A massive falling away from the faith will be a mark of churches devoid of supernatural power.
It's time for a dramatic shift from seeker-sensitive churches to remnant-sensitive churches in our nation. There is an army of supernaturally-minded followers of Jesus looking for their tribe, and there are few churches that pass the test.
All that is natual or done in human power isn't bad by default. Mankind whether Christian or not can do much good simply by, well, doing good. We can feed the hungry, serve sacrificially, give extravagantly, smile, hug, encourage, befriend and do much good for mankind.
In the church realm we can pray for the sick, visit shut-ins, teach the Bible, pass out Gospel tracts, attend small groups and much more that doesn't necessarily require the power of God to accomplish. Of course, when we add God's power to any of the above, the impact is dramatically different.
NATURALLY DRIVEN CHURCHES ABOUND
When church-shopping, if people were honest, they would commonly admit they are looking for a variety of things. Topping the lists of many in search of a new church home are good children's and youth ministries, dynamic and skillful worship, excellent teaching, the ability to develop new relationships and a welcoming environment.
In fact, church growth strategies tend to be natural versus supernatural as they focus on how we can meet the demands of the customers (current and potential church members). An article on the Smart Church Management website titled 7 Keys to Church Growth zeroes in on what is humanly achievable. Again, all that is humanly possible isn't unbiblical or inappropriate. Natural methods, secular strategies and ideals found in the business world can, at times, be applied in the spiritual world.
Some of the keys to church growth mentioned in the article include creating an inviting atmosphere, creating a welcoming experience, care for church members and providing opportunities to serve. There's not a thing wrong with any of this, except that what matters most wasn't mentioned. Nurturing the supernatural manifestation of the presence of God didn't make the list.
Naturally driven churches abound from coast to coast in this nation. You'll hear a lot about great coffee, vibrant community and programs for the entire family. In fact, many err on the side of caution by downplaying the supernatural. The risk of alienating visitors or conservative members is too high to allow it. Tragically, the risk of alienating God isn't often considered.
CRISIS WILL OVERWHELM THE NATURALLY MINDED
You'll know a supernatural church when crisis hits. Supernaturally driven Believers will respond radically differently to crisis than those who aren't living, walking, praying and governing in the spirit. Without developing a history in God that's marked by fervent intercession, intense devotion, great faith and openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit, people will default to what makes sense in the natural realm.
Without a supernatural mindset, it will be impossible to respond to crisis as God intends. Natural strategies won't work. Panic will set in. Fear will dominate.
This will be followed up by lost faith and angry fists raised to heaven. A failure to live in the otherworldly, supernatural place of signs, wonders and miracles will result in a devastating lack of spiritual tools in people's toolbelts when they are most needed.
The church's failure to equip people in the Holy Spirit is more eternally costly than we can imagine. Satan is raging and there is no natural response that will slow him down. A powerless church births powerless Christians who are primed to be easily devoured by the hounds of hell.
THE DEMISE OF THE SEEKER-SENSITIVE CHURCH
If we put on our marketing hats, it makes sense to target the largest segment of society. Coke, Nike, Disney and other companies want their products or services enjoyed by as many people as possible. Pastors want people in the seats. The quickest way to make that happen, one would presume, is to target the largest segment of those who are most prone to visit. Seekers are everywhere and some will show up on Sunday morning if the services are welcoming, comfortable and definitely not weird. Eliminate the supernatural and they may come.
This strategy must end. The end-time church is a church on fire, not a comfortable living room where we can put up our feet, eat some snacks and watch the show. The Holy Spirit isn't drawing seekers into a tepid environment. He's not looking to ease people into a new life in Christ. God is calling all to the cross, to full surrender and right into the furnace of his presence.
When seekers are introduced to God in a way that's naturally understandable, the dive into the often bizarre, intense, all-consuming activity of the Holy Spirit is nonsensical to them. Such an experience becomes unnecessary if they, after all, have alread “said yes” to Jesus in a costless, comfortable environment.
Hearing God's voice, dreams, visions, encounters, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, casting out demons, moving in the gifts of the Spirit and so much more becomes unnecessary to those who “got saved” in a comfortable, non-threatening, naturally-driven church.
CHURCH ON FIRE ARISE!
The end-time church is a remnant church. It's time we stop appealing to the general population to build kingdoms of man and start calling in those who are ready to make a total surrender and advance the Kingdom of God. The remnant firebrands are desperately looking for their home base. They want to find their fellow soldiers who are ready to move ahead with precision against the wickedness in our nation.
They aren't looking for churches with trendy youth ministries, the best coffee shops or even great worship or teaching. The remnant is looking for the fire of the Holy Spirit. They want to know if intercession drives the ministry. A specific, world-changing, divine vision is crucial. The pursuit of the wonders of God is paramount. An extremely prophetic atmosphere is non-negotiable. Great faith and extreme devotion to the Word of God are critical. These end-time warriors refuse to play games and they won't stand for lesser things getting in the way of the greater mission. Coffee, friendships and programs become laughable as foundations to build on.
The time is now for a massive reset to come to the church. We have Ichabod churches dotting our nation and many others that do have a heartbeat yet refuse to dive into the depths of the fire. We need an Acts 2 church that is volcanic, supernatural and radiating in immeasurable power.
How does this happen? Become remnant-sensitive. Gather in those who are ready to lay it all down and contend with tears for God to move. Pastors must shift dramatically and refuse, ever again, to make decisions based on how the people will respond. The idolatry of filled pews must be repented of. The fear of offending the tithers must cease. The focus on keeping everybody happy can't continue.
We need the supernatural church to arise in these dire end-times. Without a prophetic mantle and the ability to advance in extreme Holy Spirit power, we have no hope. However, if we start training people in the fire and advance as a burning end-time army, kingdoms of darkness will shatter. And finally, we won't have to function as time-share salespeople, giving gifts and promising all sorts of benefits to those mildly interested in God if they sign on the dotted line. The seekers will witness undeniable supernatural power and the Holy Spirit will overwhelm them as they hit their knees and cry, “Holy!”
Originally published by Charisma Media.
Six years away from full-time ministry has provided me time for evaluation.
ONE: The vision
THREE. The team
FOUR. The miraculous
FIVE. False expectations
SIX. Failure to address culture
SEVEN. A godless world
EIGHT. Strange Christians
NINE. Marketplace ministry
TEN. An exciting future
Many are getting vaccinated in secret because of the shame associated with it in their circles.
The Covid-19 vaccine has become so polarizing that some people in Missouri are getting inoculated in secret for fear of backlash from their friends and family who oppose vaccination, a doctor told CNN on Wednesday.
I've personally heard of this happening, so I don't believe it's obscure and I don't believe it's limited to Missouri.
Vax shame is alive and well throughout our nation and it is attached both to vaxers and anti-vaxers. This is an equal opportunity offense that is creating some of the most ridiculous and foolish division our nation has ever seen.
Controversial NBA legend Charles Barkley chimed in on the vaccine debate by saying, ““Yes, I’m vaccinated. Everybody should be vaccinated. Period,” Barkley said. “The only people who are not vaccinated are just [expletive].”
The shame is as intense for those who get the shot as for those who do not. No wonder people are going incognito through secret entrances during off-hours at their local doctor's office to get the vaccine.
CHRISTIANS MAY BE AMONG THE WORST OFFENDERS
It seems love, honor and civility have long been abandoned in this era of plagues and politics. The ability to share strong opinions while valuing other's positions seems to be rare today.
While I have an opinion on the matter (though I admit there are unknowns, I believe COVID could be neutralized in a matter of weeks if one hundred percent of Americans were vaccinated), my primary focus right now is the shame that is rampant among Believers.
Earlier today I posted the following to Facebook:
More than one has argued that getting vaccinated is sorcery. When asked if they personally refuse all medicine or if they would counsel cancer patients to refuse medical treatment, they didn't have an answer.
Others have questioned people's faith in God if they use medicine. Many are fully rejecting the statistics of those who have died or been hospitalized because of the virus. They are firmly suggesting it's all a hoax.
I've been called a liar for sharing the reasons for my position. I've been chastised for spreading fear. My faith has been called into question.
When I wasn't being personally shamed, I was entertaining common but bizarre conspiracy theories about the virus being a tool of manipulation, the injection equating to the Mark of the Beast and the vaccine killing more people than the disease.
Christians especially are turning to rogue news sources, doctors and others in their echo chamber that will report exactly what they want to hear. The tin hat crowd has gone mainstream.
Firsthand medical worker accounts like the following from Branson Tri Lakes News are rejected as fake:
“We’re the ones who see that look of fear in their eyes as they’re trying to breathe and know they’re going to have to go on a ventilator. They’re struggling with the bi-pap and they look at us so helpless and scared and desperate. It is like a prison for all of us, I think.”
The latest data about hospitalizations is being denounced by the religious right as propaganda.
Dr. Frank Courmier, a pulmonary critical care physician at Our Lady of Lourdes, tells KATC 99 percent of the new cases at the hospital come from people who have not received the COVID-19 vaccine.
Malcolm and Kris Ehresmann, the director of infectious disease prevention for the Minnesota Department of Health, say more than 99 percent of new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths are people who are not vaccinated.
In Texas, 99.5% of people who died from COVID from February through July 14 weren't vaccinated, per the Texas Tribune's reporting on preliminary data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
In southern Missouri, an area that leads the nation as a delta variant hot spot, “almost every COVID-19 patient in Springfield's hospitals is unvaccinated,” the Atlantic reported.
“Over 99% of the COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths we are seeing (in LA County) are among unvaccinated individuals,” county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement Monday.
Apparently this is all propaganda and we should shame all who believe it.
WEAR A MASK, GET EXCOMMUNICATED
The shame doesn't end with the vaccine. Masks are back in the news and one pastor seems to be capitalizing on that fact.
MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) — The pastor of a Mt. Juliet church has threatened to kick out members of his congregation if they show up in masks amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the delta variant.
During service on Sunday at Global Vision Bible Church, Pastor Greg Locke told the crowd, “Don’t believe this delta variant nonsense. Stop it! Stop it!”
Locke said, “If they go through round two and you start showing up all these masks and all this nonsense, I’ll ask you to leave. I will ask you to leave. I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church. If you want to social distance, go to First Baptist Church, but don’t come to this one.”
This is not Christianity. This is not pastoral leadership. This is madness.
I fully support people's right to make their health decisions without coercion. While I believe we must be free to evangelize our values in an honoring, healthy manner, I reject the idea that any of us should be forced to get (or not get) the vaccine. To shame people who want to wear a mask to church is insane.
It's not that I don't understand the passion to rise up against any sort of propaganda, inappropriate government control or false narratives. It's that too many have done so in rebellious, arrogant fashion that brings shame to the name of Christ.
THE OTHER SIDE IS NO BETTER
While my primary viewpoint is Christian society, it's important to note that the aggression from the other side is just as strong. The shame vomited all over those who choose not to get vaccinated is despicable.
We need to be able to share strong opinions without shaming. Oh, and we should also be allowed to wear a mask at church and, if we so choose, go to our doctors without donning a fake mustache and glasses.
Photo credit: ““Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” Margaret Atwood” by katerha is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Originally published by Charisma Media.
It's time we grasp how deeply wickedness has infiltrated our nation.
I'm a revivalist, and I'm a realist. Like many, I'm contending for an overwhelming outpouring of God's spirit in our nation. Unlike many, I don't believe it's near. The combination of the lack of fiery passion of Believers and the level of debauchery both in the church and in the world is all I need to arrive at that conclusion.
The truth is our nation is both blind and numb to a truth that most would reject regardless of their desensitized condition. As offensive as it sounds we must admit that demonization has overwhelmed the United States of America. Those that live in their sanctified, puritanical, Christian bubble might scoff at the suggestion that the prince and the power of the air is the predominate force in the land.
I'm not talking about your stereotypical hissing and vomiting at the altars of some third-world style deliverance church, though that is certainly a manifestation of what I'm referring to. The surrender to, no, the eager embrace of the evil one and his minions over the last few decades has set up this country for Sodom and Gomorrah level judgment.
LET'S START WITH THE CHURCH
Barna Group and Covenant Eyes reveal some striking results from a research project:
68% of church-going men and over 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis. Of young Christian adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for porn.
Only 13% of self identified Christian women say they never watch porn – 87% of Christian women have watched porn.
57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging issue in their congregation.
Another study, this time by Pew Research, reveals most Christians say sex between unmarried consenting adults in a committed relationship is sometimes or always acceptable, and about half say casual sex is sometimes or always OK.
In fact, 57% of Christians believe sex in a committed relationship either is or sometimes is acceptable. Half believe casual sex either is or may be okay.
Today it seems Christians who refuse to allow themselves to be entertained by media with foul language, nudity, sexual situations or coarse joking are the outcasts of the church. The consecrated remnant is truly the minority. In fact, they have become quite rare. Instead of contending for a move of the Holy Spirit (note his title, “Holy”) many of today's professing Christians are barely a shade lighter than a world gleefully stained by sin.
Another report, this one eighteen years old, reveals born again Christians believe the following to be “morally acceptable” behavior:
- Having an abortion (33%)
- Gambling (45%)
- Enjoying sexual thoughts or fantasies (45%)
- Using profanity (29%)
We can only presume the condition of the church has degraded since this study came out in 2003. And many believe revival to be near? Forget the seven deadly sins, the church has become infested by innumerable vices that would make Legion proud.
IS AMERICA A GODLESS NATION?
Almost. Again, if we don't peek our head out from the safety of our sanitized religious seclusion, we'll never understand how demonized our nation has become.
The darkness has reached a level that's hard to fathom. It's so deeply sad and grieving. Americans are intoxicated on pleasure, power and greed.
I believe America is at a great disadvantage to nations like Haiti, for example, due to our cultural denial of anything supernatural. We are a common sense, science-minded people who walk by sight and not by faith. The idea that people could somehow be controlled, manipulated and modified by an invisible, evil spirit is laughable to most. In Haiti nobody is laughing.
A Haitian pastor shared with me that evil spirits visit women, even Christian women, in his nation on a very specific schedule to have sexual encounters with them. The entities require the husband to sleep in a separate room on certain nights of the week so they could be alone with his wife. Pure terror results in obedience to the spirit's commands.
This sounds like nothing more than a Hollywood horror script to most Americans. Our nation's denial of the supernatural in favor of intellect and logic has allowed a Trojan horse into our culture, filled with all sorts of wickedness.
We are witnessing demonization in every sphere whether it's politics, movies and media, music just to name a few. I believe a strong delusion has descended on America.
Watch the liberal left, listen to the Hollywood elite. Nonsensical madness is being spewed from their lips. I remember when sex, drugs and rock and roll were identified not by the church but by a more moral American culture than we have now as wicked. Today? You don't have to look to secular society. Pastors and preachers are filling their ears with the devil's music, watching impure movies and television, enjoying sexual lust and living worldly lives all while preaching God's Holy Word on Sundays. And we believe revival is just about here? Now that's madness.
WE NEED REVIVAL
Revival is not almost here. Shockingly, some preachers actually report it's already upon us. If this is revival, I don't want it. Take me home, Jesus.
The only hope for our nation rests with the church. If we as God's people don't rend our hearts and repent with tears and groans, it's all over. If we do repent, however, if we do cry out to God for mercy, if we do renounce every evil deed, thought and motive in our lives, maybe, just maybe, God will hit our nation with his holy fire.
We must embrace supernatural reality. The enemy is real and he's ferocious. Satan is raging and is in control of many. The Holy Spirit is an invisible wind and fire. We need him to manifest in power without delay.
Our nation is in very real trouble. Revival is our only hope. Repentance is our first step. We need to act fast. Hell is expanding and filling with millions of people God loves so tremendously. If we do pray and turn from our evil ways and seek God's face we can slow the flow to hell and see the immeasurable evil overtaking our nation take a hit.
Will the darkness ever be fully eradicated? No. In fact, it will grow darker. This is why we must live in such a way that the light of Jesus burns through us. When the power of God is made manifest, some will turn, and those are very precious souls indeed.
Photo credit: “The sun is shining brightly in the morning sky, through our American Flag.” by Beverly & Pack is licensed under CC BY 2.0
In this end-time hour, Christians are distracted by everything from politics, masks, American freedom, building ministries and seeking all sorts of pleasures.
“Leave it there, I'll finish it later.”
Standing in the gas chamber at the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri, I overheard our guide's story of the last moments of a prisoner's life.
The air-tight capsule took the lives of forty people between the years of 1937 and 1989. The Warden would pull a lever initiating the process that combined sodium cyanide and sulfuric acid. The resulting gas would painfully and all-too-slowly end a human life.
A few short feet from the cramped gas chamber was a cell. This is where death row inmates spent their last few hours before being secured with leather straps to the last chair they would ever sit in. The cell was also the place their last meal was eaten.
As the story goes, after eating a portion of his meal, the unnamed prisoner was escorted from his cell toward the gas chamber. A guard took the unfinished meal to throw it away, which caused the concerned prisoner to say, “Leave it there, I'll finish it later.”
He wasn't joking. He didn't fully grasp what was about to happen. Eternity was not on his mind.
There was no need to save the food. He would not be finishing it later.
I propose the whole of America, and the bulk of the church isn't grasping what is about to happen either. Eternity is not on the mind of most.
DISTRACTED IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING
I received a text message several years ago that launched me into one of the most bizarre, sad and thankful moments of my life. The message contained condolences from a pastor in Branson, Missouri. My dad died. I immediately called my mom and she confirmed the unexpected news. My head was spinning as I immediately started mentally preparing for a sudden trip from Detroit to Branson. Suddenly the phone call with my mom dropped as another call was coming in. It was from my dad.
Dazed and confused, I answered the phone. My dad was alive. I asked him, “What in the world is going on?” His voice was weak as he explained that news of his death was premature. My mom was bedridden and was not able to be with my dad in the hospital. She heard incorrectly and shared the false status with friends and family. News spread and my dad, who was literally on his death bed, called all over town (where he was very well known) letting people know he was still alive.
He told me, “I'm still in the land of the living, but it won't be long.”
He was peaceful, thoughtful, still with a sense of humor and focused on his soon coming transition into eternity.
Our family made the long drive and I was able to see him, though he was sedated and unable to respond. He died that night.
Of course, I was deeply sad, but I was also thankful I was able to talk with my dad on that fateful phone call one last time.
Eternity is coming to all of us and it is of supreme importance that we talk about it. A lot.
Can anybody explain to me why it's so rare for pastors and preachers to prepare people for the end-times, much less eternity? Does anybody know why Christians are so distracted by the cares of life instead of staying intently zeroed in on the most dramatic moment of their lives, entering into forever?
We are distracted by lesser things in the land of the living while not understanding there is a transition coming soon and very soon.
I've never seen such passion from people as I have in the last year. Sadly, it's not because of revival. The zeal isn't a result of encountering the Holy Spirit. People haven't been provoked by the soon coming return of Jesus. No, people are shouting with ferocity about masks, elections, riots and politics of every sort. They are energized by the short-term, temporal issues of this lifetime.
Other passions people are exhibiting have nothing to do with the previous year in our nation. Many ministers have been drunk on growing bigger churches and email lists for decades. Christians are trying to live the American dream while forsaking their Kingdom perspectives. Idols, fears, desires and debates are distracting us.
I'm not saying we can't joyfully invest ourselves in the life God gives us. We can. We should. There's a right and good way to deal with politics, cultural issues, our jobs, family demands, dreams, building businesses and everything else that fills up the seventy or so years we are on the earth. However, the moment the land of the living takes precedence in our daily lives is the moment our lives become endangered. Everything we do must be in sync with preparing for the end-times and the coming trillions (endless) years of our eternity.
We are all on death row. It's a sobering thought, one that most of us want to shut out, but it's truth.
I wish I could explain the feeling I had as I was standing outside of the small out-building that contained the gas chamber. The left door was for spectators of the execution. The right was for the inmate, Warden and others directly involved with the process. I was overwhelmed, spiritually more than emotionally, as I envisioned demons all around preparing to escort one of the parade of souls into their version of eternity. This literally played out time after time in years past as unrepentant criminals vacated their bodies and entered the torments of hell. Only those who authentically surrendered their lives to Jesus prior to the gas overwhelming them would see angels instead of demons.
As I looked at the never-ending rows of claustrophobic cells in the main prison cell blocks, my feeling was only enhanced. Sadness struck me knowing the despair and hopelessness that possessed all who lived there throughout the years prior to the prison closing. While we are debating over Trump and Biden and viruses and vaccines, people are flooding into eternity. Imprisoned souls are hopeless as the church is distracted.
It wrecks me knowing the high majority of those inside that prison entered into madding torture that will never end. Friends, we must change our focus.
I'm troubled by how few are waking up every morning preparing for the end. We should also be preparing others. It's coming very soon, and the distractions in our nation are killing us.
Our life now is but a vapor. What we focus on everyday matters, and that focus must absolutely be eternity.
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:13–14, ESV)
“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, ESV)
Not only will we be full of life but others will be powerfully impacted when we are driven by eternity.
Our life in Jesus is not as much about finding satisfaction here as it is in living with eternity as our prime focus. It's about Jesus and ruling and reigning with him forever! It's about sounding alarms and warning as many as we can about the reality of hell and the hope of Jesus. It's about capturing the heart of God and preparing our families for the end season we are quickly moving into.
Let's reprioritize pretty much everything and look at politics, viruses, the church, our families, our dreams, our entertainment and all the rest through the lens of eternity. The flow to hell will slow and the church will be ready for all that is to come. Masks, viruses and politics won't be as important and will finally receive attention with a Kingdom perspective.
Both angels and demons are getting ready for our point of transition into eternity, not to mention billions of others all over the world.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2, ESV)
Originally published by The Stream.
The scourge of yesterday's seeker sensitive movement has infected today's mainstream church.
A question was posted to a local Facebook group, and while I applaud anyone's desire to be involved in an on-fire church, the request revealed something troubling.
“Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?”
That was the question.
The answer? Nowhere.
Such a church doesn't exist. The concept is quite impossible.
DEFINING AN ON-FIRE CHURCH
Of course, it's entirely possible to find a church that is vibrant and passionate about Jesus without the gift of tongues in operation. There are many such places where you can connect, grow, and enjoy godly relationships. You can serve, go on mission trips, study the Bible together and experience an emotionally satisfying community of faith. There are such churches represented by most every authentic Christian denomination (or non-denomination).
However, the individual wasn't asking about vibrant churches. They specifically sought out an on-fire church. I maintain my contention that it is impossible to find a church that's authentically on fire without tongues manifesting.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 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)
There is an immeasurable difference between a vibrant community of faith and one that's marked by the fire of the Holy Spirit. When a church is birthed and bathed in fervent, supernatural prayer, and unlimited room is given for the Holy Spirit to blow and burn in their midst, the resulting fire is indescribable. Incomparable. Other-worldly.
To be on fire is not to be emotionally excited. To be consumed by biblical fire is a spiritual reality. The Spirit of God breathes in and through us and ignites a supernatural flame that defies description.
Simply, there is an anointing that rests on churches that embrace the gift of tongues. You'll notice in the passage of Scripture above that tongues of fire rested on everyone there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke in tongues.
I'm not going to dive into a teaching on the different types of tongues, but to briefly address those who are convinced that the Bible teaches that “all don't speak in tongues,” suffice it to say that there are multiple types of tongues. All can speak (or sing) in the personal gift of tongues. Not all, however, operate in other types of tongues such as “tongues and interpretation.” I'd encourage you to study out the differences.
An on-fire church is an Acts 2 church where all have the opportunity to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. In fact, a true on-fire church will manifest groans of intercession and a supernatural release of God moving through all in attendance.
“…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27, ESV)
LARGE SCALE RESISTANCE TO THE GIFT OF TONGUES
I contacted two churches in my area that by all appearances were full of life and devoted to Jesus. I watched some of the worship online and people were legitimately engaging with lifted hands and at least a measure of visible passion. What I'm trying to communicate is that they appeared to be Spirit-filled churches.
I scoured their websites looking for a statement of faith or any evidence that they affirmed the gifts of the Spirit. I found nothing that remotely gave me confidence that I'd be stepping into an on-fire, Charismatic church should I choose to visit.
So, I emailed them. The first church copied and pasted their vague beliefs from the website I already studied. Here was my reply:
Thanks! Can you let me know your stance on the gifts of the Spirit? For example, during your services do people pray or sing in tongues? Are their words of knowledge? I appreciate it! Blessings to you all!
I never heard back from them.
The second church never replied at all.
Very interestingly, the first church was quick to reply to the Facebook post this article is about. “Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?” A representative from the church claimed their church fit their requirements perfectly. Many other suggestions of other churches were offered as well.
I find it even more disturbing that churches that presume to be Spirit-filled are all too often minimizing the gifts of the Spirit and even forbidding the gift of tongues during the service. The seeker sensitive paradigm has overtaken many churches as they seek to make everybody as comfortable as possible.
The opportunity to engage in worship at many Spirit-filled churches has been reduced to fifteen or twenty minutes. I've visited churches that don't allow the people to go deep in the place of worship, to cry out, to repent, to groan in intercession or to encounter the Holy Spirit due to ridiculously short services. In fact, it's more common than ever to sing for fifteen minutes while being forced to listen to an often dry, tedious sermon that lacks any measure of anointing for nearly an hour. This is grieving!
Pastors, you might notice that the rise of 24/7 prayer and worship is capturing people's hearts. However, you aren't going to find a 24/7 preaching and teaching movement. Both are important, but we must understand priorities. A foundation of fervent intercession and deep, supernatural worship is mandatory if the Word of God is going to have fertile soil to grow in.
From my book The Coming Church:
As we become supernaturally changed in a place of extreme intercession, worship will change significantly. It will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it’s not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung. The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit-facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry, “Holy!” The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more. We will have a hard time standing as man’s karaoke gives way to God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory that takes up residence in his Church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more. Today, along with most other expressions of church life, worship is at least slightly and sometimes extremely marginalized for the sake of the less adventurous attendee. Since most people tend to be adverse to more supernatural forms of worship, and many would leave if the atmosphere became too uncomfortable, the majority has been winning. I’ve said it countless times, and have written before that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. How is it that the naturally-minded majority has supplanted the supernatural remnant in the Church? How is it that burning, raging, intercessory worship that’s driven by the groans of the Spirit himself are not appreciated enough to risk losing people from our churches.
In the coming Church, it will be normal for people to hit their faces and tremble and cry holy as the fire of God’s presence rages! Do you see why we can’t formulate low level, seeker focused worship services that can be fully understood naturally?
Yes, people are drawn to churches that provide healthy community, excellent children's ministries, skilled musicians, engaging teaching and effective programs. However, this isn't the picture of an on-fire church. Not even close.
We need the raging, searing and fearful glory of God to burn through our services. The gifts of the Spirit must manifest and a supernatural tremble needs to strike us all. The shock and awe of the Holy Spirit should drive us all to our knees as we quake under his power.
What many are calling an on-fire church and what is authentically an on-fire church couldn't be more opposite. It's time for another Acts 2 outpouring to hit our nation.
From my article, “Seven sure-fire ways to end boring, predictable church services,” I'd like to suggest just what an on-fire church might include:
- Lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues
- Embracing a vibrant prophetic culture
- Encouraging people to release prayers, decrees and declarations on the mic during service
- Inviting people to make biblical declarations
- Promoting prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service
- Providing prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom
- Expecting manifestations of the Holy Spirit and refuse to shut them down
I'll leave you with one of my favorite descriptions of an on-fire church from over a hundred years ago:
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
Hate has become the emotion of choice for a lot of people this year – including a whole bunch of Christians.
It’s more evident than ever just how toxic our culture is. 2020 has been quite the litmus test for love and civility.
I was recently interviewed about a recent article I wrote for The Stream titled Is Today’s Prophetic Movement Fake News? In the midst of a discussion on the unhealthy nature of much of today’s prophetic movement, I noted that I’m concerned that the church has wasted the opportunity that 2020 has provided us. The church’s often volatile reactions to the pressures of this season have been telling. People from all sides, the left, the right, the saved and the lost have been spewing poisonous personal revelations about everything from masks to freedom to Trump to equality. No, there’s nothing wrong with holding to a strong opinion on important matters. We’d be socially dead if we didn’t. However, the moment we villainize, attack, shame, cancel and blacklist those who disagree with us is the moment our true, dark hearts are revealed.
WE WEREN’T READY FOR 2020, AND WE AREN’T READY FOR 2021
I wrote an article for Charisma Magazine on January, 2nd 2020, just as the year was beginning and well before true concern for COVID-19 had arrived. Few knew about the coming pestilence, or at least the severity of it. I re-read the article and got chills. The call was clear: adopt humility, fervent prayer and a radical devotion to holiness in our pursuit of Jesus as the plagues and pestilence visit us:
2020 is here. Does God have good plans for His true, remnant church? Sure. However, His true church isn't primarily concerned about that. Those aren't the words they want to hear. They are in tune with the assault of the spirit of the age, with the immorality in the land, with the abominations that both the world and the church are in alignment with and with possible judgment and wrath that can strike our nation if we don't turn. They are crying out for God to prophetically speak about this stuff. They want to be warned, and they want to share those warnings with the world.
I'm not saying the following passage is a prophetic word, but it sure is a much better exhortation than many I'm reading concerning the new year. I propose we do this:
“When I shut up the heaven and there is no rain, or when I command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence on My people, if My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to the prayer of this place (2 Chron. 7:13-15, MEV).
I’d encourage you to read the entire article here.
On December 19th, 2019, I posted to Facebook:
So much of “prophecy” today is utterly useless, a distraction and often dangerous as it leads the immature and those who can't discern into false hope and down wrong paths.
I don't know how often I read prophecies on Facebook that cause me to say, “My time was just wasted. I didn't need to know that, even if it is true.”
While so much of prophecy today is an embarrassment, we must respond to the true call of the Spirit of God in this hour. Humility, love, prayer and holiness are most certainly part of that call.
In the face of the greatest global chaos in any of our lifetimes, the church should have been leading the way by calling for solemn assemblies, heart-wrenching prayer meetings and whatever else must happen to see a move of God overtake us. Instead, too many have become enraged, offended and puffed up at political leaders for restricting their freedoms and shutting down the churches. Why? So they can get back to their tired, predictable and mostly powerless 90-minute karaoke sing-a-long’s and story telling sessions?
“Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes.” (Joel 1:14–15, ESV)
Before you become unglued (yet again), allow me to make a point. I too have opinions and strong beliefs. I firmly believe the Bible out ranks our governmental officials. When God in his Word commands us to meet together, we meet together. We should do it safely and with wisdom, but, in my opinion, I am convinced that we should be gathering together. However, if we rise up in pride against supposed tyranny just so we, in a spirit of independence, can have our way (in the guise of protecting our Constitutional rights) then we have failed. Rebellion can never be a Christian’s weapon against our oppressors. Today we have companies of arrogant, spiritualized rebels, defying authority in the name of God, as God himself resists them.
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry…” (1 Samuel 15:23, NKJV)
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV)
FIGHTS, ACCUSATIONS, DIVISION AND HATRED
2020 is the year of losing friends, or at least a time when we learned just who our true friends were.
Social media has allowed for the unleashing of all types of self-important proclamations. Don’t dare have an opposing opinion about masks, our President, racial issues, our freedoms, the Constitution or pretty much anything else unless you want to be assaulted in the comments. It’s disgusting. No matter how righteous your pursuit is, handling it without love, honor and respect will nullify it.
I’m stunned most every day at how rude blood-bought Christians can be, especially on social media. Have you not encountered the love and the fear of the Lord? I mean, really had an overwhelming encounter where our omnipotent, holy and all-consuming God laid you out? If not, I propose you cease all of your attempts at heroism in our social fabric and hit your knees. Cry out to God with raw, guttural groans. Repent. Yearn for his presence and his glory to saturate you. Ask for your hip to be taken out and for a tongue of fire to ignite over you. Honestly, little else matters.
That brings me to those of you who have had such encounters, yet you still don’t know how to love. Stop everything. Learn to love. I’m not talking about the sappy, passive, new age, beta-male style “kindness” that is being promoted (mostly by unbelievers) all over the world. In fact, check out one of my most popular articles, The Great Love Deception, to understand just what I mean and what I don’t mean when I mention the world love. False love is truly on the rise and we must expose it and promote true, biblically defined love.
From the article:
Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG) 9 So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings 10 so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover's life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of…
We are to learn to love appropriately. This scripture is a critical exhortation! Why? It means there are inappropriate ways to love. There are deceptions that feel right, but are poor representations or even counterfeits of truth.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
I’ve run into several people, many who were once grounded Believers, who have bought into this supposed new revelation of love, and the stench is putrid. Supposedly Donald Trump is the candidate of arrogance, division and hatred while Joe Biden promotes humility, unity and love. People who wear masks are the poster children for true love while those who are anti-mask are selfish and hateful of others. Those who make such claims are delusional beyond belief. (On the contrary, those who refuse to wear masks when required and pout like children when pressed on the matter have no idea what love looks like either. Neither do those who cancel everyone in their lives who don’t support Donald Trump. I could go on and on.)
Love can (and often should) be very direct, unrelenting, unapologetic and aggressive. However, it must be done with grace, honor and respect. The alternative? Well, 2020 has taught us that anything from riots to destroying people’s lives when we disagree with them is on the table.
THE WORLD IS WATCHING
Yes, we as Believers are watching the world, and weeping. The vaccine has arrived, and now people are shaming whoever their political enemies are for being among the first to take it. It’s yet another opportunity for them to accuse their foes of killing grandma.
Both the left and the right, and Hollywood and Nashville, and every other sphere of influence in our nation have been guilty of hatred. The right assaults Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Alyssa Milano and many others on a daily basis. Of course, the left attacks with vengeance Donald Trump and anyone who even whispers a minute amount of support for him or his policies.
Yet, more sadly, the world is watching the church. And, with some notable exceptions, I believe the church has failed miserably this year.
Where is the anointing? The power? The undeniable, supernatural love? Too many of today’s Christians have chosen social justice over holy justice. We need an other-worldly move of God to absolutely crush our nation. Where are God’s people who are truly repentant (and repenting), who are rending their hearts, who are interceding for their enemies instead of bashing them?
Where are those who are more interested in the salvation of Washington D.C. and Hollywood then they are in campaigning for the restoration and protection of their personal freedoms? Are there any who, while still maintaining concern for the direction of our nation, will focus mostly on contending for their enemy’s souls?
Can you imagine what would happen if some of our nation’s influencers had a genuine, undeniable, supernatural, life-altering visit by a holy, burning God?
I suggest the following passage of Scripture would make an excellent focus of intercession for those who have yet to experience God in this way:
“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,” (Revelation 1:12–17, ESV)
An encounter like that would fix, overnight, the tyranny in California and New York. It would change politics, media and the landscape of our entire nation in a moment.
More than fighting our oppressors, let’s truly pray with passion for them. Let the tears flow. Cry out. Pursue love. Go hard after legitimate revival. Start a revolution.
If you'd like to kick start your intercession, leave a 60-second prayer for Alyssa Milano at www.prayerteam.tv.
Originally published by The Stream.
This is an unprecedented, historic and special season for Christians as we rally around an administration that is so zealously honoring of God.
I was deeply moved as I watched President Trump along with his team including White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany engaging with passion in a vibrant, Spirit-filled, prophetic church.
Deeply moved? No, that's woefully understated. The Spirit of God was burning and blowing through me as I watched. There was a tremble within that suddenly activated as I watched our President and those who surround him in the midst of a cyclone of Holy Spirit activity in Las Vegas. Tears filled my eyes.
NOT VOTING FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP?
I know many are already smirking and arguing that this was nothing more than an attention-grab. A photo-op.
First of all, I don't care, and I'll tell you why in a moment.
Secondly, if this was your reaction, and you consider yourself a true disciple of Jesus, you have no option but to repent.
As Believers we are to make judgment on others when done according to Scripture. What is inappropriate is a judgment of motive. Clearly, we are mandated to judge fruit. We are to carefully and lovingly analyze situations God brings before us.
“Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life!” (1 Corinthians 6:2–3, ESV)
However, we don't have the license to judge motive. Such a judgment results in gossip, division and accusation. We align ourselves with the enemy. He is the accuser. In fact, Revelation 12:10 reveals he accuses Christians day and night before the Lord.
Others may say they have the gift of discernment and it's that gift that allows them to judge President Trump's motive. News flash: there is no such gift revealed in the Bible as the gift of discernment. It's not there. When people declare they have this gift it's usually an excuse to operate in some good old-fashioned charismatic witchcraft. Gossip. Manipulation.
“…to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:10, ESV)
The gift they are probably referring to is the discernment of spirits, or to “distinguish between spirits.” This is the gift that comes in handy when taking someone through deliverance. We know what spirit is manifesting (or hiding) and we are able to confront it with spiritual intelligence. This gift has nothing to do with judging the motives of someone else. This is God's job and his alone.
Now, the reason I said that I don't care whether President Trump's appearance was merely an opportunity to grab attention (which I don't believe it was) or not is simple: this man, in unprecedented fashion for a sitting President, has surrounded himself with authentic, fiery, devoted and uncompromising lovers of Jesus.
A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for Mike Pence, Kayleigh McEnany and the many reputable and anointed pastors and Christian leaders who have remarkable access to him.
Simply, this is the most Spirit-driven administration America has probably ever seen. More striking is the night and day (dark and light?) comparison between such an unashamed embrace of Jesus and the wickedness so many of the liberal left represent.
THE FOOLISHNESS OF REJECTING DONALD TRUMP
I want to encourage you to watch some of the videos from yesterday's church service. You'll witness powerful decrees, intercession and exhortation in an atmosphere marked by extreme Holy Spirit activity. I've wanted to visit this church for years, and I was thrilled to see our President placing himself and his team in the midst of that whirlwind.
We can all vote for anybody we desire. That's the American way.
That being said, I'm stunned that any person who names the name of Christ would even consider for a moment allowing the nefarious agenda that the left is aggressively promoting to become rule in our nation.
Like him or not, Donald Trump is be far the most pro-Christian, pro-church, pro-faith President America has ever had. Stop and think about that. The left? This year most probably represents the most immoral, anti-God political advance in our nation's history.
Have you witnessed the brilliance of Kayleigh McEnany as she runs her press conferences? As phenomenal as she is on her own merit, I'm sure she would agree with me that her poise, wisdom, boldness and effectiveness in her position is mostly the result of a weighty and unusual anointing of God on her life. She is in her position as a result of Donald Trump authorizing her, commissioning her and entrusting her as the spokesperson of the highest office in the land. If we remove Trump, our nation's next spokesperson will most certainly be anointed by a very different spirit indeed.
Consider Vice President Mike Pence. Again, like him or not you have to respect his fervent devotion to Jesus. I shudder to even ponder the comparison between this godly man and the current Democratic Vice Presidential candidate.
DONALD TRUMP IS A LEADER WHO HAS BEEN MARKED BY GOD
I didn't vote for Donald Trump four years ago. I wrote in Ted Cruz. I absolutely will be voting for him this time around.
I have watched this man transformed before our nation's eyes. He is a story of redemption, and at age 74, it's a story that is still being written. He's much different than he was in 2016. He'll be even better in the years ahead.
Is he perfect? No way.
Do I hope for the sanctification process to ramp up in his life? Sure.
Do I believe God has anointed him for this hour. Absolutely.
I'm disheartened by professing Christians who are wholesale rejecting President Trump simply because they believe him to be rude, arrogant or a jerk.
Listen closely: I'd rather have a flawed yet growing Christian who may be considered a jerk than someone who clearly exhibits rotting (and dangerous) fruit like many of those on the liberal left. There's no comparison.
In fact, many misunderstand the traits that mark many leaders, including those in the church. A mega-church pastor once said that he'd never hire a staff member with a strong spiritual gift of mercy. He explained that those people all too often refuse to make the tough and necessary daily decisions because they are too concerned about people's feelings. That may sound harsh and unloving to you, but the truth is that too many pastors refuse to lead with boldness today. So they compromise the mission to appease a few.
It takes an in-your-face fighter, anointed by God, to lead churches and nations today. Yes, we must be loving in our approach, but we can't be passive. I believe if more pastors followed Donald Trump's “You're fired” approach we'd have healthier churches and we'd be much closer to revival. Again, we can do so with love and tenderness while also being strong and decisive.
When is the last time you heard about a pastor following this mandate in Scripture?
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you… And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:1,2 ESV)
Isn't it interesting that Scripture calls those who are dismissive of sin in the camp arrogant? Today we'd presume someone who expelled them from the church to be unloving, harsh, accusatory and arrogant. Yet, that's exactly what God demands.
Brash leadership isn't by default ungodly. Yes, it can be, of course. We simply cannot look at someone who is offensive and deem them to be unrighteous or unfit for leadership. Often times godly leadership demands an offensive, aggressive and unapologetic approach. Donald Trump, while quite imperfect, exemplifies this.
So, just to make my point vividly clear, no I don't care about his aggressive, brash and sometimes irritating demeanor when he is making the tough godly decisions for our nation.
Am I saying Donald Trump is ready to lead a church? No. He's not. Yet, with refining he would make a modern day apostle unlike the world has ever seen. For now, I do believe, as a man in progress, even with all of his rough edges, he is clearly the right choice for the next four years.
Defying authority can either catapult the church forward or result in judgment.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Romans 13:1–2, ESV)
2002 has given the church an unusual opportunity to learn a critical end-time lesson. When is it time to defy authority, and when should we remain submitted?
Choosing correctly can launch the church forward in the face of tyranny and persecution.
Choosing incorrectly can result in God himself bringing judgment against the church.
There seems to be a misconception among many Believers that God is cheer-leading a spirit of rebellion as we fight against the very authority that he put into position.
News flash: We are mandated by Scripture to honor and obey all authority, be they good or evil, just or unjust. Yes, there are exceptions, but we don't start there. The exceptions are not the norm. By default, we submit.
“Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.” (1 Peter 2:18–19, ESV)
I'm confident many will argue this point. That's okay, but I want to challenge you. Argue it with Scripture, not with your own emotions, intellect, common sense or ego. The Word of God is the authority, no matter if it makes sense to us or not.
Remember, God requires us to obey both good and evil authorities, both good and bad laws.
The Bible couldn't be more clear. Every person is required to subject themselves to (submit to) governmental authorities. Why? Because God placed them in position and granted them authority. Further, if we resist the authorities that God has empowered, we will (not may) incur judgment.
A SPIRIT OF LAWLESSNESS
It's easy to accuse rioters, for example, of operating from a spirit of lawlessness. After all, it's obvious to all that they are boldly breaking laws.
I propose it's the same spirit of lawlessness that is driving the rebellion in many Christians who refuse to follow state and local mask and social distancing mandates. We don't have the option to reject an ordinance simply because we disagree with it. We are required by Scripture to be subject to governing authorities, and if they require masks in certain situations, we as representatives of Christ must respond with integrity and wear masks.
I am personally not a fan of masks (though I must admit they may be beneficial in certain circumstances) and I believe there are some nefarious influences behind all that the coronavirus has unleashed. However, I also realize I am not authorized by God to defy the mandates. I'd be in rebellion both to man and God if I did.
It's disturbing to see pastors breaking the law by allowing meetings, small groups and other events to take place without adhering to local mask and distancing ordinances. This rebellion invites God's judgment, even if we are convinced the masks are unnecessary or that the government is attempting to implement freedom threatening controls.
By all means, do what's appropriate to have the laws overturned. Attend city council meetings, vote politicians and policy makers in or out of office and sound all of the alarms you can in hopes of drawing attention to the cause. But until the laws are overturned the laws must be obeyed.
If we truly fear God, we won't play games, rise up in pride or arrogantly resist those he put into position.
The exception to all I have written above is simple: if the Word of God would be violated by us obeying an earthly authority, then, and only then, do we refuse to submit. We honor God and not men in this scenario.
So, if the government mandates that churches remain closed and that Christians don't gather to worship, we can't comply.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV)
The Bible clearly requires us to meet.
If the government allows the church to meet, but demands we not sing, again, we refuse to obey that order.
“Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly!” (Psalm 149:1, ESV)
When (not if) the time comes that we are told by lawmakers that we cannot preach certain truths of Scripture, we boldly reject their mandate.
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 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.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27–29, ESV)
The principle should be quite clear and simple. If the Word of God would be violated should we submit to a governmental decree, we do not submit. If the Bible wouldn't be violated, we do submit.
One response results in the favor of God and another the judgment of God. It's not about being a champion of what is right (in your own eyes). It's about aligning with God's commands. Many are shouting “Persecution!” in selfish arrogance simply because the government is requiring them to submit to laws that are merely inconvenient and that in no way violate Scripture.
We see this truth played out in the Book of Daniel:
“He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;” (Daniel 2:21, ESV)
“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”” (Daniel 3:17–18, ESV)
God put the king in position, and then the king gives an unrighteous decree. The king was to be honored until he mandated worship to an idol. At that moment, the three Hebrews had no option but to refuse the command.
WHAT SHOULD THE CHURCH DO?
The church should obey the laws of the land unless those laws are clearly unscriptural. Gathering together and worshiping as Believers has been instituted by God. So, gather, with masks on if the local ordinance requires that.
In my city of Branson, Missouri we are required to wear masks in any public setting unless we are able to remain six feet away from others. Since this is a theater town, the law allows us to remove our masks when seated in an auditorium as long as we maintain social distancing. Public speakers, singers and performers can remove their masks when on stage. The same rule applies to the church. So, this means masks must be on at all times except when socially distanced in the sanctuary or speaking, singing on the platform. Prayer lines, altar time, greeting time and other times would require masks to be worn. Small groups and other gatherings should adhere to the same guidelines.
We need to be wise and carefully choose our battles. Again, favor or judgment hang in the balance.
I've heard all sorts of extreme arguments in opposition to what I'm addressing here.
“What about Anne Frank? Are you suggesting she should have obeyed her government and turned Jews over to the Nazis?”
Several people have angrily blasted that argument my direction. Of course the the answer is no. Why? We'd be complicit in murder, and murder is forbidden in Scripture.
“What about Rahab who lied to protect Israeli spies?”
Rahab was commended for giving lodging to the spies, but not for her lie.
I find it disturbing that Christians are becoming more enthralled with their own wisdom while at the same time looking for loopholes in the Bible so they can do what they desire. Many don't consider the Bible to be the final authority on a matter or to be the infallible Word of God. We are most certainly in the end times.
FAVOR OR JUDGMENT
I don't want this point to be missed.
No matter how convinced of how right you are or how righteous your position is, if you defy God's established authority, God's judgment rests on you.
However, if you honor authority in every instance except when they would require you disobey Scripture, God's favor rests on you.
Oh, and by the way, understand that the written Word of God is the final authority, not your own prophetic revelation. We can't use the God card here. If your local government requires you to wear a mask or a seat-belt or to pay your taxes or to wear pants in public, and you think God told you something different, you can know it's not God's voice you are hearing.
PHARAOH IN THE CHURCH
As I close, I want to encourage you to read an article that will give strategies to resisting tyrannical and wicked human governments. I understand the arguments about masks and lock-downs and control. Greater persecution (by far) was experienced in Egypt under the rule of Pharaoh. The strategy there wasn't to defy Pharaoh's authority, as God placed him in that place of ruler-ship.
God sent a messenger and immense pressure to Pharaoh. The goal? For Pharaoh, the Hebrew's legitimate authority, to make the decree that they may go. He released them. It was at that moment in time that the authority over the Hebrews shifted from Pharaoh to Moses.
This is why we must be living, walking and praying in the Spirit. Prayer movements and prophetic decrees will bring down unrighteous human systems. Pride, arrogance, anger and rebellion however will only strengthen them as God's fury rains down on us all.