The scourge of yesterday's seeker sensitive movement has infected today's mainstream church.
A question was posted to a local Facebook group, and while I applaud anyone's desire to be involved in an on-fire church, the request revealed something troubling.
“Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?”
That was the question.
The answer? Nowhere.
Such a church doesn't exist. The concept is quite impossible.
DEFINING AN ON-FIRE CHURCH
Of course, it's entirely possible to find a church that is vibrant and passionate about Jesus without the gift of tongues in operation. There are many such places where you can connect, grow, and enjoy godly relationships. You can serve, go on mission trips, study the Bible together and experience an emotionally satisfying community of faith. There are such churches represented by most every authentic Christian denomination (or non-denomination).
However, the individual wasn't asking about vibrant churches. They specifically sought out an on-fire church. I maintain my contention that it is impossible to find a church that's authentically on fire without tongues manifesting.
“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1–4, ESV)
There is an immeasurable difference between a vibrant community of faith and one that's marked by the fire of the Holy Spirit. When a church is birthed and bathed in fervent, supernatural prayer, and unlimited room is given for the Holy Spirit to blow and burn in their midst, the resulting fire is indescribable. Incomparable. Other-worldly.
To be on fire is not to be emotionally excited. To be consumed by biblical fire is a spiritual reality. The Spirit of God breathes in and through us and ignites a supernatural flame that defies description.
Simply, there is an anointing that rests on churches that embrace the gift of tongues. You'll notice in the passage of Scripture above that tongues of fire rested on everyone there. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and they all spoke in tongues.
I'm not going to dive into a teaching on the different types of tongues, but to briefly address those who are convinced that the Bible teaches that “all don't speak in tongues,” suffice it to say that there are multiple types of tongues. All can speak (or sing) in the personal gift of tongues. Not all, however, operate in other types of tongues such as “tongues and interpretation.” I'd encourage you to study out the differences.
An on-fire church is an Acts 2 church where all have the opportunity to be baptized in the fire of the Holy Spirit. In fact, a true on-fire church will manifest groans of intercession and a supernatural release of God moving through all in attendance.
“…but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26–27, ESV)
LARGE SCALE RESISTANCE TO THE GIFT OF TONGUES
I contacted two churches in my area that by all appearances were full of life and devoted to Jesus. I watched some of the worship online and people were legitimately engaging with lifted hands and at least a measure of visible passion. What I'm trying to communicate is that they appeared to be Spirit-filled churches.
I scoured their websites looking for a statement of faith or any evidence that they affirmed the gifts of the Spirit. I found nothing that remotely gave me confidence that I'd be stepping into an on-fire, Charismatic church should I choose to visit.
So, I emailed them. The first church copied and pasted their vague beliefs from the website I already studied. Here was my reply:
Thanks! Can you let me know your stance on the gifts of the Spirit? For example, during your services do people pray or sing in tongues? Are their words of knowledge? I appreciate it! Blessings to you all!
I never heard back from them.
The second church never replied at all.
Very interestingly, the first church was quick to reply to the Facebook post this article is about. “Where can I find an on-fire church…with no tongues?” A representative from the church claimed their church fit their requirements perfectly. Many other suggestions of other churches were offered as well.
I find it even more disturbing that churches that presume to be Spirit-filled are all too often minimizing the gifts of the Spirit and even forbidding the gift of tongues during the service. The seeker sensitive paradigm has overtaken many churches as they seek to make everybody as comfortable as possible.
The opportunity to engage in worship at many Spirit-filled churches has been reduced to fifteen or twenty minutes. I've visited churches that don't allow the people to go deep in the place of worship, to cry out, to repent, to groan in intercession or to encounter the Holy Spirit due to ridiculously short services. In fact, it's more common than ever to sing for fifteen minutes while being forced to listen to an often dry, tedious sermon that lacks any measure of anointing for nearly an hour. This is grieving!
Pastors, you might notice that the rise of 24/7 prayer and worship is capturing people's hearts. However, you aren't going to find a 24/7 preaching and teaching movement. Both are important, but we must understand priorities. A foundation of fervent intercession and deep, supernatural worship is mandatory if the Word of God is going to have fertile soil to grow in.
From my book The Coming Church:
As we become supernaturally changed in a place of extreme intercession, worship will change significantly. It will be supernaturally driven. There is a new sound coming to worship, and it’s not simply a new style. There is a supernatural, otherworldly groan of intercessory worship that will explode out of the entire body as a new breed of trembling worship leaders lead the way into the shock and awe of the glory of God. We will no longer simply sit in a pew or stand with a raised hand while a familiar worship song is sung. The prophetic, groaning sounds of Holy Spirit-facilitated worship will make it normal to shake and fall to our faces as we cry, “Holy!” The natural, logical sing-a-longs will be no more. We will have a hard time standing as man’s karaoke gives way to God’s Shekinah and Kabod glory that takes up residence in his Church. Worship teams will practice less and pray in the Spirit with tears in their eyes more. Today, along with most other expressions of church life, worship is at least slightly and sometimes extremely marginalized for the sake of the less adventurous attendee. Since most people tend to be adverse to more supernatural forms of worship, and many would leave if the atmosphere became too uncomfortable, the majority has been winning. I’ve said it countless times, and have written before that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. How is it that the naturally-minded majority has supplanted the supernatural remnant in the Church? How is it that burning, raging, intercessory worship that’s driven by the groans of the Spirit himself are not appreciated enough to risk losing people from our churches.
In the coming Church, it will be normal for people to hit their faces and tremble and cry holy as the fire of God’s presence rages! Do you see why we can’t formulate low level, seeker focused worship services that can be fully understood naturally?
Yes, people are drawn to churches that provide healthy community, excellent children's ministries, skilled musicians, engaging teaching and effective programs. However, this isn't the picture of an on-fire church. Not even close.
We need the raging, searing and fearful glory of God to burn through our services. The gifts of the Spirit must manifest and a supernatural tremble needs to strike us all. The shock and awe of the Holy Spirit should drive us all to our knees as we quake under his power.
What many are calling an on-fire church and what is authentically an on-fire church couldn't be more opposite. It's time for another Acts 2 outpouring to hit our nation.
From my article, “Seven sure-fire ways to end boring, predictable church services,” I'd like to suggest just what an on-fire church might include:
- Lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues
- Embracing a vibrant prophetic culture
- Encouraging people to release prayers, decrees and declarations on the mic during service
- Inviting people to make biblical declarations
- Promoting prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service
- Providing prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom
- Expecting manifestations of the Holy Spirit and refuse to shut them down
I'll leave you with one of my favorite descriptions of an on-fire church from over a hundred years ago:
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.”
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
Why are so few talking about the one solution to the crisis and the chaos that can turn our nation?As the never-ending election drama continues to play out, we are hearing from all sides a mix of opinions, solutions, emotions and irritations. Those on the right are exhibiting passion at a level our nation has never seen. The clear and obvious answer to society's ills is the reelection of their man, Donald Trump. The left has gone to great extents to protect our nation from the continued threat of mean tweets from the President. Their vision of a nation free from first amendment tyranny is within their grasp.
WHY DO THEY ACT LIKE THAT?Like many of you, I feel so grieved, perplexed and saddened when I watch the interactions of today's cultural influencers on television or on social media. It's deeply disturbing when their ungodly agendas are promoted and celebrated. My stomach turns every time abortion is defended, sexual deviance is promoted and wickedness is celebrated. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted:
Katie Perry said:
Abortion bans aren’t just about controlling women’s bodies.They’re about controlling women’s sexuality. Owning women. From limiting birth control to banning comprehensive sex ed, US religious fundamentalists are working hard to outlaw sex that falls outside their theology.
“I don't believe in a heaven or a hell or an old man sitting on a throne. I believe in a higher power bigger than me because that keeps me accountable.”Kathy Griffen, famous for holding a replica of Donald Trump's bloody, severed head in her hand, said this in 2007:
“A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. Suck it, Jesus! This award is my God now!”Social media dictators like Mark Zukerberg and Jack Dorsey are aggressively blocking Christian and right-leaning content. Joe Biden is determined to restore funding to Planned Parenthood and Kamala Harris voted against a bill that would limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. The fact that millions of supposed Christians affirmed the brutality of child-killing by supporting pro-death candidates in this year's election simply doesn't register. It's as if that knowledge doesn't have a place to land in my intellect. Why? It doesn't make sense. As far as I'm concerned, Christians don't do that. I suppose a mean tweeter is more of a national irritant than those who unabashedly promote the right to slaughter children. We could talk about the perverse and casual sexuality that permeates social media, movies, television, music and marketing. People like Miley Cyrus are doing great damage to the wholesome, godly fabric of our nation. To me, she is still Hannah Montana. The abhorrent agenda of the political left merits discussion as does the legalization of heroin and cocaine in Oregon. Don Krahel said:
The Democrat Party has betrayed our Founding Fathers! The Democrat Party has betrayed God! To vote Democrat makes you complicit. The party of slavery is now the party of abortion. Jesus would not support their evil, anti-God agenda.As the stench of the demonic vomit that is hacked up all over our nation very minute of every day hits my nostrils, I remind myself why it happens. These cultural influencers who are exhibiting such defiling evil (usually while presuming their beliefs and behaviors are at least positive if not righteous) simply do not know Jesus. That's it. That is why they act like they do.
THE HOPEImagine Kamala Harris, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Miley Cyrus, Mark Zukerberg or any of the other ungodly cultural influencers having a Damascus Road experience. Wow. Just think about it. Check out the condition of Saul's heart in the moments prior to fire from Heaven consuming him:
“But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” (Acts 9:1, ESV)We see this hateful, anti-Christian attitude at every turn we make in this nation (and the world). A threatening, murderous spirit is manifesting through many of today's infleuncers, and unless there is an undeniable, authentic, tangible and shocking invasion of God's glory into their souls, it will only get worse. Two verses later in Acts chapter nine we see the answer to society's wickedness:
“Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:3–5, ESV)Saul became Paul in a moment and he became one of Christianity's greatest and most important leaders. The very Word of God flowed through him in great measure as one of the most prominent divinely inspired human authors of the Bible. I propose Joe Biden, Lebron James, Ellen DeGeneres, Anthony Fauci, Nancy Pelosi, Megan Rapinoe, Harry Styles, Cardi B, Beyonce, Jennifer Aniston, Billie Eilish, Johnny Depp and so many others can radically turn this nation, and fast. A dramatic, life-altering encounter with glory will do that. The shock and awe of the fire of the Holy Spirit will send them to their knees. These people can shake our nation out of the wicked slumber it's in into full blown revival. I'm thankful for God moving in the lives of influencers like Justin Bieber and Kanye West. Let's see God continue to invade Hollywood, Nashville and Washington D.C. with his love!
THE STRATEGYFor quite some time I've found myself suddenly interceding for one of our nation's influencers. Out of nowhere someone would drop into my spirit and my mind. Sometimes it would come in the form of a dream. Often it's an individual I don't think of regularly, if at all. This makes it more clear it's the Holy Spirit initiating my assignment to pray. Simply, we need to contend with fervency and passion for today's influencers. This will be much more effective than trying to turn an election or to pass positive legislation (though those efforts are important). I developed a tool that can help. Use it if you would like, but most importantly, intercede for these precious souls. If you want to connect with my specific strategy, visit www.prayerteam.tv. There you will be able to choose an influencer and then leave either a sixty-second audio prayer or a prayer in the form of text, or both. This brand new project has already encouraged me as I've listened to the short yet powerful prayers of people I've never met. These intercessors are moved by love for the people on God's heart. The rules are simple: pray with passion from an attitude of encouragement. This isn't the place for preaching or rebukes or snarky digs. Should an influencer stumble upon the site and hear someone going to battle for them in prayer, we want tears to well up in their eyes. We want them to feel love and encouragement as the anointing of the Holy Spirit washes over them. That's the assignment. Head over to www.prayerteam.tv or just adopt the prayer strategy and make it your own. The most important thing is to pray. There is a Damascus Road encounter awaiting many of our culture's influencers, and your intercession will help push back the demonic resistance in their lives. You can play a part in someone's great, eternal salvation. Your intercession is that important. PHOTO CREDITS: “Jimmy Fallon” by ElizaPeyton is licensed under CC BY 2.0 “Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016” by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0 “Ellen DeGeneres” by ronpaulrevolt2008 is licensed under CC BY 2.0 “File:LeBron James (15662939969).jpg” by Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 “Taylor Swift 2010” by avrilllllla is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Originally published by The Stream.
ANNOUNCING A NEW INTERCESSION INITIATIVE: MOBILIZING FIREBRANDS TO CONTEND FOR INFLUENCERS
TODAY'S CALL FOR INTERCESSION: President Donald TrumpPlease post your audio or text prayer for President Trump below. Please always keep the intercession life-giving, understanding the individual you prayer for is deeply loved by God. Consider that they may potentially hear or read your prayer. I declare in the powerful name of Jesus that every enemy, every scheme and every force opposing our President must relent. God, we pray a massive angel army surround Donald Trump today and going forward. Holy Spirit, fill President Trump with your fire. Give him rest and give him zeal for you and for our nation. Let every instance of fraud in the election be exposed. Bring those who are promoting wickedness also be exposed, with an opportunity to repent and surrender to Jesus. I decree that justice will prevail! Thank you God for the man of God who has been faithfully serving the United States of America for the last four years. As you will, allow him to remain in that position of leadership. Amen. Photo credit: “Donald Trump” by cornstalker is licensed under CC BY 2.0
How could the NFL's decision to play the Black National Anthem at games promote unity?For many Americans and die-hard sports fans, outrage to the NFL's decision to include the Black National Anthem in the pregame ceremonies during week one of the season was immediate. Ted Cruz was among the outraged, calling the decision ‘asinine.'
“How many national anthems do we have?? “Is there an Hispanic national anthem? “An Asian-American national anthem? “This is asinine. We are ONE America. E Pluribus Unum,” he wrote.He isn't wrong. In fact, if we are going to slice and dice our nation into its various subcultures at sporting events, I propose another anthem might make more sense. A song for the millions of slaughtered unborn children should resound in stadiums all over the nation. Or, how about songs of justice for abused children and spouses? Victims of human trafficking? After we finish singing songs to, for and about all of the maligned people groups, and handily created sharp division between them all, many hours later we could finally play some football.
THE DEEP GRIEF OF RACISMIt should be terribly grieving to every American, and certainly to every Christian, when any person is the target of hatred. My family and I live in Branson, Missouri, a stunningly beautiful tourist destination that's filled to overflowing with people of great character, faith, love and old-fashioned morals. Out of any place in the nation we could have chosen to live, we chose Branson, and we'd do it all over again. This is home. I was saddened recently when a small, peaceful protest produced hate speech from one impassioned lady. Her disgusting message has since been blasted over media all around the world. This lady doesn't represent the legacy and culture of this supremely family town. Yet, her squeaky wheel received the attention. She wounded our town. She misrepresented Branson and the amazing pillars of our community. To her credit she did later apologize, but the damage has been done. The point? The feelings, beliefs and actions of one person, or a subset of people, do not, by default, represent the whole. What we have in our nation today is barrels full of grease being shot super-soaker style toward those with the loudest voices. This is no way to defeat racism, division, hatred, inequality or any number of other negatives.
MANIPULATION AND CONTROLProtests, when peaceful, can be fully appropriate. The problem comes when people start carrying a spirit of protest. (Read more about this in my article An Unholy Spirit of Protest is Overtaking our Nation) This spirit of protest is overtaking our nation, manifesting in a diabolical cancel culture that seeks to defame, defund and destroy anybody who doesn't affirm that agenda. The problem is, while people can certainly attack and assault those who don't step in line with their viewpoints, they can't change their hearts. Manipulating people into buying into agendas and attempting to control the narrative will never produce good fruit. I've heard it said that the horrible killing of George Floyd was initially resulting in at least a measure of solidarity and empathy between the races. Then the riots hit. People aggressively attempted to force the nation to grease their wheels. The result? Greater hatred, division and years of progress toward racial reconciliation lost. Just as a Christian can't force an unbeliever to understand the love and power of Jesus, we can't force or manipulate others to buy in at a heart level to what is important to us. It's impossible.
SHOULD WE TAKE A KNEE DURING THE BLACK NATIONAL ANTHEM? METAPHORICALLY, YESThis is where the twist in the article comes. I agree with Ted Cruz that playing the Black National Anthem may very well end up creating more division. It's possibly presumptive as it grabs attention away from other worthy societal ills. Many Americans are very probably going to become more stubborn in their positions as a result. However, I'd like to propose something that many seem to be missing. The Black National Anthem is, at least in part, a cry, a prayer to God. It's a heart-wrenching plea for the Almighty to guide them and for them to stay true. First, a little history on the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”:
Created by James Weldon Johnson, it was performed for the first time by 500 school children in celebration of President Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, 1900 in Jacksonville, FL. The poem was set to music by Johnson's brother, John Rosamond Johnson, and soon adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as its official song.And now, the lyrics from the end of the song:
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.It's a prayer. So, while on a political and cultural level, the playing of this Anthem may prove to be a colossal misstep, I believe we all can embrace the cry to God that will be sung by millions during week one of the 2020 NFL season. Should we take a knee when the Black National Anthem is sung? I don't believe so. We should stand with the wounded Black community. By doing so we are, in effect, kneeling in prayer for them, for us and for our nation. Originally published by The Stream.
When crisis comes, the church must respond with a fiery resolve to fan the flames of revival.
Revival or riots? It's clear which one is taking the nation by storm right now.
It's been said that wherever Paul went he'd kick-start either a revival or a riot. The sharp edge of the message he was bringing resulted in people either surrendering all to follow Jesus or in a mass resistance.
5 But some of the Jews were jealous, so they gathered some troublemakers from the marketplace to form a mob and start a riot. They attacked the home of Jason, searching for Paul and Silas so they could drag them out to the crowd. 6 Not finding them there, they dragged out Jason and some of the other believers instead and took them before the city council. “Paul and Silas have caused trouble all over the world,” they shouted, “and now they are here disturbing our city, too. Acts 17:5-6 (NLT2)
When the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is preached we can expect either revival or riots. However, the riots that are erupting in cities all over the nation as a result of the horrific and inexcusable death of George Floyd has nothing to do with a powerful message of truth. Love expressed through the truth of the Word will result in a rioting mob, but so will hate. Today's riots have everything to do with hate and nothing to do with love. All of this is happening on the church's watch.
RIOTING IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNHEARD
Pastor Eric Smith of Destiny Church in Dayton, Ohio saw a protester holding a sign that repeated the words of Martin Luther King: Riots are the language of the unheard.
Eric simply and profoundly said, “Time to get a new language.”
It's important to note that Dr. King was a fierce resistor of violent protest. His analytical statement, however, was true. When people are not heard, when they are pushed to their limits, it's possible to break. An uprising is to be expected. However, Pastor Eric was correct. If riots are the language of the unheard, it absolutely is time to get a new language.
WICKED SPIRITS OVERTAKING OUR NATION
Part of my grief over the death and violence that has erupted is due to a loss of discernment in our nation. I believe there's a mighty spirit of confusion that's settling over America right now.
Coronavirus exposed a severe spirit of fear that absolutely devastated millions, whether they were infected by the virus or not. Mobs verbally assaulted those who didn't wear a mask while shopping. Stop and think about just how fierce that demonic spirit of fear is.
Then a spirit of rage and, for many, hatred exploded overnight after another heart-wrenching and tragic death of an African-American at the hands of a police officer. A call to “kill cops” is being sounded by some in the midst of this crisis. As you watch the news and witness fires burning all over the nation, you can understand the power of this particular spirit of rage and hate as well.
Another spirit preceded our recent testings, and it's gaining strength today. America has been seduced by a strong delusion. Strange confusion has overtaken our culture.
Just a week ago, protesters marching against the lockdowns due to COVID-19 were called murderers by some because they weren't social distancing or wearing masks. Fast forward several days and a new set of protests emerged in the land for a very different reason. Where are the calls for social distancing and masks as peaceful protesters marched and as rioters converged in mass to destroy businesses and attack people including business owners and police officers?
Add to this the gender confusion that's been in the news in recent years. Men are women and women are men, so it seems, and you can be legally responsible if you don't address these people by their chosen gender. It's absolutely bizarre.
I could write into the night with example after example of strange confusion and delusion that has spread through society. Suffice it to say it's clear that a very wicked and very strong demonic agenda has been unleashed against our nation. Fear, rage, hate and delusion have blanketed the land and it's time for the church to finally rise up.
A NEW LANGUAGE
Some of you will be frustrated with my prescription in the midst of the virus and riots and madness. Most, it seems, are looking for governmental resolutions, legislation and penalties for those who don't comply. While appropriate new laws can certainly help, the truth is that we can never legislate away the assaults of invisible and very crafty evil spirits. Satan rages and he won't submit to man's laws. You can't create a law that eliminates hatred. You can't create systems that alleviate fear. Why? These are spirits warring against us and the only way to fight back is in the invisible, spiritual realm.
The grief that grips me is that most are looking for logical and natural solutions to a spiritual problem. While we can certainly take some steps in the natural, our victory won't be found there.
The new language that Pastor Eric was referring to, if I might suppose just a bit, centers around repentance instead of riots, love instead of hatred and spiritual violence instead of natural rage.
Simply, we must pursue full-blown, supernatural and overwhelming revival as our primary resolution. The new language, at its root, is passionate, aggressive and vein-popping intercession. We as God's government on the earth must rise up and pray!
This is the force the spirit of the age must feel coming against it in these end times. As we live a life of soul-ripping repentance and contend for revival in the land, we will be consumed with the desire for prayer. The need will overwhelm us. Tears will flow down our cheeks as we stand in the gap as spiritual warriors and push the enemy back.
It makes little sense to attempt to seek peace in the midst of war when the enemy hasn't yet been defeated. The enemy isn't a virus or blacks or whites or Asians or the police or politicians. To think so is laughable. The destruction of the adversary, of Satan's hordes, is the solitary key to winning this battle and driving out spirits of fear, rage, hatred and confusion.
It's the love of Jesus that will cause us to fight like this. From that place of intercession and spiritual warfare we will discern the enemies that those who are not living in the spirit can't see. We are God's secret agents and revival is our cry.
Imagine the cities that are burning today transformed by the fire of the Holy Spirit! We need millions to fall desperately in love with Jesus! The harvest is ripe! They are waiting for an otherworldly message that will shock them to their core and drive them to their knees!
Only then will we have the revival and riots that Paul experienced. As for the riots we are seeing today, they are the cry of the unheard. Yes, we must all listen to them, hear their pain and cry with them. I also pray their cry turns to intercession instead of violence. That's the language that Pastor Eric was really talking about.
Watch this powerful interview on TCT Today in Ohio!
This should be the shock to the system that pastors need, or the next pandemic just may take the church out.You'd expect the church to respond very differently than the world in the midst of crisis. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case. Social media is filled with freaked-out Christians who are absolutely terrified, spending their energies seeking out natural solutions to a supernatural situation. The fact that they can't disinfect their hands or wipe their, well, you know, has sent many into a frenzy. Something is terribly wrong and church as usual is no longer an option. If ignoring, minimizing or seeking a natural solution to a demonic threat brings relief, don't presume you have won the battle. The entity is merely resting alongside you, thankful his foe has refused to fight. The response is a glaring indictment on the church, and without question, the church must not ever allowed to go on as usual. This pandemic may be the catalyst to reformation the remnant has been crying out for.
THE CHURCH ISN'T READY
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; Revelation 19:7 (ESV)In an age when so many Believers are merely concerned with their personal eternal security and so many others are sitting back waiting to be raptured before the trouble comes, it's clear that the church is far from ready for the end-time waves of crisis that are crashing down. Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.
32 …the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32 (NKJV)So, the question for pastors and every Believer in the midst of trial is, how can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.
TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND
INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYERThe days of simply attending a Sunday morning service where we worship a little, pray a little and listen to a sermon before heading back into the world for a week must come to an end immediately. The primary focus of every legitimate Christian church must be fervent, passionate, powerful and strategic intercession. The days of simple prayer lists and prayer chains are over as the call to groans and cries of spiritual prayer explode out of the saints. For years I've been campaigning for services that are marked by people laid out at the altars from start to finish as the Holy Spirit broods over them. Deep, guttural groans of intercession will be heard throughout the sanctuary every Sunday (and ultimately, every day of the week). I am absolutely convinced that a church filled with tongues of fire will do more than any other single activity to make everybody ready for the coming storms.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEARIt's astonishing how a very dark spirit of fear has blanketed the church. Fear results in unsettled, nervous reactions while faith results in a confident, peaceful, calculated response. Pastors must introduce deliverance into their churches as a primary ministry. The spirits that are tormenting Christians have been exposed all over the world during the pandemic. I believe nearly all Christians need or have at one time needed deliverance. The enemy is especially attracted to children of God as he seeks to find open doors to latch on and destroy. We cannot afford a scared, timid people who shrink back at the sight of their own shadow. This end-time season requires mighty warriors, an army who has annihilated fear and who will stare right through the darkness and expose the enemy and send him fleeing! In fact, it very well may be time to allow those who are afraid to step back so the church can finally do what God has ordained it to do—fight and possess the land!
3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 (NKJV)
DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTUREPossibly a primary source of fear in the camp is the lack of foresight, the absence of prophetic revelation. Imagine how different everything would be if God's people were made ready in their spirits as God prepared them with all sorts of prophetic communication. Dreams, visions, God's still small voice, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and other divine impressions are extremely powerful and necessary if everybody in the church is to weather the storm. Every Christian must be both equipped and activated prophetically. The church needs to hear God's ever-present voice now more than ever. To have some people who are not tuned in compromises the camp and gives the enemy a very powerful and secure foothold.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
GROW IN POWERFUL FAITHThere is an angry crowd of “Believers” who are demanding we “USE WISDOM!” regarding this crisis. I wish they'd shout “USE FAITH!” It's much more effective. It's disappointing to see very little difference between the world and the redeemed in time of trouble. For so many, the initial and most powerful reaction is natural protection instead of supernatural advance. On social media I've run into an angry Christian crowd that snipes anyone who suggests peace, faith and authority over the schemes of the enemy are the answer. They see such counsel as a minimization of their human efforts and a threat to that strategy. I wonder just what counselor they are listening to. They love to promote “wisdom” but tend to see faith as haphazard and even some sort of nonsensical supernatural voodoo. A life of true biblical faith is so foreign to them that the extent of their belief system is a cop-out by simply “trusting that God will do as he pleases.” True faith looks nothing like that. It's confident, authoritative and declarative. Pastors have no option but to repent of their silly anti-faith positions and to actually embrace some of the teachings they previously dismissed. Whether you appreciate the whole of who Kenneth Copeland (or similar ministers) is or not, you cannot deny the powerful truth on the subject of faith that he carries.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)
GO DEEP IN THE WORDThe world needs pastors who have the smell of fire on them as they emerge from the prayer rooms and stand with great anointing and authority behind the pulpit. The low-level milk of Bible teaching must cease as the Spirit of God reveals the deep mysteries of Scripture. The people of God must be students of the inerrant Word, allowing the truth to radically transform them. Times like this require a spiritual response, and the foundation of God's wisdom is found in his timeless Word. The tired Sunday School style sermons must cease as earth-shaking revelation from God's Word shakes us to our core, and equips us as mighty end-time soldiers.
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)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SINThe greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment. Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end. The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV) 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)
TEACH ON THE END-TIMESI believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer. It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible Tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on his true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim his truth. Yet, today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the Tribulation period or not. We are in the end-times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment. I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless Believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.
EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLESI've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves. Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil. The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate lost people will be saved.
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31 (NKJV)
KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUSThe fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill. It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But, I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)
PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUNDAs easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we better be preparing the people to go underground. We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather then men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as Believers. Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)
FINAL THOUGHTSThe call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.
Does the church have the faith to endure pandemics, pestilences and global trouble?Welcome to a divinely ordered test. I believe God is mercifully allowing his church to see just how ready it is in the face of an end-time crisis, a minor pandemic compared to what most certainly lies ahead. While I have been encouraged to see many Believers rise up in great faith in the face of this taunting Goliath, many others have had their shallow faith exposed.
24 And all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were dreadfully afraid. 1 Samuel 17:24 (NKJV) 44 And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” 45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 1 Samuel 17:44-45 (NKJV)
THE ERROR OF SEEKING NATURAL REMEDIES FIRSTI'm hearing from a lot of Christians during this pandemic about their concerns, their natural strategies, their fears and their determination to avoid people and situations that are threatening. So many of these same people are saying very little about their fearless resolve to fight the enemy and to go deeper in the Lord. Something's not right in the church.
12 And in the thirty-ninth year of his reign, Asa became diseased in his feet, and his malady was severe; yet in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians. 13 So Asa rested with his fathers; he died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in his own tomb, which he had made for himself in the City of David; and they laid him in the bed which was filled with spices and various ingredients prepared in a mixture of ointments. They made a very great burning for him. 2 Chronicles 16:12-14 (NKJV)I believe we are seeing this scenario play out during our current crisis. Instead of first seeking the Lord as the primary and most important action, Christians are initially rushing to find the same natural protections that the unredeemed are. You can smell the fear as they are desperately attempting to take every natural precaution they can. Can you do both seek the Lord and prepare naturally? Of course, but the problem comes when the two steps are out of order. The above passage is very interesting. Not only did Asa seek natural medical care as his prime hope, but he was despondent, surrendered and ready for his own death. He prepared his own tomb. I don't believe it's a reach to suggest that many of God's very own are doing the same thing. A sense of dread has blanketed them and instead of truly standing in powerful, confident, overcoming and authoritative faith, they are digging their own graves, preparing for the worst.
SHOULD CHURCHES CLOSE DURING THE OUTBREAK?The issue of faith is intriguing. Note, I didn't say that we shouldn't take natural precautions, but rather that we should diligently, fervently seek the Lord and contend in the Spirit for supernatural resolutions first. From that place, God will give the peace necessary to make both spiritual and natural decisions with the clear guidance of the Holy Spirit. The reason I said that faith is intriguing is that, sadly, a massive percentage of “people of faith” simply don't walk confidently in the faith they identify with. It's easy to say that churches should remain open and everybody should flood in and intercede with passion for breakthrough, unafraid of any assaults of the enemy. The question is, would everybody who floods in truly be functioning in great, biblical faith? No. To walk in faith requires such an extreme consecration that it would be silly to presume that most live in that realm. They do not. All of us are greatly challenged in this area and few truly respond to that challenge. This is an indictment on Christians everywhere, and especially on pastors and leaders who have not prepared the people for such a time as this. If you are paying attention to the chatter, you'll know that the world is mocking various churches and ministries for cancelling services and conferences. Supposed “faith ministries” are cancelling events and encouraging people to stay home, and the world is most certainly noticing, and laughing. Would it make sense for some churches to stop gathering together in the short term? Maybe. Maybe not. While I tend to believe that contending together in fervent intercession in person as a body makes all the sense in the world, some may think otherwise. Whatever the case, we can't ignore the fallout. The lost are having a field day saying, “I told you your faith was nothing more than superstition. You are as afraid, ummmm, I mean cautious, as the rest of us.” The church is supposed to be made for times like these. Psalm 91:10 should be our rallying cry (No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling). We should be showcasing the power of God to protect and the revealing a fearless disposition that comes from intimately knowing Deity. The world is missing out on this opportunity in this current crisis. I'm not suggesting we need to haphazardly or foolishly do things to “prove our faith” or even that those with faith are immune to sickness. Please don't presume I am. What I am saying is that we must rise up in strong, confident belief that Jesus has overcome sickness and that healing is our portion. The blood of Jesus doesn't grant us immunity. It grants us authority. My hope is that the church would be filled to overflowing during a pandemic with people who refuse to be intimidated by the enemy and coerced to stand down. However, if most are nervous and lack the spiritual confidence necessary to fight the devil at this level, I agree that the church itself has become compromised and is at risk. Spiritual resolutions that aren't heeded then give way to natural reactions. With this in mind, I'll admit it is disturbing that so many are suggesting instructions that are opposite of what Scripture dictates. Instead of coming together in faith to lay hands on the sick, we are isolating.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (NKJV) 17 And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (NKJV)I want to qualify something as I understand many are troubled by this current season. Is it appropriate to follow the instructions of medical experts in the short term by temporarily isolating and cancelling services? It very well may be. It's true that many are still young and growing in their faith and it can make sense to exercise caution. However, I must stress that fear cannot drive that decision. Further, we must aggressively, zealously seek the Lord, understanding that our protection comes from him. In a perfect world, I do believe we'd still gather in spite of threat and contend with great faith and ferocity in our spirits.
THIS IS A TESTSpeaking of faith, I wonder if we truly believe the following passages:
1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. Psalm 91:1-3 (NKJV) 9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; 11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11 (NKJV)God is testing us. The above scriptures are the very words (the Word) of our perfect, omniscient, loving, eternal and undefeated God. Do you believe them without qualification? If not, your lack of faith will absolutely compromise every part of your life. Fear can settle into your soul. Doubt can overwhelm you. Human wisdom will masquerade as spiritual wisdom. The enemy will have access to you. I'm not saying this to disturb you, but rather to awaken you to a very real scenario. In order to succeed as Christians, we have to exercise common-sense-defying faith that refuses to surrender to a very powerful and demonic spirit of fear. I wonder if we realize that you and I are God's mighty weapons in this hour. We are the ones who are commissioned to stare down this enemy with fire in our eyes and to change the course of history. We must stand together with absolute fearlessness! I want to encourage you to fight the enemy, to pray with fiery passion and to stand in incredible faith. There are much greater troubles ahead, and the church must learn to walk in miracles, signs, wonders, healing and supernatural faith. This is what the lost need to see as despair threatens to overtakes the planet.
The church is suffering a crisis of faith as logic, experience, humanistic wisdom and emotional intuition are causing many to reject biblical truth.
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)It's stunning to see how easily some Christians change their theologies to match their experiences, their compassion, their definition of love, their frustrations, their logic, their doubts, their temptations and their emotions. Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. It's that easy. I'll take the chaos of faith over the precision of facts any day. Common sense would tell us a beautiful painting of mountains, trees and a log cabin on the banks of a rushing river would be more valuable than an abstract splattering of colors applied by whipping streaks and smears of paint onto a canvas. Jackson Pollock's abstract art simply titled No. 5 is currently worth $140 million. It's chaotic, nonsensical and it doesn't depict anything other than streaks, splotches and randomness. Yet it's currently ranked as the fifteenth most valuable piece of art in the world. This is how I see faith. It often doesn't make sense, and there are many other representations of reality that sure seem more worthy of attention. Yet, as Believers, we affirm what God values, and he deeply values great faith.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)The bottom line is that we believe God, no matter how obvious altering arguments seem to be. While an imperfect application, might I suggest that left brained people, those who are given to facts, figures, logic and intellectualism, might struggle more with faith then right brained people, those who see beyond the obvious and into the mystical. Their spiritual canvas is filled with random streaks and blotches that depict glorious life. They know truth trumps facts and it actually excites them to trust God at that level. Of course, as I said, this suggestion is not at all perfect as there are many brilliant intellectually wired men and women of God who are giants in the faith. Yet, the point I'm making is that many struggle to trust God when smacked in the face with seemingly clear and undeniable factual realities. Faith in the invisible can be snuffed out by reason. For me, the Bible comes alive when I approach it as a trusting child. I read it and I believe it. I'm not saying I'm not challenged by it because of course I am. Yet, the collision of biblical truth with natural facts invigorates me. I come alive as I reject all that contradicts the Word of God, no matter how naturally convincing, and watch in faith for God's truth to miraculously activate in my life. If God said it, I believe it and that settles it.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
HealingThe world is currently cowering in fear over the coronavirus scare, and sadly this includes many Christians. In fact, churches are banning handshakes and laying hands on people at the altar! “Lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” has suddenly changed for many Christians. Now it's “avoid touching the sick so we don't catch it.” I wonder if they realize this is the exact opposite way Scripture instructs them to respond.
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (ESV) 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (ESV)In a recent article I dealt directly with the fact that coronavirus is embarrassing the church as supposed blood-bought Christians are freaking out just like the rest of the world, and faith is nowhere to be found.
Are you taking the opportunity to show the lost you are fearless, full of faith and joyful? Or do they sense your anxiety about coronavirus? A crisis of faith has been exposed. Coronavirus is embarrassing the church. Have you noticed any difference at all between the godless world and those who are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, the Healer? Bold decrees of faith, not confessions of fear and worry, should be exploding out of our mouths! Instead, Christians are hiding in caves, running from the battle and trembling not in the fear of the Lord, but the fear of the enemy. Sure, take precautions, but don't cower. Don't respond like the world. Don't allow the enemy to impact your life. Live! Be free! You are covered by the blood of Jesus! Of all people, we should be the ones preaching faith not fear. Put the ridiculous spiritual face masks away. Your mouth is your weapon! Don't allow the enemy to muzzle you. Speak to the fear and command it to dissipate! Renounce the tactics of the evil one! Let the world see just how powerful Jesus is and how different his children are! We run to the battle! ~Christians are being embarrassed by coronavirus, John Burton
EternityUniversalism, annihilationism, false-grace, false-love and other heretical theologies are growing at record pace today. Why? People have traded truth for a golden calf. Emotionally, they can't reconcile how God is the perfect representation of pure love while also choosing to cast those who don't serve him into everlasting torment. Logically they have concluded that since no human father would ever punish a disobedient child in such a fashion, then, of course, God who loves at an exponentially deeper level than any human father wouldn't either. Common sense for them trumps biblical truth. In fact, I've heard some reject conscious eternal torment so ferociously that they foolishly equate such an act with the child sacrifices of Molech. That's venturing into blasphemy of the Holy Spirit territory. Be careful. I believe it's a mistake to be limited to the realm of logic and emotion. We can't allow our sympathy and our compassion to define our theology. Simply trust that God's love transcends our understanding of how it functions. Judgment does fit within the construct of love. I have no need to force God to fit inside my limited definition of love, and in fact I hope that he never would. His justice and his mercy aren't competing realities. Love and wrath aren't mutually exclusive. The Bible has the final say and it reveals with clarity that those who die in their sins do in fact enter into never-ending torment. We can't rewrite Scripture. Just believe it and respond accordingly.
10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 (NKJV) 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NKJV)
Born in SinToday it seems many have shifted from believing we are all born in sin to defending our various desires and temptations by declaring we were “born that way.” Homosexuals, for example, are known for surrendering to feelings, emotions, yearnings and a strong pull to adopt what Christians know to be deviant lifestyles. They argue that the strength of their desires is evidence that we have been interpreting the Bible incorrectly. Others believe it's ridiculous to suggest that a precious newborn baby is tainted by sin since they are innocent and have no capacity to commit sin. Still others suggest there's an “age of accountability” that must be crossed before sin becomes an issue. The problem? The Bible suggests no such age of accountability. It clearly reveals that all are born in sin. It's also point blank obvious that certain lifestyles are in fact sin no matter how powerful the urges are. We were born wicked and every unholy desire must be crucified. We must surrender to Jesus if we hope to be saved. Again, common sense, powerful desires, emotional cues, intellectual discernment and all forms of logic must submit to the truth of Scripture. Yes, it's truth that may at times seem contradictory and it is often mystical and too deep to grasp, but it's truth nonetheless. Keep in mind that God has no obligation to explain himself to us. As harsh as it sounds, it's his way or the highway to hell. He is God and we are not. If you don't like that, don't follow him, but please don't attempt to redefine him to fit your perfect image of how a god should look and behave.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)Unbelief tends to consume people when it comes to finances. Remember, God is a very good God and he loves to prosper his children. In the age of certain greedy televangelists, it's common for many to renounce this pursuit as unrighteous, yet they are doing so in the face of clear Scripture to the contrary. Common sense would say we can expect to lose money when we give it away, yet spiritual sense would agree with the Word. When we give, it's given back in much greater measure. Don't attempt to rewrite the Word of God to match your own struggles with faith. Don't oppose other people who are standing in faith and who are seeing God miraculously move in their finances. Does God promise to supply every need or not? Does God promise to prosper or not? Does God give us the ability to create wealth or not? We need to put to bed every argument in opposition to God's Word, no matter how logical they may seem.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
PrayerMy article The Secret Sauce of Supernatural Encounter reveals several of the ingredients necessary to experience God. Answered prayer has a similar recipe. It's grieving how quickly people give up on a life of intercession simply because they aren't seeing the breakthrough they are seeking. Natural proof has become their god and blind faith is deemed foolish. Speaking of blind faith, I've heard it said that Heidi Baker prayed for every blind person she found for a solid year before the first one received their sight. This is critical to understand. God desires to heal. Period. He wants to move miraculously in every situation. The fact that we are experiencing breakthrough has nothing to do with God and everything to do with us. Heidi needed to learn how to see healing manifest. There was process. The fact that blind people weren't healed wasn't because of God, it was because Heidi was learning how to heal. To adopt a false teaching that says God doesn't always desire to heal due to our own delay would be a tragic decision. Unfortunately, it's a decision that many Christians have made. There are usually several reasons why prayer goes unanswered, and few people are determined enough to wrestle through them. They prefer to blame God or to give up on the idea the healing is for today, that miracles are to be common and that we are to live in the supernatural realm. There are multiple blockages to breakthrough including doubt, sin, a lack of fervency, misunderstanding of our spiritual authority, not engaging in spiritual warfare, misunderstanding the scriptural position on the matter, not hearing God's voice, not discerning his will, not praying in tongues, giving up too early, wrong motives and much, much more. You see, you can't determine that God doesn't want to answer prayer just because he isn't doing so. We can't reject undeniable scriptural truths just because we can't break through. Prayer works when we pray correctly. It must be effective and it must be fervent.
16 …The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NKJV)
FINAL THOUGHTSI could address several additional arenas of struggle when it comes to faith, but I think you understand the point. The chaos of faith is immeasurably more valuable than the seeming stability of logic. Your life will become dramatically more thrilling, more powerful and more miraculous if you step beyond the limits of intellectualism and the bounds of emotional experience into the realm where common sense is regularly defied. It's the invisible realm where faith explodes, miracles are to be expected and the power of God burns through us. I challenge you to read the Bible and to believe it without qualification or reservation. When the Word of God floods your mind and your spirit, faith will spike and the supernatural reality you are craving will be revealed.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.
I'll lead with the solution. A culture of prayer is the prescription not only for controlling, manipulative and dysfunctional churches, but also for every “normal, healthy” church. It's the call for all. I've written extensively on this and I am more convinced than ever that programs and politics must be set aside in favor of developing a night and day, all-encompassing, deeply saturating and strikingly potent culture of intercession in the church.
I hear often from people who have become jaded by controlling or even abusive pastors. I am also well aware of the resistance and manipulation that manifest through the people. The demands to fashion a golden calf are loudly sounded when the leader heads into inconvenient, costly and uncharted territory.
We don't only have one puppet master pulling the strings. The other side is pulling back and this wicked, internal battle is threatening the advance of God's kingdom.
THE PURPOSE OF CHURCH SERVICES
Prayer meetings. Intercession. A well developed culture that breathes and burns with the call to contend in prayer is the primary purpose of every church, and this means our church services should be driven by fiery, authoritative intercession.
We don't need another professional organization that gets more intoxicated every time new flesh, or, rather, a new visitor, walks through the door. We don't need humanistic vision, goals or projects to complete.
I'd encourage you to read my book Pharaoh in the Church. In it I call pastors to quit forcing people to make bricks so their personal kingdoms can be built. There is no need for bricks where they are called to go. The tent in the wilderness where the cloud and fire reside needs worshipers, not slaves.
A worship lyric by Brian Ming sums it up best:
God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.
17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Mark 11:17-18 (ESV)
The spirit of control and manipulation that we see in so many churches today is a manifestation of the spirit of religion. In the above well-known Bible passage, it's clear that Jesus will have nothing to do with churches that are driven by personal ambition. The people were using the house of prayer for their own benefit, to financially profit. Of course, financial strength isn't inherently wrong. But, when motives are tainted by impurities, we have a problem.
It's another Tower of Babel, a massive project developed with heaven as the focal point…and self-exaltation as the goal.
4 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.” Genesis 11:4 (ESV)
THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION
We see that in play with the thieves in the Temple and we see it in play in churches today. Pastors often fall into the trap of using the church as a vehicle to fulfill their personal missions and dreams. The people are well familiar with the consumer society we live in, and all too often they are consumers in the church as well. They want what they want and they won't make it easy for the pastor if they don't get it.
Again, the answer is developing a prayer culture that is so predominant and foundational that it drives the entire church. The services are more like prayer meetings than TED Talks, filled with cries and groans of intercession and the manifestation of holy love that results. It's very hard if not impossible to hate or despise or even to fight against those you are weeping over, contending in prayer for.
Pastors need to lay their expectations down and simply lead the people into the glory of God. Yes, challenge them. No, don't shrink back. But don't make the experience about busyness, projects or fulfilling a personal dream.
The people need to understand the leader is called to lead them into an uncharted place. They should let go of the demands and simply follow, pray and battle as holy soldiers.
DUELING PUPPET MASTERS
The dueling puppet masters need to stand down and eliminate the competition, the pressure and the strife from the camp. No more tug-of-war. No more control. We need the inappropriate expectations to cease.
Understand, I'm not campaigning for some sort of organic, casual, careless or passive church experience. Not at all. I believe our call into the Ekklesia, into God's governmental service, is one that will cost us everything. The price is high and it's not for the apathetic, self-indulgent person. The battle is extreme and it demands we are at our very best, equipped, prayerful and dressed for war.
Yes, our apostolic leaders must boldly call us into action. Yes, the body must be in position. They must lift up the arms of their leaders, strengthening them in the fight.
What we don't need for even one more Sunday service is pastors who are trading their prophetic mantle for that of salesmanship, attempting to convince the people buy what they are selling so they can be personally enriched, their reputation enhanced and their lust for success satisfied. No more spiritualizing personal endeavors and expecting the people to supply the need.
We also don't need a casual people who are passive-aggressive, who manipulate and control the leadership in order to coerce them to change the direction of the church or to meet their selfish demands.
We need bold, selfless leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.
We need consecrated, surrendered people who are dying daily and enlisted as soldiers.
The innumerable projects, promotions, groups, functions and busyness in today's church really need to come to an end. Trade it all for prayer meetings. Gather the people together and run the race of intercession together. Equip the saints, preach on fire, pray without ceasing and head out into the wilderness of encounter. That, my friend, is church.