Today’s Christian generation in this nation at least is becoming quite the expert at right versus wrong. The fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil has been bit into, and not only does it taste great but it’s being shared among friends. Eve knew she needed Adam to taste and see that the tree was definitely good to make one wise—and the serpent was very pleased.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” (Genesis 3:6)
My recent article posted to Charisma Media on the debacle with David Dao and United Airlines and various related Facebook posts resulted in some disturbing retorts.
Time and again professing Christians were speaking as supposed experts in right versus wrong, and many eagerly supported the rebellious behavior of David Dao. They were proud of him for standing up for his ‘rights’ and sticking it to United Airlines. The point that David may or may not be a Christian doesn’t matter. It’s not his behavior I’m addressing, it’s the response from Christians that is disturbing. The behavior of United Airlines or the airport police are non-factors as well, at least in regard to the appropriate reaction we should be supporting. No matter how badly we are treated, we must respond rightly, biblically.
I’m glad Jesus didn’t stand up for his rights when he was wrongly convicted and then slaughtered on a cross. He didn’t have to prove his innocence. He didn’t have to plot revenge. He didn’t have a “how dare they” attitude. He wasn’t analyzing right versus wrong.
His famous words would be well repeated by all of us: Father forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.
If we support violating Scripture in our attempt to right wrongs we are utilizing a demonic anointing of rebellion and witchcraft to do so. It’s that serious.
There’s an unholy spirit of protest that’s gaining strength in our nation in recent years, and much of the church is cheerleading that spirit from the pews and from the streets. Is there a way to deal with improprieties? Of course, but it involves the fruits of the Spirit. When we advance strategically against the enemy, we can never adopt his own strategies and anointing. The fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control must be evident.
The unhealthy spirit of protest actually plays out every day in churches around the world. People who don’t get what they want, and who are offended by pastors and leaders, do all they can to prove they were violated—while plotting revenge through gossip, complaining, accusation, slander or other devious means.
STOP USING LEADERS TO GAIN WHAT YOU WANT
It’s a spirit of religion that’s driving so much of the angst and anger that’s directed at those who stand in our way.
My definition of religion is: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
Further, when we use other people to selfishly advance in our own lives, especially as it relates to spiritual matters, we can know it’s a demonic spirit of religion that’s driving us. In fact, it was Eve’s desire for spiritual advance that caused her to eat the fruit. It’s appropriate to desire to advance but it’s improper to walk it out by using people and disobeying the Word of God.
In my nearly three decades of ministry my heart is grieved at how often people live defeated and then blame leaders, pastors, parents and others for their misfortune.
I love this Tweet by @IHOPKC:
We can do the will of God in our life without relying on others to open doors or be our source of promotion.
We don’t have to fight with pastors, bosses, airlines, the police or other supposed oppressors. We don’t have to blame them for misfortune. There’s a better way.
I come alive when I see people growing and stepping into their ministries. When they take their callings seriously and give themselves to the process of promotion, God takes notice, and it’s God, not man who will ensure our ministries are fulfilled.
FROM MY BOOK SIX ENEMIES: ENEMY NUMBER SIX—RELIANCE ON MAN
A foundational component of God’s government (His way of delegating and administering) on the Earth is the facilitation of ministry through mankind. God uses people in a variety of very important manners in order for Kingdom life to function well. In this divine and diverse system God has established a system of interdependence. I need you and you need me.
Added to this key truth is the very important principle of submission. We must submit to one another, and we must most certainly submit to our authorities. I address this topic more comprehensively in my book Covens in the Church. We are not called to be anarchists who embrace a non-Biblical methodology of self-governance. God’s government demands humble submission to others in our lives.
It’s from this position and attitude of service where God can more effectively trust His children to become holy dreamers. God can entrust divine missions to us when He knows that our heart is bent on loving others well and preferring them above ourselves.
The problem comes when healthy interdependence gives way to burdensome co–dependence. All sorts of issues arise when we find ourselves being frustrated and held back in ministry and attaching blame to other people. If we align ourselves with this enemy, we’ll be fooled into thinking that the fulfillment of our ministry is fully dependent on our pastor or leader.
Does God use others to help facilitate our ministry? Yes. Are we to take it upon ourselves to determine how others are to facilitate our ministry? No. God has called us to serve. True ministry is actually service. So, as servants, we humbly avail ourselves to others and do our best to help them in their ministry.
Luke 14:8-11 (NKJV)“When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
As we truly embrace the principle of preferring others above ourselves, it will actually feel unusual to expect others to make a place for us and our ministry. Instead of becoming frustrated when a place isn’t made for us, we’ll be at peace knowing that God is fully in charge of our destiny. We can serve well, expect nothing, be fearless of rejection and allow the process of biblical promotion to naturally take place.
When that issue is resolved, you can focus on the journey of personal development and preparation for the ministry that God has called you to. If a call to preach has been burned in your heart, then in due time you will most certainly preach, but not before you are ready. God may use others to create a divine delay in your ministry. Don’t blame others for this speed bump. You aren’t to be reliant on others, but you are to avail yourself to others. Serve them well.
Luke 14:11 (NKJV) For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Your promotion isn’t dependent on others noticing your greatness, but rather is on the revelation of your weakness! When humility becomes the driving force in our lives, God gets very excited about the powerful ministry that will eventually flow through us.
John 13:2-5 (NKJV) And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
Jesus was about to experience mankind enforcing their rule over him. However, no matter how resistant other people were to the ministry of Jesus, God would not be denied! Pontius Pilate couldn’t stop the earthshaking ministry of Jesus. Judas couldn’t. The guards couldn’t. Jesus prevailed.
This act of humility, as Jesus washed the feet of His disciples, was a visible revelation of the condition of His heart and character. Our call to humility is the same. No man can stop what God desires to do through our lives as we surrender in complete humility.
Our destiny will be facilitated in many ways through God’s government on Earth; however no man can stand in the way of our fulfilled destiny. Our reliance is on God, not man.
Often, people will leave churches because their ministry isn’t received. It’s hindered or even rejected. For example, someone may feel a calling to sing on the worship team. The worship team leadership, however, may not feel that this particular person is a good fit for the team. It can be very easy for the individual to allow offense to take root in their heart. Their thought is that the worship leader is standing in the way of God and is stifling the Holy Spirit. This person can easily embrace a divisive spirit, bitterness and anger. So, in frustration they just leave in hopes of finding a more enlightened leader who will allow them to minister.
This scenario tragically occurs every day in churches around the world. Rebellion to authority is embraced along with a heart of accusation as they take their immaturity to the next church on their unhealthy journey to personal affirmation.
Ministry is service. If a church doesn’t need our particular gifting to be expressed, then that’s OK. We serve another way. If God needs us to sing, to preach or to work in a particular function He will make sure that no man can stand in our way. Ministry, though personally fulfilling, isn’t about personal fulfillment. It’s about service.
Check out Paul’s description of ministry:
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (NIV) We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Are you sure you want to minister? Though the question is sobering and thought-provoking, the answer for all of us must remain “Yes.” We are called to minister, however true ministry as defined in Scripture may be something quite different than many think. It’s a call to wash feet and to die at the hands of others. It’s a tragic yet precious calling.
1 Thessalonians 2:6 (NIV) We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else. As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you …
2 Corinthians 4:8-12 (NIV) We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
If our destiny is to minister (it is!), then we must grab hold of the amazing example of Paul and other biblical leaders. In these two passages alone we discover:
- We are not to seek praise (affirmation, promotion, etc.) from man.
- We are not to be a burden.
- Though hard pressed we are not to be crushed.
Truly, our destiny, as Paul emphasized, is to die. The very people that we wanted our promotion to come through may actually be those that disappoint us and cause our flesh to die. God values the process of killing pride, selfish ambition and other obstacles to pure ministry. We must understand this if we are to come out of this healthy and invigorated! God is calling us to minister with power, and this reality should take us well beyond our own personal fulfillment when we are able to minister according to our own giftings and desires.
Our destiny will not be held back by pastors, leaders, friends, parents or anybody else, but God will use these people to facilitate the process of brokenness that is so necessary in our lives.
As we allow this process to happen, and refuse to indict others, a humble and burning man or woman of God will emerge as a powerful weapon in the hands of the living God!
1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV) Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
It’s from a humble, vulnerable place where we can allow God to flow through our weaknesses. God receives the glory and we boast in Him alone. It’s our reflection of the glory of God that will most quickly result in fulfilled destiny. As we shine Jesus, the world will crave what we have to impart.
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NIV) As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
So, the message of humility should be quite obvious at this point. The very simple conclusion for us as we pursue a fulfilled destiny and ministry is this: Rely on God and trust His process. God will use people to both encourage us and discipline us. They will be used to refine us and promote us. They are instruments in God’s hands. Don’t get upset at the instruments if they don’t recognize you. Serve them well and trust God to make you ready for the ministry that He has called you to.
Watch: It’s time to stop affirming those who have a marginalized commitment to God and rescue them from a lukewarm life.
GOOD CHRISTIAN PEOPLE
Possibly the most unbelievable (but common) reaction to the urgent (but rare) call for Christians to burn with great passion for Jesus is the accusation of legalism. To be actively involved with zeal and to call others into a deeper devotion to Jesus and the mission of Kingdom advance smells of unrighteous works to many. I can barely believe I just wrote that.
Further, I’ve heard it said that such a determined devotion reveals a lack of revelation of the finished work of the cross. The thought is that we can now rest easy due to the work of Jesus and, in fact, any energy expended on our part in response to the cross is an offense to the cross. This, friend, is sickening and theologically ridiculous, yet that teaching is gaining ground in many Spirit-filled circles.
Not only should the cross of Jesus evoke the fire of passion from deep within every one of us, we should also understand the radical, costly participation that we must embrace:
Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV) 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
The cross is the very picture of passion, and any response less than all consuming zeal is an indicator of a lack of understanding, certainly not of greater revelation. A revelation of our beautiful Savior being savagely tortured and brutally murdered due to our own detestable wickedness should drive us to our knees in a never ending lifestyle of thanksgiving, worship and intercession. Our desire to go deeper and to get closer to Jesus should wreck us every single moment of every single day.
Yet, even within the context of the church there are masses of people who resist such a focus. I’m shocked and disturbed to say that I heard of a locally popular pastor who actually confessed that he no longer preaches the cross. I suppose it’s old news and time to move on to more positive things. I’m grieved.
TONIGHT at 10pm on theFurnace.tv • 16 Dangers of the Positive Christianity Movement
There is a seductive yet extremely dangerous movement in the land that refuses to acknowledge God in any other fashion than good and happy.
Tonight at 10pm EST I’ll be discussing this. (And, yes, Nia will certainly make another appearance.)
You can participate via the chat room and I will address your comments and questions live on the air.
Head over to www.thefurnace.tv/live and get ready to encounter Jesus!
Has Detroit failed in the opportunity to initiate and steward one of the greatest revivals known to man?
Jer 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Wait just a minute. Let’s look at the context of this popular, biblical word of encouragement.
Just because God is indeed very good does not mean we have carte blanche rights to provide false encouragement to others. We see this quite a bit in the prophetic movement. Well intentioned people desire to encourage others and, instead of giving the pure prophetic message, they focus solely on the positive.
Now, of course, when handled rightly, this has precedence.
1 Cor 14:3 …the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.
So, it’s very good and right to prophesy with a motive of encouragement. However, the prophecy must also be accurate. We can’t depart from the truth in order for people to be encouraged.
In Jeremiah 29:11 we see an extremely encouraging word… but consider the larger story:
Jer 29:7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
First, God, in response to the unsatisfactory condition of Israel, is the one who led them into exile! A very good God did something that we might call bad!
Notice how the “church” was listening to the prophets that gave them the words they wanted to hear? God was clear. He did not send those prophets.
In fact, in stark contrast to the words of quick freedom from exile the false prophets were communicating, God tells them to get cozy in their current situation in captivity. They are going to be there for a while:
Jer 29:4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
What? We’re believing for freedom! For revival! God is telling us to get use to our captivity? We are to build houses? That takes a long time! Plant gardens? Get married? What?! Have kids? That takes years! Woah. Wait a minute! Then we have to wait for our kids to get married and have kids? This isn’t at all what we are praying for!
No wonder they wanted to listen to the false prophets.
Then comes the accurate prophecy:
Jer 29:10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
What a story!
God has a plan, but the process may be very different than we might presume. It may take much longer than we might hope.
REVIVAL IN DETROIT
I believe the Detroit region is still on the radar, but the first sweep, the first ping, has passed. How long will this region remain on target? I’ll say this—we can’t risk the time even to discuss it. It’s time to work.
The question is, what is God’s prophetic word for Detroit?
Are we to listen to words that declare that revival is unavoidable and then kick back and wait? Or, is there are greater, more inconvenient plan that God wants to reveal to us?
My view is that Detroit has missed it for this season, and we will need to regroup quickly and prepare for the next sweep. If you look at the radar image I’ve included with this post, you might consider it to represent God’s perspective as he is looking down on America, looking for a city that will rise about the others. Which city church will unite and initiate the greatest revival strategy since 120 people holed up in an upper room 2000 years ago?
It may take a year or five years before the next sweep of the radar comes and Detroit has the opportunity to send an unmistakable ping of revival vibrations heavenward. What will we do between now and then?
CLEAR, UNAVOIDABLE STRATEGY
I’ve heard it prophesied many times that stadiums would be filled with praying people in Detroit—and I agree with this prophecy. But, it’s a ways off. Stop and consider this. If we can’t even fill churches on Sunday with fiery people, how in the world do we think we’ll fill stadiums with people who are disciplined in fervent prayer? It’s insanity. We couldn’t even fill a stadium at The Call after months of preparation and alarms being sounded! The strategy must change.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Albert Einstein
Take a moment and pull your head out of any mystical, hyper-spiritual fog you may be swimming in and consider reality:
There are over 19,000 cities in America and NONE of them are experiencing revival. We are zero for 19,000! There aren’t ANY! AT ALL!
That means the strategies must change with such extreme and sudden shock that anybody who isn’t locked in with God will be radically disoriented. It’s a necessary disorientation.
Can we be honest with ourselves? The strategies in Detroit, though often extremely honorable, and truly impactful to a degree, have not resulted in revival. In fact, I wonder if the region is spiritually worse off now than it was just a few years ago. The talk of revival is rare and the urgency to contend is falling on mostly deaf ears. People are experiencing hope deferred and sickness is hitting this region.
For this to change, a simple yet costly strategy must be initiated now. The cost is so extreme that anybody who is devoted to the typical American lifestyle just won’t pay it. The cost of revival includes the surrender of personal dreams, lifestyles and plans.
If you are a Christian, now is your time to lock in with great passion and without excuse to the corporate mission of prayer. Be together with other Christians and pray in the Spirit, with fire, continually. Upper room style. No excuses allowed. Cares of life can win no more. Cancel your life. Change your schedule. Your job now, every single day, is to gather and pray.
Check out the plan, and notice how similar it is to the passage in Jeremiah:
2 Chron 7:11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished. 12Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time.
- Step one: (verse 11) Leaders must build the house of prayer. In the last year alone at least two houses of prayer in this region have closed. That’s the wrong direction!
- Step two: (verse 12) God will make it clear that Detroit has been chosen. I believe supernatural visitations will help confirm this.
- Step three: (verse 13) A difficult season will come that will provoke the people and provide a clear mandate to them. Notice that leaders already built the house of prayer, and now it’s the people’s turn to step into position.
- Step four: (verse 14a) The true followers of Jesus will be revealed via a mass movement of humility, prayer and holiness. It will overwhelm this city.
- Step five: (verse 14b) A movement of healing will initiate not only on the people but on the city, on the land.
- Step six: (verse 15) The precedent of prayer and intimate communion between God and his people will be established.
- Step seven: (verse 16) The city will be known as a holy place that hosts God himself, exalts his name and has his attention forever.
THE PLAN SIMPLIFIED
The church is a house of prayer for all nations. The primary, most dominant activity in the church must be deep and continual prayer. It’s not a house teaching, a house of evangelism, a house of relationships or a house of anything. The church exists for prayer fueled people to conquer the world!
With this in mind, if you want to experience revival in your lifetime, start doing the following:
- Pray in the Holy Spirit at least an hour a day personally.
- Gather together multiple times a week to pray in the Holy Spirit corporately with your local church or an intercession movement in the region.
- Mirror the commitment of a fully devoted senior leader in the church. Never miss a service. Show up early. Stay late. Never gossip or complain. Take ownership of the mission.
- Pay attention to regional revival events—and attend with expectancy.
- Be responsive to leadership as they prayerfully give apostolic direction to the movement.
- Give extravagantly to the house of prayer (the church).
- Be humble.
- Live holy. Stop sinning. Stop watching most movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment.
- Eliminate every distraction, even good ones, that keep you away from the costly, inconvenient daily mission of prayer and service.
- Stir up your faith, walk in the Spirit and prepare to build. There’s a lot of work ahead!
We can’t take a wait and see approach. Stop playing it safe. Dive in and pay the price and take the risk and participate in the mission of revival with a level of devotion that will help calibrate the church back to the fiery heart of God!
And, do it quickly. The next sweep of the radar is approaching. Fast. And it may not sweep again.