If Jesus isn’t concerned or taking action, the next move is ours.
My pastor delivered a powerful sermon this morning here in my home town of Branson, Missouri. This article, while different than what I heard this morning, is a result of God’s anointing on his life and on the teaching he brought.
A NEW PRAYER STRATEGY WILL SET YOU FREE
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40 (ESV)
When I consider going to God with my issues, concerns, troubles, needs and other personal trials, I first ask myself a question. Is God going to respond to me by asking, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s quite possible that I should not bring my issue to God at all.
I realize that God loves it when we pray, and there are many types and ways to pray that are applicable for various situations, but I have learned to consider my heart condition and motive behind the prayer. Both matter.
It’s extremely easy to function from a place of doubt when we consult with God. It’s common, for example, to doubt our needs will be met, and this can manifest through prayer, hoping that God does something to remedy our situation. While it’s good to have any sort of conversation with God, we also need to know that his response will be tied closely to our faith that’s connected to our prayer.
Let’s look at the entirety of the well known passage in Mark chapter four:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)
DON’T BOTHER JESUS
The obvious thing for Christians to do when in a time of trouble is to go to God. I want to propose you may have more success at times by not going to God.
If you are in relationship with him, and are living a life of overcoming faith, and you know your authority, it’s not necessary to have a consultation with God every time you have to make a decision or every time the going gets tough.
Quite often, the correct step is to refuse to bother Jesus. He was asleep on the boat in the midst of the storm—and he should have been left alone.
This principle is true for us today as well.
Many of us have a habit of attempting to shake God awake to our situation, and instead of him resolving the problem, he asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The correct thing to do would then be to resolve the situation ourselves!
WHEN GOD SLEEPS
In the midst of storms, or at the point of decision, God may “sleep” (be unresponsive to our petitions) for at least a couple of reasons:
- The storm or situation needs to play out. Possibly God is using the situation to help us reach our destination. The disciples were attempting to go across to the other side, and though the storm was threatening, was it possible that the winds would assist them in their journey? Maybe.
- We are to stop the storm or make the decision ourselves. This is the scenario more often than we realize. It’s extremely common for my wife and me to make decisions, to power through obstacles and deal with attack without nervously yelling for Jesus to wake up and come to the rescue. We’ve been granted authority to bring the resolution ourselves. Don’t forget, this is only possible since we are in relationship with Jesus and we are submitted to his plan for our lives. It’s possible that the disciples could have silenced the storm themselves. Jesus’ stern reaction to them awakening him revealed that they needed to relax and know that all will be well, whether they rode the storm out or commanded it to end.
But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:6-8
The disciples were afraid. They doubted. They were blown and tossed by the wind and the waves. If they would have responded in faith, the wind and the waves would have been under their command and would have either settled down or carried them exactly where they needed to go—to the other side.
WHO THEN IS THIS?
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Instead of being asked, “Why are you so afraid,” people will be asking about us, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The passage indicates that there were other boats in the storm as well. The story most probably should have been quite different. With Jesus still asleep, those on the other boats would have pointed to the disciples and fearfully and joyfully asked with great passion, “Who then is this!”
The answer would have been remarkable as they directed everyone’s attention to a sleeping savior. Jesus would receive all the glory and his power would have been undeniable—calming the storm as he slept, manifesting his plan through the authority of his followers.
KNOWING OUR AUTHORITY IS CRITICAL
It’s important that I make it doubly clear that I in no way am attempting to say we are to advance without Jesus or without living a life of fervent prayer. We must be so intimately connected to Jesus on a continual basis, that our prayer shifts from mostly needy, clueless and concerned to mostly relational. We can pray in the Spirit, make decrees and declarations and legislate from a place of great strength and spiritual authority because of our life of relational prayer and intercession.
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Luke 9:1-2
When casting out demons or praying for the sick, we never have to go to God petitioning for him to deliver the oppressed or make the sick whole. Why? We can let God “sleep” and do it ourselves! We are to cast the demons out. We are to heal the sick.
TWISTED AND AFRAID
And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Matthew 17:14-18 (ESV)
In the above passage, Jesus should not have been disturbed. His disciples should have handled the situation themselves, but they couldn’t. They didn’t have faith (even the faith the size of a mustard seed). The result? Jesus called them twisted!
Not only don’t I want God to respond to my prayer by asking why I’m afraid and why I have no faith, but I really don’t want him calling me twisted!
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 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 10:17-19
We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy! Nothing shall hurt us! No storm is powerful enough! We can let Jesus sleep as we administer his truth and power in the world.
Instead of being called twisted and afraid, this generation will be looking on from their boats and ask, “Who then is this?”
God is ready to promote you from a life of struggle to a life of power, peace, strength, confidence and breakthrough!
Jesus might be sleeping, but he’s not disconnected. He’s waiting for you to manifest his peace and his power as you annihilate obstacles, calm waves, move mountains, heal the sick and set the captives free!
We are all hungering for a powerful move of the Holy Spirit. What we do when reports of revival come will determine whether it continues or not.
11 But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. Mark 16:11 (ESV)
What will we do when we hear about a move of God in our region? Will we reject it, resist it, doubt it—or will we run and see and serve with passion?
I need to begin by explaining my personal views on revival. I must do this so you understand what my perspective is when I deal with false reports of revival and how to respond to true moves of God in a region.
I understand this is nothing more than an opinion, but I don’t personally believe the United States has experienced legitimate revival since Asuza. We have experienced various very powerful moves and visitations of God in places like Brownsville and Smithton, and some might argue that the impact is greater than I am understanding. I have been powerfully transformed by such moves of God and I in no way am attempting to diminish what happened there. The reason for the distinction is to bring clarity to just what we are contending for. I believe a move of God must shift history and change the spiritual landscape and culture of the region it is in in order for it to be called revival. Simply, revival radically changes entire cities and nations.
There are over 19,000 cities in our nation and none of them are experiencing the biblical normalcy of revival. God has done all that is necessary for us to be living in revival as a nation every day of our lives. Revival isn’t a special kiss from heaven as much as it is God’s church stepping up and living according to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit that has been available for over 2000 years. I’ve often said that we should be trembling in the shock and awe of the presence of God day and night. Churches should be full of people who are praying and groaning in the Spirit day after day. Salvations, healings, signs and wonders should be normal not unusual.
I believe the following passage describes clearly what is biblically normal—and what a sleeping, naturally minded church would consider unusual:
14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 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.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs. Mark 16:14-20 (ESV)
The eleven were overtaken by unbelief and hardness of heart. Sound familiar? They were driven by the same attitude that drives many today when reports of a move of God in a region are given. Just as they didn’t believe those who had experienced the resurrection power of Jesus, today’s church is quick to scrutinize, dismiss and reject such reports with a very suspicious spirit. More on this in a bit. Let’s continue looking at a movement of revival.
Jesus appeared to the disciples, rebuked them and gave them an all consuming mandate—Go all over the world, preach the gospel to everyone, cast out demons, speak in tongues and heal the sick. The promise of protection was given to them if they obediently responded to the orders of their Commander. Harm will not come to them.
This is revival! The American church needs a rebuke! We need a visitation of Jesus and we must say yes to every command of God to carry and release life and healing to the nations!
THE TRUE HEART OF A BEREAN
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
WHAT ABOUT FALSE REPORTS?
As I have already stated, I don’t believe we have seen an actual revival in over 100 years. I also am very careful not to label something revival or an outpouring if it is not. I want to be a true Berean, searching the Word and honestly determining whether something is an outpouring—or if it’s something different.
The reason this is important is because our response to it will be shaped by what is happening, or is reported to be happening.
If there is a very real fire in an apartment building, it makes all the sense in the world to put all of our resources, time and energy into an immediate and urgent response. Lives are hanging in the balance! But, if there is a false report about a fire, people and equipment are diverted away from availability into crisis response—where there is no crisis. Legitimate emergencies will then be under resourced due to the false report.
When I moved my family to the Detroit, Michigan area seven years ago I did so for only one reason—to prepare for revival. Detroit was poised for a move of God and my assignment was to serve with everything within me.
Shortly after arriving, my spirit began to be somewhat disturbed as I heard truly amazing, godly people announce that “revival is here” or that it is near or that it can’t be stopped.
I began to wonder just what definition of revival people were using. I knew before I ever decided to move to Detroit that revival was not near, but we had everything we needed as a region to get to work and give ourselves to the long, costly process of building a city fire. Unfortunately, the premature reports of revival were compromising the efforts. If revival was here or near why would we need to gather the laborers? Now we can relax and wait. Premature reports can kill a move of God that requires extreme participation from the city church.
The false report was that revival was there. The true report was that revival was possible.
Now, I agree that we might be able to say at times that the spirit of revival has arrived, or that there is a greater grace to believe for revival. We might be able to announce a local move of God or even an outpouring in a church. But, revival is a very special word. It must be reserved for something so gloriously cataclysmic in the spirit and in the natural that even muttering it causes a holy hush.
While in Detroit we experienced some absolutely stunning moves of God that are completely undeniable. We saw a visible mist of God’s presence three separate times. After a prophecy about a very unusual manifestation of God’s glory landing on a young lady, people were rushing to see gold dust coming up out of her scalp—just a week later! Another young man had anointing oil manifest on his hands during most every service for an extended season. People’s lives were being changed dramatically. Yet, there is no way I would even begin to presume we were in revival—but the spirit of revival was definitely there (meaning, God was moving in a way on a small scale that would be representative of full blown revival).
While some great friends are laying down their lives and contending for revival to this day in Detroit, the nation has not yet heard of the Great Detroit Revival. It hasn’t come yet. The masses have not come to Jesus. Healings are not skyrocketing. Churches are not full. The culture has not changed to one that is marked by the fire and Spirit of God.
Please understand an extremely important point: When a report of revival is sounded, we must dive in and serve—not because we immediately agree that true revival has landed, but because there are people who are hungry for revival gathering together—even though they may be premature in the announcement. If I hear about a move of God in my region, it’s critical that I, as a member of the city church, offer myself as a log on that fire, ready to be consumed for the sake of a greater outpouring. We can’t determine whether we will support it or not on the front end. Give it time and God will make it clear whether it’s going to continue or not. I gave six years of my life to the call for revival in Detroit. I never felt revival was near in the whole time I was there, even when God was moving powerfully as he did on multiple occasions. But, for a time I did feel we could see it come within a few years if we gave ourselves rightly to it. I ultimately realized that my season was done and others would have the honor of contending further.
The opportunity definitely does remain for Detroit and any other region in our nation to experience revival. This is good news! Detroit is one out of 19,000 cities who have yet to see it come. So is Branson, Missouri.
I am quite undone by the recent meetings led by Marrio Murillo in Branson, Missouri. Of course, I’ve been wrecked by the power of God, the intense messages and the incredible number of healings and salvations. Last night’s meeting was probably the most powerful I’ve been to in many years. It was indescribable.
But, that’s not why I’m undone. After moving to Detroit for the sole reason of seeing revival come to that region I was honored to be a part of meetings led by Brian Simmons that were similar to what I’m experiencing in Branson. If a Christian could experience Déjà vu, this would be it.
Every night for a month my team in Detroit and I cancelled our own agendas, most church services and other activities and gave leadership to the prayer emphasis at the meetings. I knew in my spirit that these services were designed by God to be catalysts to a revival that would impact the entire Detroit region—and the nation. I can’t even begin to explain the hunger and passion that I was experiencing. God was moving and revival was a legitimate possibility—if only the church would reorder their lives, show up and contend with everything they had.
In the midst of those meetings a haunting prophetic word was given: If the church of Detroit doesn’t respond to the costly call of revival, God will move on to Chicago.
Unfortunately unbelief and a Thessalonian spirit brought the outpouring to an end after just a month. Suspicion and resistance manifested and the eagerness to serve with passion was lacking.
Six years later, in the first meeting I attended in Branson, Mario Murillo mentioned that he felt one of a few cities on the clock for revival now is Chicago. He had my attention. He also mentioned that God would move on from any region that doesn’t compel him to stay. The similarities between the two events and the two words was stunning.
The question is clear no matter what city on the earth you live in: will the church of the city respond with great passion and pay the great cost to see revival come? If it’s a false report, how will we respond? Will we jump in and contend with people who may be overstating the experience yet are zealous beyond measure for the Holy Spirit to pour out? You do realize that gathering together with a handful of like-minded people and praying without stopping can result in legitimate revival no matter what true or false reports are flying, right?
We must gather together as the regional church. I’ll include the last instructions that we as a nation have received for revival—the instructions that led to the last true revival in the United States, Asuza:
Gather those who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings. ~Evan Roberts
No matter the report, we should be doing this in our city. Stadiums should be filled with people who are crying out and contending day and night for revival.
And, keep in mind, when revival does come it will impact a city, not a single church. That’s the primary distinction between an outpouring and revival. This means that the church of the city must be unified and in position to serve the regional move of God. A supernatural, holy event in a church is a good thing, but not until the city church gathers and the entire region is rocked by the glory of God can we presume to call it revival.
We must not be like the Thessalonians. We need true Bereans who will eagerly receive the news of a fresh move of the Spirit of God and respond in force.
City shaking revival lies in the balance.
Discover four powerful keys to experiencing an explosion of truth in your life!
All too often I run into some amazing Christian people who are standing strong and pressing in, but also experiencing frustration at the lack of impact the Word of God has in their lives.
God’s Word is a burning, exploding, penetrating and living message that should cause us to collapse to the ground while trembling—yet that is rarely the experience for so many discouraged people of God.
Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me… Revelation 1:12
…I fell at his feet as though dead… Revelation 1:17
I know it’s popular today to attempt to read the Bible through in a year. Kudos to all who accomplish this!
I’d like to offer an alternate option: read a portion of a verse for a month. If we can speed through verses, chapters and books without being overwhelmed by the searing revelation, we need to slow down. Read one verse and let it rock you to the core.
For example, you could take the next month and let the first half of Revelation 1:10 provoke you:
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day… Revelation 1:10
What does that portion of a single verse do to you? Oh, to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day! We could spend hours crying out to God on that topic alone! Hours can turn to days as we break and repent for times we might have grieved the Holy Spirit. A holy hunger to never leave that supernatural realm would then begin to overtake us and our entire lives would shift for eternity! A fraction of a verse can, and should, do that!
Then, the next month can be devoted to the rest of the verse:
…and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10
My spirit jumps at the mere thought of such an experience!
A zealous determination to hear the voice of the Living God will consume us as we, after the previous month’s revelation, are trembling in the Spirit of the Almighty!
The Word of God, the Bible, is most certainly a living message that should take us to our knees in extreme passion! Sadly, for most, it rarely does.
Four Powerful Keys
1. REALLY BELIEVE IT.
And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:13
It’s at work in you who believe. Or, another way to say it: we must believe what we are reading for it to work.
Before I lose you, I know, of course, that we as Christians clearly affirm a belief in the Bible. The problem is that we are kidding ourselves. True belief is rare in today’s church.
Have you ever considered why so many messages on love, for example, have to be preached from the pulpit? So many don’t really believe that God loves them. They aren’t convinced.
There have been seasons where I have hit hard on the issues of holiness, repentance, the fear of the Lord and eternity. It never fails that someone submits a request for me to balance out the subject matter with teachings that focus mostly on God’s love. Of course, it’s true that the topic of love is inexhaustible, but that’s not the underlying argument. The reality they are communicating is that the discussion of God’s severity threatens their weak grasp on God’s love. They don’t believe God loves them—even though the Bible states it clearly, continually from cover to cover!
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love… 1 John 4:16
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
You see, if we really believed that God loved us, we would never be phased by other difficult truths.
It would behoove us to be settled on truths that God’s Word is settled on. We simply must believe the Bible!
When we believe the Bible, literally, everything changes. We will never be able to casually breeze through the pages of our Bible again!
Passages that previously bored us will ignite us! Just take a moment, grab your Bible, and open it up. Read. Believe. Let the hunger for a manifestation of what you just read electrify your spirit! Have some righteous anger over truths that have been dismissed or minimized in the past, and as a result have not manifested in your life!
As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is flawless. He is a shield for all who take refuge in him. Psalm 18:30
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. Rulers persecute me without cause, but my heart trembles at your word. Psalm 119:160-161
God’s Word is true, no matter what our intellect or our situation may report.
A sure way to lose faith and fail to experience a life that is fueled by the power of the Word is to be led by our senses.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; Proverbs 3:5
If you want the power, the burning and the trembling to cease (or to never be found), then reject anything in Scripture that isn’t verified via science, experience or common sense.
Yes, you must read the Bible and believe it, no matter what your circumstances or experiences or knowledge may be. God’s truth trumps all else—even supposed facts, proofs or testimonies.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8-9
Throughout Scripture God defied common sense and brought man’s wisdom to nothing. We don’t have the capacity to grasp the mysteries of God in the natural, in our minds.
I dare you to read the Bible, be challenged by the impossible and refuse to doubt even for a moment. You will grow like a rocket!
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22
2. DON’T REJECT IT.
We cannot reject the unpopular, difficult truths in Scripture. We must receive everything God’s Word communicates to us.
Today we are witnessing a tragedy in the church that I call Buffet Jesus. Jesus is the Word, according to Scripture, but his words are received in part instead of in full. Unpopular truths are passed by in favor of the sugary, more satisfying messages.
It is not possible to be a Biblical Christian if we only receive the parts of the Bible that are affirming, encouraging or uplifting. We can’t shut out the rebuke, discipline, judgment or severity of God because they don’t match our faulty worldview. When we do so, the entire counsel of God’s Word becomes compromised and tainted. Even the parts that are received are incomplete and were not meant to stand on their own.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13
Truth doesn’t only edify us. It corrects us. It troubles us. It judges us.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Too many refuse to be teachable due to their own pride or their rejection of anything that contradicts their picture of a perfect God. They shut down wisdom that threatens their utopia to their own detriment.
The Israelites rejected the way God was functioning when Moses was on the mountain (receiving the law, ironically enough) so they rejected him in favor of a man-made image. They fashioned the perfect God that fit their fleshly demands.
When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' Exodus 32:5-8
If we fashion our own golden calf, made up of compromised, incomplete and twisted truth, we are far from enjoying the fruit of a truly Biblical life.
3. ACCURATELY UNDERSTAND IT.
If we want to have the truth of Scripture manifest powerfully in our lives, we have to understand it. We must study and rightly interpret what it is saying.
It’s shocking how many verses are taught, declared and stood on completely out of context. It doesn’t make us evil people if we do this (if done in ignorance), but it does make us frustrated people!
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
For example, most people who I would connect with on a day to day basis would agree that God is the Healer and that we can experience divine health as Christians.
Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, Psalm 103:2-3
So, it’s common to pray for the sick and to cry out to God for him to heal them. And, the result, most often, is that the person remains sick. This can cause the truth of Scripture to become discouraging. In fact, the enemy can even cause people to reject the truth about healing in favor of a substitute teaching that matches what they are experiencing. How deadly this is!
If we understand Scripture we will know that nobody in the New Covenant ever prayed for God to heal anybody! The Apostles simply did it! The command wasn’t to pray to God to heal the sick, it was for us to heal the sick!
He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1
He gave them authority! So, we are to heal the sick, according to Scripture. When we pray for God to do it, that is contrary to the biblical protocol given to us.
Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:6-8
Jesus had to correct the misunderstanding of his disciples in Acts chapter 1:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:4-8
Imagine the scenario: Jesus had just been slaughtered on the cross before their very eyes. Graves then opened up as previously dead people started moving about, the sun turned to darkness, the earth quaked—and then, a few days later, the previously unrecognizable, bloodied man had miraculously defied death and was standing before them!
You can imagine their passion and excitement. They were ready for their Champion to set up his Kingdom. However, they misunderstood how it would all unfold. Instead of telling them how he’d set up his Kingdom, Jesus told them to wait for the Promise—and then revealed that they would be establishing the Kingdom on the earth, not him!
Then he disappeared as the disciples were gazing into the heavens.
Today so many Christians are doing the same thing. We are gazing into heaven waiting for Jesus to do what Jesus is not going to do! In Acts chapter 1, the disciples transitioned into being apostles—sent ones. Jesus said something important on the cross, “It is finished.” He’s done. What else do we want him to do? He has defeated death, hell and the grave! Now WE are to move out and do what he empowered and commanded us to do!
If we don’t correctly understand this truth, we will be greatly frustrated and will wonder why the Bible doesn’t seem to work powerfully in our lives.
Another example of misunderstanding Scripture to our own detriment can be found in Romans 8.
How often have we attempted to encourage a fellow Christian with verse 28? Maybe they have gone through a divorce or lost their job. The go to verse for so many is actually some of the worst counsel that you could give them!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
A correct understanding of Scripture would result in quite a different bit of counsel. Verse 28 begins with the word and. That should clue us off. That verse is contingent on the preceding truth. Something else must happen in order for all things to work together for good. Let’s back up and take a look:
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will. Romans 8:26-27
When we are weak, we are instructed to groan in the Spirit! That is the counsel we should be giving to people who are going through difficulty! It’s in the place of groaning intercession where all things work together for good. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is praying through us perfectly in accordance with God’s will. When that happens, our love of God intensifies (just try it!) and God’s will becomes ours as we agree in prayer. We don’t know what we are agreeing with, but it doesn’t matter. Our trust in in God and he can do as he wishes. He then makes all things work!
One more example can be found in Matthew. Have you ever called a prayer meeting and only had two or three people show up? In order to encourage the few faithful who showed up, you probably pulled out Matthew 18:19-20:
“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20
I’ve done that myself, though I’ve always been a bit troubled by the principle. If he’s there where two or three are gathered, is he distant when I’m alone?
So, I studied it out and found something quite interesting. Those verses aren’t about prayer or prayer meetings at all.
They are about church government!
“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' Matthew 18:15-16
How interesting! Jesus is saying that he has our back when we go with two or three witnesses to deal with someone who is in sin and unrepentant! He’s giving us a protocol for church government!
I could go on and on with other examples, but I believe you understand the point. If we function with great intentions but contrary to Scriptural truth, we are bound to be disappointed with the results.
4. EXPERIENCE REVELATION OF IT.
It’s one thing to believe the Bible. It’s an entirely different thing to have a supernatural revelation of it.
We all must live and walk and pray in the Spirit, night and day, so we can have a never ending supply of revelation.
This is where so few Believers will go. If we aren’t living in the Spirit, we can’t presume to fully understand or believe the Word of God.
Check this out:
Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVENIN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
This miraculous force isn’t there to enhance what we see in the visible realm, or to give us the ability to dream a little bit more deeply…it’s there as a burning, blowing Spirit to take us on a journey into the invisible, supernatural realm.
Did you notice one of the most powerful miracles known to man revealed in verses 18 and 19?
We can comprehend and know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge! Wow!
This means that we can have a revelation of God that goes well beyond our mental, logical limits. Verse 20 goes on to say that he’ll do more than we could ask or think according to the power within us.
There is an invisible, supernatural realm that we are called to live in continually. When we do, the Word of God will transform us over and over again.
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17
The word word (as in, word of Christ) is translated rhema. Rhema is the voice of God, the message of God that is delivered in real time. It’s God talking directly to us! Our faith isn’t increased as we simply read the Bible. It’s increased as we hear God’s voice, and that happens as we live in the Spirit!
…and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:17-18
Again, the word word (which is the sword of the Spirit) is translated rhema. It’s no mistake that the next part of the armor is praying at all times in the Spirit. When we live and pray in the Spirit, the rhema word of God will come to us, our faith will increase and we will advance with a powerful sword.
When the logos (the living, written Word) collides with the rhema as it’s stirred by the Spirit of God, our live in the Word will be alive, vibrant and active!
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
I’ll leave you with the passage I started with. Read it. Believe it. Understand it. Don’t resist it. Pray for overwhelming revelation of it. Let God rock you as the Holy Spirit burns through you. I pray that you will find yourself in the Spirit on the Lord’s day—and that his Word will transform your life!
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.” 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, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. Revelation 1:10-19
The church is crying out for a new thing, yet when something new manifests a common reaction is suspicion and unbelief.
What’s your first reaction when you hear about gold dust, gold teeth, oil manifesting on people, healings, angelic visitations, trances, Third Heaven encounters, etc.? Joyous belief or skeptical reservation?
Let’s have an open discussion about signs, wonders, miracles and manifestations. It’s a burning hot can of worms that is only going to get hotter and messier. God is going to offend our expectation and our intellects as he invades our comfort zones and destructs human controlled systems.
EXPECTATION VS. EXPECTANCY
God is moving the church from a place of expectation to an culture of expectancy. What’s the difference? It’s simple yet profound. An expectation has a pre-determined outcome attached to it. For example, I have an expectation that the sun is going to set tonight. There’s a clear and definable reality that should certainly come to pass.
Expectancy is quite different. It’s open ended yet very powerful and all consuming. It’s often ambiguous, nebulous. What we sense is coming goes beyond our ability to define and contain it in our narrow constructs.
So, to have an expectation means that we impose limits and boundaries on what we want to see done. But, expectancy opens us up to anything and everything that God might want to do. We have a resounding “yes” in our spirits even though what’s coming is well beyond our realm of understanding or imagination.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
At Revival Church and theLab School of Fire we’ve been experiencing undeniable wonders such as gold dust appearing on people, anointing oil coming out of people’s hands, a visible mist of God’s presence, angelic activity and more. I’m sure there has been a gut reaction of doubt and skepticism by many who read about it.
I believe God is lovingly testing and preparing us for the greater glory that’s coming. He wants to see how we will react when he does something new and unusual. Will the first reaction be skepticism and suspicion? Will we attribute what’s happening to him or his arch enemy, Satan? Or, will we be fueled by such expectancy that faith and belief is our immediate reaction?
Check out this email I received this morning from a close friend who’s a student at ministry school:
I must admit I've been extremely skeptical about your Facebook reports of gold dust. People so desire the Lord move in their midst they will imagine many things. I mean, what's the purpose of gold dust anyway. Apparently, you can't collect it and take it to the bank. It just disappears after a while.
People can react to a song or phrase in a fleshly manifestation when nothing is actually happening. Although I think we must stay on guard against such things, something happened this morning that has radically shifted my thinking.
During admin time before moving into the prayer room this morning, a woman in the back of the room started laughing uncontrollably. After a short time of ministry to her, they took her out in the hall and continued with announcements.
A minute later, a young woman across the aisle from me started trembling and weeping. The girl next to her said, "There's oil dripping from her hands." I looked and could see it with my own eyes. See laid hands on a sick woman and received healing. I must repent of my unbelief and skepticism. This girl seemed like one of the most introverted and timid I've ever met. Here with my own eyes I see the Lord manifesting something I don't understand through her.
O Lord help my unbelief.
7 Key Points to Consider
ONE. What’s the purpose?
Often people will doubt that a manifestation is a result of God moving because they can’t connect the dots. They can’t answer the “why?” What benefit does the gold dust have?
I personally think we’re overcomplicating this issue. Most realities that we experience in life don’t have a purpose, they just are.
What is the purpose of smoke at a campfire?
What’s the purpose of the smell of spring rain?
What’s the purpose of the sound of thunder?
There is no real purpose. They are simply evidences of fire, of rain and of lightning.
Gold dust, for example, is an evidence of God manifesting in glory in a certain location. That’s all.
But, that’s really not all. We know that evidences result in some pretty remarkable things—people get radically saved as they see God move!
Acts 2:43 (NIV) 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:47 (NIV) 47 ..And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
TWO. Should we ignore or deny what is clearly happening?
I’ll admit, when I hear from people who doubt that what we are reporting is true, my first reaction is, “I’m not sure what to do with your skepticism. I saw it happen.”
I mean, if it’s happening right there in front of us, with many witnesses, should we ignore it? Deny it?
If we allow unbelief or skepticism violate the clear evidence of God’s glory we are in a lot of trouble. God’s manifest presence will be gone that fast.
We also have to be careful not to jump to conclusions that are fueled by unbelief when we hear of God moving unusually somewhere.
Mark 16:14 (ESV) 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
Matthew 13:57-58 (ESV) 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Someone sent me this message today on Facebook. He couldn’t deny God’s presence or his manifestation:
Back in 2009, I had oil appearing to flow from my hands and gold dust appearing all over me. Most of the time this happened in my home. People were amazed when they visited my home…mostly because of the presence, NOT the manifestations. Well, I haven't had those happen in years, but I got so excited when I read your recent posts… not because of the manifestations, but because of the presence…and because of what's coming to you NEXT!"
THREE. Why do we immediately presume unusual signs and wonders are the work of Satan?
This point is more serious than we might realize. Yes, its absolutely true that Satan will deceive people through deceptive signs and wonders.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (ESV) 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Note that this passage emphasizes that it’s specifically those who are perishing, those who don’t love truth, who will be deceived. Those of us in love with Jesus should not be fearful or nervous when signs and wonders start happening!
If we are deeply in love with Jesus, we will easily identify the lover of our souls when he’s in the room. The anointing will overwhelming, and when the signs and wonders follow, there can be no denying that it’s God himself who’s manifesting.
The reason this point is very serious is because of the one sin that is unforgivable—blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Those in the suspicion driven heresy hunter movement often creep very close to the edge of this sin—and certainly some have gone over that edge.
Mark 3:28-30 (ESV) 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Wow. That is sobering. The fear of God should rock us. They were saying Jesus was manifesting demonic power when in fact, of course, he was demonstrating the power of God.
FOUR. Should we not be more concerned when miracles aren’t happening?
Mark 16:17-18 (NIV) 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well."
Is it possible that we have churches full of unbelievers? I’m not talking about those who haven’t repeated a sinner’s prayer. I’m talking about church goers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Yet, their unbelief results in no supernatural power in their lives. No demons driven out. No healings.
The expected atmosphere for a Christian church is one of signs, wonders and miracles. They are the result of belief. It’s that simple. Check it out:
John 14:11-12 (NIV) 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
It seems to me that a more accurate conclusion would be that the enemy is the key influencer when we don’t see signs, wonders and miracles. Demonic and humanistic conditioning results in unbelief. Unbelief ensures nothing miraculous will happen at all.
FIVE. The Bible doesn’t contain a record of every manifestation or Kingdom activity.
A lot of people get tripped up here.
Scrutiny causes them to shun anything unless they can validate it through a duplicate situation recorded in scripture.
The question shouldn’t be limited to, “Is this exact manifestation recorded in the Bible?” The question should actually be, “Does this manifestation line up with the truth of scripture, and is there anything in the Bible that would forbid or shoot down what we are experiencing?”
John 21:25 (NIV) 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
Have you considered that some of what is happening might be a part of what Jesus did that wasn’t contained in scripture? Have you also considered, based on John 14:12 that we are to do MORE than what Jesus did?
Take ten minutes and consider everything in our Christian culture that isn’t found in scripture. Do you really want to throw it all out?
You’ll have to stop using the word Trinity. There will be no celebration of birthdays, Christmas or Easter. We would be forbidden from tapping our toes during worship. There would be no electric guitars or saxophones in worship. The only valid spiritual dreams and visions would be those that are exact duplicates of dreams and visions in scripture.
God giving specific, personal answers to prayer would not be allowed, unless God also revealed that in scripture (He’d have to mention the exact city he wants you to live in and the exact place he wants you to work in the Bible, for example.)
What about paid children’s pastors? Media ministry pastors? Television ministry? Wearing crosses around our necks? Nope.
SIX. What about all that the Bible does contain that we aren’t experiencing?
An even easier way to address the issue raised in the previous point is this: Why aren’t we experiencing all of the dramatic signs and wonders that are in the Bible?
Cover to cover we see wild and bizarre manifestations and miracles of God.
A pillar of fire, a cloud, parting of waters, blind eyes opened, the creator, walking on water, manna, a burning bush, angelic encounters, trances, Third Heaven encounters, and on and on and on.
I believe we must repent for living below the bar of supernatural manifestation in our churches and have an increased expectancy for the unusual, strange and overwhelming manifestation of God today.
SEVEN. The Bereans weren’t skeptics.
There’s a Pharisaical spirit in a growing group of people that are masking themselves as Bereans.
The Bereans weren’t skeptical. They weren’t suspicious. They weren’t nervous. They weren’t divisive.
People often say that the Bereans were marked by their study of scripture—and that study was to police any activity that would violate the Word of God. People presume they were self-appointed protectors and “officers of the law.”
Most common day, self-described Bereans are filled with unbelief, suspicion, doubt and a spirit of division that’s used against anybody that threatens their personal, narrow interpretation of Scripture.
Those people are not Bereans, not by a long shot. Many of them venture very close to the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Others are simply arrogant and mean spirited. Others are simply deceived. In fact, they could better be defined as Thessalonians.
Acts 17:1-9 (NIV) 1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ," he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. 5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: "These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus." 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
The Thessalonians heard Paul talking about Jesus and about the supernatural miracle of resurrection from the dead. This was a problem for the Jews. It bothered their theology. They then adopted a spirit of accusation (a demonic spiritual gift) and declared that the message was not of God and that they were causing trouble.
So, the moved on to Berea. Here we find true friends of God and people who were expectant, open to a fresh move:
Acts 17:10-13 (NIV) 10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.
Why were the Bereans counted as more noble? Because they received the message with great eagerness! They excitedly, expectantly searched the scriptures for confirmation. They were joyous, not suspicious. Not guarded. Not nervous.
So, a great question is this: When we hear of God moving in a new way, will we be like the Thessalonians who were threatened and full of doubt or like the child-like Bereans who excitedly received the Good News?
It’s time to take an honest look at the typical Christian experience that is largely disappointing for so many.
Sing along with me:
I went to the enemy’s camp and took back what he stole from me, took back what he stole from me, took back what he stole from me…
This is a fun song to sing and has a sold ring of victory to it, but it has always troubled me. I always wondered why Christians seemed to be playing catch up, perpetually trying to gain back what was lost and attempting to convince themselves that they are victorious. We often try to cheerlead our way to believing we are who God says we are. It’s as if we are sitting on a couch in a counselors office, looking into a mirror and saying, “I’m OK. God likes me. I’m a winner. I’m OK. God likes me. I’m a winner.” If we say it enough, surely it will sink in, right?
Again, let’s be honest. Yes, we as Christians all agree that in the end Jesus wins. Or, do we really believe that? Is it simply easier to believe something that’s far removed and chiseled logically into the stone that holds the tenants of our religion?
What if that end of times war exploded violently and experientially right now? Would we simply embrace peace and easily, confidently know that Jesus wins—or would we freak out and worry as devastation creeps onto our front lawn? Would it it result in a crisis of faith or an eruption of faith?
Our foundation of faith (or lack of it) will result in difficult situations either triggering hopelessness and despair or passionate expectancy.
Lets bring it closer to home.
At any Sunday morning church service I could stand in the pulpit and ask the congregation a question: Who here has a history of financial struggle?
Most hands would shoot to the sky. Yet, we know that scripture declares that every need that we have is provided for!
Philippians 4:19 (ESV) 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Do you see the conflict? It’s a crisis of faith that is unfortunately experienced by most Christians!
Think about the 1260 promises in the Word of God. How many are inactive in the lives of Christians? How many have the enemy stolen away? Just where is that camp that we have to find so we can take back what he stole from us?
Psalm 84:11 (NKJV) 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.
That’s a really good Bible promise!
Why does that verse feel more like a pipe dream than a common reality experienced by Believers?
Because many Believers are actually unbelievers.
They doubt. They are gripped by unbelief.
Check out this passage:
Matthew 13:10-15 (ESV) 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. This issue is gripped the unbelievers in the church!
Why don’t we see extreme prosperity, healing, joy, life and freedom in the church today?
Matthew 13:58 (ESV) 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
- Tradition. Another way to say it is historical evidence or past experience. If our confidence and expectations come from past experience and cultural norms instead of the wild realities of the Kingdom, you will live like most every other Christian out there—below the bar of Kingdom wonder.
Matthew 15:6-9 (ESV) 6 …So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
- Powerlessness. Christians are evidenced by their supernatural power. Check out this problematic passage:
Mark 16:14-18 (ESV) 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 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.”
What a situation we have here! In the same breath that Jesus rebuked them for unbelief he was telling them to wise up and figure this Kingdom thing out. They were commanded to deal with their doubt and change the world. The way they would pass the test? Faith-fueled signs, wonders and miracles. Does it strike you as concerning that there are Christians out there that have not discovered the power of God flowing through them? It’s a very serious issue.
- Failure of performance. Have you ever quoted verses that dealt with an issue you were facing? Did you add some prayer to the mix only to be disappointed by a failed mission? The Bible speaks to this directly:
Matthew 17:19-20 (NKJV) 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" 20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
It’s unbelief. Doubt. The moment we give room for any ending other than what is promised in Scripture, you can label that unbelief. So, what was Jesus’ prescription for their unbelief?
Matthew 17:21 (NKJV) 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
We don’t pray and fast to cause demons to come out. We pray and fast to cure our unbelief. Apply this verse to any enemy that is winning in your life. Depression, fear, poverty, sickness. If you don’t have belief that joy and power and prosperity and health are yours for the taking, then move into an extreme season of prayer and fasting. Breakthrough hinges on your ability to fully believe without wavering.
This verse makes the point very clear:
James 1:5-8 (ESV) 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
If we doubt, we can’t expect to receive. Period. If your mind entertains thoughts like, “God might heal me,” you are pretty much done before you began contending.
- No joy of salvation. Ouch. This one hurts, but must be addressed. We see salvation and faith so intertwined throughout scripture that we simply have do deal with this. If we as Believers are living most of our lives in the realm of unbelief can we casually presume to be saved? I’m not so sure. Check this out:
Luke 8:11-15 (ESV) 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Do you see how faith and salvation are connected? Here we see the devil stealing the very thing that ensures their salvation—their belief. The next group experiences the joy of salvation, but didn’t have sufficient belief when the trials came. They fell away. It’s the last group that hears the word (faith comes by hearing the Word!) and endures and bears fruit with patience.
- Faith in what is visible. If we default to what is visible and humanly understandable, we will fall well below the mark of belief. This can have often tragic results. The story of King Asa should be an alarm for all of us:
2 Chronicles 16:12-13 (ESV) 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.
I believe one reason we don’t see more healings in America is because it’s too easy to pop a pill and trust that the doctors can heal us. That misguided faith has been devastating in its impact. The majority of our lives as true Believers exists in the invisible realm of the unseen—in the realm of confident belief.
Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
For the Believer, the unseen realm has more substance than what our five senses pick up. For the Believer it’s easy and normal to believe the report of the Lord ahead of the report of human experience or human perception.
Church, it’s time we stop hoping and wishing our way to victory. Hope deferred makes the heart sick! We have to put an end to demonic thievery. Pumping ourselves up and cheerleading our way to a low level confidence in God’s Word must give way to a peaceful assurance of breakthrough. We don’t contend for victory, we start at the point of victory. Now, we don’t have to play catch up as we focus on personal identity and success. We can launch with great faith from the platform of success into the world changing missions that God has assigned us to. As champions and authorities in the Earth we don’t ever allow the enemy to steal anything—instead we take dominion over his camp, his domain!
I see a day coming in the church where everybody who simply yet fully believes is wildly joyful, prosperous, healthy and free—strong and ready to annihilate the kingdom of darkness with force!