I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
The call for prayer-fueled revival is intense—and I wanted to give you all an update on what’s happening.
People are often asking me what’s coming next in regard to my local focus here in Branson, Missouri. The passion and hunger for revival that so many have is exciting!
As you know, we conducted an experiment of prayer last month as we prayed in a different church from 10pm until midnight every Friday night. After that concluded, I communicated with pastors that I thought may be interested in hosting a prayer meeting in their church. I did hear from two pastors and we will be gathering together again at least twice in June!
You can visit www.prayerteam.tv to see the upcoming schedule. One event has already been added, and the other will be added as soon as we can confirm the date.
If you know of pastors in the region that would be interested in opening their church to a fiery prayer team, PLEASE CONTACT THEM and have them get in touch with me directly at [email protected].
We are still in experiment mode as I am not certain how the Friday night prayer strategy will progress. However, I am EXTREMELY excited about other possibilities.
REGULAR REVIVAL EVENTS
My dream is to see weekly or monthly revival focused, prayer based events that would draw in the hungry. Pray with me on this! A school of revival, prayer strategy and other options are in the mix as well.
I’m typically quite aggressive and quick to move, however I want to be extremely cautious not to get ahead of God. He has full liberty to redirect any plan.
I’m extremely busy with traveling ministry, writing and my business here in Branson, so I have to make sure God is opening doors and turning the light green before I take any leaps.
I am very eager to hear from you!
Please send me an email and let me know what’s burning in you regarding revival in the region. I want to hear from pastors and leaders as well. Who in town is interested in collaborating on regular regional events?
I’m serious. Please contact me. Much of what I’m waiting on will come through others.
Stay tuned…and I can’t wait to see you in June!
Someone is flying in from the UK just for this Intensive…hunger for fire and freedom has provoked them! No matter where you live in the world, this is an event you just can’t miss!
TODAY is the deadline to register for this one-of-a-kind school of fire!
The three night, four day intensive takes place in an 8,000 square foot CASTLE in Port Sanilac, Michigan.
There’s a chapel on the property, several fireplaces and a beautiful pool and hot tub!
It is surrounded by 25 acres of trees to another 25 acres of open land.
Meals and snacks are included! (You will only be responsible for lunches during free time each day)
As a revivalist for the last 23 years, it’s usually quite easy for me to discern the spirit of revival. When it’s there, it overwhelms me, and when it’s not, I’m grieved. Until last week, I’ve been grieved for years.
I preached 16 times over 8 days in suffocating heat and was wrecked as I watched hundreds of precious people aggressively contend for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Their worship was explosive and their commitment was remarkable.
Last week I encountered the spirit of revival for the first time in years. The last time I felt it was during an event with Brian Simmons in Detroit several years ago. It quickly faded however, and I’ve been outside of a revival atmosphere since—until Easter morning in Haiti, that is.
Nearly 2000 people packed that church in 85-95 degree heat and worshipped with fire!
Monday saw hundreds of people return, and by the end of the week we were at 2000 radical Haitian revivalists dancing and interceding deeply.
Watch a video of a massive fire tunnel of JOY that took place on the last night of the conference:
Six reasons Haiti may be closer to revival than the United States
The entire week was filled with hundreds of people contending for freedom and an encounter with Jesus. People kept coming to me, some in tears, telling me in broken English, or in French with an interpreter how thankful they are for encountering Jesus. One amazing young lady was absolutely transformed after I prophesied to her on the first day. She went from a stoic, emotionless disposition to joy and tears on the last day. I told her I’d never forget her after watching what God did in such a powerful way in her life. She simply said through an interpreter, “I’ll never forget the fire you gave me.” I was wrecked again.
Their hunger wasn’t for a new car, a new house or for promotions or to discover their ministries. They simply wanted Jesus. The average income in that part of Haiti is about $70 a month. To honor me as a man of God (his words), one person gave me Haitian money that equated to $12 and I was deeply moved. That was possibly 1/6th of his monthly income. That translates to several hundred dollars when compared to our American economy. His hunger for Jesus resulted in thanks and honor of the messenger—and this messenger was probably more moved by him than he was by me.
Nobody drove to the church. In fact, you nearly would need a four wheel drive to navigate the roads that led to the church. They were extremely rocky and broken up with deep holes.
Everybody walked to the church—many for up to two hours, and then, after a 3 hour service, they would walk home, two hours, in pitch darkness (no street lights at all) and often in a massive downpour (it was the rainy season when I was there.).
The Sunday service lasted six hours in extreme heat, and then, after a break, most returned Sunday evening for more. Then, their commitment was so intense that they returned every single night that I was there. Eight nights in a row!
There was no competing, more important activities such as ballet, baseball, movies, relaxation or ANYTHING at all! There was nothing better or more important than going to worship Jesus at the church. They were committed to the corporate gathering, and that in itself may be enough to see revival launch there.
In America we all drive, yet most wouldn’t think of sitting down in an air conditioned car for two hours to drive to church every night. The commitment we have in this nation just isn’t comparable.
I have never, in all of my years, seen a church honor their pastor with such passion, humility and love. It would be impossible for me to overstate what I experienced. One young emerging leader told me in broken English, “I love my pastor and he loves me. I love to stand next to him.” It was precious. The pastor and his wife are so humble yet unapologetically bold and focused on seeing transformation come to Haiti—and everybody honors that devotion.
They had a special service to show their appreciation this past Sunday, and for six hours people sang songs to them, present fruit as gifts, shared testimonies and literally laid out a red carpet as thousands gave them a long standing ovation. The pastor and his wife never would have asked for this, but the people exhibited their hearts of honor for them in a memorable way.
Finally I found a church where you could preach convicting, challenging messages and the people actually rejoiced! The pastor isn’t playing games, and he refuses to entertain apathy or a casual approach to God or the church. He just gave a 30-day ultimatum. Either become 100% committed to attending regularly, to giving financially and to serving in ministry—or leave. You are either in or you are out. And guess how people responded. Yep, they are in.
Sadly in America we are so independent that any ultimatum like that would most likely result in most people checking out. The pastor would be accused of being controlling instead of appreciating his determination to accomplish the mission.
Haitians are radically devoted to seeing their nation experience revival and transformation. They aren’t in the church for the sake of their own experience. They are craving for God to move, and they embrace the sharp, difficult messages that are required to see this revolution come.
Demons are everywhere, and they know it. They experience such unbelievable supernatural realities that it doesn’t take much to ready them for a move of God. I asked a jam packed alter full of people how many were experiencing nightmares. This prophetic word was burning in me, but I had no idea what kind of response I’d get. Over 1/2 of the massive crowd raised their hands. 1/3rd said they were specifically aware of demons. Voodoo is rampant in the area and the power is real.
So, if the enemy is that real, then it’s easy to understand just how real and supernatural God is.
This being the case, everything just feels much more powerful. The intercession and worship is intense. The atmosphere is alive. They understand deliverance and they expect other worldly encounters.
The earthquake in 2010 killed 225,000 people. The region is devastated and poverty is extreme. It’s a third world country that seems to have more needs than can ever be met.
It feels hopeless. In a remote region I asked the pastor how in the world the police would find us if there was a problem. He said, “You don’t want to need the police.” That wasn’t very comforting! I realized how much they actually have to rely on God.
The police or an ambulance can’t come to our rescue. That’s the situation in a nation where medical care in poor and emergency systems are nearly non-existent. As I stated before, the average income is $70 a month.
The pastor told me about a critical prayer meeting that he held just prior to the earthquake. 1400 people showed up. None of them died in the earthquake. Three people from the church who didn’t attend did die.
They understand the realities of life and death, and they are extremely desperate for Jesus. The prayer meetings are full. In fact, the pastor just added another weekly prayer meeting with the expectation of revival breaking out—and the desperate are coming.
How can America see revival?
I am so disinterested in most strategies, round table sessions or great ideas.
I want prayer meetings.
Lots and lots of prayer meetings with hundreds and thousands of people in attendance.
The prescription of revival is simple:
“Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings. ”Evan Roberts
Is anybody ready to fully surrender, pray, wait, believe and attend daily meetings in America? If not, revival will have to wait.
This prophetic analysis is specifically for the Detroit region, yet I’m confident it has impact in cities around the world.
[Don’t miss Aaron Crider Sunday night at Revival Church! This is most definitely a critical weekend as we gather together and advance toward revival!]
For six years he and his wife were invested in the Brownsville Revival. They would be at the church by 5pm each night and wouldn’t leave until after 1am… EVERY NIGHT except Sunday and Monday! Then, he’d wake up after 3-4 hours of sleep to get up for work by 6am. Work would finish at 11:30am and he’d go right to school. After school it was time for another revival service.
He said that every day 2,000 people would line up at 7am—for a service that started at 7pm! Every day!
This type of investment, of this level of focus is will become the norm for those involved in revival in Detroit.
Let me continue with a simple statement: The core call for Christians in this hour is to gather. To be together. Continually. We must daily build the house of God with fiery devotion.
When I arrived in Detroit a year and a half ago I immediately discerned an atmosphere of extreme hunger. The feel of breakthrough was in the air.
My guess was that it would be easy to sound the alarm, call the hungry to gather together in pursuit of the meal of a lifetime (revival) and the masses would quickly unify, come together and pray. I envisioned a movement of builders, of blue collar zealots who would lock arms and work with passion, together, day after day until the foundation for revival was built.
2000 years ago, in a historic moment of desperation, a key event unfolded. The disciples were about to experience the rocking of the Earth by the Holy Spirit as revealed in Acts 2, but they had to do two things in order for this to happen:
- Gather together
It was a similar call that Jesus had for the disciples in the garden. Stay awake, gather together and pray.
It’s the same strategy for us today.
There are hungry people in Detroit, but I sense that hunger is being overcome by a sleepy, scattered and distracted people. Let me say this clearly: Right now, the mission of revival in Detroit absolutely has to be primary for every Believer in the region!
We must be together—continually. We absolutely have to pray.
The new reformation that’s coming to the church that will result in a Brownsville style 24/7 level of participation must be introduced now. We must rearrange our lives around the mission, and build.
The first two elements in my book 20 Elements of Revival are:
- An extreme devotion of time
As we’re locking arms, building together, praying in the Spirit and developing a new culture of daily participation in the church we’ll find revival rushing closer at warp speed.
ALL OVER DETROIT THE CHURCH MUST GATHER
It must become normal, very quickly, for churches to be filled to overflowing as people gather to pray several nights a week. It’s time to resist the urge to scatter. We can’t be distracted by lesser things. We must wake up and understand the magnitude of the mission. This is an all hands on deck all the time season!
Yes, I’m alarmed, but I’m also encouraged. That alarm is sure to wake up a ready remnant that will break through the religious system and build up the walls of this city with passion.
If you are one who is ready for reformation, you call is simple. Be in the church every time the doors are open. Contend for the doors to be open even more than they are! Then, pray and build the House of the Lord.
If we can begin to see a pattern of daily gathering and fervent prayer through the region, we’ll actually be able to watch the wave of revival come crashing over us.
REVIVAL CHURCH PLANS
The dream is clear—we want to see an army of people explode a movement of night and day prayer, facilitate regional, large scale prophetic events, raise up a team of revivalists to take the fire to other cities and initiate the culture of revival as we help establish the 24/7 city church.
Can you give 10-20 hours a week to this vision? Contact us. We’re ready to see revival come, and we need the laborers to handle the harvest.