Posts Tagged ‘passion’

5 Seeker Sensitive Strategies That Threaten Revival

Is it possible your church is risking revival by adopting Seeker strategies?

All these new methods of how to build the church has left me confused. ~David Wilkerson

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing revival is defined by an influx of new Believers into the church. After all, we see this happening in the great revival chapter of the Bible, Acts 2:

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:46-47 (ESV)

YOGA-000000065The ultra-simple protocol seems clear: Provide opportunities for the lost to get saved and as a result the church will grow. Ultimately, it is presumed, with enough such impact, that revival will land.

Unfortunately, many pastors are adopting this paradigm, and, due to the necessity it creates, they are also adopting many of the strategies that Seeker Sensitive churches are known for. Most of these pastors would be shocked and horrified at such an accusation. Yet, the truth remains that many pastors who are passionately pursuing revival are compromising that pursuit due to a misunderstanding of just how revival will come.

Friend, the ultimate goal of revival is not a church full of new Christians. It’s a church full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and an army of fully surrendered burning men and women of God. You'll know revival has hit when the church is full of people who can't stop praying on fire, which is a key evidence of legitimate salvation. The desire to be with God night and day consumes us!

The Seeker model results in some very tempting false positives. Keep the bar low, the atmosphere naturally familiar and the pace slow and you absolutely can gather a crowd of people who are interested in Jesus. Churches can become mega in size, leaders can gain a reputation of success and a lot of people can entertain an affinity for God as their busy lives allow.

I could buy a large building, fill it with comfortable leather couches and serve the best coffee in the city for half the price of everybody’s favorite chain. Add in some connection opportunities, possibly some live entertainment and some ten-minute sermonettes and I would have a large group of people almost overnight.

Or, I could call a prayer meeting and wait for the remnant to show up.

5 SEEKER STRATEGIES THAT THREATEN REVIVAL

1. A Non-Threatening Environment

The purpose of the church, including the Sunday service, is not, nor has it ever been, to draw in visitors. It is not to be an evangelistic tool.

The purpose of the church is clear in Scripture. It is to be a Believer’s intercession meeting with a focus on the nations.

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.” Mark 11:17 (ESV)

When I was pastoring several years ago, I became increasingly frustrated with our pre-service prayer. I have always held raging, explosive intercession for one hour before the start of every service. I started this as a youth pastor and continued as a senior leader.

I wasn’t frustrated with participation because people filled up that room every week. It was often my favorite part of the day. I wasn’t frustrated with the level of passion or focus. The roof regularly came off that prayer room.

My frustration hit after a simple revelation. If the church is a house of prayer for all nations, why was prayer intentionally scheduled to end when the church service began?

I have always been aggressively given to prayer. I’ve taught on it, written a book and innumerable articles and based a school of ministry on it—yet I was embarrassed by my error.

The obvious reason why a fiery prayer meeting would end prior to the start of the service was because many people who would be uncomfortable in such an atmosphere would feel out of place. It seemed right. It felt appropriate that we would be sensitive to the seekers who might not enjoy such a supernatural environment. Oh how that human wisdom grieves me today!

My job as a leader is not to create an atmosphere that is naturally familiar! It’s to invite everybody into a shocking, burning atmosphere of Holy Spirit activity that will cause the flesh to cringe and spirits to explode!

The most important shift I ever made in church ministry was to extend the hour of pre-service prayer right into the first half of the service! When the service began, the firebrands were already on their face, pacing the room, praying in tongues, dancing and shouting and declaring the Word of the Lord with boldness. The previous hour of fire would launch the beginning of the service like a rocket. Not only did we start the service with raging intercession, we also moved musical worship down a notch. It would come in later, after prayer set the foundation for the rest of the service. The service was finally a prayer meeting; the church, a house of prayer.

My promise to those under my leadership has always been clear: I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. This means we must promote an extremely threatening, costly, uncomfortable church atmosphere that results in only the hungry and surrendered locking in.

You see, the church wasn’t “added to daily” through natural means. Don’t forget how it all started:

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)

2. Overemphasis on Connecting People

So often today, churches are marketing themselves as the perfect place for YOU. YOU matter. Come as YOU are. We have saved a place for YOU. I have to wonder if it’s a club or a church, a place for natural man or our magnificent God.

Again, the primary goal of the church is to nurture a habitation for the Spirit of God to dwell and for the people to pray for the nations.

I cringe at church marketing strategies that emphasize just how well I would fit in if I attended their church. Pastor, it’s not about me! Tell me how much Jesus is glorified and how massive your vision is for prayer, revival and Kingdom advance and then I’ll get excited. The moment I hear about how special I am and just how I can fit in is the moment I realize filling seats is a little too important.

My favorite church growth strategy actually results in an empty church building, not a full one:

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (ESV)

The church doesn’t need seats filled with people who receive a gold star for showing up. We need pavement people! Those who will hit their face on the pavement and declare God’s goodness! We need an army to stand in position, ready to train and do battle against the enemy! Warriors are needed to assume the position on their knees in intense, Holy Spirit-driven prayer!

I don’t know how many times I would get excited when a small group of prophetic, prayer-fueled warriors showed up for a church service because I knew we were actually going to get something done!

And, yes, a function of the church does include ministering to orphans and widows. Without question that must happen, but not as a foundational goal. First comes a culture of raging, burning prayer, and then we can invite the orphans and widows into that blaze!

I propose eliminating most strategies and programs that focus on connecting people and drawing them in, and starting giving much more energy to prayer and training the remnant, which brings me to my next point:

3. Underemphasis on Training People

And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:35-38 (ESV)

Jesus had compassion on those who were ready to become part of the remnant church. Trained laborers are needed to fan the flames that revival ignites in people’s lives.

The plan is simple. Train laborers in fervent prayer, the prophetic, revival, the Kingdom and other key disciplines while simultaneously praying in the Spirit together several hours every week. Then, invite the harvest into those prayer and training sessions and watch them get set ablaze!

When I was leading Revival Church in Detroit, we had a powerful, prayer based ministry school called theLab. It was an intense, three-month training program that was required for anybody who wanted to serve in any capacity in the church. We strongly encouraged every member to enroll in the school. It was in this furnace of intercession and discipleship where the vision was caught and the passion for Jesus consumed them.

I believe we need intensives like that one at the foundational level of every church. It will quickly identify those who are merely socially or naturally interested while revealing your remnant warriors, those who can take their place on the wall of intercession in the house of prayer.

4. Being Naturally Familiar

The church is a strange, other-worldly entity. It is meant to be unusual, supernatural and confounding to human intellect.

And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. Acts 2:14-18 (ESV)

I believe there is a day coming when worship will be mostly sung in the Spirit. Groans of intercessory worship will radiate out of the people. Screens with words that assist with karaoke sing-alongs in today’s church experience will go dark as remnant intercessors are erupting with spiritual songs.

Prayer will follow the same pattern as English (or the language of the culture) gives way to tongues of fire! Prayer lists will no longer be needed as people prophetically cry out and decree the prayer on God’s heart in perfect sync.

In this atmosphere, the desperate and unsaved will yearn for God as they cry out in repentance and hit the floor in tears under the weight of an invisible Savior. We are a peculiar, supernatural people!

…But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:8-9 (KJV)

Such a spiritual Sunday morning experience is rare even in churches that would laugh if you suggested they have adopted seeker strategies.

The simple litmus test is this: Are we doing anything to make visitors comfortable that would be different if everybody was a part of the on fire remnant?

Are the teachings deep or shallow?

Is prayer low key or moved to a different part of the day or week?

Is the atmosphere intentionally not “scary” or strange to ensure visitors are welcomed?

5. Lack of Fiery Preaching

I'm not about to put up a silly skit and preach a 15-minute message on ‘how to cope' to a multitude of people who are dying and going to hell. I tremble at the thought. ~David Wilkerson

Those who are zealous for Jesus and who are part of the remnant absolutely crave in your face, challenging, convicting sermons.

It’s time we stop apologizing for preaching hard truth and deliver what is necessary to refine and prepare the people.

The remnant church is quickly becoming bored with all of the teachings that are directed at the seekers and marginally interested. It’s time for bold, prophetic preaching to erupt from our pulpits again!

We are so easily offended today. I say, let the truth offend and clear the pews of the pretenders! They are a risk to revival and are costing the hungry the meal they so desire.

If our preaching doesn’t often result in some running out into the parking lot with cursing, at the same time others run to the altar in tears, something is wrong.

I’ll never forget the time I was a guest speaker at a church and was preaching with an extremely sharp edge on the reality of Hell. I made clear that Christians are at risk of an eternity there if we aren’t sober and alert.

Suddenly someone in the back started shouting and cursing me. They ran into the foyer and then out the door screaming into the parking lot.

When anointed preaching lands, there is a spiritual reaction that can’t be denied.

Pastor, when you preach truth it will be controversial. It will trouble. It will cause some of your best tithers to leave the church. It will result in a continual disturbance in your ministry.

Do you know what Finney did? Finney preached sometimes, and the whole congregation got up and walked out on him. That's a good meeting! He sent them out horrified! I only preach for two reasons these days: either to send people out that door blazing mad at me or blazing with the peace of the Holy Ghost! That's all! ~Leonard Ravenhill

There are many other seeker strategies that put revival at risk. These are but a few. I want to challenge you to let our holy God grip you. Burn with fire so hot that flesh can’t stand in your presence. Preach with a tremble in your voice. Shock and shake a dead religious culture with truth. Love people deeply but build the ministry around God. Minister to him first and watch the nations report about the strange and wonderful things that are happening in your region!

If I decided to plant my third church…what would it look like?

SpiritLed Woman - The Coming Church Ad WebIf I decided to plant my third church…what would it look like?

My name is John Burton and I’m a church planter.

I find it hard to go long before the itch for advancing the Kingdom through new works starts to really get to me.

Recently I’ve been praying and thinking about just what it would look like to plant my third church. The first two were exciting, full of adventure and supernatural. They were also both challenging and sprinkled with heartache! Like any church planter my wife and I experienced good old fashioned betrayal at times and glorious comradery at others. The brand God left on us and on our team and the countless people who were a part of the ministry at one time or another seared us like a hot iron. I’m sure it will be an eternal mark.

Of course, the longer you do anything, the wiser you become, as long as you are teachable. After 26 years of ministry, and after two years removed from giving senior leadership in a church setting, I find myself wondering just what a new church would look like. I have learned much, and I’m at the point where I’m not willing to waste energy on anything other than the main things.

A RISING REMNANT

Everywhere I travel when ministering I run into burning, hungry, desperate people. There is a rising remnant in our nation that is yearning for a corporate experience in the supernatural that shocks our culture. They can’t handle church as usual any longer.

God is moving on the hearts of pastors and others in preparation of a powerful, otherworldly new wine skin, and it’s a skin that most will initially reject. It’s for this reason that I’m slow to launch a new wine skin church. Resistance will be extreme. Timing is critical.

At Revival Church I’m on the hunt for what I call Pavement People. These are the 2 Chronicles 7 people who couldn’t even enter the building due to the glory of God filling it—so they hit the pavement and worshipped. No comfortable chairs, no music, nothing but them, the pavement and God.

As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Nehemiah 8:6

~Prayer and Worship: The church I crave and may never see

KEY ELEMENTS OF A NEW WINE SKIN CHURCH

PRAYER WILL BE THE MAIN THING

…“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?…” Mark 11:17

This foundational element will be enough to cause most to run. Today, even the most prayer based churches limit intercession to secondary times and venues. Usually the prayer meetings are relegated to a side room at an odd hour, which means only the few who are available and wired to respond to the challenge of corporate intercession will do so. Sadly, it’s important in today’s model to keep prayer at bay so as not to make the visitors or those who are less interested in spiritual matters uncomfortable.

I envision prayer saturating everything that goes on in the context of the church. I believe it’s an indictment on today’s church that the house of prayer isn’t mostly a ministry of prayer. Sunday morning must become the main prayer meeting of the week, and everybody in the church must pray on fire as their primary ministry. I’m not talking about logically praying through a prayer list. I mean facilitating an electric atmosphere where groans of intercession, fervent tongues and prophetic decrees shake the building off its foundation!

Imagine walking into the sanctuary at 10am and everybody is on their face or pacing the aisles crying and groaning in the Spirit. I see that becoming the regular Sunday morning experience in the coming church. Worship and teaching may or may not always occur. The common experience will be to spend two hours in intercession with some occasional worship and teaching being interjected at key moments.

Simply, Sunday mornings will become intercession sets. Sunday evenings will become intercession sets. Youth services will become intercessions sets. Children's ministries will become intercession sets. Then, in that environment, apostolic instruction, prophetic decrees, songs of worship and other important expressions will occur.

Everything will take a back seat to an earth quaking atmosphere of prayer. Worship, programs, assimilation, outreach, everything. Meetings will sometimes be devoid of these things, but prayer will never be compromised.

How can we even presume to be a legitimate Christian church if prayer isn’t primary? According to scripture, the church is a house of what? Worship? No. Teaching? No. Fellowship? No. The church is a house of prayer—except in America. Except in the Western world.

Regarding worship I’ll qualify this one time as I dive deeper into this point—I am zealous about worship and affirm it is critical and biblical, without question. I have worship music playing hour after hour as I go through my day. Misty Edwards is leading worship on the screen as I write this, and I love it!

That being said, I am troubled at the attention musical worship receives in the church today. It has become an idol for many and is all too often devoid of a spirit of prayer.

I’ve said before that worship music in its current state can be used as a lazy man’s intercession. It’s entertaining. It feels good. It feels spiritual. Yet, it by no means defaults in spiritual maturity or true worship. ~Prayer and Worship: The church I crave and may never see

THE EXPERIENCE WILL BE MOSTLY VERTICAL

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24

I’m grieved at how much energy is given to making visitors comfortable while neglecting the call to make the Holy Spirit comfortable. Sometimes those two pursuits are mutually exclusive. A key reason why prayer doesn't fill the atmosphere on Sunday mornings is because visitors and most others would feel out of place. As much as we'd like them to minister to God with us, it's time we are okay with visitors heading back to the parking lot.

As I’ve said often, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We must nurture environments that are raging with fire, an atmosphere that will cause those who are living in the flesh to either run to the altars or out the back doors.

Instead of waiting by the door to greet a visitor, I propose we stay on our face under the weight of God’s presence. Model that. Don’t worry, you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself at some point. What I’m trying to get across is that the focus of the church isn’t developing relationships for the sake making new friends, and it’s not about adding people to the ministry. The goal of church growth will finally be put to rest as we focus on the goal of ministry to God.

WE WILL BE INTENTIONALLY SMALL

Understand, I’m someone who absolutely loves large group meetings. I love praying and contending with thousands of people at various conferences and events. I also would have no problem with a church that does in fact explode in number as a result of revival. I believe we will see that.

However, after 26 years, much of that in pastoral ministry developing churches, I no longer value growing numerically for the sake of numbers. I don't get excited when more people show up, unless those people are hungry and ready to engage God with us at an extreme level.

I believe the sharp, offensive messages that will be preached, the call for one hundred percent of the people to be invested in supernatural, fervent prayer and the extreme commitment necessary to advance apostolically will repel most people. Only a remnant will be left. It’s with that remnant that we can preach what much be preached, pray what must be prayed and do what must be done to prepare a region for revival.

MESSAGES WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS

Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” Matthew 15:12 (ESV)

Pastors can be neutered no longer. We can’t be muzzled. The leadership necessary to bring a shock to a nation will result in many becoming offended—not because of the fault of the leader, but because of their own unresolved issues.

We just came through a volatile election season—a season that had most pastors silent out of fear that those who disagreed with their position would leave the church—or that the IRS would revoke their tax exempt status.

I lost that fear long ago. We must refuse to hold back truth and key prophetic messages out of fear that some will revolt. In fact, we need to know that our words will cause great damage, both actual and collateral, when we speak with authority. They will also set the captives free.

This will result in regular heart checks in the camp. Will we murmur and complain as the Hebrews did under the leadership of Moses—and die in the desert—or will we rally around leaders in the spirit of Joshua who refuse to give in to the taunts and threats of the people?

LOVE WILL BE REAL

We will experience a connection with others in a way that we have never known as we endeavor to advance as soldiers together. Friendships will be forged in the fox hole. Nobody will be involved simply for the sake of finding a friend. Mission will come first, but in that mission we will discover a love for people that is real, deep and alive.

Many will reject love like this since it turns focus from them and their desire for social interaction to God and his mission.

In the natural, it was quite a sight to behold watching the Chicago Cubs advance through the regular season, then through the post-season to win their first World Series in 108 years. All-Star and team leader Anthony Rizzo cried very real tears during the victory parade, in front of five million people, as he talked about his love for retiring catcher, and father figure, David Ross. It was moving to say the least.

Understand, the Chicago Cubs didn’t invite people to participate on the team so they could develop relationships with one another. That’s laughable. The right people who were locked in to a magnificent mission were invited to join the team. Those people fought together and discovered respect and love. It was real, or as real as it can get without God in the mix. I trust you understand the point I’m trying to make.

Of course, the church isn’t going to invite only the most gifted or talented to participate, but, the end result will be that only those who are willing to focus on the mission will want to stay.

PROGRAMS WILL BE FEW

In the past I intentionally limited programs, ministries and outreaches in the churches I led so we could all stay focused and energized for the main thing, which was prayer. The truth is that a culture of prayer will result in more fruit and legitimate disciples being made that typical programs or outreaches would. The effects might not be as immediate, but truer conversions and lasting disciples will result.

I see this strategy continuing.

In past churches, we’d all gather as a group a few times a week for prayer and training. We had our school of prayer that trained in revival, prayer and the apostolic. We'd prayer walk the streets. We initiated prayer movements in over 170 different churches. Everybody involved in our churches at a core level was either praying, being trained in prayer, preaching on prayer or giving attention to supporting topics such as revival, deliverance, authority or other key focuses.

The goal was for the remnant to be so full and so united in the pursuit of revival, that it spilled out everywhere they went. They would invite people to come to our prayer events, to the school and to other ministries. They’d develop supplemental ministries on their own. They would explode on fire night and day!

As an example, one of my key leaders in Detroit took on a specific part of downtown Detroit as her mission field. She would develop teams to go down there for prayer. We would often join her as a church to pray on site. It was an important ministry project that she initiated and that we supported. We could remain focused on the main thing and people had the freedom to launch out and fulfill their callings.

MY PERSONAL ACCESS WILL BE LIMITED

But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 (ESV)

I will be relentless in protecting my call to pray, to training and to developing a revival strategy.

This means most of my time will be spent alone in prayer. Some of my time will be spent with my core leadership team. A small portion of my time will be spent with others.

Those who need a strong pastoral connection will most probably struggle, and I believe the struggle is a good one. I believe you can grow much faster in that culture than you can otherwise.

The focus will be unapologetically apostolic/prophetic.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So, as I sit here writing this, I’m craving the opportunity to give leadership to such a church. However, I am not convinced that it’s quite time. In fact, while it may be time within the next month, it may not be for the rest of my lifetime. I fully understand that.

I’m excited about the local church I’m running with now and believe God will continue do wonders through their ministry. I’m privileged to be a part of that revival and prayer minded family!

There’s a lot more I could share than I did in this article. I also understand there are many invisible, hidden parts that I have yet to discover as I continue to consider the future of the church. The passion in my heart for such an end-time church is real, and it will only grow. As more clarity comes, I’ll know how to proceed.

But, let me leave you with a question. Regardless of where you live, would you jump into a church culture like I described? Or does it sound good, but too challenging? Is it possibly not attractive? Do you hold to a different paradigm? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

I want to encourage you to read a related article I wrote previously HERE.

Also, DOWNLOAD a free chapter of my book The Coming Church. It comprehensively covers this topic.

Ashley Madison: Possibly millions more Christians have committed adultery than previously thought

Adultery: The cause for concern in the church is much greater than many realize.

Mark 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

I have found myself sickened and angrier than I’ve been in a long time over the recent controversy surrounding Ashley Madison, a website that makes it easy to commit adultery.

In fact, I am shocked that this can even be considered a controversy. Check out the definition of that word:

controversy: discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views

Are there really two sides? Is it possible there are those who would argue for the appropriateness of having sexual encounters with people other than their spouse? Unbelievably yes. The darkness is truly getting darker.

Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…

Romans 12:9 (ESV) 9 …Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

Ashley Madison CEO Noel Biderman recently said, “Up until the creation of AshleyMadison.com, there wasn't really a place where women could go to pursue their desires to have an affair. Now that there is, it's clear that women aren't the more faithful sex – they just hadn't been offered the same opportunities to cheat in the past.”

He continues by saying, “Members are not cheating on their spouse because they're looking for divorce, more often than not they're seeking out an affair to help keep their marriage together.”

Sure, go ahead and read that again. He really said that.

Matthew 12:33-37 (ESV) 33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Mr. Biderman, if you are reading this I implore you to honestly evaluate the extreme destruction you are shamelessly perpetuating. Your actions are reckless and you deserve a stern rebuke. You have brought great pain upon the world and have absolutely devastated people’s lives. Your supposed marital wisdom is embarrassing.

Mr. Biderman, did you know the only reason you were born was to deeply love Jesus Christ and to have a very real, intimate, powerful and holy relationship with him? That is why you are on the earth. That is why you are breathing today!

Through the current scandal God is sounding alarms and flashing lights right at you, crying out for you to turn from wickedness and discover the amazing truth and power of the cross. Jesus was brutally, savagely murdered for you because of love. He would never cheat on you, leave you or forsake you.

I pray for you. Heaven is real and so is Hell. Please consider your life and surrender everything to Jesus, no matter the cost, no matter if you lose your reputation or your millions made through immorality.

CHRISTIANS IN ADULTERY

I’ve heard various reports of Christians being exposed as registered users of Ashley Madison. One source revealed at least 400 pastors were named in the leak. Of course we already know about Josh Duggar who was caught.

Yet, consider this: there are most probably millions of additional Christians who are guilty of adultery yet who have not been exposed. Your spouse very well may be on that list. You may be as well.

Before you dismiss my previous statement as ludicrous, please read the following:

Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV) 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

That’s all it takes to be as guilty as every Christian who took advantage of the filth and immorality that AshleyMadison.com provides.

If you reject that as extreme, if you believe there is a significant difference between lusting after another person and actually having a sexual encounter with them, it’s evidence that you don’t truly believe the Word of God. It’s also evidence that the fear of God is not in you.

How many women have Christian men actually committed adultery with? What about women who have fallen for the 50 Shades of Gray deception? This is so intense! If you lust over someone you have fallen into sexual immorality, and that person doesn’t even know they have been violated!

A DEMAND FOR HOLINESS

1 Peter 1:14-16 (ESV) 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Enough is enough! The church has nearly entirely eliminated preaching on sin and holiness! People are living in casual, accepted sin and are convinced that all is well. Their blood is on our hands if we refuse to preach the sharp, unapologetic truth of Scripture.

Sin must stop. The casual approach to wickedness must cease!

Ephesians 4:30 (ESV) 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

NO NAKED PEOPLE

No naked people. That concept seems nearly ridiculous in today’s sexually driven culture.

Sexual images are flashing before our eyes from every angle through media, marketing, video games and other invasive sources.

I’ve actually had Christians challenge me by saying it’s not possible for a man to avoid lust, as if it’s an expected part of our make up! I heard about another who said that the Bible doesn’t forbid lust, only lusting about married women! The culture is causing many hopeless and some defiant Christians to believe that freedom from sexual fantasy is not possible, or even necessary. God help this nation.image

My wife, two daughters and I were walking through a mall in Wisconsin recently. We were stopped in our tracks right by the food court where families with impressionable children were scattered all around. There was a massive mural that stretched from floor to ceiling of a nearly naked woman. My wife immediately said, “I’m going in there to complain to the manager.” So, into Victoria’s Secret she went.

You might be thinking, “Where have you been the last few decades John? This type of imagery is everywhere!” Yes, that is true. Sadly. Since this is the case, do we simply surrender to the culture? My thought is that Christians are to take dominion and be the drivers of the culture. We can’t sit back and give up. We must fight! However, before that battle can truly begin in the malls and movie theaters, we have to wage war at home—in our own minds.

Consider how far our culture has fallen—including the culture of the church where only 3% of Christian men admit that they never view pornography! Per the Barna Group, 97% of Christian men are actively looking at porn! 87% of Christian women are entertained by pornography! Many Believers don’t “believe” it’s necessary to abstain from sex before marriage. My God!

Check out how it all began:

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:4-7

The serpent pleaded his case by telling Eve that she would not surely die if she enjoyed a deadly fruit that promised a deeper personal experience. The fruit was pleasing to the eye, and Adam agreed. We can see the striking similarities between the first sin and today’s rampant sexual sin. What is different is that they recognized their sin—and covered up their nakedness. Today? While Christians aren’t joining nudist colonies, they are embracing and celebrating nudity by enjoying that forbidden fruit in their minds. Today’s Christians have naked people performing sexual acts in their thoughts that are strictly and clearly forbidden by Scripture.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes… Proverbs 6:25

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant…” Exodus 20:17

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30

I know there are many out there who will disagree with my position regarding eternity, but I firmly believe that continuing in the sin of lust (or any other sin) can result in eternal separation from God. The above passage of scripture in Matthew 5 speaks to this very directly. The reason I want to make this point is so you don’t casually dismiss this warning. Your eternity is at stake if you are entertaining lust. This is a battle we must fight with passion!

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

The results of lust are tragic. In addition to the possibilities of destroyed marriages, illegal sexual activity and other natural repercussions, I submit the most terrible result is what Adam and Eve both experienced:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10

Separation from God. As I stated above, we risk being separated from God forever. We also risk being separated from God now. Those who are in bondage to porn and lust would easily admit they feel that separation. Just as Adam and Eve hid because of their nakedness, Christians today are missing out on their walks with God in the cool, refreshing garden.

INTIMACY LOST

Adam and Eve lost their intimacy with God. I propose they started to lose it before their banishment from the garden. There was a void there, and they sought to fill it with something unholy.

By the grace of God I’ve been blessed to be free from the traps and destruction of pornography, and I am humbled to say that God has enabled me to live lust free.

Several years ago I was deep in the Rocky Mountains on a prayer and fasting retreat. It was just God and me in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I was connecting with God about a variety of things that night and a simple thought entered my mind.

Even though I was living a sexually pure life, I had a question for God. I’ll be transparent with you and share it.

If God’s design for sex is the perfect model, which it is, then it should bring the highest level of satisfaction. There should be absolutely no other competing desire that’s compelling enough to give in to. If this is the case, why would this happily married man who has the most amazing wife on the planet have an occasional temptation enter his mind? Why would the thought of thinking about someone other than my wife in a sexual way be the least bit tempting? Please understand, I wasn’t acting out on that temptation, but the question remained. Why is the temptation even there?

I understand today that most married people fantasize about people other than their spouses. That reality caused further curiosity. Again, if God’s design for sex is the best, why is there temptation for an alternative?

God spoke simply and clearly. “The one you are intimate with is the one you will desire.”

Intimacy. It’s all about intimacy.

That made so much sense to me! It’s true! When I am emotionally connected with my wife in an intimate way, any other competing thought would be an unwelcome invasion. It’s easy to reject such thoughts when I’m connected in a deep way relationally with her. However, in those seasons where we may be a little more distant due to busyness, stress or arguments (yeah, get over it…we argue it out sometimes!) then intimacy is negatively impacted. It’s easier to desire other things and to find temptation pressing in.

Of course, the same is true with God. If we are madly in love with him and are cultivating intimacy, the unrighteous invasions into our lives will be soundly rejected. We will guard our love connection with God jealously. This is where holiness dominates in a sin wrecked world. Can you imagine trembling before the Lord as his glory overwhelms you and then, five minutes later, watching a movie with nudity and foul language? That makes no sense.

I propose we refuse to be entertained by anything in media or in our thoughts that required the brutal torture and murder of the one we love. That unholy sexual fantasy required the death of Jesus. The cussing and sexual content in movies demanded the nine inch nails that were driven through his flesh. The simple lustful image that tries to dance around in our heads isn’t simple at all. It took a slaughtered Lamb to deal with that.

That slaughtered Lamb is the lover of your soul. His passion is for you!

You can find powerful and satisfying freedom from lust as you draw near to the Lord.

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:21-22

THE COMMAND TO LOVE

Let’s talk about the call to love.  This is the call that God has for us to be intimate with him. Have you ever considered this mandate?  It’s very, very intriguing.  I can understand calling someone to serve, to give money, to feed the poor or to avoid sin.  That makes sense very easily.  However, a mandate to love?

Certainly the act of love in many ways is fully intentional and can often be void of feeling.  We act in love toward others.  This is also quite easy to understand.  But this idea goes well beyond a call to act out in right ways.  It’s a call to intimacy,  a mandate to be deeply intimate with our Lover.   

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)

In the original Hebrew, the word love is ahab. 

It means: to have affection for, sexually or otherwise.

Additionally it means to like as a friend.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can be forced to like anybody, much less have deep affection for them.  But this is what Scripture is telling us.  Could it mean that the call isn’t for instant intimacy, but rather a determined and unwavering process of pursuit and faith toward the promise of experiencing an enjoyable God? 

As we, in faith, more easily believe that being with God in a continual and significant way will result in continual and significant enjoyment, we will allow the old things to pass away.  We will not stop until we discover the joy that only God can provide.

So, if we are to understand that God is mandating us to fall deeply in love with Him, there is a disciplined process that must commence.  The goal is deep and passionate intimacy with our Lover, the invisible God. 

It makes sense that when we discover this ultimate of pleasures, that we will not be as inclined to pursue the human desires that demanded so much of us in years past.  It’s been said more times and in more ways than we know, “Our sin causes separation from God.  We, in effect, trade intimacy with God for intimacy with the world.”

Certainly there is truth to that statement.  However, if we view the issue from the other side, we could say, “Intentional pursuit of intimacy with God carries with it the reward of perpetual discovery.  Deliberate surrender of human desire coupled with a craving for the manifest presence of God Himself in our lives will lead, sooner or later, to fulfillment that cannot be measured or effectively explained.  It’s that extreme.  It’s that good.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

In the above passage, the Hebrew interpretation of the word “love” is different than ahab.  It is agapaō, which emphasizes the attitude of love.  It’s the moral and socially appropriate act of service and attention to others, including both mankind and God Himself.

Throughout Scripture we do see various translations of that single word “love”, and God is the central figure regardless of the interpretation.  However, it’s that unique call to ahab love that has captured my attention.  It’s a mandate to intimacy.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick! Song of Songs 5:8 (NKJV)

Lovesick!  What a word that is.  As you might guess, the Hebrew translation is ahab.  In the Song of Songs we see this amazing story of love unfold beautifully.  In the following verses the word “love” is translated ahab each time.  As we gain insight into the intimate longing of our God for us, our hearts melt and our understanding changes.

“I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the one I love?” Song of Songs 3:2-3 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem] He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases. Song of Songs 2:4-7 (NKJV)

He made its pillars of silver, Its support of gold, Its seat of purple, Its interior paved with love By the daughters of Jerusalem. Song of Songs 3:10 (NKJV)

How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to Her Beloved] Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NKJV)

Read the last passage, Song of Songs 8:6-7, over and over.  Its communication of passionate desire is intense.  As we establish a vow with our Lover, the intentional and disciplined pursuit of intimacy with Him is alluring and strong.  It is a vehement flame that even water, the fierce enemy of fire, cannot drown.  It’s this that we are pursuing, the fire of passion that will overcome the waters of human desire.

In the following Song of Songs passage, we discover a different translation of love.

Draw me away!
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will run after you.
[The Shulamite] The king has brought me into his chambers.

[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.

[The Shulamite] Rightly do they love you.

Song of Songs 1:4 (NKJV)

The Hebrew word used for “love” in the part of the passage that says, “We will remember your love more than wine” is dôd.  The literal meaning is to boil.  The idea is that God’s love is actively boiling.  It’s hot and constant and intentionally set on us.

The enemy of human desire is a very strong one.  A simple resolution to avoid sin and do good is far too weak to be seriously considered for inclusion in our arsenal.  The burning fire of passion for God, ahab love, is our most effective weapon.  The reward of the perpetual discovery of new depths of God’s zeal for us is enough to keep us burning with a vehement flame that the waters of carnal human desire cannot put out.

Yes, my friend, you can be completely free from lust, and you can live a powerful, joyful life full desire for Jesus.

If you are struggling with lust, don’t despair. Don’t quit contending for intimacy with God. You can absolutely find freedom! God loves you with a passion that’s deep…and he is longsuffering. He will be with you in your journey to freedom.

I pray for radical freedom to overwhelm you as you discover wave after wave of the other worldly, immeasurable love of Jesus! You were born for this!

Let’s make a decree over this nation together. We release a spirit of awakening, revival and holiness. As we go hard after God we will entertain NO NAKED PEOPLE. Not in media or in our minds. Amen!

Video: How will you respond when betrayal comes?

Watch: Four dreams reveal the coming failures, betrayals, accusations and disappointments we must prepare for.

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How will we react when people we hold in high regard fail us or even betray us? What if a pastor falls or a spouse rejects our passion for Jesus? Are there fathers and mothers who will disappoint us? Yes, and we must be ready to respond with a right heart.

John shares four dreams he had about this topic that will help prepare you for the falling away of people we hold dear.

WATCH THIS POWERFUL TEACHING FREE FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS FREE HERE!

You can be free… Watch our weekly teaching: Secure in Our Identity

We don’t contend for God’s love or for a position in Christ! Understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy striving and be set FREE!

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SECURE IN OUR IDENTITY

The subject of contending often leads people to presume we are contending for God’s love, or for our position in Christ. This is not the case.

We must have a fervent, contending, striving spirit, and that can only come as we are secure in our position in Christ.

We can't help but to contend for souls, for revelation, in intercession, for godliness, etc. as we are set in our position in Christ.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 (ESV) 7  … train yourself for godliness; 8  for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 9  The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. 10  For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

We strive not to have our hope set, but because our hope IS set!

Yes, you are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus!

You don't have to spend your energy attempting to convince God to affirm you, love you or advocate for you. The cross resolved that!

Now, you can be free to contend in the Spirit for revival, revelation, breakthrough and souls!

WATCH TODAY’S POWERFUL TEACHING FREE FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS HERE!

Nearly 1/2 of the registrations are gone…register now for an UNUSUAL PRAYER EVENT.

Have you registered? The UNUSUAL event is capped at 120 total people, and nearly ONE HALF are already taken!

AN UNUSUAL EVENT: BRANSON, MISSOURI

The remnant Bride is gathering together in Branson, Missouri for a night of FIRE in God’s radiant presence on Friday, August 14th, 2015 starting at 7pm.

The night will be marked by a passionate, high energy and fervent atmosphere of praying in the Spirit, abandoned worship, piercing messages of awakening.

You will be branded by fire and undone by the heart of God as he reveals his passions to you.

From beginning to end the joy and the severity of God will be before us. In fact, it all begins an hour before the official start time as we light a raging fire of intercession in pre-service prayer.

You SIMPLY CANNOT MISS this earth shaking event!

REGISTER FOR THE UNUSUAL EVENT HERE TODAY!

ALSO COMING SOON—PRAYER IN THE CAVE!

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We are still working on securing the cave here in Branson, Missouri, but I wanted to alert you that it will be coming very soon—possibly the middle of July!

We walk about 15 minutes down under the surface of the earth, turn out the lights and contend in perfect darkness for 4-5 hours in fervent prayer!

You will discover how easy it is to encounter God, to hear his voice and to have a DRAMATICALLY SUCCESSFUL PRAYER LIFE!

The prayer model we use is the 100% EFFECTIVE PRAYER MODEL based on my book Revelation Driven Prayer.

You can’t register yet…BUT, PLEASE CONTACT ME and let me know that you want to come. I’ll alert you when the registration opens! Contact me directly at john@johnburton.net.

ONLY 30 SPOTS FOR PRAYER IN THE CAVE ARE AVAILABLE…AND AT LEAST 1/2 OF THEM ARE SPOKEN FOR!

REGISTER FOR THE UNUSUAL EVENT HERE TODAY!

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CoFI Group Video—Series Conclusion: Four Fires

WATCH the series conclusion: Four Fires—A Personal Fire

IMPORTANT!! This message will be available for the next seven days, at which time the entire nine part series will be moved over to our MEDIA PARTNER subscription section. It will no longer be available in the free media section of the site. You can subscribe and enjoy all our our past teachings at www.thefurnace.tv/partner.

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FOUR FIRES: FIRE NUMBER FOUR—A PERSONAL FIRE

This nine part series concludes with this message on the fourth fire-a personal fire.

When we go through the intense process of discovering our own fire and intentionally fanning the flames, a great end time drama is set into motion.

There are people who currently don't know God who have an earth shaking destiny on their lives. God is waiting for fire breathers to awaken and start a fire that consumes a city…so these world changers will be provoked to surrender their lives to Jesus.

Arguments against a fiery church and a movement of prayer are already arising. Unbiblical theologies that oppose such a lifestyle are emerging, and the demand of the majority is to tone it down and to avoid an extreme life.

In response to that, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Let the resisters resist. God's remnant will carry the fire of the Holy Spirit to the cities of the earth.

WATCH OR LISTEN TO THIS POWERFUL MESSAGE FREE FOR THE NEXT SEVEN DAYS HERE!

CoFI Break Video—Good Christian People: Affirming Apathy

Watch: It’s time to stop affirming those who have a marginalized commitment to God and rescue them from a lukewarm life.

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GOOD CHRISTIAN PEOPLE

Possibly the most unbelievable (but common) reaction to the urgent (but rare) call for Christians to burn with great passion for Jesus is the accusation of legalism. To be actively involved with zeal and to call others into a deeper devotion to Jesus and the mission of Kingdom advance smells of unrighteous works to many. I can barely believe I just wrote that.

Further, I’ve heard it said that such a determined devotion reveals a lack of revelation of the finished work of the cross. The thought is that we can now rest easy due to the work of Jesus and, in fact, any energy expended on our part in response to the cross is an offense to the cross. This, friend, is sickening and theologically ridiculous, yet that teaching is gaining ground in many Spirit-filled circles.

Not only should the cross of Jesus evoke the fire of passion from deep within every one of us, we should also understand the radical, costly participation that we must embrace:

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

The cross is the very picture of passion, and any response less than all consuming zeal is an indicator of a lack of understanding, certainly not of greater revelation. A revelation of our beautiful Savior being savagely tortured and brutally murdered due to our own detestable wickedness should drive us to our knees in a never ending lifestyle of thanksgiving, worship and intercession. Our desire to go deeper and to get closer to Jesus should wreck us every single moment of every single day.

Yet, even within the context of the church there are masses of people who resist such a focus. I’m shocked and disturbed to say that I heard of a locally popular pastor who actually confessed that he no longer preaches the cross. I suppose it’s old news and time to move on to more positive things. I’m grieved.

WATCH OR LISTEN TO THIS POWERFUL MESSAGE FREE FOR THE NEXT 30 DAYS HERE!

Good Christian People—Affirming a lukewarm culture

Who will sound a shocking alarm announcing that the church is asleep, lukewarm and without passion?

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Possibly the most unbelievable (but common) reaction to the urgent (but rare) call for Christians to burn with great passion for Jesus is the accusation of legalism. To be actively involved with zeal and to call others into a deeper devotion to Jesus and the mission of Kingdom advance smells of unrighteous works to many. I can barely believe I just wrote that.

Further, I’ve heard it said that such a determined devotion reveals a lack of revelation of the finished work of the cross. The thought is that we can now rest easy due to the work of Jesus and, in fact, any energy expended on our part in response to the cross is an offense to the cross. This, friend, is sickening and theologically ridiculous, yet that teaching is gaining ground in many Spirit-filled circles.

Not only should the cross of Jesus evoke the fire of passion from deep within every one of us, we should also understand the radical, costly participation that we must embrace:

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

The cross is the very picture of passion, and any response less than all consuming zeal is an indicator of a lack of understanding, certainly not of greater revelation. A revelation of our beautiful Savior being savagely tortured and brutally murdered due to our own detestable wickedness should drive us to our knees in a never ending lifestyle of thanksgiving, worship and intercession. Our desire to go deeper and to get closer to Jesus should wreck us every single moment of every single day.

Yet, even within the context of the church there are masses of people who resist such a focus. I’m shocked and disturbed to say that I heard of a locally popular pastor who actually confessed that he no longer preaches the cross. I suppose it’s old news and time to move on to more positive things. I’m grieved.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (NIV) 18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

For those who do embrace the cross, and who do carry their own cross, they become a person who yearns to be with Jesus day and night in prayer. They can’t get enough.

One person’s response to the cross will result in a prayer lifestyle. When a group of people have a true revelation of the cross, it results in a prayer culture. When a region is impacted by the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on Calvary, you have a prayer movement. You have a mass advance of fervent, burning, passionate prayer.

In addition to a lifestyle of intercession, an immediate reaction to a life impacted by the unparallelled sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is a desperation for every person at risk of slipping into a lukewarm state. Passion for the sleeping church overwhelms.

Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV) 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

When people are awakened to the reality of the cross, their urgent, heart wrenching cry is to “WAKE UP! WAKE UP, YOU ARE ABOUT TO DIE!” We shouldn’t be surprised when awakened people are suddenly crying desperately for the sleepers to awaken as well!

Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

The prophetic alarm targets those who are relaxing, casual and unaware that their lack of urgency is putting their very lives—their very eternities—at risk.

Those who are comfortable and relaxed—especially those who are at ease “in the name of Jesus”—will always react against any alert that threatens their sedation. Those who are asleep do not like to be awakened, even if it’s for a good cause.

Romans 13:11 (NIV) 11 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

Just this morning I was deep in sleep when, all of a sudden, my wife shouted, “John! You need to wake up!” I jolted awake, not at all happy that I was suddenly forced out of what was really satisfying comfort. She said, “The plumber is here and he has to turn off the water for a few hours. If you want a shower, you better get moving! You have ten minutes.”

Of course I needed a shower, but I was still not thrilled (Okay, I was actually irritated) to be disturbed from my long, glorious slumber. But, in order for me to accomplish today what was necessary, I had to wake up—and fast.

A sleeping church is at risk of something much greater than a missed shower.

1 Thessalonians 5:6 (ESV) 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.

Good Christian People

My heart is grieved beyond description. There is stunning unconcern over the state of most Christian’s lives. While it’s rare to find those who are burning with a never ending, raging furnace of passion for Jesus, it’s common to find pastors and others who appreciate those who are casually devoted as “good Christian people” who go to church and pay their tithes faithfully, as if that’s the mark we are trying to hit.

It’s time for us to function in a type of love that’s rare in the land today. This love will result in a complete refusal to affirm “good Christian people” in any state less than radical, extreme, burning zeal that results in a lifestyle of prayer, works, fruit and obedience as they carry their crosses. No longer will we be able to look at a “good Christian family” who would qualify as pillars in most any reputable church today, but who are unresponsive to the calls to pray with groans of intercession, to feel the weight of God’s heartbreak and to be marked as extremists for Jesus.

It’s time to awaken the lukewarm, those who look alive, who appear to be solid Believers in Jesus, but who lack the necessary investment. We need a movement of people crying in the wilderness to confront the casual spirit that has overtaken the church!

Matthew 3:1-10 (ESV) 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4 Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Just as he rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for resting casual on the work of their father Abraham, we need a rebuke today for those who are flat-lining and unresponsive due to a casual response to what Jesus did on the cross. The cross didn’t end our investment, it initiated it. It empowered it. It demanded it.

“Good Christian people” are those who are interested in the things of God, and who are active to a point, but when the call becomes costly (and bloody), they back off just enough to still have a sense of connectivity but also, safety from the call to death to self and radical surrender on their cross.

Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV) 1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

Fifty percent of those who considered themselves to be consecrated to Christ (virgins) were deemed unready. He didn’t know them due to their casual approach, due to their sleep. This affected their eternities:

Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV) 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Today we have a generation of church people who once said a prayer and who are entrusting their entire eternity to that one moment in history. There’s little passion, little intimacy with Jesus, little fruit and no raging fire in their spirits, yet they presume all to be well. After all, they are “good Christian people.”

Who Will Respond to the Call?

Dell-000050102It wouldn’t shock me that in a major city the size of Chicago, for example, if there might only be a few thousand people who would be described as the radical remnant. Of course, that’s an uneducated guess, but even if it’s four or five times that amount, the percentages would be staggering.

That’s not to say that many more aren’t interested or even hungry. I’m absolutely sure that is the case. The potential harvest is great. But, I’m talking about the John the Baptist style burning awakeners who are giving themselves fully to continual prayer, the pursuit of revival and advancing the Kingdom of God. Those who are in position and responsive. Those who have dealt with the cares of life and who live for little else than to serve the King and to contend night and day for revival and a great end-time harvest.

It’s this type of person that Evan Roberts targeted with his famous revival prescription. Frank Bartleman, who was instrumental in the Azusa Street move of God, sent Evan Roberts a message asking him what he should do to experience a move like they saw in the Welsh revival. Frank listened and we all know the rest of that story.

What is the prescription? It’s something that very few are willing to adhere to:

“Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God’s promises. Hold daily meetings.”

I challenge pastors everywhere: refuse to build a church on any type of person other than those Evan Roberts describes. Your church of 500 will most certainly shrink to under 50 but you will be left with those who are fully surrendered and ready to invest at a level worthy of the King.

Just what would happen if we really got serious and refused to lower the bar for those less devoted? Let’s break down Evan’s prescription:

Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender.

Preach in such a way that makes the less passionate uneasy and the remnant come alive.

When we call people to a level of life worthy of the cross of Christ, the pretenders will return to the activities their hearts are most united with. The resulting atmosphere will be Upper Room like as the Holy Spirit moves in great freedom.

Sadly, churches today pander to those who want to come, who want to belong, but who are not willing to make a total surrender. There are many Rich Young Rulers in the pews who are affirmed by their pastors but who are actually following Jesus in an unsaved condition.

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV) 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Those who aren’t willing to make a total surrender will be evident when the bar of commitment is appropriate. They will avoid the prayer meetings. They will be slow to respond to the call. They will resist the cross and the mandate to die daily.

When we do find those who are willing to make a total surrender, we can move on to the next step in Evan Roberts’ revival protocol:

Pray and wait.

This next phase will eliminate even more people. I believe it would make a lot of sense based on what is found in Scripture to replace the primary weekly service with a fiery prayer meeting. Further, the call to pray and wait should result in a prayer culture in the church that is often grueling, sometimes electric.

Finding those who will actively participate hour after hour in prayer is a tough task, though it’s a non-negotiable one. The church is a house of prayer, and it’s an indictment on today’s leadership that people can participate in church activities and call themselves Christians without having a fervent, devoted life of continual prayer.

Psalm 119:145 (ESV) 145 With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O LORD! I will keep your statutes.

Psalm 86:3 (ESV) 3 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for to you do I cry all the day.

Ephesians 6:18 (ESV) 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Romans 8:26 (ESV) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

When we have a group of people who will pray continually, we can consider the next step in the revival prescription:

Believe God’s promises.

Call everybody to an extreme life of faith.

There is much that I could write here about this, but suffice it to say that many challenges and opportunities to stand in extreme confidence of God’s ability to meet us will arise.

When such an extreme, inconvenient revival lifestyle dominates our daily schedules, we will have to learn to trust God to supply our needs, ensure our families are strong and united and provide the energy necessary. The enemy will work hard to destroy our faith, yet we must be unmoving.

Romans 14:23 (ESV) 23  …For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

Hebrews 11:6 (ESV) 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.

If we’ve accomplished the first three steps, this next one will certainly bring the pressure in today’s busy culture:

Dell-000050103Hold daily meetings.

Acts 5:42 (ESV) 42 And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.

Is there anyone who has what it takes to defeat the cares of life and to order their calendar in such a way that they could gather together every day of the week?

This has been one of my greatest challenges in my 25 years of ministry. Finding a remnant people who have filtered out every competing, lesser activity in their week to make room to gather in prayer every day has been nearly impossible.

Yet, it’s happening in China. It’s happening in other more desperate parts of the world. It’s happening where entertainment isn’t king and t-ball and ballet don’t rule. Today’s Christian culture is heavily marked by pleasure and the typical American dream. This not only puts revival at risk. It puts their eternity at risk.

Luke 17:26-27 (ESV) 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

When I ministered in Haiti over a thousand people walked to the church building every day, many of them for over two hours, just to be in prayer and to advance as one people toward revival. It was humbling. It was awe inspiring. They had nothing better to do than to be with God as a passionate family every night of the week.

It also happens when there are outpourings. People cancelled everything in their lives to attend the outpourings at Brownsville and Toronto every night.

During the Second Great Awakening, over 10,000 people attended a prayer meeting every day in New York City. People from other states visited those prayer meetings and then started their own in their region.

I’m sure you can see why I said I believe there may only be a few thousand remnant Christians who are fully devoted to prayer and revival in a city the size of Chicago. The number may actually be much smaller.

Acts 2:46 (NIV) 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.

The fact that we have better things to do than contend for revival in the place of prayer every day is evidence enough that the church is asleep, comfortable and in a very dangerous place. It’s time to fall in love with Jesus again, gather together and pray and model the first century church.

Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV) 4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. 5 Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

Final Thoughts

We need an awakening movement in our nation, and in the nations. John the Baptist type messengers must arise and confront the slothful, lazy and religious spirits that are in the land with great boldness. Those who don’t fear being labeled legalists must open their mouths and shake the comatose back to life.

A call to radical intimacy with Jesus that can only be nurtured in the place of continual prayer needs to be shouted from the rooftops. The resistance to radical prayer is resistance of Jesus himself. If we don’t desire to be with the one we love, and to hear his heart and intercede on his behalf, our commitment to him is suspect.

There is truly no greater glory than to live a life of prayer and there is no greater mystery than those who have taken his name yet refuse to be with him.

Ephesians 5:14 (NIV) 14 for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

CoFI Break—Prayer in the Cave

Watch: Experience God in a cave! Discover a powerful prayer model that results in miracles!

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