Has misguided spirituality stolen the gift of Christmas from you and your family?
My family and I live in Christmas ground zero—Branson, Missouri. The glory and wonder of the Christmas season in this tourist destination starts mid-October, successfully washing out the darkness of Halloween, and ignites the entire region in red and green. As I gaze through the window at Branson’s downtown Starbucks, where I’m writing this article, I can see a massive Christmas tree at Branson Landing on the shores of Lake Taneycomo and a huge crowd of people, many in their pajamas, at the Branson Scenic Railway depot waiting to board The Polar Express. The joy of Christmas has arrived!
We absolutely love viewing the 6.5 million lights at Silver Dollar City, one of the nation’s premier Christmas destinations. Holiday stage shows are numerous along Highway 76. Christmas lake cruises, drive through trails of lights, carriage rides and much more help make experiencing Branson one of the nation’s very best Christmas family traditions.
I can’t imagine not fully immersed in the wonder of Christmas—yet many Christians have decided to eliminate Christmas from their lives. Humbug!
I applaud Christians who want to live pure, holy lives, but eliminating Christmas is not the way to do that. Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year as we exalt Jesus and enjoy family in ways that cannot happen at any other time, in any other way! I’m absolutely convinced Jesus loves it when we have fun, laugh, enjoy each other and rejoice!
It's the most wonderful time of the year. With the kids jingle belling, and everyone telling you, "Be of good cheer," It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the most wonderful time of the year. There'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, when loved ones are near. It's the most wonderful time of the year.
FIVE REASONS why we’ve decided to celebrate Christmas with abandon:
Amy, one of my boys, Parker, and I just returned from Orlando, including a day each at The Magic Kingdom and Sea World. Both places, most probably for the only time all year, exalted Jesus through music and productions. I was excited to hear songs like “O Come Let Us Adore Him” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” joyfully playing as I waited for my (way too big) ice cream sundae in the Main Street ice cream parlor at the Magic Kingdom. I was even more excited to see a living nativity called “O Wondrous Night” being produced at Sea World! Of course, Silver Dollar City here in Branson is unashamedly Christian based. Their mission statement declares that all they do is done “in a Manner Consistent with Christian Values and Ethics.” The majesty of Jesus and his birth are proclaimed throughout the park. In fact, in their epic Christmas production, Dicken’s Christmas Carol, Scrooge has a powerful, tear inducing salvation moment that was the actual cause of his reborn heart.
You simply cannot escape the truth that Christmas exalts the King! Do many (most) people ignore this and focus on less spiritual Christmas experiences? Yes. However, even as they do, the name of the Savior of the world is proclaimed every time they mutter the word CHRISTmas. They can’t escape the Christmas music that proclaims the love of Jesus or the spirit of giving that Jesus best exemplifies.
Most Christians who argue against celebrating Christmas do so because of supposed pagan roots or because they have determined that it’s “not really about Jesus,” and should therefore be avoided.
First, Christmas is overwhelming about Jesus! However, that being said, if Jesus had to be the subject of everything we celebrate, we’d have to eliminate birthday parties, watching fireworks on July 4th, Veteran's Day, New Year’s Day and most other holidays and special events. Wedding parties would cease. So would graduation parties and other celebrations.
Second, unlike Halloween which is still very much a pagan, demonic celebration that should be avoided by every Believer, Christmas is currently a glorious celebration of Jesus, life and family.
We pay attention to current status, not origins. Anything can be redeemed. The current status of Halloween is a world-wide celebration of Satan. The current status of Christmas is a world-wide celebration of Jesus!
Additionally, if we eliminated everything from our lives that had pagan origins, we’d have a hard time functioning.
Did you know that the following have pagan origins?
- Wedding rings
- Wedding ceremonies
- New Year’s/New Year’s Eve
- Statues of people and animals
- Money has pagan designs on it
- The days of the week
- The months of the year
- Eye makeup
- Wind chimes
- Saying “Amen”
- Baby showers
- Making your bed
In the first-century Church, gentile Christians were told to avoid meat that had been sacrificed to pagan idols (Acts 15:29). However, Paul told the Corinthians that they could eat meat sold in the public market even though that meat may have been sacrificed to an idol (1 Cor. 10:25). He told them not to eat in the pagan temple. In other words, he told them to avoid blatant paganism, but they did not have to superstitiously avoid everything that paganism might have touched at some time in the past. ~gci.org
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
2. FAMILY & MEMORIES
I’m 49 years old, and I still have a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve! I remember the Christmas mornings that my parents made so exciting and special in the 1970’s and 80’s. We’d go to sleep with nothing under the tree…and then magic happened. When we woke up several hours earlier than normal, a bright light from an archaic movie camera blinded our eyes as we walked down the hallway from our bedrooms toward the living room. As our pupils adjusted to the light, we would witness what happened over night. Presents wrapped in black and white newspaper (to save money for gifts) filled the room!
I’ll never forget the disk drive I got for my Commodore 64. My parents were Christmas geniuses. The hour or so of unwrapping gifts, one at a time, led to one final, climactic moment when my brother and I excitedly and nervously wondered if we would get what we had hoped for. The adrenaline was pumping. The mystery was almost too much to bear! As I unwrapped that final newspaper covered present, my eyes popped open wide as I saw it. I got my disk drive!
Both of my parents are with Jesus now, and that disk drive is long gone. However, the memories that I have will live forever. I could share story after story from my childhood to current times that are so special to me. Spending time with Amy and the kids looking at Christmas lights or visiting Christmas villages and festivals, hustling and bustling at shopping malls and enjoying holiday attractions is precious beyond compare.
In fact, I’ll never forget the time, just a handful of years ago, my mom and dad filled their living room with presents, mostly for our kids. Skylar and Parker had wanted a Nintendo Wii, but Amy and I weren’t in a position to spend that kind of money that year. The last gift the kids opened resulted in jumping and screaming for what seemed like forever. They got their Wii. They played it all day. Grampy, dressed in his mismatched pajama bottoms and green T-shirt, spent some quality time bowling on the Wii with the boys. It was funny. I’ll never forget it.
My dad died shortly after that. That memory still causes a tear or two to this day.
Oh, there’s no place like
home for the holidays,
‘Cause no matter how far away you roam
When you pine for the sunshine
Of a friendly face
For the holidays, you can’t beat
Home, sweet home
3. SANTA CLAUSE & GIFTS
I’ll never apologize for loving gifts! I have so much fun buying gifts for Amy and the kids each year. I love receiving gifts too! I make out my list and email it to Amy early every November—and then modify it several times! It doesn’t mean I’m carnal or materialistic. It’s my love language. Some of you need to be delivered from condemnation that others have heaped upon you for enjoying gifts. Did the Wise Men not bring gifts to Jesus?
Celebrate the spirit of Saint Nick who selflessly gave. Amy and I share the truth about Santa with the kids so there’s no confusion there, and then we all celebrate the season with passion!
The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara. At the time the area was Greek and is now on the southern coast of Turkey. His wealthy parents, who raised him to be a devout Christian, died in an epidemic while Nicholas was still young. Obeying Jesus' words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. Bishop Nicholas became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need, his love for children, and his concern for sailors and ships. (http://www.stnicholascenter.org/pages/who-is-st-nicholas/)
There’s just something about the process of hunting for the perfect gift for the ones you love, finding the right size and color, sneaking it home, wrapping it behind locked doors and placing it in the perfect spot under the tree.
There’s also the excitement that I talked about in the last point. Gathering around the tree to take turns opening presents is an experience that can’t be duplicated any other day of the year. When I unwrap something from one of my little ones, no matter if it’s homemade or something from the dollar store, I come alive inside! The same is true for every other gift someone gives me, or for every gift I get to watch someone else open.
It’s the perfect opportunity to become childlike, to stop “adulting” for a while and just have fun!
After the gifts have been opened, the rest of Christmas Day is spent playing with new toys, playing new games, eating Christmas dinner and enjoying new things in a room littered with torn wrapping paper, boxes and glorious chaos!
Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So, to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.
4. MUSIC, FOOD AND FUN
Is there anything better than a fire in the fireplace as Christmas music fills the room? Or, watching Rudolph on TV as a family for the hundredth time? Amy’s birthday is in November, and this year I bought her tickets to two stage productions: Miracle on 34th Street and A Christmas Story Musical. We’ll have a wonderful dinner each of those two nights, and then head out to the show for a couple hours of Christmas fun!
Again, I’m growing older, but I am often the first one in our family to start watching the old Christmas shows on TV. I’ll go to sleep with Christmas worship playing in the bedroom. Compared to the rest of the year, it’s nice that so much of the entertainment the world is offering is clean, family friendly and wholesome. Christmas does that.
Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolf
play in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolf with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my sleigh tonight?”
Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee:
“Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in history!”
5. JOY AND PEACE
As the wickedness of Halloween dissipates in the atmosphere, the Christmas season slows things down and just permeates the atmosphere with peace and joy. It gets dark sooner, it’s crisp outside, the snow starts falling and life just gets a little quieter. As the anticipation of Christmas morning is before us all, we don’t have to wait to experience all that Christmas has to offer. We can bundle up and walk through the snow or drive through the neighborhood looking at Christmas lights and decorations. We’ll put up the tree, hang the ornaments and relax as a family.
It’s no wonder that joy and peace come with the Christmas season. After thousands of years of hopelessness, a little baby was born in a stable in Bethlehem. He brought peace to the storm and joy to the world. He changed my life. I celebrate him on Christmas. The joy and peace in my heart are his gift to me.
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Amy, the kids and I pray that you and yours have a truly wonderful, love-filled, joyous and peaceful Christmas. Enjoy your family, create memories and become childlike in this beautiful, wondrous season!
Trust me, you will never look at the Burton family the same way again. Have we no shame?
18 Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him–for this is his lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. Ecclesiastes 5:18-19 (NIV)
A bunch of you out there have an aversion to enjoying life. You can probably blame a good, old fashioned religious spirit on that. God does want you to enjoy the life he died to give you. Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. We should die daily and live in resurrection power. We should give and prosper.
Recently, Amy and I had the privilege of hosting a team of high school business class leaders at our escape room business, Escape Code, and our axe throwing business, The Axe Game in Branson, Missouri.
Something I thoroughly enjoy is introducing and sharing Kingdom principles and other bits of life-giving wisdom in the marketplace. I know the bulk of our success comes from our radical devotion to promoting godly standards and living with integrity in the workplace.
11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? Luke 16:11 (NIV)
We recently “enjoyed” the opportunity going through a state audit for our escape room business. After hours, and hours, weeks and weeks of hard work, they met with us in person. Of course, we were nervous, wondering if our math would match with theirs. They reported that, aside from some very minor miscalculations, everything matched up. They were actually quite surprised and impressed at our honesty and integrity. My wife handles the finances, and if a single penny doesn’t match up, she will work hard correcting the error. She will pay that penny. That is not an exaggeration.
After the high school students played one of our escape games, we had an opportunity to address the team of future business leaders and engage in a time of questions and answers. In addition to discussing the issues of extreme integrity and honor in the workplace, we encouraged them in a critical plan of action: develop multiple streams of income.
When I was in high school, the only obvious option after graduation was to go to college. The question every junior and senior was asked time and time again was, “Where are you going to college?” It was college or bust.
It would have been extremely valuable to know that there are many additional options in our big, wide world! Trade schools, alternative learning, business incubators, internships, various prosperous jobs that don't require college and many additional choices are out there.
If our God loves to function outside the box, which he absolutely does, limiting our future and our income to a single, predictable track just doesn’t make sense. We made it clear that, yes, many would obviously benefit from a college degree, and, of course, many professions require it. I most certainly want our future doctors to have every degree and certification they need to operate. My oldest son, Skylar, is currently attending Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee as he prepares for a career in law. College, and more, is a requirement for him.
However, whether college is or is not a part of one’s track toward success and prosperity, developing multiple streams of income is a valuable move. In my opinion, a non-negotiable one.
For instance, people often criticize pastors who are financially prosperous, presuming they are immoral, thieves or greedy, when in fact they may have wisely developed multiple streams of income. They are appropriately creating wealth according to biblical standards. They have bought and sold real estate, written books, built businesses, consulted or initiated any number of other ventures that create wealth for them and their family.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth… Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Amy and I never want to rely on a single source of income—or rely solely on ourselves. We want to let God lead and develop new ventures through us understanding that businesses fail, people get fired, the economy can crash and tides can turn. On the positive side, we are entrepreneurial at heart, and we have a blast creating businesses and fresh income strategies. It’s fun!
We aren’t “rich,” but, then again, I believe we are. Our lives have been enriched in many ways. God has blessed us and we are thankful.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 1 Timothy 6:17 (NIV)
Over the years we’ve had many streams of income, most of them small, that have helped us grow financially.
In fact, when we leased space for The Axe Game earlier this year, two doors down from Escape Code, we also leased a storefront between the two businesses with plans to develop a third business at some point. It stands empty today as we give time to the praying and dreaming process. It is an exciting blank canvas for whatever big idea God drops into our spirit down the road.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. Proverbs 21:5 (NIV)
A HILARIOUS NEW POTENTIAL INCOME SOURCE—GET READY TO LAUGH RIGHT AT ME!
The reason I’m writing this article isn’t to bring attention to what the Burton family is doing, but rather to share how God is working in us so as to encourage you to dream big and break free from the stranglehold of poverty and lack.
In fact, Amy and I along with the younger kids recently ventured into a new business that many would call “cringy,” but I call “cringy cool!” It’s called Toys of the Realm.
But wait, allow me to back up a few weeks first. Another video project preceded Toys of the Realm.
Amy and I have been gifted in some specific ways, including communication, creativity, graphic design and video production. We also love to travel and do it often. Anything from short day trips to business trips to ministry trips to actual vacations keep us on the move regularly.
While we are about ten years late to the game, we decided to launch a YouTube travel channel. Many who started years ago are enjoying very large monthly checks. Today, the competition is much greater, but we will not be deterred! We spent a few hundred dollars for some basic equipment and then launched out to create travel videos. It’s so much fun! As I walk around with my gimbal, recording anything from donuts at Hurt’s Donut Company, to rides at Silver Dollar City, to cave systems to food on the table of our our favorite restaurants, people wonder what we are doing. We explain that we are travel vloggers and then offer them a business card that directs them to the YouTube channel that will soon have the very content they are watching us record, possibly that very night.
TPF! Travel Adventures is a fun, though time consuming, potential stream of income that we are taking very seriously. We understand that it may take anywhere from one to three years to see ad revenue from YouTube and our affiliate marketing to start trickling in. But, who knows, we may really need those paychecks at that time. We will be extremely thankful that we planned ahead and developed this stream of income.
27 Finish your outdoor work and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. Proverbs 24:27 (NIV)
TOYS OF THE REALM—CRINGY COOL
Definition, CRINGY: Someone or something that makes you embarrassed to be a part of the human race. Usually classified by seeing something and feeling extremely embarrassed, throwing your head back and closing your eyes to block your view, and biting your lip to keep in your scream of utter disgust. ~Urban Dictionary
After Amy and I kept this next potential income stream a secret for the first four episodes, we decided it was time to let our pride go and let the world laugh with (at) us. I playfully posted this to Facebook last night:
I have to confess something… a hidden, secret part of my life.
You may never look at Amy or me the same way again…but it's time for the Burton family to come clean…
We can hear toys talk.
Yes, it's true. You might know me as a fiery preacher, an author and passionate revivalist… but, I couldn't keep this hidden part of our lives from you, our friends and family forever.
After you watch our first four videos about our wild adventures rescuing toys from the Toy Reaper, you are sure to lift an eyebrow, shake your head in wonder…and ask your kids to interpret just what is happening.
Some of you may start interceding for us. That's OK. We need it. If you could, say some prayers for the toys as well. They are in great danger.
The first video can be seen here…just don't say we didn't warn you: https://youtu.be/yz1Kt019KWE
The link to our channel where you can watch all four thrilling episodes is: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMqwOHxpg5vWTxHbjGW5GYA
Be sure to SUBSCRIBE so you can watch the adventure unfold multiple times each week.
Please don't unfriend us. We need you now more than ever.
John and Amy Burton and family
It’s OK. Laugh. Amy and I have busted up laughing with tears in our eyes many times as we recorded and watched the final release of each episode. Definitely cringy…cool! So far, the toys have led us to castle ruins, through tunnels, into the woods and into a dungeon! How can that not be thrilling?
Here’s the kicker. This channel may never bring us a dime, or some day it may bring in a truck load of dimes, but it has introduced something to our family that is exponentially much more valuable—we are having the time of our lives, together, as a family! The memories are more precious than all the gold in the world. In fact, there’s something to having fun as little children:
15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. Mark 10:15-16 (NIV)
You can definitely laugh and cringe along with us. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun we are having with both of our channels. Recently Amy and I took a day trip to Lake of the Ozarks and recorded an episode about a monster in Ha Ha Tonka State Park. It was just good ole’ fun! We loved hanging together, coming up with story lines and just having fun on camera!
Amy is a brilliant story teller. She develops all of our themes and storylines for our escape rooms. After playing, guests are regularly amazed at the fact that she designed them herself. She’s amazing! Now, with our children’s focused channel, Toys of the Realm, she uses that gift in another way.
I’d strongly encourage you to watch, and cringe, and laugh HERE.
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Another piece of advice we gave to the high schoolers was: do what you love. What causes you to come alive? Don’t base your career path on the amount of money it may provide. Discover your passion and have a blast discovering how you can turn that into a career!
How often do we hear stories of people who have climbed the ladder and gained a six-figure income, only to burn out, quit and turn a hobby, something they are passionate about, into a career? It happens every day.
I believe God puts passions inside of us, and often he enables us to turn those passions into wealth creating opportunities. Understand, when I say wealth, I’m not putting a gigantic number on it. Wealth is simply resource that enables us to live the life God has called us to, and to enrich others around us. Each stream of income may only bring in a few hundred dollars a month, but all together, they make it possible to pay the bills, give extravagantly and continue dreaming and developing new streams!
Of course, those of you who know me understand that I’m all about revival and ministering in power. Laying down our lives and surrendering all should be our devotion every day. Many are called to venture into costly, challenging ministry assignments that don’t pay much at all. Definitely do that with your whole heart!
However, I also believe we can still develop streams of income in the midst of ministry. When Amy and I were called to spend a season at The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, it would have been impossible if I hadn’t already developed sources of income that would sustain us. We eventually received a small stipend at IHOPKC as I first joined the graphic design team and then was asked to direct one of the four primary internships. That stipend was not nearly enough to sustain us. It took the other streams to make our ministry there possible. In fact, we were able to buy a house. There was no one single source of income that made that possible. Many streams (I believe we had developed seven separate small streams at that time) were required.
So, we were able to do what we loved, what we were called to do and support a growing family! After our season there, we moved to Detroit with no job, no new income opportunities and even nowhere to live. We drove our moving truck there, rented a place the next day, started a church, developed new income sources and watched ministry and finances develop together!
DON’T BE LAZY!
25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.' 26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. Matthew 25:25-27 (NIV)
Friend, many people are in lack because of this very parable. Look at how it continues:
28 “‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29 For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. Matthew 25:28-29 (NIV)
Those who are lazy, those who don’t aggressively advance in their financial strategies will often find themselves losing ground while those who are prosperous and working hard will seem to gain with little effort.
While it’s true that doing what you love will result in a life where you don’t really work at all, as the saying goes, the truth is that you must work very hard. But if you choose your career and businesses wisely, the work will be enjoyable. While I understand that we may not see financial rewards from our two video endeavors for years, we are recording several times a week and I’m editing late into the night, several hours at a time, day after day. I love it!
However, it absolutely is work. Add that to running two extremely busy and demanding businesses, working often at those businesses personally to keep staff costs down, writing for Charisma and other publications, traveling for business and ministry, going to parent/teacher meetings, gymnastics and other soccer mom (and dad!) style responsibilities, and you have a lot of work!
This being said, as you work very hard, stay healthy, get rest and always know it’s God who brings increase, you will live in victory. A wrong heart will do you in. A right focus will bring great success. Your work and faithfulness will result in God ordering your steps.
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust your own cleverness. Proverbs 23:4 (NIV)
GUARD YOUR HEART
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 (ESV)
The purpose of creating wealth is not for the sake of accumulating wealth. It takes a humble and zealous lover of Jesus to agree with the principle that God desires us to create wealth, and to have great resource to give extravagantly, while never, ever giving our heart to that wealth.
In fact, if you can’t grow financially and grow in Jesus at the same time, I’d strongly encourage you to do what the Rich Young Ruler was instructed to do. Give it all away! Your eternity is not worth a temporarily large bank account. It’s laughable that it would be.
So, guard your heart. Reject greed. Be a passionate, fervent lover of Jesus and allow the resources you develop to bring life to your family, to the church and to the Kingdom of God.
24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25 (NIV)
YOU CAN DO IT!
You absolutely have been given gifts and passions by God that can result in a joyful and very busy life that includes a strategic track toward financial prosperity.
God isn’t going to drop the money into your lap. The Parable of the Talents should be enough to shake us all out of that mirage. Not only has God given us the power to create wealth, he has given us the responsibility to do so!
I’d strongly encourage you to read a powerful article on the subject that I wrote recently titled: Why giving large percentages of our finances to the church might require disobedience to God.
Here’s an excerpt:
Successful entrepreneurs and business people will understand this principle easily. Their money is simply a tool. It’s used to expand their business, make investments and multiply their resources so they can have greater and greater impact.
Don’t ever look at a wealthy Christian in judgment. Many of them are doing exactly what God wants them to do. They aren't suppose to give everything to the poor or to the church. Their gift is much better used by multiplying resources and giving extravagantly year after year then by simply giving away what they have a single time. The result would be lack of resources and an inability to do what God has called them to do. If you have one million dollars, don’t give it all away. Multiply it and give millions and millions away.
If we give all we have to the church, or more than God has called us to, we won’t have enough to put to work for the sake of multiplication. We must give the correct amount and invest the correct amount to see the greatest Kingdom impact.
Kick into prayer. Develop strategies. Dream. Plan. Move. Risk.
Maybe God will call you to develop something that has the world laughing at you…as you laugh right on over to the bank. Your pastor and ministries all over the world will certainly appreciate the upward spike in your giving receipts as well.
If I force myself to be entirely honest, sometimes tears flow during times of corporate worship, not out of gratitude, though the sacrifice Jesus made on my behalf certainly moves me. If I dig deeper, look beyond the appropriate and expected emotional responses, there is something else, an emotion seemingly unsuitable and certainly disconcerting. It is a sense of abandonment.
We sing about it. We teach on it. We even paint lovely photos depicting it. It is the story of the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to go after the one.
While this is certainly great news for that one lost sheep (and the essence of the Gospel), I am often left feeling deserted, neglected.
You see, I am the ninety-nine.
We sing about it. We teach on it. We even paint lovely photos depicting it. It is the story of the prodigal son who was welcomed home with open arms.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (Luke 15 20-32)
What an incredible parable depicting the love and forgiveness of the Father! He embraces, kisses, celebrates the one who returns home! Embarrassed by my own selfishness, I must admit I am jealous.
You see, I am the prodigal’s brother.
I was raised in a Christian home, said the sinner’s prayer at age four and by the time I reached my teens, I had responded to more altar calls than I could ever count. From my earliest memories, I had been within the Shepherd’s fold, lived within the Father’s house. “Must I stray in order to get His attention?” I have wondered. “Must I leave and return to be as valued as the prodigal?”
To answer these questions, let’s take a closer look at these stories. To whom was Jesus speaking?
“But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ Then Jesus told them this parable….” (Luke 15:2)
Jesus was responding to the Pharisees, who through their strict observance of the law, hoped to achieve salvation. In their self-righteousness, they saw no need for a Savior. However, Romans tells us that all have sinned and that redemption comes only through Christ.
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
Once again, peering into my own heart, I recognize my need for a Savior. Even the selfishness, the pride and the jealousy have separated me from the Father. I repent. I come running back. He sees me, embraces me, celebrates me. I am undone. The tears come. This time, they are tears of gratitude.
You see, I am the prodigal. I am the one.
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Check out some of the reviews from books including The Coming Church, 20 Elements of Revival and The Terror of Hell:
Very inspiring! John is a man on fire! And he is starting fires everywhere he goes. ~Larry
This is a book that is challenging and awe inspiring! A must read for every pastor! The time for revival is now!! ~Gilbert
“Every member of every ministry in every denomination should be required to read this book!” ~Mae
My world has been rocked..I am on my knees trembling and yet I am in the complete comfort of the Holy Spirit. How amazing is that! People get ready! ~Hal
All ten of my full length books in printed and ebook format are available for order RIGHT NOW at www.burton.tv/store!
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John has written countless articles for national publications like Charisma Magazine, and he has compiled some of the most powerful in the eBook Collection Volume 1.
- Contending for Revival in a Culture of Positivity
- Defeating Absalom
- Eight Clear Reasons Revival is Not as Near as it Could Be
- Five Reasons Not to Leave a Church
- Operation Babel
- Orphans No More
- Prophecy Games
- Revival Games
- Shock Christianity
- Sweet Failure
- The Great Love Deception
- The Salvation Equation
- Their Freedom is Your Mission
- Three Dangerous Churches
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The hyper-spiritual too often wait for God to do what he’s not going to do.
At first glance, those who know me might raise an eyebrow at the title of this article. Many might consider me to be hyper-spiritual myself. Most wouldn’t use the term in a derogatory manner, but they would argue that my life has been marked by a clear supernatural focus. They would be right.
I’ve been awed throughout my life and ministry by the way God has performed stunning and miraculous works. I mean, I’m floored every time I think about any of the numerous times God moved outside of my natural grid.
Further, I’ve written on the prophetic, have led prayer movements that are fueled by tongues and fire and unapologetically call those who are naturally minded on the carpet. The call to live, move, walk, pray and function night and day in the Spirit is non-negotiable. Further, it’s there that the Christian life begins to make sense…and produce joy, freedom and a load of fun!
So, no, I am absolutely not calling anybody to pull back from living in that spiritual realm. What I am doing, however, is highlighting an error that causes many people to be spiritually minded to the exclusion of understanding God-given abilities and opportunities that exist in the natural realm. They are hyper-spiritual instead of appropriately spiritual. They are hesitant instead of proactive. They spiritualize their timidity.
NATURAL MAN POSSESSES AMAZING ABILITIES
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.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:4-6 (ESV)
God gifted every human, Christian or not, with abilities that are profound. Of course, everybody’s gifts, talents and abilities are different, but the truth remains, even outside of a life devoted to Jesus, mankind can do remarkable things.
Consider man’s ability to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. Even today’s most brilliant minds are astonished by that ancient architectural accomplishment. Think about the Hoover Dam, the Great Wall of China, the Superdome in New Orleans, the world’s tallest buildings and other marvels. The engineering required to build such impressive structures is mind blowing.
Think about life-changing inventions, medical advances, air and space travel and even military weaponry. Not only did all of these come about outside of a hyper-spiritual life, most of them were accomplished by unbelievers who had no spiritual focus whatsoever. Mere humans produced wonders.
Man was building the Tower of Babel and God knew they had the ability to do so, which is why he stepped in and stopped their progress. If unbelievers and even evil people can accomplish so much, why do so many Christians over-spiritualize decisions they make and presume that floating on some supernatural cloud will result in progress? It sounds so spiritual to say, “I’m waiting for God to open a door,” or “God hasn’t spoken to me about that yet.”
I’ve met innumerable people who fit this description. They love to soak in God’s presence (as we all should!)…but without any forward, natural momentum as a result. The extent of their forward movement is a stream of semi-prophetic words they share in church, on Facebook or to anybody who will listen. They love to talk about their supernatural revelations (or imaginations), but, when it comes to actually doing something, they retreat back into their mystical, nebulous existence. They prefer to adopt the appearance of the monk on the mountain instead of the person with the shovel in their hands. They think they present themselves as spiritually wise and mature, but in reality they are spiritually stunted accomplishing little in the spirit or in the natural.
We should certainly develop a life of intimacy with Jesus. We should have a prayer closet where we encounter God in supernatural ways. We should be prophetic and on fire for Jesus. We should also move out and produce!
YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND MOVE!
The Bible tells us that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. We can have great confidence that God will be with us when we advance!
Too often we are gazing into the clouds waiting for signs that we are to make a decision or to move out. Stop gazing and move! Stop waiting for God to do something. He’s already enabled you to do so much!
Write your book—THIS year! Start a business! Tell people about Jesus! Start a ministry! Go to a school! Learn a trade! Get another job! Do what is burning in your heart to do! Is there a place for seeking out wise counsel before making big decisions? Yes, there is. But, be sure the counsel is wise and not coming from someone as overly cautious as you’ve been!
My wife and I have enjoyed a remarkable life of advance, often because we just jumped out of the boat and went for it.
Understand, I’m not talking about moving carnally. I’m not talking about ignoring God’s leading. I’m not talking about living outside of God’s grace. I’m talking about acknowledging that God has very powerfully affirmed and enabled us and we have many permissions, resources and abilities to do things that don’t require the planets to align or a visiting prophetic minister to read our mail.
I’ve met so many aspiring authors who tell me they have a book in them, and have been waiting years and decades for the right time to write it. What? This is nonsense! Write the book in the next three months and move on to the next project! Is there a time to wait? Of course, but today’s hyper-spiritual Christian presumes a tentative life is a spiritual life. They stop until God says go instead of going until God says stop!
After years of full time ministry as church planters and pastors, my wife and I moved to Branson, Missouri. While I’d continue writing and traveling to speak at churches and conferences, we knew we’d need to develop additional sources of income. Additionally, we were excited about the opportunity to start something new. We knew God would be with us as we stepped out. He’d order our steps.
On a trip to Tulsa to visit Oral Roberts University with my son Skylar who was considering where to attend college (he ultimately decided on Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee) we had some down time. We jumped online looking for things to do and noticed something called an escape room. I had heard of them, but wasn’t exactly sure that they were. We decided to go. We played two games and were hooked. In the car afterward my wife said, “We can do this.” She was right.
Since we had developed a life of living, praying and moving in the Spirit, we knew God would redirect us if this wasn’t his will. We’d go unless God said stop. The other option would be to wait until God confirms it is his will. I’ll tell you, that is usually not the right decision. Be so intimately connected to Jesus in his supernatural realm that you can continually advance without delay, knowing that he will redirect you as necessary in the natural realm.
We returned to Branson and rented a storefront, dealt with the city code requirements, built out two different escape experiences, developed our branding, installed signage, advertised and opened for business.
The entire process, from the day we played our games in Tulsa to the day we opened and watched other people play our escape games in Branson was less than eight weeks! God’s grace was with us!
Two years later, as we continued to develop our business, we were awarded as the fifth best escape attraction in the entire nation by USA Today! We were humbled and excited that out of thousands of escape rooms in America, we are in the top 10! It’s not the Great Wall of China, but it’s at least a lot of fun for our family to develop and enjoy our little business!
We were the first escape room business in Branson, and now there are at least five others. The competition is fierce, and the limited tourist season here presents challenges for a business like ours, but God’s grace has empowered us.
We moved, God graced and now, instead of waiting for open doors and signs in the sky a few years later, our business is established and we are on to other ventures, assignments and opportunities.
Going until God says stop will save you years of delay!
YOU CAN DO IT!
God loves you and is on your side!
Live in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit. Advance in the Spirit. Be spiritual. Don’t be hyper-spiritual. It will hold you back and stunt your growth.
God has plans for you and he’s ready to direct your steps if you just go!
There’s nothing playful or innocent about these killers.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11 (ESV)
Fear. Lust. Anger. Hatred. Suicide. Oppression. Hopelessness.
Spirit-filled Christians are not immune to overwhelming assaults of the enemy, but we should be victorious at the end of the battle. Sadly, in today’s dark world, even some of the most passionate Believers are experiencing defeat after defeat. Many would admit that they have been unable to break free from strategic, continual, tormenting and demonic oppression. They force a smile on their face for Sunday morning and let it fade away as they walk out the doors at the end of the service. Depression and despair have dug into their soul and refuse to let go. They pray in tongues and stand in faith with no effect at all. It seems that God has abandoned them. The truth about their situation, however, is quite different.
I had a significant dream last night. It's a call for Christians to awaken and to repent and break alliance with unholy things.
Standing in the corner was a terrifying form. It was watching, threatening, alive though death screamed through it’s countenance. This being was so grotesque and evil that no true Christian would ever consider for a moment that it had anything of worth to offer. Quite the opposite. The terror that accompanied this otherworldly entity would make anybody franticly run while crying out for God to save them. No, there was nothing alluring about this beast whatsoever, until…
In the dark, haunting room that both the demon and I were having our silent confrontation was a dog. It was a fairly large dog, very possibly a German Shepherd. It was peacefully resting, curled up on the floor. It looked up at me, and I wanted to move over and pet this new friend. I could tell he was gentle and playful and would make a great new addition to my family. It was a bit strange to be thinking along these lines with manifested evil standing just a few feet away, but strangely the thought of having a new, furry friend brought some comfort. This made the evil force in the room happy indeed.
The demon suddenly took on the form of a wispy spirit. What looked like a misty cloud flew around the room and then entered right into the dog. It knew it would never be received in its previous terrifying form. It had to become familiar, alluring, and convincing instead of repulsive.
The animal that was moments ago wagging its tail, almost smiling at me, as excited as I was to have a new friend, was possessed by horrifying evil. No longer an innocent pet, this hell hound arched its back, fiercely growled and exposed its razor sharp fangs, ready to devour me. I could smell the stench of darkness emanating from this demon possessed animal. Destruction was its assignment and death was sure.
As a Spirit-filled Christian, I was well versed in the truth that “no weapon formed against me shall prosper.” I understood that I have been given authority over the domain of darkness. In that moment, boldness rose up within and I lunged at the beast. I grabbed its upper jaw with one hand and the lower with the other, risking slicing my flesh on its teeth. Just like a lion tamer, I put my face right in its mouth. Just like a warrior in prayer, I started intensely and loudly praying in tongues, right down the throat of that dog.
The prayer had power, and it had effect. The animal settled down and I backed away.
No more than ten seconds later, evil manifested again as the dog arched its back, opened its jaws and prepared to attack.
Again, I aggressively ran toward the dog, grabbed its fangs, prayed in the Spirit and watched it again settle down.
This cycle repeated itself over and over again. It was exhausting. It was ineffective. True victory never came and momentary relief was brief.
My new family pet, furry, playful, innocent, was anything but. I wanted to enjoy my new friend, presuming I had enough spiritual strength to deal with the evil that came with it. I did not.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14 (ESV)
FINDING RADICAL FREEDOM
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
Do not be deceived. None of us are strong enough to resist the onslaught of a very evil, demented and deadly spirit if we entertain that spirit. Not only must it be cast out, it must be rejected in every form, in every area of our lives.
As I stated above, innumerable Spirit-filled Christians find themselves bound up, oppressed and without strength for a permanent deliverance in their lives. Yes, they are spiritually minded. They understand the power of prayer. They believe in the authority granted to them by Christ. They do their best to function as spiritual warriors, but at the end of the battle, they are beaten, desperate and hopeless. The enemy wins time and time again.
We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking that evil is less threatening just because it takes the form of something familiar.
Many are in a cycle of warfare with the enemy, attempting to function spiritually, appearing to be bold and fearless as they engage him. However, they can never win unless they completely cancel their agreement with evil.
Both the spirit and the dog must go. Both the enemy and whatever vehicle it’s using to entice us must be eradicated from our lives. Now.
I have heard pastors, leaders and seemingly solid Christians tell me that cussing and violence in movies doesn’t bother them. Occasional nudity doesn’t either. They refuse to watch sexual situations, however. That’s where they draw the line.
They wonder why they can’t live free from lust. They can’t imagine living a life with no unrighteous sexual images (which would be anybody real or imagined other than their spouse) dancing through their minds.
They are watching the movies, they are entertaining the dog. The enemy is manifesting through unrighteous forms of media, something that seems so common, so familiar, so innocent, playful, something that’s a part of American culture.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV)
Others continually wrestle with anger and hatred while playing violent video games. The spirit of hatred is nicely packaged along with the dog, the video game, a familiar part of most people’s lives.
The truth is clear. We cannot keep the dog and eliminate the spirit. We can’t watch nudity in media and stay free from lust. It’s more than cause and effect. The enemy chooses certain vehicles and methods to anoint as he works to facilitate his plan of destruction in our lives.
We need to cast the spirit completely out of our lives and never allow ourselves to be deceived into enjoying what they have to offer again.
Discernment must increase. Holiness must increase. The dog must go.
Only then will we find true freedom.
…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Ephesians 5:8-14 (ESV)
Barbara Yoder says this about The Coming Church by John Burton, “Read with care. This is the future.”
I had an encounter that left me shaken and shocked.
What I saw was clearly a picture of the church…clearly in my spirit, that is, because my intellect was confounded. It didn’t make sense.
In my encounter, the vision I saw was shocking and quite mysterious. I have had many visions of the Church, of reformation, but this one was markedly different. It sure didn’t look like a vision of the Church, but it immediately felt like one.
I was standing in an apocalyptic looking environment. It was dark and weighty. In front of me was an absolutely massive, burning crater. God immediately revealed to me that I was looking at the soon coming Church.
When man moves, it’s naturally familiar. When God moves, it’s SUPERNATURALLY SHOCKING.
~The Coming Church
ORDER THE COMING CHURCH TODAY! Choose either the 300+ page printed version or a PDF e-book that can be downloaded immediately!
Visit www.burton.tv now!
This book will rock your boat! John Burton isn’t an ordinary church leader. He is one of the emerging, cutting edge and at times raw (cuts to the chase) ministries who are changing the face of the church. Some will be upset with this book. Those lovers of God, radical revelatory types will jump up and down. John’s book will set them on fire. Read with care. This is the future.
Barbara J Yoder
Want to grow your church? Increase your success and influence in the community? Don’t read this book! John Burton isn’t going to give you the latest Church growth strategies or messages that will make your life easier. This book is a clarion call to the Church to quit selling her birthright and to accomplish all God has for her.
Anyone can criticize the church, John tears down while building up and calling forth the Coming Glorious Church!
The Coming Church is a must read for every Christian. This is a timely word and challenge to seriously get aligned with the Kingdom for such a time as this. It will ignite an urgency and fire in any reader who is willing to wrestle and respond.
The spirit of God has rested upon John Burton; the Lord has placed fire in his hands. That translates in the intercession-driven ministry that pours out of him.
The power & revelation the Lord has released into John Burton is a breath of fresh air. It is so fresh that I have not seen the uniqueness he bears elsewhere.
This book carries fire on every page. That fire leaps out bringing awakening to the deep places within you as the Holy Spirit moves through the revelation of the coming church and our part in it. There’s no denying it, and there’s no hiding it as the revelatory words are laid out on the table. This book screams ‘Ready or not, here I (the church) come!’ Are we ready to receive the revelation? Better yet, are we willing to receive it?
Forward: Brian Simmons
One: The Encounter
Two: Celestial Elements
Three: A Troubling Shift
Four: Fierce Religious Resistance
Five: Their Freedom Is Your Mission
Six: The Great Love Deception
Seven: Hell, Holiness and the Fear of Man
Eight: A Civil War In The Church
Nine: A Call for Reformation
Ten: Carry Like Mary
Eleven: The Salvation Equation
Twelve: Regional Impact
Thirteen: The Scattering Movement
Fourteen: False Human Rights
Fifteen: The Spirit of Abortion
Sixteen: A Remnant Movement
Seventeen: Wake Up! Strengthen What Remains!
Conclusion: A Joshua Company
John Burton is available to minister in your church or at your conference or event. John has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he has planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and a school of ministry.
John Burton has a long history of planting churches, pastoring, authorship and much more. However, knowing him personally, all of his credentials are outweighed by his passion for revival and the supernatural fire of God. I have no doubt that he has and would lay down everything for that cause. His radical faith mixed with undying pursuit has led him to encounter the Lord in miraculous ways including dreams, visions and fresh revelation. The bottom line is, John Burton has a message that the body of Christ needs to hear.
Dr. Andy Sanders
5 Fold Media
John Burton is a man with unquenchable passion for God. His life is a living Epistle of the truth that the Kingdom of God is not just in word, but in power. He lights fires wherever he goes leaving behind the unmistakable fragrance of the life of Christ. I highly recommend his ministry to you.
President of Awake Nations
OH MY WORD!! Talk about an on time message from John Burton last night @ God Invasion!! I can truly say it was so refreshing to hear & experience!! Haven't heard this caliber of teaching in over 30 years! He is a TRUE revivalist & while we think REVIVAL is one thing, it's soooo much more!! Get ready folks for GOD'S version of Revival!! It's gonna rock your world!!
Cindy Hicks Nobles
John carries a real passion and anointing for revival, breakthrough and transformation. He carries and releases the tangible fire of God and brings people into encounters with God's presence. He is a strong equipper in the areas of prayer and evangelism and mobilizes people to carry God's word and presence outside the four walls of the church building. John is also a great preacher of the word. He has had many years of ministry experience both as a pastor and evangelist. His understanding of local church ministry makes his ministry well rounded and unique. He pastors, oversees a school of ministry and travels releasing the fire of God and igniting hearts with a passion for Jesus. I believe he would be a great blessing to your church.
John Burton is a man who has continued to allow himself to be thrust into the middle of what God is doing. He not only hears from Heaven, but is willing to boldly shout it from the rooftops. If John is stirred about something, I would recommend that you listen.
World Revival Network of Ministries
I’m thankful for men like John Burton who hear a sound coming out of heaven, a trumpet sound, calling this generation to something more than good meetings and life as usual. We need men and women who are more than echoes of the past, but voices who prophesy what is to come. I believe those men and women are being prepared to arise and take their place in human history.
Dr. Brian Simmons
The Passion Translation
Visit www.burton.tv now to order The Coming Church or one of John’s other powerful books!
Amy and I want to THANK YOU for contending with us for revival in the nations!
Your gift enables us to continue impacting the world with messages of freedom, revival, prayer and advance!
You can give online now and receive a 2016 tax deduction.
If you wish to mail your gift, please ensure it is postmarked by December 31, 2016.
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With your partnership we can see even greater things happen in 2017!
2016 has the potential of rescuing many precious people!
Passion for transformed lives and true impact in the nations is launching us into a brand new year. The faithful generosity of people like you has made it possible for people all over the world to be set ablaze with love for Jesus!
This next year provides opportunities for innumerable people to encounter God and his radical love and his life-shaking message of revolution. My heart burns for those who have yet to come alive in Jesus!
I would like to invite you to become a part of this passionate pursuit by giving a tax-deductible year-end gift.
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We are excited about what 2016 will bring and we want to thank YOU for helping make it all possible!
John and Amy Burton
Carriers of Fire International