How could the NFL's decision to play the Black National Anthem at games promote unity?

For many Americans and die-hard sports fans, outrage to the NFL's decision to include the Black National Anthem in the pregame ceremonies during week one of the season was immediate.

Ted Cruz was among the outraged, calling the decision ‘asinine.'

“How many national anthems do we have??

“Is there an Hispanic national anthem?

“An Asian-American national anthem?

“This is asinine. We are ONE America. E Pluribus Unum,” he wrote.

He isn't wrong.

In fact, if we are going to slice and dice our nation into its various subcultures at sporting events, I propose another anthem might make more sense. A song for the millions of slaughtered unborn children should resound in stadiums all over the nation. Or, how about songs of justice for abused children and spouses? Victims of human trafficking?

After we finish singing songs to, for and about all of the maligned people groups, and handily created sharp division between them all, many hours later we could finally play some football.

THE DEEP GRIEF OF RACISM

It should be terribly grieving to every American, and certainly to every Christian, when any person is the target of hatred. My family and I live in Branson, Missouri, a stunningly beautiful tourist destination that's filled to overflowing with people of great character, faith, love and old-fashioned morals. Out of any place in the nation we could have chosen to live, we chose Branson, and we'd do it all over again. This is home.

I was saddened recently when a small, peaceful protest produced hate speech from one impassioned lady. Her disgusting message has since been blasted over media all around the world. This lady doesn't represent the legacy and culture of this supremely family town. Yet, her squeaky wheel received the attention. She wounded our town. She misrepresented Branson and the amazing pillars of our community. To her credit she did later apologize, but the damage has been done.

The point? The feelings, beliefs and actions of one person, or a subset of people, do not, by default, represent the whole. What we have in our nation today is barrels full of grease being shot super-soaker style toward those with the loudest voices. This is no way to defeat racism, division, hatred, inequality or any number of other negatives.

MANIPULATION AND CONTROL

Protests, when peaceful, can be fully appropriate. The problem comes when people start carrying a spirit of protest. (Read more about this in my article An Unholy Spirit of Protest is Overtaking our Nation)

This spirit of protest is overtaking our nation, manifesting in a diabolical cancel culture that seeks to defame, defund and destroy anybody who doesn't affirm that agenda.

The problem is, while people can certainly attack and assault those who don't step in line with their viewpoints, they can't change their hearts.

Manipulating people into buying into agendas and attempting to control the narrative will never produce good fruit. I've heard it said that the horrible killing of George Floyd was initially resulting in at least a measure of solidarity and empathy between the races. Then the riots hit. People aggressively attempted to force the nation to grease their wheels. The result? Greater hatred, division and years of progress toward racial reconciliation lost.

Just as a Christian can't force an unbeliever to understand the love and power of Jesus, we can't force or manipulate others to buy in at a heart level to what is important to us. It's impossible.

SHOULD WE TAKE A KNEE DURING THE BLACK NATIONAL ANTHEM? METAPHORICALLY, YES

This is where the twist in the article comes. I agree with Ted Cruz that playing the Black National Anthem may very well end up creating more division. It's possibly presumptive as it grabs attention away from other worthy societal ills. Many Americans are very probably going to become more stubborn in their positions as a result.

However, I'd like to propose something that many seem to be missing. The Black National Anthem is, at least in part, a cry, a prayer to God. It's a heart-wrenching plea for the Almighty to guide them and for them to stay true.

First, a little history on the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:

Created by James Weldon Johnson, it was performed for the first time by 500 school children in celebration of President Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 in Jacksonville, FL. The poem was set to music by Johnson's brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song.

And now, the lyrics from the end of the song:

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

It's a prayer.

So, while on a political and cultural level, the playing of this Anthem may prove to be a colossal misstep, I believe we all can embrace the cry to God that will be sung by millions during week one of the 2020 NFL season.

Should we take a knee when the Black National Anthem is sung? I don't believe so. We should stand with the wounded Black community. By doing so we are, in effect, kneeling in prayer for them, for us and for our nation.

Originally published by The Stream.

When crisis comes, the church must respond with a fiery resolve to fan the flames of revival.

Revival or riots? It's clear which one is taking the nation by storm right now.

It's been said that wherever Paul went he'd kick-start either a revival or a riot. The sharp edge of the message he was bringing resulted in people either surrendering all to follow Jesus or in a mass resistance.

5  But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6  Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. Acts 17:5-6 (NLT2)

When the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached we can expect either revival or riots. However, the riots that are erupting in cities all over the nation as a result of the horrific and inexcusable death of George Floyd has nothing to do with a powerful message of truth. Love expressed through the truth of the Word will result in a rioting mob, but so will hate. Today's riots have everything to do with hate and nothing to do with love. All of this is happening on the church's watch.

RIOTING IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNHEARD

Pastor Eric Smith of Destiny Church in Dayton, Ohio saw a protester holding a sign that repeated the words of Martin Luther King: Riots are the language of the unheard.

Eric simply and profoundly said, “Time to get a new language.”

It's important to note that Dr. King was a fierce resistor of violent protest. His analytical statement, however, was true. When people are not heard, when they are pushed to their limits, it's possible to break. An uprising is to be expected. However, Pastor Eric was correct. If riots are the language of the unheard, it absolutely is time to get a new language.

WICKED SPIRITS OVERTAKING OUR NATION

Part of my grief over the death and violence that has erupted is due to a loss of discernment in our nation. I believe there's a mighty spirit of confusion that's settling over America right now.

Coronavirus exposed a severe spirit of fear that absolutely devastated millions, whether they were infected by the virus or not. Mobs verbally assaulted those who didn't wear a mask while shopping. Stop and think about just how fierce that demonic spirit of fear is.

Then a spirit of rage and, for many, hatred exploded overnight after another heart-wrenching and tragic death of an African-American at the hands of a police officer. A call to “kill cops” is being sounded by some in the midst of this crisis. As you watch the news and witness fires burning all over the nation, you can understand the power of this particular spirit of rage and hate as well.

Another spirit preceded our recent testings, and it's gaining strength today. America has been seduced by a strong delusion. Strange confusion has overtaken our culture.

Just a week ago, protesters marching against the lockdowns due to COVID-19 were called murderers by some because they weren't social distancing or wearing masks. Fast forward several days and a new set of protests emerged in the land for a very different reason. Where are the calls for social distancing and masks as peaceful protesters marched and as rioters converged in mass to destroy businesses and attack people including business owners and police officers?

Add to this the gender confusion that's been in the news in recent years. Men are women and women are men, so it seems, and you can be legally responsible if you don't address these people by their chosen gender. It's absolutely bizarre.

I could write into the night with example after example of strange confusion and delusion that has spread through society. Suffice it to say it's clear that a very wicked and very strong demonic agenda has been unleashed against our nation. Fear, rage, hate and delusion have blanketed the land and it's time for the church to finally rise up.

A NEW LANGUAGE

Some of you will be frustrated with my prescription in the midst of the virus and riots and madness. Most, it seems, are looking for governmental resolutions, legislation and penalties for those who don't comply. While appropriate new laws can certainly help, the truth is that we can never legislate away the assaults of invisible and very crafty evil spirits. Satan rages and he won't submit to man's laws. You can't create a law that eliminates hatred. You can't create systems that alleviate fear. Why? These are spirits warring against us and the only way to fight back is in the invisible, spiritual realm.

The grief that grips me is that most are looking for logical and natural solutions to a spiritual problem. While we can certainly take some steps in the natural, our victory won't be found there.

The new language that Pastor Eric was referring to, if I might suppose just a bit, centers around repentance instead of riots, love instead of hatred and spiritual violence instead of natural rage.

Simply, we must pursue full-blown, supernatural and overwhelming revival as our primary resolution. The new language, at its root, is passionate, aggressive and vein-popping intercession. We as God's government on the earth must rise up and pray!

This is the force the spirit of the age must feel coming against it in these end times. As we live a life of soul-ripping repentance and contend for revival in the land, we will be consumed with the desire for prayer. The need will overwhelm us. Tears will flow down our cheeks as we stand in the gap as spiritual warriors and push the enemy back.

It makes little sense to attempt to seek peace in the midst of war when the enemy hasn't yet been defeated. The enemy isn't a virus or blacks or whites or Asians or the police or politicians. To think so is laughable. The destruction of the adversary, of Satan's hordes, is the solitary key to winning this battle and driving out spirits of fear, rage, hatred and confusion.

It's the love of Jesus that will cause us to fight like this. From that place of intercession and spiritual warfare we will discern the enemies that those who are not living in the spirit can't see. We are God's secret agents and revival is our cry.

Imagine the cities that are burning today transformed by the fire of the Holy Spirit! We need millions to fall desperately in love with Jesus! The harvest is ripe! They are waiting for an otherworldly message that will shock them to their core and drive them to their knees!

Only then will we have the revival and riots that Paul experienced. As for the riots we are seeing today, they are the cry of the unheard. Yes, we must all listen to them, hear their pain and cry with them. I also pray their cry turns to intercession instead of violence. That's the language that Pastor Eric was really talking about.

It's time for a humble yet unapologetic and holy army to stand opposed to the unrighteous restrictions of human government.

Many politicians, police officers, judges and officials would be shocked to hear that the American government isn't the supreme authority in the nation. In fact, they would scoff at the higher ranking government they must yield to: the church.

God's government is based on the Word of God, is legislated through the church and is positioned higher than any other government, court room or human establishment on earth. Simply, if a human order, law or mandate violates orders, laws or mandates found in Scripture, the Bible wins. God reigns supreme.

When there is no conflict between man-made and spiritual ordinances, it's right and expected to obey the laws of the land. Doing so helps establish integrity and promote humility as we intermix with the world. However, there comes a point when civil disobedience is not only suggested but required if we are to respond obediently to the Lord, the highest power, the greatest governmental leader the world will ever know.

LOCKDOWN: A VIOLATION OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

12 Then they came near and said before the king, concerning the injunction, “O king! Did you not sign an injunction, that anyone who makes petition to any god or man within thirty days except to you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing stands fast, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be revoked.” Daniel 6:12 (ESV)

A 30-day lockdown was enacted in the kingdom and religious freedom was forbidden. Petitions and permissions could only be received from the lawmaker, the king. Daniel understood this was unquestionably the time for civil disobedience, and he also understood the consequences. His thrice daily prayer continued.

Daniel famously was instrumental in the establishment of this tyrannical government when he interpreted the handwriting on the wall for the previous ruler, King Belshazzar.

23 …And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored. Daniel 5:23 (ESV)

Daniel rebuked the king for dishonoring God, just as his father had. Where are the prophetic leaders today who are confronting today's governmental officials in the same manner? It's time for God's people to arise and to renounce the wickedness that's poisoning our nation and attempting to neuter the church.

Daniel went on to interpret King Belshazzar's supernatural encounter by revealing an end to the kingdom. It would be divided and given to the Medes and Persians. That very night the king was killed and the kingdom was given over as prophesied. Now, Daniel had to deal with the new ruler who was forbidding his intercession.

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

Members of an armed Michigan militia say they will stand at the door of a barbershop in Owosso to protect the owner from being arrested for allegedly violating the state's lockdown order.

“We are here to make sure he doesn't get arrested,” Daniel Brewer, a member of the militia, told local media on Saturday. “We're willing to stand in front of that door and block the entrance so the police will have no entry there today.” ~Washington Examiner

Once again the secular world is responding more courageously and speedily than so many in the church when liberties are threatened. While many Christians have been exposed as having dimmed and dulled discernment as they have surrendered their religious rights for the promise of health and safety, we see bold if not brash patriots standing in solidarity with a 77-year-old man who was simply trying to earn a living. Where are those who will stand up for the church? We are closer to going underground then any of us realize, and it because of a cowardly people who refuse to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure religious freedom remains.

I want to make it very clear: church leaders have every right to choose to forgo services, prayer meetings and other events if they deem it necessary based on their own unique situation. What is not allowed is a lower ranking government attempting to trump the greater authority, the Word of God. Mayors and governors have no right to mandate a ceasing or limiting of prayer meetings and other church gatherings. Many are arrogantly demanding the church petitions only them. The idea that Scripture has any authority in today's crisis is laughable to them. They have determined nobody else would dictate how the church should function. Not Christians, not pastors, not the Bible, not even God.

The truth is, the church isn't the only organization that outranks the United States government. The Constitution of the United States outranks local, state and federal governmental authority (when they attempt to establish rulings that contradict that document), and the Constitution is clearly on the side of religious liberty. The case for civil disobedience can be made.

The resistance should be done in an honoring, humble and appropriate manner, and shouldn't be fueled by anger or malice. As Believers in Jesus Christ, we must be driven by a resolve to honor God in the midst of unrighteous demands of society.

27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. Acts 5:27-29 (ESV)

GET READY FOR THE LIONS

We all must be prepared to face the repercussions of our actions. The government will do what it wills in the face of resistance. We've already seen both threats and action brought by ungodly mayors, governors and political leaders including filling skate parks with sand, arresting pastors, placing moms in handcuffs for taking their children to the playground, requiring churches and businesses to report the names of patrons and ticketing church goers at a drive in service. If we don't do something, it will get worse. Much, much worse.

16 Then the king commanded, and Daniel was brought and cast into the den of lions. The king declared to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, deliver you!” Daniel 6:16 (ESV)

There will be a national taunting of Christians, and we as Believers must be ready both to face the lions and to stand in great faith as our God brings the accusers to shame.

NATIONAL REVIVAL

19 Then, at break of day, the king arose and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 As he came near to the den where Daniel was, he cried out in a tone of anguish. The king declared to Daniel, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, because I was found blameless before him; and also before you, O king, I have done no harm.” Daniel 6:19-22 (ESV)

A blameless people will reveal God's miraculous saving power to a stunned nation. As we refuse to stop praying, respond to worldly authorities with integrity and honor and remain willing to pay whatever price necessary to obey God rather than man, God will move in undeniable and miraculous power. America will have no option but to take notice, and the very government officials that brought the angst to God's people will be instrumental in a sudden outbreak of revival in the nation. The process may be severe, and we must be ready to face lions, giants and the hordes of hell, but the resulting outpouring of God will make it all very much worth it.

25 Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: “Peace be multiplied to you. 26 I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. 27 He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions.” 28 So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:25-28 (ESV)

Originally published by The Stream.

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

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

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

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

THE CHURCH ISN'T READY

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

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

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

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

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

TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND

INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYER

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

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

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

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

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

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEAR

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

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

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

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

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

DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTURE

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

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

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

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

GROW IN POWERFUL FAITH

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

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

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

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

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

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

GO DEEP IN THE WORD

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

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

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

12  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)

DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SIN

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

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

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

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

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

TEACH ON THE END-TIMES

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

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

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

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

EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLES

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

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

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

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

KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUS

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

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

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

PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUND

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRST

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

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

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

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

SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS IS A TEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE SUN AND THE RAIN

Let's read the verse in context.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO STAND

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

We command the enemy to back down!

We move the mountains!

We heal the sick!

We decree and declare the Word of God!

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

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

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

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

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

WHY DOES TROUBLE COME?

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

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

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

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

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

No. 5, 1948.jpg

Jackson Pollock, No. 5 , 1948, Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eternity

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

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

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

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

Born in Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prosperity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN EMBARRASSING RESPONSE

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

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

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

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

Dr. Drew Pinsky was quoted by FOX News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE ARE THE FAITH-FILLED WARRIORS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LOST ARE NOT SAFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on The Stream.

The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.

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

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

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

THE PURPOSE OF CHURCH SERVICES

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

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

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

A worship lyric by Brian Ming sums it up best:

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

17  And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18  And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Mark 11:17-18 (ESV)

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

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

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

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION

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

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

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

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

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

DUELING PUPPET MASTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on The Stream.

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.