Beware of the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed).
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
Most every day, in one venue or another, I’m hearing from disillusioned, frustrated people who cannot find a church that has been overtaken by the Holy Spirit. No extreme revival atmospheres can be found for many. The Upper Room experience that innumerable desperate people are searching for are nowhere to be seen, in some instances, within 500 miles of where they live. They complain of short, ordered, controlled services that, according to them, isn’t worth their time. There’s a measure of spirituality, but they don’t even come close to the explosive, supernatural experiences they are craving.
Pastors, are you hearing what millions are saying? The ark has been captured!
Open up your doors to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit! The gifts must function. The order of service must be laid down. The crazy, unscripted, unrehearsed, unforeseen collisions that happen when an invisible, all-powerful Creator invades mortal humans must be expected. Every. Single. Sunday.
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)
HALF-FILLED LAMP CHURCHES ARE THREATENING KINGDOM ADVANCE…AND PEOPLE’S ETERNITIES.
And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ Matthew 25:8-9 (ESV)
Misguided compassion is resulting in the wise becoming foolish while eternities are put at great risk.
Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined and deeply intimate with Jesus. Their lamps are empty.
This begs a question: How is it so many people in this category are so at home in churches all over the world?
If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps.
So, what do many pastors do to ensure these people feel a part of the family? They share their oil. “Come on in, you take half of my oil, I’ll keep half. We’ll both meet the bridegroom together.” It sounds loving. It feels compassionate. It’s foolishness.
The water level of Holy Spirit activity is brought way down so those who are marginally surrendered can dip their toes in the shallows—and integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit. They are spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil.
Human wisdom that argues that it’s better for people to be in a moderate spiritual environment is better than the being shut out is actually called foolishness by God. By sharing oil, by toning down the activity of the Holy Spirit, all become foolish, and all are put at risk of Hell.
The truth is that oil can’t be shared. A price must be paid. Oh, and to take the heat off of pastors for just a moment, for all of you disgruntled experience seekers out there, quit getting so frustrated when your church doesn’t move in the gifts the way you’d like. Are you trying to share their oil? Don’t you have enough yourself? Is your lamp not full? While I absolutely understand the cry for a supernatural church, I refuse to empower those who refuse to get their own oil. If your lamp is full, you should be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and deeply intimate with Jesus! Just exactly how do you want a human pastor to add to that? Go get your own oil. Pay the price. Quit complaining about the church.
A MIDNIGHT CRY
Take just a minute and read the entire passage:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)
In order to make sure our lamps are full (and that we have extra in our flasks), we must pay the price for the oil and then stay at the ready. In the midst of delay, we all can experience spiritual fatigue, but the wise will rise up when they hear the midnight cry!
The difference between those who have their lamps full and those who don’t is stark. Those who are not ready when God suddenly moves will have the door shut to them. God will declare that he does not know them (even if pastors assure them they are part of the family).
I think about the Upper Room in the Book of Acts. Most didn’t respond to the call to wait, to pay the price. The door was shut to them. After a delay of ten long days, there was a midnight cry! The Holy Spirit has come! Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!
A MIDNIGHT CRY CHURCH
Pastors, don’t share your oil. Don’t let misguided compassion cause you to quench the Spirit. Don’t build your local church on those who refuse to pay the price.
Build a midnight cry church! Build the fire, contend in fervent prayer, expect unusual, otherworldly manifestations of the Holy Spirit and break off any temptation to moderate the service so the sleepy foolish people who are pounding at your door can join in. Love them by modeling a life of fervency, preparation and intimacy with Jesus. Warn them. Contend in prayer for them. Some will join you in your Upper Room experience, but most will not.
It’s time we desire the ark more than people. When we do, the glory will return to the church and that glorious midnight cry will be heard, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”
Immorality is diving to new horrifying lows in our nation, and the church must respond with great resolve.
Amelia Bonow, cofounder of #ShoutYourAbortion, wanted to give women a voice to unashamedly tell their abortion stories.
The purpose is to awaken sympathy for those who went through the procedure and to remove the stigma associated with abortion. In light of the transgressions that have been revealed publicly regarding Planned Parenthood through a series of undercover videos, Ameila felt it was necessary to combat that with a movement of her own.
Should we as Christians have sympathy for those who made what many feel is the unconscionable decision to eliminate their child? Absolutely. Of course.
9 …Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:9-11 (ESV)
Her sins of adultery were forgiven. Jesus had compassion on this women when so many others were ready to administer the horrifying punishment of stoning her to death.
We absolutely should respond the same way toward women who have ended their pregnancy prematurely.
But, as with Jesus, the response cannot end there.
…go, and from now on sin no more.
Our response to people who are grieved regarding their sin and repentant as the conviction of God hits them is to be driven with love and compassion.
Our response to those who are trumpeting their sin is an entirely different matter. Do we still love them? Definitely. Can we feel the pain that resulted in their decision? Yes. Can we stand by idly and affirm their action? No way. Such an immoral influence can do much to eternally damage unsuspecting, vulnerable people who find themselves in the same position. Something must be said, with urgency and firm resolve.
WHAT ABOUT CHARLIE SHEEN AND MILEY CYRUS?
I can't imagine the lows that Charlie has experienced since the positive HIV test came back. Even though he put himself in harm's way quite unapologetically, and others were put at great risk, there is an appropriate measure of compassion that we must have for him and his situation. It's heartbreaking. He needs to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
The truth remains, however, that he is unapologetic about his lifestyle of non-stop immorality. People like Charlie, Miley Cyrus, Amelia Bonow and others in our increasingly Godless culture are not merely expressing themselves, they are arrogantly promoting the darkest depravity most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Just as Ameila is attempting to remove the stigma from abortion and murder, others are attempting to remove the stigma from pornography, adultery, fornication, drug use, homosexuality and other eternally deadly practices.
In a widely reported yet unconfirmed report, Miley Cyrus appears to be planning an entirely nude concert — including the audience — yet so few have responded in outrage.
How can the reaction to the news of a nude concert simply be, “That's just Miley being Miley?”
Just when did brutal murder become something to shout and celebrate?
When did it become acceptable to brag about sleeping with thousands of women — when God has set the standard at one, exclusively within the bounds of marriage?
CHARLIE, MILEY AND AMELIA WERE BOUGHT WITH A PRICE
18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV)
We must do a couple of things. First, believe in the power of prayer and pray with passion for Charlie Sheen, Miley Cyrus and Amelia Bonow to discover the immeasurable love and power of Jesus. Heaven won't be the same without them. They were bought with a great price and are all precious to God. Second, we as the church must stand with boldness against the spirit of the age, the god of this world. If we don't, Hell will continue to expand and God cherished people like Charlie Sheen, Miley Cyrus and Amelia Bonow will be lost forever.
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV)
The messages that are being sent by these three and so many others in our pornographic, narcissistic world are resulting in innumerable people being eternally separated from God who so passionately loves them. Hell is growing larger as the church remains silent.
8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” Revelation 21:8 (ESV)
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. John 3:18-19 (ESV)
Satan is assaulting people in these end-times with ferocity. His plan is to shred and destroy every human on earth — and the blood-bought church is the only hope.
Don't be surprised that we have a President that seems to reject most of everything that Christians value. Don't be shocked when evil is growing at a tragic rate. The church has been prayerless and asleep for the last few decades.
I'm sorry Charlie. I'm sorry Miley. I'm sorry Ameila. We as Christians should have been a thousand times more fervent in our prayer, more empowered by the Holy Spirit and more devoted to our mission. We have failed.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)
The days of murdering children outside of the womb for the sake of convenience is nearing our nation.
There is no difference between murdering a toddler who is negatively affecting our lives and a baby in the womb who is threatening our lifestyle. Zero.
This is why it makes no sense for a Christian to vote for a pro-abortion politician. It's insanity. If we can overlook the murder of an unborn baby we also must agree that the murder of children who have already been born are fair targets as well.
Sex outside of marriage is already acceptable even in much of the church. Do we even understand that that sin will result in an eternity in Hell? It is that serious!
Pornography will increase, adultery on demand as is the case with those who subscribe to Ashley Madison will only grow more acceptable.
Darkness is clearly increasing and the hour of the church is here.
Will you boldly #shoutyourfaith in the face of such arrogant, obscene evil in the land? Eternity for millions hinges on whether we do or not.
We are living in lawless times. Love is growing cold. The end is drawing near. People are rejecting God with passion. Satan is winning many battles.
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:12-14 (ESV)
It’s time to shout, church!
Shout truth. Shout love. Shout with passion. It’s time to confront our culture and finally take a stand.
27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear! Matthew 10:27 (NLT)