I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
Traveling ministers and the pastors who invite them most both welcome correction.
The money changers’ sin was simple—they attempted to use God’s temple for personal gain. They were focused on making a profit. This resulted in one of Jesus’ most violent reactions, and I believe a similar reaction is coming to a corrupt ministry scheme today. ~Snake Oil Ministry
Of my nearly three decades of ministry, I've spent many years as a pastor inviting guest ministers in and I've spent many years as the guest minister, traveling to serve a pastor when called. Wholesale reform in this exchange must come if the impact we are hoping for is to be realized.
Of course, there are many humble and pure-hearted itinerant preachers and many local church pastors who are godly and ridiculously amazing. And, of course, there are many who are not.
Caught in the middle, I suppose, are many more who are simply unaware of what appropriate itinerant ministry looks like. My hope is that we can shine a light on the issue and call for an adjustment.
REVIVAL CAN COME
I propose the reasons for inviting in a guest minister are few. The underlying desire should absolutely be to pursue an outpouring and to stimulate the fires of revival. A move of God is the motivating factor.
The guest minister will certainly carry something the preachers of the house don't. Their ministry should be valued and given room to bring impact. Again, revival is the goal.
However, in order for this greatest of pursuits to have even the slightest hope of kindling, we need to see significant change come.
Listen to the podcast…
HOW ITINERANT MINISTERS MUST CHANGE
Don't travel unless you are truly carrying the burden of the Lord.
If you don't have a burning message from God seared into your spirit, you should question whether you should accept an invitation to minister. Today we have too many professional guest speakers who are regurgitating messages that may have held impact years ago but are now nothing more than spiritual information devoid of anointing or timely weightiness.
I propose you pray and seek God for a heavy, transforming word for the people you are about to minister to. The pastor and the people are paying greatly (or, they should be) to bring you in. Anything less than full investment is dishonoring to them.
Bring the new wine and a “now word” of God, not a collection of lifeless notes from yesteryear.
Get out of the green rooms.
If a guest minister isn't engaged with passion in the worship service and is instead hiding away in the green room or the pastor's office awaiting the perfect moment to make their appearance, they should stay hidden away. Go away. Don't take the microphone.
If revival is the goal as it should be, the itinerant preacher has no option but to be right in the middle of the flow of the service. They should be interceding, discerning the atmosphere, declaring breakthrough, engaging in spiritual warfare and worshiping with abandon.
Stop with the marathon money grabs (I mean, offering times).
It's the pastor's job to ensure you are very well taken care of financially (we'll get to them in a moment). Leave that part of it alone and focus on the job at hand. You are called to preach and to ignite the fires of revival, not breaking in the middle for 30 minutes to receive (or, actually, take) an offering. Becoming a distracted money-changer when you should be flowing in an overwhelming anointing for breakthrough is dishonorable.
Oh, and if you attach their breakthrough to their giving in that service, I fear for your soul.
Weep with the people.
If you can't feel the hearts of the people and if you aren't invested deeply in their freedom, you have no business standing behind another leader's pulpit. It's easy to know when itinerant ministers are simply professional public speakers. They confidently deliver their well polished message and are already thinking about selling some books, heading out to lunch and jumping on their flight to their next destination.
We need those who will be in the moment, people who will weep when the people weep and dance when they dance. Develop relationships, fight for their breakthrough and go to battle for their souls!
Stop the embarrassing theatrics.
Quit pushing people over at the altar. Quit measuring success by how many people come to the altar. Quit hyping up an atmosphere. Just quit.
Many times when I travel and minister I won't have an altar call at all. I won't attempt to create some sort of faux energy or stimulate a hypnotic atmosphere. While I'm all for wild and bizarre manifestations of the Holy Spirit, I'm certainly not going to manufacture it.
Preach with passion. Fight from the platform. Engage the enemy. Welcome the Holy Spirit. Respond accordingly and get out of the way. You may not have an Instagramable pic of people flooding the altar, but that's okay.
Be submitted in a local church.
Itinerant preachers, be they prophets, apostles, evangelists or whatever, must be covered in a local church. They should be active members and in a position of learning as they sit under another's leadership.
Itinerant ministry is not a promotion out of the church. It's an expression of the church. I personally wouldn't be comfortable inviting in a guest speaker who isn't locked into a local church. I've done it in the past and much of the time there was a strong, prideful, independent spirit at play in their ministry. Pastors can't afford for their people to be infected with that.
HOW PASTORS MUST CHANGE
Be prepared to give a lot of money to your guest.
Itinerant ministers aren’t being paid for only one hour of preaching. They have given more than that. They have invested much by leaving their family, expending energy as they travel, paying for their food on the road, sleeping in unfamiliar beds and, possibly most importantly, stepping out in faith believing that God would provide their every need.
If their monthly family budget (you know, money to pay for their teenage monsters to devour entire sides of beef, braces for crooked teeth, Christmas presents, car payments, vacations, toilet paper, shoes, etc.) is $6000 a month, that means anything less than $1500 puts them in a compromised position. It’s usually their spouse who is handling the bills and taking care of precious and wild kids who gets hit the most when the finances aren’t coming in. Being an itinerant minister is an extremely challenging life and I want to do my best to relieve the financial pressure from them and their family. ~Snake Oil Ministry
I personally believe $1000 per time your guest speaks is a bare minimum, and, by all means, send them home with the honorarium. Don't expect them to be happy about your lack of preparation when you tell them you'll have to send it to them in the mail the next week. Remember, I'm coming at this discussion now from the perspective of pastors, not the itinerant minister. Traveling ministers travels must be willing to do what they are called to do for nothing. But, pastors shouldn't put their guests in that position. They should also have integrity with the offering:
I have found that people love to give, especially when I tell them 100% of the offering will be going to the guest speaker (after expenses are covered). If one million dollars comes into the offering, the church receives nothing and the guest is now a millionaire! I believe this approach deals with any scrutiny that may be in people’s minds when giving. They love the fact that they are able to have 100% of their gift go directly to the guest! ~Snake Oil Ministry
I've had some cringe worthy experiences as a traveling preacher. While the vast majority of visits have been amazing, there are a handful that still make me shudder! I'm going to battle for traveling preachers everywhere because I know that leaving after a grueling, tiring weekend filled with long travel and uncomfortable situations with only a few hundred dollars can be tough.
Give them room to minister.
If revival is the goal, you can't expect even the most anointed guest speaker to move everybody in that direction in 30 minutes. The people should be well aware that it's a special day and what is normal in their culture is about to be violated.
You should have done your homework before you invited them in, meaning you are fully comfortable with their ministry and you can confidently release the reigns. Let them know they are free to preach as long as they'd like about anything God puts on their hearts. No limits.
Now, back to the guest speaker for a moment: if you are boring, losing the crowd or if it's just an off day, stop the bleeding and put the people out of their misery. Get off the stage and head off to lunch with everybody else.
Get them a nice hotel.
I'll sleep on the floor if necessary to bring the burden of the Lord to the people God is sending me to. That being said, I can't express how blessed I am, and relieved, when I hear my host is putting me up in a hotel instead of a host home.
Staying in a place where I can be alone to rest, study and pray is priceless. While many host homes have been amazing and I've had a lot of fun spending time with the host families, it's almost always better to stay alone.
For example, I stayed in a beautiful home with an absolutely amazing family many years ago. I can't express enough how impressed I was with them and how much I enjoyed hanging out. However, I was unable to rest as my calendar was filled up with activities and my sleep schedule was disrupted as I was served an incredible 7am breakfast. The problem? I don't eat breakfast and I stay up very late at night. I was exhausted.
I know that sounds like a silly or even a selfish, thankless complaint, but the cost of that scenario is a de-energized preacher who isn't able to pray and get alone with the Lord in preparation for the services.
Just get them a hotel and ask them what schedule they'd like to keep.
Don't try to undo what they did after they leave town.
Again, the purpose of bringing in guests is to be catalysts for an outpouring. They are supposed to do things differently than the pastor and local leadership. They carry a different anointing and they can break through things in a different way.
Many are called to disrupt, to trouble and to initiate a great shaking. Allow that process to happen.
Unless clear heresy is being preached, don't try to set back up what the preacher has been called to upset.
I once heard about a pastor who tried to put the people back at ease the week after I preached with fire, sending God wanted to remove them from their ease. It was a fearful message of holiness and salvation, and, unfortunately, the pastor encouraged the people, correcting what I said and ensuring that they were nice and saved and should not be concerned in any way.
Honestly pastor, if you are going to do that, don't waste my time. It's costly enough to preach a message like that without it all being undone the moment I head for the airport.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Have a pure heart, contend for revival, give largely, honor deeply and give God a lot of room to move. Revival has launched through the ministry of guest preachers before and it can happen again, but I believe it's clear we need reform in this area before we can legitimately expect it to happen.
It seems to be uncommon if not rare to find churches today that are preparing people for the end-times.
“I'm not a pre-tribber, a post-tribber or a mid-tribber. I'm a pan-tribber. I believe it will all pan out in the end!”
That's the whimsical, fantastical argument many casual, unconcerned people are making today regarding the most critical season in all of human history. In fact, I've heard many pastors defend their reluctance to address eschatology by saying similar things. No, it absolutely won't all pan out in the end if we don't prepare with intense and strategic discipline. In fact, I believe innumerable current Christians may spend forever in torment because of a failure to prepare.
As I jump into this, I implore those of you who are already chomping at the bit to defend your eschatological position with determined ferocity and great verbosity in the comments—just don't. This article is not a study of the eschatological timeline. I will present some suppositions, and I don't hide the fact that I firmly believe the church will be here during the Tribulation, but if you are looking for an end-time Bible study, you won't find it here. Your comments would be better served addressing the precise topic I am presenting here: preparedness.
SALVATION ALONE WON'T PREPARE US, AND MANY WILL FALL AWAY
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 (NKJV)
I'd like to present a question. What if many of the varied end-time theologies prove to be wrong and, one day in the near future, we find ourselves face-to-face with the Anti-Christ? Suddenly everything in our life will change. Again, I'm not diving into the specifics regarding precise timing or chain of events. I'm keeping this very simple. Will the church be ready to face such unimaginable, demonic pressure that will seek to crush those who are weak in their faith during the Tribulation?
The idea that salvation alone will prepare us for the coming end-times is honestly quite hysterical yet so many are convinced it will.
I have actually been criticized for causing fear by encouraging people to be ready for the intensity of that soon coming season. They then stick their heads back in the warm, cozy sand and continue dreaming about fairies, rainbows and unicorns. They presume all to be well and nothing can threaten that, or so they think.
Mike Bickle of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City said,
Our world is in a season of acceleration toward two momentous events: the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the greatest hour of pressure and trouble in all of history.
I'll state it plainly. I believe a life of consecration, intercession and depth in the Word are mandatory if we hope to survive the pressures of the Great Tribulation. Yes, it will be extremely easy and even common sense for those who are the least bit casual and those who have not truly died to their own desires to embrace the Anti-Christ with open arms—and go to Hell.
I personally believe there must be Holy Spirit activity in our lives at an extremely explosive degree if we hope to survive the troubles.
The Church will be victorious in love with power during the most dramatic time in history. This view gives us confidence and urgency to dynamically participate with Jesus now and in the coming revival. ~Mike Bickle
A vibrant and devoted life of prayer cannot be substituted. Dreams, visions and a sharp prophetic daily life will help greatly. Intimacy with Jesus that is only nurtured as we pray without ceasing is mandatory. Additionally, heavenly revelation and the faith necessary to combat the convincing assaults of the enemy will come to those who are filling their lives with the Word of God. They must eat the scroll.
3 And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Ezekiel 3:3 (NKJV)
If simple temptations like lust, greed, gossip, pornography, apathy and other common sins are captivating the high majority of professing Christians today (for example, 68% of men and 50% of pastors view porn), then what makes us think we will have the spiritual strength to say no to the most powerful wicked manifestation in history, the Anti-Christ? If we aren't wildly consecrated, intimate with Jesus, praying in the Spirt and dead to self we won't be.
Understand, the pressures won't be limited to rejecting run-of-the-mill sins. Consider this:
We know in the Tribulation we won't be able to buy, sell or trade without the Mark. As a Christian parent, what would you do if your children had absolutely nothing to eat and had no fresh water to drink? It will be easy, and it will feel like love, to make the decision to take the Mark so your family is cared for.
What happens when a family member has an asthma attack with no access to a life-saving prescription rescue inhaler? Again, it will feel like love and absolutely obvious common sense to take the Mark of the Beast so they can save them. Certainly God would sanction such a selfless act, right? Wrong.
It will be very easy for those who have adopted the doctrine of eternal security to take the Mark. After all, the falling away doesn't apply to them and nobody can snatch them out of God's hand, right? Do you now see, if this end-time view is correct, how millions of current Christians can end up in Hell? Once you take the Mark, there is no turning back. Repentance will not be an option. Their remaining time in the Tribulation will be a vacation compared to their soon coming eternal season.
Partial Preterists and others who deny a future season of trouble is coming will also have little issue taking the Mark.
It's easy today to fall, to live in sin, to live every day thinking all is well while living compromised, lukewarm lives. Not one of us can imagine how easy it will be to give in when the cost of standing strong in Jesus becomes so great. Only those who are truly living in the Spirit, walking in that other-worldly, supernatural realm where the Holy Spirit is manifesting with extreme power can hope to survive without falling away. The seriousness on this matter is beyond what I can express.
Being a “pan-tribber” would be laughable if that position weren't so eternally deadly. Pastors, you must prepare the people. Those who are simply showing up each Sunday morning, smiling, shaking hands, giving offerings, saying prayers and listening to your Bible teachings are in an extremely vulnerable place. If they aren't deep in God, praying with fervency, encountering God, living in the Spirit and allowing the Word of God to sear their hearts, they have little hope of surviving our current world, much less the one that I and many others believe is coming very, very soon.
A beautiful child died and Christians mocked the relentless faith of a church family.
Kalley Heiligenthal stomped her feet and waved her arms, dancing her way from one side of the bright-lit stage to the other.
“Come alive, come alive!” the congregants at Bethel Church in Redding, California, shouted in expectation as they clapped and sang praises.
The faithful shared these scenes on Instagram Tuesday night as they prayed for Heiligenthal’s 2-year-old daughter, Olive Alayne, to be raised from the dead.
A little time has passed since the heartbreaking death of Olive Alayne, the daughter of a Bethel Church worship leader. While the news story has settled down, I still can't deny the grief that I am feeling. My spirit is deeply troubled. In fact, I don't believe it's too strong to say that I'm sickened by the response of so much of the church during this tragic time. No parent wants to go through the unspeakable pain of losing a child. When it happens you must have the love and support of a faith-filled family surrounding you. A spiritual family like Bethel Church in Redding, California isn't going to offer simple “hopes and prayers” as most everybody in the world does at the time of crisis. No, they are going to contend for a miracle. Of course they would, right?
A CHILD DIES AND CHRISTIANS MOCK
Other evangelical Christians are beginning to question the church’s ongoing calls for resurrection. Author Wade Mullen, who writes about abuse within evangelical institutions, cautioned that attempted resurrections are often associated with cults.
I'll admit I was quite shocked when I started to hear about Christians on social media voicing disapproval of such an effort to contend for a resurrection. Who wouldn't pray with passion in such an unspeakably terrible situation? Who wouldn't take a step of great faith and gather as many prayer warriors as possible to believe with them?
52 And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53 And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. Luke 8:52-53 (ESV)
Jesus experienced something similar when he suggested a pending resurrection. He was laughed at. The laughing continues today.
I propose it's to the shame of the church that supernatural happenings are rare and so resisted in our Western culture. The default for every life crisis should be a corporate war in the Spirit for wonders to come. Help from deity is required. A faith-filled cry should echo out of us as otherworldly aliens who live by a set of different rules and live in a very different realm.
OUR OWN FOR RESURRECTION
My wife and I have lost seven children to still-birth and miscarriage, and we have battled in tears for each of them.
I'll never forget one night several years ago when my wife and I were a part of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Amy was pregnant, and using her at home doppler heartbeat monitor, she frantically searched for the baby's heartbeat. There was none.
After a confirming visit to the emergency room, sadness overcame us and we devised an unusual plan to match our heart-wrenching desperation. Within hours we were on a flight to Lakeland, Florida. We were going to do whatever it took to gather with other faith-filled people who would agree with us for a miracle.
At that time all we knew was that God was moving extremely powerfully and thousands of people were converging under a massive tent, hungry for encounter with God. The intense anointing we felt there as 10,000 people were worshiping with passion was undeniable. Hindsight would give us a glimpse into the assault of the enemy against what God was doing, and, unfortunately, how Todd Bentley would fail. I'll tell you this. Todd's failure and exposure in no way diminished the faith, passion, hunger and legitimate love for Jesus that the people under that tent had. God was manifesting unusually, remarkably, powerfully.
I wish I had the space to share the mind-boggling way the Holy Spirit orchestrated the events there. We were back stage throughout the night, doppler in hand, as people hovered around my wife and decreed and declared resurrection nonstop. Their love for two total strangers will never be forgotten. No laughing. No mocking. Only love.
After many dramatic encounters and untold expressions of determined faith by two humbled, broken people, we flew home. There was still no heartbeat.
The next night a spontaneous “resurrection service” took place in one of the classrooms at the International House of Prayer. Well over one hundred people worshiped with fiery zeal, cried out for God to move and then, one-by-one, lined up and took turns commanding our dead daughter, Livi, to live. With tears in their eyes, they pointed at my wife's pregnant belly as she sat in a chair, hands lifted, eyes swollen and faith raised, and shouted, “Livi, come forth!”
The next day at the hospital she was induced and a tiny, lifeless body emerged. She was dead.
The following night we had a memorial service, and most of those who were at the resurrection service were there. We worshiped intensely, refusing to surrender to unbelief even in the midst of failure. God was still God.
Suddenly, in the midst of the worship, faith hit me powerfully. God pointed out a friend of mine across the room who was totally blind. God told me to pray for him. As the loud worship music filled the room, I started commanding his eyes to open. Nobody heard me, nobody knew what I was praying. Moments later it was my turn to preach. I released a bold message of faith and revival. I refused to allow this to defeat our belief in a miracle-working God and I determined to see revival come as a result. That was the passion of my heart. That was the message of the night.
After I was finished I was called over to my blind friend. He said, “John, I just need you to know, when you were preaching on revival, my eyes started to burn. I wondered if I was about to be healed.” He had no idea I prayed for him. God was doing something.
IT'S TIME FOR THE CHURCH TO BELIEVE AGAIN
The moral of this true, emotional story? We don't have all the answers. We don't always know how to react in the time of trial. I firmly believe the Lord revealed to me that all of this was training ground for my wife and me. You see, walking in increasing faith requires much learning and revelation. There's a way to walk in the Spirit and there's a realm of faith that simply requires becoming familiar with how things function in that realm. Simply “believing” and quoting Bible verses won't cut it. A life of supernatural faith demands much more.
Did this, along with the lost of six other babies, damage our hearts? Honestly, yes. Did we question God? Yes. Did we evaluate our faith? Absolutely. Did the enemy try to overtake us, to shame us, to mock us? Oh boy did he. Are we closer to seeing blind eyes open and dead people raised after experiencing this overwhelming season of our life? Yes. I believe we are.
It's time for the church to wake from its secular humanistic slumber into a supernatural reality. Read the reports. Around the world blind eyes are opened, dead people live and miracles are normal. In fact, read the Bible. It's all in there.
I've never met the parents of Olive Alayne, but I'm confident that, even in the midst of mourning, they are growing deeper in faith and they are learning how to function in the Spirit. They may not feel it, they may be limping and they will never forget this tragic season of their lives. I would never pretend to understand their private, personal heart response, but I do know their daughter will forever be in their hearts and they will see her again very soon. Oh, and I'm convinced they don't regret the fight for her life in the least.
Kalley Heiligenthal, Olive's mom:
“Olive, we miss you, love you so much and we'll see you soon. We know now more than ever that King Jesus is good and His every word is worth believing and following at any cost. That's the song we'll sing until we're with you again and we finally sing it together. We cannot wait.”
“It's a new day, and we're awake for it. This is a victory story,” she concluded.
Don't be too hard on Harry and Meghan. How many followers of Christ are similarly renouncing their callings in favor of chasing their dreams?
The couple will no longer use the titles His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness, but they are not being stripped of them. Harry will remain a prince and sixth in line to the British throne. (wyff4.com)
I am fully convinced every blood-bought Believer was born with a divine, royal calling. I'm saddened at how successful the enemy has been in either convincing Christians they are worthless and common or in seducing them to forsake their identities for more self-satisfying pursuits.
In fact, many today argue they are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus regardless of how they respond to the heavenly mandates Christ Jesus has given them. Okay, as long as we are legitimately following Jesus, yes, we are seated with him. Prince Harry will remain a prince even though he's relinquishing the expectations that come with that designation. I'm confident you can see the problem this presents, however.
This article isn't a judgment on Prince Harry and Meghan. Instead it is an indictment on the church, on God's royal family.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
When we come to Christ, we die. I'll never forget a dramatic, life-altering experience I had with God decades ago. In remarkable fashion, in a way words could never faithfully express, God asked me point blank if I was willing to be a martyr. After some of the most intense minutes of my life ticked by, I ultimately said, “Yes. Life would not be worth living without being fully surrendered to Jesus, even if it means I die.”
The power of the Holy Spirit flooded me so powerfully I can still remember the encounter many years later. No, we are not called to chase our dreams. We are called to come alive as we joyfully serve the King.
How many Believers today have forsaken their royal duties to chase their dreams? How many are doing so while arguing they are still “in line to the throne?” People who have surrendered their divine callings have casually presumed upon the thrown to honor and facilitate their plans instead of honoring the King and his plans as humble servants.
The palace continued: “With The Queen’s blessing, the Sussexes will continue to maintain their private patronages and associations. While they can no longer formally represent The Queen, the Sussexes have made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty. (foxnews.com)
What a tragic situation. In parallel fashion, many of today's Christians are seeking the King's blessing to disconnect so they can “maintain their private patronages and associations.”
The result? The inability to represent King Jesus while “endeavoring to uphold the values of His Majesty.” This lukewarm, abdication of royal responsibilities makes upholding divine values mostly impossible. This is the state of much of the church today. The King is no longer represented.
RELINQUISHED MILITARY ASSIGNMENT
The new “model” will take effect this spring, though the palace did not announce an official date. As part of the new agreement, Harry and Meghan will step back from all royal duties, including official military appointments. (time.com)
I've argued often that the church is a potent, strategic and necessary instrument of spiritual war. It's a military, though many seek to turn it into a spa, an indulgent, personally satisfying experience.
What we have in church today is a company of inactive soldiers who are absent without leave. Their motivation is, again, personal satisfaction and the fulfillment of temporal dreams. Those who have laid down their weapons and disengaged from the fight have empowered a deadly supernatural enemy who seeks to destroy.
Every Christian was born with a mandate. While there are many variations of duties, we all have at least one that will drive us through life. That assignment ends on our death bed, or, sadly, for many, much earlier as they seek blessing from His Majesty to step aside.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11 (ESV)
I pray the new “model” of life adopted by Prince Harry and Meghan will be rejected by today's remnant church. We can't afford for people to step back so they can focus on their personal endeavors. Instead we need every holy soldier armed and ready for the clash of battle.
I pray the best for Prince Harry and Meghan. Again, this article wasn't about them. It was about a mirrored reality in the spiritual realm. It's a violation of what is pure and right to accept the designation of royalty while rejecting the assignments of royalty.
Church, arise. Arm yourselves. Lock in with your fellow warriors. Obey the King. Run to battle. Annihilate the enemy. Rescue the perishing. Fulfill your assignment.
21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ Matthew 25:21 (ESV)
President Trump heroically affirmed school prayer. Maybe he can help return prayer to the church as well.
Claiming that “there’s a growing totalitarian impulse on the far left that seeks to punish, restrict and even prohibit religious expression,” Trump guaranteed that while he’s in office, “we will not let anyone push God from the public square. We will uphold religious liberty for all.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
Of course, President Trump is referring to the issues of religious freedom and prayer in schools, but if that quote was ever-so-lightly reworded, one might think he was talking about the current expression of church in America.
Of course, nobody would balk at somebody offering up a prayer during a church service in most local churches today, but the spirit of intercession is certainly quenched, restricted or even fully rejected in too many places with the word church etched above the doorposts.
“It is a culture war,” Trump said. “You have two sides and you have a side that believes so strongly in prayer and they’re being restricted and it’s getting worse and worse and I think we’ve made a big impact,” he added. (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
Now, that statement by President Trump could even more easily be applied to the church. There most certainly is a culture war and those who are contending for an atmosphere of Spirit-driven prayer on Sunday mornings are being restricted by those who would be uncomfortable by such an atmosphere. It's the remnant versus the religiously curious.
Understand, I'm not talking about saying prayers. I'm not referring to prayer requests or telling God about our ailments. When I say prayer I mean a furnace of intercession where people throughout the congregation are decreeing, declaring and pounding Heaven with fiery zeal that would wake the dead. Literally. The sleepers must arise and the comatose must be shaken out of their slumber. A corporate spirit of prayer does just that.
PRAYER IN SCHOOLS?
Let's bring it back just for a moment to the news of the day. President Trump is proving himself to be a champion of religious freedom, and that should be applauded.
The president announced from the Oval Office that his administration was taking “historic steps to protect the First Amendment right to pray in public schools.” (NYDAILYNEWS.COM)
I'd like to present a question. Does this proclamation carry any weight, will it have any impact, if it doesn't result in prayer movements being launched in public schools? If nobody is praying, is this announcement a wasted effort? No, I don't believe it is, but let's unpack it just a bit. The analysis can also be applied to the church.
I do believe affirmation of prayer in public schools accomplishes one important thing. It officially acknowledges God and everybody's right to worship him, both privately and publicly. It authorizes students and teachers to bring deity into the conversation. I believe President Trump's decree has authority in the spiritual realm and you better know the enemy is going to fight against it hard, just as he did in 1962 when prayer in schools was outlawed. So, instead of a vehicle for actual intercession, this move by our President accomplishes something else—it establishes authority for Christians to publicly declare that Jesus is Lord.
Here's another question. Is it better for prayer in schools to be authorized yet the schools are devoid of a spirit of prayer or for prayer in schools to be banned which results in an underground movement of intercession? Of course, the right answer would be for prayer to be authorized and for the spirit of prayer to overtake our classrooms. We want both. Consider this as we leap from the school system to the church.
PRAYER IN CHURCH?
Prayer has not been legally banned in the church in America, for now at least. Sadly, generally speaking, the first scenario I presented above seems to be manifesting in the church. Prayer is allowed yet churches are devoid of a spirit of intercession.
I propose that if most people in a local church are only attending one service a week, most probably on a Sunday morning, that service must be a strategic, passionate and supernatural prayer meeting. The power of prayer is too great to relegate it to an off day at an unusual hour in a side room. Prayer is too important to shelve it in favor of a little music, unnecessary announcements and boring public speaking.
The best prayer meetings are filled with decrees, declarations, spiritual songs, proclamations of Scripture and prophetic revelation. Yes there will be anointed preaching and yes there will be explosive worship but they will be driven by an atmosphere of intercession. Church cultures will change from natural to supernatural and people will finally, many for the first time, have a personal encounter with the One they decided to surrender their lives to.
I suggest it's actually a bit embarrassing that a leader of a secular society, our President, is doing more to advance the cause of prayer than many leaders of Christian congregations are. Are the parallels perfect? Of course not. I understand that. However, I invite you to think about this. Is there freedom of intercession in your church or is it minimized? Are intercessors shunned? Are there passionate cries of fervent prayer on Sunday mornings or is the spiritual temperature kept at a comfortable level so the lukewarm won't grow uneasy?
I made a promise to every person I had the privilege of giving leadership to over the years:
I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
Prayer must be front and center as the driver of the culture of every church. Let the visitors be uncomfortable and the pretenders get convicted. It's time for the burning ones to awaken and for pastors to lead people into passionate, heart-wrenching, wonderful prayer as the foundational expression of their local assemblies. We must stoke the coals in the furnace of intercession in our churches. President Trump is doing it for us in the schools.
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)
Lauren Daigle is becoming one of the most popular Christian artists of all time right before our eyes. This could be a problem.
Lauren Daigle is a ridiculously talented young lady and she has been provided platforms few will stand on. Her rendition of the National Anthem at the 2020 National Championship game for college football was beautiful. Her song “You Say” is now officially the biggest song ever, spending a record 69 weeks at the top of Billboard's Hot Christian Songs chart. That song just hit Platinum for the second time. Lauren also won a Grammy and a Billboard Music Award in 2019 and she recently won awards for artist of the year and contemporary album of the year for “Look Up Child” at the 50th annual Dove Awards Ceremony in Nashville. She has been featured on numerous news programs and talk shows including the Ellen Degeneres Show.
Listen to the podcast…
In response to criticism to her appearance alongside Ellen, who is famously and unashamedly homosexual, Lauren said this:
I don’t have all the answers in life, and I’m definitely not gonna act like I do, but the one thing that I know for sure is I can’t choose who I’m supposed to be kind to and who I’m supposed to show love to and who I’m not, because that’s the mission right? (www.theatlantic.com)
That makes sense. However, when pressed, a problem was made clear—a problem most of Christendom seems to have ignored.
This week, another radio host asked her directly about whether she believed that homosexuality was sinful, and Daigle responded that she wasn’t sure.
“I can’t honestly answer on that,” Daigle said. “In a sense, I have too many people that I love that they are homosexual. I don’t know. I actually had a conversation with someone last night about it. I can’t say one way or the other. I’m not God.” (www.theatlantic.com)
The Atlantic continued by referencing a Charisma News article I wrote on the issue:
THE DANGER OF SUPPORTING LAUREN DAIGLE
Much of the world simply cannot understand why we as Christians are so intent on fighting the culture wars. Why can't we simply love and celebrate when others are discovering their identities and bravely living the way they feel is most authentic?
My personal passion is not to restrict or to renounce others for the sake of winning a battle or as leverage to prop myself up as superior. To do so would require a measure of wickedness on my part.
What drives me, and what drives most Christians who are absolutely heartbroken over the current state of affairs in our nation, including the normalization of abortion, homosexuality, pornography and other vices, is very basic. We are desperately attempting to rescue people from never-ending, unspeakable, maddening torment in Hell. That's it.
Honestly, if people choose to get high on drugs, dive deep into porn or marry someone of the same sex, my energy would be wasted attempting to convince them why such behavior is unhealthy. Sure, arguments, even good ones, can be made, and many people brilliantly make them. However, that fight pales in comparison to another one I believe we should be engaged in. The context is eternally different then one with such a temporal focus. I am gripped by the reality of forever.
The fact that, to date, based on what I have derived via public media sources, Lauren has not renounced homosexuality as a sin. As I argued in my Charisma News article, this is a problem. A clear and present danger.
Christians continue to affirm her “ministry” and to support her art. Christian radio stations scoff at the idea of removing her songs from the playlist. Individuals are listening to her music in record fashion.
What does this communicate? Holiness is a non-issue.
Do you understand how easy it will be now for people to embrace homosexuality due to Daigle's comments? Many others probably already have shifted their position to affirming homosexuality as acceptable for Christians. Others are now taking the casual approach that Daigle did, abandoning any urgency to promote righteousness.
When influential public figures make damaging comments or promote destructive theologies, it's the responsibility of prophetic messengers, pastors and every Christian to look out for those who are at risk. To do otherwise would be an abdication of our responsibilities. Love demands we don't stay silent. (Charisma News)
The fact that such a basic biblical truth is confusing to Lauren should result in alarms sounding and flags flying.
I'm sure Lauren is an amazing young lady. I'm confident I'd enjoy taking with her and getting to know her. There's much going on in her heart, and so much of it is really good. However, we can't stop there. That can't be the end of the story as the narrative is unresolved.
To affirm anyone who stands for Christ while also refusing to renounce that which will result in eternal separation from Christ is a mistake we cannot make.
Regarding her position on homosexuality, Lauren said:
So when people ask questions like that … that's what my go-to is. I just say, ‘Read the Bible and find out for yourself. And when you find out let me know, because I'm learning too.'
Lauren, the Bible settled this matter long ago.
She also revealed:
“While we were making this record we were constantly studying the greats that came before — Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, Andre Crouch, Lauren Hill — there’s just a plethora of artists that we listened to, over and over,” she said.
Interestingly enough, the young artist did not mention Jesus or God throughout the interview, sticking to general phrases like “faith,” while placing a large emphasis on the importance of love.
I want to let Lauren know that love doesn't require affirmation of destructive behaviors or belief systems. I want her to understand that I'm not attacking her. I am excited about her future and I pray God anoints her powerfully. I am excited about a spirit of intercession and worship flooding through her into a dark and desperate culture. She could be a catalyst for repentance and revival in the world!
I also want her to know that she's playing with fire, and those she loves—along with millions who are under her influence—are at great risk of Hell if she doesn't speak up, reveal the urgent truth and do all she can to rescue them. Lauren, if they don't know they are drowning they will not take your hand.
Here are four reasons why much of today's evangelism is actually hurting the advance of the Kingdom.
The Great Commission is such a serious mandate that we have no option but to get it right. In fact, with Hell growing larger and innumerable people are flooding into that unspeakable place every day, we must sound the alarm, preach the truth and rescue the perishing.
I'd like to strongly encourage you to listen to the powerful story of Frank Jenner's simple yet wildly anointed life of evangelism. You may cry. You will be awestruck. It's called “The Man From George Street.” Listen HERE.
Yes, evangelism is critically necessary—if done rightly.
Listen to the podcast:
FOUR WAYS EVANGELISM CAN DO MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD
ONE: IT LACKS A SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I was flown into a church in a large city many years ago to help with some video work. I had some free time the night I arrived so I decided to check out the church and to see if they had anything going on. I was happily surprised to see a sign announcing a prayer meeting that was underway. I was saddened by what I saw as I stepped into the large sanctuary.
There was no spirit of prayer at the prayer meeting. In fact, there were only a few people standing around in that massive auditorium. It was dead, which was markedly different from what I expected based on the size of the church and the fact that it was a Spirit-filled congregation.
I quickly learned that prayer was not job one in that place. Evangelism was. I've never been in a church that emphasized soul winning to such a degree, and one would think I should have been thrilled. I was not.
As I spent time with people and pastors in that church I witnessed very well intentioned but awkward, forced, scripted and manipulated Gospel presentations to anyone who would listen. While it's true that God's Word can work wonders with no additional help from you and me, it's also true that our delivery of the Word can be dead or alive, weak or powerful, tainted by our human spirit or anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Evangelism efforts that don't emerge from the white-hot furnace of intercession will most often be dead, weak and tainted. Those who hear what we are saying will most often resist, sensing no vibrancy or activity of the Holy Spirit at all. People who could have surrendered all if evangelism was done rightly, delivered with a burning unction, results instead of people being repelled by whatever stench just emerged from our souls.
TWO: THERE'S NO MENTION OF SIN, REPENTANCE, HELL OR THE CROSS
Much of today's prophetic evangelism zeros in on how wonderful God thinks people are to the exclusion of acknowledging their depravity. They are awakened to the possibility of love without understanding the radical surrender that's necessary.
It's quite possible many of these people are saying yes to the invitation and begin following Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't understand how deadly their life of sin was because the evangelist didn't mention it. A false-grace theology can drive Gospel presentations like this, presuming a revelation of God's love is sufficient to draw people out of their old life and into the new. That's not biblical evangelism and it puts the hearers at great risk of adopting a compromised religion.
It wouldn't surprise me if multiplied millions of people who have “gotten saved” this way are currently lost, seduced by a version of love that's not legitimate. They are convinced that God's love is what seals their position when it's actually their radical response that is key.
THREE: IT BECOMES PRIMARY FOR EVERY CHRISTIAN
There are many verses in Scripture that make it clear that we should be ministering, sharing truth and advancing the Kingdom. Yes, we are to do the work of an evangelist, however, that verse makes it clear that not everybody is an evangelist. It would do us well to understand this.
The church I mentioned above put strong pressure on everyone in the body to evangelize always, in every environment. The problem? Evangelists are wired, gifted and anointed to do this. The rest are gifted in other areas and they should be free to minister mostly according to how they are put together by God.
Teachers, for example, are called by God to mostly reveal powerful truths to Believers. Their anointing will be most pronounced in that realm, and it would be smart to allow them to study and relay what they discover to the church.
On the contrary, if you put some evangelists behind the pulpit you may cringe as they attempt to communicate scriptural truths beyond the mission to win the lost.
Simply, we all have our calling. Yes, there is cross-training involved and we should be “instant in and out of season,” about to “do the work of an evangelist” and to preach truth in any setting. However, outside of the call for all to pray as a primary life focus, everybody has a different gift mix and calling.
FOUR: IT DISPLACES THE FOCUS ON REVIVAL
I personally believe the fasted route to the harvest is revival. Just as I shared in point one that it's important to start in the prayer room, a focus on revival will lay a foundation that can withstand the influx of hungry, repentant people.
It's not either/or. It's both/and. However, if we focus initially on prayer and revival, and if we prepare the people in both of these disciplines, the anointing to do the work of the ministry, including evangelism, will be electric.
Evangelists often (not always) struggle with the idea that the primary call is to pray. An evangelist who had the most tender heart and who could be found on the streets witnessing night after night asked me, “John, your church is so focused on prayer. Where will I bring people when they get saved? I can't expect them to come to such an environment.”
I challenged him. I said this is precisely the environment they need to experience the moments after they meet Jesus! This supernatural, vibrant atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is brooding and moving will result in baptism of power they will never forget!
Simply, we want people to meet Jesus in the place of raging, searing, life-altering revival!
You might argue, “Well, at least people are doing it! At least they are sharing the Gospel!.”
I get it. That makes sense. And, again, I do want to applaud those who are taking those bold steps to share truth. However, I believe it's okay, in fact it's important to analyze our motives and methods. After all, we are dealing with human lives and their eternities very well may be determined by our ministry. We should feel the sobering, weighty intensity to that reality.
We absolutely need a vibrant, active spirit of prayer when we are talking about Jesus.
We need to communicate the truth of sin, Hell, repentance and the cross.
It's important to appreciate and activate people in their specific gifts and offices.
And, by all means, a mass movement of revival will result in an introduction to Jesus that will be conducted by the Holy Spirit with supernatural, otherworldly precision.
Todd Bentley has been deemed unfit for ministry. Why do so many fallen ministers reject a process of restoration that would reestablish their ministry?
Dr. Michael Brown and other extremely reputable Christian leaders released a report on Todd Bentley and his reported indiscretions. They took quite some time and carefully stepped through the process to ensure the final report would be accurate and written from a heart of love. I believe they accomplished this.
I've had the unfortunate opportunity to have a closer than normal view of public failure of three world famous ministers over the last few decades.
This most recent situation caused me to ask a simple question: Why is it so hard for fallen ministers to properly step through a restoration process? Would it not look much better for them and wouldn't the public be much more accepting of a return to ministry if they handled it rightly?
Jimmy Swaggart was warned to take a year off of ministry by David Wilkerson just before his infamous failure was made known. This was a striking prophetic word as nobody had any inclination that Jimmy was in sin and it was about to be announced to the world. As I sat in the pastoral ministry class at Jimmy Swaggart Bible College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jim Rentz, the pastor of Family Worship Center on the campus of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries told us that they all truly loved Brother David. However, the ministry would collapse if Jimmy Swaggart stepped away for a year. They rejected the prophetic instruction and the rest is history.
After the failure, he was instructed to take a year off of ministry by the Assemblies of God, but he rejected that instruction by his authorities. He was back behind the pulpit in three months. In fact, he did everything but preach in the weeks leading up to his extremely rapid return.
From the Los Angeles Times on April 9th, 1988:
Jimmy Swaggart was defrocked Friday by the Assemblies of God after he refused a one-year suspension, asserting that a prolonged absence from the pulpit would doom his television ministry and jeopardize his Bible college.
The decision to defrock Swaggart for unspecified “moral failures” was made in a telephone conference of a dozen elders of the Assemblies of God church. It commenced upon receipt of a letter from Swaggart declaring that he could not submit to the terms of his penance and rehabilitation.
“We believe,” Swaggart told reporters later at his Baton Rouge, La., headquarters, “that to stay out of the public for a year would totally destroy the television ministry and greatly adversely impact the college.”
Assemblies of God leaders said Swaggart gave them no choice but to defrock him.
He's not the only one who rushes back into ministry after falling into immorality.
I believe there are many reasons for this. In fact, it would do all of us well to ask God if any of these reasons I'll be addressing below might be issues or potential issues in our own lives. It's hard, but still much easier to deal with character issues before failure hits then after.
Here's a handful of extremely deadly mindsets and problems that all of us, on either side of failure, should go to prayer about.
FEAR OF LOSS
When failure becomes public, suddenly everything the minister has worked for, sometimes for decades, is at risk of being removed in the matter of a moment. We see this clearly admitted to by Jimmy Swaggart as revealed in the LA Times article above. Their immediate reaction may not be to deal with the sin, but rather with the impending consequences. They can't imagine their entire lives being turned upside down, so they do whatever possible to mitigate damages and keep their ministry machine moving forward just as it always has been. They don't understand that losing the ministry is okay if it means saving their soul and guarding the name of Jesus.
Some will fully deny wrongdoing whatsoever, but even those who have been undeniably caught in indiscretion, they may minimize just how serious the sin is. I believe often times they have convinced themselves that it's not really that big of a deal. They deny the severity of the failure and can be quite irritated that others can't see it that way. In fact, they will often presume that a simple confession eradicates the past sin. Well, if a confession is genuine, and if repentance is true, then the sin is forgiven. What is yet to be resolved, however, is their own heart, weaknesses and the state of their ministry. They may correctly deny that they are still in sin, but that denial doesn't end the restoration process, it starts it, and it very well may take years.
Many of today's most successful public ministers are alpha leaders. They are dominant. They are used to being in charge and the thought of answering to another is an irritant to them, if not totally foreign. They claim to do exactly what God is telling them to do, and they won't relinquish that role to any other. The problem is that God has placed human authorities in our lives and we don't have the option to cast them aside so we can do what we please.
When failure as come, the leader is no longer in charge. They would do well to humble themselves and trust the process that loving Kingdom authorities will lay out for them. They didn't ask to be in this situation. They wish they weren't, but the leader's sin put them there. Honor them in their selfless service by submitting to them.
You can imagine how embarrassing a public scandal would be. Those caught in sin can be humiliated as it crushes any reputation they have built for themselves over the previous years or decades. It's easy to fight back against the charges in hopes of eliminating the shame.
Instead, we should be like Joseph who chose both shame and prison over sin when he ran out of a setup in the bedroom naked. Personal image protection can't be our motive. Holiness, purity and God's reputation must be drive our reactions to accusation.
A full confession and full surrender to a lengthy restoration process is counter-intuitive to someone who is attempting to salvage what he spent so long building, and that is currently being threatened and torn apart.
A better move would be to waive the white flag, to fully repent and to go through whatever process necessary to move through the restoration. They need to understand they have no leverage, no bargaining power. They are now in the hands of God, of the public and of leaders who want to initiate create a careful, thoughtful pathway of success for them.
While many people enter ministry with a pure heart, over time their motives can change significantly. Anyone in ministry knows it's possible to be seduced by the promise of influence, power, finances or other temptations.
It's sad how rare it is to see preachers who have fallen into sin to be truly, visibly and deeply sorrowful for their sin. Where are the tears? Where is the brokenness? Where are those who admit they have nothing left and who are willing to spend the time necessary, as mandated by their overseers, to rediscover God, to get healed and to become qualified for ministry again?
Some will boldly, without any concern for the people they hurt, strike back at their accusers by rejecting any accountability. They continue to build their ministry in the face of the entire world in hopes of smothering the accusations and silencing the accusers.
There is an arrogance that has overcome this type of leader. They have successfully driven through people their entire “ministry” and they won't let anyone stand in their way now. If they do, look out.
The threat of losing money and of having a lifestyle altered is a serious motivating factor for ministers caught in sin. They kick into damage control and do whatever they can to keep the dollars rolling in.
The thought of actually getting a job is a joke to them. Working a 9 to 5 is laughable. It would be a smart move for many of these fallen ministers to give up on the monument they have built and start working for another.
How powerful would it be to see someone like Todd Bentley humbly and honorably working at a pizza place or driving a bus instead of announcing yet another ministry endeavor in the face of scandal? Can you imagine how much more quickly people would be endeared to them? Their restoration would be fast tracked.
Of course, pride is sure to rear its ugly head if it hasn't been fully dealt with prior to failure. It's easy to react mindlessly if a spirit of pride is leading the charge. A collapse of a ministry very well may be an act of love by God who is doing all he can to alert them to their haughtiness and save their soul from Hell.
NO DESIRE TO REPENT
Some enjoy their sin so much, and have minimized its severity so completely, that they don't see themselves leaving that lifestyle behind. Some are addicted to behaviors and they can't imagine life without feeding that beast. Of course, people like this have no business being in any type of ministry. Instead they should be checking themselves into to counseling sessions, going through deliverance and seeking inner healing.
MINISTRY IS AN IDOL
This may hit home to many pastors and ministers. How easy is it to get addicted to the rush of ministry? Very. Every single one of us should immediately ask God to search our hearts and see if we are addicted to it. Do we love ministry more than God? Nobody would want to say yes, but we should yearn for the freedom that can come if it's true and we repent.
Those who have fallen into sin need to understand their restoration most often will take years, not months. Just step away and discover the lover of your souls again!
God is your provider, so financial loss shouldn't be an issue.
God's name is to be made famous, not ours, so a lack of influence shouldn't concern us.
We are called to die daily, so loss shouldn't be troubling to us.
This message is for all of us, public failure or no public failure. Do all you can to address the above issues and any other the Lord highlights to you. The enemy is working very hard to destroy ministries, ministers, their families and all who are under their influence. Any weakness such as pride or idolatry is an open door for attack. Close that door fast!
I learned a long time ago that the world doesn't need my ministry as much as I might think it might. God doesn't need me as much as I'd like to think either. I'm not minimizing the need for people to step out into their callings and ministries, but we must understand that being responsive to God, being repentant, growing in intimacy, embracing humility and dying to self is all much, much more important.
Exactly what value is there in prophesying all the great and wonderful things that are coming in the new year and in the next decade if we aren't dying to self and catching fire for Jesus?
Before all of you prophetic folks get triggered, understand that I am a mega-proponent of legitimate prophecy. While there is a seriously unhealthy prophetic culture in our nation today, God is still speaking and we need mature, broken and consecrated prophetic people to relay critical information. The messengers most certainly must cry out and awaken the church in these end times.
That being said, the prophetic nonsense must stop. Not once have I read or heard about any prophecy for 2020 that includes judgment, correction, rebuke or warning. To stuff our spiritual faces with nothing but happy prophetic thoughts is utter foolishness at best. At worst it will seal the fate of our nation as one that started godly and ended suddenly under God's wrath.
33 They have turned to me their back and not their face. And though I have taught them persistently, they have not listened to receive instruction. 34 They set up their abominations in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. 35 They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. Jeremiah 32:33-35 (ESV)
While there are many amazing, consecrated and anointed men and women of God in our nation, people who tremble in the fear of the Lord and who are standing for righteousness, there are many more who are casual, lukewarm and sleepwalking.
Abortion is destroying the next generation as children are sacrificed at the altar of Molech. You'd be shocked at how few pastors and prophets speak out against it. You'd be sickened at how many actually support abortion. Homosexual activists are forcing their agenda, pornography is being devoured by the high majority of Christians including pastors and leaders and it's nearly impossible to find a church with a spirit of prayer driving it. We are in crisis yet the prophets seem to think God is well pleased and ready to pour out blessing without any thought of dealing with the depravity that both the church and our culture refuse to renounce.
16 Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? Jeremiah 23:16-18 (ESV)
Am I saying we can never prophecy blessing, promotion and open doors? No, I'm not. What I am saying is that simply focusing on the positive to the exclusion of the undeniable and terrifying reality that's staring us in the face is a serious misuse of a prophetic gift. Effectively, it's lying. Even worse, it's taking God's name in vain as his name is attached to impure and/or incomplete messages.
It's time the professional prophetic voices take a break and follow the instructions of Jeremiah 23:18. We need every prophetic person to give themselves night and day to prayer, consecration, tears, groans of intercession and the fear of the Lord. We all must stand in the council of the Lord!
There are warnings that must be sounded so we know how to respond. I can see America collapsing and people fuming in anger asking why nobody warned them of what was to come. Where were the prophets, they will say.
To publish word after word about how blessing and promotion is our portion in 2020 will do little to nothing to prepare the people for what is to come. Honestly, it doesn't take much of a prophetic gifting at all to know the call for 2020 must be radical consecration, intercession, repentance and a fresh revelation of both the love and the fear of the Lord. We must stand in his council.
A LUKEWARM CHURCH
An apathetic, lukewarm church is at serious risk. Apathetic, lukewarm followers of Jesus are as well.
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
Where are the prophets who are warning the church that God himself will come against it? Where are those who are shaking people out of their mediocrity and casual connection to God, awakening them from a lethal slumber? Do we even realize how dangerous such a life of apathy is? Most don't. The prophets aren't telling them. The pastors aren't either.
If we aren't burning white-hot on fire for Jesus we better stop and consider where we are in God. Our passion, fire and level of intimacy with Jesus absolutely impacts where we will spend eternity, not to mention the future of our nation. There are millions of people who are lifting their hands in worship, praying, reading their Bible, serving and “living right” as they faithfully follow Jesus in an unsaved condition. They don't have passion for Jesus and they have no oil in their lamps.
16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Revelation 3:16-17 (ESV)
8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:8-13 (ESV)
AN ARMY OF PROPHETIC WARRIORS
We must see prophetic schools emerge, training young and old to step into an assignment that has been mostly ignored by the current generation. We need an army of prophetic warriors, and warners, to emerge, people who have zero fear of man and who are functioning with the penetrating love of God that is perfectly synchronized with the paralyzing fear of God.
These warriors will spend their lives trembling, crying and interceding in the fire, standing in the council of God and releasing strike after strike of prophetic shock waves into our churches, regions and the nations of the earth.
While I am cautiously thankful for our President, and I do believe God is doing great things through him, I believe the prophets have erred in one critical area: many of them have prophesied President Trump's emergence as the goal, as the end game, as the answer to our nation's woes. The result is a people who are now putting too much hope in a man without concern for their own holiness, passion or part in the story. The prophets must call God's people to repentance. This nation's ills should be resolved by the church, but instead much of the church has abdicated that responsibility to a politician. Again, I am thankful God is using him, but I am also grieved that we have placed so much reliance on him. This national problem lays squarely at the feet of the prophets.
The army of raw, undignified and irritating prophetic messengers that God is raising up will bring a correction to this prophetic crisis. They will have no tolerance for the prophetic games that are being played by so many today. The terror of the Lord will drive them. Low level, feel good, happy words won't be entertained. In fact, they will irritate their spirits.
Too often those who are immature in the prophetic will communicate a low level impression or an uninvited, spontaneous thought as a prophetic word. The more abstract or unusual it is, the more they think it's God.
Folks, most of the time these are simple imaginations. We have to stop encouraging people to prophesy haphazardly. So many of today's prophets never matured out of this, but have been elevated to the public stage because of their charisma. As a result, the words that are coming out of their mouths are meant to create a positive vibe among the people and to enhance their ministry. They know negative words of judgment and correction won't do that. For the sake of their status they steer clear of such prophecy.
2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV)
A lot of itching ears in our nation can support a prophetic ministry very nicely. Well, a false prophetic ministry, at least. The emerging army of prophetic warriors won't care at all about money. The thought of focusing on building their ministry and solidifying their status is nonsense to them. The fear of people attacking them, speaking out against them and causing them trouble doesn't exist. Filling up their ministry calendar isn't a goal. They'd rather turn down invitations than accept them if God isn't burning in them to go.
2020 is here. Does God have good plans for his true, remnant church? Sure. However, his true church isn't mostly concerned about that. Those aren't the words they want to hear. They are in tune with the assault of the spirit of the age, with the immorality in the land, with the abominations that both the world and the church are in alignment with and with possible judgment and wrath that can strike our nation if we don't turn. They are crying out for God to prophetically speak about this stuff. They want to be warned and they want to share those warnings with the world.
I'm not saying the following passage is a prophetic word, but it sure is a much better exhortation than many I'm reading concerning the new year. I propose we do this:
13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 2 Chronicles 7:13-15 (ESV)