The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.

Puppet Masters GraphicI'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.

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)

 

An overnight fix is available for the church, but is anybody willing to implement it?

So much of today's church is drunk on all the wrong things: growth, notoriety, busyness, endless programs, marketing, visitor assimilation and more. It's no wonder pastors are spinning out, members are disgruntled and stress is overtaking most. While there's a deep reformation necessary, there are a handful of simple, quick steps we can take to kick-start the shift.

Release pastors and church leaders to give themselves to prayer and the Word.

2  And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3  Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4  But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4 (ESV)

It seems many of today's senior leaders are doing everything but spending hours in intercession and study of the Word. They are expected to visit people in homes and hospitals, counsel the hurting, attend birthday parties and other celebrations, clean the church, befriend members, assimilate visitors, develop programs, raise funds and so much more that is sucking the very life out of them—and out of the church.

Set them free. I believe we will skyrocket towards revival if pastors drop almost every ball they are juggling and give themselves to hours and hours of prayer and study in the Word every day. Let them be the preachers God called them to be. No more endless meeting, projects or programs. Pray, study and preach. Repeat.

Stop expecting a single local church to do it all.

The competitiveness in the Kingdom must cease. It's time we understand that a single local church plays a small part in the larger scheme of the city church. In Scripture the church was designated by city, not by street corner.

I propose adopting a culture that encourages people in our local churches to also connect faithfully in other churches and ministries in the region. As a church planter and senior leader for many years I was keenly aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I was also determined to run in the very specific vision and mandate that God entrusted to me, which meant that I would intentionally, by design, minimize or fully eliminate other seemingly obvious programs and ministries. Needs would go unmet. This meant that I had to trust other leaders in the city to minister to those needs. I encouraged the people to connect in several places each week and to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth.

In fact, I so embrace this mindset and I so believe that city ministry is the healthiest and quickest path to an outpouring in the region that I had an open hands policy with people in my church. I let it be known that any leader of any church in the region could, without fear or reservation, approach anybody in my church and invite them to leave to join their ministry. They could recruit my biggest givers, my best leaders, my favorite worship team members, my most faithful workers and my best friends. I understood they wouldn't be leaving my church, but rather they would simply move from one department of the city church to another. Their positioning is more important than any selfish desire to keep them close.

Immediately stop with the church growth madness.

Two realities will threaten local church growth:

  1. The regional church that I wrote about in the above point.
  2. The call to gather the remnant.

As we “catch and release” those who venture into our church, believing for the right positioning in the region and as we focus on the hungry, surrendered, on-fire remnant who will gather and contend in prayer for revival, the numbers will most often diminish.

I wonder if pastors understand the severity of the stress and the deep cost that is being paid because of the seduction of numerical and financial church growth. Let it go. Simply enjoy going into the church every day to meet with Jesus and to relay the burning revelation that he pierces you with.

Quit trying to herd cats. Stop with the gimmicks. Repent for compromising the message in an attempt to attract the moderates. Simply pray, lead, equip and celebrate with people when they leave your church for another and stay faithful to the call with those who remain.

Reassign pastors and the entire five-fold ministry.

Pastors are typically best suited for nurturing people, not leading movements. I believe we need to see pastors resign senior leadership positions as prophetic, apostolic leaders step in to advance more powerfully. They are gifted to lead while many pastors will be most successful and satisfied in smaller settings where they can connect one-on-one with people.

Many pastors will remain as the senior leader of churches, and this can absolutely be okay if they embrace their role in the broader city church model. Their churches can remain very small as they minister to their congregations, however it's extremely important that they are strategically connected to apostolic ministries in the city.

They will need to attend city church meetings and encourage everybody in their church to join them. As they do this, the greater city church will continue to expand and people will be connected more appropriately. And, leaders will see the joy of ministry return as unnecessary tension is eliminated.

Eliminate most every program except prayer meetings.

I believe this may be the most significant, powerful and immediate trigger of revival of everything I have shared so far.

I am serious when I suggest most every program, focus, strategy, service and function of the local church should be dropped for a significant season to do little else but pray.

Instead of our typical, mostly predictable and often extremely boring Sunday morning church services, transition it into a fiery, passionate eruption of intercession. As people walk through the doors they would hear groans and cries of desperation fill the sanctuary. The musicians would be right there with them for the first hour or so, at the altar, contending for an outpouring. At some point the worship team can start playing in the background as the choruses of Heaven-shaking prayer continue to erupt from hungry hearts.

Intermix short declarations of Scripture and allow for potent prophetic revelation to be released to all. Encourage people to release short prayers on the mic. Leaders can give appropriately timed messages that will take the atmosphere to an even higher place.

Remember, the church isn't a house of fellowship, a house of teaching, a house of visitor assimilation, a house of evangelism or a house of worship. It's a house of prayer and prayer must be the driving force, the main thing and the dominant activity of all.

Are we ready for such a dramatic shift?

I believe we could take a giant leap overnight toward great corporate strength and an outpouring that will rock nations if we embrace and adopt a mighty shift in the church. Understand, these are preliminary steps that will make us ready for an even more costly, troubling and important reformation that must come to the church. Baby steps.

These are simple though very costly steps that every one of us are able to take, but few probably will. I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider the reality that revival is withheld and that the church, in general, is quite weak and compromised. Do you want to live your entire life outside of the shock and awe of God's glory? He wants to move, but the church must transition dramatically if we want to see it happen in our cities and in our lifetimes.

Those who don't know Jesus should not be expected to act like those who do.

(Looking for the article Dueling Puppet Masters: Controlling Pastors vs. Manipulative Congregations? Read it HERE.)

If you follow my ministry you'll know that I am an unapologetic preacher of holiness. You'll also know that most of my messages are directed to the church. Preaching holiness to the lost doesn't work well unless it's coupled with a powerful invitation to surrender all.

Those who haven't had a life-rocking encounter with Jesus are at a disadvantage and it's unfair for those who have been transformed to expect them to see things the way we do. In fact, to attempt to coerce them to adhere to our set of standards, in violation of their own free-will and their right to also have a say in morality is ineffective, and in most situations, unfair if not outright arrogant.

Who are we to say that pornography is wrong? What makes our version of truth regarding homosexuality more valid then theirs? To Christians, babies were created by God, given human spirits at the time of conception and they clearly, obviously deserve protection. Except, those who don't believe in God the way we do simply disagree that they are fully human at points of development prior to birth. They have a right to that belief, as horrifying as we think it is.

The result is a holy war between a group of people who have one set of standards and a group that has an entirely different set. Coercion in the political realm, in the high courts and in the battleground of public opinion becomes the only tool left in our tool belt. We vote or legislate our way to victory, further enraging those who oppose our paradigms.

Listen to the podcast here…

YES, WE SHOULD STILL GO TO BATTLE AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE

Now, please understand, with humble hearts, we as people who are zealous about protecting the unborn and who have a responsibility to guard our children from being indoctrinated by the homosexual agenda, I absolutely believe we must use whatever tool we have in our tool belts. Yes, it's right to fight for laws that stand aggressively against human trafficking. We should work hard to overturn Roe v. Wade. Pornography, the legalization of narcotics and other destructive cultural vices that are being normalized in our society must be met with resistance.

However, it remains true that the unredeemed simply cannot understand things the way Believers in Christ can. This isn't because we are better. It's because we have surrendered to Jesus and our entire way of thinking was renewed. We were once compromised and unable to discern right versus wrong. Then, God touched us as wicked, confused, arrogant and very lost people and the light came on.

HOW ARE THE UNREDEEMED AT A DISADVANTAGE?

I pray you begin to mourn and weep over the lost as you grow in understanding as to how terribly the enemy is assaulting them. Yes, every person who has ever lived and who ever will live will be without excuse on Judgment Day. Yes, everybody has a choice, and the lost have made their choice. That shouldn't result in us marking them off as enemies while we puff ourselves up and sneer down our noses at them. We should be broken and our intercession should be taken to a much higher level.

BORN THIS WAY VERSUS BORN AGAIN

Those who argue that they were born gay, for example, may have something to their argument.

5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5 (ESV)

We were all born in sin, in iniquity. It shouldn't take much for us to understand this. Sin comes very naturally to all and it takes the momentous event of being born again by the Spirit of God for that to shift.

In fact, the Bible calls those who are not his own, children of wrath. Are you seeing the extreme disadvantage the lost have when attempting to discern good versus evil? All they know are the inner urges that, in their minds, makes up the very core of their identity? If they have been attracted to the same sex for as long as they can remember, then, it seems clear that they were born this way. That should validate their homosexuality, or so they would argue.

Without a dramatic encounter with Jesus, without being born again, we can't expect people to understand biblical freedom or morality.

NO RELIEF FROM ANXIETY, FEAR AND DEPRESSION

The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy, and based on the rampant addictions to opiates in our generation, it appears that he's winning.

Spirit-filled Christians can fill their days with praying in tongues, meditating on God's Word and by singing songs of praise to break off the debilitating, suffocating assaults of depression, fear and anxiety. We have a very present friend in Jesus ministering to us, interceding for us, talking to us and walking with us.

The lost are limited to positive thoughts, drugs, counseling and, sadly and all too often, suicide. Truly, the only hope in the battle of emotional trauma is Jesus, and they haven't met him yet.

Can Christians also be in need of counseling and medical care including the administration of appropriate medications to help deal with chemical imbalances and other physiological and emotional difficulties? Yes, absolutely. As long as it takes place on a foundation of faith, such care can be an important part of the healing process.

10  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)

THEY HAVE NO PEACE

Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot know peace. For Christians, peace rests on us and it is not dependent on circumstances or in understanding our situation. God is with us and his supernatural peace displaces the darkness.

It's not hard to understand why so many politicians, protesters and others who are advancing their various ungodly causes become enraged when they experience push back. They have no peace, and in their minds, the road to a life that is more centered and devoid of resistance is to hate, curse and attempt to slay anything and anyone that gets in their way.

33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)

THEY DON'T EXPERIENCE THE PRESENCE OF GOD

The thought of not having that constant burning of God's Holy Spirit within is enough to make me shudder. The glory of God and his anointing on our lives is irreplaceable and without it we would spiral out of control.

Our decisions, our mindsets, our emotional well-being, our belief systems, our desires and everything that make up who we are would radically shift. It would be a deeply disturbing way to live, yet the lost live in that reality every moment of every day of their lives.

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

THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED LOVE

No matter how determined society is at convincing us that they do what they do because of love, it's simply not true. They have fallen for a faux love that does not originate from the only one who can manifest love. Outside of God, we cannot know love. The reason is simple: God is love.

I want to encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception. It's eye-opening.

Sure, the lost can experience infatuation, attraction, appreciation, strong desire, lust and many other emotions, but love is the one experience they can't have outside of Jesus.

The next time you hear about someone who is militantly promoting what we would call perversion, just remember they are yearning to love and to be loved. This isn't a defense of perversion, but rather it's a call to weep for our culture and to stand in the gap so people can finally discover the only true source of love.

10  Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Psalm 32:10 (ESV)

THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO SUPERNATURAL WISDOM

The unredeemed are limited to their own logic and human ability to reason. That's it. They have no resource when their own abilities or the abilities of others to understand comes to an end.

The ceiling of understanding becomes their version of truth and they will fight to the end to support it.

For Christians, there is such a relief knowing that we won't ever understand it all, and that our own logic is often fallible. We simply read the Bible and believe it. God speaks and we respond. The lost cannot do that.

They will argue that getting drunk, for example, is just fine, as long as you don't get behind the wheel of a car. It makes sense to them. Christians, however, have no need to attempt to wrap their minds around the topic. God says don't get drunk, and he's much wiser than we are, so we buy in wholesale to what he says. As a result, life is much, much better.

Further, decision making becomes much easier as Christians. We may not know what job to take, what house to buy, where to go, who to marry or how to resolve life's problems. Thankfully we have a supernatural source of direction that goes well beyond humanity's resources.

5  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 (ESV)

HAPPINESS IS THEIR ONLY HOPE

We all have the right to pursue happiness in our nation. Sadly, that's the limit for people who don't love and serve Jesus.

Christians, on the other hand, live with overwhelming, immeasurable, supernatural joy! Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not.

Instead of pursuing wealth, sex, fame, materialism and other pleasures as sources of happiness, Believers are fully satisfied by knowing God. It's a supernatural reality that can only be understood when experienced. It's not mind over matter. I'm not talking about mental gymnastics that turn bad situations to good. I'm talking about an actual Spirit that fills us up and brings supernatural joy to our hearts. Those in the world can never understand this.

13  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)

THEY LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE REALM OF MIRACLES

The lost have absolutely no hope of relief from life's woes unless mankind can come up with a solution. They are dependent and desperate and all too often, hopeless.

Believers in Christ live in the realm of miracles every day! Healings, wonders, signs, breakthroughs, prophetic revelation and much more are our portion!

The lost are feverishly doing all they can to avoid or avert dire circumstances in their own abilities. They turn to man, not God when they are in a time of need.

12  In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)

Seeking the Lord is necessary for us to survive and thrive on the earth, and those in the world simply can't enjoy the miracles that result from such a devotion.

THEY HAVE NO REASON NOT TO SIN

Above I revealed the mindset regarding drunkenness. In the minds of the lost there is absolutely no reason not to get drunk. This logic can be used in other scenarios too. Lust is pleasurable as is pornography. Getting high on drugs feels good. Foul language and other behaviors are morally benign. If it's legal, it's okay.

In the world the line is drawn when one person's sin negatively impacts another. That's what defines morality in a culture that's not surrendered to Jesus. What the world defines as lawless and what God defines as legal are very different.

4  Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (ESV)

Christians understand how destructive sin is and we embrace consecration and repentance eagerly. Sin kills even if we don't understand why. We don't define what is morally legal, God does.

23  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)

THEY HAVE NO HOPE OF A WONDERFUL ETERNITY

Every ounce of life must be experienced in a window of approximately 80 years to those who don't know Christ. The thought of preparing for eternity is nonsensical to them. This over-magnifies the importance of fulfilling dreams and desires on the earth, as they do all they can to soak up all their short earthly journey can provide.

Of course, Believers know there are an unlimited number of years ahead of us. Every person, whether lost or saved, will live somewhere forever. This is what drives our lives. We do all we can to awaken the sleepers, to warn the apathetic and to rescue the perishing. This world means little in comparison to eternity.

Further, those who know Jesus are exhilarated knowing they will experience never-ending joy, abundant life, freedom, love and  peace as we live day-by-day with God. This isn't some euphoric pipe dream. It's truth. It's going to happen. Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot understand this.

1  “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2  In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4  And you know the way to where I am going.” 5  Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6  Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 (ESV)

CHANGE OUR DISPOSITION

I pray this will at least cause you to think differently the next time you get agitated at people who are promoting beliefs and behaviors that are repugnant to you. Pray hard for them. Battle for their souls.

Trust me, the moment one of these vile, wicked people truly find Jesus, they will turn on a dime and renounce everything unrighteous they previously supported. Meeting Jesus does that to a person.

“I just can't sit through one more church service!” This is the cry of our current remnant generation. Pastors, are you listening?

My wife and I were so excited to reconnect with a couple of friends yesterday. This couple has been invested in the prophetic and in the local church as powerful regional leaders for years. We spent the evening talking about the state of the church, and how the new wine simply must come, yet the church is far from ready.

One of them simply stated, “I just can't sit through one more church service!”

Such a simple statement yet it resonated powerfully in my spirit. I can't either.

Listen to a powerful podcast on this subject…

This afternoon I talked on the phone with another regional leader, a pastor who is more done with church as usual than any I've ever met. He's longing for God to identify like-minded pastors and leaders who are absolutely desperate for reformation and revolution in the church. He's crying out for revival and he is discovering it's challenging to find remnant leadership, fiery, broken and hungry pastors who no longer care about growing their church, adding programs, gaining notoriety, raising funds or seeking after “success.” His passion is to connect with others who are done and undone and longing for a pure, holy move of God.

PEOPLE ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH IN DROVES

Declining Church Attendance ChartResearch by Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, reveals:

In the early 1970s, about 38% of Americans attended church nearly every week or more. A third rarely or never attended church, while the rest attended once in a while. That all changed in the early 1990s, when the rarely/never attending category began a slow and unmistakable climb. Today nearly half of all Americans attend church once a year or less, and only about a quarter attend on a regular basis. A similar number attend once in a while.

I believe the bottom line is that a growing number of people see little purpose for the church. To them, the value of participating is greatly diminished. Why even go?

The last thing we need is a natural, logical solution to this problem. I believe it's critical that we function as the church, and gathering together as the ekklesia is commanded in Scripture. However, more programs, minor tweaks, practical adjustments or gimmicky ideas is not what is needed.

24  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

We need a full deconstruction of today's model. Full-blown reform is required.

Today's powerless, predictable, boring church service simply must go.

SO, WHAT IS CHURCH AS USUAL?

When I talk about church in this article, I'm mostly talking about the gathering, the local, regularly scheduled church service that most usually takes place on Sunday mornings. Yes, I know the church isn't a building. That drum has been beat to death. The church must gather, and it's usually nice to do so indoors out of the heat or cold, rain or snow.

Most anybody who has attended church in the last several decades has a good idea of what it looks like. Greeting, worship, announcements, sermon, prayer, dismissal. Repeat next week.

In this context, there are key reasons why so many are leaving the church. It's true that a good number of those are leaving for selfish reasons. They are misguided or simply immature. They are pouting and leaving.

There are also many remnant Believers who, like my friend so clearly articulated, “can't sit through another church service!”

They are yearning for more. They can't handle another perfectly crafted, wonderfully produced, humanly orchestrated mess with just a sprinkle of supernatural flavor for good measure. They are done.

Specifically, I believe the remnant is fed up with a few things that should be fixed, like yesterday.

BORING PREACHING

Pastors, we can learn what you are attempting to teach us from much more gifted preachers and through brilliantly written Bible resources online. I'm not trying to be cruel, I'm trying to make a very important point. People don't want your regurgitated Bible info forced on them over an agonizing 45 minutes. They want to smell the aroma of the Holy Spirit radiating from you!

The real point isn't boring preaching, it's a lack of fire and revelation due to a nonexistent spirit of prayer. When pastors spend most of their time on their knees right in the middle of the furnace of intercession night and day, the flames of anointing and revelation will rage out of them when they stand behind the pulpit. Weeping, groans of intercession, cries of repentance, an uncontrollable tremble and the brooding of the Holy Spirit will mark messages birthed in the prayer room.

FEAR OF MAN

Please pastors, stop with the careful wordsmithing and unoffensive sermon points. It's time for the troublers of Israel to arise! Preach on fire and shake the casual out of their stupor!

Say what needs to be said and let the big givers storm out with their money still in their pockets. Preach! Tear down strongholds, confront wickedness and scare the pretenders out of the holy place God has called you to steward.

It's time self-focused, semi-interested people are no longer given the opportunity to demand what they are looking for in a church. It's time to close up the welcome centers and put away the welcome gifts. When presented with the unmistakable burning only a supernatural church can offer, their decision to stay or leave will be immediate. ~It's Time to Start Scaring Visitors Away From the Church

TIRED ORDER OF SERVICE

Disenchanted remnant Christians are longing for church services that start with choruses of intercession, are filled with prophetic utterances and eventually end with decrees and declarations!

Eliminate the time for handshakes and Christian side-hugs, the painfully irritating announcements that interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit, the unnecessarily invasive offering sermonettes and the perfect timing that ensures everything fits within a two-hour window.

Pastors, let go of the structure! Open the mic for people to pray with passion! Cancel your lunch reservations! Fill the service with fiery intercession, prophetic decrees and exhortation of powerful truths of Scripture as the Holy Spirit ebbs and flows in perfect violation of human order!

NO REVIVAL EMPHASIS

If there's one thing I can discern it's the spirit of revival. I've heard pastors talk about revival, but it's rare to find one that truly gets it. You'll know they don't get it when their revival talk centers around the hopes for their own church to grow instead of contending for a regional outpouring that has little to do with their local church.

I believe we need to see prayer and revival centers launch in cities all over the world. These are prophetic centers of intercession that burn continually for a move of God. They couldn't care less if the outpouring is centered in their own ministry or not. Their prophetic and apostolic assignment is much greater than that.

Churches and ministries that will draw the disenfranchised remnant are those that are fully devoted to partnering with the Holy Spirit in the region. They have no desire to find a nice local community where they can connect with new friends as they hold hands and sing some songs as they “do life” together. Nope. These are warriors. They aren't in it for the benefits. They are in it to the death, and they are ready to lay it all down for the sake of revival.

THE PROPHETIC IS MINIMIZED

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

I personally believe that churches that don't embrace prophetic ministry are significantly out of line. Without an active, vibrant prophetic culture in the church, it will feel dead, be misguided and it will muzzle those who have a mandate to release critical revelation to the body.

A prophetic culture will result in an electric, urgent and supernatural atmosphere that is fueled by a constant spirit of prayer. The body will watch the leadership function from their knees with a tremble in their spirit and will model that lifestyle. Prophetic unction will flow from all, and the release of revelation will powerfully mark the corporate gathering.

FOCUS ON CHURCH GROWTH

The focus on church growth must cease. The remnant doesn't care about a larger building or a growing population. Of course, they are consumed with passion for souls, but this is the difference between today's typical church strategy and the one today's revival minded people have adopted.

Typical church leaders equate success with a larger crowd. They argue that more people in the church equals more souls in the Kingdom. This is not usually the case. It's an immature and unrealistic strategy.

The remnant church, however, values the presence of God over the presence of people. They would rather gather together with twenty or thirty firebrands who have been marked by the Spirit of God instead of five hundred spiritually curious people. They want the Upper Room 120, not the thousands who were too busy to truly invest.

The strategy is prayer induced revival. When the small group of fully surrendered and sold out remnant revivalists pray on fire together, they are building a foundation for the harvest. They aren't looking for an extra few hundred people in their meeting, they want the millions!

In fact, growing with people who are not raging on fire for Jesus will only result in a watered-down experience where all sorts of compromises are made to ensure the moderates are satiated. Remnant Christians are done with such foolish distractions.

NO SUPERNATURAL ACTIVITY

A church without signs, wonders and miracles, without dreams and visions, without the glory of God, is a church without a strategic, powerful and supernatural prayer culture. A prayerless church is no church at all and remnant Believers refuse to waste their time with such a humanistic endeavor.

I hear about people scrutinizing churches that are functioning in the supernatural. I have often suggested that churches that do not operate in the invisible realm where the wonders of God manifest should be questioned. Why is God not moving in your midst?

As we cultivate a prayer-infused church where everybody prays with tongues of fire and prophesies and contends against the darkness, we'll have a church on fire that is driven by the winds of the Holy Spirit. People are so hungry for this but it is exceptionally rare to find a church that flows this way.

CONTROLLING AND RESTRICTIVE LEADERSHIP

Pastors, we must raise up people to outshine us! Get out of the way and celebrate the callings and gifts in others. Allow God to move mightily through them and step aside when God is ready to use them.

We need revival churches that are raising up sons and daughters and releasing them into the world! We need revival leaders who will drop the reigns and allow the messy, unpredictable and supernatural to happen!

I've known pastors who are completely lost without a perfectly timed order of service. They need to step off the platform and hit the altar and let the Spirit of God rage!

NO LEGITIMATE VISION

Why are we even gathering together? What is the vision? What's the point?

When many pastors are asked about their vision, they often share their ministry goals. The two couldn't be more different. You may have goals to add a certain number of people to the pews or to build a second campus, but that is not vision.

Vision is a supernatural infusion of the impossible. It's the burning purpose of the ministry. It's the very reason the leader is gathering people together. True vision will grip the pastor night and day. It's costly. It's deeply personal yet the body is invited to participate.

Revival-minded people want to run with a leader who has had their hip taken out by God, who has no other reason for living than to fulfill their mandate. The vision is alive, burning, raging, all-encompassing and humanly impossible to fulfill.

MISPLACED EMPHASIS ON WORSHIP

In many churches that consider themselves to be supernaturally motivated, a spirit of prayer has been replaced by a strategy of worship. Emphasis has been placed on an excellent musical experience, believing that it's the highest form of supernatural expression and the quickest route to fulfilling the goal of introducing a spiritual element into the service.

A sixty-second prayer as the worship team members hold hands in a circle on the platform is usually followed by an hour or so of practice.

I'll say this as clearly as I can: a spirit of true worship cannot come without a spirit of fervent prayer leading the way.

Some of my favorite worship experiences have been in churches with a single, ragtag guitar playing leader, sometimes with other musicians and sometimes not, who just bleeds intercession. You can see it. You can feel it. They play spontaneously, in the Spirit, with no song list, no script, no karaoke sing-a-longs. Intermixed are songs in tongues, tears of passion and powerful prayers and declarations. The people are undone, rocking, trembling and deeply hungry as the Holy Spirit whips through them like a mighty wind.

Compare this with highly polished, well-orchestrated worship sets with surface-level, manufactured exuberance that any discerning remnant Believer can pick up on with their eyes closed and their hands tied behind their backs.

Again, no spirit of prayer, no spirit of worship. Period.

UNUSUAL CHURCH

Remnant Christians can't stand one more church as usual service. We are done!

It's time for unusual church. It's an unscripted, spontaneous, risky, messy, open-ended, explosive and often offensive environment where God blows in with might.

My pastor friend's plea is real. He wants to connect with pastors and leaders who are yearning for an unusual church experience. I do too.

My prophetic friends who last night cried out for anything but church as usual are not alone. There are many remnant Christians who are desperate for the new wine. I hear from people all over the world on a very regular basis asking me if I know where they might find such a church, an unusual church on fire. Sadly, I must confess most of the time that I do not. This must change.

Come on pastors, no more church as usual. For real this time.

Many seduced by unbalanced grace theologies misunderstand the desperate need for the church to contend for a move of God.

“I felt such release when I realized I didn't need to work and contend like I had been taught by pastors and preachers. Instead I'm just relaxing in God and it is so freeing!”

“There's no need to work, war or battle. God's love for you is immeasurable! Nothing you can do could cause God to love you more!”

“Your identity isn't defined by what you produce, it's in a revelation of God the Father.”

“God is with you in your struggle. No need to beat yourself up over sin.”

I've heard these defenses of grace-centric ideologies many times, and while some of the statements do absolutely contain irrefutable truth, there is still some serious concern to deal with.

Of course it's true that our identity is in Christ and not in what we produce, but it's honestly not as simple as that. To dismiss the command to respond to the directives of God, to be productive, would raise the question of whether we are in Christ at all. The parable of the talents makes that clear.

26  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27  Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28  So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29  For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30  And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:26-30 (ESV)

DYS-GRACEFUL MINDSETS

I believe there are churches and ministries that are all in on the grace teachings of Scripture, and unlike false-grace doctrine there is legitimacy to what is being communicated. However, the problem comes when these grace truths are adopted to the exclusion of the full counsel of Scripture. It's dysfunctional.

I propose there is a radical misunderstanding of the purpose of grace, and today's translation of it can result in a self-idolatrous culture. If the focus is mostly on how we can benefit, on who we are and on eliminating Kingdom responsibilities from our lives we can know we have fallen for a distorted view of grace. Grace actually empowers us to do, to obey, to work, to move, to heal, to deliver, to respond to God's Kingdom mandates.

I was stunned several years ago when someone actually admitted to me that they were praying against the prayer movement! I'm not sure if they appreciated the irony. They rejected the idea that we have to do anything in order for God to be revealed in our lives. Our identity, he said, is not in proving ourselves or in coercing God to move. He believes the prayer culture is damaging to our ability to understand our identity. We are sons and daughters and we don't have to do anything to convince God to love us or to move in our lives, or so he argued.

News flash: movements of intercession have little to do with us, though it seems so much of today's grace movement is very much about self. When we contend in intercession, we are pounding Heaven and assaulting Hell. We are seeking and knocking, warring and resisting. It's a governmental position of authority where we stand in our identity in Christ and move mountains, rebuke demons, establish truth and tear down strongholds. It's about other people! We are fighting for the freedom of others, we are moved to tears as we contend for freedom in other people. When we contend for revival, it's a strategic advance in the spiritual realm against barriers, demonic strongholds and wickedness. We are not doing this to discover our identity or to convince God that we are lovable. That is ridiculous! We do this to expose the darkness and rescue the perishing! We do this to awaken the sleepers and to prepare the Bride of Christ for his return!

To all of my grace friends out there, I'm thrilled that you have discovered the wonder of resting in your true identity in Christ, if that has truly happened. I appreciate and promote that same revelation without reservation. It's impossible to do what God has called us to do without it.

And, that's where I probably lost some of you. You see little need to “do” anything. You just want to be. After all, we are human beings, not human doings, right? Yeah, I've heard that more times than I can remember.

RESOLVE THE LOVE ISSUE ALREADY

God loves you. It's settled.

While I agree that there are never-ending realms, expressions and revelations of God's love, and that we will forever be experiencing new encounters in his love, it's time that we simply understand that we are loved, and then get on with the mission.

The problem comes when people discover a supposed fresh revelation of God's love that removes the very mandates and responsibilities that Scripture reveals he has placed on us. A revelation of love that minimizes or eradicates God's assignments doesn't exist. You have been deceived.

It's possible to be deeply loved by God while not being usable to God. Both being loved and being available impact our relationship with God and our eternities. Heaven and Hell lay in the balance. Obedience plays a role just as enjoying intimacy with God does. The parable of the Talents along with many other truths in the Bible make this clear.

Our very purpose of living on the earth is to bring God glory and to advance the Kingdom. As we develop intimacy with Jesus and as we grow in revelation of his love, we cannot help but to emerge as mighty warriors advancing against the darkness and setting the captives free.

God loves you. Now from that place of love, serve the Master with passion. Don't sit around for the rest of your life celebrating how free you are while the extent of your relationship with God is soaking in his presence and sitting in his lap. God loves you, but from here on out it's not as much about you as it is those God has called you to rescue. Remember, you aren't attempting to coerce God to love you more. That argument from the grace camp is true. However, the identifying mark of the dys-graced camp is to stop doing anything that smells of work, effort, contending or sacrifice and to simply focus on enjoying him. The appropriate response is to settle the love issue and to get moving, get working and change the world!

BEATING YOURSELF UP OVER SIN

In all my years, I've never seen the a collective shrug that I'm seeing in much of today's church regarding sin. The dys-graced movement is perpetuating this by promoting the idea that God is unconcerned with our sin and, over time, if people discover God's love in greater measure, the sin will auto-magically take care of itself. This is deception.

27  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV)

No we shouldn't beat ourselves up in condemnation if we are truly repentant. However, the above passage sure seems more extreme than an internal, emotional beat down—and God sanctioned it. He suggested it. The reality of eternity in torment, darkness and maddening terror in Hell is so severe that we must go to whatever extreme necessary to avoid it.

Note, he didn't suggest following more closely or becoming a part of the family as they “do life” together. Nowhere do we see him unconcerned with sin. Quite the opposite, he makes it clear that continued sin will result in never-ending Hell.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Today many Christians would say it's ridiculous to think anybody could be free from lust. I've had people rebuke me for suggesting that. In fact, a “Christian” sex therapist scolded me in a long email after I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article and confessed that he actually prescribes sexual fantasy about other people to struggling married couples!

In fact, it's quite common for those in the dys-graced religious system to lambaste those who would encourage people to stop sinning. An angry retort often follows: “You can't put such a burden on them! It's not loving! Quit judging!”

Tell that to Jesus, who also famously once said, “Go and sin no more.”

With the high percentage of Christians regularly involved in pornography, and a huge percentage of pastors involved in the same sin, and with lust, greed, apathy, unforgiveness, gossip and other spiritual crimes rampant, how can we not shout from the rooftops, “Repent!” We need loving, zealous hellfire preaching in the church again!

The reality is that the Bible gives very clear guidelines regarding all of this:

9  I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13  God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)

When is the last time you heard of a church obeying God's guidelines regarding immorality? It's extremely rare. Why? The infiltration of dys-graceful philosophies into the church. Do we not understand that it's a powerful expression of love to trust God's wisdom in the handling of sin in the camp? He desires redemption and he understand that it takes severity to get people there at times.

4  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5  you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)

That is love in action. It should not be done with a heart of retribution, but rather with tears streaming down our cheeks we should intercede passionately for them. We have no choice but to obey God and administer his prescription for their behavior.

TRUE GRACE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND SHAKE THE PLANET!

True grace empowers us to do the impossible. Who wouldn't want to sign up for that? What a life we can live if we step into the current of the Holy Spirit's movement on the earth! As we trust God's Word, preach the truth and move in supernatural grace we will live miraculous lives that will pierce the darkness and topple demonic kingdoms…and rescue precious souls.

 

 

 

A basketball legend is suddenly gone, yet the world carries on mostly unconcerned about where people will spend eternity.

Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash Sunday morning in Southern California, according to a TMZ report confirmed by Variety and the Los Angeles Times.

To say that I'm sick in my spirit would be a woefully weak attempt to explain the internal trauma I'm experiencing right now. I'm certainly saddened by today's tragic news of the loss of Kobe Bryant, and my heart goes out to his family, his many friends and his fans who loved him. However, the source of my grief isn't limited to the loss of several people who entered eternity in a helicopter crash today. It's much, much deeper, more comprehensive and incredibly serious than even today's awful events were.

The crash comes one day after Bryant was passed by Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

James inscribed his sneakers with “Mamba 4 Life” and “8/24 KB” in gold marker before the game, showing respect for Bryant, an 18-time All-Star with the Lakers who is eligible for the Basketball Hall of Fame this year.

Mamba 4 Life. Those haunting words adorned on the sneakers of LeBron James are almost too much to bear. Life would last less than one more day for Kobe.

I feel raw, and if I were to be completely honest, a little hopeless. For years I've been sounding alarms to a sleeping, casual, unconcerned and presumptuous people, mostly Christians, who refuse to adopt a fearful tremble in their spirits. Other men and women much more anointed, effective and reputable then myself have been doing the same, yet there are millions of people, both lost and saved, who have no sense of forever. Too many are slipping right into eternity and down into an indescribable, eternal fire.

The parties continue. The intoxication on entertainment is non-stop. Fame, wealth, notoriety, pleasure and greed drive our culture, and so many in the church have likewise been seduced.

Listen to the podcast…

We need awakeners to arise in the world, those who will power through the false ideologies and theologies and excuses and accusations and shout, “Wake up! You are in great, imminent danger! The earth is about to swallow up the casual, unconcerned sleepers! Arise before it's too late and repent!”

THE ONLY REASON WE ARE ALIVE

The purpose of this sliver of time on the Earth before we launch into eternity is to glorify God and to advance his Kingdom. That's it. Please listen to me, we are called to be fiery, passionate lovers of Jesus every moment of our existence. As we live our daily lives, we must be consumed by God as we walk and live and pray in the Spirit. We go to sleep praying, we wake up praying, we worship throughout the day, we live holy. we battle the enemy and we advance with great anointing as God leads.

Yes, we are to enjoy our lives. Yes, our families are precious. Yes, we can fall in love. Yes, we can be entertained. Yes, we can relax. Yet none of this should ever compromise our unrelenting zeal for Jesus. We are aliens from another world with an other-worldly mission that should consume us every second of our lives.

Kobe Bryant and Eternity from John Burton on Vimeo.

DEADLY DOCTRINES

I won't take the space to debate theology right now. I'm not in that state of mind. I'm wrecked and undone. I'm provoked and irritated. Irritated enough to go for the throat of deadly doctrines that so many are selling their very souls for. I'm upset at those who have been seduced, but I'm enraged at the pastoral impostors who are selling this snake oil.

Without hesitation I'm shouting from the rooftops with everything I have that false-grace and eternal security theologies are seductive poisons that are leading untold numbers to Hell every day.

I believe it's quite rare for someone to enter Heaven. Of course, I could never confirm this, but just like you I have the right to an opinion. I believe following Jesus is a much more serious, sobering and costly endeavor than most realize, and I wonder if maybe one in 500 enter Heaven instead of Hell when they die. Point two percent.

The level of surrender that's required is well off most people's grids. They erroneously lean on the story of the thief on the cross to affirm their casual position and their belief that all it takes is a “prayer of salvation.” I don't believe any of us will ever understand the level of surrender that man committed to.

THIS ISN'T ABOUT KOBE BRYANT…IT'S ABOUT YOU

Kobe Bryant isn't on the earth anymore, but he is somewhere right now. We don't know where. You or I don't know what the level of his passion for Jesus was. This article isn't about him, however, It's about you. It's about me.

It's rare to find people who are on fire, who are surrendered, who are living holy lives and who are preaching raw, offensive truth. It's this truth that will wake the dead and provoke the sleepers to arise.

Eternity is upon us. 150,000 people die every day. It's 5pm right now. This means, since Kobe Bryant died, in the neighborhood of 31,250 more people have died and entered into eternity. Since I started writing this article about a half an hour ago, approximately 3,125 people have died. …30 minutes later, as I'm proof reading the article, another 3,125 people have died.

Is it possible that of the 150,000 people who die today that only around 3,000 will be with Jesus forever? 147,000, give or take, will be tormented non-stop as they are gripped with indescribable, maddening terror that will never end? Yes, it's absolutely possible. We can't know for sure, but the sheer possibility should crush us. You can see why I'm broken and heartsick. You can understand my holy rage.

WE NEED HELLFIRE PREACHERS

I'm done with the ridiculous, passive and biblically unsound messages of “love and kindness” that are choking out the fiery truths of Scripture. Of course, we need a greater revelation of the love of Jesus, but, man, how people have twisted that reality!

I implore you to read some articles that speak directly to this issue:

I pray LeBron James, who just passed Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA's all-time scoring leader board, reads this. He was celebrating and enjoying the moment. For Kobe, the moment was a few short hours away from ending forever.

“I’m just happy to be in any conversation with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats to ever play,” James said.

Bryant congratulated James via Twitter not long after his historic basket.

Kobe Bryant: Continuing to move the game forward @KingJames. Much respect my brother #33644 1.29M

Twelve hours later Kobe would be gone.

Where are you in God? Are you casual, presumptuous, apathetic? Are you allowing sin into your life? What about pornography? Lust? Greed? Unforgiveness? Hate? Unbelief?

Are you a walking furnace of intercession, or are you devoid of fire? Have you lost your first love?

Please don't ever presume you are safe because of a prayer you prayed. You are not. Salvation requires endurance and it must be worked out with fear and trembling.

Remember, you are not alive to fulfill your personal dreams. The selfish pursuit of dreams and the entertainment induced drunkenness must come to an end. You are alive for a single purpose—to serve the King and to know him intimately.

I implore you to wake up, to get serious and to embrace the call to martyrdom. Lay your life down, and do it now. We are all one breath away from leaving our physical bodies and stepping into forever.

1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)

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)

The Terror of HellI'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.

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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.

THE PRESSURES

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.

Livi CroppedAfter 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.