The church has been duped by a wicked and crafty culture.
The world is boldly and unapologetically preaching it's version of truth to the church, demanding compliance, and it has successfully caused change in theologies, church mission statements and a large segment of the body of Christ. In fact, the spirit of the age is working hard at redefining love in the minds of many Christians. Anything short of tolerance and everything smelling of judgment are branded as pure and utter hatred. Again, Christians by the millions are falling for the deception and the fiery unction of the Holy Spirit has been shut down in their lives.
I'll make the point of this article clear:
God still judges today and we desperately need his loving judgment. We also need preachers, prophets and Christians everywhere to rise up with fire in their veins and a steel rod in their backs and confront sin, renounce wickedness and expose the darkness in the land.
WE NEED JUDGMENT IN AMERICA TODAY
I've written on this topic before, yet it seems the church is slipping further and deeper into the tainted theology the world is promoting today. The no judgment zone is expanding and anybody who violates it is immediately renounced.
Can you imagine parenting without any form of judgment? It's ridiculous to consider. Can you imagine a workplace without any repercussions for violating company rules? How about a government with no judges and no judgments? It would result in anarchy and absolute disinterest in justice as the thugs run free. On the contrary, we celebrate justice and are thankful when rapists, killers, shoplifters and reckless drivers must stand before a judge and be held accountable for their crimes. Yet, many in the church are tragically renouncing justice (judgment) in the context of our modern Christian experience.
We can trust God's judgment. We need him to make wrong things right. Our nation is spiraling out of control. We must not take his demands lightly, and the fear of the Lord must strike the church and our nation again.
I wrote an article titled, “Revival or Judgment: Is God About To Move Positively Or Negatively?” for Charisma Magazine several years ago. Check this out:
“Then the trees of the forest will ring out before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy endures forever” (1 Chr. 16:33-34).
We should be singing for joy regarding His judgment!
Let me make something clear right up front—judgment isn't the result of an evil God doing evil things. Judgment is a vehicle used by a loving God to positively impact those who will respond (though the impact will certainly be negative for the rebellious). Judgment is an act of deep love. It has to be, as God is love just as He is the Judge. He doesn't lay down love when He moves in judgment and He doesn't forsake justice when He pours out His love.
We as end-time Christians should be ardent supporters of God's judgment, of His act of love.
Many who have a distorted view of biblical grace have adopted an unbiblical “God is always in a good mood” mindset, diminishing him to a passive, disconnected and nonchalant personal buddy instead of a good yet fearful Master. They have created a mythical image of a god that is more appealing and less severe than the Lord truly is.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. Romans 1:18 (ESV)
If you continue reading in Romans chapter one, you will see God's judgment in action:
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 (ESV)
If that isn't judgment in the New Covenant, I don't know what is. What follows reveals God's severity against sin as well.
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,
30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,
31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:29-32 (ESV)
AN EASILY OFFENDED PEOPLE ARE MUZZLING THE PREACHERS AND PROPHETS
Today's society has gone mad. It takes little more than a sideways glance to trigger people and send them crying and accusing and attacking. The #nojudgment hashtag is a warning to all who engage with today's social media posts to step cautiously in conversation and to avoid sharing personal and biblical convictions. They'd rather remain imprisoned to their passions than be confronted with truth.
It's time for the preachers to preach again! We must rip into the vile behaviors and paradigms that are destroying our nation and infecting the church. Today's Christians have become so timid in response to the demonic indoctrination of the world that they refuse to stand boldly against sin out of fear of being branded as haters, judgmental or religious. They have become psychologists and sociologists instead of piercing mouthpieces of God, attempting to soften their delivery from a place of overreaching sympathy instead of simply preaching truth and calling sin what it is—sin.
I want to encourage you to follow The Activist Mommy. She is fearlessly, humbly and powerfully standing against the putrid wickedness in our nation. When our preachers go silent, thank God we have “mommies” like Elizabeth Johnston who will rise up with conviction, passion and anointing. What God has judged as good and evil is clearly being revealed through this woman of God.
We need to understand that God is still a righteous judge, and it's our job as Christians to reveal this reality to the world. We absolutely need hellfire preachers again! His wrath remains on the lost, and they are in grave danger, yet we have been muzzled, paralyzed, unable to speak, disallowed from pointing this truth out to them. We are haters if we do.
Yes, we need hell fire preaching in the church again.
It's also true that God is longsuffering, but only He knows how long his suffering will be. The full force of his wrath will be released one day, and many lesser though terrible judgments will come before that happens. ~Is It Time For Hellfire Preaching Again, John Burton
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. John 3:36 (ESV)
Ephesians 2:3 also clearly communicates that the lost are children of wrath. God's wrath remains on the lost. His judgment remains on both the lost and the saints.
When we see culture diving deeper into wickedness, we must understand this is God's judgment in action. In Romans we see God giving people up to the lusts of their flesh. He gave them up to dishonorable passions. He ultimately gave them up to a debased mind. This is judgment.
Further, God's judgment isn't restricted to the world. It actually begins in the church. While true Christians (who are much fewer in number than professing Christians) are not under God's wrath, we are all subject to his judgment. The two are not one in the same.
We must have burning prophets arise who will fearlessly call out professing Christians who are dabbling casually in sin. It is wisdom to embrace God's judgment. It's foolishness to minimize it, or worse, to reject it as no longer in effect.
Today, a large percentage of professing Christians (and pastors) regularly view pornography (per a Barna report). The statistics are astounding. Many more watch movies and television with inappropriate language, sexual innuendos, nudity and other debauchery without even the slightest concern. This is not a sick and twisted world I'm referring to, it's a sick and twisted church, and the preachers have gone silent. These people are at risk of judgment, and they must be warned.
I'll never forget the time a pastor told me that foul language doesn't bother him. F-bombs and other filth are no big deal to him. I felt sick and angered, and I wondered just when it became more important to consider what's a big deal to him instead of what's a big deal to God. We must see God's judgment come to the church, and fast.
We need preachers to reveal clearly what the Word of God judges as holy and unholy, as truth and error. Those who practice sin are in serious trouble as the judgment of God hangs over them. Without a preacher, how will they hear, and respond, and repent?
2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things.
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:2-4 (ESV)
Rejecting Jesus should be the defining symptom of insanity.
One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.
Continually, as I watch the world go round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing? Many don't.
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Almost with intentional naivety, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the Upper Room. Today people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?
There must be a reason—or many reasons—why so many do the unthinkable.
WHY PEOPLE REJECT GOD’S GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND
They have no grid for the presence of God.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
One second in the presence of God will absolutely cure the most devoted skeptic. I believe it. I often wonder what unbelievers think when they witness moves of God that result in shaking, falling to the ground, groans of intercession, shouts of freedom and other manifestations. They have no option but to presume the people are hyper-emotional or mentally unbalanced. Why? They have not experienced the supernatural presence of God. Experiencing a visitation by a holy, supernatural force requires a “sixth sense.” They simply can’t understand it in the natural, so they dismiss it. Many mock it. They definitely reject it.
The countless times I’ve experienced the divine presence of God have changed my life many times over. It’s impossible for God’s presence to be invented, an emotional reaction, mind over matter or some other naturally explained experience. If you are standing in the ocean, you are wet. God’s presence is as tangible and simple to understand as that.
As a youth pastor in San Diego in the 1990’s, I took the teens to a powerful Vineyard Worship conference. It would be impossible for me to explain what happened there. God’s presence overtook me as he did many people there. I suddenly fell to my face as God’s weighty, holy and overwhelming presence consumed me. I was out. God was pouring out his love on me.
Hundreds of people eventually filtered out leaving me and a few others in the building. The youth helped me to my feet and I stumbled out of the room and to the van. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel where most of the people attending the conference were staying, I saw something I’ll never forget. All around I witnessed people being carried into the hotel, undone by the presence of God. This was no mass emotional delusion. God’s presence was healing and transforming people. Lives were forever changed. The lost have no grid for this.
They have never experienced a miracle.
11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Acts 19:11-12 (ESV)
I often say it should be absolutely impossible to doubt there’s a God when a legitimate miracle occurs. I mean, when an invisible God moves in great power and does the impossible, what else is there to discuss?
The signs, wonders and miracles I’ve experienced over the 49 years of my life are too numerous to list, though I’ve written about many of them in my books (www.burton.tv/shop). My life has been changed time and again as God revealed his love and power through stunning, incredible miracles that are fully indescribable in the natural. Only a loving Creator could move in that way.
People who reject God don’t typically experience wonders like healings or they explain them away. Financial miracles are foreign to them. Prophecy that comes to pass is dismissed. They just can’t grasp the reality of a God who moves in the lives of those who love him.
True peace, joy and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
Speaking of miracles, when depression, fear and darkness are suddenly dispersed by a strange and wonderful supernatural invasion, you are forever free!
I love seeing before and after photos of people that reveal the transformation of Jesus. Before surrendering to Jesus you can often see emptiness, and after their countenance is erupting with joy and freedom!
How glorious is it to rest in God’s peace that passes all understanding and to rejoice with joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory!
It’s an awesome thing when two strangers meet, and they both know the other is a Believer, without even saying a word. The presence of God is on them. The joy of the Lord is evident. Sadly, the lost cannot know this freedom outside of meeting Jesus and falling in love with him.
Their have settled for counterfeit love.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 (ESV)
I’d encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception for a comprehensive look at how both the world and the church are falling for counterfeit love.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.
God’s love looks and feels very different than most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.
They haven’t heard God’s voice.
3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
My book Revelation Driven Prayer is a handbook that will help you discover the wonder of God’s voice. When God talks, it absolutely shocks and rocks us to our core! His voice is life-giving and life-altering.
The Bible tells us that it’s his sheep who hear his voice. The lost are wandering without a guide. They simply need to cry out to God in desperation and be amazed at the voice that bellows from the heavens!
God’s voice is real, not some weird, imagined, mystical message. God talks to us. We know his voice. Those who reject God enact radio silence.
Dreams and visions are foreign to them.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
My life has been impacted beyond description by the communication of God through dreams and visions. When you have a “God dream” you just know it. His truth explodes through imagery that is delivered in ways only a deity could. Mysteries are revealed. Questions are answered.
I’ve written about several of my dreams and encounters with God in articles and books, and have taught on them many times. Other Believers all over the world have had even more dramatic encounters. Those who reject God are not in tune with him, and therefore don’t regularly receive from him in this way. Of course, God has and will visit people who have rejected him, giving them an opportunity to surrender all and follow him. It happened with the Apostle Paul. It happens with Muslims today. It happens with many who have hit rock bottom. But, it isn’t until we develop intimacy with Jesus that the dreams and visions become normal in our daily lives.
They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
The allure of the flesh is powerful and satisfying, and many who reject Jesus simply don’t think surrendering to their passions are that big of a deal.
The enemy is very good at bringing confusion in hopes of validating sin in people’s lives. Further, people presume God to simply be a “good guy” who is unconcerned with behavior and is smiling on them from a far away place. In fact, many delusional Christians believe in similar ways.
My article Five Marks of the False Grace Message will bring clarity to this point.
God is holy. God is aligned against those who choose to reject him and his love—until they turn from their wickedness. Then he will run to them and embrace them and welcome them as sons and daughters! What a glorious God we serve!
Ask anyone who was living in rebellion to Jesus before leaving their life of sin behind. Their surrender resulted in phenomenal life! They live in the fear and love of Jesus and they would not have it any other way. The transformation is very real indeed!
They haven’t experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.
31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV)
When the power of God truly hits, natural man yields to supernatural wonder!
Suddenly we are aligned and calibrated with the heart and nature of God in ways we could never have experienced before this baptism.
The moment I was baptized in power is the moment timidity disappeared from my life. No amount of counseling could have done that. Positive thinking was futile. It was only when God himself burned through me like a fire and transformed me in ways I’ll never be able to explain.
A supernatural force is ready to invade any who would ask.
How powerful would it be for another Azusa revival to erupt, except this time among those in Hollywood. Can you imagine a Holy Spirit fire burning in people like Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and others?
I’m not sure why I mentioned Hollywood at this point of the article, but as I’m sitting here in Starbucks writing this, a spirit of intercession came over me. Let’s all pray for a supernatural invasion of the Holy Spirit to interrupt movie sets throughout Hollywood!
The Word of God isn’t alive to them.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
A barometer of spiritual vitality is when reading the Bible causes us to come alive! Reading the Word of God intellectually, as those who don’t know Jesus are limited to, doesn’t bring life. But when we are intimate with God, the Bible imparts revelation. The truths are enlightening beyond measure. You can’t get enough!
What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
They simply don’t believe. They are skeptics. Without faith people are hopeless.
They must be convinced that, yes, there is an invisible God who loves them and who is ready to come to their rescue.
Again, the number of times God has manifested in miraculous ways in my life rocks me! Oh, is he real! When we walk by faith and not by sight literally everything changes!
Their prayers have gone unanswered.
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)
The prayer of sinners God hears is the prayer of repentance, surrender and brokenness.
Those who don’t know God yet expect God to respond to their cries for personal satisfaction will forever be disappointed. It’s when we truly surrender all that God will hear our cry and move on our behalf.
Further, even Christians will go through desert times when the voice of God isn’t booming. God doesn’t just answer every email we send to him. He moves deliberately though often very mysteriously. He is to be trusted, not used.
They are unconcerned about eternity.
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (ESV)
There is no urgency. Today it’s becoming more rare for people to live in the fear of the Lord or at least acknowledging the severity of unavoidable eternity that rests just beyond the horizon.
They live for today. The need for God isn’t strong. There is life to live.
God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.
10 …they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 (ESV)
From my article These Are Words We Never Want To Hear God Say:
How strange (and troubling) it is that God would do this. In His wisdom, He opens and closes the window of opportunity for people to come to Him.
Most often we presume people have until the day they die to turn to the Lord. This isn't the case. There are many who have been turned over to delusion. Eyes have been blinded. Others have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It's too late.
Many are nearing the point of no return, and for a significant number of them it will come well before they die. They will be spiritually hopeless, fully dead, possibly decades before an obituary is written.
This is a terrifying reality, and it should increase our urgency for intercession and evangelism.
I’m so terribly grieved when people reject Jesus. The price he paid for all to know him was so great. His love is so deep. The lives people could live if they only fell in love with Jesus would be miraculous. I hate that so few choose to live this way.
I wrote an article titled Christianity: Failed mission or glorious victory? Yes.
Jesus died for all, but so few will be saved.
There are many reasons people reject Jesus, including the few I revealed here. People say no to Jesus day after day, no matter how much God loves them and no matter how great their lives could be should they surrender.
I don’t understand it. I despise it. I’m wrecked.
If you aren’t radically in love with Jesus, be you an unbeliever or a Christian, please know that God is ready to pour out his Spirit on you! The miracles and wonders are waiting for you. Yes, the sacrifice and surrender are very real. The brokenness can’t be denied. The humility required to say no to our own selfish desires is costly. But, remember, we are talking about being intimately united with the Ruler of the universe!
Who could reject such an opportunity?
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)
Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
The hyper-spiritual too often wait for God to do what he’s not going to do.
At first glance, those who know me might raise an eyebrow at the title of this article. Many might consider me to be hyper-spiritual myself. Most wouldn’t use the term in a derogatory manner, but they would argue that my life has been marked by a clear supernatural focus. They would be right.
I’ve been awed throughout my life and ministry by the way God has performed stunning and miraculous works. I mean, I’m floored every time I think about any of the numerous times God moved outside of my natural grid.
Further, I’ve written on the prophetic, have led prayer movements that are fueled by tongues and fire and unapologetically call those who are naturally minded on the carpet. The call to live, move, walk, pray and function night and day in the Spirit is non-negotiable. Further, it’s there that the Christian life begins to make sense…and produce joy, freedom and a load of fun!
So, no, I am absolutely not calling anybody to pull back from living in that spiritual realm. What I am doing, however, is highlighting an error that causes many people to be spiritually minded to the exclusion of understanding God-given abilities and opportunities that exist in the natural realm. They are hyper-spiritual instead of appropriately spiritual. They are hesitant instead of proactive. They spiritualize their timidity.
NATURAL MAN POSSESSES AMAZING ABILITIES
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:4-6 (ESV)
God gifted every human, Christian or not, with abilities that are profound. Of course, everybody’s gifts, talents and abilities are different, but the truth remains, even outside of a life devoted to Jesus, mankind can do remarkable things.
Consider man’s ability to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. Even today’s most brilliant minds are astonished by that ancient architectural accomplishment. Think about the Hoover Dam, the Great Wall of China, the Superdome in New Orleans, the world’s tallest buildings and other marvels. The engineering required to build such impressive structures is mind blowing.
Think about life-changing inventions, medical advances, air and space travel and even military weaponry. Not only did all of these come about outside of a hyper-spiritual life, most of them were accomplished by unbelievers who had no spiritual focus whatsoever. Mere humans produced wonders.
Man was building the Tower of Babel and God knew they had the ability to do so, which is why he stepped in and stopped their progress. If unbelievers and even evil people can accomplish so much, why do so many Christians over-spiritualize decisions they make and presume that floating on some supernatural cloud will result in progress? It sounds so spiritual to say, “I’m waiting for God to open a door,” or “God hasn’t spoken to me about that yet.”
I’ve met innumerable people who fit this description. They love to soak in God’s presence (as we all should!)…but without any forward, natural momentum as a result. The extent of their forward movement is a stream of semi-prophetic words they share in church, on Facebook or to anybody who will listen. They love to talk about their supernatural revelations (or imaginations), but, when it comes to actually doing something, they retreat back into their mystical, nebulous existence. They prefer to adopt the appearance of the monk on the mountain instead of the person with the shovel in their hands. They think they present themselves as spiritually wise and mature, but in reality they are spiritually stunted accomplishing little in the spirit or in the natural.
We should certainly develop a life of intimacy with Jesus. We should have a prayer closet where we encounter God in supernatural ways. We should be prophetic and on fire for Jesus. We should also move out and produce!
YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND MOVE!
The Bible tells us that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. We can have great confidence that God will be with us when we advance!
Too often we are gazing into the clouds waiting for signs that we are to make a decision or to move out. Stop gazing and move! Stop waiting for God to do something. He’s already enabled you to do so much!
Write your book—THIS year! Start a business! Tell people about Jesus! Start a ministry! Go to a school! Learn a trade! Get another job! Do what is burning in your heart to do! Is there a place for seeking out wise counsel before making big decisions? Yes, there is. But, be sure the counsel is wise and not coming from someone as overly cautious as you’ve been!
My wife and I have enjoyed a remarkable life of advance, often because we just jumped out of the boat and went for it.
Understand, I’m not talking about moving carnally. I’m not talking about ignoring God’s leading. I’m not talking about living outside of God’s grace. I’m talking about acknowledging that God has very powerfully affirmed and enabled us and we have many permissions, resources and abilities to do things that don’t require the planets to align or a visiting prophetic minister to read our mail.
I’ve met so many aspiring authors who tell me they have a book in them, and have been waiting years and decades for the right time to write it. What? This is nonsense! Write the book in the next three months and move on to the next project! Is there a time to wait? Of course, but today’s hyper-spiritual Christian presumes a tentative life is a spiritual life. They stop until God says go instead of going until God says stop!
After years of full time ministry as church planters and pastors, my wife and I moved to Branson, Missouri. While I’d continue writing and traveling to speak at churches and conferences, we knew we’d need to develop additional sources of income. Additionally, we were excited about the opportunity to start something new. We knew God would be with us as we stepped out. He’d order our steps.
On a trip to Tulsa to visit Oral Roberts University with my son Skylar who was considering where to attend college (he ultimately decided on Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee) we had some down time. We jumped online looking for things to do and noticed something called an escape room. I had heard of them, but wasn’t exactly sure that they were. We decided to go. We played two games and were hooked. In the car afterward my wife said, “We can do this.” She was right.
Since we had developed a life of living, praying and moving in the Spirit, we knew God would redirect us if this wasn’t his will. We’d go unless God said stop. The other option would be to wait until God confirms it is his will. I’ll tell you, that is usually not the right decision. Be so intimately connected to Jesus in his supernatural realm that you can continually advance without delay, knowing that he will redirect you as necessary in the natural realm.
We returned to Branson and rented a storefront, dealt with the city code requirements, built out two different escape experiences, developed our branding, installed signage, advertised and opened for business.
The entire process, from the day we played our games in Tulsa to the day we opened and watched other people play our escape games in Branson was less than eight weeks! God’s grace was with us!
Two years later, as we continued to develop our business, we were awarded as the fifth best escape attraction in the entire nation by USA Today! We were humbled and excited that out of thousands of escape rooms in America, we are in the top 10! It’s not the Great Wall of China, but it’s at least a lot of fun for our family to develop and enjoy our little business!
We were the first escape room business in Branson, and now there are at least five others. The competition is fierce, and the limited tourist season here presents challenges for a business like ours, but God’s grace has empowered us.
We moved, God graced and now, instead of waiting for open doors and signs in the sky a few years later, our business is established and we are on to other ventures, assignments and opportunities.
Going until God says stop will save you years of delay!
YOU CAN DO IT!
God loves you and is on your side!
Live in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit. Advance in the Spirit. Be spiritual. Don’t be hyper-spiritual. It will hold you back and stunt your growth.
God has plans for you and he’s ready to direct your steps if you just go!
Are Christians more afraid than those in the world? Look out! It’s motorcycles, guns and diet soda!
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27 (ESV)
Surely I’m not the only one who has noticed that Christians tend to be an easily frightened bunch. Spirits of fear are in high demand in churches from coast to coast. Why is this? People take on these demonic spirits of fear because they very successfully masquerade as spirits of wisdom. The more afraid we are of anything that presents a threat, the more careful we will be, and the safer we will be, or so goes the logic.
In this article I want to offer a completely different method of confronting threats. Believe me, taking on a devilish anointing is not part of the plan. We can absolutely can live every moment of our lives without a troubled or afraid heart. The Bible tells me so!
Too many simply reject biblical truth as unrealistic, and fear is an all too familiar friend that can help with overcoming faith falters.
In fact, the carnal, unsaved people of the earth seem to exhibit more bold fearlessness than we see among those who have the most powerful, attentive and loving person that has ever lived on their side (Jesus!).
The “No Fear” mantra that took off years ago still emblazons T-shirts and bumper stickers across the land. Fearlessness is understood by those who don’t know God. But what about those who carry the immeasurable force of the universe within? What’s up with Christians who live in fear and worry every day of their lives?
MOTORCYCLES, GUNS, DIET SODA AND OTHER SCARY STUFF
“Worry shows God you are paying attention.” ~Frankie Heck, The Middle
God bless all of you who love me! I mean that with all sincerity. Being in church settings my entire life has provided me a never ending stream of suggestions and concerns delivered through some of the most wonderful people in the world. The more people love me, the more they worry. This is true for anybody. Frankie Heck (played by Patricia Heaton) revealed the wisdom, in humorous fashion, that many loved ones employ. They worry, hoping it will suffice as intercession. The truth is that worry is atheism. Worry decrees that there is no God. It’s evidence that we doubt any supernatural covering, provision or help is truly reliable.
One of the riskiest things any Christian can do is drink a diet soda in the foyer of the church when the resident essential oil/practitioner of health/organic foods promoter might be lurking. In fact, many years ago someone in the church I was leading jabbed me with a quick comment as I was drinking a diet soda. He said, “I hope you enjoy your brain cancer.”
I gave him a sharp, loving rebuke. I rejected his curse and made it quite clear that he may never say that again. He apologized and all was well. You see, I didn’t fear soda then, and I don’t fear soda now.
Today we are experiencing an increase in evil in America as mass shootings are becoming bigger and more devastating. Just as with the attacks on 9/11, the goal of the enemy is to instill fear. Of course, he’s out to steal, kill and destroy, but an even more effective strategy is to cause people to fear that he will steal, kill and destroy. That paralyzes us so he can finish the job.
So, the cry of many is to eliminate guns. Many Christians are saying the same thing. Instead of dealing directly with the spirit of fear while standing in our authority, we presume that dealing with the natural threat is the prime answer. It is not. If guns were done away with, fear would visit us in even more horrifying ways. The enemy would be sure of that.
Let’s see, so far I’ve dealt with diet sodas and guns. Oh yeah, we can’t forget the motorcycles.
Many years ago as a teenager I owned a motorcycle and I had a blast riding through the hills of Arkansas and Missouri. I’m 48 years old now, and I’ve wanted to buy another bike ever since my early years.
My wife, as many wives would understandably, was nervous about the idea, and we had many discussions. I was not winning any of our friendly arguments.
On a Saturday God spoke very clearly to me. He said, “Tomorrow morning at church, I’m going to speak to your wife through the message. You will own a motorcycle on Monday.”
I was unable to be at church that day. My wife went and God did speak to her quite remarkably.
She told me the message was breaking off a spirit of fear and entrusting your life and the lives of others into God’s hands. The time of our death or their death is up to him and we can rest in that.
I was stunned! The next day we drove to a motorcycle dealer in Ozark, Missouri and I bought a 2015 Kawasaki Vulcan S ABS. Now, admittedly, my wife is still not in love with the idea of me on a bike, but we both agree to trust God with the lives of our family members and others we love.
Many other people have reacted to my purchase in love, but also in fear. Now, if you are one who shared your concern, you are off the hook. I appreciate your love! But, I just couldn’t hold back in dealing with an issue of fear that is devastating the church and keeping people both in bondage and with a very dangerous false sense of safety.
While there are natural cautions that we can take when dealing with risky endeavors, fear cannot be a part of that strategy. Fear does not protect, it exposes us for attack.
Of course, if you own a gun, keep it locked up. If you drink diet cola, don’t over do it. If you own a motorcycle, wear a helmet, a riding jacket, gloves, boots and riding pants every single trip. Take a safety course. Don’t speed. If you drive a car, wear a seatbelt. Don’t drink and drive. If you go boating, wear a life vest. You get the idea. But don’t be afraid! Don’t allow yourself to be possessed by a demonic spirit of fear! It will feel good for a while as the enemy deceives you into a false sense of security, but worry and anxiety will certainly overtake your life. The Holy Spirit will not have access and the Prince of Peace will not be felt. God has truly called us to be at peace always.
Remember, the enemy wants to masquerade as a spirit of wisdom. He wants us to be so concerned about life that tragedy is a certainty unless we cower and lock ourselves into our homes as we nervously nibble on our fingernails.
THE RIGHT RESPONSE
I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19 (ESV)
Instead of predicting a crash, instead of sharing horror stories of other motorcyclists who have died, instead of decreeing that I’m going to develop brain cancer because I drink diet sodas, instead of projecting spirits of fear on everyone who takes risk, a right Christian response would be to decree life! We have the keys of the kingdom of heaven! We bind! We loose! We have authority! We decree protection and believe that it will come!
Someone in a motorcycle video I watched mentioned people ask him how in the world he could ride a bike if he wants to live. His response (as a non-Christian, mind you) was, “I want to LIVE which is why I ride my bike!”
I’ve met a lot of Spirit-filled Christians who won’t go on missions trips to dangerous or third-world nations because of fear. Others fear death right here in America. Fear has imprisoned millions of Christians, people who have a good, good Father! Everybody, fear must go! The right response is to stare fear in the face and to decree that we will not be stopped!
An overcautious life is not the answer. The Bible is filled with truth that we should apply instead of holding to demonic wisdom of self-protection.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, Psalm 91:5 (ESV)
Instead of decreeing devastation out of fear, we should command life! We are blood-bought Believers! We have supernatural power burning within! As we intercede and declare protection as friends and family are living every day in a risky world, we will celebrate with them and rejoice that they have nothing to fear!
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Isaiah 35:3-4 (ESV)
We must wholeheartedly reject any reaction that is tainted by fear. If we consider the tragic possibilities, and that information drives our emotions, we can know that fear has gripped us.
Instead of fear, we must stand in authority! We command safety! We intercede! We exhibit the power and confidence and great faith that God has called us to function in!
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 propose powerfully declaring Psalm 91 as a powerful method of encouragement and intercession for us and those we love:
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.” Psalm 91:11-16 (ESV)
No fear. Long life. That, friend, is our decree.
The Great Love Deception E-book is my gift to you on Valentine’s Day!
Here’s a portion of what you will read in the book:
Those of you who are longing for a pure, love-driven move of God, get ready! We are about to have the opportunity to go deeper than we ever have. True love will change the world. The burning, churning crater is filled with molten, liquid love!
We could spend trillions of years learning about and discovering and encountering the love of God. In fact, we will do so throughout all eternity. The Bible itself exhorts us to learn about love:
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of… Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG)
We are to learn to love appropriately. This Scripture is a critical exhortation! Why? It means there are inappropriate ways to love. There are deceptions that feel right but are poor representations or even counterfeits of truth.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
The enemy is so terrified of pure love being revealed that he is willing to promote and endorse a compromised, lesser version of it. Love defined by human emotion instead of the Word is his plan.
THE TERROR OF HELL
What I was experiencing messed with my theology to a radically uncomfortable degree. The Holy Spirit was making sure I would never be the same again. Mission accomplished.
I count the early 1990’s as the most significant season of my life to date. God had invaded my life. (Do you feel the weight of that reality? The burning, raging Creator thrust himself into this mere mortal!)
The Holy Spirit took me beyond a mere understanding of my need for a savior and a simple acceptance of Jesus as that savior to a place of breath-taking experience in his extreme, fearful and surprisingly vivid invisible realm. The sudden all-consuming desire of my heart was to be intimately joined with the Lover of my soul every moment of my life. I was craving and experiencing a legitimate, reportable and constant weighty manifestation of the presence of God in my life. I was burning! The desire and the cry of my heart was, “More!”
In those early years, as I was diving into the increasingly deeper realms of life in God, many things happened that I’ll never forget–but one event shook me like no other before or since.
I HAD A DREAM
The night I had this uninvited invasion of both God and Hell into my sleep, I was living in an old, vacant church building as the care taker. The dramatic scene was what you would imagine–the church was a relatively ancient stone structure. I would regularly encounter God as I walked through the now empty corridors, hidden rooms, sanctuary and other mysterious places throughout that relic. The countless hours praying in this vacant building resulted in forming me as a young burning man in some very memorable ways.
One destined evening I prepared for bed as I did every other night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I prayed myself to sleep in the weighty and wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit as I had done so many times before.
What was about to happen as I slipped into sleep that fateful night would result in a tremble that is with me to this day–twenty-five years later. I was invited into an other-worldly encounter that I had no freedom to turn down.
Because of the unimaginable panic and terror I experienced that night long ago, I would often pray as I went to sleep, “God, please don’t give me any dreams tonight.” I prayed that way for thirteen years.
Thirteen years! God eventually spoke clearly to me, after thirteen years of receiving many visions, but no dreams of God, “John, I need you to stop praying that prayer. I have things to reveal to you. I need to talk to you. I have dreams for you to dream.” I relented and have since craved dreams, angelic visitations and other forms of communication from the heavenly realm.
During this night of terror over twenty-five years ago I fell asleep in the old, empty church building and found myself dreaming.
In my dream I was laying on my stomach in a one room building. It was very comfortable inside, though there was nothing in the room. It was empty. I rested on the carpet and looked out of the two windows, one in front of me and one to my right. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of comfort and relaxation. I had no concerns and no thoughts beyond enjoying the atmosphere I was in. This feeling is what drove my entire experience. Obviously nothing could be wrong if I was feeling so good, right?
Through the windows I could see a peaceful, lazy and bright sunny day unfolding. It was beautiful! The trees were blowing in a gentle breeze. The birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree. What a brilliant Creator we have! Everything was so refreshing and alive! I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon.
Then, suddenly, I experienced a changing of the scene. Like time lapse photography, as I was in the same position on the floor looking out the window, I watched the atmosphere suddenly change. There was an immediate and progressive shift. The clouds were ever so slightly darkening and increasing in coverage in the sky. The gentle breeze picked up velocity and the brilliant brightness started to go in and out as periodic shadows covered the area while the sun hid beyond the advancing clouds. It seemed as if some rain may be moving in. I rested there, stretched out on my belly with my head in my hands as I watched it unfold. I remained immersed in my own comfort. I was taking deep breaths and enjoying every moment of my day.
Time lapsed again and I saw the sky completely covered in clouds–clouds much darker than just a few moments ago. I could now smell the fresh and unmistakable scent of the coming rain.
Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. or as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
The birds were taking cover as the wind picked up significantly. In the distance I saw several lightning strikes. It sure seemed as if this could be quite a storm. How was it that I was feeling no concern, no urgency to prepare as I enjoyed my personal, careless experience in that small, one room shack? I stretched out and relaxed even more. The greater the threat, the greater the “peace.” What a wonderful day I was having.
Again, for the third time, I watched the scene in front of me change suddenly. Now, it was fully obvious the storm would most definitely hit–and soon. The wind was intense and large, ominous drops of rain started to hit the windows. Violent and arrogant lightning that seemed to have a personality all its own struck less than 300 yards away. The thumps of hail hitting the roof started and quickly increased in force. It was time for concern. The threat of danger was increasing by the second, but I didn’t feel any urgency or need to respond. I remained prostrate on the ground, refreshed and at ease, just as I did when it was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the perceived safety of my environment. I was feeling so good.
Once again, time lapsed and I found myself in the center of a churning, dreadful force that seemed powerful enough to split the Earth in two. The storm of the century was upon me. The massive trees were nearly snapping in two as they bent over parallel to the ground. The hail was massive in size and was slamming every surface around me. The windows were buckling in and out as the incredible pressure of the storm weighed on them. The lightning that burned hotter than the surface of the sun was literally striking mere feet from the shack. The walls were shaking. You can imagine what I was experiencing in that terrible and fearful moment. You guessed it: beautiful peace, safety and comfort. It truly was a wonderful day, until…
In a fraction of a moment my overwhelming sense of peace and safety and relaxation turned to the most gripping terror I had ever known. It was as if every source of life and good had been eliminated from the atmosphere. Evil dominated the place that just moments ago was so enjoyable.
My mind raced in an attempt to figure out what had just happened. The fear I was experiencing was beyond description. It made no sense. What was going on? Everything was so perfect! Today was supposed to be about enjoying life!
Suddenly, as I was confused, horrified and trembling on the floor, two hands grabbed my ankles. My terror instantly escalated to levels I cannot describe. I quickly looked back and saw nothing–but I knew a demonic entity had grabbed on to me.
The grip on my ankles was like a vice. The thought of escaping was a ridiculous one. It was impossible. My life, which seemingly just moments ago had been under my own control, was now overpowered by an invisible yet horrifying force. A force that I knew had intents–and the ability–to destroy me.
Again, the terror immediately increased nearly to the point of literally losing control of my mind as that demon started to pull me backwards–and then down. My feet and legs were disappearing below the floor of that shack. I knew I was going to Hell.
How can this be? It’s impossible! I’m going to Hell? But, I’m saved. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. This is contrary to everything I have ever learned in church. Yet, the moment was real, and I was losing every ounce of hope. I was about to enter an eternity of continual torture. Never ending panic, madness and torment was upon me.
The demon kept slowly pulling me downward, as if he was relishing every single moment. My feet were well below the floor and my waist was at ground level. Then, suddenly my hope increased. I thought to myself, “If I say the name of Jesus, the demon must flee!”
So, in my new state of hope I was able to squeeze out, “In the name of J—–. In the name of J—–. Ahhhhh!”
I couldn’t say it! The demon was controlling my very breath. I was suffocating every time that name was about to be said. I could have said any word in the dictionary–but that one. My hope instantly was lost and I started to cry out as I convulsed under the unbreakable control of that demon.
He continued to pull me down, one grueling inch at a time. Finally, my neck and then my mouth were entering Hell as my body was taken below. At the height of my madness and terror, and as my eyes were about to descend beneath the floor, I woke up.
I sat straight up, trembling in my bed in that old church building. I was sweating in such volume that my entire bed was saturated. The light switch by my bedroom door was no more than seven feet from my bed. Just two quick steps to the wall would have been all it took to lighten the room. But I was frozen. I sat there for at least three hours in the darkness in absolute terror.
What Just Happened?
I finally fell back to sleep and awoke the next morning. I didn’t realize how radically my life had taken a turn the previous night. As I tried to gather my thoughts while the events of the previous night overwhelmed my spirit and my mind, I looked outside the two windows that were there in my bedroom in that old church building. It was a beautiful sunny day–but I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. I was shaken.
I begged God to tell me why I had that dream. What had just happened? Finally, later on that day, He spoke to me, “John, you represented the church. You were comfortable in your place of supposed safety. The storm was intensifying yet you were lulled into a state of apathy. Many in the church will be surprised one day, just as you were surprised in the dream, to find themselves under the control of demons as they are taken to Hell.”
Proverbs 14:11-14 The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.
There is a way that seems right. Intellectually it makes sense. Other people seem to confirm that it is right. Common sense tells us that it is right. Even our theological dispositions confirm it is right. But, it leads to death. And, if it’s the type of death I experienced in my dream–it must be avoided at all costs.
A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.
We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.
This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.
I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)
Would God’s grace be a result of Hillary Clinton being voted in as President? Before you answer, read on.
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32 (ESV)
In this most contentious election season, it seems that we've been strong-armed into believing we must choose one of two candidates. It’s either Donald or Hillary. Approval of one or the other is mandatory. And, yes, it’s probably true that no other person has a chance at winning. Voting for a third party is nothing more than symbolic and principle driven for those that choose to do so.
I'm extremely well versed in the reasoning behind the belief that it must be either Trump or Clinton. It’s true that we effectively have a two party system in our nation and the most basic common sense reveals that we must function within those limits. With this in mind, some say that while we are choosing the lesser of two evils, it's a necessary strategy so Hillary doesn't make it into office. Others say the upcoming picks for the Supreme Court are what really matter, and that we must choose the candidate that will give us the Justices we need.
Of course, I wholeheartedly agree that Hillary stands in opposition to much of what we as Christians so deeply value. She is pro-murder of children, just as King Herod and Pharaoh were. She is a sure danger to our nation for many reasons. So, blocking her victory should be attempted at all costs, right?
In the natural, using human logic, that argument makes a lot of sense. Again, common sense would dictate that the clear choice is Donald Trump. I understand why people can get so frustrated with me. They don't understand how I can’t see it the way they do. However, I do see it…in the natural.
In the spirit, I see things very differently.
LEAN NOT ON OUR OWN UNDERSTANDING
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)
The instruction is to refuse human wisdom and understanding while rejecting evil. Only then will God make our paths straight.
While we see only two options, God’s options are limitless. It’s an indictment on the faith of the church; a church that tends to embrace common sense, to lean on their own understanding and that is unfamiliar with the immeasurable supernatural realities of the Kingdom. Donald and Hillary are definitely not the only two possibilities. God’s wisdom is much deeper than that.
Throughout Scripture we see God calling his people to advance with seemingly ridiculous, nonsensical methods. Supernatural people are not limited to natural analysis or human wisdom. In fact, we must actually be quick to dismiss the obvious in favor of the wisdom of God.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)
For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV)
Since we are not limited by only two candidates, we have to expand our plan of action to include clear, biblical instructions. The Word of God is clear that we must not promote those who walk in darkness, even if our only two choices are both living that way.
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:11-17 (ESV)
We must awaken as a supernatural church, refuse to promote immorality by coming along side those who take part in the unfruitful works of darkness and we must reject foolishness. We are commanded to know what the Lord’s will is.
My belief is simple: I am not limited to the two obvious choices for President if both of those choices would require I affirm them in their immorality. If I embrace, affirm and vote for someone who embodies immorality, perversion, arrogance and pride (no matter if they are ‘in process' or not), I will reap the consequences.
More-so, our nation will reap the consequences. It's a spiritual issue. What I endorse is what will manifest. While we might gain the Supreme Court appointees we are hoping for and we could make progress on other conservative issues, the fact remains that the nation will be ripe for judgment. Ignoring unrighteousness as a ‘lesser evil' will come back to haunt us.
And the LORD said by his servants the prophets, “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did, who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Behold, I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. And I will forsake the remnant of my heritage and give them into the hand of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because they have done what is evil in my sight and have provoked me to anger, since the day their fathers came out of Egypt, even to this day.” 2 Kings 21:10-15 (ESV)
Manasseh was driven by a deviant sexual appetite, human sacrifice and other detestable practices through the worship of Baal. His leadership AND the agreement of those in Judah who sinned with him resulted in judgment.
Both candidates have various character/sin issues similar to what we see in Manasseh. So, where does that leave us? A non-vote or a third party vote becomes valid. Voting for a righteous person who doesn't win will result in greater favor for our nation than voting for a lesser of two evils who does win.
I am stunned that so many Spirit-filled, faithful Christians are dismissing the behavior of Donald Trump, both eleven years ago when he made it clear he was in favor of behavior that many suggest equates to sexual assault and more recently with vile comments about women and others. Christians are actually buying into the diversion tactics that Trump’s comments were nothing more than locker room banter. I don’t know about you, but if I was in that locker room I’d walk out and be appalled at what I heard—not dismissive.
Many are quick to remind me of Donald’s profession of faith as a Christian, but it’s a profession that the public has never heard. I have yet to find one video or article that includes Donald discussing his passion for Jesus, from his own lips. If you know of one, please send it to me. I would be so happy to see it. There are third party accounts, but even those are extremely shallow. Of course, I pray Donald has fallen in love with the lover of his soul! At best he’s a baby Christian, and the fruit and character and consecration has yet to measure up. He’s in no place to be the leader of our nation. He may be forgiven. I hope he is. But while that qualifies him for heaven, it doesn’t qualify him for office.
Simply, we need someone with character that won’t invite judgment.
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. Proverbs 29:2 (ESV)
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Proverbs 14:34 (ESV)
A church that stands in and for righteousness is what will exalt our nation. We can put more hope in voting third-party and standing in righteousness as a national church than in a single, flawed candidate who affirms some of our positions through his or her policies.
If we vote for Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton) we endorse extreme immorality and we will absolutely open the door to God’s judgment. It won’t matter what pro-Christian policies Donald advances, who he appoints to the Supreme Court or how appealing he is for national security. The church will be guilty of wrapping its arms around an idol of perversion and it will be the first to be hit with judgment.
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good. 1 Peter 4:17-19 (ESV)
Instead of trusting a two party system, we must do good, stand for righteousness and trust God.
If the church embraces Donald or Hillary, we will abdicate our right to govern and very possibly will invite terrible judgment. However, if the church rose up in humble solidarity and refused to endorse the radical immorality that’s represented in our two candidates, God’s favor would rest on us and the church would function in supernatural authority in this great land. It will matter little who’s in leadership as God will have liberty to bring revival and bring change not from the White House but from God’s House.
I firmly believe if the church was unified around righteousness as Christians refused to vote for Donald or Hillary AND Hillary Clinton won the election as a result, America would again function under the favor of the Lord, be authorized to lead and advance in righteousness. Again, in the natural that doesn't make sense but in the spirit, it does. If we take a stand, though Clinton may win, God's protection and favor will return to America.
WE MUST DISCREN SUPERNATURALLY
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV)
We cannot default to our intellect or common sense when making decisions. God’s wisdom will seem like foolishness. It takes spiritual discernment to understand what God would have us do.
So, to clarify one more time, my opinion is that a vote for Trump in the natural might make sense, but as a Christian, and in the spirit, it can quickly lead to judgment.
If the church stood for morality and righteousness and refused to endorse anything less, Hillary Clinton might win. In the natural that may look like a massive blow, but God would have much more room to work in our nation…not because of Hillary, but because of a church that stood for holiness and refused to be strong-armed into compromise.
Only then would the church regain it's rightful place as supreme governing body in the United States of America.
If that doesn’t happen, we will be in trouble as a nation. A shaking will come. At that time, we can only pray Donald or Hillary and the people of this nation will do as Manasseh finally did after their nation was invaded by a foreign army:
The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the LORD brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. 2 Chronicles 33:10-13 (ESV)
Isn’t it just like our God to use the extreme force of judgment to victoriously woo a leader and a nation to him. It would be better if judgment wasn’t necessary though, wouldn’t it?
God talks, a lot. What do we do when he’s silent?
One of my great joys in life revolves around helping people discover the wonder of hearing God’s voice. We are all called to be prophetic, which at it simplest simply means that we hear God and respond accordingly.
God talks, a lot.
The stories of God intervening in the lives of his children continually have me in awe of him. I can’t imagine a life devoid of that precious, stunning, other-worldly avenue of communication between this humble, created human and an immeasurable, indescribable, all powerful creator! There’s nothing like being in the zone that results in a regular stream of dreams, visions, prophetic words, fresh revelation and supernatural interactions. I thank God he is still alive and kicking today!
There are also times when God goes silent. I really do not enjoy those seasons, but I’ve come to appreciate them.
Here are some quick points that help me when I enter a silent season:
1. God loves me. Period.
It can be easy to feel rejected, or to presume that God has become tired of me and my weaknesses, when he stops talking.
Remember that God IS love. His passion for us is so extreme that it would be utter foolishness to think that he’d fall out of love with us just because we are experiencing some growing pains.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 (ESV)
While it's true that God continues to love us, the enemy would love to use God’s silence against him by causing us to fall out of love with him! Be careful not to disengage in your adoration and worship, especially when you don’t feel his loving presence the way you are used to.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Matthew 22:37 (ESV)
2. God uses silence to awaken us to something.
When God stops talking, I go into a time of reflection and personal assessment. It is possible that I need to be more aggressive in shifting into a new season. I might also have a negative heart issue that might need to be dealt with.
During this reflection, however, it's important that I do so with a healthy heart. His silence should draw me closer to him, and not result in division between us. You’ll notice that accusation against God can result in silence:
And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. Mark 15:3-5 (ESV)
Is it possible that I have accusation in my heart against God on a matter? Complaint or resistance to his Lordship in my life most certainly can result in Jesus refusing to respond to me. He will go silent, and the last thing we want during silence is more silence!
Instead of becoming more angry or frustrated, I propose we respond as Pilate did: Be amazed. Be humbled by the wisdom and unmovable nature of Jesus. As we do, our remedy is then to sincerely repent and embrace God as he is—whether we appreciate the way he is presently functioning in our lives or not.
3. Busyness will result in silence.
It’s truly rare for God to go silent for long periods of time when I’m praying in the the Holy Spirit, with passion and groans that can’t be uttered, on a continual basis. When I’m in that place of fervent pursuit and deep intimacy it’s uncommon for that electric connection between God and me to cease.
When other things edge out our prayer life, or minimize it, one can only expect to stop hearing from God. Prayer is his medium for communication. The simple, obvious truth is that if we aren’t in that burning, fervent zone of prayer, we won’t have the ability to receive communication from God. When the radio is off the speakers are silent.
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17 (ESV)
4. The Bible is never silent.
No matter how deafening God’s Rhema silence might be, the Word of God never ceases to shout!
Dive into the the Bible with determination to see it’s truths explode in your life. Get excited about everything you read and grab hold of all of it!
It's a powerful moment indeed when, at a time of divine silence, the eternal Word of God shakes us, invigorates us and causes our faith to rise. No matter how much or how little you are feeling God's presence in your life, read the Bible and believe every single word you read. It's just not possible to stay frustrated when the very words of God are being seared into our spirits!
Reject your personal experience, history or common sense when those messages conflict with the miraculous messages of Jesus. Reuse to doubt. Declare the Word in prayer. Move mountains with your faith. Don't get frustrated waiting on God to speak personally to you about a matter. He's already speaking more loudly than we have ever considered, in the Bible.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Proverbs 3:1-2 (NIV)
5. Nothing should steal your peace or joy.
If God’s silence results in you losing your joy, you might want to refer above to point number two again. He may be attempting to calibrate you to his heart.
Even when God is not speaking, we can and should still remain steadfast in a place of extreme joy, faith and love.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13 (NIV)
Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! Psalm 32:11 (ESV)
6. Appreciate the calm before the storm of victory.
I’ve noticed my reaction to seasons where God’s activity is slowed directly results in my position in the season that follows. A right response and a refusal to give in to complaint, despair or apathy, and a resolve to go even deeper in God through both the Word and prayer, results in advance and promotion. It also strengthens my character and stretches me into greater maturity. Silence is a necessary part of growth and advance.
I’ve met a lot of people who stop in their tracks when God isn’t talking, opening doors, giving prophetic words or doing other such things to move people forward. God very often will refuse to relate to us in that manner when we are failing tests or ignoring truth that has already been established in Scripture. As we react in a right manner during the silence, and focus on obeying the Word of God, we will pass the test and experience glorious, divine open doors!
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:5-8 (ESV)
7. Ask. Seek. Knock.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 (ESV)
You are guaranteed to hear from God if you are unrelenting in your pursuit of him.
If you aren’t given to the sacrifice of seeking, don’t expect to find much of anything. Hearing from God requires a devotion to prayer and interaction with him at a degree that most are not comfortable with.
Press through the crowd and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. Wrestle with God until he blesses you. Cry out from your cave. Refuse to stop until you encounter God’s love, power and glory! It will be well worth the effort.
Friendships are often the glue that hold churches together—but have we gone too far?
When did you last tip-toe out of the sanctuary? When you couldn't say a word to anybody because you were so overwhelmed with the glory of God. ~Leonard Ravenhill
People. They are everywhere, and we are all blessed to have some of them in our lives in a close, personal way. Relationships are the only thing we’ll take into eternity, and they are precious. The people in our lives hold value that’s beyond measure.
As you read through this message, I in no way want you to think I am devaluing people. Jesus died for all because of his great love. It’s a personal love. It’s intense and it’s laser focused on 7 billion individuals. He has the capacity to be deeply connected to every single one of them (while I, as an admitted introvert, may have room for but a few!).
The struggle I have is just how much our lives, our churches and our daily focus is dependent on connecting with other people. To explain further, I want to propose a question: is it possible that human friendships are more satisfying, important and key to our lives than relationship with Jesus?
And, to get right to the crux of the matter, as one who has either given leadership to or simply attended churches for my entire life, I’m frustrated at the amount of energy, time and resources that are given to drawing, connecting and keeping people. Yes, without hesitation, I will agree that we must invest in people, that we have a mandate to disciple them and we should have a burning desire to see them grow in God. However, we are coming at it from the wrong direction. We must expend every resource to ignite the atmosphere with the never-ending presence of God first.
If you know a church on fire for God, tell me and I'll go. A church where (after) you've gone in, you don't come out the same, believing that God is there (and) you've been in His holy presence! ~Leonard Ravenhill
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
In my own awakening experience nearly 30 years ago, there were most definitely people in my life that God used powerfully to introduce me to him. These people weren’t enticing me to come to church with programs and potlucks. Their primary plan wasn’t to grow their church, increase participation in their ministry or make some new friends. They were going hard after God, they refused to be diverted, and they invited me along for the ride.
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)
The church where I was awakened to the love and power of God was not moving in the wrong direction. They loved people, but didn't allow them to become priority. Way of the Cross Church in Dayton, Ohio led faithfully by Pastor Bill Loudermilk was focused on Jesus. That seems like such an obvious analysis of a church. They are focused on Jesus. What I’m attempting to communicate is that it is becoming increasingly rare to find a church that really does this. Many go to great lengths, create amazing programs and jump through impressive hoops to entice people to come, and to convince them they will be loved. Fewer and fewer do the same to entice the Holy Spirit to come and convince him he is loved. The reality is that the more we invest in God, the less time we have to invest in people. Further, the deeper we go in God, the fewer the people who are willing to follow will be.
What if the focus on friendships and affinity groups and potlucks gave way to intercession?
We see this in churches today, in fact. People will flock to small groups, the potlucks, the picnics, the special events and other functions where they can connect with friends. That's not bad, but what if the call was simply to minister to God without any opportunity to connect with other people? What happens when a prayer meeting is called?
Sunday morning (attendance) shows how popular the church is; Sunday night shows how popular the preacher is; (Wednesday) prayer meeting shows how popular God is. ~Leonard Ravenhill
While there were people who opened the door for my awakening in Dayton, Ohio, my focus was most definitely not on them. I appreciated them and will for all eternity. But I didn’t go to that church to hang out with them. I was struck with such a holy lightning strike from Heaven that all I wanted to do was hit my face and pray! I wanted to be with God!
The pastor gave me the key to the building, and most every day after work I would go into the sanctuary, turn on some worship music and pace around in the most enjoyable prayer you could imagine. As a young, 21 year-old newly awakened man of God, I was experiencing the true, primary purpose of the church! It wasn’t to connect with people. It was to minister to God!
It didn’t matter to me who showed up to the services. While I truly enjoyed the relationships with people there, and some of them are great friends to this day, I couldn’t imagine going into that building with any other purpose than to encounter Jesus.
How many come to church expecting a confrontation with Deity? ~Leonard Ravenhill
But, today, there are churches everywhere that are falling into the trap of presuming that most of their energy should be spent attracting people in the hopes that they might run into Jesus along the way.
The correct way to do it is to gather those who are willing to pray without ceasing and to focus time, energy, services, money and everything else at our disposal to create a habitat for the presence of God. Then, when people do come, they won’t be able to help running into God. He will consume them!
When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 Chronicles 7:1 (NKJV)
23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, 24 and fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces. Leviticus 9:23-24 (NKJV)
Shortly after my great awakening at Way of the Cross Church, I was attending a youth lock-in at a YMCA in Xenia, Ohio. I’ll never forget that night.
God was wildly challenging me and drawing me closer to him. There were a few hundred people there enjoying everything from wallyball to basketball to ping-pong.
They had also set up a prayer room in one part of the building. As a young man who was getting blasted by the Holy Spirit with amazing regularity I presumed the room would be full of hungry young men and women of God. Sadly, I was wrong, though the nearly empty room provided me quite an atmosphere to pray in.
The atmosphere was full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and, to date, it was literally one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I was so full of life that I found myself pacing around with lifted hands and a fire in my belly for quite a long, wonderful time.
All of a sudden, I heard something in my spirit.
“John, I want you to give me permission to take your life.”
Huh? Where in the world did that thought come from? What an unwelcome interruption it was! I shook it off and moved back into prayer and worship. But, something was wrong. The warm and consuming presence of God had left the room. I didn’t realize it then, but God’s presence didn’t leave the room–it had simply changed. God was honoring me with a serious call to follow Him.
I tried for the next fifteen minutes to enter back into prayer, but I felt entirely alone. No unction, no flow, no passion.
I kept hearing the words, “John, will you let me take your life?”
I finally realized that the warmth of God’s presence had transitioned into the challenge of God’s purposes. He was testing me. Was I really ready to take up my cross? Was I really in it for Jesus? Or, was I into this Christian life mostly for what I could get out of it? You see, this crossroads question from the most Holy One would result in ensuring my destiny–either in one direction or in the other. And, it wouldn’t make any difference if I kept paying tithes, going to church and lifting my hands in worship if I chose the road toward personal satisfaction that fateful night.
The Holy pressure in that dark prayer room was extreme. I honestly thought, beyond any doubt, that the decision I was about to make to my Lord would result in my physical death that very night. The call was that urgent. But, I immediately realized I couldn’t stand to live the rest of my life outside of the warmth of the tangible presence of Jesus that I felt as I first entered that room.
“God, if it will result in warming your heart, and in advancing your Kingdom on the Earth, you can take my life. I love you and you are teaching me more about love in this moment than in my previous two decades. I trust you.”
The split second I communicated that in my heart, the fire of the Holy Spirit rushed in with power. It was better than any previous experience with God I had ever had. Far better. I was consumed by his love. I was surrendered to him unlike anytime in my life. I was his.
Song of Songs 1:2-4 THE SHULAMITE Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth– For your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. Draw me away! THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will run after you. THE SHULAMITE The king has brought me into his chambers. THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.
To this day I don’t know if God will suddenly take my life–and while I wish to live for a long time on earth, I am longing to live for eternity with my Lover.
You see, my focus that night at the YMCA was not to connect with people. It was to connect with God. In fact, people could have easily gotten in the way of that connect. While there’s a place for fun, and that might have been the place for some of the others who were there that night, for many other people, fun and games did get in the way of a God connection.
The empty prayer room was proof.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Our goal is not to draw people to the church. It’s to draw God. The church meeting isn't supposed to be used as an evangelism tool. It's a house of prayer, designed for the Bride of Christ to meet with him.
I'm sick to death of the so-called Christianity of our day. What's supernatural about it? When do people come out of the sanctuary awed and can't speak for an hour because God has been in glory there? Dear God, as soon as they get out, they're talking football, or sports or something or there's going to be a big sale downtown or somewhere. We are not caught up into eternity! ~Leonard Ravenhill
I often say the most obvious evidence of God moving in a church is not a packed house, it’s an empty one.
Notice how the passage in 1 Chronicles 7 continues:
1 When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD had filled the LORD'S house. 3 When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the LORD, saying: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (NKJV)
Nobody could enter the house of God because God was rightfully in his place. He was first. The focus was on him. His presence was overwhelming and too intense to bear.
The enemy is brilliant at causing us to focus wrongly on human connections, and then to bring strife and disruption to those relationships. In the midst of that chaos, God certainly isn’t being enjoyed, worshiped or ministered to as he should be. People are scurrying into and out of the church, engaging with other people, sometimes happy with them, sometimes mad, always focused on those human interactions…while God's presence is nowhere to be found.
How many people leave churches because of human conflicts? It happens many times every day.
I propose we gather together people that are most interested in cultivating an atmosphere where God reigns and where he can manifest in power. If people come, then great. If not, that’s OK. I’d rather have a church of 10 burning in the fire of the Holy Spirit instead of a megachurch filled with warm bodies who refuse to minister to God in fiery intercession.
I'd rather have ten people that want God than 10,000 people who want to play church. I want to see the glory of God come so our young people don't have to be told to go to church. ~Leonard Ravenhill
Friend, I’m not going to church to see you, though I do like to see you. I’m going to encounter God and minister to him. That’s the passion that consumes my life. Pastor, if your church is more concerned about attracting people and reporting numbers you can count me out. I don’t want to be there when Ichabod is nailed above your doorposts.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. 1 Samuel 4:21 (ESV)