Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Unbiblical “Freedom Theologies”–The Growing Rejection of the Need to Go Deep in God

Arguments against the invitation to go deep in God are increasing…and it’s Christians who are leading the resistance.

re·li·gion /rəˈlijən/ Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.

imageSlap the label “religious” on anything that threatens your theology or impacts your definition of freedom. It feels spiritual. It is spiritual. The demonic spirit realm is filled with unholy wisdom, and very often this is the source of such a defense. Today’s rallying cry seems to be fueled by the desire to be free from anything that places restraints, expectations or requirements upon someone. All of that, to them, is religious.

Many of the arguments are coming from those who have been duped into believing an unbiblical doctrine of grace. This false-grace ideology presumes that all has been completed by Jesus, and that nothing remains for us to do in order to be in relationship with him. Simply, his actions on the cross and at the tomb were sufficient. The result, if we only understood, they would argue, is that absolutely nothing can be done by us to increase our nearness to him, and, from the other direction, nothing can be done to decrease his nearness to us.

They argue that our sin is impotent. Our effort is both futile and unnecessary, and actually an offense to the finished work of Jesus. Their proposition is that we simply need a revelation of this supposed truth. When they discovered it themselves, burdens and weights were lifted and they began enjoying God as a good, good Father. They would say they do nothing, except believe and receive and live in that revelation.

YOGA-12-7-2018 3.03.07 PM 00000000The truth is that eliminating every burden (God’s burden is light, not non-existent) just may cost us our lives. If you are carrying a backpack on your three-day hike into the mountains, it’s going to get heavy. If you decided to take it off and leave it behind, it will feel like freedom! You are suddenly relieved of that irritating, uncomfortable burden. However, you will also be without food, water, a sleeping bag and shelter. The elements of the world will overtake you and you may very possibly succumb.

I celebrate with zeal every time someone I know encounters legitimate freedom and the immeasurable love of the Father! However, our experience in God cannot stop there. Those who do stop short need to be awakened to the deeper call of God on their lives.

You see, religion isn’t that which produces a barrier to freedom, it’s the attempt to use God in order to have the most pleasurable experience possible, no matter how selfish that pursuit may be.

Those who wanted Jesus to be their king one day, turned on him and demanded his death the next. Why? They were not set on worshiping Jesus but rather on using him. When he didn’t deliver what they wanted, they decided to eliminate him for a better option. This is religion in action.

9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9 (ESV)

12 And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” 14 And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. Mark 15:12-15 (ESV)

A SIMPLE YET PROFOUND CALL

God is calling us into the deep.

The only way there is through radical surrender, fervent intercession, living in the Spirit and unapologetic holiness.

We must die daily. We must be living sacrifices.

I’m writing this from my hotel room during a ministry trip to Albany, New York, and I’m watching The International House of Prayer’s prayer room live on YouTube. I was on staff at IHOPKC for a couple of years and it was easy to see one specific reality: Most of these people were devoted to God at a level rarely seen in this nation. They weren’t perfect people, but they were hungry people with a level of consecration rarely seen in the church. I’ve known many people who are offended at this. They actually despise IHOPKC and ministries like them. Why? Because their own level of passion for Jesus and depth in God are exposed as lacking. The thought that much is required of disciples of Jesus is contrary to their personal pursuits of undisciplined freedom.

Understand, I know these words I’m writing are provocative. I also believe they must be written so I can most effectively make my point. As obvious as it seems, a growing number of people in this generation don’t get it: we can only experience the deep things of God if we are fervent, radical, surrendered and dying daily to the things of the flesh. There is no other way. There are no shortcuts.

At IHOPKC and other similar ministries all around the world, people are praying 2-4 hours a day or more. They are allowing the groans of the Spirit to erupt out of them. They are devouring the Word of God as they allow the presence of God to permeate them in the prayer room. The Holy Spirit is speaking to them with clarity. The prophetic atmosphere around them is electric. Dreams, visions and a powerful anointing become regular. The chambers of their heart are opened to the searching of the Spirit of God. These people are undone, hungry, desperate and relentless.

Yet, those who subscribe to the unbiblical “freedom theologies” that I addressed above somehow believe that they are as close to God as those who are giving themselves in a more deliberate manner, even if they make no effort in drawing close to him.

7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10 (ESV)

A POWERFUL ANOINTING

I’ll never forget the time I had a regional prayer meeting in my church. A well known mega-church leader was in the prayer meeting along with several of his friends. I was praying with my eyes closed when I felt this intense wave of the glory of God wash over me. I opened my eyes and this man of God had just walked by me. I waited for him to make another lap, and as he passed by again, the wave hit me a second time. This happened several times.

I knew this man knew God. There was a depth that was uncommon. He was living in such a way that resulted in a very powerful anointing swirling around him. I yearned to do whatever it took to carry that type of glory on my own life.

I’ve experienced similar manifestations several times, and each time leaves me crying out for a deeper hunger and a more resolute life.

Pastor John Kilpatrick was preaching at a Bay of the Holy Spirit remote event in Detroit. I was on the front row during this morning session enjoying the wisdom that John was releasing to us. Suddenly, in the middle of a point, he stopped. He simply said, “He’s here.”

As he gazed toward the rear of the auditorium, I turned my head and looked myself. You could see a wave of God’s glory moving from the back to the front, row by row. Then it hit me. If I had an unlimited vocabulary at my disposal, I would still not be able to describe that experience. Simply, God arrived.

There is no way that manifests except via a radically devoted life, a life that John Kilpatrick exemplifies. There are precious few who live this way.

1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)

As we life consecrated lives, encounters are revelations will increase. The truth found in Scripture will explode off the pages. We will be undone. As with Isaiah, the revelations will result in a declaration of God’s holiness and our weakness and struggle. If there is sin in our lives, it will be instantly evident. Then, the fire will sear us and our redemption and deliverance will be made clear.

We will live with a never-ending burning in our spirits and a tremble that marks us forever.

If we want to experience the wonders of God, radical consecration is the only option.

5 Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” Joshua 3:5 (ESV)

THE TERROR OF HELL

The Terror of Hell Paperback 500Not only will we live tepid, powerless lives that are focused mostly on our own personal experience instead of laying our lives down for Jesus, but those who refuse to consecrate and devote in the place of intense prayer and surrender are at risk of eternal separation from God. There is a terror of Hell that the enemy is making ready for them to experience.

My book The Terror of Hell is a sobering message of how intimacy with Jesus and salvation in Jesus are related. In the encounter, I was dragged toward Hell. The terror I experienced was horrifying and fully indescribable. God spoke to me after the encounter and said, “John, many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”

It’s possible that a Christian may be in a good place today, but in the future they may grow apathetic or they may lose their first love. Here’s a portion of an article based on my book:

A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.

We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.

This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.

I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)

WE MUST DIVE INTO THE DEEP

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. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)

Unbiblical “freedom theologies” reject the call to the deep. I’ve had people actually tell me that going deep is unnecessary. Others have called people out of the prayer rooms! They argue it’s an unnecessary practice if we truly understand that there is nothing left to be done. They say we just need to rest in our fully resolved position in Christ. Still others reject prayer movements like IHOPKC because their devotion to intercession is a devotion to unnecessary works.

I’ll be honest with you, I never thought I’d see entire movements of supposed Spirit-filled Christians standing in opposition to prayer!

Someone connected with me on Facebook recently and shared her desperation to see a prayer movement emerge in her region. She actually said she’s been involved in a church that’s all about revival, but they haven’t had a prayer meeting in ten years! I simply responded by confirming her suspicions: you can’t be a revival church without a fervent, consistent and supernatural culture of prayer. It’s impossible.

THE SUBMARINE DREAM

YOGA-12-7-2018 2.12.07 PM 00000000My wife and I were in a military grade nuclear submarine following behind a second submarine that contained my Father and Mother-in-law.

I was analyzing the situation, trying to gain understanding on what exactly were were doing while my wife was playfully looking through the periscope. Both submarines were staying at the surface of the water, and they were being used as tour vessels. The atmosphere was playful and carefree.

After a short time everybody was done playing and we decided to park the submarines alongside a long pier. We climbed out and walked down the pier and onto an ocean side boardwalk. There were people everywhere enjoying a beautiful sunny day. The restaurants and shops were full of activity.

We walked onto the sandy beach which was about one hundred yards from the submarines.

As we gazed out over the water, both submarines suddenly began leaving. They headed out toward deeper water.

My in-laws immediately started running into the water giving chase to the submarines. As they did, I was thinking that it was impossible for them to get anywhere near to the fast moving vessels and I didn’t understand why they had tried.

Then, my wife ran into the water as well.

What I saw next can’t easily be described in a way that is true to the emotion I felt. The water immediately began erupting as if a powerful hurricane was upon us. I was terrorized as I frantically tried to devise a plan to help. What I saw next drained every bit of hope from my being. A whirlpool opened up underneath my in-laws and sucked them under. Then, a second whirlpool took my wife.

I was screaming for help. A few people gathered around but could offer no help whatsoever. I called 911 and all I heard was this recording, “We can’t send help for an hour. We can’t send help for an hour.”

It looped over and over. I knew that THIS was the hour. I couldn’t wait! The emergency was upon us.

As I stood on the beach, hopeless, the scene changed.

Only a few days had passed yet it was now bitterly cold and the water had frozen over. There was at least ten feet of snow on top of the ice.

I started moving slowly, though as quickly as I could, through the snow in the direction of where the whirlpools were.

imageI started digging ferociously and what I saw next will forever be seared in my memory.

It was my wife, frozen. She was gone.

I ran back to the boardwalk and into a restaurant. I saw someone who had tried to help previously behind the counter of a sports bar. He was a volunteer firefighter in addition to working at the restaurant. I yelled, “Help! Help! I found her! I found her! Come quickly!”

He just casually said, “Sorry man, I’m working.”

What? I couldn’t believe what I heard. I said, “No, you don’t understand! I found my wife! I need help!”

He just said, “Sorry.” and then looked at a customer and said, “How can I help you?”

imageI ran back to the snow where my wife was buried. I thought that maybe, just maybe, since she was frozen that there was a chance she could be revived. I’ve heard of people freezing and their heart beat is slowed to almost nothing before being brought back.

As I was thinking about this I looked down at her, and there was a piece of paper right next to her frozen face.

I picked it up. All it said was, “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”

Then I woke up.

Interpretation

When I woke up I was shaken to my core.

As I started to pray and analyze the dream, the following is what was highlighted to me:

  • The submarines: Vehicles represent ministry, and I believe the submarines represented the church. The church is not meant for casual play at the surface of the water. It’s a military weapon of war designed to move into the deep as it advances toward enemy targets. When the submarines left on their own, that represented the truth that the church will most certainly advance on its mission with or without us. We can be left behind as we continue our focus on entertainment and leisure if we so choose.
  • My family: Of course, this was a hard core part of the dream. The first reaction is to do everything I can to ensure those close to me are doing well and burning hot for Jesus. Beyond that, symbolically I feel they represented familiarity and presumption. It’s very easy to presume those who are close to us are most certainly doing well in their relationship with Jesus—and then to model our lives after theirs. What happens so often is that we can adopt their pace and their level of passion instead of staying locked in, on alert and advancing in the fire of God. The pressure of maintaining civilities and false-unity can result in a marginalized, lukewarm, casual disposition.

    This verse best represents what I am communicating:

    …I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1

    We must be careful not to presume that we are alive and that others are alive simply because of the preceding reputations. There are many people with both a spiritual legacy and a name for being zealous who are doing little more than playing—and it’s possible that those people may be some of our closest friends, family, pastors and other personal heroes. Don’t measure your life by their grid. We must calibrate to the truth in scripture that will bring light to every issue of our heart.

    Then, we can be true awakeners. If we think people who are are asleep are already awake, then we will have no need to step into our roles as end-time prophetic messengers.

  • 911: I was sounding the alarm in a variety of ways including by calling 911. I also ran into the sports bar looking for help. Both rejected the alarm. It’s clear that the hour is now for awakening though even those trained as emergency responders won’t see it. What was the alarm? Those that have a reputation of being alive are dead! Wake up!
  • The storm: It was sudden, violent and really out of place. It didn’t make sense, but it wasn’t obligated to explain itself. If we would have been in the submarines AND in the deep, the storm would not have touched us.

    “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; Matthew 24:36-38

THE CALL

So, what’s the call?

It’s simple, and it’s directed to the church, to those who are to be in the deep:

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2

Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:4-6

God instructed me to wrestle with Revelation 3:1. I've been burning hot for Jesus for over 20 years, yet, is it possible that my devotion is not as deep as I might think? Yes, it is possible.

God didn't accuse me of being dead. He didn't reveal that my passion was false. He simply wanted me to always consider the possibility that my reputation will always be at risk of being more intense than my reality.

…I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Revelation 3:1

It's time to go deep, to be awake and alert and then to awaken the sleepers…many who may have a reputation of being very much alive…but are not.

It’s time for revival, not the promotion of selfish “freedom theologies.” This is the hour.

Halloween True Story: Witchcraft killed my baby girl.

A suffocating spirit was out for destruction as we were contending for revival.

I’ve waited fifteen years to write this article. I implore you to read every word.

As young church planters in one of America’s darkest regions, Amy and I along with our two oldest boys, who were little guys back in 2001, launched Revolution Church. The vision was intense and our passion was for revival that would launch in that strategic city and impact the nations.

Manitou Springs, Colorado is famous for its dark history and present liberal leanings. Rumor has it that Anton Levey wrote at least some of the Satanic Bible from his home there. It’s a quirky town at the base of Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs. We started the church there in a 700 square foot office space and then quickly grew to a core of 25 people. We moved to our second of four ultimate locations, a 2000 square foot storefront right downtown Manitou Springs. It’s there where we met Janet (name changed for the sake of this article).

I’ll never forget the Sunday morning service as the sun shined brightly through the large plate glass windows in our small meeting place at the Arcade in Manitou Springs. Janet was a first-time guest, and she seemed to be attempting to engage during the service. Understand, at the time, Christians in Manitou Springs were few and far between, so it was not common to see Spirit-filled people visiting, unless they drove from Colorado Springs. In fact, I was invited to preach at a Manitou Springs festival the first year we were there. The organizer had no idea what he had done! In the middle of my fiery message, a bold declaration of the power and necessity of the blood of Jesus, a tall man in flowing garments stormed to the front and demanded equal time. This alternate religious, New Age leader was agitated by the anointing. It was uncommon in Manitou Springs and his turf was certainly being threatened.

At the end of the service I invited people to come forward to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Janet sprung from her seat and kneeled at the altar. I quickly realized she was not even saved.

After spending time with her, introducing Jesus to her and ministering to her, she boldly asked a question, “Do you ever pray for people in their homes?”

We agreed to meet at her townhouse that week to pray and encourage her. We had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into.

JANET’S HOUSE

John Burton Quote Halloween AliensWe arrived one evening, sat on the couch and prayed for Janet and her baby. It was an unusual moment for us as I felt little to no anointing. Something was hindering our prayers. Janet confided in us that she had dabbled in witchcraft and was ready to move on from it. I applauded her courage to break away from what I know is a very strong, seductive spirit. She repented of her involvement and we prayed some more. The breakthrough remained elusive. I asked her if she owned anything inappropriate that she should get rid of. She reluctantly admitted she did and disappeared upstairs to retrieve some items.

She emerged down the stairs with a T-shirt with some occult symbolism on it. She also held the witch’s handbook.

She surrendered these two pieces of occult paraphernalia to us, and we again prayed. I thought it would be easier to pray now that she had removed them from her life. I was wrong. Amy and I didn’t understand why it felt so dead in her home, but we had done all we knew to do. We encouraged her again and prepared to leave. She then asked us, “I’ve heard of anointing homes in oil. Do you do that?” I told her to find some Crisco.

We anointed doorways, windows and anywhere else we could dab some oil. After we finished anointing and praying downstairs, I led the way up the staircase. At the top of the stairs I saw a guest room and a bathroom. I also saw Janet’s room. I was not prepared for what happened next.

I stepped into her room and immediately could not breathe. It felt like I stepped into a swimming pool sideways. I was engulfed with a suffocating, heavy, evil presence. I stepped back outside her room. Relief.

I didn’t share my experience with Amy or Janet, but instead prayed through the guest room and bathroom. I then stepped back into Janet’s room. Crushing suffocation.

I attempted to pray in tongues, but there was absolutely no way I could. Every prayer fell dead to the ground.

I urgently asked Janet if there might be any additional items she should throw in the trash. She slowly, casually looked in her closet and pulled out a couple things and placed them on her bed. That didn’t work. I was gasping for air, but not only air, for the breath of the Holy Spirit! We needed God to move in that place, and quick!

I was very direct with her. I said, “Janet! I will not pray for you and you will not find freedom if you don’t immediately eliminate every single thing from your life that is impure!”

I was standing between her bed and the wall, next to her night stand. She placed several more items on her bed, but it was not helping. One final time, as I was ready to get out of there, I said, “There is something you are holding on to that is much more evil than anything you’ve surrendered so far. What is it? No more delay!”

She reluctantly glanced over to the night stand, inches from where I was, and pointed at something I had not noticed. She said, “Well, that’s where I perform my sacrifices.” I looked at a small altar with ashes all over it. Yes, that was it.

She ran down and grabbed a large, plastic trash bag. We renounced what was happening at that altar and threw it away. Immediately I could pray in the Spirit. The wind of the Spirit was refreshing beyond description. The fire in my prayer was a stark contrast to how debilitated I was previously.

Amy then began to pray with Janet and talk with her. I was praying in tongues and doing my best to hear what God was saying. God instructed me to ask Janet about demons visiting her room. God had given me incredibly precise revelation. I revealed to her that those demons require written documentation about her interactions with them. Her jaw dropped and her eyes spread open. She had never been more stunned at something someone said. I read her mail.

She went to the closet and pulled out a stack of at least 20 spiral notebooks. She said she had much more stored on her computer. She confessed that demons visit her every night and terrorize her. She is forced to write about their visits. That is why she invited us to her home. She wanted the demons to leave.

She put the notebooks and many additional things on her bed. Six trash bags of occult and witchcraft materials were taken to the dumpster.

JANET’S STRUGGLE CONTINUES

After that experience in Janet’s tiny townhouse, you’d imagine she would have gone on toward radical deliverance. Sadly, that didn’t happen, at least as far as we know. She disappeared. We aggressively searched for her and finally, after several weeks, did track her down. She would attend church occasionally, but would manifest demonically at times. She aggressively confronted my wife once and then ultimately vanished again. That was the last time we ever saw Janet, well, sort of. Janet was about to visit some people in their dreams.

HALLOWEEN SEASON IN MANITOU SPRINGS

John Burton Quote Halloween PrayerOctober in Manitou Springs is always extremely volatile. Witchcraft is rampant and the atmosphere in that town is heavy. Creepy. Threatening. Also, it was my favorite time of the year. We knew we were called to contend against the darkness as we we were advancing toward revival.

Each year in Manitou Springs we’d prayer walk the city as we witnessed small fires in the foothills of the mountains ignite. The flames would dance as thought the mountains were alive. Witches were having their meetings, and we were having ours. We’d never consider hosting a harvest party or other event like that on Halloween. It was all out war, a spiritual war, and we had no option but to be alert, armed in the Spirit and on assignment. It was time for prayer.

The attack during October each year was intense. Three years in a row, precisely on October 31st, our oldest son was admitted to the hospital with a severe asthma attack. The suffocating spirit was assaulting him every October, until God gave us some revelation on how the enemy was assaulting us. We responded and the Halloween attacks on him then ceased.

In 2003, two years after we had planted Revolution Church, and quite some time since we’d seen Janet, Amy was pregnant with our third child. One night, in the middle of October, Amy shot up in bed, frantic, and woke me up.

She was shaking. She said she just had a horrifying, vivid dream of Janet wielding a large knife. She drove it into my wife’s stomach and killed our baby.

After praying we went back to sleep, shaken but confident that God was in control. The next morning we awoke and prepared for a scheduled church staff meeting at our home. At the beginning of the meeting, I asked our staff for prayer and started to mention Amy’s dream. I was interrupted by one of our staff members. She said, “Amy, I had a dream about you too last night. It was disturbing. I saw Janet with a knife. She stabbed you in your stomach and killed the baby.”

We were speechless. Another staff member was beside herself. She said, “I didn’t have a dream, but I had an vision about the exact scenario you both described!”

Later that day, a friend of Amy’s who had never met Janet or known anything about her called. She was upset. She didn’t want to scare Amy, but she had to share about a dream she had. “Amy, there was this girl (she went on to describe Janet’s unique appearance precisely), and I saw a large knife in her hand. She attacked you, stabbed you in the stomach and killed the baby!”

Amy and I proceeded to do literally everything we could. We prayed, of course. We stood in our authority. We had a powerful deliverance minister and his team conduct a spiritual house cleaning in our home. They reported it was the cleanest house they had ever been in.

A CHRISTMAS EVE TO FORGET

A couple of months passed, and we had shaken off the disturbances that October visited on our family. In fact, we were excited about a special doctor’s appointment on Christmas Eve. We were going to hopefully discover the sex of our baby!

I will never, for the rest of my life, forget what happened in the waiting room. Amy, our two sons and Amy’s parents were there as we waited our turn to meet with the sonographer. Our appointment was the last of the day and doctors, nurses and receptionists were scurrying around, closing up shop and preparing to head out to various holiday festivities. Joy was in the house!

Suddenly, I felt an extremely heavy, holy blanket of grace descend upon me. My emotional strength suddenly tripled at least. I was spiritually tuned in, sensitive, wondering why God had decided to strengthen me in that manner. I was about to find out.

“Amy Burton,” called the nurse. It was our turn.

Amy and her mom joined me in the ultrasound room. Amy laid back as we were all excited about seeing our wonderful, new baby. The sonographer placed the instrument on Amy’s belly, and instantly removed it.

She said, “Wait here. I need to see if I can find a doctor before they all leave for the day.”

The next two minutes were spent in silence. Joy and gladness gave way to nerves.

The doctor finally arrived, took a quick look, and said, “I’m so sorry, your baby has died.”

WITCHCRAFT KILLED OUR CHILD

ElizabethWails, cries and tears emerged out of my wife. The strength I received minutes prior was now being put to use.

The next day was Christmas morning. We did all we could to make sure it was a wonderful one for our boys. We unwrapped gifts as we sat around the tree. Literally every single present I got for Amy was either maternity clothing or a gift for the baby. She carefully unwrapped each as her turn came and placed them in a pile to return to the store.

The following day we were in a hospital room, waiting for Amy to deliver Elizabeth Hope Burton.

As the labor inducement was quite a ways from taking effect, Amy said I could go to a late-night prayer meeting a few blocks away. My phone was kept on and I remained ready to rush back to the hospital at any moment. At that prayer meeting, God again strengthened me. Shortly after returning to the hospital at around midnight, we both met Elizabeth.

The doctor was shocked at the cause of death. It was a cord accident. Cord accidents aren’t unusual, but this particular one was. He said he’d never seen a cord wrapped five times around a baby’s neck. Elizabeth was suffocated to death. Witchcraft killed Elizabeth.

WE WRESTLE NOT AGAINST FLESH AND BLOOD

Amy and I bless Janet. We pray for her, wherever she may be. We don’t hold her accountable in any way. She was a hurting, lost young lady. She didn’t kill Elizabeth. Extremely vile, destructive, evil entities did. At the time, we did all we knew to do to help Janet. We also did all we knew to do to cancel the curse and to wage war against hateful, murderous evil spirits. We failed. We learned.

We lost six more babies after we lost Elizabeth, but we are so blessed to have three wonderful boys and two precious girls in the Burton family.

Amy has been a champion. She has ministered to those who have lost babies to stillbirth or miscarriage. She has cried with them, grieved with them, prayed with them and stood with them.

While our faith was hit, it was not shattered. We have learned over the years to war, to wrestle with the enemy and to contend with faith and passion. Life isn’t about some set of rules that Satan has to obey. He cheats. He hates. He does all he can to rip us to shreds, and he wastes no time finding just the best way to do that.

I know many of you who are reading this are already thinking about theological issues with my story. You might think Christians can’t be touched by witchcraft. You’d be wrong.

John Burton Quote Blood AuthorityThe slightest open door or lazy approach to intercession, or pride or even ignorance can give the enemy access. He doesn’t fight fair. He knows our weaknesses. In fact, some of you may be considering Job. He was upright, yet struck.

Understand, the blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity. It grants us authority. We need to enroll in the school of the Spirit and learn how to battle. If we don’t fight, the fight will come to us. If we don’t engage, we will be hit.

I held off for fifteen years in writing this article because it’s not a happy story. But, I realized that so much of today’s church has become inauthentic by only highlighting that which makes us happy.

In order to win battles, and ultimately the war, we have to learn from struggles. We must understand the ferocity of the enemy. We need to be in the Word, in prayer and free from even the slightest sin or compromise.

The lesson we learned was not that we were steeped in sin. We weren’t. We were living holy lives as young though immature Jesus lovers. The lesson is that we must clearly understand that the enemy is ready to pounce, and that we must be ready.

HALLOWEEN IS EVIL—AND NO CHRISTIAN SHOULD PARTICIPATE AT ANY LEVEL

Witchcraft is permeating the atmosphere this and every October. It’s time to war, not party. Pastors, call solemn assemblies instead of holding harvest parties. This is an all hands on deck season.

I’ll leave you with some short bullet points that I posted to Facebook earlier today about Halloween. If you didn’t understand before why I so vehemently renounce this unholy day, you now should.

Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. Joel 1:14

Eleven reasons Christians celebrate Halloween

  1. They don't believe witchcraft is a big deal.
  2. They wrongly think the way they celebrate doesn't involve witchcraft.
  3. They incorrectly assume Christians are immune to curses and the power of witchcraft.
  4. They can't imagine the thought of their kids missing out.
  5. They celebrated Halloween as children and conclude it didn't have any negative impact on them.
  6. They wrongly equate it with Christmas, which “also has pagan roots” yet is universally embraced by Christians.
  7. They believe it can be sanitized and Christianized.
  8. They believe it's a great opportunity to evangelize, but without exposing the darkness or revealing how wicked the holiday is.
  9. They have fallen for false-grace deception that allows them to be free and have fun no matter what.
  10. They haven't experienced the wonder and terror of the spirit realm.
  11. They lack discernment.

RELATED ARTICLE:

Humbug! How can a Christian celebrate Christmas?

Seven sure-fire ways to end boring, predictable church services

Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services

Image result for azusa revival

An Azusa Street report:

…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”

It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.

There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”

An Azusa Street report:

All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.

SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES

1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.

True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.

Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.

In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.

6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.

2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.

In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.

I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.

As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.

We need the groans of God to roar through the saints and to prophetically shatter the building, just as they did at Azusa.

1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.

3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.

Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.

Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.

15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.

4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.

At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.

5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.

5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.

It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.

Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.

I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.

20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)

6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.

When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?

The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.

As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.

17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.

7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.

How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!

I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”

That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)

An Azusa Street report:

Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.

The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.

CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING

While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.

I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.

An Azusa Street report:

Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.

Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.

Ten reasons people are leaving the local church to start attending house churches

Covens-in-the-Church-PaperbackHouse church advocates want pastors to know exactly why they left the institutional church.

Most presume my book Covens in the Church addresses witchcraft, curses and attacks against the church. They are correct, but they misunderstand just what type of witchcraft I’m dealing with until they read the book—and are shocked.

I deal with (among other things) those in the church who are spiritualizing their manipulation, control and rebellion by abandoning the local church, rejecting authority and church government and launching home churches without blessing or qualification. When birthed out of a heart that resists authority, home churches are little more than coven meetings. I have been a bold advocate for what many call the institutional church while shining the light of scrutiny on the exodus to house churches.

It’s important for all who read to understand I’m a staunch supporter of local church pastors and any movement that attempts to circumvent biblical government must be exposed and renounced.

I also want it to be clear that I actually do agree with many house church advocates on many points. They have legitimate disagreements with the way the local church is functioning today, and their issues have been largely ignored by pastors and those who are in leadership. Their evacuation out of the institutional church and into house churches may be the wrong move for some of the right reasons. There are serious issues to deal with, and pastors, it’s time to wake up and lead the church into the new wine skin.

The institutional church is at great risk of irrelevancy and extinction. However, I’m not convinced house churches are the best move if they develop at the expense or exclusion of the local church.

WHY ARE SO MANY REJECTING THE LOCAL CHURCH IN FAVOR OF HOUSE CHURCHES?

I asked a question on Facebook earlier today:

What are some reasons people are choosing home churches over the institutional church?

It didn’t take long for comments to start flooding in. It’s obvious to me that the anti-institutional church sentiment is unapologetic and passionate. The reasons they shared demand some analysis.

I should make it clear that there are most definitely house church movements, when rightly aligned in the government of the city church, that are biblically appropriate and full of fire and power. I’m not anti-house church. I’m anti-rebellion.

Before I get into the reasons people are leaving the church in favor of home churches, I wanted to share a reply that I just received from someone who read my Facebook post. It comes from a pastor’s wife. She gave me permission to publish it. As we continue through this local church/house church debate, let’s keep in mind just how precious God considers his pastors and leaders to be, and how many are laying down their lives for what God has called them to:

As a third generation pastor, who has seen both my parents and grandparents pour themselves out for the local church, selflessly giving and loving the body of Christ it saddens me to see so many abandon what so many paid such a steep price for in faithful service to the Lord. I get it. No church is perfect. Be it a home church or an “institutional“ church. Let me tell you though, it is not easy being a pastor in this day and age. Everyone has instant access to the greatest and best preachers and teachers out there via social media. I know for myself and my husband we are revivalists. We desire a move of God, and give space and place for the Lord to do what He desires. I see many people post online how they’d love to find churches that do that but then in real life we have people come in, decide it’s too steep a price, and go to an easy believeism church or someplace they can be hit and miss with no accountability. The reality is that for the presence and the glory of God to invade an atmosphere it’s because someone has paid a price for it. In intercession, fasting, years, faithfulness.
Just to be honest, as a pastors wife, sometimes reading these kinds of posts adds to the feeling of discouragement. ~Debra McBride

Here are ten reasons people are leaving the local church in favor of house churches:

ONE

They desire genuine community.

It’s true that people can get lost in a larger church, especially if they are gathering people together just an hour or two a week. The Sunday service typically doesn’t provide opportunity for people to authentically connect and develop relationships.

Those who are yearning for deeper friendships can feel their frustration grow every week as they shuffle into a row and sit through a programmed service, only to shuffle right back out and into the parking lot.

I agree that godly relationships are valuable, though I believe people’s frustration can be misplaced. I affirm the desire for relationships can be overwhelming, and loneliness can eat away at us if we don’t handle it rightly. However, the purpose of the church, the Ekklesia, is not mostly to make friends. It’s to gather together as Believers under apostolic leadership and vision to pray and prepare for Kingdom advance.

Relationships will never be developed on a Sunday morning. There’s no way. They aren’t supposed to. And, pastors, please abandon all attempts at trying to fit them in. The three-minute window you give people to walk around and greet one another is a sad and unnecessary attempt at nurturing togetherness. The right approach is to admit the Sunday services are meant for prayer, worship and apostolic instruction. The fellowship can happen at other times and in other places. Any attempt at fellowship on a Sunday morning is misguided.

For those disappointed because the pastor won’t connect closely with you, I have some news for you. Your pastor isn't supposed to be your best friend. He's probably not going to be your friend at all. He may rarely connect with you personally. It may never happen.

His job is to pray, study the Word and facilitate an atmosphere of intercession and equipping. His relational energy will be reserved for just a few, just as Jesus modeled. Those who are prone to rejection, or those who presume the church is supposed to be ultra-relational, will suffer in such environments.

I don’t know when it became the church’s job to become matchmaker, developing circles of friends and facilitating the relationship building process. If people want to hang out, let them connect in the prayer rooms and on the mission field and then head out for coffee or initiate a Bible study on their own time. It doesn’t have to be organized, and it shouldn’t distract from the greater mission.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with the local church hosting small groups. They can be enriching and very good. The problem is when the living room instead of the prayer room becomes the glue that holds the church together. Relationships are actually critically important, but they can’t be the premier goal. The church has a much greater purpose. There’s a world to change. There’s revival to pursue. If people trusted that process, they would develop life-long friendships from the fox hole of ministry. The first church was birthed just like that.

1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. Acts 2:1 (ESV)

TWO

They are tired of unnecessary hype, productions and programs.

Every few weeks it seems there’s a new project or ministry focus that is instituted just to prove the church is getting bigger and better, is alive and moving forward. People can see right through these attempts and, quite frankly, are tired of investing so much money, time and energy for such a small return. They have had enough of the “bigger is better” mindset and simply want to give themselves to simple, organic church life.

The stage productions, expensive programs, lights, smoke and Hollywood style video presentations might look good, but the house church crowd is rejecting them wholesale. The vision the pastor might have for such a ministry isn’t shared by them.

I’ll be the first to argue that we need to shut pretty much everything down and simply gather together to pray. Filling the calendar with ministries, groups, programs and other endeavors without clear vision and buy in from the people is simply not attractive or, in most cases, effective.

Pastors, it’s time to get back to the basics. It’s true that those who have been conditioned by media and today’s culture might reject the basics, but we aren’t here to pander to culture. We are here to shake the nations.

So, does this mean the pyrotechnics, media and high production value are inherently evil? Absolutely not. Those who are abandoning churches simply because a church has implemented such tactics need to re-evaluate their heart. It’s not okay to abandon ship just because you don’t appreciate this style of ministry, but I can’t deny that’s it’s your right to be troubled if the theatrics veer the ministry off it’s proper course.

I’ve often said that I despise hype and exaggeration. When we employ such psychological methods to project our efforts beyond where they actually are, we limit God to our own imagination. We get overly excited about what we can produce instead of allowing God to blow our minds!

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

THREE

They want to be released to minister according to their giftings.

This argument is common. People are discouraged because they cannot function according to the gifting God has placed within them. They are chomping at the bit to be activated. They were created for a purpose, yet, so often in the local church, they are not released to move in their ministry.

As one who has planted and given senior leadership to churches for years, I’ll be the first to come to the defense of local church pastors. Just because you have a gift and calling does not mean you are ready to function in it in the church. There are a lot of broken, immature, untrained, prideful or simply weird people out there who should not be given a place in public ministry—until they have been made ready.

There is significant process involved in the ministry development incubator. If you aren’t willing to submit to authority and give yourself to the process, and allow significant time to pass as you die daily and gradually grow stronger, your ministry cannot be validated.

Many people are launching house churches because their ministry was not confirmed in the local church. This is where a lot of immature people are launching premature ministries. Their authorities have determined they are not ready, but they turn aside from that counsel and move out in childish rebellion—all in the name of spiritual freedom.

That being said, pastors, you must do a better job at equipping the saints. While there are many pastors and church leadership teams that excel at this, most don’t.

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children… Ephesians 4:11-14 (ESV)

FOUR

The church only goes as deep as the majority will allow.

The house church crowd is typically a spiritually hungry one. We can’t deny that most local churches simply don’t go deeper than the majority will allow. I’m not talking about seeker sensitive churches, I’m referring to Spirit-filled churches that promote exuberant worship and devotion to Jesus.

There are many churches like this that will just go so deep. There’s a limit. They know if they get as passionate and as supernaturally infused as the zealots in their midst, the majority will leave.

Pastors, you must wake up! Let the pretenders leave! It’s time to bring the fire, the shock and the awe back into the church! How can you fault people who desire to leave because they want to experience Jesus more than you do?

For those who are hungry for the deep, I won’t pull any punches. This alone is not a reason to leave a church and to start your own. You can go as deep in God as you want regardless of how far your church goes. I challenge you to burn hot, pray without ceasing, stimulate dreams and visions and raise the temperature of every atmosphere you walk into.

Will God eventually move you on to another church or to build a new ministry yourself? He most certainly may. Just make sure you handle the move with integrity and honor. If your current church is apathetic, you can be sure God will bring resolution one way or another without your intervention.

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. Revelation 3:15-16 (ESV)

Pharaoh-in-the-Church-PaperbackFIVE

Being guilted into serving more, giving more and building the church.

House church people generally are more interested in Kingdom activity than the local church. They are more passionate about God’s expression among a people in a region than a local ministry. They are tired of building a single man’s kingdom by giving and serving and enhancing that local church instead of investing in the advance of the Kingdom of God.

Again, as one who has been involved in the church for decades, I understand. There’s so much pressure today to grow big ministries, to be successful and to keep everybody active and on task. Leaders want people to take ownership. In our American culture we are individualistic and laser focused on whatever project we deem most beneficial to us. The problem? There is much more that needs our focus than a single local church.

I believe it’s healthy and important for people to have a home church while also engaging at a high level in other local churches, ministries and Kingdom activities. When I was giving leadership to churches, I would strongly encourage people to frequent other ministries in addition to our own. Investing in the city church is more important than the local church.

I started this message by mentioning my book Covens in the Church. That book as directed at those who wrongly abandon assignments for the sake of pursuing their own spiritual endeavors. This point requires I highlight the follow up book titled, Pharaoh in the Church. This book was written to pastors who are so focused on building their own ministry that the people are wrongly used, expected to continually serve, give and sacrifice for that never ending project.

In the words of Brian Ming, “God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.”

Pastors, right or wrong, this is another reason people are leaving your church for the more efficient, simple and authentic house church.

SIX

The power of God isn’t there.

I’ll admit that I’ve been to some small group meetings that are electric! The Holy Spirit was blowing through that living room or office space like a wind and a fire! When you gather people who are all likeminded and hungry for Jesus, you can’t help but to see God respond.

I’ve been to local church meetings like this too, but they are rare. How often do you leave an institutional church remarking about how powerfully and supernaturally the Holy Spirit moved? Some of you reading this are truly blessed, and you’d respond by saying, “Nearly every Sunday!” Most would have to honestly admit that it’s extremely uncommon or nonexistent.

Understand, I’m not talking about a great worship experience or an encouraging message. I mean, when is the last time the supernatural presence of God flooded the place to such an extreme that people were trembling, crying, and laying out all over the place? This should be the norm for the church. Pastors, until you can steward this call and facilitate a white-hot atmosphere of Holy Spirit power, it will be easy for people to be disappointed in your church.

1 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. 2 And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. 3 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)

SEVEN

Services are predictable, overly structured and polished.

People who are hungry for authentic encounter with Jesus are done with perfectly orchestrated worship sets and precisely ordered services. House churches offer an opportunity to ditch the set lists and eliminate the clocks in favor of spontaneous, unpredictable and untimed worship, prayer and teaching along with a fervent pursuit of an ever increasing tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.

Instead of the spit and shine, they long for the messy, unpredictable, uncontrollable move of God that simply won’t allow for manmade organization.

How often are the people in the pews crying out for the pastors to get out of the way and to let the Holy Spirit move? It’s time we admit that our messages really aren’t that great, and our worship sets aren’t that special. Let’s move aside, hit our knees and let the Holy Spirit run our services! I’ll tell you this, when it happens, people won’t be frustrated and disappointed, fleeing the church, they’ll be flooding out from wherever they are to the place where the fire is burning!

The truth is it can be easier to fan the flames of revival in a small house church than in a local church simply because local churches aren’t typically focused on the remnant. They want the bigger crowds and are willing to compromise to ensure the people stay connected. Those in house churches aren’t focused on numbers or on drawing the seeker. They simply want God. Period. They have no order of service. They pray. They cry out. They minister to God and to each other.

While I acknowledge this reality, my belief is that we need to see such a remnant focus in the local church! I believe apostolic hubs, houses of prayer and house churches have emerged because local churches have abdicated their responsibilities to be centers of prayer and Kingdom advance. They have become fully local to the detriment of the city vision. Prayer has taken a back seat because most resist such a devotion.

I love houses of prayer, apostolic hubs, para-church ministries and even healthy, rightly aligned house churches. I also love the local church and am campaigning for it to break out of the old, tired and predictable in favor of a Holy Spirit who cannot be controlled.

13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ …Matthew 21:13 (ESV)

EIGHT

Pastors who are functioning out of ability, creativity or charisma instead of anointing.

Stage shows seem to be overtaking much of the church today. Instead of contending for hours in the prayer rooms, pastors are often functioning from their creativity and charisma. The anointing simply isn’t intense. They haven’t been branded by the fire that can only be found at the altars.

How rare it is to see the man or woman of God trembling behind the pulpit after emerging from an encounter with almighty God in the prayer room.

Leonard Ravenhill said, “Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen.”

People can see right through pastors who are operating out of gifting instead of anointing. It’s leaves a very bad taste in their spirits. They want to be led by people who are continually encountering Jesus, people who aren’t so confident in their giftings that they simply put together “creative” programs, conferences, sermon series and whatever else they can orchestrate.

That being said, house church friends, I challenge you to re-read the appeal from Debra at the beginning of this article. Have enough compassion for God’s leaders that you don’t rise up in pride, determined to be more spiritually driven then they are. In fact, I bet most house church people are no more spiritually devoted than most local church pastors.

17 pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)

NINE

A lack of focus on the greater church.

House church folks don’t like to be limited in their church experience. They don’t value, and actually devalue, the demand many pastors have to commit fully and only to their specific local church. It stinks of personal kingdom building instead of truly being Kingdom minded.

As I said above, we need to encourage people to invest in a variety of churches and ministries in our region. In fact, pastors should be very active in supporting other churches and ministries. Lead the people in your church to conferences, prayer events, special church meetings, revival services and strategic Kingdom happenings in the region.

House churches can easily become equally unhealthy when they become inward focused and disconnected from the greater city church. In fact, many, many house churches regularly fall into this trap.

Out of one side of their mouth they confess to being “Kingdom focused” while on the contrary they never visit and lock arms with other local churches, ministries or functions in the region.

46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes… Acts 2:46 (ESV)

TEN

They are plain bored with the old wine skin.

Church as we know it is done. This is the driving message behind my book The Coming Church. I’ve preached about this, written about this and led movements with this in mind. The old wine skin must give way to the new. The house church, for many, seems to be a logical step out of the old and into the new.

The reality is that the new wine skin looks nothing like anything we see in local or house churches.

However, one key component that many house church enthusiasts may not be too excited about in the new wine skin is: authority. The government of God will be firmly established and the five-fold ministry will be foundational. No longer can people just do as they please presuming that God is their only authority. We will function within Kingdom government, and we must acknowledge the various leaders in the region.

22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” Mark 2:22 (ESV)

HOUSE CHURCH OR LOCAL CHURCH?

Both. Neither. Actually it’s the city church we should be advancing. Local churches are important as larger groups of people lock in to contend for revival and advance the Kingdom. Smaller churches that are more keenly focused will exist in homes along side the rest of the church of the city. Apostles, prophets and other leaders will serve with sobriety and boldness.

The key is having pure motives, honoring all and being faithful to the calling and the process God has given you to steward whether it’s in a local church, house church, apostolic hub, house of prayer or other community of faith.

We all want revival, or, rather, we all think we want revival. We crave God’s presence. We want the fire. But, let’s all be challenged. When the fire comes, will we honestly allow it to consume us? Will we stay devoted, humble and surrendered? Or will we rise up in pride, dissatisfied with the way things are unfolding and move out in rebellion to start an alternate, individualistic, isolated, coven in the church?

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We need the freaky stuff! Just how Spirit-filled are America’s Spirit-filled churches?

What about the “freaky stuff?” How concerning is it when supernatural manifestations are rare in the church today?

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My four-year-old daughter Eva just said something as I’m sitting here writing this article at a Starbucks in Branson, Missouri. While scanning through cartoons to watch on Netflix on her tablet, she zeroed in on one.

“I want to watch this one. But I don't. It's freaky and I love freaky stuff. But I also hate freaky stuff.”

I just had to laugh. In a way, that might sum up the tension of the Christian heart. Discerning good and evil is important for all of us. I’m proud of Eva at her young age!

Further, from an entirely different angle, it may also be the way many people think about the supernatural. Church experiences widely range from absolutely stoic and dead to bizarre and flamboyant. Freaky.

I think there are many mildly hungry yet cautious Christians out there in the middle who are intrigued by the “freaky stuff” but, then again, are tired of the ridiculous manifestations in many churches that aren’t Spirit-driven at all. It's just people acting strange in the name of freedom. Too often, they default to calm and safe instead of wild and risky. Many pastors fall into this category as well.

America needs to take a bold, confident step toward wild and risky. We need the freaky stuff in the church to emerge as it did at Azusa.

William H. Durham recorded his testimony in the sixth issue of The Apostolic Faith (February-March, 1907), p. 4, where he wrote:

On Friday evening, March 1, His mighty power came over me, until I jerked and quaked under it for about three hours. It was strange and wonderful and yet glorious. He worked my whole body, one section at a time, first my arms, then my limbs, then my body, then my head, them my face, then my chin, and finally at 1 a.m. Saturday, Mar. 2, after being under the power for three hours, He finished the work on my vocal organs, and spoke through me in unknown tongues. (http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Azusa-Street.html)

Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings at Azusa with the following words:

…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.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Azusa_Street_Revival)

WE NEED MORE THAN EXPLOSIVE CHURCH SERVICES

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. 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)

It’s true that I firmly believe we need a massive shift toward “groaning churches” with atmospheres of searing hot intercession that cause the building to shake. I’ve been in many, but nowhere near enough, such services that have left me in tears, trembling and under the influence of fire, drunk on something out of this world. The supernatural moments, in very legitimate ways, forever marked my life and my relationship with Jesus. When you add authentic experience to life-changing truth, you can’t help but be transformed from someone who is simply “devoted to Jesus” to someone who is raging in love, undone, undignified and suddenly alien. Everything changes through authentic encounter with Jesus. Nobody can remain the same.

Too often we presume we can achieve such an electric atmosphere in our church services through charisma, exuberance and a decent dose of exciting worship and expressive prayer. This is common in your more “alive” churches. People are just deep and hungry enough to “jump a little higher than before,” as the song goes (which, at some point becomes humanly impossible. Insert grinning emoji here.).

The point I’m making is this: It takes a leadership team and a zealous people who are setting a culture of deep and extreme prayer, sharp spiritual discernment, and who are wildly prophetic to experience breakthrough into the supernatural.

Natural and predictable church services are the result of spiritually lazy and naturally minded people who are not moving into the realm of the invisible.

FREAKY STUFF WILL SET THE STAGE

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My life in ministry has been shaped by unusual and powerful supernatural conflicts and encounters. I say that not because it’s really cool, but because I’m really dumbfounded. A simple man praying fervent prayers has somehow triggered invisible entities into manifesting in the natural. As I started witnessing more and more, I began to understand how absolutely critical it was to live, walk, breathe and legislate in the Spirit—especially for those engaging in a dark world with an apostolic assignment.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)

How many Christians are actually confronting evil forces as a part of their ministry strategy? This takes way, way more than simple prayers. We must go deeper than ever. When we do, the fight is on and it will absolutely manifest in the natural realm. Get ready for some wild church services!

SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY

Definition of Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience; a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.

Check out this breakdown of a powerful passage of Scripture:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) 14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) through his Spirit (PNEUMA: BREATH, WIND, SPIRIT) in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend (SEIZE, POSSESS, APPREHEND) with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (DOESN’T EXIST IN THE VISIBLE REALM, OR EVEN IN THE DREAM REALM), that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (WOW! FILLED, FULLNESS OF GOD!) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power (MIRACULOUS FORCE) at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Paul was praying for the Ephesians to be awakened to the reality of the power that God has given them. Growing in that revelation is key for anybody assigned to a church (that’s all of us). We must know our assignment and we must be equipped to conquer via the Spirit of God. When we are assigned by God in a region, as an authority, we have the power and right to give orders, to enforce obedience in the spiritual realm. This is a governmental, supernatural call.

One key principle I discovered years ago was invaluable. God will establish authority in regions, and it’s absolutely mandatory that those governing leaders learn how to discern in the spirit and conduct business in the spiritual realm.

Shortly after my wife Amy and I planted Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, we started experiencing some powerful and revealing things. Our primary ministry method was prophetic intercession. We’d prayer walk that quirky town day after day. We’d receive fresh prophetic revelation and instructions by the Holy Spirit. After it was all said and done, I bet those streets had been prayer walked thousands of times. One particular target of our prayer was a specific church, the largest of five churches in Manitou Springs. This church was part of an apostate denomination and led by a man many considered, including the police department and City Hall, to be the pastor of the city. This man admitted to someone in my church that there was no Hell and demons didn’t exist. He refused to participate in a ministry alliance in the town because he didn’t want to offend his “pagan and Muslim brethren.” Clearly, this individual walked in unholy authority and had significant influence in the spirit in Manitou Springs, and that reality demanded a confrontation.

Our young family moved into an old home in Manitou Springs near the beginning of our ministry time there. Instantly I started discerning something very heavy. Every morning I’d wake up with a distinct “taste” or feeling in my spirit. It was demonic, disorienting and honestly a bit debilitating. Strangely, I couldn’t pray it off or shake it off, but as the day wore on, it would dissipate. This happened every day.

Some time went by, and I received an invitation to meet the pastor of the apostate church. The church building was just beyond the back yard of our house, so I walked there one afternoon for our meeting. The heavy oppression that I woke up with every day had worn off that by then and I was eager to connect with this city leader. I wasn't prepared for what was about to happen. The moment I walked through the doorway of the church, the EXACT same taste, the same distinctive oppression that I had experienced for so long every single morning, slammed me with force. I pulled myself together, put a smile on my face and shook hands with the pastor. We sat down and engaged in small talk. I mentioned to him that their church was very close to my house. He asked me to describe the house. I told him what it looked like and where it was located. We then compared notes on what it looked like inside. What he then said rocked me. “Oh, yes! My family and I lived there for years!”

I didn’t have to be a math genius to put two and two together. The demonic anointing the pastor walked in lingered. I bet those demons were quite surprised when a man of God on assignment moved in. After that fateful meeting with the pastor of the city, the oppression stopped. God communicated what I needed to understand. From that point on I was able to govern in the Spirit with precision. The spirits that were anointing that man’s “ministry” were uncovered.

Rumor has it that past city officials have also lived in that house. It was clear that, for whatever reason, authorities had lived there and I needed to consider what my apostolic, governmental responsibility was. I sensed in the Spirit a baton had been passed to me and our team. That revelation was invaluable as I truly understood God had our back and we could be confident in our advance.

WE CANNOT SURVIVE AS A CHURCH WITHOUT THE SUPERNATURAL

From that time, our prayer and apostolic strength increased. We would pray on the top of Pikes Peak and in caves under the earth. Many undeniable supernatural happenings would stun us time and again. We’d confront witchcraft and watch God work wonders. Demons would come out in the middle of services leaving visitors wide eyed. One deeply resistant and demonized young man vomited in the parking lot the moment we were praying for him with his girlfriend in the church. Moving in authority brings a shift to the atmosphere as demons can’t help but respond in obedience.

And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” Luke 4:36

Is our ministry causing people to be amazed? If not, go deep into the spirit and, as it happened at Azusa, you won’t be able to stop the presses. Word will get out and the amazement and mocking will both commence! Some will run to your church. Many will flee.

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)

The message I’m attempting to communicate is that we must go extremely deep behind the scenes. We have to stand in our authority. We must learn how to decree and declare and legislate in the Spirit. Leave the prayer lists and prayer topics behind. Defer to tongues and prophetic intercession when you don’t have a theme to focus on. Let revelation drive your prayer meetings. Lean not on your own understanding.

As I look back at my time in Manitou Springs I know it would have been impossible to break through and do what we were called to do without constant prayer meetings, prayer walks, engaging the enemy, moving in the Spirit, stimulating a prophetic culture, having dreams and visions and moving in great authority.

I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19

My recommendation is to avoid trying to manufacture a vibrant atmosphere. Many worship teams and charismatic preachers are very skilled at this, but those who are sharp spiritually can see right through it. Let’s just stop the production and go deep Monday through Saturday and come into our Sunday services rocked and shocked by the revelation of Jesus and the spiritual battle we’ve run to. Live a life that provokes demons and angels. Expect the supernatural to happen. Shake Heaven and Hell. Enlist people who know how to groan and intercede night and day. When that happens, the lid will blow off our Sunday meetings. Whatever you do, DON’T PUT THE LID BACK ON! Let the supernatural scare away the resistant, awaken the sleepers and activate the remnant!

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. John 6:66 (ESV)

If you don’t stand in your authority, how will the church advance? If you don’t pray non-stop, how will you have strength and insight to advance against witchcraft and all that the enemy is bringing against you? Most curses and strategies that witches and others are targeting local churches with go unnoticed. People have no idea there are demonic beings wrapping their arms around the congregation like a vice.

I could share story after story of shocking and bizarre and absolutely critical encounters in the invisible realm we’ve had over the years. We must learn how to see in the Spirit. What is happening? How should we contend in prayer?

The American Spirit-filled church simply isn’t Spirit-filled enough. We are barely touching the surface. We are too concerned with keeping the visitors. A church full of those who would be scared away if God showed up is a church full of false-positives. Those particular people in the pews may very well not even be saved. We can’t just have happy services with laughing and dancing and handshakes and presume all is well. There is warfare raging and spiritual forces to be exposed, confronted and taken out.

I’ve said many times, I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. Supernatural, messy services that break human control must come. The only way human control releases is if those humans encounter God day after day. God has to convince them.

When we dig deep and uncover the demonic roots in our regions, and invade the darkness, and refuse to ask the Holy Spirit to “settle down,” the church will experience powerful advance.

It’s time for the freaky stuff to return to the church.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)

The tone of the groan : a necessary massive intercession movement

The condition in our nation is so weighty that we must awaken ‘groaning intercessors’ who contend together for revival in the church.

YOGA-000000137Throughout scripture we see groans preceding a great deliverance—and this deep groan of the Spirit must erupt in our churches and in our cities now. The days of quiet, sedate church services built upon human order must come to an end—Sunday mornings must resound with a prophetic shock and a new sound of trembling people exploding in groans of the Spirit.

Acts 7:34 (ESV) I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them.

Romans 8:22-26 (ESV) 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. 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.

I've been privileged to give leadership to some events where intercessors and hungry people have shaken and shocked atmospheres. The loud, erupting sound of groans have been resounding in our meetings. It’s been prophesied many times that a new sound is going to be released. A new tone. I am convinced that this is not a new musical style, but rather it is a new groan of the Spirit. It’s the tone of the groan that will be heard around the world.

One of the most misapplied scriptures is Romans 8:28. When people are struggling, it’s common to share this verse with them. It’s actually pretty bad counsel if we don’t let them know that this verse is dependent on the preceding verses. Romans 8:28 starts with the word “And,” which should reveal that it’s connected to what came before it:

Romans 8:26-28 (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. 27 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. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Things work together for good WHEN we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us with groans! No groan, no guarantee of success.

This is talking about a literal groan. Just like praying in tongues requires a literal sound to come out of our mouths, the groans are also deep, zealous sounds…tones…emitted from the depths of our inner man.

Churches must begin to become prayer and groan driven! The sound will break strongholds and usher in deliverance into our nation.

Yes, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable…but the Holy Spirit will be radically comfortable.

When the groans begin, Romans 8:28 initiates. As the powerful mysteries of God are exploding out of us in prayer, we easily find ourselves loving God with deep intimacy. We embrace the calling that’s on our lives. We have a resounding yes in our spirits even though we don’t know logically what we are agreeing with! In fact, bypassing our logic and intellect through groans of intercession is a primary reason WHY we are in agreement with God!

Our minds can’t understand what’s being prayed, and therefore can’t come into disagreement with it!

PRAYING IN TONGUES: THE SOLUTION FOR DEAD PRAYER MEETINGS

I don’t know that you can really have a dead prayer meeting if people are erupting in tongues!

Honestly, it’s difficult to understand why so many Charismatic churches minimize tongues in their meetings. It makes no sense whatsoever!

We need Azusa-level reports to shoot around the planet as we explode in supernatural cries!

In a skeptical front-page story titled “Weird Babel of Tongues”,[17] a Los Angeles Times reporter attempted to describe what would soon be known as the Azusa Street Revival. “Breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no sane mortal could understand”, the story began, “the newest religious sect has started in Los Angeles”.[20] Another local paper reporter in September 1906 described the happenings with the following words:

…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.'

The Comforter has come! Oh, for a movement where the testimony of our heart was simply that! The Comforter is here! He is blowing in and through us and there is absolutely no denying his love and power!

Now think of a typical American prayer meeting. I know, I don’t want to attend either!

We must see the tone of the groan return to the church again! Oh, and a supposed “disgraceful intermingling of the races” would do wonders for the a movement of unity and revival too, don’t you think? We could fix dry and dusty prayer meetings along with the current racial turmoil in the land at the same time!

I often propose to churches, and model it often in our own ministry, to pray for one or two hours straight in nothing but tongues. No English. No petition. No prayer requests. No worship. Nothing but tongues, nonstop, for hours. Prayer meetings, Sunday meetings and every other meeting would begin to radiate brightly and new life would come to the church almost overnight.

TONGUE DRIVEN PRAYER MOVEMENTS

I’ve seen two powerful prayer movements impact two cities, Colorado Springs and Detroit.

Every Friday night our team of local zealots would be invited into a different local church in the city. We’d pray, without ceasing, for two hours in tongues. In all, we prayed in over 170 total churches between the two cities.

We had one foundational rule: tongues would never be sacrificed or minimized for anything, including unity. How could true unity reign if we ask the Holy Spirit to wait outside the door?

It was always tempting, because of our love for pastors and people from all Christian streams, to remove the tongues requirement. That would gain us entrance to hundreds of additional churches that didn’t embrace the gifts of the Spirit. I was always resolute, however. I knew the movement would die when tongues ceased.

I simply don’t believe prayer is sufficiently powerful without the burning of the Holy Spirit. We need tongues of fire that scorch atmospheres.

I’m believing for new movements of prayer that result in churches being baptized afresh in the fire and power of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t know about you, but I am craving revival in the church of our nation, and we can be sure that all things will absolutely work together for good in America if the church begins groaning in the Spirit. Time is short, open your mouth and let the fire of the Holy Spirit rage through you in an other worldly language. That supernatural cry will have a sound that shakes atmospheres and brings life to the dead. You absolutely have a unique tone. It’s the tone of the groan.

Then when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at his feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the Spirit and was troubled … Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lie against it … now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out …” John 11:32-44

Pastors: Ten Reasons Why Intercessors Aren’t Attending Your Prayer Meetings

God is raising up passionate people of fervent and strategic prayer. Why aren’t they flocking to church prayer meetings?

I’m a prayer freak. I met God in the prayer room and I’ve experienced the shock and awe of his glory there many times over the last 27 years. I can’t separate the ideas of salvation, being a Christian and knowing God from a vibrant life of burning prayer. For me, if there’s no unction to pray, everything else is weakened, compromised and at risk. The thought that someone wouldn’t want to pray causes me to scream inside! The wonders of God are revealed in very unique ways in the prayer room.

If God is awakening people to the power of prayer, why aren’t the prayer rooms full? If there is a growing remnant of people who yearn to encounter God and to contend for the passions of his heart night and day, why do pastors have such a hard time compelling them to come together for corporate intercession? It’s a great question. I believe I have a handful of answers.

TEN REASONS INTERCESSORS AREN’T ATTENDING YOUR PRAYER MEETINGS

1. LACK OF ANOINTING

Those who are living and walking in the Spirit, living a life of impactful intercession and who are in tune with the heart of God can easily discern whether there’s anointing in the prayer meeting or not. Sadly, most prayer meetings I’ve participated in simply do not have a strong anointing. The wind of the Spirit isn’t blowing through them. The tremble isn’t there.

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Acts 2:2 (ESV)

If there isn’t anointing, I want to make two points:

First, it’s on the pastor. The senior pastor must be so bathed in prayer daily in his personal life that when he steps into the prayer meeting, the entire atmosphere ignites. It’s critical that he regularly comes out of encounters with God that results in a tangible simmering in his spirit that can’t be denied.

Second, as the 120 did in the Upper Room, if the anointing isn’t there, if God’s presence isn’t blowing through the room, understand that little can be done until it does. Wait and pray. Cry out. Pray for tongues to land on everyone. When it happens, you can have an effective prayer meeting.

2. LACK OF A PROPHETIC ATMOSPHERE

One way prayer, from us to God, will drain the energy right out of the room. If we aren’t nurturing an environment where God is constantly speaking in the prayer meetings, frustration and boredom will quickly set in.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV)

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (ESV)

In most prayer meetings, the majority of the time and energy is spent relaying to God what we want him to do. We need to see that reverse. God should be releasing prophetic words, scriptures, inner revelations and other data in our corporate prayer meetings so we can all come into agreement with what’s on God’s agenda instead of what’s on ours.

I love to have whiteboards in my prayer meetings so people can write words, draw prophetic pictures and share what God is revealing to them. Then, we allow them to grab the mic and declare what was revealed to them corporately. Can it get weird at times? Sure, but if there’s a strong leader in the room that can keep everybody moving in the right direction, that never becomes an issue. The Bible clearly tells us not to quench the Spirit and not to despise prophecies. Unfortunately that happens all too often in our prayer meetings (and church meetings) today.

3. PETITION AND PRAYER LISTS

If you want to kill a prayer meeting, bring out the prayer list. Praying through prayer topics, no matter how amazing and important those topics may be, will drain the life right out of the room. This is why stewarding a prophetic culture is so important. Out of the ten or twenty prayer points the prayer leader might bring into the meeting, one or two at best will hold the attention of the intercessors. They are usually obvious, humanly discerned and devoid of God’s revelatory realm. Intercessors just can’t stay in that realm and thrive. Really, nobody can.

When I was leading our school of prayer and revival in Detroit we had a rule for the students. No prayer lists allowed in the prayer meetings. They must go deep, connect with God’s heart and release corporately what they received from him. I can’t tell you how immeasurably powerful those meetings were!

There’s a place for petition, but we can’t live there. We can’t use petition as the driving force of our prayer meetings. We must get feedback and then release oracles from Heaven! We must decree and declare the solution instead of camping on the questions.

Elizabeth Nixon said it this way:

The English definition of decree is “a statement of truth that carries the authority of a court order.” For example, when a defendant is convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison, he cannot ignore that sentence because the authority of the court order is such that upon conviction, he has no further say in the matter.

The same is true with decrees in the spiritual realm. When we decree God’s provision and blessings over our lives, then anything purposed against our provision and blessing can have no further say in the matter.

We declare blessings, we plead the blood, we prophesy truth, we call forth breakthrough, we decree abundance. We must stand in our authority and cause things to happen. That’s a lot more effective than simple petition!

4. NO TONGUES OR GROANS

I’ve said for years that praying in tongues with groans of intercession filling the room for an hour, with no other prayers offered, would launch a prayer movement that would shake the entire planet. The level of electricity in that movement would shock the world.

When we release everyone in the prayer meeting to find a place on the carpet, or to pace around the room and cry out in tongues, the spiritual vibrancy in the atmosphere simply erupts.

Of all the ministries and churches I’ve launched or given leadership to, by far the most satisfying and thrilling was our Friday night prayer events. In Colorado Springs and Detroit, we ended up in nearly 200 different churches where we’d pray in tongues for two hours, from 10pm until midnight. While many of the pastors of those churches looked lost as we rushed in with fire in our veins, the people came alive! Oh how I wish pastors were more comfortable in such an environment!

At The International House of Prayer several years ago, I’ll never forget a young lady who I prophesied over as she walked through the door at the internship my wife and I were directing. I told her she would be fully healed during the internship. I had never met her before. I had no idea that she was chronically and terribly sick. She could barely make the airplane trip to Kansas City. The intense seven-day, three-month schedule was overwhelming her to tears. Then, one day, as she was praying for an hour in the “prep rooms,” which was a requirement of the internship, she was suddenly and very dramatically healed. I wish I could do justice in this article of how deep and powerful that moment was, but it’s impossible. The truth is, however, that tongues and groans in a small, crowded prayer room resulted in divine intervention that could not be denied.

 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.  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.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)

5. NO COMPELLING VISION

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint…. Proverbs 29:18 (ESV)

If there is no overwhelming, God given vision that is driving the prayer meeting, you should probably call off the meeting. If there’s no vision, there will be nothing for the people to lock in to. They will scatter and will have no desire to come back together to pray.

When I talk about vision, I’m not talking about logical goals or ministry campaigns that need our attention. I’m talking about revelation. What is God wrecking the pastor or leader with that must be communicated with the people? What is burning within that requires a rallying cry for the intercessors to grab hold of it and push it through in spiritual warfare and governmental, apostolic advance? When we lead prayer meetings, we should be so enraptured by what God is revealing to us as leaders that the congregation is shocked and rocked into action!

6. A FOCUS ON PERSONAL OR LOCAL CHURCH ISSUES

I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a prayer meeting that focuses on local church plans and issues that has caused me to come alive. For me, such a focus is usually laborious and even a waste of important time. The corporate prayer meeting must mostly be focused on regional advance, revival, and on what God is revealing on a broader level.

Additionally, we want to avoid spending too much time praying for Sister Martha’s upcoming surgery or Brother Bill’s financial struggles. There definitely is a time for body ministry. From time to time we’d have “hot seat prayer” where we’d spend quality time praying and prophesying over an individual. People would go to war for them, they’d fight the enemy’s stranglehold on their lives, powerful prophetic words would be spoken into their spirits, they’d release decrees over them. Twenty minutes or so later, we’d move from that into commanding the same type of deliverance over our region!

7. IT’S DISINGENUOUS

Honestly, who wants to go to a prayer meeting that’s almost an afterthought while the primary Sunday service is given nearly one hundred percent of the energy, creative planning, marketing dollars and careful organization? Add to this the insult of a nearly prayerless Sunday experience that is evidence of the lack of importance of intercession in the mind of the leadership.

The worship team practices endlessly, leaders must arrive early and stay late, visitors are attended to with passion and the entire Sunday experience is geared toward drawing a crowd. The prayer meeting? The pastor may not even show up. Leadership teams aren’t required to attend. The worship team definitely doesn’t have to participate. Nobody’s coming early or staying late. The experience is not geared toward drawing a crowed but rather marking something off the to do list.

no one understands; no one seeks for God. Romans 3:11 (ESV)

8. PRAYER ISN’T THE MAIN THING IN THE CHURCH

Related to the previous point, intercessors will discern immediately if the church is not a house of prayer for all nations, as Scripture reveals it is to be.

I’d rather have a Sunday church service that is filled with an hour of praying in tongues as anointed music plays in the background, followed by decrees and declarations with powerful snippets of apostolic instruction and key prophetic revelations filling the room than the predictable services we have today.

The church isn’t a house of teaching, a house of evangelism, a house of fellowship or a house of anything other than a house of prayer. How strange is it that Sunday services aren’t driven by Spirit-filled intercession. Sure, some are sprinkled with prayers, and musical worship has a prayerful feel at times, but where’s the burning, contending, governmental cries, decrees and prophetic releases?

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)

9. PEOPLE CAN’T PARTICIPATE

The closest many prayer meetings get to allowing individual participation is asking them to lead a prayer on a specific topic. We must create a culture where everybody can prophesy, all can cry out in intercession, with nobody excluded. Some may want to come and find a dark corner and meet God there, and that’s great. I love to do that myself quite often. But there’s also a time to release publicly what has been received!

There are ways to encourage participation without losing control of the prayer meeting. Encourage “rapid fire prayer” where people line up and take turns releasing a ten-second prayer or decree on the microphone. Use the whiteboards I mentioned previously. Allow people to text words to a specific number during the prayer meeting, which allows leadership to consider it for public release. Get creative. Have an occasional fire tunnel when focusing on personal impartation. Release everybody for a 15 minute prayer walk around the neighborhood and then to pray what they discerned on the mic when they return.

The bottom line is that people want to be an active part in the apostolic advance that the prayer meeting is driving!

When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)

10. IT’S SIMPLY NOT ATTRACTIVE

The bottom line is that even the most passionate prayer warriors won’t come to your prayer meeting if they aren’t attracted to it.

I know we can attempt to coerce people to attend, but it just won’t work.

“Could you not pray for one hour!” My response to that question from a frustrated pastor who is attempting to draw people to his prayer meeting might be, “Could you make it not boring? If you prayed like Jesus did you might get a better response!”

Is prayer always compelling and exciting? No. It’s not. Should we have some discipline in our call to prayer. Yes. Absolutely. That being said, we don’t have to intentionally cause our prayer meetings to be boring and ineffective. The truth is, pastor, the intercessors want to attend your prayer meeting, but they won’t compromise their calling to intercede if your environment will quench the Spirit that’s praying through them.

 


Watch a video on this topic below:

 

A powerful strategy of freedom: Don’t bother Jesus

If Jesus isn’t concerned or taking action, the next move is ours.

YOGA-000000031I love listening to sermons, and then listening to the Holy Spirit as he develops further revelation for me.

My pastor delivered a powerful sermon this morning here in my home town of Branson, Missouri. This article, while different than what I heard this morning, is a result of God’s anointing on his life and on the teaching he brought.

A NEW PRAYER STRATEGY WILL SET YOU FREE

“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4:40 (ESV)

When I consider going to God with my issues, concerns, troubles, needs and other personal trials, I first ask myself a question. Is God going to respond to me by asking, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s quite possible that I should not bring my issue to God at all.

I realize that God loves it when we pray, and there are many types and ways to pray that are applicable for various situations, but I have learned to consider my heart condition and motive behind the prayer. Both matter.

It’s extremely easy to function from a place of doubt when we consult with God. It’s common, for example, to doubt our needs will be met, and this can manifest through prayer, hoping that God does something to remedy our situation. While it’s good to have any sort of conversation with God, we also need to know that his response will be tied closely to our faith that’s connected to our prayer.

Let’s look at the entirety of the well known passage in Mark chapter four:

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)

DON’T BOTHER JESUS

The obvious thing for Christians to do when in a time of trouble is to go to God. I want to propose you may have more success at times by not going to God.

If you are in relationship with him, and are living a life of overcoming faith, and you know your authority, it’s not necessary to have a consultation with God every time you have to make a decision or every time the going gets tough.

Quite often, the correct step is to refuse to bother Jesus. He was asleep on the boat in the midst of the storm—and he should have been left alone.

This principle is true for us today as well.

Many of us have a habit of attempting to shake God awake to our situation, and instead of him resolving the problem, he asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

The correct thing to do would then be to resolve the situation ourselves!

WHEN GOD SLEEPS

In the midst of storms, or at the point of decision, God may “sleep” (be unresponsive to our petitions) for at least a couple of reasons:

  1. The storm or situation needs to play out. Possibly God is using the situation to help us reach our destination. The disciples were attempting to go across to the other side, and though the storm was threatening, was it possible that the winds would assist them in their journey? Maybe.
  2. We are to stop the storm or make the decision ourselves. This is the scenario more often than we realize. It’s extremely common for my wife and me to make decisions, to power through obstacles and deal with attack without nervously yelling for Jesus to wake up and come to the rescue. We’ve been granted authority to bring the resolution ourselves. Don’t forget, this is only possible since we are in relationship with Jesus and we are submitted to his plan for our lives. It’s possible that the disciples could have silenced the storm themselves. Jesus’ stern reaction to them awakening him revealed that they needed to relax and know that all will be well, whether they rode the storm out or commanded it to end.

But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. James 1:6-8

The disciples were afraid. They doubted. They were blown and tossed by the wind and the waves. If they would have responded in faith, the wind and the waves would have been under their command and would have either settled down or carried them exactly where they needed to go—to the other side.

WHO THEN IS THIS?

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Instead of being asked, “Why are you so afraid,” people will be asking about us, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The passage indicates that there were other boats in the storm as well. The story most probably should have been quite different. With Jesus still asleep, those on the other boats would have pointed to the disciples and fearfully and joyfully asked with great passion, “Who then is this!”

The answer would have been remarkable as they directed everyone’s attention to a sleeping savior. Jesus would receive all the glory and his power would have been undeniable—calming the storm as he slept, manifesting his plan through the authority of his followers.

KNOWING OUR AUTHORITY IS CRITICAL

It’s important that I make it doubly clear that I in no way am attempting to say we are to advance without Jesus or without living a life of fervent prayer. We must be so intimately connected to Jesus on a continual basis, that our prayer shifts from mostly needy, clueless and concerned to mostly relational. We can pray in the Spirit, make decrees and declarations and legislate from a place of great strength and spiritual authority because of our life of relational prayer and intercession.

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases,  and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. Luke 9:1-2

When casting out demons or praying for the sick, we never have to go to God petitioning for him to deliver the oppressed or make the sick whole. Why? We can let God “sleep” and do it ourselves! We are to cast the demons out. We are to heal the sick.

TWISTED AND AFRAID

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Matthew 17:14-18 (ESV)

In the above passage, Jesus should not have been disturbed. His disciples should have handled the situation themselves, but they couldn’t. They didn’t have faith (even the faith the size of a mustard seed). The result? Jesus called them twisted!

Not only don’t I want God to respond to my prayer by asking why I’m afraid and why I have no faith, but I really don’t want him calling me twisted!

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Luke 10:17-19

We have been given authority over all the power of the enemy! Nothing shall hurt us! No storm is powerful enough! We can let Jesus sleep as we administer his truth and power in the world.

Instead of being called twisted and afraid, this generation will be looking on from their boats and ask, “Who then is this?”

God is ready to promote you from a life of struggle to a life of power, peace, strength, confidence and breakthrough!

Jesus might be sleeping, but he’s not disconnected. He’s waiting for you to manifest his peace and his power as you annihilate obstacles, calm waves, move mountains, heal the sick and set the captives free!

Worship music: Lucifer’s next great battleground

Image result for luciferSatan has a plan to infiltrate and defile the modern worship movement.

The first sin in the universe was pride and the first being to sin was Lucifer, an Arch angel who dwelled in the very presence of God in heaven.

Theologians believe that Lucifer was the worship leader in heaven, in the very presence of God. He was exceedingly beautiful and endowed with special abilities. As we see in the passage from Isaiah 14, Lucifer looked upon his own beauty and wisdom – attributes created in him by the Lord – and he decided that he would raise his throne above God. He foolishly declared, “I will make myself like the Most High.” ~CBN

Luciferianism is a belief system that venerates the essential characteristics that are affixed to Lucifer. The tradition, influenced by Gnosticism, usually reveres Lucifer not as the devil, but as a liberator, a guardian or guiding spirit or even the true god as opposed to Jehovah. For Luciferians, enlightenment is the ultimate goal. ~Wikipedia

As one who lives much of my life with headphones on, including as I write this article, with anointed worship music being pumped into my spirit night and day, this is a challenging message to deliver. It’s challenging due to the fact that I highly revere the anointing that rests on so much of today’s and yesterday’s worship music. It disturbs me that such an article would even be necessary. The obvious argument would highlight the overt evil, immorality and demonic culture we live in, and the filth in media that results. The argument would declare it’s highly inappropriate to attack music that, in comparison, should be celebrated.

I concur that the majority of music and media today is offensive and a stench in the nostrils of God. I also agree that we must encourage all to flood their lives with truly anointed media including worship music. For years, my prescription for people who have come to me confessing struggle in their walk with God was to eliminate all media for a season that was not explicitly anointed, worshipful and godly. In fact, I’d go so far as to ask them to consider turning off even contemporary Christian music (or whatever else they enjoyed) and take in a steady diet of Vineyard (my favorite back in the day) or other worship music for a month.

Without fail, those who took me up on my experiment reported powerful breakthrough while those who did not continued to struggle. Worship music anointed by the Holy Spirit is more powerful than we might realize. So is music that’s anointed by Lucifer.

A recent, related article that I wrote for Charisma Media has been shared over 50 thousand times from their site alone. Worship Leaders Must Take a Stand Against Homosexuality addresses the need for holiness in worship leaders, and it was a call for them to make a vocal stand in opposition to the spirit of the age. Why is this important? Because the theological and moral positions of our worship leaders will directly impact the advance of revival and the Kingdom. Additionally, the enemy, just as he did in the very beginning, is looking to seduce today’s spiritual generation by subtly twisting worship music just enough so that it takes on his anointing instead of God’s.

THREE WAYS LUCIFER CAN INFILTRATE WORSHIP MUSIC

ONE: Theology

Many people wrongly believe that the worship leader’s theology is unimportant. The train of thought is that the Senior Pastor is the gatekeeper regarding theology in the local church and the worship leader plays a lesser, supporting role. All we have to do is jump back a bunch of years to see that the Great Gatekeeper, God himself, was assaulted and his mission was radically damaged.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.' Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you. They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?'” (Isaiah 14:12-18)

Lucifer, the worship leader, was not unified with God and truth was violated. God himself couldn’t (or didn’t) stop what happened next:

  • One third of the angels fell with Lucifer.
  • Countless millions of humans will burn in the Hell that was made for him after he was cast out of Heaven.

Bad theology in your worship leader can easily lead to many others in the church succumbing to the deception.

Why?

Your heart was proud because of your beauty;
you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. (Ezekiel 28:17)

The mix of pride and beauty can be extremely seductive. I think we’d all admit there are worship leaders we absolutely love. Their music, their stage presence, their passion is all extremely attractive. For those who are truly humble and godly, there is nothing wrong with that. However, for those who embrace theologies and belief systems that are unbiblical, their anointing will remain—but the source of the anointing will change. The music, stage presence and passion will be as compelling as ever, but the truth will not be what is driving their worship. Bad doctrine compromises anointing. 

You would be shocked at how many worship leaders (and pastors for that matter) affirm the grisly act of abortion. Others have been conditioned by false-grace doctrines, supposed “gay Christianity,” prosperity, me-centered theologies and other beliefs.

For many, the goal of a worship experience is enlightenment. To tap into another realm and experience the supernatural isn’t bad. It’s good, as long as it’s the right realm. Unfortunately, too many simply want the high regardless of just what anointing exists there. This is Lucifer’s goal. Seduce with enlightenment and trap people with what the biblically compromised worship leader is offering.

They retain their “beauty,” the enlightenment is powerful and their attraction is intense. However, their anointing can be very dangerous indeed.

TWO: Secret Life

Worship leading should not be the primary job description of worship leaders. It should be the natural outflow of a life of intense, continual prayer. Praying in the spirit night and day must be job one for all of us, and especially those who are supposing to lead us into an encounter with a holy God.

It should be obvious that we cannot lead people where we have not gone. I propose many of today’s worship leaders are simply pointing people to the holy place instead of going ahead of them and leading them there.

One of my favorite takeaways from my time at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City was the worship culture. Every day, the worship teams spent hours in the prayer room, praying, studying the Word, pacing around the room crying out to God, and only then would they take the stage. Only then would they truly have something to offer. Only then could they hope to lead people into the encounter they just had with God. The result is powerful, often spontaneous songs that are deep and spiritual alive instead of the karaoke worship we are all so used to. 

On the contrary, so many of Sunday morning’s worship leaders and musicians are taking the stage after possibly saying a quick, casual prayer together, and often after spending many prayerless days. Many are coming off a Saturday night that was filled with unholy media and movies. Others are secretly struggling with sins—while others aren’t struggling at all. They are embracing a sinful lifestyle wholeheartedly.

Decades later, I’m still shocked at the times early in my Christian walk when I witnessed worship leaders, pastors and others in the church casually enjoying vile, R-rated movies or listening to music that is unholy. They’d fill their lives with the pleasure of the day, every single day, and then sing and preach in God’s house of prayer. My spirit is sickened.

Sadly, the church has become so desensitized that we can’t tell when the anointing has departed.

The secret lives of worship leaders absolutely can result in Ichabod being hung above the doorposts of the church.

And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured… (1 Sam 4:21)

Do we even understand the cost involved in hosting the ark of God today?

THREE: Lyrics

Does anybody else notice the trend in worship music toward the glorification of man?

Benefits, our position, our experience…shouted in song after song.

We need to get back to God-centered lyrics that proclaim his goodness!

  • “We exalt thee! We exalt thee! We exalt thee, oh Lord!”
  • “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
    Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.”
  • “Blessing and honor, glory and power
    Be unto the Ancient of Days
    From every nation, all of creation,
    Bow before the Ancient of Days
    Every tongue in heaven and earth shall declare Your glory
    Every knee shall bow at your throne in worship
    You will be exalted O God
    And Your kingdom shall not pass away
    O Ancient of Days”
  • “Are you washed in the blood,
    In the soul cleansing blood of the Lamb?
    Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow?
    Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

Friend, it’s not about us! It’s not about our benefits! It’s not even as much about how much God loves us as it is about how much we love him!

Imagine writing a love song for your spouse, and then passionately singing it to them. Imagine the lyrics were all about how much he or she loves you instead of how deeply you are in love with them. That would be bizarre! We need to exalt God a lot more than we do celebrating his love for us. 

It is becoming more and more common to hear worship lyrics (and contemporary Christian music lyrics) that are either wishy-washy and watered down or simply not biblical at all.

LET’S INITIATE A TRUE WORSHIP MOVEMENT

There is a true worship movement that emphasizes our death and exalts God that will shake the foundations of the earth!

As we live lives of humility, deep prayer and holiness, the music that comes out of this movement will cause demons to flee!

Worship leaders, I plead with you, don’t allow your beauty and your passion to lead the people God has given you to serve. Lead from your knees, from the prayer room, from that secret place of intercession. Only then will you have what is necessary to set the captives free and introduce a troubled and demon-assaulted generation to the love and power of a holy God!

And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him. (1 Sam 16:23)

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