Where are the firebrands who will fearlessly confront the wicked systems of the day?

Handcuffs, ankle monitors and locked church buildings are the new normal for many Christians in America today. The state has threatened worshipers of Jesus at the same time they are opening the “essential” doors of Planned Parenthood wide. Somehow it's safe to congregate at Walmart, Home Depot, liquor stores and on golf courses but gathering in worship, prayer and repentance are a threat to national safety.

A closed church isn't the most disturbing reality, however.

PROPHETIC TROUBLERS

17  When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 1 Kings 18:17 (ESV)

The pathetic extent of many Christian's response to the lock-downs and governmental threats is to remind people to wash their hands as they shelter in place and fearfully wait it out as they hope for the best. It's shameful. Washing hands is a great common sense idea, but how can that be the best insight and advice a blood-bought, Spirit-filled, fire-breathing Christian can offer?

The most disturbing reality in the midst of this crisis is a muzzled, cowering church. Where are those who have a reputation as troublers? The church shouldn't be afraid of the United States government. The church should cause politicians to tremble!

The time is now for humble yet bold prophetic people to use every medium available to them to strike cultures and unholy systems with ferocity! Cast down arguments, assault wickedness and become defenders of our rights as Americans to assemble, to worship and to be free from tyranny. The Constitution wasn't written to protect us from a virus at the cost of our liberty. It is in place to protect our rights, and those rights aren't suspended in the midst of a pandemic or any other crisis.

After being accused of troubling Israel, Elijah, in the anointing of the Lord, struck back with the sword of truth:

18  And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. 1 Kings 18:18 (ESV)

Holy indignation must erupt from within as we clearly stand against the threats, taunts and attempts to shut down the only governmental authority that outranks that of the United States of America: the church.

The secular leadership of our nation, our states and our localities need to hear loud and clear, whether they might identify as Believers in Jesus or not: America has abandoned the commandments of the Lord!

Troublers of America Arise! from John Burton on Vimeo.

POLITICS IN THE PULPIT

I would suggest pastors who refuse to consistently and without apology confront the spirit of the age, including vile cultural and political positions that are embraced, celebrated and promoted by our nation's leaders and influencers, have disqualified themselves from ministry. Ichabod may soon be stamped above the doorposts of their church if it hasn't been done already.

When pastors understand their prime call is to equip a prophetic people to expose and assault the kingdom of darkness, it will become clear that it's not possible to go silent on the politics and immoralities in the land.

Sadly, there is but a small number of fervent, devoted, highly trained and radically surrendered people who are prepared to respond to the taunts and assaults that the enemy is bringing through this testing season. Instead of equipping the people diligently over the last few decades, many pastors have instead played around in the shallows in the hopes that they keep everybody comfortable and happy. Instead of trained warriors they have produced sloths who have little interest in the things of the Spirit.

PROPHETIC SYSTEMS

21  And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 1 Kings 18:21 (ESV)

Elijah demanded a decision. He fearlessly confronted leaders, false prophets and all of the people and called them out. He didn't stop there. He went to war in the power of God and ultimately killed all 450 of the prophets.

There are extremely powerful prophetic systems in America today that must be not only confronted but taken out via the power of the Holy Spirit. The media is prophesying lies twenty-four hours a day. Many politicians are releasing oracles that originate from wicked hearts that are in radical rebellion to God. Lawmakers are enforcing demonically influenced restrictions on the church. Satan is gaining ground while Christians sleep.

We need troublers of America to arise! This prophetic army will be deeply humble, surrendered and functioning from a place of sobriety. They won't sound mere opinions but will rather trumpet prophetic truths. They won't stand still when liberties that so many gave their lives to protect are ripped away from us. They will aggressively and with fire in their eyes stare down the enemy and remove him from his place.

It's time the unrighteous leaders of America hear loud and clear that they have been disobedient to the Lord God and that God has an awakened, equipped and determined people who will confront their unholy advances in this hour.

A REPAIRED ALTAR

31  Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 1 Kings 18:31 (ESV)

Holy confrontation isn't the ultimate goal. A restored altar is. America must be taken back and we can't get there without you and I standing up boldly to the spirit of the age. Jezebel must go. False prophetic systems must go. The rains of refreshing must return but that will only happen as the nation repents as a result of God's people taking a stand.

A restored altar to the one true God in America is the goal. This is a season of divine reset and every one of us must shift dramatically. Repentance must hit us deeply as we renounce a casual, shallow life. Today is the day for you and everyone of us to respond to the call of the Lord to fight against deeply wicked systems in our nation. The altar will be built, the false prophets will die and the fire will fall. Only then can we call America a Christian nation again.

38  Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39  And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” 40  And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. 41  And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.” 1 Kings 18:38-41 (ESV)

Originally published on The Stream.

This should be the shock to the system that pastors need, or the next pandemic just may take the church out.

You'd expect the church to respond very differently than the world in the midst of crisis. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case. Social media is filled with freaked-out Christians who are absolutely terrified, spending their energies seeking out natural solutions to a supernatural situation. The fact that they can't disinfect their hands or wipe their, well, you know, has sent many into a frenzy. Something is terribly wrong and church as usual is no longer an option.

If ignoring, minimizing or seeking a natural solution to a demonic threat brings relief, don't presume you have won the battle. The entity is merely resting alongside you, thankful his foe has refused to fight.

The response is a glaring indictment on the church, and without question, the church must not ever allowed to go on as usual. This pandemic may be the catalyst to reformation the remnant has been crying out for.

THE CHURCH ISN'T READY

7  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; Revelation 19:7 (ESV)

In an age when so many Believers are merely concerned with their personal eternal security and so many others are sitting back waiting to be raptured before the trouble comes, it's clear that the church is far from ready for the end-time waves of crisis that are crashing down.

Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.

32  …the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32 (NKJV)

So, the question for pastors and every Believer in the midst of trial is, how can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.

TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND

INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYER

The days of simply attending a Sunday morning service where we worship a little, pray a little and listen to a sermon before heading back into the world for a week must come to an end immediately.

The primary focus of every legitimate Christian church must be fervent, passionate, powerful and strategic intercession. The days of simple prayer lists and prayer chains are over as the call to groans and cries of spiritual prayer explode out of the saints.

For years I've been campaigning for services that are marked by people laid out at the altars from start to finish as the Holy Spirit broods over them. Deep, guttural groans of intercession will be heard throughout the sanctuary every Sunday (and ultimately, every day of the week).

I am absolutely convinced that a church filled with tongues of fire will do more than any other single activity to make everybody ready for the coming storms.

1  When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2  And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEAR

It's astonishing how a very dark spirit of fear has blanketed the church. Fear results in unsettled, nervous reactions while faith results in a confident, peaceful, calculated response.

Pastors must introduce deliverance into their churches as a primary ministry. The spirits that are tormenting Christians have been exposed all over the world during the pandemic. I believe nearly all Christians need or have at one time needed deliverance. The enemy is especially attracted to children of God as he seeks to find open doors to latch on and destroy.

We cannot afford a scared, timid people who shrink back at the sight of their own shadow. This end-time season requires mighty warriors, an army who has annihilated fear and who will stare right through the darkness and expose the enemy and send him fleeing!

In fact, it very well may be time to allow those who are afraid to step back so the church can finally do what God has ordained it to do—fight and possess the land!

3  Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 (NKJV)

DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTURE

Possibly a primary source of fear in the camp is the lack of foresight, the absence of prophetic revelation. Imagine how different everything would be if God's people were made ready in their spirits as God prepared them with all sorts of prophetic communication.

Dreams, visions, God's still small voice, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and other divine impressions are extremely powerful and necessary if everybody in the church is to weather the storm.

Every Christian must be both equipped and activated prophetically. The church needs to hear God's ever-present voice now more than ever. To have some people who are not tuned in compromises the camp and gives the enemy a very powerful and secure foothold.

19  Do not quench the Spirit. 20  Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)

GROW IN POWERFUL FAITH

There is an angry crowd of “Believers” who are demanding we “USE WISDOM!” regarding this crisis. I wish they'd shout “USE FAITH!” It's much more effective.

It's disappointing to see very little difference between the world and the redeemed in time of trouble. For so many, the initial and most powerful reaction is natural protection instead of supernatural advance. On social media I've run into an angry Christian crowd that snipes anyone who suggests peace, faith and authority over the schemes of the enemy are the answer. They see such counsel as a minimization of their human efforts and a threat to that strategy. I wonder just what counselor they are listening to.

They love to promote “wisdom” but tend to see faith as haphazard and even some sort of nonsensical supernatural voodoo. A life of true biblical faith is so foreign to them that the extent of their belief system is a cop-out by simply “trusting that God will do as he pleases.”

True faith looks nothing like that. It's confident, authoritative and declarative.

Pastors have no option but to repent of their silly anti-faith positions and to actually embrace some of the teachings they previously dismissed. Whether you appreciate the whole of who Kenneth Copeland (or similar ministers) is or not, you cannot deny the powerful truth on the subject of faith that he carries.

38  Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)

GO DEEP IN THE WORD

The world needs pastors who have the smell of fire on them as they emerge from the prayer rooms and stand with great anointing and authority behind the pulpit. The low-level milk of Bible teaching must cease as the Spirit of God reveals the deep mysteries of Scripture.

The people of God must be students of the inerrant Word, allowing the truth to radically transform them. Times like this require a spiritual response, and the foundation of God's wisdom is found in his timeless Word.

The tired Sunday School style sermons must cease as earth-shaking revelation from God's Word shakes us to our core, and equips us as mighty end-time soldiers.

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)

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SIN

The greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment.

Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end.

The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.

11  But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. 12  For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13  But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV)

5  deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)

TEACH ON THE END-TIMES

I believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.

It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible Tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on his true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim his truth.

Yet, today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the Tribulation period or not. We are in the end-times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment.

I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless Believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.

EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLES

I've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves.

Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil.

The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate lost people will be saved.

29  Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30  by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31  And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31 (NKJV)

KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUS

The fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill.

It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But, I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.

55  O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)

PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUND

As easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we better be preparing the people to go underground.

We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather then men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as Believers.

Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:

27  And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28  saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29  But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30  The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31  God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32  And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33  When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)

FINAL THOUGHTS

The call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.

Does the church have the faith to endure pandemics, pestilences and global trouble?

Welcome to a divinely ordered test. I believe God is mercifully allowing his church to see just how ready it is in the face of an end-time crisis, a minor pandemic compared to what most certainly lies ahead. While I have been encouraged to see many Believers rise up in great faith in the face of this taunting Goliath, many others have had their shallow faith exposed.

24  And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 1 Samuel 17:24 (NKJV)

44  And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45  Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1 Samuel 17:44-45 (NKJV)

THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRST

I'm hearing from a lot of Christians during this pandemic about their concerns, their natural strategies, their fears and their determination to avoid people and situations that are threatening. So many of these same people are saying very little about their fearless resolve to fight the enemy and to go deeper in the Lord. Something's not right in the church.

12  And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13  So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14  They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him. 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 (NKJV)

I believe we are seeing this scenario play out during our current crisis. Instead of first seeking the Lord as the primary and most important action, Christians are initially rushing to find the same natural protections that the unredeemed are. You can smell the fear as they are desperately attempting to take every natural precaution they can. Can you do both seek the Lord and prepare naturally? Of course, but the problem comes when the two steps are out of order.

The above passage is very interesting. Not only did Asa seek natural medical care as his prime hope, but he was despondent, surrendered and ready for his own death. He prepared his own tomb. I don't believe it's a reach to suggest that many of God's very own are doing the same thing. A sense of dread has blanketed them and instead of truly standing in powerful, confident, overcoming and authoritative faith, they are digging their own graves, preparing for the worst.

SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?

The issue of faith is intriguing. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't take natural precautions, but rather that we should diligently, fervently seek the Lord and contend in the Spirit for supernatural resolutions first. From that place, God will give the peace necessary to make both spiritual and natural decisions with the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The reason I said that faith is intriguing is that, sadly, a massive percentage of “people of faith” simply don't walk confidently in the faith they identify with. It's easy to say that churches should remain open and everybody should flood in and intercede with passion for breakthrough, unafraid of any assaults of the enemy. The question is, would everybody who floods in truly be functioning in great, biblical faith? No.

To walk in faith requires such an extreme consecration that it would be silly to presume that most live in that realm. They do not. All of us are greatly challenged in this area and few truly respond to that challenge. This is an indictment on Christians everywhere, and especially on pastors and leaders who have not prepared the people for such a time as this.

If you are paying attention to the chatter, you'll know that the world is mocking various churches and ministries for cancelling services and conferences. Supposed “faith ministries” are cancelling events and encouraging people to stay home, and the world is most certainly noticing, and laughing. Would it make sense for some churches to stop gathering together in the short term? Maybe. Maybe not. While I tend to believe that contending together in fervent intercession in person as a body makes all the sense in the world, some may think otherwise. Whatever the case, we can't ignore the fallout. The lost are having a field day saying, “I told you your faith was nothing more than superstition. You are as afraid, ummmm, I mean cautious, as the rest of us.” 

The church is supposed to be made for times like these. Psalm 91:10 should be our rallying cry (No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling). We should be showcasing the power of God to protect and the revealing a fearless disposition that comes from intimately knowing Deity. The world is missing out on this opportunity in this current crisis.

I'm not suggesting we need to haphazardly or foolishly do things to “prove our faith” or even that those with faith are immune to sickness. Please don't presume I am. What I am saying is that we must rise up in strong, confident belief that Jesus has overcome sickness and that healing is our portion. The blood of Jesus doesn't grant us immunity. It grants us authority. My hope is that the church would be filled to overflowing during a pandemic with people who refuse to be intimidated by the enemy and coerced to stand down. However, if most are nervous and lack the spiritual confidence necessary to fight the devil at this level, I agree that the church itself has become compromised and is at risk. Spiritual resolutions that aren't heeded then give way to natural reactions.

With this in mind, I'll admit it is disturbing that so many are suggesting instructions that are opposite of what Scripture dictates. Instead of coming together in faith to lay hands on the sick, we are isolating.

14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (NKJV)

17  And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18  they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)

I want to qualify something as I understand many are troubled by this current season. Is it appropriate to follow the instructions of medical experts in the short term by temporarily isolating and cancelling services? It very well may be. It's true that many are still young and growing in their faith and it can make sense to exercise caution. However, I must stress that fear cannot drive that decision. Further, we must aggressively, zealously seek the Lord, understanding that our protection comes from him. In a perfect world, I do believe we'd still gather in spite of threat and contend with great faith and ferocity in our spirits.

THIS IS A TEST

Speaking of faith, I wonder if we truly believe the following passages:

1  He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2  I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”3  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3 (NKJV)

9  Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11 (NKJV)

God is testing us. The above scriptures are the very words (the Word) of our perfect, omniscient, loving, eternal and undefeated God. Do you believe them without qualification?

If not, your lack of faith will absolutely compromise every part of your life. Fear can settle into your soul. Doubt can overwhelm you. Human wisdom will masquerade as spiritual wisdom. The enemy will have access to you. I'm not saying this to disturb you, but rather to awaken you to a very real scenario.

In order to succeed as Christians, we have to exercise common-sense-defying faith that refuses to surrender to a very powerful and demonic spirit of fear.

I wonder if we realize that you and I are God's mighty weapons in this hour. We are the ones who are commissioned to stare down this enemy with fire in our eyes and to change the course of history. We must stand together with absolute fearlessness!

I want to encourage you to fight the enemy, to pray with fiery passion and to stand in incredible faith. There are much greater troubles ahead, and the church must learn to walk in miracles, signs, wonders, healing and supernatural faith. This is what the lost need to see as despair threatens to overtakes the planet.

God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust. Be careful that you don't wrongly interpret its meaning.

I've been dashing in and out of stores today, running errands in the midst of an unrelenting downpour. The rain is soaking all who venture out into it, no matter if they are good or evil, just or unjust.

45  …He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:45 (NKJV)

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I've heard many frightened Christians shout this verse in support of their idea that God will visit pestilence equally on the lost and the saved (how that is comforting I'll never know). Their argument is that while we may have a measure of hope that God will ultimately heal or rescue us, we must expect the exact same “rain” to hit both Believers and unbelievers. The force of the assault, whether it's a demonic advance or judgment of God, can't be avoided.

Of course, any true Christian would agree that they have an advocate in Jesus. So, the disposition becomes, “We can't avoid the plague but we can hope that God meets us in that place.” Basically it's the passive, hands-off “whatever God's wills” belief system. This is the belief that can be exceedingly dangerous.

THE SUN AND THE RAIN

Let's read the verse in context.

43  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48  Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (NKJV)

Spoiler alert: both the sun and the rain are good!

Many are expecting to be plagued by coronavirus or other ailments and other demonic attacks because of a terrible misunderstanding of the meaning of this passage.

The context of this truth is all about love. God loves both those who are evil and those who are good, the unjust and the just. His mandate is that we are to do the same. In farmer-speak, both sun and rain are very good.

1  Ask the LORD for rain In the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone. Zechariah 10:1 (NKJV)

7  For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; Hebrews 6:7 (NKJV)

This truth about rain on the just and the unjust has absolutely nothing to do with expecting ills and ailments. The reason a wrong understanding of this passage is so deadly is because it causes us to come into agreement with a demonic strategy!

We as Christians are absolutely not sitting ducks! If we stand in great faith, refuse the taunts of the enemy and resist leaning on our own understanding, we will rise up with great authority and command with fiery resolve that no plague shall come near us!

10  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:10-11 (NKJV)

Waiving the white flag of surrender by accepting plagues and pestilences will bring death and destruction to the people of God. This is not our portion!

17  …He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.” Acts 14:17 (NKJV)

HOW TO STAND

Simple prayers of petition that are driven more by fear than faith may do more damage than good. We don't want unbelief to be the driver of our intercession. Rather, we must stand in our great authority and insist that what's in the Word of God manifests!

We command the enemy to back down!

We move the mountains!

We heal the sick!

We decree and declare the Word of God!

But first, we have to ask ourselves if we truly believe the Word of God or not? If so, powerful faith will burn through our being!

This rampant wrong understanding of the sun and the rain has caused many to expect the worst instead of contending for what the cross of Christ has provided for us.

It's not possible to believe that plagues will visit both the just and the unjust while also believing the many scriptures that proclaim our protection!

3  But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NKJV)

19  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all. 20  He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken. Psalm 34:19-20 (NKJV)

WHY DOES TROUBLE COME?

Of course, many would argue that Christians do have trouble visit them. Sickness does come. Poverty is a reality for many. It would take another article, or a book, to fully address this, but I wanted to at least encourage you to venture into the Word of God for your answers. It's true that Satan won't stop raging, but the secret to our success is in our response.

Of course, a barrage of arrows hurled by the enemy will strike us if we allow them to. My wife once had a vision of someone standing confidently with a massive shield of faith protecting them. Then, strangely, when the arrows started flying they lost faith and dropped their shield. The shield of faith is the most important piece of armor we have!

16  above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. Ephesians 6:16 (NKJV)

If we stand in great faith, we will have great success. If we fight the enemy, go to battle, renew our mind, take thoughts captive, pray with power, stand in our authority and believe every single word of the Bible we will most certainly live in victory!

The church is suffering a crisis of faith as logic, experience, humanistic wisdom and emotional intuition are causing many to reject biblical truth.

No. 5, 1948.jpg

Jackson Pollock, No. 5 , 1948, Wikipedia

 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)

It's stunning to see how easily some Christians change their theologies to match their experiences, their compassion, their definition of love, their frustrations, their logic, their doubts, their temptations and their emotions.

Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. It's that easy.

I'll take the chaos of faith over the precision of facts any day. Common sense would tell us a beautiful painting of mountains, trees and a log cabin on the banks of a rushing river would be more valuable than an abstract splattering of colors applied by whipping streaks and smears of paint onto a canvas.

Jackson Pollock's abstract art simply titled No. 5 is currently worth $140 million. It's chaotic, nonsensical and it doesn't depict anything other than streaks, splotches and randomness. Yet it's currently ranked as the fifteenth most valuable piece of art in the world. This is how I see faith. It often doesn't make sense, and there are many other representations of reality that sure seem more worthy of attention. Yet, as Believers, we affirm what God values, and he deeply values great faith.

6  And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)

The bottom line is that we believe God, no matter how obvious altering arguments seem to be. While an imperfect application, might I suggest that left brained people, those who are given to facts, figures, logic and intellectualism, might struggle more with faith then right brained people, those who see beyond the obvious and into the mystical. Their spiritual canvas is filled with random streaks and blotches that depict glorious life. They know truth trumps facts and it actually excites them to trust God at that level. Of course, as I said, this suggestion is not at all perfect as there are many brilliant intellectually wired men and women of God who are giants in the faith. Yet, the point I'm making is that many struggle to trust God when smacked in the face with seemingly clear and undeniable factual realities. Faith in the invisible can be snuffed out by reason.

For me, the Bible comes alive when I approach it as a trusting child. I read it and I believe it. I'm not saying I'm not challenged by it because of course I am. Yet, the collision of biblical truth with natural facts invigorates me. I come alive as I reject all that contradicts the Word of God, no matter how naturally convincing, and watch in faith for God's truth to miraculously activate in my life. If God said it, I believe it and that settles it.

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

Healing

The world is currently cowering in fear over the coronavirus scare, and sadly this includes many Christians. In fact, churches are banning handshakes and laying hands on people at the altar! “Lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” has suddenly changed for many Christians. Now it's “avoid touching the sick so we don't catch it.” I wonder if they realize this is the exact opposite way Scripture instructs them to respond.

15  And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17  And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18  they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (ESV)

14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (ESV)

In a recent article I dealt directly with the fact that coronavirus is embarrassing the church as supposed blood-bought Christians are freaking out just like the rest of the world, and faith is nowhere to be found.

Are you taking the opportunity to show the lost you are fearless, full of faith and joyful? Or do they sense your anxiety about coronavirus?

A crisis of faith has been exposed. Coronavirus is embarrassing the church.

Have you noticed any difference at all between the godless world and those who are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, the Healer? Bold decrees of faith, not confessions of fear and worry, should be exploding out of our mouths!

Instead, Christians are hiding in caves, running from the battle and trembling not in the fear of the Lord, but the fear of the enemy.

Sure, take precautions, but don't cower. Don't respond like the world. Don't allow the enemy to impact your life. Live! Be free! You are covered by the blood of Jesus!

Of all people, we should be the ones preaching faith not fear. Put the ridiculous spiritual face masks away. Your mouth is your weapon! Don't allow the enemy to muzzle you. Speak to the fear and command it to dissipate! Renounce the tactics of the evil one! Let the world see just how powerful Jesus is and how different his children are! We run to the battle! ~Christians are being embarrassed by coronavirus, John Burton

Eternity

Universalism, annihilationism, false-grace, false-love and other heretical theologies are growing at record pace today. Why? People have traded truth for a golden calf. Emotionally, they can't reconcile how God is the perfect representation of pure love while also choosing to cast those who don't serve him into everlasting torment. Logically they have concluded that since no human father would ever punish a disobedient child in such a fashion, then, of course, God who loves at an exponentially deeper level than any human father wouldn't either. Common sense for them trumps biblical truth. In fact, I've heard some reject conscious eternal torment so ferociously that they foolishly equate such an act with the child sacrifices of Molech. That's venturing into blasphemy of the Holy Spirit territory. Be careful.

I believe it's a mistake to be limited to the realm of logic and emotion. We can't allow our sympathy and our compassion to define our theology. Simply trust that God's love transcends our understanding of how it functions. Judgment does fit within the construct of love. I have no need to force God to fit inside my limited definition of love, and in fact I hope that he never would. His justice and his mercy aren't competing realities. Love and wrath aren't mutually exclusive. The Bible has the final say and it reveals with clarity that those who die in their sins do in fact enter into never-ending torment. We can't rewrite Scripture. Just believe it and respond accordingly.

10  The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)

15  And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NKJV)

Born in Sin

Today it seems many have shifted from believing we are all born in sin to defending our various desires and temptations by declaring we were “born that way.”

Homosexuals, for example, are known for surrendering to feelings, emotions, yearnings and a strong pull to adopt what Christians know to be deviant lifestyles. They argue that the strength of their desires is evidence that we have been interpreting the Bible incorrectly.

Others believe it's ridiculous to suggest that a precious newborn baby is tainted by sin since they are innocent and have no capacity to commit sin. Still others suggest there's an “age of accountability” that must be crossed before sin becomes an issue.

The problem? The Bible suggests no such age of accountability. It clearly reveals that all are born in sin. It's also point blank obvious that certain lifestyles are in fact sin no matter how powerful the urges are. We were born wicked and every unholy desire must be crucified. We must surrender to Jesus if we hope to be saved.

Again, common sense, powerful desires, emotional cues, intellectual discernment and all forms of logic must submit to the truth of Scripture. Yes, it's truth that may at times seem contradictory and it is often mystical and too deep to grasp, but it's truth nonetheless.

Keep in mind that God has no obligation to explain himself to us. As harsh as it sounds, it's his way or the highway to hell. He is God and we are not. If you don't like that, don't follow him, but please don't attempt to redefine him to fit your perfect image of how a god should look and behave.

Prosperity

18  You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)

Unbelief tends to consume people when it comes to finances. Remember, God is a very good God and he loves to prosper his children. In the age of certain greedy televangelists, it's common for many to renounce this pursuit as unrighteous, yet they are doing so in the face of clear Scripture to the contrary.

Common sense would say we can expect to lose money when we give it away, yet spiritual sense would agree with the Word. When we give, it's given back in much greater measure.

Don't attempt to rewrite the Word of God to match your own struggles with faith. Don't oppose other people who are standing in faith and who are seeing God miraculously move in their finances.

Does God promise to supply every need or not? Does God promise to prosper or not? Does God give us the ability to create wealth or not? We need to put to bed every argument in opposition to God's Word, no matter how logical they may seem.

19  And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

Prayer

My article The Secret Sauce of Supernatural Encounter reveals several of the ingredients necessary to experience God. Answered prayer has a similar recipe.

It's grieving how quickly people give up on a life of intercession simply because they aren't seeing the breakthrough they are seeking. Natural proof has become their god and blind faith is deemed foolish.

Speaking of blind faith, I've heard it said that Heidi Baker prayed for every blind person she found for a solid year before the first one received their sight. This is critical to understand. God desires to heal. Period. He wants to move miraculously in every situation. The fact that we are experiencing breakthrough has nothing to do with God and everything to do with us. Heidi needed to learn how to see healing manifest. There was process. The fact that blind people weren't healed wasn't because of God, it was because Heidi was learning how to heal. To adopt a false teaching that says God doesn't always desire to heal due to our own delay would be a tragic decision. Unfortunately, it's a decision that many Christians have made.

There are usually several reasons why prayer goes unanswered, and few people are determined enough to wrestle through them. They prefer to blame God or to give up on the idea the healing is for today, that miracles are to be common and that we are to live in the supernatural realm.

There are multiple blockages to breakthrough including doubt, sin, a lack of fervency, misunderstanding of our spiritual authority, not engaging in spiritual warfare, misunderstanding the scriptural position on the matter, not hearing God's voice, not discerning his will, not praying in tongues, giving up too early, wrong motives and much, much more.

You see, you can't determine that God doesn't want to answer prayer just because he isn't doing so. We can't reject undeniable scriptural truths just because we can't break through. Prayer works when we pray correctly. It must be effective and it must be fervent.

16  …The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NKJV)

FINAL THOUGHTS

I could address several additional arenas of struggle when it comes to faith, but I think you understand the point.

The chaos of faith is immeasurably more valuable than the seeming stability of logic. Your life will become dramatically more thrilling, more powerful and more miraculous if you step beyond the limits of intellectualism and the bounds of emotional experience into the realm where common sense is regularly defied. It's the invisible realm where faith explodes, miracles are to be expected and the power of God burns through us.

I challenge you to read the Bible and to believe it without qualification or reservation. When the Word of God floods your mind and your spirit, faith will spike and the supernatural reality you are craving will be revealed.

17  So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)

Where is the fearless army of faith that will bring shame to the end-time assaults of Satan?

Dread has come to the church. The following verse is a warning to rebels of God, yet it is manifesting among Christians today. Embarrassing.

66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. Deuteronomy 28:66 (ESV)

As Believers, we are promised abundant life and a life free from fear. Those who rebel? Dread has come. Why is the church responding like the lost? Why are so many afraid, anxious and losing hope? We have a problem.

AN EMBARRASSING RESPONSE

My wife Amy posted the following to Facebook the other day:

Right now, it costs less to book a 14-day European cruise than it does to buy 10 bottles of antibacterial gel on Amazon.

She wasn't making it up. The price of the cruise plummeted to less than $600 while the antibacterial gel she found was $60 a bottle. Madness. In fact, I just searched on Amazon for PURELL Advanced Hand Sanitizer, Refreshing Gel and it's going for $189.99 for two bottles. What?

Consider how face masks and antibacterial gel is sold out in most brick and mortar stores right now, yet there doesn't seem to be a rush on anointing oil. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if snake, oops, I mean, essential oils were escalating in popularity while raw, fervent and authoritative intercession is giving way to fear and human “wisdom.”

Dr. Drew Pinsky was quoted by FOX News:

“Essentially the entire problem we are having is due to panic, not the virus,” he said. “I was saying this six weeks ago. We have six deaths from the coronavirus, 18,000 from the flu. Why isn't the message, ‘Get your flu vaccine'”?

Pinsky, host of “Dr. Drew After Dark,” said the coronavirus impact has been milder than initially projected.

“The entirety of the problem now is that people are being pushed into bankruptcy. Travel is down. The supply chain is being interrupted because of panic,” he reiterated.

“The flu virus is vastly more consequential and nobody is talking about that.”

He said that people who are wearing respirator masks are engaged in “panic behavior” rather than preventative measures.

“It is a press-induced panic that will have real consequences. It will not be the virus,” Pinsky said.

If Dr. Drew is furious that secular society is panicking about coronavirus, I believe we as Christians should be all the more furious.

This fear that's causing supposed blood-bought followers of the most powerful being in existence to absolutely freak out over a minuscule chance that they might be touched by a flu-like illness is ridiculous when compared to their concerns about eternity.

If there's a much greater chance of going to hell, where is the panic, the concern, the preparation? This road is very narrow and few will avoid eternal torment, yet people are stressed over a virus? Yes, some have died, and that should cause heartfelt compassion, but it shouldn't result in anxiety. While numbers may increase and appropriate health precautions should absolutely be taken, as of the writing of this article, of the 327 million people living in the United States, nine have died from coronavirus. The percentage? 0.0000000275229358%, or approximately 1 in 36 million.

The chances of going to Hell? Much greater than 50%. Some would argue more than 99%. Again, where is the urgent, intense concern?

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. Matthew 7:13 (ESV)

WHERE ARE THE FAITH-FILLED WARRIORS?

Are you taking the opportunity to show the lost you are fearless, full of faith and joyful? Or do they sense your anxiety about coronavirus?

A crisis of faith has been exposed. Coronavirus is embarrassing the church.

Have you noticed any difference at all between the godless world and those who are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, the Healer? Bold decrees of faith, not confessions of fear and worry, should be exploding out of our mouths!

Instead, Christians are hiding in caves, running from the battle and trembling not in the fear of the Lord, but the fear of the enemy.

Sure, take precautions, but don't cower. Don't respond like the world. Don't allow the enemy to impact your life. Live! Be free! You are covered by the blood of Jesus!

Of all people, we should be the ones preaching faith not fear. Put the ridiculous spiritual face masks away. Your mouth is your weapon! Don't allow the enemy to muzzle you. Speak to the fear and command it to dissipate! Renounce the tactics of the evil one! Let the world see just how powerful Jesus is and how different his children are! We run to the battle!

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3 (ESV)

I suppose if you aren't truly dwelling with God, wildly surrendered to him and abiding in him, you might have cause for worry. So, if it helps, buy stock in oils, meds and potions. However, for those who are walking with God, I suggest you read, and then shout to this world, that your Deliverer is all powerful! The snare and the deadly pestilence have no influence over you!

19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:19 (ESV)

I love the world “all.” “Nothing” is pretty great too. Nothing shall hurt you! We have authority over all the power of the enemy!

God's instructions in Psalm 91 are to reject fear! That is your initial strategy, not antibacterial soap and fist bumps.

5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. Psalm 91:5-6 (ESV)

I am so impressed by actor Patricia Heaton's simple Twitter post. Who else thinks like she does?

Is it okay to take precautions? Response is good, reaction is not. The moment fear or worry enter in, we can know the spirit behind coronavirus has touched us even if the disease has not.

People are refusing to travel, cancelling vacations, rejecting invitations to public gatherings, hiding away at home and waiting for the world to end. Yes, this is absolutely embarrassing and is no way to represent our mighty Healer!

We need an awakening of bold faith. It's time for God's people to rise up in the face of the enemy, with fire in our eyes, and cast him out! We fear none other than God, and we will, as a unified army, assault the darkness and laugh at the threats. You are in this army, mighty warrior. Take your stand and let the world see you are fearless, relentless and full of the fire of the Holy Spirit!

Even if safety demands a physical mask, take off your muzzle and open your mouth. The world needs to hear the message the enemy is trying to shut down. It's a message of healing, freedom and abundant life.

9 Because you have made the LORD your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— 10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent.Psalm 91:9-10 (ESV)

THE LOST ARE NOT SAFE

I leave you with a commission. Those who don't know Jesus, who have rejected his leadership and lordship, are in grave danger. We shouldn't be surprised when trouble comes, and though we have an advocate, those who have said no to God do not.

We must intercede for them, we must war on their behalf. Messages of awakening should be sounded night and day. They are not in a safe place.

58 “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name, the LORD your God, 59 then the LORD will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting. Deuteronomy 28:58-59 (ESV)
66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. Deuteronomy 28:66 (ESV)

Doubt is hanging before our nation. Dread has come. Assurance of life is fading, for the lost, that is. The redeemed, you and me, are the ones with the answer, the solution, the antidote!

We need a massive move of God, a revival, an awakening in our nation. Faith is our only hope and repentance is their only hope, but what a great hope it is!

So, let's end the embarrassment as we put on our armor and arise as mighty men and women of God, filled with faith and driven with a passion for the lost. I pray this current crisis will be just what they need to turn to Jesus in full force.

Originally published on The Stream.

Watch the livestream TOMORROW, Tuesday, March 3rd at 6pm PST (8pm CST)!

Isaiah Saldivar Livestream

At 6pm PST (8pm CST) on Tuesday, March 3rd go to fb.com/isaiahsalvidar and lock in for a night of FIRE!

John, Isaiah and Neeko will be talking about the sobering realities of Hell…realities that have been dismissed and minimized if not fully renounced by pastors all over the world.

The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.

I'll lead with the solution. A culture of prayer is the prescription not only for controlling, manipulative and dysfunctional churches, but also for every “normal, healthy” church. It's the call for all. I've written extensively on this and I am more convinced than ever that programs and politics must be set aside in favor of developing a night and day, all-encompassing, deeply saturating and strikingly potent culture of intercession in the church.

I hear often from people who have become jaded by controlling or even abusive pastors. I am also well aware of the resistance and manipulation that manifest through the people. The demands to fashion a golden calf are loudly sounded when the leader heads into inconvenient, costly and uncharted territory.

We don't only have one puppet master pulling the strings. The other side is pulling back and this wicked, internal battle is threatening the advance of God's kingdom.

THE PURPOSE OF CHURCH SERVICES

Prayer meetings. Intercession. A well developed culture that breathes and burns with the call to contend in prayer is the primary purpose of every church, and this means our church services should be driven by fiery, authoritative intercession.

Pharaoh-in-the-Church-Paperback.pngWe don't need another professional organization that gets more intoxicated every time new flesh, or, rather, a new visitor, walks through the door. We don't need humanistic vision, goals or projects to complete.

I'd encourage you to read my book Pharaoh in the Church. In it I call pastors to quit forcing people to make bricks so their personal kingdoms can be built. There is no need for bricks where they are called to go. The tent in the wilderness where the cloud and fire reside needs worshipers, not slaves.

A worship lyric by Brian Ming sums it up best:

God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.

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.” 18  And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Mark 11:17-18 (ESV)

The spirit of control and manipulation that we see in so many churches today is a manifestation of the spirit of religion. In the above well-known Bible passage, it's clear that Jesus will have nothing to do with churches that are driven by personal ambition. The people were using the house of prayer for their own benefit, to financially profit. Of course, financial strength isn't inherently wrong. But, when motives are tainted by impurities, we have a problem.

It's another Tower of Babel, a massive project developed with heaven as the focal point…and self-exaltation as the goal.

4  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4 (ESV)

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION

John-Burton-Religion-Shirt-ADMy definition of the impure spirit of religion is this: man's attempt to use God to get what he wants.

We see that in play with the thieves in the Temple and we see it in play in churches today. Pastors often fall into the trap of using the church as a vehicle to fulfill their personal missions and dreams. The people are well familiar with the consumer society we live in, and all too often they are consumers in the church as well. They want what they want and they won't make it easy for the pastor if they don't get it.

Again, the answer is developing a prayer culture that is so predominant and foundational that it drives the entire church. The services are more like prayer meetings than TED Talks, filled with cries and groans of intercession and the manifestation of holy love that results. It's very hard if not impossible to hate or despise or even to fight against those you are weeping over, contending in prayer for.

Pastors need to lay their expectations down and simply lead the people into the glory of God. Yes, challenge them. No, don't shrink back. But don't make the experience about busyness, projects or fulfilling a personal dream.

The people need to understand the leader is called to lead them into an uncharted place. They should let go of the demands and simply follow, pray and battle as holy soldiers.

DUELING PUPPET MASTERS

The dueling puppet masters need to stand down and eliminate the competition, the pressure and the strife from the camp. No more tug-of-war. No more control. We need the inappropriate expectations to cease.

Understand, I'm not campaigning for some sort of organic, casual, careless or passive church experience. Not at all. I believe our call into the Ekklesia, into God's governmental service, is one that will cost us everything. The price is high and it's not for the apathetic, self-indulgent person. The battle is extreme and it demands we are at our very best, equipped, prayerful and dressed for war.

Yes, our apostolic leaders must boldly call us into action. Yes, the body must be in position. They must lift up the arms of their leaders, strengthening them in the fight.

What we don't need for even one more Sunday service is pastors who are trading their prophetic mantle for that of salesmanship, attempting to convince the people buy what they are selling so they can be personally enriched, their reputation enhanced and their lust for success satisfied. No more spiritualizing personal endeavors and expecting the people to supply the need.

We also don't need a casual people who are passive-aggressive, who manipulate and control the leadership in order to coerce them to change the direction of the church or to meet their selfish demands.

We need bold, selfless leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.

We need consecrated, surrendered people who are dying daily and enlisted as soldiers.

The innumerable projects, promotions, groups, functions and busyness in today's church really need to come to an end. Trade it all for prayer meetings. Gather the people together and run the race of intercession together. Equip the saints, preach on fire, pray without ceasing and head out into the wilderness of encounter. That, my friend, is church.

Originally published on The Stream.

Another church has been seduced by wickedness, confusing it for love.

“The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” Genesis 3:13 (ESV)

Eve's passion was for her eyes to be opened and to be wise like God. Sounds good, except that single decision resulted in immediate death for her and billions of others who would follow. Her redefinition of what godliness was paved the way for innumerable people throughout the ages entering into never-ending torture in Hell. Evangelism wouldn't be necessary if it wasn't for Eve.

Tragically, another church leadership team has looked to redefine spirituality, and because of the cunning deception of a wicked serpent, they ate of the fruit, fruit that was good for food and a delight to the eyes. Their decision was catastrophic.

I've attended Assembly of God churches at various times throughout my life, and I have so appreciated their devotion to holiness and classic, historic, Biblical Christianity. I was stunned to hear about a Assembly of God church in Texas making the decision to fully embrace homosexuality, without apology, becoming what is know as an inclusive church.

Eikon Church in Kyle, Texas, led by Pastors Dan and Kelly Matlock has sadly, tragically been duped by modern, cultural arguments and is now fully affirming. On an interior page on their website, suggested resources are provided including a podcast titled How to Be a Girl Podcast: A Christian Family's Story of Raising Their Trans Child, a book titled God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines, a glossary of LGBTQ+ terms and much more. The following is also found there:

In our endeavor to promote unity over uniformity, we’ve compiled these resources that we believe will be helpful as you learn more and lean into conversations regarding our church’s decision to be a fully inclusive church for the LGBTQ+ community.

I contacted the General Superintendent of the Assembly of God. Thankfully, he sent me a copy of a statement he released publicly this morning:

As many of you are aware, a certified minister at an AG church in Texas on Sunday announced a departure from the official Assemblies of God position on human sexuality. The Assemblies of God has a well-established process to deal with such departures. Immediately upon first knowledge, the North Texas District initiated appropriate action required in dealing with both the minister and the church. When it comes to matters of marriage, sexual orientation, and gender identity, the Bible is clear. That is why the only acceptable position for Assemblies of God ministers and churches is clearly outlined in this statement: CLICK TO READ THE STATEMENT

FALSE LOVE

In my article The Great Love Deception: A False-Love Movement Is On The Rise, I wrote:

Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG) So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings 10 so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of…

We are to learn to love appropriately. This scripture is a critical exhortation! Why? It means there are inappropriate ways to love. There are deceptions that feel right, but are poor representations or even counterfeits of truth.

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.

Affirming wickedness is the furthest thing from true, holy love. Endorsing homosexuality and welcoming those who participate in this forbidden lifestyle as brothers and sisters in Christ eliminates any hope of deliverance and eternities are put at great risk. Heaven and Hell are very much in play.

Their departure from Christian faith is made clear, in bold words, on their website:

We believe in and practice full inclusion here at Eikon Church, which means that individuals from the LGBTQ+ community can serve and be involved in EVERY AREA of Eikon Church from serving to pastoring.

This affirmation is not only heretical, it's spiritually deadly. This church family will most certainly experience a season of glee where the rush of false-love floods in. Understand, I'm sure these people are caring and tender-hearted and they want every person to feel their affection. The problem is in their theology, and, yes, bad theology can lead to destruction.

When the church becomes more about the people than about God, more about welcoming them, affirming them and celebrating them than about worshiping a most holy, fearful God, flaws can be overlooked, sin minimized and wickedness redefined as the purest form of love. Wicked love.

I wonder, will the leadership of Eikon Church preach on the topics of sin, Hell, holiness, consecration, repentance and surrender? Or, have they already fallen through the trap door of false-grace and Universalism?

The terror of the Lord must hit every church and ever Christian in this hour. God's love is very different than what is humanly discerned. Many question how a loving God could sentence someone to eternal torment. A better question is how a wicked people could ever presume to deserve anything less. God is fearsome, he is holy, and yes, he is love. He is not, however tolerant. He is not affirming of that which he defines as an abomination. He is a good, good Father, and he is also a just, just judge.

We need to intercede for the sheep at Eikon Church that are being led into wholesale deception, heresy and undeniable departure from the Christian faith.

20  Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21  Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Isaiah 5:20-21 (ESV)