Functioning primarily out of our soul results in division, fear, recklessness and arrogance.

Riots.

Violence.

Pandemic.

Lockdowns.

National Election.

Social media has been distressing to my spirit this year. Really, all media has been, including the few sources that might be considered trustworthy. I'll be the first to admit it's easy to dive into debates at a soul level, arguing logic that seems so obvious while being legitimately confused at how anybody else just cannot see it the same way.

Everything from masks to President Trump to racism has polarized our nation. The damage left in the wake of the raging debates has been devastating. More concerning, the church has been caught up in the exact same soul-level social battles.

When our soul leads the way in our debates and decisions, the results can be quite toxic. We've seen fear and division overcome the people of the “home of the brave.” Arrogance has been masquerading as authority and recklessness as freedom.

The soul is the center of emotions and logic, and without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, arguments initiated from that level are not to be trusted. Powerful emotions with the help of seemingly obvious logic will convince people they are functioning from a place of wisdom when in truth they are reacting in fear. Faith is eliminated from the equation. Wisdom (fear) trumps faith when we don't live, breathe, pray and walk in the Spirit.

25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:25-26 (NIV)

DIVISION IS NOT ALWAYS NEGATIVE

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)

The true church will always introduce division simply because of the topics we are promoting. There is an agenda. Jesus made it clear that ecumenical unity wasn't his goal. World peace wasn't the focus.

We can expect division when the Gospel is preached. When revival hits, people will be split like the Red Sea with many running to the altar and many running out the back door.

Many pastors today are attempting to avoid the very necessary schisms that clearly define the remnant and the pretenders. Truth rightly presented demands decisions. In the end the Final Judgment will bring the greatest division of all, separating the sheep and the goats for all humanity to see.

Many Christians have attempted to apply this principle of biblical division to their own humanistic stubborn opinions. They celebrate as their pet positions cause others to get riled up and split off. They feel spiritual, but this is soul-level activity and it is grieving to the Lord.

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another… Ephesians 4:30-32 (NIV)

Preach the Word of God and, often times, you can expect division.

Preach masks, politics, the Constitution and on the racial issues of the day? We as Spirit-filled, blood-bought children of the King should speak with great love and grace. Is there ever a time to strike against wicked arguments with force and precision? Absolutely. But, not from our soul. This type of engagement must be led fully by the Spirit.

WHAT IS GOD SAYING?

Church, it's time to come up higher. In this toxic season of politics, sickness, murder and distress, we need to resist the urge to function from our soul. It's time to minister from our spirits.

We've heard all of the arguments about masks, both pro and con. We know all of the reasons people are going to vote for Trump or Biden. People are dogmatic about taking a knee or not. The memes and GIFS and posts and rants about all of these volatile issues and others have become predictable — and nauseating.

Where are those who have emerged from their closets of intercession, those who have a clear word from the Lord? Where is the tangible anointing that pierces through arguments? In this critical, historic hour, where are the true prophets?

Understand, this doesn't mean we can't discuss issues at a logical level. I'm not even saying the soul (emotions and logic) should be minimized. God gave us a soul and he will certainly cause us to speak intelligently and even passionately on secular matters, with wisdom, love and clarity. Debates and discussions can be beneficial. The critical call, however, for every Christian, is to do so with the mind of Christ.

The greater the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the more impacting our words will be. I would challenge you to disengage from the madness that has bewitched so much of the world and the church. Pull back. Stop functioning mostly from your soul. Don't get so excited about your logic. Be teachable. Die to your own opinions. Speak truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and people will be absolutely confounded.

When the truth you speak causes both people and demons to react, you know you've moved from soul-level arguments to spirit-driven, authoritative declarations:

22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:22-28 (NIV)

TAKE A BREAK

As I said above, it's easy to get sucked into the soul-level debates of the day. And, as I said, not all of these debates are unhealthy. However, a whole bunch of them are.

They can distract those who are supposed to be functioning in the realm of the Spirit and cause us to fight in the flesh. If your revelations on the matters of the day aren't burning with anointing, take a break. If you aren't having dreams and visions about how to address the madness of this hour, take a break.

Seriously. Resist the urge and stop posting to Facebook. I'm not talking about the infamous month-long breaks from social media that people regularly announce. Those folks are back and active usually in less than 24-hours.

I'm talking about going deeper in God than you ever have. See the futility of your arguments. Humble yourself. Finally understand that nobody needs to hear what your soul has to say. Find your prayer closet and discover what God is yearning to reveal to our nation.

The whole world will want to hear what you have to say then.

Originally published by The Stream.

Should Christians wear masks or would that be an indicator of a lack of faith?

My most recent article titled “Offended by Faith: The Pandemic has Exposed an Unbelieving Church” has created quite a stir among the pro and anti-maskers. Interestingly, the article really wasn't about masks at all. It was about faith.

In fact, I made it quite clear that we should use both wisdom and faith in these treacherous times:

Wash your hands. Wear a mask if called for. Go to the doctor if needed. Do your due diligence. But don't put your faith in such things.

ALIEN-0000000 8-8-2020 3.15.02 PM

It never ceases to amaze me how triggered people zero in on the narrative they want to attack, all while blowing past qualifiers and clarifiers that would address their concerns if they only took time to read them.

I can't tell you how often people become unglued just by the title of one of my articles. They arrive at conclusions that are unfounded because they didn't read past the first sentence.

Spoiler alert: I wear a mask if the situation demands it. Here's a pic to prove it. I'm not a card-carrying anti-masker. I'm definitely not a pro-masker either.

I'm watching the carnage pile up all over social media as a result of verbal assaults, judgments on morality and ethics, crazy conspiracy theories (and some possible true ones) and accusations that pro-maskers are killing America and anti-maskers are killing grandma.

It's ridiculous to point nasty, crooked fingers at the uncovered calling them selfish, unloving and reckless. Not only is that statement generally untrue and the motive fairly disingenuous, the logic behind it simply doesn't work. It's equally ridiculous to presume those who wear masks are fearful by default and surrendering to the anti-Christ. No, these aren't masks of the beast and no, America isn't going to become communist because we wear them.

I would encourage you to read an article I wrote on the spiritual reality surrounding the 2020 crisis. Yes, I do believe witchcraft is behind it, but wearing a mask doesn't mean we are surrendering to that spirit.

This bizarre conversation between pro and anti-maskers that has overtaken our culture must be refocused onto what is most important.

UNBELIEF HAS BEEN EXPOSED

I don't think anybody can deny that the entire world has been shaken by the virus. The purpose of my recent articles on the subject is to awaken the shaken to the supreme opportunity to shine our lights into a desperate and dark situation.

Be honest. Christians are worrying, nervous, fearful and scrambling to do whatever they can to be safe from this invisible threat. This isn't true of all Believers, of course. It's true of a whole lot of them though. I don't know how often I hear blood-bought Believers urgently warning people to wear masks, to socially distance and to lock down while rarely hearing them proclaim the power of the blood that bought them. I'm dumbfounded.

The lack of a faith-driven spiritual response is a problem. If our joy, peace and confidence in Jesus has been impacted, we must respond in repentance. In the midst of a threat, abundant life is still ours. Joy unspeakable and full of glory. Peace that passes all understanding. We are more than conquerors, the head and not the tail, above and not beneath. We trample on serpents and scorpions. We have authority over all the power of the enemy. That will preach.

The sad reality is that a lot of Christians simply don't believe that Jesus heals or protects today. Some believe that he can, but they doubt that he will. Miracles are rare. Wonders of old can be taught in Sunday School but they really don't occur today. They boldly defend the power of the enemy by confessing that nobody is safe, Christian or non-Christian.

What many Christians call faith is little more than hope. Hope is posturing ourselves by sitting back and waiting for God to do something we'd like him to do. Faith is altogether different. It's active. There's an attitude driving it. It's demanding. It's expectant. It's militant.

Vibrant faith results in people speaking to mountains, shouting from rooftops, casting out demons, decreeing the Word of God and refusing to allow common sense, human wisdom or anything else to stop them.

Faith crushes fear. Faith destroys worry. Faith demands results. Faith pleases God.

Instead, too many default to hope (or hopelessness) and live pretty much the same way as the unredeemed do. Truths of Scripture are somehow dismissed as unreliable:

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (ESV)

The sick may recover would be a better translation according to the belief system of many Christians.

In fact, they tend to get quite mad at those who stand in faith on the Word of God, especially regarding healing. Accusations of “holier than thou” and “spiritual pride” are hurled at those who simply state they believe Jesus paid the price for sickness.

There are many reasons people are not healed. This article isn't the place to dive into a deep discussion on the topic. Suffice it to say the reasons include one or more of the following: unbelief, fear, sin, lukewarmness, receiving communion in an unworthy manner, not understanding our authority, curses, lies we've adopted, ignorance of the Word, misunderstanding timing, lack of fervency, trusting in doctors more than God, etc.

Another reason is what I call the treasure map. Healing is a hidden treasure that often must be sought after. The Holy Spirit will lead us as we discover truths, repent of wrong thinking and work to grow in faith. The treasure map is the unknown. It's the journey. There may be no sin, no doubt and no clear reason why sickness remains. So, we seek, pray and stand as God progressively brings revelation to our situation. Those who are sick should not live in condemnation, but they should be earnestly seeking the treasure of healing with joy and great expectation.

If someone is not healed, it doesn't necessarily mean they are less spiritual. It simply means they are somewhere in the middle of their journey on their personal treasure map.

That being said, please hear me. Faith demands that we stare sickness in the eye and fight. We can't allow the “chances” of healing or our own failed experiences with sickness to cause us to doubt, to stand down or to divert to other more natural remedies. No! We decree truth! We stand as warriors! We declare that Jesus took all of our sickness on the cross. We proclaim that healing is ours! It's this type of boldness the world needs to see!

THE CALL TO ALL

If you don't remember anything else in this article, please remember the following. This is what is burning in my spirit. This is the real purpose of my writing.

Declare the goodness and power of God! Stop declaring the deadly power of a virus!

The church should be commandeering the media, social and otherwise, with faith-filled messages to those who are haunted by fears of sickness and death!

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19 (ESV)

We are anointed to proclaim good news, liberty and healing! Are you doing that every day on Facebook and Twitter? You must! Especially during this opportunistic season!

The world should be witnessing a supernatural explosion as we radiate the power of the Holy Spirit and decree with passion that peace, freedom and healing can be theirs!

Christians, stop with the faithless drivel about the power of masks or the threat of COVID. Ok, sure, make your point and be safe, but please stop giving the enemy more power than he already has. Speak life!

If the world wants scientific data on whether masks are beneficial or not, they can do their own research. What they need from you and me, however, is powerfully anointed, deeply profound and supernaturally charged revelation! Preach, preacher!

The call to all is to rise up in fearless faith, with smiles on our faces and fire in our eyes as we proclaim to a worried and dying world that Jesus has conquered death, hell and the grave! There is a love that eliminates all fear!

This is the message. This is the cry of my heart. We should be preaching Jesus!

Where are the social warriors who will share verses that ignite faith? Where are the Believers who truly embrace the healing power of Jesus? Where are those who refuse to be shaken by the enemy? Where are the firebrands who will push back the darkness and laugh at the threats?

This is your mandate, Christian. This is your call. It's time you stop repeating all of the news stories and reports that spread fear. It's time to burn hot with the truth of the Word and show the world just what it is to be a sign and a wonder in the earth!

Originally published by The Stream.

Why are American Christians afraid of a virus? The answer is sobering.

Scrolling through Facebook I happened upon a simple yet interesting post. One of the comments was even more intriguing.

“Show me the verse in Scripture that says God heals everything but coronavirus.”

A sharp-witted respondent typed: Matthew 13:58.

58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58 (ESV)

That's the sobering answer I alluded to. Instead of boldly standing in authoritative opposition to a wicked threat, the common reaction of so many of today's American Christians seems to be unbelief.

Those who are to be driven by fearless faith are instead shaken by the winds of the world.

AN OFFENSIVE MESSAGE

56 …Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him… Matthew 13:56-57 (ESV)

A lack of faith most certainly results in a lack of mighty works. Matthew 13 makes that clear. The preceding verse reveals the root of their unbelief: offense.

In our current crisis I'm stunned and saddened by the reaction of supposed Christians to the few who are rallying the troops to arise in faith and healing. These cries for the church to confidently confront the spirit of the age and to believe without wavering in the healing power of Jesus are being met with resistance. How can that be?

Where did this man get all these things? That's the question being asked by doubters when people of great faith proclaim the Word of God. Just who do you think you are? What type of hocus-pocus are you communicating? Don't you realize how scary this virus is? Your lack of concern is foolish. Your so called faith is dangerous to our nation's health.

It's true, we are living in a day when many in the church are quicker to trust in science and medicine than in the Word of God. Facts trump faith in today's secularized society.

It would do us well to learn from the test that King Asa failed.

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. 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)

The next verse displays very clearly what this strategy of healing results in:

13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 2 Chronicles 16:13 (ESV)

If we allow fear to drive us, we will have no choice but to defer to the physicians in our search for health and safety. Fear destroys faith. The only way we can approach God for healing or anything else is by faith.

Unfortunately, it's obvious that many in the church haven't learned from King Asa. Calls to stand in confident faith are rejected as a nonsensical threat to their safety. What they don't realize is a refusal to believe sets them up as easy targets of the enemy.

A SUPERNATURAL CHURCH

It truly is shocking that many Christians today don't live in the supernatural realm that is so obvious in the Word of God.

As Believers, we have access to mind-boggling benefits that few take advantage of. In fact, many fully reject these spiritual realities. They become offended when faith-filled Christians challenge them. “Where did you get all these things” is the question they ask. Where did you get these bizarre beliefs that are contrary to common sense?

The Bible. That's the answer to their strange, humanistic question.

17 …“He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:17 (ESV)

The truth is that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for coronavirus. If we are afraid and default to human wisdom as we fight against it, we will lose. There will be no protection beyond what science can provide.

If we live as supernatural people and expect miracles and wonders to surround us, we will thrive no matter what plague may befall us. Healing, authority, power, freedom, joy and absolute victory are all ours as Believers! Fear, worry and defeat cannot stand against mighty, supernatural faith!

The church should be sounding a universal proclamation that Jesus heals and that fear can't stand! The world should be amazed and provoked by a joyful, fearless and faith-filled Church. Life for Christians is radically, wildly, supernaturally different than those who haven't surrendered to the Lord. No weapon formed against us can prosper!

Instead, so much of the church is nervous, afraid and campaigning for worldly potions, provision and protection.

LIVING IN A NATURAL WORLD

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)

Wash your hands. Wear a mask if called for. Go to the doctor if needed. Do your due diligence. But don't put your faith in such things.

Our faith is in the miraculous. It's in the invisible wonders of a loving, omnipotent God.

Don't get offended when someone challenges your response to the threat of a virus. Instead, admit your unbelief, repent and determine to live in a realm entirely different than where the world lives.

As Christians, we should be experiencing supernatural power and incredible miracles regularly. The authority we have over the enemy is extreme. The promises of God open up a world of wonder to all of us who walk in the mysterious realm of faith.

To think we are limited by science and human wisdom is silliness at best and blasphemous at worst.

It's time for the supernatural, fearless church to arise!

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

Originally published by The Stream.

All it took was a health scare to expose a negative spirit in many American Christians.

22  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22 (ESV) 

It saddens me quite deeply to see a famously strong American people have their spirits so easily and thoroughly crushed by our recent crisis. However, the reaction of the American people pales in comparison to how disappointing the response of many Christians is. Faith-walkers have surrendered that distinction for one of nervous caution. Walking by sight and not by faith has been the nearly instantaneous shift many have adopted as an invisible enemy has threatened their safety.

Of the weapons God has provided for us to win battles and counteract the assaults of the enemy, I wonder if joy just may be among the most supreme. Instead of scouring the internet in search of the perfect mix of vitamins, supplements, essential oils and unproven medicines to combat a medical threat, the Word of God states clearly that joy is the good medicine we need!

SOCIAL MEDIA REVEALS A LOT

It's telling when Believers in Jesus are posting non-stop everything negative, threatening and discouraging they can find, most of it from the compromised liberal media. This toxic negativity is doing great damage to many and it must stop immediately.

11  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Matthew 15:11 (ESV)

Continuing to spew fearful statistics, hyped news reports and other information without clearly communicating that we as the children of God are victorious overcomers and that we will fight this giant in joyful, fearless faith, it is defiling to us. Speaking or typing out dread, nervousness, hyper-caution, worry or fear does great damage to our spirits. It crushes us. It crushes many who are hearing or reading our dire reports as well. Instead of ministering life, hope, faith and victory, too many Believers are pawns in the enemy's hands, messengers of pending disaster.

It's astonishing how messages of fearlessness and faith and a resolve to stand against this foe in our nation are met with anger, often by Christians! They have determined our faith is threatening their safety and that our holy confidence is foolishness. Truth be told, when faith meets fear, those who live in fear can become quite enraged indeed.

WHO WILL STAND AGAINST THIS UNCIRCUMCISED PHILISTINE?

26  And David said to the men who stood by him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel? For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” 1 Samuel 17:26 (ESV)

This young man would have nothing to do with a paralyzed nation. He refused to be intimidated, and his great, godly resolve was met with initial resistance, not from Goliath, but from his own people. Not only was Goliath positioned against David, his threats resulted in David's very own family turning against him. As if Goliath's army wasn't enough, now he had the help of those in David's camp in shutting him down.

28  Now Eliab his eldest brother heard when he spoke to the men. And Eliab’s anger was kindled against David, and he said, “Why have you come down? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your presumption and the evil of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” 1 Samuel 17:28 (ESV)

The moment a faith-filled Believer determines to move forward in the face of fear is the moment those who are timid, cautious and tentative will launch their attack against them. Accusations will fly. They will determine that people of faith are presumptuous, driven by an evil heart just as Eliab did with David.

Additionally, in this great biblical story, David rejected Saul's armor. In the same way today, God is raising up people who don't put their trust in the supposed wisdom that seems obvious to everybody else. They have an entirely different plan of action to bring destruction to a wicked assault of the enemy. When you have faith a single stone will do.

But, understand, that stone won't stop the accusations and assaults of the fearful. It won't stop those who are walking by sight and not by faith from mocking your position or methods of battle. Sadly, many in the camp of the Lord are doing all they can to silence their own brothers and sisters, people of faith who won't be intimidated by the threats that have caused everybody else to go into hiding.

SPEAK LIFE!

17  No weapon formed against you shall prosper… Isaiah 54:17 (NKJV)

3  Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. Psalm 91:3 (NKJV)

5  You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6  Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. Psalm 91:5-6 (NKJV)

10  No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; Psalm 91:10 (NKJV)

19  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Luke 10:19 (NKJV)

Now these are verses that should be repeated all over Facebook! Speak life!

It's unsettling that so many people who name the name of Christ are filling their social media and conversations with bad reports. They sound no different than the unredeemed of the world. This must stop immediately if we hope to be a national church that moves in great supernatural power!

If you are triggered by negative news reports regarding a virus or any other threat, you have an opportunity to reject the tendency to share the bad news. Instead, speak life! Be life-giving!

If you read bad news, don't confess it! Instead, jump on Facebook and Twitter and announce to the world that “No plague shall come near your dwelling!” Command the wicked strategies to come to nothing! Take authority and trample on the serpents! Pick up your stone and run to the battle with joy bursting forth from your heart, abundant life exploding out of your spirit and victory resounding on your lips! Allow everyone around you to be astonished that you are free, alive and not stricken by this wicked serpent as it's crushed under your feet!

Don't alert everybody to the taunts of Goliath. Don't fill up your day relaying news reports of his encroaching position. Quit warning everybody about his strength. Don't devise a defensive plan to avoid him at all costs, to lock down in hiding and to just wait it out and hope for the best. No! It's time to advance!

16  For forty days the Philistine came forward and took his stand, morning and evening. 1 Samuel 17:16 (ESV)

The world needs to see you posting life not death, faith not fear! Confront the evil spirit of the age that's taunting our nation! Let no defiling word, report or confession come out of your mouth!

21  Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 (ESV)

Both the lost and the church needs to hear YOU rejecting fear as you abound in unspeakable joy! Decree an overcoming testimony over this nation! Command the enemy to step back and declare with fiery boldness that our faith is more powerful than his mountain!

20  My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. 21  Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. 22  For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. 23  Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:20-23 (ESV)

Let Psalm 27:13 and Psalm 19:14 be your meditation going forward, and fill up your conversations and social media posts with joyful, fearless, life-giving messages that focus on the goodness of the Lord, truths that will put fear into the enemies of our nation!

13  I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Psalm 27:13 (ESV)

14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14 (ESV)

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

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

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

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

THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRST

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

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

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

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

SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS IS A TEST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 5, 1948.jpg

Jackson Pollock, No. 5 , 1948, Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eternity

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

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

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

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

Born in Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prosperity

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FINAL THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AN EMBARRASSING RESPONSE

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

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

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

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

Dr. Drew Pinsky was quoted by FOX News:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHERE ARE THE FAITH-FILLED WARRIORS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE LOST ARE NOT SAFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on The Stream.

I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.

There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.

It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.

Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.

THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER

RAW, RISKY BELIEF

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

Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.

My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.

The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.

Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.

While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!

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

DESPERATE HUNGER

I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.

Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.

The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.

I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”

PASSIONATE PRAYER

While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.

Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.

As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.

But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.

DEEP HUMILITY

God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.

I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.

I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.

Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.

UNAPOLOGETIC HOLINESS

If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.

You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.

I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.

Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.

14  …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)

WILLING MARTYRDOM

Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.

We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.

From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:

One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.

I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.

Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”

I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.

I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.

Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”

Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.

Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”

Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.

Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.

I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”

The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.

ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD

As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.

I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.

However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.

From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:

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:

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 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.” 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. 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. 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, 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?

Don't be shocked when prayer doesn't work. A comprehensive strategy is required to experience a powerful and effective life of prayer.

I've met many people who have become completely disenchanted with the hopes of encountering the supernatural power of God and they have lost all hope of experiencing regularly answered prayer.

The idea of God responding to prayer is fully ridiculous to the unredeemed who regularly mock this Christian concept. You will hear them laugh when God doesn't do what the religious zealots are petitioning him to do. Of course, it's no surprise that those who don't know God wouldn't understand the power of intercession. I get it.

What is grieving is when Believers give up on the call to surrender their lives to faith-driven, fiery and determined prayer. Their prayer ritual instead becomes a whispered request that flutters out of their mouths and into the great void of time and space. They fulfill their due diligence, so they think, by making their requests known. The reality is, however, that they doubt any answers will come. Their faith is at at similar level to those who don't know God at all.

The truth is that answered prayer at it's most basic level is a simple cry of the heart. But, if it's analyzed more closely, we'll see that many synchronized factors are required to experience a powerful and vibrant life of prayer.

A CONTENDING SPIRIT

Breakthrough prayer is most often a comprehensive supernatural strategy, not a momentary petition. Our lives must be marked by the fire that can only be found in the Upper Room, in that place of Holy Spirit impact. Night and day, praying continually, we give ourselves to a lifestyle of fervent prayer.

16 …The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 (KJV)

As we live deliberately consecrated lives, we will be driven by a fervent spirit of intercession that refuses to relent no matter the cost. A casual approach will never do it. We will live well outside of the supernaturally wondrous life that God has planned for us and prayers will mostly fall to the ground.

Those who have a ferocious contending spirit will power through obstacles and shift atmospheres that result in miraculous breakthrough.

FAITH

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

I do not believe any person or any prayer movement can be sustained in intercession without faith being a primary attribute. Where there is no belief there will be no contending. Prayers will be weak and saturated with doubt causing them to have very little effect at all.

We are called Believers, not “Hopers.” We are know by our unwavering belief in an invisible, omnipotent, divine person we call God. He is our everything! We don't hope our way to success, we stand firm on truth and we believe!

If faith is challenged, shift your focus from the thing you were contending for in prayer to faith itself. Cry out for a mighty influx of belief that can then be the impetus of your contending intercession for breakthrough.

23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 (ESV)
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)

WARFARE

When you contend in faith, you better know that there are forces of wickedness that will be resisting your advance into breakthrough.

So many get mad at God for not answering prayer, and this is evidence of an immature understanding of the spiritual realm. They see prayer the same way they do ordering a hamburger in the drive-through. They put in the order and expect the powers that be to have their lunch ready for them by the time they reach the window.

The truth is, to spiritualize the analogy, that many devils are doing all they can to keep the burger from being delivered. The answer to our prayer can absolutely be hindered by unholy entities who are running interference. They know that failure or even delay in answered prayer can negatively affect our faith and our contending spirit can lose its intensity.

13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, Daniel 10:13 (ESV)

If we understand the warfare component of answered prayer, we won't lose hope, we won't lose faith and we will contend all the greater! It's from this place where we can truly engage the enemy, rebuke him and fight back with ferocity and even a greater measure of supernatural faith!

REVELATION

Prayer without prophetic infusion is greatly limited. The most powerful breakthroughs in my prayer life have come when God has clearly spoken to me. Whether it's a still small voice, dreams, visions or other forms of prophetic communication, you will come alive and your faith will skyrocket.

It can be very easy to be off, sometimes just by a degree or two, and miss the breakthrough entirely. When prophetic revelation becomes a part of the recipe of intercession, many of the questions and much of the confusion are eliminated. You can pray with extreme focus and with great precision.

When we pray precisely according to God's will, as revealed by his Spirit, everything changes. I'd encourage you to read an article titled Discover a 100 Percent Effective Prayer Strategy (links: part 1, part 2 & part 3) based on my book, Revelation Driven Prayer. It will help you develop a prophetic life that will lead to a legacy of non-stop answered prayer.

INTIMACY

Intimacy with Jesus is the cornerstone of a life of revelation. If you give yourself to anything this year, let it be developing deep, intense and vulnerable intimacy with God. You will be forever undone as the lover of your soul breathes life into you, reveals his love for you and shares his heart with you.

It's extremely easy to contend for good things outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus and to quickly get off base. Being branded by love only occurs in the place of intimacy, and without that brand, our very good ideas and determined pursuit of breakthrough will be tainted. Our understanding of God's heart is mandatory if we want to pray effectively and advance in our strategy of prayer with the right motives, character and humility.

5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)

AGREEMENT

Agreement with God's plans is critical if we want to experience answered prayer. Equally critical is severing any alignment and agreement with the enemy. We must repent of adopting worldly mindsets, paradigms and strategies if we hope to enter the supernatural realm.

In the realm of the Spirit, our own understanding becomes laughable. We must advance with revelation that can only be found in that invisible place. We renounce our own limited, human plans in favor of God's wisdom.

It takes courage to do this, to leave behind our own common sense and to move into uncharted territory as the Holy Spirit leads. We must agree with God every step of the way. We must trust his leadership and come into an unbreakable agreement with him.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

SIN

31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)

If we aren't living holy, righteous lives, not only shouldn't we presume that God will hear our prayer, we shouldn't presume we are saved. Continuing in sin is a very serious thing.

26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)

I don't know how many times I've counseled people over the last three decades regarding unanswered prayer. Flooding your soul with foul language, sexual situations and other immorality in media will most surely result in you living an extremely frustrated life of unanswered prayer.

On the contrary, if we eliminate the foul media, shut off the secular music and start living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, listening to anointed and prophetic worship music night and day and then discover the overwhelming fear of the Lord, our prayers will be like fire!

17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (ESV)

DEATH TO SELF

Selfishness in prayer is a non-starter. Period. We must die to our own desires, our own pursuits, our own dreams and even our own perceived needs. We lay down our lives. We are walking dead people. Martyrs.

When we get fully out of the way and become available for God to move any way he desires through us, watch out. Talk about a supernatural life! This is the quickest way to get there.

There are a lot of people who forget to take something extremely critical on their journey when deciding to follow Jesus: their cross.

38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV)

When we lose our lives, take up our cross and surrender all, when we die, every day, the miracles begin.

PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT

If you want an explosive prayer life, there is no substitute to praying in tongues. This is an absolute non-negotiable element for every Believer if they desire prayer-driven breakthrough.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 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. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)

If we want all things to work together for good, we have no option but to allow the Spirit of God to intercede for us with groanings.

If we don't know what to pray, what other solution is there? There is none. We must still pray with precision, we must still contend in the Spirit. We can't just stop and wait. The intercession must continue and the supernatural battle can't cease. We truly have no other option but to, in our weakness, pray in the Spirit. We need God's wisdom to manifest. We need mysteries revealed. We need supernatural infusion. Praying in tongues accomplishes this. Refusal to pray in tongues compromises not only our prayer lives but our lives as Christians.

THE WORD

Many articles and books could be written on this topic alone as it relates to prayer. It's utter foolishness to pray amiss, to pray outside of the bounds of Scripture. Yet, when we do pray from the foundation of biblical truth, look out. The prayer becomes nuclear!

Reading the Word with prayer in mind makes it an absolutely thrilling experience! Read it and then cry out for what it reveals. Contend for what you have discovered, believing in faith that it's true and that it must manifest in your life.

14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV)

Confidence in prayer comes when we see God's will in Scripture. He wrote it, we believe it and we contend for it to manifest.

DECREES

Related to praying from the foundation of the Word is confidently and boldly releasing decrees.

Many are addicted to petition as their primary form of prayer, and they generally live powerless lives. But, when we, as Kingdom authorities, release prophetic decrees that originate from the Word of God, and also from the Rhema messages God speaks to us, all Hell shakes!

So often people are asking for things that have already been promised in the Word. This ignorance leads to a failed prayer strategy. If it's promised, but it hasn't manifested, go through your checklist. Are you in sin? How's your faith? Are you contending for it? Are you battling the enemy? Add to that checklist bold, authoritative decrees and declarations. Don't ask the mountain to move, and don't ask God to move it. You command it to move.

When we are in the Word and when the Spirit of God speaks to us, our faith spikes and our prayer becomes a force to be reckoned with!

17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)

If I know God is already settled on a matter, you better believe I'm not wasting time asking him about it. I'm shifting my prayer from talking to God to assaulting the enemy, to speaking to the situation and to commanding a shift!

I'd like to encourage you to get excited about the thrill-ride that a fully immersed life of prayer will give you. The low-level petitions and half-hearted requests that so many identify as a “prayer life” must give way to a much greater and extremely potent life of prophetic, intimate intercession. It will shake the planet and your love for Jesus will go to places you never thought possible!

Three simple yet powerful truths will help unlock your financial future.

Listen to the podcast here:

When my family of seven moved to Branson, Missouri, we were in uncharted territory after twenty years of local church ministry. We were excited to jump into this new season, yet we knew we'd have to get creative with our financial strategy. The Ozark Mountains have millions of beautiful trees, but money doesn't grow on any of them.

Super long story very short, we decided to start a new business in this tourist destination. Specifically, a new escape room attraction was our plan, and we had a lot work ahead of us in the next six weeks (yes six!) before we opened the doors.

THE SECRET SAUCE OF FINANCIAL FREEDOM

WISDOM

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

Escape Code Ad 1200x1200Today, the escape room industry is quite saturated and it's difficult to start one in most cities. Competition is fierce. In late 2015, however, that was not the case. Nobody had started an escape room in Branson, and we felt it made sense to move toward being the first as being first to market in this industry is critical.

We believe this was a “God idea,” and we didn't hesitate in our planning for one minute. Time was of the essence. From that point on, we remained prayerful and diligent as we covered every base we could find, and then several we didn't even knew existed! We consulted with experts, researched (and visited) many other escape rooms in the nation and learned all we could about starting a business. We studied nonstop.

Understand, God absolutely has given us the power, the ability, to create wealth. What does this mean? He paved the way, but he's not going to do it for us. He has set us up for success. He's ready to move miraculously as we move obediently. He is the one who will bring the increase, yet, it's you and I who must move out and build the systems, do our due diligence and work smartly in the creation of wealth. Of course, we must be very careful to understand that it's God, and not us, who enables this wealth creating ability. (Wealth is simply financial resource, money and material goods that we can use in our lives and to advance the Kingdom Wealth and wealthy are not one in the same.)

For us, this step of applying wisdom also included hiring the best architect, consulting with the city's planning department, following every one of their rules perfectly, choosing the right colors and design for our logo and other branding, researching how to best market and how much to spend on ads and so much more. In fact, our diligence resulted in passing a state audit a few years later with flying colors. They were gladly surprised to see such honesty and attention to detail. Precise record keeping, among other disciplines is wisdom, and wisdom is one of the three keys to financial breakthrough.

When we understand God gives us the power to create wealth, it's important that we believe it, that we respond to it and that we do it rightly.

FAITH

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

In the midst of learning how to relate to the fire department, the planning department and other city officials, it got a little scary. The little money we had was being devoured by the thousands, and if this didn't work, we were in trouble!

Even though the Branson, Missouri city leaders and employees are absolutely amazing, we were in the dark regarding approval processes and how much there was to do when opening a business here. At one point Amy, my wife, was in tears and ready to stop everything. It was too much. Today she shares that it was my faith that kept her on board. She's so thankful that we stayed the course!

As a side note, it's wonderful being in a relationship that exhibits such diverse giftings, strengths and weaknesses. Amy is absolutely brilliant in the wisdom department. Faith regarding finances specifically is a strength of mine. We both have to consistently monitor all of our various ventures in life to ensure both faith and wisdom are working together. Leaping out in faith without being wise is a recipe for disaster. Wisdom without faith will keep us hiding out in caves!

Knowing that God has promised to supply our every need makes it easier to keep moving forward. Faith is a result of trusting truth found in Scripture. God has gone before us and he understands we are fully reliant on him.

PEACE

23  The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23 (NKJV)

This final ingredient in our secret sauce is one that may trigger financial breakthrough for many. Peace.

Peace is a manifestation of faith, and the above verse has been a very important one for the Burton family. God knows faith requires risk, and he doesn't want us holding back due to overreaching “wisdom,” which is actually fear. He wants us jumping, moving, shifting and advancing!

So, he makes it clear that, as we do this, he has our back. He's ordering our steps. As long as we are living rightly, moving ahead the best we can, trusting his voice and refusing to allow any measure of fear to keep us paralyzed, that he will keep us on the straight and narrow. Wisdom plus faith equals peace. If we aren't at peace, we need to evaluate why before moving forward. It may reveal a lack of wisdom or misguided faith.

God is not waiting to crush us under the weight of his disapproval. He is cheering for us! Even if, after investing in the process that wisdom demands and after doing our best to respond to God's instructions in faith, we fail, he's got us! He will make things right. He will order our every step. We don't have to hesitate, delay or be afraid. God will take very good care of us, even if we stumble.

Miraculously, we opened Escape Code in Branson, Missouri six weeks after having the first thought about starting a new business. The sign was up, the rooms designed, the website published, marketing launched and the open sign turned on—and people started coming! Wisdom, faith and peace were the secret sauce that caused this to happen.

Since then we've received awards and recognition including being voted the fifth best escape room in the nation by USA Today in 2017! It's exciting to see God moving in a project from concept to implementation!

A NEW TEST(IMONY)

Tests are simply an opportunity for a testimony.

We believe it's important (and wise) to develop multiple streams of income. In addition to Escape Code I make a little (very little) selling my books and we enjoy producing travel videos on our YouTube channel that has recently become eligible for monetization (we can't wait for our first $100 check!). In addition to those endeavors, we decided to implement our wisdom/faith/peace strategy again by opening two additional businesses, both of then right next door to Escape Code in the same shopping mall.

The Axe Game's build out was more expensive than we had expected and Sagas Mysteries would have to wait an additional twelve months before we opened it, even though we were pouring money into the lease for an empty storefront (which we had to secure so we didn't lose it).

The investment and monthly expenses, even though we applied as much wisdom as we could have, and moved out in faith, with peace, resulted in a difficult season. It greatly impacted our overall financial situation.

The solution? This might seem insignificant, but it's what God prescribed: In addition to our regular tithe and our already established additional monthly offerings and other giving, in the midst of financial crisis, we were to start giving an additional one percent. We did that, and last month the entire investment in our new businesses was paid off! New seasons will have new tests, but if we implement wisdom, faith and peace, God will always be there!

It's wise to give. It takes faith to give. We should be at peace when we give. Add increased giving to the other strategies that also require wisdom, faith and peace and you'll start to see a new financial culture developed in your life and family.

Oh, and by the way, this secret sauce isn't really secret at all. It's all right there in the pages of Scripture.