The only hope for America? Churches that promote extreme Holy Spirit encounters

Churches that don't fan the flames of intense Holy Spirit activity need to go.

Like so many, I'm crying out for an earth-shocking move of God, an undeniable invasion of supernatural power that will drive us to our knees. The tears and the tremble that result will never leave us. Our very reason for existing will shift in an instant knowing we have just encountered Deity. 

The church has both the call and the authority to usher in such a holy visitation. Tragically, many have left the church with deep frustrations, giving up after holding out such high hope that revival would be the prime focus. Hosting the presence of God with the ultimate goal of igniting a regional outpouring is simply not the supreme motive of most churches today. Sure, many pastors and leaders would give a hearty head nod to the idea, but when it's time to contend, those who have refused to put down the weapons of warfare are few.

EMBRACE THE WEIRD

A pastor friend of mine recently mentioned the reason why so many in his Charismatic/Pentecostal denomination shy away from pursuing revival. They are “afraid of weird.” 

I've said often that as a leader, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. I fully embrace the weird. We need pastors who no longer care very much about how many mortals they have in the pews and start crying out for our immortal, fearful and omnipotent God to come! Oh yes, it will get wonderfully, supernaturally weird! Revival is messy, otherworldly, hard to understand and impossible to contain.

This is actually the problem. Many of today's pastors and leaders prefer a controlled flame to a wildfire. God is yearning to blow the winds of the Spirit over fast spreading fire that threatens everything in its path. He wants to consume homes, businesses and all his fiery love can overcome. He doesn't want containment. This fire must be wild.

NO MORE (SPIRIT-FILLED) CHURCH AS USUAL

Many have been campaigning for an end of church as usual. We need to take it a step further. It's easy for the Spirit-filled crowd to presume they have it. They are open to the moving of the Spirit of God and, as a result, have somehow arrived. This couldn't be further from the truth.

If a church genuinely wants the fire, they can no longer shut up the tongues. Tongues of fire must be unleashed in our churches again!

How rare is it to find supposed Spirit-filled churches that are roaring from groans that can't be uttered? The explosive, guttural cries of supernatural fire erupting out of the mouths of desperate people is a rare experience today. After all, that's weird and many of today's Charismatic pastors avoid it like the plague. 

We are all familiar with a typical Spirit-filled church service. You'll get some extended, nicely polished worship along with some lifted hands, dancing and shouts. Sometimes people will fall over when prayed for which is a sure sign you are in a Charismatic church. A long, enthusiastic sermon comes next followed by quality time at the altars. You are with me, right? We've all been there, done that.

Of course, all of what I described, if authentic, is very good. Very, very good.

However, it's not nearly what is needed if we want God's supernatural presence to absolutely overwhelm us. Revival doesn't launch from such a predictable, controllable church strategy.

A FORMULA FOR FIRE

To take the church from tired, predictable services into the mission of revival requires a significant shift in strategy. Carefully crafting a smooth, vibrant, mildly supernatural Sunday church experience will never suffice. Churches that refuse to go into the depths in these end-times should go. They are standing in the way of legitimate revival in their city and are robbing God's people of the opportunity to experience an outpouring.

While churches may be exceptionally good at any number of things, including growth, outreach, teaching, encouraging and discipleship, if they aren't doing it in the fire, they have become a liability in the Kingdom. Pastors may be brilliant leaders with thousands of people showing up to hear what they have to say each week, but without the knee-bending wind of the Spirit of God howling through the church, what's the point?

Here are some of the key steps for promoting a wildfire revival.

A REMNANT MINDSET

In order for revival to become job one in the church today, the seeker mindset of old must go. We have to be ready and willing to allow the majority to exit our churches never to return if that is, in fact, the required cost of revival. Pastors, find your remnant and burn hot with them. Until we realize the church is more about ministering to God than it is ministering to people we'll never even take the first step toward an outpouring. Pastors need an army of locked-in people who aren't showing up for themselves, but rather as sacrificial warriors who are ready to pierce the darkness as a single unit.

TONGUES AND GROANS

From my article, The Tone of the Groan:

Throughout scripture we see groans preceding a great deliverance—and this deep groan of the Spirit must erupt in our churches and in our cities now. The days of quiet, sedate church services built upon human order must come to an end—Sunday mornings must resound with a prophetic shock and a new sound of trembling people exploding in groans of the Spirit.

We need Azusa-level reports to shoot around the planet as we explode in supernatural cries!

In a skeptical front-page story titled “Weird Babel of Tongues”,[17] a Los Angeles Times reporter attempted to describe what would soon be known as the Azusa Street Revival. “Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand”, the story began, “the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles”.[20] Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings with the following words:

…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.'

This is the most important and most effective step, by far, in promoting a wildfire atmosphere. Instead of nice, catchy worship and other typical church elements, introduce the raging glory and power of groans and tongues. Literally, when stepping into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, the atmosphere will radiate with supernatural power as everybody is engaging in aggressive, expressive and booming groans and tongues! 

When pastors lead the way by engaging everybody in 30-60 minutes (or more) of continual, intense intercession at this level, literally everything in the church will change. It will shift from a low-level, mildly spiritual atmosphere that is mostly dependent on coercing people to tithe more, serve more and attend more to one that has people lined up outside the doors for hours waiting to get in.

VISIONARY LEADERSHIP

I'm not talking about worldly vision or an entrepreneur spirit. I mean pastors and leaders must be living their lives saturated in prayer and the Word to such a degree that God exploded supernatural vision into their spirits. Dreams, visions and encounters will rock and shock them to such a degree that little else matters than running toward the fulfillment of what God has revealed to them. 

Happy sing-a-longs, tepid prayer times, powerless sermons and a nice little family environment will give way to a vibrant, anointed, fearful and weighty atmosphere. Joshuas, Gideons and other bold, relentless biblically-modeled men and women of God will lead the charge into the great unknown. They know that only a remnant can get them where they need to go. Most will need to be released into the deserts of their own makings as they identify the few who have the courage to advance into the land of promise.

A PROPHETIC CULTURE

If authentic prophecy isn't predominant in each and every gathering, the advance toward a glorious revival will be stunted. 

While low-level, carnal, fake and invented “prophecy” must be rejected wholesale, true prophetic revelation must be embraced. Decrees and declarations based on the timely insight that God has revealed to that local body will shock the atmosphere with authority. The people, the remnant soldiers, should be trained and empowered to prophesy, and the entire body must be ready to shift and redirect as the winds of the Spirit move them. 

HOLINESS

Fire and brimstone preaching will have to make an appearance in such a revival-focused environment. Unapologetic calls to radical consecration are absolutely mandatory. Holiness and repentance must be a common thread through everything in the ministry. While an atmosphere of grace is key, allowing people to authentically reveal their struggles in a loving atmosphere, the severity of the fear of the Lord must also be felt.

THE WORD OF GOD

The Word of God must be read and fully believed, proclaimed and boldly decreed if revival is to be had. The mission must be based on extreme adherence to the challenging truths of Scripture. Those who know God will be strong and do great exploits, and the revelation of the Word along with an atmosphere of fervent prayer will result in a people who know their God.

Simply, Sunday School style Bible teaching won't cut it. We need faith-filled, vision-driven and fearless proclamations of Scripture that rips apart strongholds and shatters the teeth of the enemy. We need biblical revelation that strikes us, marks us and wrecks us. We need the Word of God to pierce our hearts, captivate our minds and overwhelm our intellect.

THE SURRENDER OF CHURCH GROWTH

The pursuit of revival is a regional and national pursuit, not a local one. What I mean is, the end goal is not local church growth. It's beyond time to forever surrender the annual goals of more people, more small groups, more offerings, new buildings and any focus on local. 

If God starts moving powerfully in another local church in the city, pastor, you must shut your thing down for a season and support what God is doing on the other side of town. The goal is regional outpouring. The vision is much greater than four walls.

The moment the goal is the development of a single local church is the moment that church has been disqualified from the pursuit of regional revival.

INTERCESSION

I covered this mostly in the section about tongues and groans, but felt it necessary to doubly impress upon you the need for constant, fervent and powerful intercession. This is not a separate, side ministry that takes place before a service or on an off night. It's not to be relegated to a side room or to be led by anybody other than the senior leader. It's the most important, most powerful and most neglected ministry of the church.

The church isn't a house of preaching, a house of relationships, a house of evangelism or a house of anything other than a house of prayer. That's it.

Sunday services should be mostly vibrant prayer meetings. The cookie-cutter model we've become so used to must go. The worship, announcements, preaching, altar time paradigm must cease. The new wine skin is bathed in intercession, and every member of the remnant church must deliberately give themselves to it night and day.

FINAL THOUGHTS

We are far from revival. I hear prophets and preachers talking about how near we are, and I just have to shake my head and wonder what exactly they are discerning. In terms of timing, can revival break out sooner than later? Sure. But in terms of distance, in terms of where we are now and were we must be as a church to see revival hit, we are far.

The church must experience a reformation that will shock it to its core. It's this shock and awe of God's supernatural invasion that will never let us do church as usual again, Spirit-filled or otherwise. Every goal will change. Board and staff meetings will never be the same. Strategies and how money is spent will morph over night. When God visits, nothing else matters. The result will be a church on fire that prays night and day with ferocity. 

AOC accuses Christians as extremists for promoting “forced birth laws”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests alternatives to end the life of your child.

President Biden recently admitted that he doesn't agree with the teachings of his church regarding the belief that life begins at conception.

“I respect those who believe life begins at the moment of conception,” Biden said. “I don’t agree, but I respect that. I’m not going to impose that on people.”

In a Tweet apparently responding to the new anti-abortion law in Texas, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez targets supposed “Christian extremists” for attempting to preserve the lives of pre-born children. She suggests laws and movements to force the birth (as she calls it) of a fully human, God-breathed person (as God calls them) are extreme. I would think dismembering and discarding unborn babies to be extreme.

She then shares options to destroy your unborn child through pills that can be discreetly mailed to your home.

LIFE BEGINS BEFORE CONCEPTION

The goalposts continue to move on the start date for children born into this world. The Bible clearly reveals that it's before conception.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5, ESV)

In fact, John the Baptist was already filled with the Holy Spirit before he was ever born.

“for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15, ESV)

Tragically, most of today's activists and politicians are not filled with the Holy Spirit. Their worldview is radically, drastically and disastrously different than those who strive to promote godly agendas.

Today many believe children aren't full persons even in the moments right after birth. Killing children right after they are born (or partially born, whatever that is) is acceptable to a growing number of people. Don't be shocked when it becomes acceptable and legal to kill children under the age of two for no other reason than inconvenience.

Just as King Herod was threatened by a baby and ordered the death of all children under two years of age, these unwanted children threaten the dreams and plans of mom and dad. Exterminating them will very possibly be a viable option.

Extermination is a prime weapon in Satan's arsenal as we have learned in the Holocaust and other murderous movements. Any who oppose the killing? Extremists. Resisters.

The same accusations will be launched against all who refuse to take the Mark of the Beast as well. The propaganda and the overarching message is similar. Comply or else.

CHRISTIAN EXTREMISTS

The narrative that AOC is promoting is not only shocking to Christians in America, it's terrifying. If I understood her Tweet correctly, that efforts to “force the birth” of pre-born life equates to Christian extremism is dangerous beyond measure. Her message is being received and her influence can't be denied.

Crediting her Catholic upbringing, AOC said, “We do know that the Earth is sacred. We do know it is a sacred gift. We have a responsibility to steward it and protect it.”

Many pro-Earth activists are also pro-abortion. They would agree with AOC that dirt and rocks are a sacred gift. Babies, however, can be dismembered and discarded. Somebody convince me full-blown delusion hasn't overtaken the far-left.

Ironically, in the same breath she said, “Are we willing to make changes to our present lives to protect a future for our children and life on Earth?”

Changes that include most anything except protecting the very pre-born children the future is waiting for, I suppose.

Alexandria must know that her accusation of extremism targets millions of Christians and Catholics. In fact, she grew up Catholic herself.

“I consider myself Catholic,” she said, adding that she “grew up in the Catholic faith.” Her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, is an evangelical Christian born in Puerto Rico, and her late father, Sergio Ocasio, was a Catholic and religious education teacher, Bronx-born from a Puerto Rican family.

WE MUST PRAY FOR OUR NATION'S INFLUENCERS

I earnestly contend for God to radically move in Alexandria's life. I envision a dramatic encounter with our holy, fiery God that will transform her in a moment.

There is no way to debate the issue of abortion successfully without introducing God into the scenario. In fact, I contend that it's nearly impossible to win this debate without people having an authentic, life-altering, supernatural visitation of God himself in their lives. A Damascus Road experience is needed for Alexandria and others who are aggressively fighting against God's truth.

While Alexandria is keeping her fight in the realm of activism and legislation (which is legal and protected), Paul (then Saul) took his fight against his own “Christian extremists” to another level when God suddenly overwhelmed him.

“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”” (Acts 9:1–4, ESV)

After his encounter, everything changed. Read the rest of the passage below and pray for Alexandria. I can see her transformed, standing behind a pulpit in a fiery church preaching the truth of Jesus. Can you?

“For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 9:19–22, ESV)

Photos credit: “IMG_3990” by cornstalker is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The rise of the middle finger—the normalizing of foul language in our culture

I remember the shock I'd feel decades ago at the sudden explosion of an F-bomb.

I've ventured into many caves over the years, and an extremely disorienting moment comes when all the lights are turned off. Perfect darkness. Your brain thinks it's seeing your hand waving in front of your wide-open eyes, but it's not. It's an illusion. The darkness is blinding. This type of darkness is altogether different than what we would experience walking through a dark alley or when we turn off the lights to go to bed at night. It's all encompassing. This is the ink-like blackness that's overshadowing the earth today. The world is getting more wicked, and, sadly, it's sucking much of the church into its black hole of immorality. Foul language in movies and media is routinely ignored as insignificant by many professing Christians today. A Born-Again Believer might very well feel singled out by the smirks and rolled eyes when they make their decision to live consecrated lives. Their devotion to holiness is worthy of mocking by their brothers and sisters in Christ it seems. Until the church finally washes its mouth out with the soap of the refining Word of God, we can't expect to see a move of righteous living in our nation. The F-bombs will keep detonating as if they were mere firecrackers. The truth is, a culture that has become defiled in this manner will embrace all sorts of fleshly, repulsive behavior. Just the other day I was eating with some friends in a nice, family restaurant. I was shocked when a song playing quietly in the background filled the air with F's and other foul words. How can this be okay? Normal? Unconcerning? A common irritant can be found in seemingly innocuous online news articles that for some unknown reason have to drop the F word into it. One moment I'm reading about a new cell phone on a tech website and the next I'm attacked by unnecessary and offensive vulgarities. For now, evil language has gone mainstream. Our world needs Jesus so very badly.

BEING TRUE TO OUR AUTHENTIC SELF?

I watched a TikTok video of a woman asking a popular motivational speaker, “Why do you find it necessary to use foul language in your speeches?” As if prepared in advance, the raw, abrasive yet skilled orator immediately retorted his defense. For him, it's more important to be true to his authentic self than to abide by arbitrary rules and norms. He genuinely believes his success is directly related to his authenticity. He admitted to cussing in front of his children and not being concerned that they do the same at school. Of course, the F's flew in his crafty, unapologetic response, unconcerned about defiling the souls around him. Another video from a family of social media influencers featured children repeatedly thrusting their middle fingers in the air, all with their dad encouraging their behavior. I suppose this father-of-the-year candidate is supporting his little one's venture to be true to their authentic selves. How tragic that people define who they are by that which is vile, immoral and repugnant. This is the state of our cave-dark world.

IMMORAL NORMS IN MEDIA

Many years ago, I worked in a video rental store. Back in the day your local video store was frequented by all, often ending in frustration as the person in front of you in line rented the last copy of the latest, greatest movie. One particular family visited our store regularly. However, they were unlike any of our regular customers. They never walked past the new releases or down the aisles filled with dramas, comedies, thrillers and horror movies. Each time they marched through the door they immediately strolled, as a uniquely awkward family, to the family section. They would choose an old, probably boring yet crispy clean movie to watch together as a family. One day I asked them if they had seen one of the mega-popular new movies (that was most likely rated PG). Their answer has stuck with me to this very day. “No, we don't watch any movie that's not rated G.” Not one unholy word would ever be intentionally consumed nor casually ignored in the name of entertainment. Years later I was in a packed church for a special multimedia-driven sermon. The guest speaker brought up the movie The Karate Kid on the giant screen. He asked for a show of hands of those who have seen the movie. Hundreds of hands shot up into the air representing nearly 100% of those in attendance. He then asked one of the youth workers, an authentically righteous lover of Jesus, what he thought of the movie. He carefully replied, knowing that he was being set up. “Well, I think it had good life lessons, and good moral principles. It was clean and wholesome.” At that moment the preacher hit play on the remote. The church was filled with gasps of horror as the cranked-up speakers boomed the words of the main character in the movie, Daniel. He aggressively hurled the obscenity God **** over and over in a moment of ferocious venting toward Mr. Miyagi. Understand, this was happening in a church that was known for its fervent pursuit of holiness. To say that what happened stunned everyone would be a severe understatement. People were aghast. Offended. What the man of God said next remains with me to this day. “So, you casually and eagerly admitted that you have watched this movie. What I just played, and more, filled your homes and your spirits, yet you are somehow offended that you heard it in the church?” His point was clear. Hypocrisy was exposed.

WE NEED A HOLINESS MOVEMENT IN OUR NATION

The cursing and defilement of our culture will only get worse. The darkness is thick and the light is despised. The church's hypocrisy is clear as Christians are filling their souls with evil by devouring inappropriate movies, articles, music and videos. The only hope is for widespread repentance and a refusal to allow ourselves to be tainted by the deadly curses (cursings) that our culture has adopted as benign. Let's contend for revival in a spirit of holiness as we take a stand against the darkness in our nation. The entertainment we so love isn't worth the degrading of our souls. Photo credit: www.depositphotos.com Image ID: 86198726 Copyright: stuartmiles Originally published by The Stream.

Morality police arise: Porn returns to OnlyFans

It's time for the morality police to return to our modern world.

After reversing their decision to ban pornography on their platform, the OnlyFans Twitter account celebrated with a Tweet: “Thank you to everyone for making your voices heard.”

Founded in 2016, the site claims to have more than 130 million registered users and over 2 million creators. The voices of 130 million people crying out will most certainly be heard, and it's a further indication of how wicked, lost and debased our society has become.

If it were only the lost who were shouting their demands for erotic media, that would be one thing. Tragically the porn pandemic has long since infiltrated the church, members and clergy alike.

Countless pastor's voices have been heard. Innumerable Christian's voices have been heard. The cry for porn is loud, clear and persistent. 

We are in the middle of a spiritual crisis that shrouds our culture with the stench of death. Instead of God's people embracing a deeply consecrated life of holiness, intercession and radical surrender, too many have plunged deep into the pit of wickedness. The vice-grip of pure evil is suffocating the very life out of the children of God.

WHERE ARE THE MORALITY POLICE?

My wife was sharing with me about a mystery series she watches that features someone in the role of morality police. Her duties included enforcing dress codes, reporting illegal alcohol consumption (the setting is during prohibition) and calling out behaviors that violated a common code of ethics.

I've lived most of my adult life being inundated with teachings, theologies and church cultures that decry any hint of so-called legalism. Messages of holiness, consecration, taking up our cross and anything that smells of works has been called out as legalistic. While inviting all sorts of religious accusation, I've said many times over the decades that I'd rather be a holiness preacher contending for revival than a spiritualized freedom-fighter who celebrates free-will and minimizes the power of sin.

As a result of these false-grace messages, we are watching the world plummet into hell at warp speed. 

We need the morality police, preachers of righteousness who have a backbone of steel and fire in their eyes as they call out debauchery.

Today's moral collapse shouldn't be shocking, but in a way it still is. How can sites that promote pornography be allowed to exist? I'm not talking about legalities. I'm not talking about freedom of speech or expression. I'm talking about the lack of horror among the people that such immorality can find a place to call home. 

JUDGMENT BEGINS AT THE HOUSE OF GOD

On the other hand, it shouldn't surprise us when the lost choose to live as the lost. They do lost type things. Sexual pleasure is one of the most powerful forces known to man and if one doesn't subscribe to a religious ideology or another ethical code that forbids certain expressions of it, then what reason would they have to resist? Outside of the conviction of the Holy Spirit, abstaining from many biblical sins makes no sense. Sex, drunkenness, witchcraft, foul language and other ungodly current day realities are enjoyed without guilt or restriction.

Yet, within the construct of the church, the moral code absolutely does exist. 

I've known pastors who thought it was nothing to share from the pulpit about R rated movies and immoral television shows. I've walked in on pastors in their homes watching movies containing foul language and nudity. 

Years ago, rock music was obviously rejected by the church as worldly.

Wikipedia reports, “Most traditional and fundamentalist Christians did not view rock music favorably when it became popular with young people from the 1950s.”

The Pentecostal youth pastor and author of the Cross and the Switchblade, David Wilkerson, called it “Satan’s Pentecost” and portrayed rock ‘n’ roll concerts as a kind of inverted Pentecostal worship, with demonic speaking in tongues.

Today? Pastors and Christians fill their lives with it along with other immoral genres. In fact, as a youth pastor in the 1990's I regularly preached against the emergence of “Christian rock” music while promoting a lifestyle of soaking in deeply anointed worship music. 

David Wilkerson said, “Oh how God's people need discernment. Great deceptions abound every where, not only regarding the rock and punk music of the young, but also in regard to new forms of worship and praise being promoted. Some of it is born of the Holy Spirit, but much is born of the flesh – and only those who walk in the light know the difference.”

Yes, we need holiness preachers to arise again. The world will do what the world does. It will grow much darker as hell grows larger. This is a fact that causes my stomach to turn and my heart to grieve. More than any time in history we need a church on fire, a consecrated bride who lives a separated, surrendered, repentant and passionate existence. We must have a movement of remnant Christians who tremble in the fear of the Lord, who abhor wickedness and who will call out lukewarm, apathetic religiosity. 

It's easy to presume judgment is coming to our dark planet. What we need to do is capture God's heart for the church, for his bride, for you and me. Judgment starts here. The terror of the Lord is a very real thing and it must consume us just as much as his intense love does. 

FREEDOM CAN BE YOURS

If you are bound by pornography, you need to grasp both God's love and his terror. He is zealously drawing you to himself and there is dramatic, supernatural and miraculous freedom to be found. The grip of the enemy is nowhere near strong enough to keep you. One moment in the immeasurable presence of the Holy Spirit will set you free forever. You simply must repent, reject unrighteousness, flee lust and sexual temptation and fall desperately in love with Jesus. Eliminate most movies, television and other media. Shut off the music. Consecrate yourself and flood your life with worship, intercession and the Word of God. When you do, revival will ignite in your heart.

I pray God's fear and his love capture every one of us. The times are going to become much more difficult. Temptations will feel nearly impossible to resist. The darkness will only grow darker. We need a company of firebrands who reject the allure of the enemy and who go deep into the heart and plan of God for their lives. We need revival.

Photo credit: “Hands Typing on Laptop Keyboard” by Image Catalog is marked with CC0 1.0

Originally published by The Stream.

There’s no reason to go to Facebook jail.

Treading foolishly on social media will cost the church it's voice.

NEWSMAX reports, “Last month, the former president brought class-action lawsuits against the three big Tech giants requesting unspecified damages for alleged First Amendment violations.”

It's commonly believed that social media giants have censored, banned and caused all sorts of trouble for conservatives. This includes Christians who find themselves in so-called Facebook jail after expressing forbidden viewpoints. 

This truly feels like David versus the giants who are determined to taunt, minimize and cast aside any who would threaten their narratives.

SHOULD WE NOT RUN TO THE BATTLE?

Yes, we absolutely should fearlessly fight against the spirits of the age. The real question, however, is exactly how should we fight? 

God is known to give unusual, supernatural wisdom to those who are advancing toward wicked adversaries. Gideon was told to eliminate most of his army and to bang jars together. Joseph and Mary were instructed to avoid Egypt. Paul was warned against going to certain cities. Elijah brought the fire. Every situation is different, and might I suggest, brashly breaking the rules of Facebook, YouTube and other social media companies is foolish beyond measure.

Lawsuits like the one President Trump brought very well may be a wise, effective step toward protecting First Amendment rights of all US citizens. I agree that we are rushing quickly toward the reality of very real persecution of Christians who preach the truth of Scripture. We cannot shrink back. We must run to the battle, but with divine wisdom, not fleshly rebellion.

Everything starts with strategic intercession. The fight against principalities and powers is a deadly game to play if we aren't prepared. Our enemies aren't the CEO's and thought police. It's very smart, organized and vile evil spirits who are bent on destruction of the church. They are absolutely determined to muzzle all who preach the power of the Gospel.

WE MUST BE WISE AS SERPENTS AND GENTLE AS DOVES

““Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues,” (Matthew 10:16–17, ESV)

I've always found it interesting that we are instructed to be as wise as serpents. Satan is both a snake and a brilliant and shrewd military strategist. He is not haphazard or careless in his schemes. We should not be either.

The Hill reports, “And despite the Taliban's brutality and dishonesty, two Taliban spokesmen have Twitter accounts, including Zabihullah Mujahid, who boasts nearly 320,000 followers. Mujahid has posted dozens of videos that have been viewed millions of times. Quite a platform for the Taliban to have, and it doesn't cost them a dime.”

Read this next segment analyzing Donald Trump's ban and the Taliban's get out of jail free card from the article on The Hill carefully:

“The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence,” the piece adds. “Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not.” 

Of course, we know of the brutality the Taliban unashamedly promotes and it seems they should in no way be provided a platform on social media, especially when these companies are based in the United States. I agree with most by saying it's madness. 

Additionally, it's beyond belief that the President of the United States could be banned. Like you, I'm flabbergasted. This isn't the America I've grown to love. We are living in very different, dangerous and wicked times.

With all of that being said, consider the wisdom of the Taliban. They are careful on social media. They don't post anything that would put them in Facebook jail or ban them from Twitter (at least that's what appears to be the case to date).

Here is the point of this article: be wise. 

Flipping a bombastic, rebellious, spiritualized middle finger to the decision makers of the very platforms the church must have a voice on is utter foolishness. We receive no badge of honor by spouting off at the mouth in a way that breaks the rules (yes, unfair rules) and challenges the social media powers. It's childish at best, foolish and destructive to the church's mission at worst.

IF WE BREAK THE RULES WE LOSE OUR VOICE

I, for one, want to keep influencing people on social media with the life and power of Jesus. I can't afford for that message to be banned.

I've yet to be locked out of any social media account. I've not been shadow banned or jailed. I'm not saying it will never happen and I'm not patting myself on the back. I simply understand I must be extremely careful if I want to continue to be heard (even by my very small sphere of influence). There are things that are absolutely unnecessary to say, or that can be said in a way that doesn't poke the bear. We can be smart. We can be led of the Spirit of God. We can use divine wisdom.

This is not a matter of having a backbone or proudly shouting with fervor at our oppressors. It would be extremely easy to state the obvious and call out every anti-Christ spirit we come across on a daily basis. We can shout loud in all caps and presume we are mighty champions of God by refusing to be silent on the matters of the day. Well, yes, you can do that and you can lose your voice. You will lose your platform. You will surrender your privilege to communicate on a private forum.

Chinese Christians know this all too well, except they aren't risking a Facebook account being closed. They are risking their lives. They are faced with beatings and prison. We can only imagine the divine wisdom necessary to survive such an ungodly regime. Yet, the underground church is thriving and China is on pace to host the largest number of Christians in the world in the next couple of decades

Standing on a street corner in Beijing and preaching the Gospel isn't an option for Chinese Christians. They must be wise. They understand the rules of their particular forum. They are Spirit-led instead of naturally aggressive. 

The voice of Chinese Christians has been preserved because they have adapted to their situation. The church is thriving in that restrictive and dangerous environment because of godly wisdom.

If we as American Christians can't figure out how to keep our voice on Facebook, how do we think we will survive when we are forced underground? Brash, bombastic fist-waving won't work then, even if we do it in the name of Jesus.

Photo Credit: “China Flag and Dome” by jamiejohndavies is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Are Christians hypocrites for opposing homosexuality?

Christians have been called hypocrites by the LGBTQ+ community for years. They may be right.

I believe engaging in homosexual behavior is indeed sinful. It's a destructive activity that is forbidden by God and one that absolutely does make an authentic, saving relationship with God impossible. That is, if there is no repentance.

Unlike some, I don't believe we can equate sexual sin with other sins, presuming all sin to be the same. Different sins have vastly different consequences. 

I also reject the mindset that standing on Scripture while disagreeing with a prohibited lifestyle equates to hating anyone. I don't hate my children when they lie and I don't hate someone who views porn. That accusation is little more than gaslighting and propaganda that is pushed by some in the LGBTQ+ community. They argue it's impossible to love someone if their lifestyle isn't fully endorsed. Untrue.

That being said, I absolutely agree with many LGBTQ+ supporters and promoters when they say Christians are hypocrites for opposing homosexuality. Of course, as a blanket statement such an accusation would be unfair. As a broad generality, however, they are right.

THE LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY IS RIGHT

Merriam-Webster defines hypocrite as:

1a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

Hypocrisy would be a fair accusation if Bible-believing Christians themselves took part in homosexual activity while preaching against it. While this absolutely does happen, it's not required for the label of hypocrite to stick. Something much more common results in Christian hypocrisy.

We can also consider the fact that heterosexual activity outside of marriage is forbidden by Scripture. Clearly it would make sense for a Bible-thumping, heterosexual, anti-gay zealot to be labeled a hypocrite if he or she were to be shacking up with their significant other. This is obvious.

Interestingly, according to Scripture, the actual act of sex, whether it's hetero or homosexual, isn't necessarily required to qualify as sexual sin.

““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:27–29, ESV)
There it is. All it takes to be a hypocrite is to lust.
 
It's a sin that nobody knows about, except God. If we stand against sexual sin of any type while committing adultery (lust), we are hypocrites. If we watch nudity and sexual situations in movies and on television, we are hypocrites. If we imagine people naked while swiping through videos on YouTube or TikTok, we are hypocrites. We are sinners, no better than homosexuals, liars, murderers or thieves. In fact, if we don't repent in tears, we are worse.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Hebrews 10:26–27, ESV)

NO NAKED PEOPLE

I wrote the following in an article titled No Naked People:

No naked people. That concept seems nearly ridiculous in today’s sexually driven culture.

Sexual images are flashing before our eyes from every angle through media, marketing, video games and other invasive sources.

I’ve actually had Christians challenge me by saying it’s not possible for a man to avoid lust, as if it’s an expected part of our make up! I heard about another who said that the Bible doesn’t forbid lust, only lusting about married women! The culture is causing many hopeless and some defiant Christians to believe that freedom from sexual fantasy is not possible, or even necessary. God help this nation.

A report by George Barna on pornography is revealing.

68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis. Of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn.

Is it any wonder why those who are not bound by Scriptural mandates for purity might be upset at those who are? Understand, I'm not suggesting 68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors are the hypocrites we are dealing with in this article. The hypocrites are those who lust sexually, porn or no porn. The percentages are much, much higher.

The truth is, multiplied millions of Christian men and women very well may be those the LBGTQ+ camp is accurately hurling accusations at. If we lust, we have committed adultery. We are engaging in vile, forbidden sexual sin that God has renounced with crystal clarity. 

PRACTICE WHAT WE PREACH

The moral of this tragic story is obvious. We disqualify ourselves from preaching on holiness if we refuse to live holy. 

I'm not talking about truly repentant people who are surrendering their lives to Jesus, who are crucifying their flesh and who are in a determined process of deliverance and freedom from sexual sin. I'm addressing those who keep returning to their sin while preaching against it. I'm talking about plain, vanilla hypocrisy. 

While there is absolutely a place for surrendered, consecrated followers of Jesus to deal directly with homosexual activism in an authentically loving and humble manner, I would suggest the battle should be waged from a different place.

We need a movement of purity, holiness and the fear of the Lord to strike the church in our nation. Judgment begins in the house of God. Repentance should start there too.

Sexual lust must be eradicated from the lives of Christians. Pastors need to collapse to their knees in repentance and intercession. The deadly wickedness of porn can no longer find its way through the eye-gates and into the souls of Believers. 

Until holiness returns to the church, our authority to speak on homosexuality, porn or sexual sin of any type is compromised. The accusations against us will stick. The enemy's stronghold will intensify.

Don't be surprised if mocking, hatred and verbal assaults come our way if we refuse to humble ourselves and live free from the grip of very sin we are railing against. 

“Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5–6, ESV)

Originally published by The Stream.

 
 

Remnant-sensitive churches arise!

John Burton

A massive falling away from the faith will be a mark of churches devoid of supernatural power.

It's time for a dramatic shift from seeker-sensitive churches to remnant-sensitive churches in our nation. There is an army of supernaturally-minded followers of Jesus looking for their tribe, and there are few churches that pass the test.

All that is natual or done in human power isn't bad by default. Mankind whether Christian or not can do much good simply by, well, doing good. We can feed the hungry, serve sacrificially, give extravagantly, smile, hug, encourage, befriend and do much good for mankind.

In the church realm we can pray for the sick, visit shut-ins, teach the Bible, pass out Gospel tracts, attend small groups and much more that doesn't necessarily require the power of God to accomplish. Of course, when we add God's power to any of the above, the impact is dramatically different. 

NATURALLY DRIVEN CHURCHES ABOUND

When church-shopping, if people were honest, they would commonly admit they are looking for a variety of things. Topping the lists of many in search of a new church home are good children's and youth ministries, dynamic and skillful worship, excellent teaching, the ability to develop new relationships and a welcoming environment.

In fact, church growth strategies tend to be natural versus supernatural as they focus on how we can meet the demands of the customers (current and potential church members). An article on the Smart Church Management website titled 7 Keys to Church Growth zeroes in on what is humanly achievable. Again, all that is humanly possible isn't unbiblical or inappropriate. Natural methods, secular strategies and ideals found in the business world can, at times, be applied in the spiritual world.

Some of the keys to church growth mentioned in the article include creating an inviting atmosphere, creating a welcoming experience, care for church members and providing opportunities to serve. There's not a thing wrong with any of this, except that what matters most wasn't mentioned. Nurturing the supernatural manifestation of the presence of God didn't make the list.

Naturally driven churches abound from coast to coast in this nation. You'll hear a lot about great coffee, vibrant community and programs for the entire family. In fact, many err on the side of caution by downplaying the supernatural. The risk of alienating visitors or conservative members is too high to allow it. Tragically, the risk of alienating God isn't often considered.

CRISIS WILL OVERWHELM THE NATURALLY MINDED

You'll know a supernatural church when crisis hits. Supernaturally driven Believers will respond radically differently to crisis than those who aren't living, walking, praying and governing in the spirit. Without developing a history in God that's marked by fervent intercession, intense devotion, great faith and openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit, people will default to what makes sense in the natural realm. 

Without a supernatural mindset, it will be impossible to respond to crisis as God intends. Natural strategies won't work. Panic will set in. Fear will dominate. 

This will be followed up by lost faith and angry fists raised to heaven. A failure to live in the otherworldly, supernatural place of signs, wonders and miracles will result in a devastating lack of spiritual tools in people's toolbelts when they are most needed.

The church's failure to equip people in the Holy Spirit is more eternally costly than we can imagine. Satan is raging and there is no natural response that will slow him down. A powerless church births powerless Christians who are primed to be easily devoured by the hounds of hell.

THE DEMISE OF THE SEEKER-SENSITIVE CHURCH

If we put on our marketing hats, it makes sense to target the largest segment of society. Coke, Nike, Disney and other companies want their products or services enjoyed by as many people as possible. Pastors want people in the seats. The quickest way to make that happen, one would presume, is to target the largest segment of those who are most prone to visit. Seekers are everywhere and some will show up on Sunday morning if the services are welcoming, comfortable and definitely not weird. Eliminate the supernatural and they may come.

This strategy must end. The end-time church is a church on fire, not a comfortable living room where we can put up our feet, eat some snacks and watch the show. The Holy Spirit isn't drawing seekers into a tepid environment. He's not looking to ease people into a new life in Christ. God is calling all to the cross, to full surrender and right into the furnace of his presence. 

When seekers are introduced to God in a way that's naturally understandable, the dive into the often bizarre, intense, all-consuming activity of the Holy Spirit is nonsensical to them. Such an experience becomes unnecessary if they, after all, have alread “said yes” to Jesus in a costless, comfortable environment. 

Hearing God's voice, dreams, visions, encounters, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, casting out demons, moving in the gifts of the Spirit and so much more becomes unnecessary to those who “got saved” in a comfortable, non-threatening, naturally-driven church.

CHURCH ON FIRE ARISE!

The end-time church is a remnant church. It's time we stop appealing to the general population to build kingdoms of man and start calling in those who are ready to make a total surrender and advance the Kingdom of God. The remnant firebrands are desperately looking for their home base. They want to find their fellow soldiers who are ready to move ahead with precision against the wickedness in our nation.

They aren't looking for churches with trendy youth ministries, the best coffee shops or even great worship or teaching. The remnant is looking for the fire of the Holy Spirit. They want to know if intercession drives the ministry. A specific, world-changing, divine vision is crucial. The pursuit of the wonders of God is paramount. An extremely prophetic atmosphere is non-negotiable. Great faith and extreme devotion to the Word of God are critical. These end-time warriors refuse to play games and they won't stand for lesser things getting in the way of the greater mission. Coffee, friendships and programs become laughable as foundations to build on. 

The time is now for a massive reset to come to the church. We have Ichabod churches dotting our nation and many others that do have a heartbeat yet refuse to dive into the depths of the fire. We need an Acts 2 church that is volcanic, supernatural and radiating in immeasurable power.

How does this happen? Become remnant-sensitive. Gather in those who are ready to lay it all down and contend with tears for God to move. Pastors must shift dramatically and refuse, ever again, to make decisions based on how the people will respond. The idolatry of filled pews must be repented of. The fear of offending the tithers must cease. The focus on keeping everybody happy can't continue.

We need the supernatural church to arise in these dire end-times. Without a prophetic mantle and the ability to advance in extreme Holy Spirit power, we have no hope. However, if we start training people in the fire and advance as a burning end-time army, kingdoms of darkness will shatter. And finally, we won't have to function as time-share salespeople, giving gifts and promising all sorts of benefits to those mildly interested in God if they sign on the dotted line. The seekers will witness undeniable supernatural power and the Holy Spirit will overwhelm them as they hit their knees and cry, “Holy!”

Originally published by Charisma Media

 

Ten observations of a former ministry leader

Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Six years away from full-time ministry has provided me time for evaluation.

After 25 years of planting and leading churches, developing regional prayer initiatives, traveling to speak at churches and conferences and giving leadership to internships and other projects, I morphed overnight into a business owner in Branson, Missouri.
Ministry was my world, my grid, until suddenly it wasn't.
There's a stigma surrounding ministry when it comes to a change of seasons. Many would regard moving from pastoring or other ministry assignments to the marketplace as unfortunate. Suspicions of failure threaten to follow them as they begin their new venture. Outside of moral failure or other issues that would demand a ministry be benched, a shift from ministry to business can certainly be viewed as a promotion. When God smiles on you and moves you into a new season, it is a promotion indeed. I don't argue this for my own sake (though I will admit the enemy likes to tell me I failed), but rather for many who are sensing their full-time, vocational ministry assignment to be over.
While I still write each week for two publications on revival, prayer, culture, politics and current events, the bulk of my time is devoted to my new life outside of vocational ministry. My wife and I are having the time of our lives building an escape room business while also growing a YouTube travel channel.
When we moved from Detroit to Branson, Missouri, we knew the ministry grind we were so familiar with was over and an exciting new life awaited us.
After six years away from the pulpit, here are ten takeaways I've gleaned during the transition from ministry to the business world. While these are personal points, many if not all will ring true especially to those experiencing the same journey as me.

ONE: The vision

I miss running with a very personal and God-infused vision for city transformation. There is something about giving leadership to a ministry that's fueled by sharp vision with a call to see the darkness pushed back in a city. It was never about doing church, growing a church, attracting visitors or making sure the tithes and offerings kept coming in. I never cared about any of that. I was consumed with a divine call and I came alive when I ran toward that mark.
Night after night I'd be with other firebrands in intense prayer encounters and strategy sessions. We'd prayer walk the city, prophesy over it and release decrees and declarations. That just can't be duplicated in a typical church environment.

TWO: Preaching

I'm a preacher. I miss releasing the fire several times a week and imparting what God was downloading to me. It was uniquely prophetic and often spontaneous. The goal was never to simply impart Bible knowledge as much as it was to rally the troops, to reveal current God's plans, to confront the spirit of the age and to advance together from the place of encounter.
For me, preaching and teaching isn't as much a Bible study as it is a biblical revelation of what God was speaking to us in that moment. I miss the times when God was burn assignments and calls into my spirit that I then communicated to the church. The rallying cry resulted in a timely, unified advance in the next phase in the mission.

THREE. The team

I miss my incredible, consecrated, passionate and locked-in teams of revival-minded, Holy-Spirit driven zealots. One reason I was never that interested in drawing the biggest crowds in the city is I was on the hunt for remnant people who God was specifically assigning to our mission. These burning ones that showed up several times a week to contend for revival marked my life for eternity!
For me, typical friendships and relationships were never compelling (though I know many others are wired differently, and that's good). I was invigorated by people who burned with the same fire that I did, people who were ready to go deep and blaze with intensity night and day. Yes, I really miss those firebrands!

FOUR. The miraculous

I miss the encounters with God, the unusual and otherworldly signs and wonders and the miracles that manifest in environments like that. Of course, God does move in a variety of ways in a variety of environments, but for me nothing came close to comparing with what happened when remnant revivalists cried out and groaned in the Spirit.
The signs, wonders and miracles over the decades have been absolutely stunning. My life has been transformed by the unusual, otherworldly workings of God and the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. When a group contends night after night, week after week, year after year together in this fashion, you get God's attention and he definitely gets yours.

FIVE. False expectations

As someone who functions in the prophetic and apostolic, I definitely don't miss the expectations people would place on me as if I was a pastor.
This was one of my greatest challenges when giving leadership to churches. In the Western culture churches are predominantly led by people in the office of Pastor. The expectations are hardwired in most and when the leader of the church doesn't come through, it's easy for people to get disappointed or offended.
I believe we need an emergence of churches that are Apostle led. The entire atmosphere will be radically different from what we see today. Family-style churches will begin to give way to apostolic and prophetic revival centers. The primary purpose for going to church will shift from hanging with friends and simply learning the Bible to getting equipped in the Word and taking cities.

SIX. Failure to address culture

Stepping outside of the bubble of my own ministry, I've noticed that few pastors and leaders are regularly dealing with culture, politics and the issues of the day. In the real world, everybody is addressing and influencing the culture — except for church leaders it seems. The tragic repercussions in our society are obvious.
A spirit of diplomacy will kill the sharp, prophetic mandate on a church. The desire to keep people happy in the pews instead of daring to actually take an unpopular stand on cultural issues is costing churches their anointing. This is one of the risks of family-style churches that focus mostly on developing relationships. Of course, godly relationships are extremely valuable. Relationships are the only thing we'll take to heaven with us, as the saying goes.
However, if we aren't willing to take a stand out of fear of disrupting the fragile family chemistry, in my opinion we've disqualified ourselves from ministry. Apostolic and prophetic churches don't have this problem as the very reason they are in existence is to confront the spirit of the age and advance toward an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

SEVEN. A godless world

I've always know this to be true, as the topic has driven many of my sermons over the years. However, again, stepping out of my church bubble has given me a much clearer view. The world is nearly godless. Most give absolutely no thought to the concept of God in their daily lives. It's tragic how wicked, lost and confused most people are today. It absolutely breaks my heart.
When I was in ministry a primary driver was the pursuit of authentic revival. I believe more than anything a legitimate Acts chapter two outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the best and fastest way for the masses to surrender all to Jesus. Give me another Azusa outpouring. Give me a Welsh revival. Let's see another Brownsville move of God. When the lost encounter supernatural, holy power, they are undone — and free.

EIGHT. Strange Christians

I'm probably the last person you'd imagine would be highlighting Christians acting strangely. I've witnessed God manifesting in some absolutely bizarre and supernatural ways. From oil manifesting on someone's hands during worship to a mist of God's glory to demonic encounters, I've seen a lot. I've experienced a lot myself. When God moves, the human body will very often react in some strange ways to say the least.
However, I've noticed a segment of Christians are unnecessarily strange and unbalanced. As I confirmed, I believe in authentic, supernatural and extremely bizarre encounters with God. But, what I'm seeing is what so many in the world are seeing: goofiness with no power of God evident. This hinders the advance of the Gospel.
The conspiracy theorists are out in force and slapping God's name on their analysis of current events. Others are emotionally driven to the exclusion of self-control. Many in the prophetic stream are living in an ultra-mystical state and presume any cloud that looks like an angle is Michael ready to descend on the earth. It's weird.
The challenge is leading a church that is open to the moving of the Holy Spirit and inviting of manifestations no matter how bizarre — if it's truly God. Such churches invite the unbalanced, and if they aren't open to guidance from leadership they can cause quite a schism in the body.

NINE. Marketplace ministry

More than any time when I was in vocational ministry I've noticed God working powerfully through businesspeople and entrepreneurs. In fact, I've believed for a long time that many current full-time ministers would do good to shift into the marketplace.
As I stated above, for many a change of scenery would be a promotion out of ministry and into the workforce. (Of course, God also promotes into and within the ministry.) When we have Spirit-filled, God loving men and women serving and leading in the world system profound impact can come. It's a powerful testimony when God's people exhibit integrity, godly character and a tangible anointing as they work alongside the lost.

TEN. An exciting future

I don't know what the future holds, whether it's stepping back into ministry or selling our house to buy an RV as we focus on taking our travel videos to the next level! Anything and everything is on the table. I love the adventure!
When locked into a pastorate or a specific ministry without the option to move into a wholly different season, whether it's in or out of full-time ministry, frustration can set in. There are many people who just need the permission to shift. Go as God leads. He promises to order our steps, and what I've discovered, those steps can be quite unusual and unexpected indeed!