonic spirit that the world has. The enemy has a grand scheme and is uniquely anointed to bring all-consuming destruction to people, both in and out of the church, by promoting a twisted, demented and extremely seductive spirit of lust.
The passion surrounding sex for Christians, while sometimes bridled, seeks to satisfy the same desires that those who are outside of Christ do. This is why pornography among Christians, and even among pastors and Christian leaders, is so widespread.
3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV)
The focus is on an intense yet momentary experience instead of a much more satisfying, intimate and holy union between two people. “Sanctified lust” is not what God has planned for Believers. There is something so radically, wonderfully and mysteriously different for God's people in the area of sex, yet so few discover it. We, as godly men and women, are privileged in ways the world is not. If we have a true revelation of marital intimacy, we will be determined to give and receive love in ways the world could never understand. It's holy. It's pure. It's passionate.
THE CHRISTIAN DILEMMA
Christian marriages are regularly marred by self-focused arguments surrounding sex. The smiling faces you see on Sunday mornings are often experiencing wounding, rejection, frustration, temptation and confusion about their sex life. Churches are historically ill-equipped at addressing this issue, and this must change.
Further, churches are equally flawed regarding ministering to teens and singles about sex. This issue has very destructive earthly consequences, and it also has horrifying eternal repercussions. To ignore what is possibly the number one issue of morality and wholeness in the church is a catastrophic move by most of today's Christian leaders.
I propose appropriate yet direct and regular conversations, in safe settings, and with great integrity, on the topic of sex. If pornography is a daily struggle for many (most?) in the church, sex must be a teaching and equipping topic continually. If marriages are tense and often falling apart over this issue of sex, if husbands and wives aren't intimate and coming together as one as God intended, the church must step up to the plate.
I believe resources like we discovered at Focus on the Family can help churches in very specific and effective ways. Discussion was direct. Sexual situations were addressed without hesitating to speak plainly. I believe Christians are yearning for this, yet they have not had an outlet or resource to help them with their extremely sensitive and vulnerable questions. Too often they turn to secular culture for insight.
A NEW PARADIGM: ONENESS
24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:24-25 (ESV)
As my wife and I discovered at this amazing Focus on the Family retreat, which, by the way, was led by remarkable and highly qualified counselors including a Christian sex therapist, the pursuit of “oneness” is a much higher goal than a series of short lived, euphoric encounters.
The holiness, selflessness and deeper love experienced in the pursuit of oneness will make the demands and desires for a simple act of sex nearly grieving. The loss experienced when oneness isn't the intent of being together is tangible.
Of course, I can never do justice to the revelation we received during this retreat in a short article. I can simply say that my eyes were truly opened and there was language given to what previously felt like a nebulous, unintelligible truths about God's amazing gift of sex. Questions were answered, vulnerable discussions were had, tears were shed and legitimate excitement about a brand new chapter in our marriages hit us all.
6 How beautiful and pleasant you are, O loved one, with all your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (ESV)
The act of marital love, when done as Believers with the Holy Spirit indwelling us, is absolutely nothing like what we see in our sexualized culture today. The adventure, the romance, the experience brings never-ending new layers, depths, revelations, joy, fulfillment and fun!
The weekend ends with a session on “Affair Proofing your Marriage,” followed by “Leaving a Legacy of Sexual Wholeness.” God has called us to victory in this area, and that victory will be felt through your family line for generations to come!
I want to encourage you to consider attending this marriage-altering weekend retreat at Focus on the Family right here in our hometown of Branson, Missouri.
You don't have to live your life fighting about sex. Rejection and anger is not your portion. Freedom from sexual frustration and disappointment awaits. Indescribable intimacy with your spouse and a brand new, God-ordained sexual journey is worth the small price you have to pay to attend this weekend in the beautiful Ozark Mountains.
Even today's most Spirit-filled churches must embrace radical reformation.
Listen to a short podcast as I describe the 2 Chronicles church model, a revelation-driven, prophetic model, that must come to the church, and fast. Then, read this article. It's time for revolution.
TODAY'S SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH EXPERIENCE
Like most of you, I have quite a memory bank full of church experiences, many of them phenomenal, many of them poor, but most of them quite average, not memorable, good, but honestly disappointing and unsatisfying.
There is a collective roar sounding over our nation, a bellowing cry for an end to church as usual. (By the way, here's the definition of bellow: emit a deep loud roar, typically in pain or anger. I think that fits.)
People are no longer impressed by a skilled worship team, a perfect flow, professional preaching or big dollar theatrics. They want a mighty move of God.
If you listened to the podcast, you'll understand that I'm attempting to bring distinction between today's very good Spirit-filled church experience and the radical reformation that must come. We are all familiar with the Sunday ritual:
- Be welcomed by greeters, friends and maybe the pastor.
- Acknowledge the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit while worshiping for 30-40 minutes or so.
- Shift into a time for the offering and announcements.
- Listen to a decent message.
- Possibly spend some time at the altar as God touches your heart.
- Shake some more hands and then head out to lunch.
- Repeat next Sunday
This is a good experience. However, it's not the experience that can call down fire, usher in revival or shake the nations. Massive reformation must come to some very good Spirit-filled churches.
1 As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)
I believe a mark of revival just might not be full buildings, but rather empty buildings.
Prayer and sacrifice resulted in fire coming down from heaven and the glory of the Lord filling the place! When that dramatic, supernatural event impacted that building, nobody could enter. They all hit the pavement and worshiped and declared God's goodness! This is the church experience the remnant is crying out for!
Pastors will have to fully stop their pursuits of numeric church growth and shift their efforts to facilitating a white-hot atmosphere of intercession, groans, tongues of fire and prophetic unction. Understand, the church isn't a house of teaching, a house of friendships, a house of evangelism. It's a house of prayer. If a church isn't praying in the Spirit as the very foundation of their ministry, then all of the rest is compromised. Powerless. Out of order. Every person in the church must be fully devoted to praying in tongues and allowing the groans of the Spirit to burn through them.
Instead producing an order of service that expects more people to be drawn in, pastors must raise the bar, turn up the temperature and contend with the remnant in otherworldly prayer—fully expecting most others to be repelled. The pretenders will be identified, but so will the faithful and hungry. You will find your remnant when you start offering what the remnant is longing for.
We must have a 180-degree response to the ultra-damaging seeker-sensitive movement of recent decades. We can grieve the Holy Spirit no longer by keeping him on a leash, tied up outside of the sanctuary. For too long, people have been expected to leave the Holy Spirit (and the manifestations he brings with him) outside the church building, though they were certainly free to untie him and take him home with them if they so chose. Ichabod churches are numerous and God is absolutely grieved. We should be too.
But, let me bring this back to center. It's easy to identify the spiritually dead or the supernaturally resistant churches. This message certainly can target them, but more specifically, it targets the spiritually vibrant churches that I identified above.
There are many such churches that are great places to raise a family, to connect with other Believers and to worship and grow in God. But, again, I'm sounding an urgent alarm—this church experience is insufficient. In fact, such churches can become breeding grounds of mediocrity. It's easy to attend such churches and to be casual in our relationship with Jesus. It's easy to be active in sin. It's easy to hide in the shadows.
On the contrary, churches that are marked by fire, with everybody praying in tongues, groaning in the Spirit, crying out for revival and contending for holiness, you cannot hide.
When everybody is praying, walking, crying, living and groaning in the Holy Spirit, when the fire of God sears them, when the challenge is intense and the atmosphere intentionally aggressive, impurities, sins and resistance are exposed. I've seen it time and again.
Sundays must quickly shift. Now. In fact, we are way behind schedule.
Instead of shaking hands and greeting visitors and meeting with friends, people will walk trembling into the sanctuary as a roar of intercession explodes throughout. People will be on their faces with deep supernatural groans erupting out of them. Others will be pacing, repenting, kneeling, crying out or exalting God with great passion.
Instead of sing-a-longs and sermons, a revelation-driven church will be filled with prophetic decrees, biblical declarations, groans of intercession and messages that shift atmospheres, all while people are shaking, hungering and crying out for fire to fall and for the Holy Spirit to come.
You might be surprised at how many visitors actually are drawn to such a life-changing and legitimate move of God. You might also be surprised at how many elders, Sunday School teachers, staff pastors, worship leaders, ushers and pillars of the church run for the exits with complaints and curses in their mouths.
This reformation will shake everything that can be shaken, but we can delay no longer.
May the supernatural church arise and the stigma of Ichabod be decimated as the Holy Spirit manifests in supernatural wonder again.
Pastors are called to lead you to the furnace of intercession. Stop resisting.
Why is it so rare to find churches that are baptized in fire and saturated in the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit? So many long to walk into a church on a Sunday morning where people are laid out all over the room, others pacing in prayer and many trembling under the weighty glory of God as the fire of the Holy Spirit burns over everyone.
I'll give you a one reason, and it might not be what you want to hear: Manipulative and controlling people.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2 (ESV)
I wonder if the typical church goer understands the extreme warfare revival and prayer-minded pastors and church leaders experience every single day. The swirls of demonic activity blows violently around them and their families nonstop, and the wickedness that provokes this assault is very often initiated from those who are supposed to be holding up their arms. Christian witchcraft manifesting through hand raising, Bible reading, tithe paying, small group leading members of their church is suffocating—and sickening.
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I remember my core intercession teams both in Colorado and Michigan would frequently cancel curses over my family and me. They'd stand in the gap. I was often in the hot seat receiving protective prayer as they broke off the arrows shot into my back, weapons of warfare that were wielded by people who shook my hand and smiled as they entered the church each week.
This was a distraction to the mission, and it impacted our ability to deal with the curses and attacks from actual witches and warlocks that had us on their Satanic prayer list as a target. To be hit from outside and from within is a smart strategy of the enemy. He's out to kill ministries, to destroy them. He's all too ready to use selfish people who demand they are heard and obeyed.
I know from the testimonies of other pastors and from my own experience, dealing with troublemakers, resisters and manipulators is absolutely draining. Distracting. Grieving.
Visionary leaders are single-minded. They are advancing, calling surrendered people to run with them as they are focused on assaulting the kingdom of darkness. They are Gideons. They are looking for those who are full of faith, who are humble, faithful and who won't shrink back as they run toward the enemy's camp.
I've heard from many people who are disgruntled with pastors, and some for good reason. But, how often do we hear about pastors who are just fed up with the witchcraft in their midst? It must stop!
Read the story of Korah. Read it slowly. You do not want to be counted among the resisters. Do you have any idea how serious God is about protecting his leaders and his mission? I know, many of you might be triggered at such a bold defense of men and women of God. I cannot apologize. It's time God's ordained end-time revivalists are supported and encouraged as they contend for an outpouring and the advance of the Kingdom of God.
11 Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” Numbers 16:11 (ESV)
31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. Numbers 16:31-35 (ESV)
THE RESISTERS NEED TO REPENT OR LEAVE
If you are resistant to revival, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to groans of the Spirit and tongues of fire and to an atmosphere of desperation, depth, freedom and extreme hunger, and your church is attempting to pursue and affirm these things…just leave. Disappear.
Stop being an irritant and a pain to the pastor you are supposed to be honoring and supporting. Quit with your manipulation, control and witchcraft. Stop presuming your opinions and insights are so important and that your voice must be heeded. You are hindering the Holy Spirit and those who are passionate about Jesus.
The enemy is using you and you need to either move on or repent in tears. I can't imagine being the one that stood in the way of a move of God. Grieving the Holy Spirit is a serious violation and I pray the fear of the Lord grips you.
Pastors, I pray you have the guts to power through the threats and spirits of control in your midst and refuse to hold back. There are masses waiting for you to help initiate a move of the Holy Spirit that will transform their lives and change where they spend eternity. It's on you!
I'd encourage you to read an article I wrote about the need for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to return to our churches. Pastors, you must lead the charge. It's time for reformation. It's time for fire.
Read the article here:
Bizarre, supernatural manifestations should be normal in the church. What happened?
When given the choice between hearing another sermon and witnessing invisible and very active demons being cast out of a precious soul, I'm buying the ticket to the deliverance. Why then, if deliverance is even allowed at all, is it so often stopped so they can escort the individual into a back room somewhere? Today's church needs to see the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the power of the enemy in people's lives right before their eyes!
Here's a podcast on this topic:
In fact, supernatural manifestations are consistently shut down as irritations or some sort of spiritual disorder. Manifestations should be expected, not avoided. We must allow our all-powerful God to interact with the people. When such a mighty force touches weak, finite humans, it's simply impossible to maintain our casual or dignified disposition. We will react with shock, awe and wonder!
THIS REACHES BEYOND SIMPLE SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS
Too often the Western church is functioning in the safe, natural, middle ground, and the demons remain in hiding, very active and unconcerned about any Christian interference. There is no threat.
However, when a deeply determined and wildly prophetic people who are devoted to intercession and warfare unite, the unseen world starts to shake under the weight of their authority.
When people like this advance together, they are met with dramatic and often bizarre supernatural reactions. Demons and angels engage and respond, and this will be easily discerned by men and women of God who live their lives in the spiritual realm. The invisible realm becomes exposed.
We must have mature warriors who understand the realm of the invisible and who function in great authority giving key leadership in our churches. It's laughable to think that a church is truly having impact if the enemy isn't provoked and if the Holy Spirit isn't manifesting.
A DEMONIC COMMAND CENTER IN MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
I'm astonished at how often Christians live in disbelief (or disinterest) regarding the demonic world. The story I'm about to share can easily be dismissed as too extreme. They'd prefer to climb back under their safe, comfy blanket and deny reality—all while the demonic army gains strength and momentum. Hiding under the blankets or sticking your head in the sand is no strategy against such a formidable force.
The Lord had revealed to me that Manitou Springs was a demonic communication center, a command center, much like NORAD, which was an active center of defense for our nation for years just a few miles from our town at the base of Pikes Peak. Further, it was expressed that Manitou Springs, at the base of America's mountain, was called to be an angelic command center of revival for the nation. We had a lot of work to do. A complete take-over and shift in authority must occur.
My lead intercessors and I were prayer walking through the streets of Manitou Springs, Colorado several years ago. This city is well known for it's occult roots. Anton LaVey, who wrote the Satanic bible, lived there. Witchcraft is rampant and homosexuality and liberal ideals promoted. In fact, the pastor of the city at the time led a profoundly heretical church.
During this particular prayer walk, which was one of hundreds, we were interceding on the grounds of a very old Episcopal church property. Suddenly, I saw a dark entity, a hooded creature. I told my intercessory friends, Miles and Jodi, about the encounter and we quickly moved closer to the church building where this demon was seen (and had since ducked into hiding).
It's extremely important that we are all prophetic people, able to hear God's voice very clearly. If we don't, we can miss some life altering instructions and revelations. What God said next was absolutely critical for the advance of the Kingdom in this dark city.
God told us the demon was a messenger on assignment, and that he was there to receive the keys of authority to the city. He was to transport them to his leaders. Understand, the enemy is granted great authority to advance its agenda when humans are in agreement. It gives power to their assignments. God revealed this particular messenger, on a very important mission, was fully surprised to see Spirit-filled children of God at his rendezvous point. It was even more shocked that I saw it. We prayed, seeking instructions on how to deal with this situation. God told us to intercept the keys. The authority in Manitou Springs was being transferred that day in surprise fashion.
AN ASSIGNMENT DEEP INSIDE THE EARTH
Very shortly after this transfer of authority I, along with very experienced and high ranking intercessors from the surrounding states gathered together for a prayer assignment in Manitou Springs. After some dramatic prophetic experiences that day, we capped it off with our primary assignment deep within a cave system.
The intercessors knew Manitou had very evil roots and a wicked history, and they wanted to gain spiritual intelligence so they could devise a strategy. As we were all about to enter the cave, the regional intercessory leader, who was a little older than the rest of us, told me she wouldn't be going into the cave. She would stay back and cover us in prayer. She then privately gave me an assignment: determine whether the deep part of the cave where we were going to end up was a demonic command center.
I eagerly accepted the challenge and then I, along with the rest of the team, started our journey into the depths. As I was walking deeper into the cave, I began to understand the severity of the assignment. I certainly didn't want to presume anything. I didn't want to guess. I needed to hear from God clearly about whether our final destination was in fact a center of demonic activity that was focused on destroying the people of Manitou Springs and the nation, or not.
When we finally entered the furthest room in the cave system, I was absolutely stunned at what I was experiencing. All I could think was, “The Holy Spirit isn't welcome here.” It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The void created by the absence of God's manifest presence was something I never want to feel again. It felt like Hell without the fire and torment, and I can't imagine spending even a few seconds in there. However, I was on assignment and I had to deal with this supernatural reality. I couldn't leave. We stopped and turned off our lights and began to pray. It was perfectly dark.
I hit my knees, trembling, wondering what was going to happen and what God wanted us to do. In the spirit, I saw the earth open underneath me. A massive entity emerged from the depths. This was a portal between the demonic realm and the land of the living. I did in fact discover a demonic command center.
I was experiencing intercession unlike any time in my life. It's impossible to describe the experience. I was beyond overwhelmed, shaking, undone, disturbed.
It was confirmed that the determined agreement of humans in Manitou Springs with the Satanic realm was extremely strong, and demons emerged from the depths to give instructions to people and to receive information from them. These were messenger demons much like the one I experienced on my prayer walk by the Episcopal church.
Wait! The Episcopal church!
God reminded me of the encounter I had there. As this massive portal was opened up under my feet, it was clear what I was to do. I had taken the keys of authority. I had them! I was to use this new found authority to shut this portal down. Lock it up. Seal it shut. Take dominion.
I shared all of this revelation, in that pitch dark cave, with the other prophetic intercessors, and they all immediately agreed that I was discerning everything correctly. In that evil place where the Holy Spirit wasn't welcome, I felt a mighty shift. The anointing of the Holy Spirit filled me and I commanded, in the authority of Jesus Christ, that the enemy's assignment was over and that the portal must shut. We all roared and groaned in the Spirit, prayed with power, declared truth of the Word and successfully fulfilled our mandate.
As we emerged from the cave, the faithful general in the faith who remained behind to pray had a smile on her face. She asked me, “Well, was it?” I said, “Yes!” I went on to explain what happened. She nodded her head and told me that God revealed the same thing to her as she was praying.
Understand, this never could have happened if we didn't embrace the wild and bizarre supernatural realities that are all around us.
In fact, a secular drama company from Broadway in New York City put this experience and others into a production and toured it from Washington D.C to New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles. My prophetic decrees, powerful personal freedom and other supernatural stories from our ministry were depicted on stage in front of thousands of mostly liberal, atheistic people who were in a prime position to meet Jesus!
Isn't it amazing how God works when we start moving in the supernatural, spiritual realm?
A TEAR JERKING EMAIL
This assignment in the cave along with many others over several years (some even more dramatic than this one) resulted in powerful breakthrough.
This week, I received an email that moved me to tears. You see, we passed the baton to others as we eventually moved out of Manitou Springs. This message shows how much prayer, the prophetic, endurance and obedience can do to the enemy's camp. I pray this encourages you to allow God to move exactly as he wants, to invade the realm of wickedness with authority, to expect supernatural manifestations and to contend for freedom, even if you don't see the results on our watch.
I love getting your emails – they are so challenging and so good. Thank you for what you do!
I’m a huge believer in giving credit where it’s due – and since you were such a HUGE part of our transition and journey to Manitou, as David and I are a week away from transitionIng our, I wanted to give you an update – because you sowed seeds for so many years and made this ground so fertile.
You wouldn’t recognize Manitou today! It’s becoming a beautiful community – restoration taking place in the supernatural and in the natural. Houses and buildings being restored and families moving in seeking community.
We’ve prayed over every inch of this city. The bridge over rainbow falls was restored, and the day it reopened, we prayed over it as a city gate and renamed “beautiful” at the Lord’s prompting. The same weekend, we dedicated the old Masonic lodge as the new worship space for new life Manitou – cleansed the ground, and claimed that gate as well.
The mineral springs by the Loop was recently refaced, and, “coincidentally,” a new life member was contracted to do the work. He wrote our prophetic passage for Manitou on the back of each rock – Isaiah 41:17-20 – “the poor and needy are searching for water where there is none, and I THE LORD will answer them…” and now scripture is hidden in one of the central fountains in Manitou. It’s our little secret. 🙂
Not long after that, a sign that had been decades missing from the rainbow falls bridge was replaced. It says “Manitou Springs – healing waters.”
New Life Manitou has been a full-fledged, weekly church for 3 years now. We beat the odds! It’s a thriving community of believers serving the city and accepted as part of the community. We’re meeting in the renovated (and very well-cleansed!) Masonic lodge on El Paso and running around 150 each Sunday. Every week, it seems, a new family shows up saying they just felt called to Manitou. We’re literally the only evangelical church here – but Manitou has embraced and not just tolerated us.
Hiawatha Gardens, where you guys met for the HOP, is being restored. Interestingly, your banner is still hanging on the back door – even though they’ve been in there cleaning and renovating. There sign remains. Just a reminder of your mark on this community.
David and I have been here for 4 years, and now we’re being called away. My heart is so torn – I have grown to adore this town and its people – our neighbors who are atheists and lesbians and agnostics who we are leaving we now have to entrust to Jesus. We’re headed back to San Antonio to pastor a church there. I can’t help but think of your story of leaving and how it must have been so bittersweet for you and your family.
We have certainly felt the weight of living here – the call and yet the resistance and pressure – and yet the yearning to see more of God’s movement, knowing that you wouldn’t be here to see the completion firsthand.
Because of that, I wanted to tell you again that your hard work and toil and trials and prayer and faithfulness did not go unseen, unnoticed, or unfruitful. Your obedience here in Manitou for all those years paved the way for what is happening now and for the restoration and revival that is happening here in Manitou. I know from firsthand experience that it wasn’t easy and that you suffered for the call. But your legacy lives on here. Your faithfulness and intercession and prophetic words spoken over this city tore down strongholds and softened hearts. You pastored this city so well. Well done, good and faithful servant.
And thank you for giving us so much insight and comfort 4 years ago when we were so freaked out about moving here. Thank you for being the forerunner and for giving us the courage to carry the torch. Thank you for introducing us to Miles and Jodi, who passed the prophetic torch to us. I still have the house of prayer banner they gave us and still weep at the thought that our weekly prayer meetings were held in the very same room as your early prayer meetings were held.
God has such a heart for this place, and my heart breaks to leave it – We have wept over it, loved it, and learned so much in our time here – but our time is done and we did what we came to do – 4 years of so much joy, so much travail, so much beauty. And you were such a huge part – so thank you so much for your labor, John. You are a giant in the kingdom, and I just wanted to let you know that we recognize your sacrifices and work here. It lives on and you are part of a very beautiful story that God is writing in Manitou Springs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Father is well pleased.
Sarah and David
I cried tears of joy.