The Gideon Principle Will Turn The Church Growth Movement Upside-Down

We have radically misunderstood the purpose of the church—and the Gideon principle is the shock it needs.

Pastors, quit getting excited when your church grows in number.

Quit getting depressed when it declines in number.

Quit selling your soul to compel people to join you on Sunday mornings.

Numeric church growth is not the goal—mission completion is—and the people you are wooing just may be your downfall.

CHURCH AS WE KNOW IT

As one who has planted two churches and spent many years in church leadership, both as a staff pastor and senior leader, I have had a front row seat to the American church reality. There’s much that has been absolutely amazing and much that is radically disappointing.

Church as we know it, however, doesn’t take years of leadership experience to analyze. It’s simple: we gather together once or twice a week and worship a little and pray a little (usually very little) and listen to teaching. After saying hi to friends and small talking with others we head out into our world until next week.

Pastors are heroes, in my opinion. Superheroes in fact. However, even mighty men and women of God must step back at times and truly analyze their motives and ministries. I suggest part of that analysis must include reckoning with an unhealthy desire to see the church grow numerically. Pastors tend to get weighted down when the seats are empty, and then, miraculously, they perk up and have an extra jump in their step when the roar of the crowd is louder. It’s human nature. Unfortunately, it’s human nature that is threatening the church and the lives of people it’s called to impact. We need to adopt supernatural wisdom as we move into the next generation of the church.

imageTHE DEEP, THE SHALLOWS AND THE SAND

I shared a prophetic word at a city pastor’s gathering in Detroit several years ago. I don’t believe it was received well as most remained silent after I shared it and then they moved on to other business. I do believe it was the Lord, however. It was a word of warning and a strategic call.

I saw an ocean beach on a sunny day. There were many people on the sand, a good number splashing in the shallows and a handful of people swimming in deeper waters.

Those who were on the sand were mostly happy building sand castles, tanning and enjoying the afternoon sun as the cool mist from the crashing waves blew over them. Some were curious about the water and even took off their sandals and walked where the waves met the sand. Others would slowly venture out and start splashing in the shallows, but most were satisfied just where they were.

The people in the shallows were having a good time. They were together, jumping, splashing and swimming. They were in waist high water and were able to stand on the sandy bottom. They were also satisfied.

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I then looked out at the small number of people who were in the deep. They couldn’t stand as the water was well over their heads. They were so hungry to explore the wide-open seas. It made no sense to them why anybody would be satisfied experiencing so little. However, these people had nobody to lead them into the deeper waters. You see, the people on the sand, in the shallows and in the deep all represented a single local church.

What I saw next brought clear, obvious revelation to the situation.

I saw a man, the pastor, in khaki pants, a dress shirt and a tie. His shoes were off and his pant legs were rolled up. He had one foot in the water and the other on the sand. He was not dressed for the deep. In fact, he wasn’t dressed for the shallows or the sand either. He determined to remain anchored between the sand and the shallows where the majority of the people were, yet unable to really reach any of them.

The pastor was under great stress as he would look upon those on the sand, then those in the shallows and he’d then squint as he saw those who were drifting out to sea. His eyes continually darted between the three groups, attempting to maintain some sort of control over the spiritually diverse congregation. However, he couldn’t. Those in the deep became a nuisance. He found it easier to allow them to go and to focus on the sand and the shallows. He

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knew those in the low water would not go deeper and those on the sand were safe, and maybe, some day, they would jump in and splash around with the others.

3 Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. 4 Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. 5 Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. 6 And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6 (ESV)

9 And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Ezekiel 47:9 (ESV)

26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:26-27 (ESV)

THE CALL TO THE DEEP

I believe the strategy of the church must radically change. The pastor, the leader, must be in the deep ahead of the people. The priests are called to step into the waters and to lead people into miraculous situations.

14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, 15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), 16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 (ESV)

The evangelists are called to minister to those on the sand. Prophets can call them into the waters. The local church’s apostolic leaders must focus on the deep, calling people to advance into impossible waters as they seek to encounter the wonders of God and to take new ground. They announce the need to live consecrated lives as they prepare for God to move in power.

5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)

Seeker churches are well known for focusing on the people on the sand. The beach goers have been affirmed in their position by this regrettable church movement. Further, the poison of seeker ministries has soaked into the soil of the greater American church foundation. Today, most churches may not identify as seeker sensitive, but seeker principles are adopted and adapted to fit their local expression in hopes of attracting the very same sand dwellers and shallow splashers. Those yearning for the deep are minimized and ignored—often because of the pastor’s own lack of depth—and commonly because of the pastor’s devotion to growing a larger church.

THE GIDEON CHURCH GROWTH PRINCIPLE

Churches have too many people, or at least they have the wrong people. Church missions have been compromised.

Please understand, I do believe in numeric church growth. We see in Scripture how thousands were added. I believe we’ll see stadiums filled with Christians interceding and contending for revival. The harvest will come in. There absolutely are and will continue to be anointed, surrendered leaders who have been graced to lead large numbers without compromise. There are “churches of the deep” that are diving into unseen realms and growing mighty disciples. In fact, if given a choice, I’d rather attend a large church like this than a small group of unified zealots—though I do value both.

With that in mind, most churches and pastors will benefit from applying the Gideon principle, though it will be scary, painful and humbling. Death to self, rejection of selfish ambition and mighty faith are required. I believe God is about to invite leaders into divine wrestling matches as they renounce their fabricated and confused identities and adopt their divine callings and discover their identities in Christ instead of success.

12 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” 13 And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” Judges 6:12-13 (ESV)

God also believes his pastors and leaders are heroes. He addressed Gideon, a leader who had yet to step into that identity, as a mighty man of valor. It would do us well to honor God’s men and women in the same way. While many will reject the call of God to shift, some will hit their spiritual rock bottom and cry out from their caves of desperation. God is raising up warriors like this, and we should celebrate the process.

Whenever we are out of sync with God a common complaint will be, “God, where were you? Why have you forsaken us?”

Today pastors are gazing up into the heavens wondering why God isn’t bringing growth. Where is he? Why is his presence so rare in their local church? What is going on?

This is a good prayer as long as we are ready for God’s reply.

14 And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” Judges 6:14 (ESV)

Go in might. I have sent you. That’s God’s reply.

15 And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” 16 And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Judges 6:15-16 (ESV)

If we allow God to truly search our hearts, this is where the divine wrestling match begins. We may honestly feel unworthy, unprepared, weak and the least of all. What a contrast to God’s identifying decree: You are a mighty man of valor, I will be with you and you will be victorious—but the victory depends on radical surrender and wild faith. Pastor, will you allow this Gideon principle to take over your church and your life?

The process included Gideon seeking God, looking for confirmation, hearing his voice, discovering his new identity and emerging as a true leader. It would do us well to cry out for a similar process to initiate in our own lives.

EMERGING JERUBBAAL LEADERS: DESTROYING ALTARS AND ADVANCING IN VICTORY

25 That night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull, and the second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it 26 and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of the stronghold here…Judges 6:25-26 (ESV)

The next step is critical. We must destroy altars of old. We must differentiate between God-given mantles and God-opposed altars. God absolutely will grace us with the water from the wells that our fathers and their fathers dug years ago. There are mantles and rich, godly traditions that have eternal value. However, there are unholy altars that have become normal in the church today that must be torn down. Traditions of man, selfish ambition, the pursuit of notoriety, becoming drunk on money and pride must be crushed. Annihilated.

28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.” 32 Therefore on that day Gideon was called Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he broke down his altar. Judges 6:28-32 (ESV)

Are you ready to be renamed? Are you an emerging Jerubbaal? When we tear down ungodly altars, we step into a promotion in the spirit. We will be known as one who has stared evil in the eye and is unafraid at the threat of demonic backlash.

When we have proven ourselves to possess the obedience and fearlessness necessary to stand against the prevailing religious culture of the day by tearing down altars that so many hold so dear, we will be ready to advance in the mission—by allowing most people to leave.

THE PEOPLE IN YOUR CHURCH MAY BE HINDERING YOUR MISSION

Remember, we are called to leave the sand, to leave the shallows and to lead into the deep. Most people will not remain when you allow God to shift your church into a “deeper water” ministry. Your mission requires the right laborers be with you and those who are resistant to be let go. It doesn’t mean we don’t love them. It means we understand those who leave will pale in comparison with those will be set free through our obedience.

2 The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ 3 Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. Judges 7:2-3 (ESV)

Pastor, when you cast this renewed vision of going into the deep, most in your church will, most likely, be afraid of such a venture. It will not be what they signed up for. They wanted you to occasionally wave at them as they soaked up the sun on their beach blankets. They wanted you to splash with them if they ever decided to test the shallows. This new, awakened leader will be an irritant to them. Most will leave. That’s okay. The mission is for all who are fearless and surrendered to Jesus. The choice is theirs. If Gideon would have refused this filtering process, the entire camp would have been decimated. The enemy is ready to decimate our churches too. We need Jerubbaal to emerge and lead with the mysterious, illogical wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

4 And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” Judges 7:4 (ESV)

6 And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water. 7 And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” Judges 7:6-7 (ESV)

God knew who was needed to get the job done. 300 out of 32,000, less than one percent, were called as the church, the Ekklesia, a governmental people with determined unity and a fearless disposition, to rout the enemy.

AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL

The result of applying the Gideon principle for church growth will most probably result in an extreme decrease in numbers but a supernatural increase in power.

An unconventional man, Gideon, was called.

An unconventional army, only 300 in number, was gathered.

An unconventional method, banging jars and shouting, was used.

The result was glorious victory.

20 Then the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars. They held in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow. And they cried out, “A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!” 21 Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the 300 trumpets, the LORD set every man’s sword against his comrade and against all the army. And the army fled as far as Beth-shittah toward Zererah, as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath. Judges 7:20-22 (ESV)

ACCUSATION WILL COME

I’ll conclude this article with a key point that could easily have been ignored.

1 Then the men of Ephraim said to him, “What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. Judges 8:1 (ESV)

When God calls you to destroy religious altars, and to advance mostly alone in your region, you will absolutely be accused by other pastors and leaders. Who are you, after all, to presume you know what should be done in the city? Your answer? You are Jerubbaal.

While I appreciate it when pastors in a city meet together and attempt to unify and support one another, it’s rare for them to truly promote revival in a region. The reason? They presume their efforts to affirm one another and support one another are the goal. It’s satisfying. Somehow, unifying around this low level commitment feels spiritual. It’s nice, but it can be threatening to the greater mission. When God calls you to tear down altars they have built, or that their fathers have built, then what? When God calls you to advance in the city without them (due to their own choice), with a small army of radicals, how will they respond? Many will accuse.

This doesn’t mean, by any means, that we go rogue and function in an independent, rebellious spirit. God will crush that fast. He resists the proud. God will, however, awaken key people to do what few others will, and what most will flatly reject. This Jerubbaal leader will threaten religious structures. Their humble surrender and bold resolve to obey their God at every turn will threaten those who have their religious culture carefully defined.

Who are you? What is your identity? You are a mighty man of valor. God is inviting you as a Jerubbaal. He will rally an army around you to assault the enemy and to advance the Kingdom of God. Those who leave, and those leaders who aren’t consulted, will most certainly accuse you.

That’s okay. Go in this spirit of Jerubbaal and see God move in some of the most remarkable signs, wonders and miracles the world has ever known. You are invited, mighty man of valor, to be an instrument in God’s hands in a dark and desperate world. This hour is yours.

Rejecting Jesus: Why so many do the unthinkable

Rejecting Jesus should be the defining symptom of insanity.

One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.

Continually, as I watch the world go round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing? Many don't.

34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (ESV)

Almost with intentional naivety, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the Upper Room. Today people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?

There must be a reason—or many reasons—why so many do the unthinkable.

WHY PEOPLE REJECT GOD’S GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND

They have no grid for the presence of God.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)

One second in the presence of God will absolutely cure the most devoted skeptic. I believe it. I often wonder what unbelievers think when they witness moves of God that result in shaking, falling to the ground, groans of intercession, shouts of freedom and other manifestations. They have no option but to presume the people are hyper-emotional or mentally unbalanced. Why? They have not experienced the supernatural presence of God. Experiencing a visitation by a holy, supernatural force requires a “sixth sense.” They simply can’t understand it in the natural, so they dismiss it. Many mock it. They definitely reject it.

The countless times I’ve experienced the divine presence of God have changed my life many times over. It’s impossible for God’s presence to be invented, an emotional reaction, mind over matter or some other naturally explained experience. If you are standing in the ocean, you are wet. God’s presence is as tangible and simple to understand as that.

As a youth pastor in San Diego in the 1990’s, I took the teens to a powerful Vineyard Worship conference. It would be impossible for me to explain what happened there. God’s presence overtook me as he did many people there. I suddenly fell to my face as God’s weighty, holy and overwhelming presence consumed me. I was out. God was pouring out his love on me.

Hundreds of people eventually filtered out leaving me and a few others in the building. The youth helped me to my feet and I stumbled out of the room and to the van. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel where most of the people attending the conference were staying, I saw something I’ll never forget. All around I witnessed people being carried into the hotel, undone by the presence of God. This was no mass emotional delusion. God’s presence was healing and transforming people. Lives were forever changed. The lost have no grid for this.

They have never experienced a miracle.

11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Acts 19:11-12 (ESV)

I often say it should be absolutely impossible to doubt there’s a God when a legitimate miracle occurs. I mean, when an invisible God moves in great power and does the impossible, what else is there to discuss?

The signs, wonders and miracles I’ve experienced over the 49 years of my life are too numerous to list, though I’ve written about many of them in my books (www.burton.tv/shop). My life has been changed time and again as God revealed his love and power through stunning, incredible miracles that are fully indescribable in the natural. Only a loving Creator could move in that way.

People who reject God don’t typically experience wonders like healings or they explain them away. Financial miracles are foreign to them. Prophecy that comes to pass is dismissed. They just can’t grasp the reality of a God who moves in the lives of those who love him.

True peace, joy and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.

11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)

Speaking of miracles, when depression, fear and darkness are suddenly dispersed by a strange and wonderful supernatural invasion, you are forever free!

I love seeing before and after photos of people that reveal the transformation of Jesus. Before surrendering to Jesus you can often see emptiness, and after their countenance is erupting with joy and freedom!

How glorious is it to rest in God’s peace that passes all understanding and to rejoice with joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory!

It’s an awesome thing when two strangers meet, and they both know the other is a Believer, without even saying a word. The presence of God is on them. The joy of the Lord is evident. Sadly, the lost cannot know this freedom outside of meeting Jesus and falling in love with him.

Their have settled for counterfeit love.

23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 (ESV)

I’d encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception for a comprehensive look at how both the world and the church are falling for counterfeit love.

As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.

Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.

God’s love looks and feels very different than most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.

They haven’t heard God’s voice.

3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)

My book Revelation Driven Prayer is a handbook that will help you discover the wonder of God’s voice. When God talks, it absolutely shocks and rocks us to our core! His voice is life-giving and life-altering.

The Bible tells us that it’s his sheep who hear his voice. The lost are wandering without a guide. They simply need to cry out to God in desperation and be amazed at the voice that bellows from the heavens!

God’s voice is real, not some weird, imagined, mystical message. God talks to us. We know his voice. Those who reject God enact radio silence.

Dreams and visions are foreign to them.

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)

My life has been impacted beyond description by the communication of God through dreams and visions. When you have a “God dream” you just know it. His truth explodes through imagery that is delivered in ways only a deity could. Mysteries are revealed. Questions are answered.

I’ve written about several of my dreams and encounters with God in articles and books, and have taught on them many times. Other Believers all over the world have had even more dramatic encounters. Those who reject God are not in tune with him, and therefore don’t regularly receive from him in this way. Of course, God has and will visit people who have rejected him, giving them an opportunity to surrender all and follow him. It happened with the Apostle Paul. It happens with Muslims today. It happens with many who have hit rock bottom. But, it isn’t until we develop intimacy with Jesus that the dreams and visions become normal in our daily lives.

They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

The allure of the flesh is powerful and satisfying, and many who reject Jesus simply don’t think surrendering to their passions are that big of a deal.

The enemy is very good at bringing confusion in hopes of validating sin in people’s lives. Further, people presume God to simply be a “good guy” who is unconcerned with behavior and is smiling on them from a far away place. In fact, many delusional Christians believe in similar ways.

My article Five Marks of the False Grace Message will bring clarity to this point.

God is holy. God is aligned against those who choose to reject him and his love—until they turn from their wickedness. Then he will run to them and embrace them and welcome them as sons and daughters! What a glorious God we serve!

Ask anyone who was living in rebellion to Jesus before leaving their life of sin behind. Their surrender resulted in phenomenal life! They live in the fear and love of Jesus and they would not have it any other way. The transformation is very real indeed!

They haven’t experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.

31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV)

When the power of God truly hits, natural man yields to supernatural wonder!

Suddenly we are aligned and calibrated with the heart and nature of God in ways we could never have experienced before this baptism.

The moment I was baptized in power is the moment timidity disappeared from my life. No amount of counseling could have done that. Positive thinking was futile. It was only when God himself burned through me like a fire and transformed me in ways I’ll never be able to explain.

A supernatural force is ready to invade any who would ask.

How powerful would it be for another Azusa revival to erupt, except this time among those in Hollywood. Can you imagine a Holy Spirit fire burning in people like Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and others?

I’m not sure why I mentioned Hollywood at this point of the article, but as I’m sitting here in Starbucks writing this, a spirit of intercession came over me. Let’s all pray for a supernatural invasion of the Holy Spirit to interrupt movie sets throughout Hollywood!

The Word of God isn’t alive to them.

12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

A barometer of spiritual vitality is when reading the Bible causes us to come alive! Reading the Word of God intellectually, as those who don’t know Jesus are limited to, doesn’t bring life. But when we are intimate with God, the Bible imparts revelation. The truths are enlightening beyond measure. You can’t get enough!

What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)

They simply don’t believe. They are skeptics. Without faith people are hopeless.

They must be convinced that, yes, there is an invisible God who loves them and who is ready to come to their rescue.

Again, the number of times God has manifested in miraculous ways in my life rocks me! Oh, is he real! When we walk by faith and not by sight literally everything changes!

Their prayers have gone unanswered.

31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)

The prayer of sinners God hears is the prayer of repentance, surrender and brokenness.

Those who don’t know God yet expect God to respond to their cries for personal satisfaction will forever be disappointed. It’s when we truly surrender all that God will hear our cry and move on our behalf.

Further, even Christians will go through desert times when the voice of God isn’t booming. God doesn’t just answer every email we send to him. He moves deliberately though often very mysteriously. He is to be trusted, not used.

They are unconcerned about eternity.

1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (ESV)

There is no urgency. Today it’s becoming more rare for people to live in the fear of the Lord or at least acknowledging the severity of unavoidable eternity that rests just beyond the horizon.

They live for today. The need for God isn’t strong. There is life to live.

God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.

10 …they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (ESV)

From my article These Are Words We Never Want To Hear God Say:

How strange (and troubling) it is that God would do this. In His wisdom, He opens and closes the window of opportunity for people to come to Him.

Most often we presume people have until the day they die to turn to the Lord. This isn't the case. There are many who have been turned over to delusion. Eyes have been blinded. Others have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It's too late.

Many are nearing the point of no return, and for a significant number of them it will come well before they die. They will be spiritually hopeless, fully dead, possibly decades before an obituary is written.

This is a terrifying reality, and it should increase our urgency for intercession and evangelism.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m so terribly grieved when people reject Jesus. The price he paid for all to know him was so great. His love is so deep. The lives people could live if they only fell in love with Jesus would be miraculous. I hate that so few choose to live this way.

I wrote an article titled Christianity: Failed mission or glorious victory? Yes.

Jesus died for all, but so few will be saved.

There are many reasons people reject Jesus, including the few I revealed here. People say no to Jesus day after day, no matter how much God loves them and no matter how great their lives could be should they surrender.

I don’t understand it. I despise it. I’m wrecked.

If you aren’t radically in love with Jesus, be you an unbeliever or a Christian, please know that God is ready to pour out his Spirit on you! The miracles and wonders are waiting for you. Yes, the sacrifice and surrender are very real. The brokenness can’t be denied. The humility required to say no to our own selfish desires is costly. But, remember, we are talking about being intimately united with the Ruler of the universe!

Who could reject such an opportunity?

3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)

Leaving The Church? It Must Be The Pastor’s Fault.

People are leaving the church in droves, and most fingers are pointed at the senior pastor.

Covens-in-the-Church-Paperback

Triggered. That’s the best way to describe a lot of people when the topic of “going to church” is brought up. You see, there’s a group of ex-church goers who are so angered by their previous church experiences, that any suggestion of support of the local church triggers them. I’ve had interactions with many people who tense up the moment I start a discussion about the church and the importance of being rightly aligned and connected with leadership.

Let me be clear: I’m a fierce advocate of the local church. I’m also a passionate visionary. I see well beyond the current structure and I regularly rock the boat and challenge systems, motives and traditions that exist within the local church. I believe we should stay connected, submitted and tender hearted within the church while we are, with wisdom and honor, advocating for reformation.

 

Sadly, many who share my passion for revolution within the church have gone the route of abdication, accusation and hibernation. They have abandoned their post while pointing fingers at pastors and leaders who didn’t measure up to their standards. They end up spiritualizing their decision to stop going to church so they can, as they say, “be the church.” The problem? You can’t be the church if you don’t go to church. I dealt with that in my article: You are NOT the church : The scattering movement.

I also address the abandonment of the church in my book Covens in the Church. People are leaving assignments and putting the church at great risk. It’s a movement of witchcraft and rebellion in the name of God.

A key reason why people are so disenchanted with the church is simple: Their expectations of what pastors are supposed to do and how the church is supposed to function are wrong.

MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT THE ROLE OF PASTOR AND THE CHURCH

THE PASTOR IS SUPPOSED TO BE MY CLOSE, PERSONAL FRIEND

There are many disappointed people who expected the pastor of the church they once attended to become a close, personal friend. While it’s true that pastors will have friends, and it’s possible to be counted among them, that should not be the goal or the expectation.

In fact, it’s a bit ludicrous to presume the pastor has to squeeze time, emotional energy and attention to you into his very busy and important life. The pastor’s role is not to be your close, personal bud. It’s to be a faithful leader and to watch out for your soul.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Do you have unlimited time and energy to give to literally everyone who chooses you as their new friend? How would you do it? Would you go out to lunch with them every day? What about hundreds of others who have the same demands? It simply doesn’t make sense.

We need to honestly understand just why pastors may choose not to be our close, personal friend. Here are a few:

His mandate is mostly to pray and study the Word.

1 Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 (ESV)

It’s concerning today that pastors, instead of spending loads of time on their knees and in the Word, are being pulled in every direction to visit people in the hospital, meet with visitors to the church, answer the phone at all hours of the night and meet the needs of everybody in the congregation.

One of my favorite stories about Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City brings clarity to this point. A person of great influence was flying through Kansas City and wanted to meet with Mike during his layover. Mike was unavailable. The layover was during Mike’s daily scheduled prayer time. He politely declined the meeting.

We need a new breed of leader that will install a team who will take care of the people and then focus on meeting with God, getting wrecked in his presence, gaining powerful revelation in the Word and, as a result, stand behind the pulpit with fire in their eyes and a tremble in their spirit.

He may not have sufficient time or emotional energy to invest in another close relationship.

Related to the point above, pastors are busy. Really busy. Even those who lead small churches can’t be expected to be best friends with everybody. I’ve heard people say that if they can’t be close friends with all, they should resign from ministry. Ridiculous.

Further, do you know how many ministry families are being torn apart because of the pastor having absolutely unreal, unnecessary demands placed on them? Burnout is real. Pastor’s kids are often neglected. Pastor’s wives often live with great resentment against the church and those who are crushing her husband under the weight of their demands.

This study by Robin Dunbar is revealing:

Is there a limit to how many people you can actually be friends with at a time?

According to psychologists, the answer is yes. A study by Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at University of Oxford, shows the average person can only manage five close relationships at a time.

So, if your church has more than five people attending, chances are the pastor simply won’t have room for another close friend.

He may not like you.

This one may sting. I’m confident you don’t have a blast hanging out with everybody. You have your favorites. So do pastors. It’s natural. It’s normal. Your personalities might not match. You might be clingy, weird, co-dependent, high maintenance or unbalanced. He'll be most effective ministering to you from afar.

This doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friend at a less intimate level. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He just isn’t going to take you on vacation or hang out in his PJ’s watching football with you.

You have yet to prove yourself or invest in the ministry.

Smart leaders will invest mostly in those who have proven themselves faithful. Jesus devoted himself to twelve, and then at a closer level to three. Pastors will hang with those who share his vision, who are fierce defenders of the church and who don’t exhibit selfish tendencies. The pastor has a serious call of God to lead the church into an impossible vision, and he needs people around him who will empower that vision.

If you are dead weight, they will love you, pray for you and do their best to awaken you, but they won’t—and shouldn’t—be close friends with you.

God told him not to get too close to you.

There have been a number of people over the last two plus decades of ministry that I was specifically warned about. God told me not to befriend them. Some had devious intentions. Others would be a time-suck. Others would want to be inappropriately close to my family and me. Healthy boundaries were necessary.

Sometimes, my wife would be the one to wave the red flag of warning about an individual. It’s always wise to listen to a discerning spouse! And, often, God didn’t tell me exactly why I should keep my distance. I simply had to obey.

Other reasons God may keep you from a close personal relationship with your pastor abound. God may want you in a desert season. He may want you to pass the test of rejection. He may want you more focused on God than man. The list goes on and on.

You would be better served connecting with others in the church.

While a pastor’s charisma and maturity may be appealing, they may not be the best fit for friendship. It would be best to honor their role in your life as teacher, intercessor and leader while enjoying deep relationships with a few others in the church. The fit would simply be much better.

You wouldn't be able to handle his strong leadership in a close relationship.

Good leaders will slice and dice you in love, challenge you to the extremity of your limits and rebuke you, again in love, for deficiencies that remain unaddressed. Most people can’t handle such a direct approach. Their skin isn’t thick enough.

A well known, influential senior pastor of a huge mega-church met with my wife and me in his office one day. I had ministered with him in prayer events and, while we were not close friends by any means, we were friends. He had access to my life. At this particular meeting, he reached into my soul, pulled it out and threw it against the wall. He challenged me. He was very direct and the meeting was extremely upsetting. My wife cried on the way home—and several times thereafter. We were rocked, but we took his counsel to heart, though I didn’t know if I agreed with everything, and I felt he was quite harsh about simple philosophical differences. I was troubled.

The next week we had another scheduled meeting. We were anxious to see him again in hopes of asking some questions and gaining clarity. We were also a bit uptight as we didn’t know what else he may challenge us with.

To our surprise he looked me in my eye and simply said, “You passed the test.” Then he hugged me.

He went on to explain that he was intentionally pushing me to my limit, challenging things he knew I held dear in ministry and wanted to see how I’d respond. He said other pastors and leaders have stomped out of his office in pride and indignation after similar confrontations.

Though I admittedly was angry after the first meeting, I also understand that’s the culture within structures led by leaders with strong personalities and cutting-edge leadership abilities. They don't play around.

He is mostly focused on connecting with his leaders, who, in turn, train others to connect with the body.

Pastors should be spending most of their time and energy on a small number of leaders, not the entire body. Those leaders will then multiply what they received into others.

Do you think Moses could be best buds with every one of the millions who left Egypt? That’s ridiculous. It’s also unnecessary. There’s a better way to ensure people in the church are connected.

18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. 21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.” Exodus 18:18-23 (ESV)

THE CHURCH IS SUPPOSED TO MOSTLY FOCUS ON MEETING MY NEEDS

This possibly may be the most destructive belief about the local church.

People who are disenchanted about the church are usually upset that their needs haven’t been met. In fact, for many it’s a strange thing to hear that the church isn’t mostly there for them. Instead, they are to be there for the church.

Churches should not be started in the hopes of drawing in people and simply ministering to them. But, this is the extent of the vision of many church planters and pastors. Churches should be started when there’s a powerful, God-given vision for advance. For example, if God speaks to a man about transformation and revival in a certain city, it might make sense to start a church and gather the laborers. Those laborers will be trained for the sake of running the specific race God has given that church.

Yes, churches should absolutely reach out to widows and orphans. They should be centers of healing. When there are needs, the church should do what it can to help (though, it can’t always help in every way at all times). That being said, those who have been trained, healed and equipped should understand the church needs them as laborers, as intercessors, as financial givers and as champions of the vision.

Most of the spiritual needs we have don’t require the involvement of the pastor. We can easily grow in the Word on our own. We can seek out deliverance through others. We can learn to lean more on God than man.

If our churches were strong militaries where everyone signed up to give to the mission instead of making demands, the world would be turned upside down.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

If there one thing that troubles me, it’s when people gather together in the church to meet with friends and then lose passion when they are called to invest in the vision. I’ve seen this happen many times. People who want to connect relationally will stay involved until that well runs dry. Then, the pastor and leadership are accused of not having a loving church or facilitating friendships. While relationships are important, they aren’t the goal. The pastor’s job isn’t to develop a friendship club. The mission of intercession and Kingdom advance should be their focus.

I heard a story, again about IHOPKC, that speaks to this. Long ago, they instituted small groups. They started to flourish as people focused on developing relationships and satisfying that desire to make friends. That’s good. However, the primary, foundational purpose of IHOPKC was compromised. The main reason the ministry was founded was to gather people to pray and worship night and day. The prayer room started to empty as the small groups grew. They put an end to the small groups. It wasn’t until years later that they reinstituted them using a different model, one that ensured the small groups empowered the prayer room instead of threatening it.

This is one reason many churches today focus on small groups, visitor assimilation, pot lucks and connecting events—as the call to prayer goes silent. That’s what will fill the church, and kill the very reason we are to gather in the first place. To pray. Prayer is to be the main thing in every church.

17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)

WE SHOULD ALL BE ALLOWED TO MINISTER DURING THE SERVICE

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)

This is the famous verse many disgruntled people use when they share their frustrations about the church. They want to minister in the service and they don’t like just sitting there and listening to one person teach. They attempt to spiritualize their irritation.

This argument is often a manifestation of a spirit of rejection. Their ministry has not been given a place and they took offense. As one who has led churches for years I don’t apologize for disallowing certain people from ministering in the service. My role is to protect the sheep. If someone desires to minister, but it’s from a wounded heart, it can do great damage. But, let’s leave that alone for a moment and deal with the crux of the matter.

Shortly after Pentecost, the early church had, as some estimate, over 10,000 Christians. There would be, of course, no way for all of them to teach a lesson or deliver a message in tongues, and then wait for an interpretation. It’s impossible.

The reality is there were two complimentary expressions of the church, the large group meeting and the small group meeting.

In the small group meeting, spiritual gifts could be exercised. A variety of people could share a message. Various songs could be sung. However, this is not the only expression of the church. In fact, I’d argue the large meeting just might be the most important. This is where God’s ordained leader would gather the people and bring mature, focused instruction. In fact, the Ekklesia best defines the large group meeting. It’s a secular term that indicates a governmental gathering where leadership gives instructions to the people.

Paul did this. Peter did this. God reveals key information to pastors and leaders regarding the mission of the church, the culture, the hour and the resistance of the enemy. The pastor must then have the attention of the people so they can rightly respond.

WE AREN’T SUPPOSED TO BE SPECTATORS

Let’s deal with this two ways. First, I believe at times we absolutely are to be spectators, meaning, we sit at attention and listen carefully to the teaching. We can’t diminish the value of this, as I revealed in the previous point. Second, it’s true that we all have a role to play. The pastor has no obligation to allow us to minister any way we choose. When I was a youth pastor in a large church in Texas, the pastor assigned some ministry assignments to me that I despised. My ministry was to clean all of the bathrooms between services and to spend 8 hours every Friday in the scorching heat mowing their massive lawn. Oh yeah, I got to do some youth pastor stuff too.

I guarantee, those who are truly serious about not wanting to be spectators will have many opportunities to serve in the church! In fact, I bet if you ask your pastor where you can serve he’ll give you at least two or three options.

WE CAN WORSHIP AND GROW IN THE WORD ALONE OR IN SMALL GROUPS

Yes, we absolutely can grow alone. In fact, we should grow alone and in small groups. As I explained above, the small group expression of the church is valuable. Additionally, we should all be students of the Word and in prayer all by ourselves. Our prayer closets can’t hold more than just one of us.

However, don’t forget, the purpose of the church isn’t primarily to meet our personal needs, be they spiritual or natural. It’s great that you can grow better on your own than by sitting in the pew on a Sunday morning. That’s exactly what’s supposed to happen. But, remember, the purpose of the church is to be a house of prayer for all nations. You are needed as a soldier to show up for duty. You are needed on the wall. The church isn’t there to load you up with Bible knowledge or to act as a bridge between you and intimacy with God. You can do that on your own. The church needs you to meet it’s needs.

THE CHURCH ISN’T A BUILDING

Somebody needs to shout this loud and clear: Stop saying the church isn’t a building!

This argument is most often a passive aggressive attempt to devalue the Sunday local church gathering. People say this to validate their decision to disengage from the local church and to just “be the church.” Yeah, no. That doesn’t work.

As far as I can tell, people who leave “the building” to meet in homes are still meeting in buildings. Homes are buildings. Further, buildings are really great when it’s snowing or raining outside. I’m a big fan of buildings.

They may also argue that they don’t want to invest money in the maintenance of a building when they can simply meet in homes instead. This argument doesn’t work either. As I shared above, there must be two expressions of the church. The large group gathering is important. What happens if the church grows beyond 50 or 100 people? Some would say to multiply out and start new home groups.

This might work at times, but very often it doesn’t. We forget that God will specifically call a man or woman to lead a work. It’s important that we have the opportunity to sit under that person’s leadership, and that will most usually require a large venue.

When I was a part of IHOPKC, it was important for me to be in services with the entire community to hear Mike Bickle teach, share vision and give direction. It was invaluable. It required a large auditorium to do that.

WE ARE ALL EQUAL AND PASTORS SHOULDN’T BE ELEVATED ABOVE US

Nonsense. God absolutely favors people differently and he calls people differently. Some are able to teach, and some aren’t. Some have the gift of leadership and others don’t. We all play a part, but every single part is different.

Throughout Scripture, God called specific people to give leadership over others. Moses, Joshua, Paul and many others were put into leadership roles. Their function was not the same as others. Their maturity was not the same. Their gifting was not the same. Their anointing was not the same. None of that was equal.

Of course, God is no respecter of persons when it comes to his love, his passion for their lives and the fact that he died for them. But, you’d have to be biblically blind to say he favors and positions everybody equally.

We must understand there is rank and order in God’s government. God has generals, captains, privates, and, sadly, a bunch of people who have gone AWOL because they don’t affirm this leadership in their lives.

Give double honor to spiritual leaders[a] who handle their duties well. This is especially true if they work hard at teaching God’s word. 1 Tim 5:17

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’d encourage you to recalibrate your expectations of the church and of pastors with Scripture. God hasn’t called us into rebellion against his precious church. We need the large and small group gatherings. God’s leaders must spend their time in prayer and the Word. The church isn’t mostly about feeding you, it’s about equipping you as a soldier in a war. When we all get unified in prayer and mission, the church becomes both a beautiful bride and a potent weapon in the hands of God.

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John Crist, Lauren Daigle, John Gray and the Critics

John Crist slams critics of Lauren Daigle and John Gray. Is he right?

Oh look, a can of worms. Let’s open it!

John Crist, an absolutely hilarious Christian comedian who regularly posts both humorous and provocative videos, recently posted something that was more provoking than funny.

John tells critics of Christian worship leader and musician Lauren Daigle, who recently refused to publicly condemn homosexuality to “just shut up.”

Critics of Pastor John Gray, who recently came under scrutiny for buying his wife a Lamborghini, was slammed by John Crist who told them to “shut your mouth.”

Is John Crist right? Many are celebrating his bold response to Christian culture’s latest controversies. Others are calling him out.

I personally land somewhere in the middle, though, I must admit, I’m more concerned than ambivalent, more troubled than neutral.

AN EMERGING AND DANGEROUS PHILOSOPHY OF SIN

First, let’s talk about the situation with Lauren Daigle and John’s primary argument against her critics.

Regarding Lauren’s reluctance to clearly renounce the sin of homosexuality, John uses an argument that many other people are also using today in this and similar situations. He attempts to downplay the power of sin by emphasizing the idea that everybody sins. It's common among all and no one particular sin is worse than any other (which, I dealt with in a two-part Charisma Media article titled, The Deadly Argument That Could Wipe out an Entire Generation of Christians and No, Not All Sin Is The Same—Here's Proof).

In his video, John says that he, “probably did 27 things yesterday that if you would have witnessed, you would be like ‘Wow, I thought he was a Christian.’”

The dangerous philosophy that is on the rise today is this: If you have sinned recently, you have no right to deal with sin in our culture or in other people's lives. Shut up. Stop preaching. Remove the pulpits. Keep truth silenced. Refuse to remove the spec in another's eye. Let them remain blind.

The message John Crist and many others seem to be conveying is: we cannot promote biblical standards of holiness if we have ever failed ourselves. We cannot expose darkness as Paul commands us to do in the Book of Ephesians.

Now, John is absolutely right if his intent is to correct those who are shaming, attacking and attempting to do harm to Lauren Daigle due to her position (or lack thereof) on homosexuality. I’ve seen enough of that behavior on social medial to cause me to wonder if some people should be banned from Facebook and Twitter until they pass an elementary test of kindness and decorum. People who act like that should be embarrassed.

However, there is an appropriate—and necessary—way to respond when the spirit of the age is being promoted, especially within the construct of Christianity. If we remain silent on these issues, millions are put at risk of Hell. How many easily influenced young seekers or Believers now deem homosexuality appropriate? Such a belief, when acted on, puts eternities in jeopardy. This is coming on Lauren's watch.

In  fact, I’m stunned that an influential Christian worship leader stating that homosexuality may not be sinful is being dismissed as a non-issue. Shocked. What if the next up and coming Christian artist were to admit that they don’t know if abortion is wrong? What about lying? Theft? Pornography? Murder? Will we continue to support them, arguing that their sin is no worse than any other?

Understand, if someone were to struggle with sin, if they were to admit that they are broken and desperate to find freedom from alcohol or anger or homosexuality, you better believe we should rush to their side, love and support them and, of course, refuse to throw stones. However, they must also be benched for a season while they work through their issues.

This is not what is happening with Lauren Daigle. She took it to an entirely different level, and she has not been removed from public ministry. She also hasn’t recanted what she said.

Just what is that “entirely different level” I'm referring to? She refuses to renounce sin. She is making room for the support of homosexuality in the lives of Christians. Innocent seekers and new Believers all over the world are most certainly entertaining the idea that homosexuality isn't sinful. This, friend, is a very serious situation. This is why we must say something. I have a hard time believing her music is still being played on Christian radio stations and sold in Christian stores. Again, what if she said that she wasn’t sure if sexual assault was a sin? Would the reaction be different? It absolutely would be.

John Crist seems to be communicating that cutting someone off in line at the Taco Bell drive-thru is the same as promoting immorality. What he's communicating is that yes, both are bad, but both are no big deal. If we yell at the guy who cut us off in traffic or are wrongly angry or impatient, we have somehow been disqualified from ever preaching truth or standing for righteousness, even if we have repented and asked for forgiveness. If this were the case, we would have no preachers and none of us would be able to share the Gospel with anybody.

The two verses that are used almost exclusively to defend the argument that we should not address the sin in others are found in the books of Matthew and John:

3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)

7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7 (ESV)

First, in Matthew, the instruction is NOT to ignore sin. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite! We must rightly address the sin! We must first ensure we are not being hypocritical by living in the same sin as the other person. When we are certain we are living a pure life, then the prohibition of action becomes an expectation of action. We must remove the spec from the other person’s eye. Why would leaving them blinded by their sin be a good idea? It's not. It's foolishness. Somewhere along the line it has become a bad thing to help people in this manner. This error must be corrected if we hope to rescue those who are deceived.

Second, in John, we need to deal with two points. First, Jesus was exposing the darkness of their people's hearts. Their intent was violence driven by accusation and hatred. We can be sure that Jesus will deal with us if we assault others who have been caught in sin with such motives. I’m sure John Crist is mostly attempting to communicate exactly this. Quit being hateful jerks and learn how to love. I appreciate that message. The right response is to say, “forgiveness is yours, now stop sinning.”

But, there is a second point in the text to consider. The analysis of that verse in John chapter eight doesn’t stop there. Check this out from Adam Clarke’s Commentary:

“He that is without sin,” meaning the same kind of sin, adultery, fornication, etc.

The argument that we must shut our mouths when others are involved in or promoting sin just doesn’t pass biblical muster. Our past failures don't disqualify us from attempting to set others free or from proclaiming truth. However, if I’m a thief, I absolutely better not rebuke another thief. If I’m committing adultery, I have no authority or right to speak into the life of another adulterer.

Similar to the passage in Matthew chapter seven, it's our hypocrisy that God is addressing. He is absolutely not endorsing radio silence on the issue of sin. Quite the contrary, he is looking for preachers and prophets who will sound alarms!

Committing a sin doesn’t remove our responsibility to act. We must both endeavor to live in holiness and to deal with the sin in our culture. If a Christian is promoting sin, we simply can’t stay silent. Our past sins don’t require we abdicate that responsibility.

So, no, I don’t agree with John Crist. Lauren Daigle can’t be given a pass just because she leads people in worship and impacts millions in a positive way. There have been many pastors who have done many good things and impacted many people for the Kingdom who have also fallen. They have failed. They can't be given a pass but must instead be corrected and introduced to a path of restoration. The first step in restoration is acknowledging and renouncing their error. Repenting. The world is still waiting for Lauren Daigle to do just that. When she does, we will all celebrate with her.

I implore you to read my timely articles that were released shortly prior to the Lauren Daigle controversy: Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality and Is Worship Music Lucifer's Next Great Battleground?

SO, WHAT ABOUT PASTOR JOHN GRAY?

The point I’m trying to make in this article is that we must stand for holiness. While the Lauren Daigle issue is a very serious one, as she refuses to take a stand on something that is clearly sin, the John Gray situation is different. What sin has he committed?

So, John Crist is probably right by calling people out for attacking the pastor.

I’m not going to take time in this article to deal with the message of biblical prosperity, though we should at least know that it’s God who gives us power to create wealth. If he gives us the power, we have to at least agree that acquiring wealth can’t be universally renounced. Also, nowhere in Scripture does it say we must give it all away. Our validation as Christians or as ministers isn’t gauged by how little money we can live on each month. A poverty spirit does nobody any good whatsoever.

The following verse affirms God’s role in acquiring wealth, and also an accompanying warning:

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. 19 And if you forget the LORD your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Deuteronomy 8:18-19 (ESV)

If Pastor John Gray has wealth, we should celebrate. If he uses the wealth to go after other gods, he will certainly pay.

Of course, Scripture deals quite a bit with impure motives in the area of money. The love of money, as we all know, is the root of all evil. But, money itself is not evil. It’s benign. It’s a tool.

I know, people are tired of ministers flaunting their wealth. I get it. The arrogantly presume to know better ways the money could be used, and they would love to share their wisdom with everybody who uses money for personal enjoyment.

As I recently heard someone say, when you let me tell you how to spend your money, I might let you tell me how to spend mine. Honestly, it's remarkable how presumptuous people can be regarding another's money.

I’d encourage you read two articles that deal with the biblical money issue: 10 Things to Consider Before You Judge Jesse Duplantis for Believing for a $54M Jet and Why Giving Large Portions of Our Finances to Church Might Require Disobeying God.

But, again, specifically regarding John Gray: He committed no sin! At least none that we are aware of. It is fully irresponsible to renounce a man who has done no wrong! You may not like the way he is spending his money, that, as we currently understand, was earned with integrity. If the IRS doesn’t have an issue, why are we assaulting him?

Should it come out that he acquired the money immorally, that would change everything. But until that happens, we should be quiet—and be careful.

The moment we reject the principle of biblical prosperity in another, we reject that principle in our lives. Poverty becomes our reality and Mammon our master. I've actually found the spirit of Mammon to often be much stronger in people who lack than in people who have wealth.

In fact, if you are so opposed to prosperity, would it be okay for people to pray for poverty to visit your household? Is that more in line with your biblical paradigm? I pray it isn’t. I pray the financial breakthrough you are seeking actually does come. It will come more quickly if we bless those whom God blesses.

I’ve talked with several people, including pastors, who have revealed how nervous they were to buy a new car or a new home or to go on a vacation. They knew other Christians would be calling them out, accusing them, judging them, wondering if they really needed something so nice. Pastors have revealed that people will decrease or withhold tithes and offerings to make a statement if they felt the leadership of the church was too prosperous. That behavior is preposterous. We should be rejoicing when others are financially blessed! Again, what’s the alternative? Poverty?

Remember, I'm not talking about people who acquire wealth immorally. We would both agree this is a sin that does great damage. I'm talking about those who have gained wealth via the power of God and who give, and keep, according to what God speaks directly to them.

IT’S ALL ABOUT HOLINESS

I understand that John Crist is tired of people dog-piling on other Christians when they are down. We should all become defenders of those who are unjustly treated. However, there is a right way to deal with sin and error. There is true justice. We need preachers and prophets to deal boldly, in love, with those errors for the sake of all. We need to be preaching truth today without apology. We must assault the darkness and reject the destructive worldviews that so many Christians are adopting.

Homosexuality has become normalized because the church has been reluctant to call it out and to address it as eternally poisonous. The same is true for lust and pornography and other common sins of our day. Instead of calling them sins that threaten where people will spend the rest of their lives, they are presented as minor issues that pose little threat.

Many Christian leaders are either falling into the sin of homosexuality or boldly endorsing it. In recent years people like Jen Hatmaker, Rob Bell, Vicky Beeching, Jennifer Knapp and others have left Christianity for another form of religious practice, though they still identify as Christian. This is the problem caused by the church's failure to address this cultural phenomena head on. The resulting confusion is wounding a generation. Lauren Daigle has added to that confusion, but she can be a champion of truth should she make clear just what the Word of God states.

We can love people while refusing to compromise. We can call out immorality. We must. If we don’t, the world will presume the church is totally okay with it.

Unbiblical “Freedom Theologies”–The Growing Rejection of the Need to Go Deep in God

Arguments against the invitation to go deep in God are increasing…and it’s Christians who are leading the resistance.

re·li·gion /rəˈlijən/ Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.

imageSlap the label “religious” on anything that threatens your theology or impacts your definition of freedom. It feels spiritual. It is spiritual. The demonic spirit realm is filled with unholy wisdom, and very often this is the source of such a defense. Today’s rallying cry seems to be fueled by the desire to be free from anything that places restraints, expectations or requirements upon someone. All of that, to them, is religious.

Many of the arguments are coming from those who have been duped into believing an unbiblical doctrine of grace. This false-grace ideology presumes that all has been completed by Jesus, and that nothing remains for us to do in order to be in relationship with him. Simply, his actions on the cross and at the tomb were sufficient. The result, if we only understood, they would argue, is that absolutely nothing can be done by us to increase our nearness to him, and, from the other direction, nothing can be done to decrease his nearness to us.

They argue that our sin is impotent. Our effort is both futile and unnecessary, and actually an offense to the finished work of Jesus. Their proposition is that we simply need a revelation of this supposed truth. When they discovered it themselves, burdens and weights were lifted and they began enjoying God as a good, good Father. They would say they do nothing, except believe and receive and live in that revelation.

YOGA-12-7-2018 3.03.07 PM 00000000The truth is that eliminating every burden (God’s burden is light, not non-existent) just may cost us our lives. If you are carrying a backpack on your three-day hike into the mountains, it’s going to get heavy. If you decided to take it off and leave it behind, it will feel like freedom! You are suddenly relieved of that irritating, uncomfortable burden. However, you will also be without food, water, a sleeping bag and shelter. The elements of the world will overtake you and you may very possibly succumb.

I celebrate with zeal every time someone I know encounters legitimate freedom and the immeasurable love of the Father! However, our experience in God cannot stop there. Those who do stop short need to be awakened to the deeper call of God on their lives.

You see, religion isn’t that which produces a barrier to freedom, it’s the attempt to use God in order to have the most pleasurable experience possible, no matter how selfish that pursuit may be.

Those who wanted Jesus to be their king one day, turned on him and demanded his death the next. Why? They were not set on worshiping Jesus but rather on using him. When he didn’t deliver what they wanted, they decided to eliminate him for a better option. This is religion in action.

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 (ESV)

12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15 (ESV)

A SIMPLE YET PROFOUND CALL

God is calling us into the deep.

The only way there is through radical surrender, fervent intercession, living in the Spirit and unapologetic holiness.

We must die daily. We must be living sacrifices.

I’m writing this from my hotel room during a ministry trip to Albany, New York, and I’m watching The International House of Prayer’s prayer room live on YouTube. I was on staff at IHOPKC for a couple of years and it was easy to see one specific reality: Most of these people were devoted to God at a level rarely seen in this nation. They weren’t perfect people, but they were hungry people with a level of consecration rarely seen in the church. I’ve known many people who are offended at this. They actually despise IHOPKC and ministries like them. Why? Because their own level of passion for Jesus and depth in God are exposed as lacking. The thought that much is required of disciples of Jesus is contrary to their personal pursuits of undisciplined freedom.

Understand, I know these words I’m writing are provocative. I also believe they must be written so I can most effectively make my point. As obvious as it seems, a growing number of people in this generation don’t get it: we can only experience the deep things of God if we are fervent, radical, surrendered and dying daily to the things of the flesh. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.

At IHOPKC and other similar ministries all around the world, people are praying 2-4 hours a day or more. They are allowing the groans of the Spirit to erupt out of them. They are devouring the Word of God as they allow the presence of God to permeate them in the prayer room. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them with clarity. The prophetic atmosphere around them is electric. Dreams, visions and a powerful anointing become regular. The chambers of their heart are opened to the searching of the Spirit of God. These people are undone, hungry, desperate and relentless.

Yet, those who subscribe to the unbiblical “freedom theologies” that I addressed above somehow believe that they are as close to God as those who are giving themselves in a more deliberate manner, even if they make no effort in drawing close to him.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (ESV)

A POWERFUL ANOINTING

I’ll never forget the time I had a regional prayer meeting in my church. A well known mega-church leader was in the prayer meeting along with several of his friends. I was praying with my eyes closed when I felt this intense wave of the glory of God wash over me. I opened my eyes and this man of God had just walked by me. I waited for him to make another lap, and as he passed by again, the wave hit me a second time. This happened several times.

I knew this man knew God. There was a depth that was uncommon. He was living in such a way that resulted in a very powerful anointing swirling around him. I yearned to do whatever it took to carry that type of glory on my own life.

I’ve experienced similar manifestations several times, and each time leaves me crying out for a deeper hunger and a more resolute life.

Pastor John Kilpatrick was preaching at a Bay of the Holy Spirit remote event in Detroit. I was on the front row during this morning session enjoying the wisdom that John was releasing to us. Suddenly, in the middle of a point, he stopped. He simply said, “He’s here.”

As he gazed toward the rear of the auditorium, I turned my head and looked myself. You could see a wave of God’s glory moving from the back to the front, row by row. Then it hit me. If I had an unlimited vocabulary at my disposal, I would still not be able to describe that experience. Simply, God arrived.

There is no way that manifests except via a radically devoted life, a life that John Kilpatrick exemplifies. There are precious few who live this way.

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)

As we life consecrated lives, encounters are revelations will increase. The truth found in Scripture will explode off the pages. We will be undone. As with Isaiah, the revelations will result in a declaration of God’s holiness and our weakness and struggle. If there is sin in our lives, it will be instantly evident. Then, the fire will sear us and our redemption and deliverance will be made clear.

We will live with a never-ending burning in our spirits and a tremble that marks us forever.

If we want to experience the wonders of God, radical consecration is the only option.

5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)

THE TERROR OF HELL

The Terror of Hell Paperback 500Not only will we live tepid, powerless lives that are focused mostly on our own personal experience instead of laying our lives down for Jesus, but those who refuse to consecrate and devote in the place of intense prayer and surrender are at risk of eternal separation from God. There is a terror of Hell that the enemy is making ready for them to experience.

My book The Terror of Hell is a sobering message of how intimacy with Jesus and salvation in Jesus are related. In the encounter, I was dragged toward Hell. The terror I experienced was horrifying and fully indescribable. God spoke to me after the encounter and said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”

It’s possible that a Christian may be in a good place today, but in the future they may grow apathetic or they may lose their first love. Here’s a portion of an article based on my book:

A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.

We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.

This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.

I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”

“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. 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. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)

WE MUST DIVE INTO THE DEEP

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)

Unbiblical “freedom theologies” reject the call to the deep. I’ve had people actually tell me that going deep is unnecessary. Others have called people out of the prayer rooms! They argue it’s an unnecessary practice if we truly understand that there is nothing left to be done. They say we just need to rest in our fully resolved position in Christ. Still others reject prayer movements like IHOPKC because their devotion to intercession is a devotion to unnecessary works.

I’ll be honest with you, I never thought I’d see entire movements of supposed Spirit-filled Christians standing in opposition to prayer!

Someone connected with me on Facebook recently and shared her desperation to see a prayer movement emerge in her region. She actually said she’s been involved in a church that’s all about revival, but they haven’t had a prayer meeting in ten years! I simply responded by confirming her suspicions: you can’t be a revival church without a fervent, consistent and supernatural culture of prayer. It’s impossible.

THE SUBMARINE DREAM

YOGA-12-7-2018 2.12.07 PM 00000000My wife and I were in a military grade nuclear submarine following behind a second submarine that contained my Father and Mother-in-law.

I was analyzing the situation, trying to gain understanding on what exactly were were doing while my wife was playfully looking through the periscope. Both submarines were staying at the surface of the water, and they were being used as tour vessels. The atmosphere was playful and carefree.

After a short time everybody was done playing and we decided to park the submarines alongside a long pier. We climbed out and walked down the pier and onto an ocean side boardwalk. There were people everywhere enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The restaurants and shops were full of activity.

We walked onto the sandy beach which was about one hundred yards from the submarines.

As we gazed out over the water, both submarines suddenly began leaving. They headed out toward deeper water.

My in-laws immediately started running into the water giving chase to the submarines. As they did, I was thinking that it was impossible for them to get anywhere near to the fast moving vessels and I didn’t understand why they had tried.

Then, my wife ran into the water as well.

What I saw next can’t easily be described in a way that is true to the emotion I felt. The water immediately began erupting as if a powerful hurricane was upon us. I was terrorized as I frantically tried to devise a plan to help. What I saw next drained every bit of hope from my being. A whirlpool opened up underneath my in-laws and sucked them under. Then, a second whirlpool took my wife.

I was screaming for help. A few people gathered around but could offer no help whatsoever. I called 911 and all I heard was this recording, “We can’t send help for an hour. We can’t send help for an hour.”

It looped over and over. I knew that THIS was the hour. I couldn’t wait! The emergency was upon us.

As I stood on the beach, hopeless, the scene changed.

Only a few days had passed yet it was now bitterly cold and the water had frozen over. There was at least ten feet of snow on top of the ice.

I started moving slowly, though as quickly as I could, through the snow in the direction of where the whirlpools were.

imageI started digging ferociously and what I saw next will forever be seared in my memory.

It was my wife, frozen. She was gone.

I ran back to the boardwalk and into a restaurant. I saw someone who had tried to help previously behind the counter of a sports bar. He was a volunteer firefighter in addition to working at the restaurant. I yelled, “Help! Help! I found her! I found her! Come quickly!”

He just casually said, “Sorry man, I’m working.”

What? I couldn’t believe what I heard. I said, “No, you don’t understand! I found my wife! I need help!”

He just said, “Sorry.” and then looked at a customer and said, “How can I help you?”

imageI ran back to the snow where my wife was buried. I thought that maybe, just maybe, since she was frozen that there was a chance she could be revived. I’ve heard of people freezing and their heart beat is slowed to almost nothing before being brought back.

As I was thinking about this I looked down at her, and there was a piece of paper right next to her frozen face.

I picked it up. All it said was, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”

Then I woke up.

Interpretation

When I woke up I was shaken to my core.

As I started to pray and analyze the dream, the following is what was highlighted to me:

  • The submarines: Vehicles represent ministry, and I believe the submarines represented the church. The church is not meant for casual play at the surface of the water. It’s a military weapon of war designed to move into the deep as it advances toward enemy targets. When the submarines left on their own, that represented the truth that the church will most certainly advance on its mission with or without us. We can be left behind as we continue our focus on entertainment and leisure if we so choose.
  • My family: Of course, this was a hard core part of the dream. The first reaction is to do everything I can to ensure those close to me are doing well and burning hot for Jesus. Beyond that, symbolically I feel they represented familiarity and presumption. It’s very easy to presume those who are close to us are most certainly doing well in their relationship with Jesus—and then to model our lives after theirs. What happens so often is that we can adopt their pace and their level of passion instead of staying locked in, on alert and advancing in the fire of God. The pressure of maintaining civilities and false-unity can result in a marginalized, lukewarm, casual disposition.

    This verse best represents what I am communicating:

    …I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1

    We must be careful not to presume that we are alive and that others are alive simply because of the preceding reputations. There are many people with both a spiritual legacy and a name for being zealous who are doing little more than playing—and it’s possible that those people may be some of our closest friends, family, pastors and other personal heroes. Don’t measure your life by their grid. We must calibrate to the truth in scripture that will bring light to every issue of our heart.

    Then, we can be true awakeners. If we think people who are are asleep are already awake, then we will have no need to step into our roles as end-time prophetic messengers.

  • 911: I was sounding the alarm in a variety of ways including by calling 911. I also ran into the sports bar looking for help. Both rejected the alarm. It’s clear that the hour is now for awakening though even those trained as emergency responders won’t see it. What was the alarm? Those that have a reputation of being alive are dead! Wake up!
  • The storm: It was sudden, violent and really out of place. It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t obligated to explain itself. If we would have been in the submarines AND in the deep, the storm would not have touched us.

    “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; Matthew 24:36-38

THE CALL

So, what’s the call?

It’s simple, and it’s directed to the church, to those who are to be in the deep:

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:4-6

God instructed me to wrestle with Revelation 3:1. I've been burning hot for Jesus for over 20 years, yet, is it possible that my devotion is not as deep as I might think? Yes, it is possible.

God didn't accuse me of being dead. He didn't reveal that my passion was false. He simply wanted me to always consider the possibility that my reputation will always be at risk of being more intense than my reality.

…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1

It's time to go deep, to be awake and alert and then to awaken the sleepers…many who may have a reputation of being very much alive…but are not.

It’s time for revival, not the promotion of selfish “freedom theologies.” This is the hour.

Whose Sheep are You? A Call To Rejecting Satanic Counsel and Hearing God’s Voice Clearly

Whose sheep are you? What voice do you hear most regularly? The answer makes all the difference in the world.

Revelation Driven Prayer Paperback 500When I travel for ministry, I regularly speak on the topic of Revelation Driven Prayer. I wrote a book on the topic, and in many ways this invitation to living an exciting prophetic life is my signature message. The undeniable and other-worldly miracles and wonders that I’ve experienced would never have happened had I not discovered a life in the Spirit. It truly troubles me that it’s so uncommon for today’s Spirit-filled Christians to walk in the Spirit and to hear God’s voice.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV)

Not only do people regularly admit to not being able to hear God’s voice, very often they honestly confess that they continually hear the voice of the enemy. My response is often intentionally direct, as I believe this is a crisis that must be addressed with urgency.

I ask them, “Then, whose sheep are you?”

A more comprehensive question would be, “Whose counsel are you receiving and what are you doing to ensure that counsel is only coming from the Holy Spirit?”

Simply, we must reject the incessant bombarding of unholy lies, counsel and revelation. Our minds must be renewed. Our walk must be not in the soulish, natural realm. God mandates that we live and walk and pray in the Spirit.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25 (ESV)

In fact, the ability to pray in the Spirit is a key part of our spiritual armor.

18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)

WHOSE SHEEP ARE YOU?

The enemy of your soul works overtime to grab your attention, to introduce fear and unbelief and to take on the persona of the Holy Spirit—he wants to counsel you.

The question, “Whose sheep are you” isn’t necessarily one that deals with our position in Christ directly, though it could come into play. Enough demonic counsel will most certainly draw you away from Jesus. Satan’s goal is for that to be your eternal reality.

But, there are many steps and phases prior to such a finality. It’s possible, for a time, to be gloriously saved by Jesus while not allowing the Holy Spirt to be our primary counselor. We can, and many do, refuse to nurture a life of prayer and growth in the Word, instead casually attempting to live life as we always had. The enemy will take advantage of such an apathetic approach and appeal to our common sense and to our vulnerabilities.

The result? A life under the leadership of the wrong shepherd.

Again, most people, it seems, don’t hear God’s voice while, at the same time, decreeing with no uncertainty that the voice of the enemy is loud, clear and continual. This is a problem we must address.

PROPHETIC SHOCK AND AWE

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)

The call is clear: we must be carried along by the Holy Spirit!

Peter was emphasizing that everything he was sharing was because of his first-hand revelation. He was there and he experienced it all. Of course, you and I weren’t there when Jesus walked the earth. However, that absolutely doesn’t hinder our opportunity to have first-hand experience!

6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:6-7 (ESV)

We are at an advantage because Jesus left the earth and the Holy Spirit arrived on the earth!

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10 (ESV)

We have no option but to be in the Spirit! What an invitation! As we live in the Spirit, we will begin to see and hear and encounter the great Shepherd. The counsel of God will blow away the dead, humanistic, demonic wisdom we had been living according to.

6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (ESV)

This should launch you into a passionate pursuit of the wisdom of God! The truth that Spirit searches the depths of God is something that wrecks and rocks me every time I consider it. I yearn to live my life according to supernatural, other-worldly, holy revelation. The deep things of God are there to be discovered, and I’m provoked to live every day contending for the uncovering.

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:12-14 (ESV)

The deep things of God will be revealed to us by the Spirit. This means we must learn how to shift from being driven by human understanding to being driven by revelation. If we don’t, we will not receive these truths because they must be spiritually discerned. This discernment doesn’t come simply because we are saved. We must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us how to receive this supernatural data.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)

GROANS OF THE SPIRIT

I’ll leave you with a powerful first step that will help you transition from living a life driven by worldly or demonic counsel to one driven by revelation.

The following is from an article titled The Tone of the Groan:

I've been privileged to give leadership to some events where intercessors and hungry people have shaken and shocked atmospheres. The loud, erupting sound of groans have been resounding in our meetings. It's been prophesied many times that a new sound is going to be released. A new tone. I am convinced that this is not a new musical style, but rather a new groan of the Spirit. It's the tone of the groan that will be heard around the world.

One of the most misapplied scriptures is Romans 8:28. When people are struggling, it's common to share this verse with them. It's actually pretty bad counsel if we don't let them know that this verse is dependent on the preceding verses. Romans 8:28 (ESV) starts with the word “And,” which should reveal that it's connected to what came before it:

Romans 8:26-28: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Things work together for good when we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us with groans! No groan, no guarantee of success.

This is talking about a literal groan. Just as praying in tongues requires a literal sound to come out of our mouths, the groans are also deep, zealous sounds, tones, emitted from the depths of our inner man.

Churches must begin to become prayer- and groan-driven! The sound will break strongholds and usher in deliverance into our nation.

Yes, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but the Holy Spirit will be radically comfortable.

When the groans begin, Romans 8:28 initiates. As the powerful mysteries of God are exploding out of us in prayer, we easily find ourselves loving God with deep intimacy. We embrace the calling on our lives. We have a resounding yes in our spirits even though we don't know logically what we are agreeing with! In fact, bypassing our logic and intellect through groans of intercession is a primary reason why we are in agreement with God.

Our minds can't understand what's being prayed and therefore can't come into disagreement with it.

A life of fervent, supernatural prayer will take us out of the natural and into the Spirit. Praying in tongues and allowing the groans that follow to rumble out of us will train us to tap into the spiritual realm of the Spirit. Our discernment will become sharp. Dreams and visions will start to come. Revelation will spike. Intimacy with Jesus will increase.

The result? We’ll finally hear clearly just what the Shepherd is saying. We’ll go where he is going and our lives will change so dramatically that we’ll wonder how we ever lived any other way.

ORDER JOHN’S BOOK REVELATION DRIVE PRAYER IN PRINT OR EBOOK VERSION HERE.

Lauren Daigle and Casting Stones: All Sin is Not the Same

Those who argue that all sin is the same need to take another look at Scripture.

11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11 (ESV)

Image result for lauren daigleThere is an emerging, deadly argument that is growing in strength among Christians when confronted with issues of holiness and repentance in our culture.

As I write this, the Christian world is abuzz about the recent news that Christian music artist Lauren Daigle failed to renounce homosexuality. You can read my two-part article on that situation, where I both cheered Lauren on in hopes that she would make a course correction in her life and dealt directly with the danger she created for her millions of followers:

Part One: A Critical Response to Lauren Daigle About Homosexuality

Part Two: The Church Must Clear Up the Confusion: Homosexuality Is Wrong.

The argument that so many Christians use in defense of Lauren and her position is quite revealing. It reveals a lack of biblical understanding, but that’s not what’s most troubling. The argument often manifests through people conditioned by the spirit of the age that rejects everything that isn’t tolerant, permissive and, as they would say, loving. The idea is that we must never confront or expose error if the person in question would risk being troubled by the process. Their definition of love is misguided. It’s false-love.

From my article, The Great Love Deception: A False Love Movement is on the Rise: 

Keep in mind that false or tainted love doesn’t flow mostly from an evil, debased heart. It also doesn’t mean that there is nothing about the argument or viewpoint that is true. A person who craves pure love can, in their zeal or in their weakness, allow impurities into their expression of love that twists and compromises it. The reason I needed to say this is to encourage you if you’ve been hit by the false-love spirit. Your desire for manifested love is very probably true, yet the enemy can come in and confuse the process.

Those with a strong mercy gift often have a tender heart and function from a strong desire to minster one-on-one to an individual. They desire to protect and encourage them. This is a valuable, pastoral gift that can bring much life and healing to people. However, as with other gifts, there are blind spots that must be addressed. While they are focused on the individual, they tend to overlook the resulting risk and/or damage to others. In the situation with Lauren Daigle, they want to protect Lauren and rally around her, which is good. We all should be doing that. The expression of love must not stop with Lauren, though. There are millions of others who are now at great risk due to Laruen’s comments. If they do not see the church bring loving correction to the situation, they will automatically presume that Lauren’s position is valid and that the issue of homosexuality isn’t urgent enough to have a biblical position on.

At this time, Lauren has yet to publicly repent and clarify her position. I pray that it happens quickly for herself and the sake of her millions of fans.

THE BIBLE CLEARLY TEACHES THAT ALL SIN IS NOT THE SAME

I have yet to reveal just what the argument so many are using in defense of Lauren and others who are in sin or in error is. Here it is:

All sin is the same. Those who practice or affirm homosexuality are no different than those who worry or gossip. Those without sin should cast the first stone. Who are we to judge?

Those are actually two or three distinct arguments that are often grouped together when defending those who are in sin or error. (I believe sin and error are not always one in the same. One can be in error without realizing it, and without being in sin. Their response to correction, however, does matter. That’s where error can morph into sin quite quickly.)

Some would also argue that Jesus never confronted sin in anyone except the Pharisees. That also is woefully inaccurate. The New Testament is filled with various dealings with sin in the lives of Believers.

Further, many insist that dealing with sin or error is unloving. They suggest the only appropriate response is to pray for them and to approach them one-on-one, in private. Again, we must contend in intercession for those in error, and if we are in relationship with them in a local church setting, and their sin is against us personally, there are absolutely steps that must be taken (Matthew 18). However, the church has no option but to step in as the moderator when public failures put others in harm’s way. Love demands that we do.

Matthew 18 protocol would not be in effect in this scenario since it’s not a sin against a person in a private setting. Public situations demand a public response. Of course, it must be done rightly, with great grace, humility, love and with redemption as the goal.

The focus at its core is two-fold:

  1. See redemption come to the violator
  2. Protect the innocent who have been put at risk due to the individual’s sin

CASTING STONES

According to the Gospel of John, the Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might then accuse him of disobeying the law. Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”The people crowded around him were so touched by their own consciences that they departed. When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her who were her accusers. She replied, “No man, lord.” Jesus then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.” ~Dictionary.com

Correcting error either privately or publicly, as the situation demands, does not automatically equate to casting stones. In fact, we see God correct error time after time, cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. Further, God’s leaders, prophets and apostles did the same thing. We must understand that error correction and confronting sin are core responsibilities of the church for the sake of the one in error and the ones under their influence.

Jesus was in no way teaching that we should not deal with sin publicly. He was revealing to us the appropriate model for doing so.

When dealing with people in sin, hatred can manifest as a desire to see the sinner destroyed. This is how demonic accusation works. Redemption is not the goal.

On the contrary, Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery in three specific ways:

  1. He saved her from those who would attempt to hurt and kill her.
  2. He acknowledged the accusations were true, but forgave her instead of punishing her.
  3. He commanded her to repent.

Many who are conditioned by false-love tend to only focus on protecting and forgiving. In the face of undeniable evidence, they may casually admit the accusations against the person in question are true, but then quickly dismiss them as irrelevant as they rush to their defense.

Unfortunately, all too often, they miss the third point: We must call for repentance, making it clear that such behavior will only bring destruction.

In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we as Christians have a serious responsibility to judge. Jesus modeled a brilliant and righteous justice session with the woman caught in adultery. We must judge just as he judged.

24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24 (ESV)

DIFFERENT TYPES OF SIN

I believe most would agree that different types of sin result in a variety of natural repercussions. If we gossip, the result will not be as severe as if we were to murder someone. It makes sense to all of us that some sin, in the natural, will have minor impact while others will put you in jail or on death row.

The point of disagreement comes when we talk about the spiritual repercussions. This is where so many rush to the defense of a homosexual or someone like Lauren Daigle who, as of this writing, is entertaining serious theological error. They argue that their sin is no different than the sin of lying, apathy or fear. They argue that all sin is the same. They are wrong.

There are most definitely different types of sins that have significantly different outcomes:

BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (NIV)

The sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is much more common than many believe. This sin has radically different impact than other sins as it eliminates any possibility of salvation. When someone resists Jesus to such a degree that they determine that he is demonized, they have ventured very close to the line, if not over it. The Holy Spirit will stop drawing them and they will grow darker and more hateful toward God. In fact, I’ve written before that one’s eschatology comes into play here as well. Those who don’t know God accurately, those who presume he only functions in a positive way, will accuse him of being demonized, or Satan himself, when he begins killing millions in the end-times. They would argue that a loving God would never do this. They would be wrong. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is very much at play in this scenario. This is a topic of discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, we as Christians can’t presume we are exempt from committing this sin. We are not.

HOMOSEXUALITY PRACTICE AND APPROVAL

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:26-28 (ESV)

The sin of homosexuality is an abomination and it comes with much more severe judgment than most other sins. There’s no way we can say that the sin of worry is anywhere near being the same as homosexuality.

God abandoned them to the operations of a mind incapable of reflection. ~Adam Clarke's Commentary

The result of being turned over to a debased, or a reprobate, mind is that God abandons them and they no longer reflect on or consider the possibility of truth. This is terrifying. But, it gets even more serious, and this is why the issue with Lauren Daigle and others who are on the fence regarding homosexuality is so urgent.

32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32 (ESV)

Giving approval to this abomination is a severe violation, and the person who does that is in grave danger.

SEXUAL SIN

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 (ESV)

Sexual sin has much greater, more devastating effects than most other sins. It violates the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I understand the graphic nature of what I am about to say, but consider the disgust and filth of committing sexual sin in your church, at the altar. Friends, this is something that occurs in Satanic churches. The defilement goes beyond anything that most of us would ever understand.

Sexual sin is a violation of the church, of the temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells. It violates us, personally in a deep, deep way. Sexual sin overtakes and defiles the temple, inviting the Holy Spirit to leave. That is a major, life-destroying decision.

Further, refusal to repent from sexual sin can result in one of the most terrifying judgments:

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)

The person is to be publicly given over to Satan himself so his flesh may be destroyed! This is God’s last ditch effort to, hopefully, convince the violator to confess his sin and turn back to him.

LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT

1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Acts 5:1-10 (ESV)

I don’t think most Christians realize how common the above scenario is today. My belief is that it happens often. We may be part of a church, invested in the vision and ready to give, serve and participate, yet if we lie and put God’s name on it, we are at risk of immediate death. The Bible makes it clear that this resulted in great fear coming upon the church. We need that fear to return today!

How often do people say, “God said,” or “God told me to…” when they are simply attempting to give validation to their own fleshly desires? How common is it for people to prophesy out of their soul and finish by saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord?” Common. Very common.

When we do this, we take God’s name in vain. We lie to the Holy Spirit. At times, when people do this, they have no time to repent. They are taken, and what they are up against in eternity is something none of us ever want to experience.

WRONGLY RECEIVING THE LORD’S SUPPER

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (ESV)

I doubt most people genuinely stop and consider the condition of their heart prior to eating the wafer and drinking the grape juice at church. I’ve led communion in such a way where most people in the church were actually hesitant to receive the elements! The repentance was powerful and the examination of hearts deep. When we approach God casually, with hearts that are not fully surrendered and tainted by sin, we have to know that our well being is compromised.

Fear and trembling must return to the church and sin has to be eradicated. If we aren’t in a good place in God, we really shouldn’t partake in the extremely holy sacrament of Communion.

SIN THAT DOESN’T RESULT IN DEATH

16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:16-18 (ESV)

God understand that sanctification is progressive, and if we are living a repentant life, the sins that we wrestle with will not cost us our salvation. This is the sin that is not unto death. So, if we slip up the moment before death, there’s a chance that God will count the sin as one that doesn’t result in death. However, I sure don’t want to risk an unnecessary analysis of the last moments of my life. I believe it’s much better to leave here with purity in our hearts and praise in our hearts!

Verse 18 is key: our wrestling match with the same sins should not be open ended. We should not continue in sin. Victory after victory should be the pattern of our lives as we leave old sinful patterns behind forever.

UNFORGIVENESS

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)

I believe unforgiveness is a specific sin that has unique penalties. God’s forgiveness of us was so precious, so valuable, so driven by love that our refusal to do the same for others is a violation more extreme and vile than most others. If we refuse to forgive someone, we can’t presume to be saved. We can’t presume to be forgiven. The verses in Matthew are crystal clear.

Consider Corrie Ten Boom. You may have read her story in the book The Hiding Place. She was a general in the faith as she and her family hid Jews during the Holocaust. Eventually they were discovered and were put into a concentration camp. She ministered Jesus in inhuman conditions. She was faithful in a time where all faith was lost. Ultimately, after torture at the hands of one particular guard and countless horrors, her entire family was killed. The war ended and Corrie was released.

Shortly after Corrie was walking down the road when a man approached her. He said, “Excuse me, you were in the camp, weren’t you?” Corrie affirmed that she was. He continued, “After the war I gave my life to Jesus. I prayed that he would allow me to find one person that I hurt so badly in the concentration camp.” It was the guard—the one who brutally tortured and killed her family. He said, “I told God that I wanted to seek their forgiveness. Would you please forgive me?”

Corrie, in her own words, shared her reaction. She said that she simply could not forgive him. As that thought consumed her soul, God spoke to her. He said, “Corrie, if you don’t forgive him, I won’t forgive you.” She knew, as a general in the faith, if she refused to forgive that man than she herself would die in her sins. Hell was her future. She then looked at the man who brought so much horror to her and took his hand and said, “I do forgive you.”

She said the love of God shot through her hand into the former guard’s.

Tragically, so many Christians today presume they are exempt from such truths in Scripture.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15

Watch a powerful, tear inducing video about Corrie Ten Boom and read more about the danger of sin in the lives of Christians in my article, Unsaved Christians—Thoughts on Sin, Hell and Following Jesus in an Unsaved Condition.

BAD FRUIT

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 (ESV)

The condition of our heart will determine how we live, and what we say. If we yield good fruit, we can expect a glorious judgment. If we yield bad fruit, only a terrifying judgment can be expected. The words that come out of our mouths can be a great barometer of the condition of our heart. If we are speaking life, good fruit is sure to be there.

CONTINUAL, DELIBERATE SIN

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. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-29 (ESV)

I firmly believe the doctrine of eternal security is false. I understand the arguments, and there are many wonderful men and women of God who subscribe to this theology. However, my personal opinion, based on what I see in the Word, is that it’s a very dangerous and false belief system. This passage in Hebrews 10 couldn’t be more precise. If we continue in sin, the sacrifice of Jesus will no longer have effect for us. We will be counted among God’s adversaries.

False-grace teachers would argue that Jesus no longer sees our sin. This verse, however, makes it clear that such a belief actually outrages the Spirit of grace.

Continuing in sin will, without question, result in our names being removed from the book of life.

15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (ESV)

NATIONAL SIN

5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:5-6 (ESV)

10 And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Judges 10:10-14 (ESV)

We know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. Righteousness didn’t prevail, and God’s judgment destroyed the cities. There are too many examples to cite of God’s judgment coming to a city or a nation. The actions of the whole can bring either blessing or judgment to all. This means that I will feel the impact of the sins of others. Will their sin impact me eternally? No, not if I remain intimately surrendered to Jesus. However, national sin will result in such great pressure that many will reject God, others will turn from him and eternities will most certainly be affected.

We need an on fire, praying church to rise up in repentance, holiness and with a prophetic call to awaken!

APATHY

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)

5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:5-6 (ESV)

The Bible tells us that the lukewarm will be vomited out of God’s mouth. The above verses in Revelation are sobering. Those who are apathetic, dead and dying, are at great risk of having their name blotted out of the book of life and spending eternity in Hell. I believe passion for Jesus is one of the most important elements of a Christian’s life. We must wake up on fire, live our lives on fire, sleep on fire and enter eternity on fire!

GENERATIONAL BONDAGE

7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities. Lamentations 5:7 (ESV)

I’m keenly aware that my five children and their children are at risk of bondage to any sins that I choose to embrace in my life. This keeps me sober and broken before the Lord. The thought of my wonderful, beautiful children feeling the impact of any sin that I would entertain simply wrecks me. There are sons who are destroyed by lust because of their father’s secret life of pornography. Daughters who are hooked on drugs because of the pattern of addiction in the family line.

We can break the cycle by living a consecrated life, fully surrendered to Jesus.

DECEPTION & FALLING AWAY

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (ESV)

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13 (ESV)

When we entertain immorality, we are at great risk of falling away. Unbelief can creep into a Christian’s life very easily. Sadly, many will fall away. We must actively develop a life of purity and faith as we combat doubt and compromise.

PLEASURE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS

11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV)

This passage is brutal. Those who are taking pleasure in unrighteousness and who are rejecting truth can end up spiritually dead long before their names are written in an obituary. This sin can result in God actually sending a strong delusion so they will, as a result, actually believe what is false. God will not ever allow them to receive the truth they so aggressively rejected.

This is why I believe we must promote radical holiness in this hour. So much of the church today is carnal, enjoying the very things that required the slaughter and murder of the one they say they love. They take pleasure in unrighteousness by watching movies and television that are filled with foul language, sexual situations, coarse jesting and other impurities. They pump immoral music into their ears night and day. They are no different than the world. Those who reject truth and enjoy immorality are at risk of being the recipient of delusion, making it impossible to ever turn to Jesus.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Sin is not all the same. We can’t treat it identically. Of course, we don’t want to commit any sin, but we must also be keenly aware of the greater sins, the impact on our lives and the cost to our nation and millions of people if we don’t confront and correct it.

When sin is affirmed or error is proclaimed by people, whether in a local setting or on the public stage, the church cannot stay silent in the name of love. Such an apathetic act will result in millions being offered the fruit of deception. Many will eat that fruit and blood will be on our hands.

Let’s love well, confront evil, expose darkness, rebuke when necessary, speak life and be the prophetic voices that God is calling us to be.

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. Ephesians 5:11-12 (ESV)

Lauren Daigle, Homosexuality & a Critical Response

If the church remains silent when biblical truth is compromised in the public arena, millions are at risk of deception.

I released a prophetic message to Charisma Magazine that must be read in the new light of Lauren Daigle's recent statements regarding homosexuality. Titled simply, Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality, I highlight another extremely influential artist, Carrie Underwood who was leading worship at a Christian event. Afterwards, these comments came to light:

Our church is gay-friendly. … Above all, God wanted us to love others. It's not about setting rules, or “everyone has to be like me.” No. We're all different. That's what makes us special. We have to love each other and get on with each other. It's not up to me to judge anybody.

She also said:

As a married person myself, I don't know what it's like to be told I can't marry somebody I love and want to marry. I can't imagine how that must feel. I definitely think we should all have the right to love, and love publicly, the people that we want to love.

Similarly, Lauren Daigle said on The Domenick Nati Show when asked, “do you feel that homosexuality is a sin?”:

“I can't honestly answer on that,” Daigle responded. “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. 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.”

A PROPHETIC PRESCRIPTION

I just returned from a ministry trip to Albany, New York. While there, I shared a simple but intense prophetic prescription that definitely applies to this situation.

  1. Embrace radical holiness.
  2. Engage in fervent intercession.
  3. Impact culture with truth.

As we are deeply devoted to a life of supernatural prayer, and are walking in extreme holiness, we will not be able to keep from impacting culture.

Our mandate as Believers is to confront compromise and immorality in culture by trumpeting truth without apology. It's time to shout it from the rooftops! Yet, today, when clear violations of truth are committed, especially by Christian leaders, fellow Christians all too often demand silence as passivity overtakes them. They get mad when messages are preached that deal with sin. They rise up in indignation when error is exposed, even when it's done with great care and deep love.

We can no longer allow those opposed to the proclamation of truth and the confrontation of error to drown out the prophetic voices that have been commissioned by God to bring the sharp sword of the Word to our nation.

Be holy. Pray continually. Confront culture. Do it all in love.

WHAT SHOULD OUR RESPONSE TO LAUREN DAIGLE'S COMMENTS ON HOMOSEXUALITY BE?

Pray for Lauren.

While it's shocking that Lauren isn't clear on the unmistakable, historic and orthodox truth that homosexuality is a sin, it's encouraging that she admits to being teachable. She humbly said that she's willing to learn. I actually have a lot of hope for Lauren, believing that this might be a learning experience for her. If she sits under the right leadership, attends a healthy local church and allows the Word of God to saturate her life, she will most certainly correct course and move right into the place that God has for her.

My great hope is that she would become a women of fervent prayer, living a supernatural life in God and modeling a life of purity and passion for Jesus. To be a Christian leader requires nothing less than a life of radical intercession and devotion to the Word of God.

Protect those under her influence.

I've read posts on Facebook from quite a few people who are slamming others for sounding the alarm about this situation. Their argument is the same old, tired, “We aren't her judge.”

Are those who are using those Bible verses (incorrectly) arguing that we should remain silent when error is promoted?

11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. 13 But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:11-14 (NIV)

If your pastor made the same comments as Lauren, would you stay silent? Would you ignore it and go on with life as usual? Would you argue that “we are all sinners” and that the pastor's position is a non-issue? I certainly hope not. Your pastor has the ability to influence dozens or hundreds, possibly thousands. Lauren Daigle, as a minister of the Gospel on a national and global platform, is influencing multiplied millions. People under her influence are now at extreme, eternal risk. Does anybody care?

We must wake up the sleepers! We have no choice but to expose darkness!

The fact that Lauren is young and learning how to respond to the demands of fame doesn't remove the responsibility of the church to protect those who may be hurt by her ideologies. If my five-year-old does something to put other people in harm's way, I don't ignore it and let the people get hurt or killed just because my child didn't know better. Warning the people at risk doesn't mean I don't love or understand the maturity level of my child. They are two separate issues.

Do you understand how easy it will be now for people to embrace homosexuality due to Lauren'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 Lauren 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.

Stand for truth.

1 You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Titus 2:1 (NIV)

12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, Titus 2:12 (NIV)
15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. Titus 2:15 (NIV)

Since Lauren told the world that she doesn't know if homosexuality is a sin or not, the church must clear up the confusion.

If we don't, we must be ready for the end result, a result that a silent church will be responsible for: God will turn people who surrender to homosexuality over to a depraved mind.

Friend, this is extremely serious. I know Lauren would never want to do something that would result in people going to Hell, but her position could do just that.

26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:26-28 (NIV)

Again, for someone who is ministering the Word of God through music, Lauren has made a grievous error that is so clearly contrary to truth that it's stunning that anybody would give her a pass.

The Word also says:

9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NIV)

Lauren Daigle's theology is absolutely important if she is to continue ministering as a Christian artist. Her position matters.

Another article I wrote for Charisma regarding worship music might be a good resource as well. Here is the bullet point version:

Three Ways Lucifer Can Infiltrate Worship Music

1. Theology

Many people wrongly believe that the worship leader's theology is unimportant. The train of thought is that the senior pastor is the gatekeeper regarding theology in the local church, and the worship leader plays a lesser, supporting role. All we have to do is jump back a bunch of years to see that the great gatekeeper, God himself, was assaulted and his mission was radically damaged.

Lucifer, the worship leader, was not unified with God, and truth was violated. God Himself couldn't (or didn't) stop what happened next:

  • One-third of the angels fell with Lucifer.
  • Countless millions of humans will burn in the hell that was made for him after he was cast out of Heaven.

Bad theology in your worship leader can easily lead to many others in the church succumbing to the deception.

2. Secret Life

Worship leading should not be the primary job description of worship leaders. It should be the natural outflow of a life of intense, continual prayer. Praying in the spirit night and day must be job one for all of us, and especially those who are supposing to lead us into an encounter with a holy God.

It should be obvious that we cannot lead people where we have not gone. I propose many of today's worship leaders are simply pointing people to the holy place instead of going ahead of them and leading them there.

3. Lyrics

Does anybody else notice the trend in worship music toward the glorification of man?

Benefits, our position, our experience—shouted in song after song.

We need to get back to God-centered lyrics that proclaim His goodness!

It is becoming more and more common to hear worship lyrics (and contemporary Christian music lyrics) that are either wishy-washy and watered down or simply not biblical at all.

LAUREN DAIGLE AND ELLEN DEGENERES

While I think it's wonderful that Lauren had an opportunity to meet Ellen DeGeneres, I wonder if she truly understands how devastating homosexuality is. You'll notice a verse below about engaging people outside of the faith. Was Lauren wise? Did she truly impact Ellen? We don't know. I hope so. Is it possible Ellen influenced Lauren? I pray not. This is why it's so critical to know Jesus intimately and to stand for truth boldly.

I do believe Lauren was loving toward Ellen. That is impressive and she should be applauded. We need to love more deeply and also stand for truth at the same time. It can't be one or the other. Is it possible that Ellen comes to Jesus because of Lauren? I absolutely believe it is! I pray it happens! I'm ready to celebrate and dance and shout!

I had a dream about Ellen, and I shared it in another Charisma Magazine article. I strongly recommend that you read it. It's possibly the most provocative and intense message I've ever delivered to the church. Here's the portion about Ellen that's certainly relevant to this situation:

After I woke up from a significant dream about Ellen DeGeneres, I read my verse of the day… here it is:

Be wise when you engage with those outside the faith community; make the most of every moment and every encounter. Colossians 4:5

I felt God had a message of love for Ellen that I should try to get to her.

I decided to email Ellen. I have no idea if she will ever get it, but I pray she does.

Here's what I sent to Ellen DeGeneres:

Here's a strange story for ya! I'm a pastor & author, and I had a dream about you last night. It was crazy long and detailed and the first two-part dream I've had (I got up to go to the bathroom in the middle, and the dream continued after I went back to sleep).

You aren't someone I think about often at all (sorry!), so I have a feeling God may have dropped that dream on me. It started with you at the Academy Awards (or something similar) and you called me on stage from the audience. I was overwhelmed with grief and whispered to you, “Please forgive me for judging you.”

Later, you went on to share with me from your heart about some pain and you talked about your mom. Later on I met your mom and your brother at their home. (I didn't realize you had a brother until I googled it just a moment ago.)

There were other pieces to the dream, but I thought I'd leave it at that for now.

A little about me; I may appear to fit the stereotype as I do believe any lifestyle that embraces activities that God, in his wisdom, deems unhealthy must be avoided. Homosexuality included. However, what's also included is pride, which the Christian church is often steeped in. So is selfish ambition and having cold love. All deadly, all have hit the church at large. Again, please forgive me.

After the dream I decided to preach tonight on a crazy controversial message calling the church to repentance titled, “Almost Homosexual: The Church in Crisis.”

God likes you, he loves you. Me too.

Five reasons not to let misguided spirituality keep you from the wonder of Christmas

Has misguided spirituality stolen the gift of Christmas from you and your family?

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My family and I live in Christmas ground zero—Branson, Missouri. The glory and wonder of the Christmas season in this tourist destination starts mid-October, successfully washing out the darkness of Halloween, and ignites the entire region in red and green. As I gaze through the window at Branson’s downtown Starbucks, where I’m writing this article, I can see a massive Christmas tree at Branson Landing on the shores of Lake Taneycomo and a huge crowd of people, many in their pajamas, at the Branson Scenic Railway depot waiting to board The Polar Express. The joy of Christmas has arrived!

We absolutely love viewing the 6.5 million lights at Silver Dollar City, one of the nation’s premier Christmas destinations. Holiday stage shows are numerous along Highway 76. Christmas lake cruises, drive through trails of lights, carriage rides and much more help make experiencing Branson one of the nation’s very best Christmas family traditions.

I can’t imagine not fully immersed in the wonder of Christmas—yet many Christians have decided to eliminate Christmas from their lives. Humbug!

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I applaud Christians who want to live pure, holy lives, but eliminating Christmas is not the way to do that. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year as we exalt Jesus and enjoy family in ways that cannot happen at any other time, in any other way! I’m absolutely convinced Jesus loves it when we have fun, laugh, enjoy each other and rejoice!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
With the kids jingle belling,
and everyone telling you,
"Be of good cheer,"
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.
There'll be much mistletoeing
and hearts will be glowing,
when loved ones are near.
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

FIVE REASONS why we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas with abandon:

1. JESUS

Amy, one of my boys, Parker, and I just returned from Orlando, including a day each at The Magic Kingdom and Sea World. Both places, most probably for the only time all year, exalted Jesus through music and productions. I was excited to hear songs like “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” joyfully playing as I waited for my (way too big) ice cream sundae in the Main Street ice cream parlor at the Magic Kingdom. I was even more excited to see a living nativity called “O Wondrous Night” being produced at Sea World! Of course, Silver Dollar City here in Branson is unashamedly Christian based. Their mission statement declares that all they do is done “in a Manner Consistent with Christian Values and Ethics.” The majesty of Jesus and his birth are proclaimed throughout the park. In fact, in their epic Christmas production, Dicken’s Christmas Carol, Scrooge has a powerful, tear inducing salvation moment that was the actual cause of his reborn heart.

You simply cannot escape the truth that Christmas exalts the King! Do many (most) people ignore this and focus on less spiritual Christmas experiences? Yes. However, even as they do, the name of the Savior of the world is proclaimed every time they mutter the word CHRISTmas. They can’t escape the Christmas music that proclaims the love of Jesus or the spirit of giving that Jesus best exemplifies.

Most Christians who argue against celebrating Christmas do so because of supposed pagan roots or because they have determined that it’s “not really about Jesus,” and should therefore be avoided.

First, Christmas is overwhelming about Jesus! However, that being said, if Jesus had to be the subject of everything we celebrate, we’d have to eliminate birthday parties, watching fireworks on July 4th, Veteran's Day, New Year’s Day and most other holidays and special events. Wedding parties would cease. So would graduation parties and other celebrations.

Second, unlike Halloween which is still very much a pagan, demonic celebration that should be avoided by every Believer, Christmas is currently a glorious celebration of Jesus, life and family.

We pay attention to current status, not origins. Anything can be redeemed. The current status of Halloween is a world-wide celebration of Satan. The current status of Christmas is a world-wide celebration of Jesus!

Additionally, if we eliminated everything from our lives that had pagan origins, we’d have a hard time functioning.

Did you know that the following have pagan origins?

  • Wedding rings
  • Wedding ceremonies
  • Funerals
  • New Year’s/New Year’s Eve
  • Statues of people and animals
  • Money has pagan designs on it
  • The days of the week
  • The months of the year
  • Eye makeup
  • Wind chimes
  • Saying “Amen”
  • Baby showers
  • Making your bed
  • Birthdays

In the first-century Church, gentile Christians were told to avoid meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols (Acts 15:29). However, Paul told the Corinthians that they could eat meat sold in the public market even though that meat may have been sacrificed to an idol (1 Cor. 10:25). He told them not to eat in the pagan temple. In other words, he told them to avoid blatant paganism, but they did not have to superstitiously avoid everything that paganism might have touched at some time in the past. ~gci.org

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!

2. FAMILY & MEMORIES

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I’m 49 years old, and I still have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve! I remember the Christmas mornings that my parents made so exciting and special in the 1970’s and 80’s. We’d go to sleep with nothing under the tree…and then magic happened. When we woke up several hours earlier than normal, a bright light from an archaic movie camera blinded our eyes as we walked down the hallway from our bedrooms toward the living room. As our pupils adjusted to the light, we would witness what happened over night. Presents wrapped in black and white newspaper (to save money for gifts) filled the room!

I’ll never forget the disk drive I got for my Commodore 64. My parents were Christmas geniuses. The hour or so of unwrapping gifts, one at a time, led to one final, climactic moment when my brother and I excitedly and nervously wondered if we would get what we had hoped for. The adrenaline was pumping. The mystery was almost too much to bear! As I unwrapped that final newspaper covered present, my eyes popped open wide as I saw it. I got my disk drive!

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Both of my parents are with Jesus now, and that disk drive is long gone. However, the memories that I have will live forever. I could share story after story from my childhood to current times that are so special to me. Spending time with Amy and the kids looking at Christmas lights or visiting Christmas villages and festivals, hustling and bustling at shopping malls and enjoying holiday attractions is precious beyond compare.

In fact, I’ll never forget the time, just a handful of years ago, my mom and dad filled their living room with presents, mostly for our kids. Skylar and Parker had wanted a Nintendo Wii, but Amy and I weren’t in a position to spend that kind of money that year. The last gift the kids opened resulted in jumping and screaming for what seemed like forever. They got their Wii. They played it all day. Grampy, dressed in his mismatched pajama bottoms and green T-shirt, spent some quality time bowling on the Wii with the boys. It was funny. I’ll never forget it.

My dad died shortly after that. That memory still causes a tear or two to this day.

Oh, there’s no place like
home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine
Of a friendly face
For the holidays, you can’t beat
Home, sweet home

3. SANTA CLAUSE & GIFTS

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I’ll never apologize for loving gifts! I have so much fun buying gifts for Amy and the kids each year. I love receiving gifts too! I make out my list and email it to Amy early every November—and then modify it several times! It doesn’t mean I’m carnal or materialistic. It’s my love language. Some of you need to be delivered from condemnation that others have heaped upon you for enjoying gifts. Did the Wise Men not bring gifts to Jesus?

Celebrate the spirit of Saint Nick who selflessly gave. Amy and I share the truth about Santa with the kids so there’s no confusion there, and then we all celebrate the season with passion!

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)

There’s just something about the process of hunting for the perfect gift for the ones you love, finding the right size and color, sneaking it home, wrapping it behind locked doors and placing it in the perfect spot under the tree.

There’s also the excitement that I talked about in the last point. Gathering around the tree to take turns opening presents is an experience that can’t be duplicated any other day of the year. When I unwrap something from one of my little ones, no matter if it’s homemade or something from the dollar store, I come alive inside! The same is true for every other gift someone gives me, or for every gift I get to watch someone else open.

It’s the perfect opportunity to become childlike, to stop “adulting” for a while and just have fun!

After the gifts have been opened, the rest of Christmas Day is spent playing with new toys, playing new games, eating Christmas dinner and enjoying new things in a room littered with torn wrapping paper, boxes and glorious chaos!

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So, to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

4. MUSIC, FOOD AND FUN

Is there anything better than a fire in the fireplace as Christmas music fills the room? Or, watching Rudolph on TV as a family for the hundredth time? Amy’s birthday is in November, and this year I bought her tickets to two stage productions: Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story Musical. We’ll have a wonderful dinner each of those two nights, and then head out to the show for a couple hours of Christmas fun!

Again, I’m growing older, but I am often the first one in our family to start watching the old Christmas shows on TV. I’ll go to sleep with Christmas worship playing in the bedroom. Compared to the rest of the year, it’s nice that so much of the entertainment the world is offering is clean, family friendly and wholesome. Christmas does that.

Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolf
play in any reindeer games.

Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolf with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee:
“Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”

5. JOY AND PEACE

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As the wickedness of Halloween dissipates in the atmosphere, the Christmas season slows things down and just permeates the atmosphere with peace and joy. It gets dark sooner, it’s crisp outside, the snow starts falling and life just gets a little quieter. As the anticipation of Christmas morning is before us all, we don’t have to wait to experience all that Christmas has to offer. We can bundle up and walk through the snow or drive through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and decorations. We’ll put up the tree, hang the ornaments and relax as a family.

It’s no wonder that joy and peace come with the Christmas season. After thousands of years of hopelessness, a little baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He brought peace to the storm and joy to the world. He changed my life. I celebrate him on Christmas. The joy and peace in my heart are his gift to me.

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

Amy, the kids and I pray that you and yours have a truly wonderful, love-filled, joyous and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy your family, create memories and become childlike in this beautiful, wondrous season!

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