I'm calling the godless politicians and the liberal media to swift, heart-wrenching repentance.

nefarious [ ni-fair-ee-uhs ]

adjective – extremely wicked or villainous; iniquitous

As I think about various online church services, meetings that consist of no more than ten people on site due to lockdown laws in our nation, I see something else. As these governmentally controlled worship events play out on the screens of American Christians on Sunday mornings, it's easy to miss the strings.  Most don't notice them at all.

A nefarious group of people, made up of politicians, those in the media, social networking executives and other cultural leaders and influencers, are just off screen, positioned above the puppets they are controlling.

These puppet masters have been exposed and their evil schemes have been made clear. President Trump called them out as he sharply decreed that churches should open immediately.

“Governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now — for this weekend,” Trump said at a hastily arranged press conference at the White House.

“Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential” but not churches, he said. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

“These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united,” he added. ~APNews

A BOLD CALL FOR REPENTANCE

While it's true that every one of us must embrace the call to repentance, and we all must be surrendered to Jesus at a much deeper level, I'm specifically addressing our nation's leaders.

Politicians such as Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Governor Andrew Cuomo, I implore you to humble yourselves and to bow your knees to Jesus.

Media influencers including Mark Zukerberg and Jack Dorsey, just like all of us, your time is limited. The Holy Spirit is drawing you to surrender your pride, your dreams, your ideals, your philosophies and your power to Jesus. All of it. There is no other way to God than Jesus Christ. I'd have it no other way.

Living radically, zealously for Jesus is indescribable. The split second after you make the decision to live wholeheartedly for Jesus you are sure to weep over the wasted years of your lives. The freedom, joy and explosive life that will hit you will rock you to your core.

No political power, media empire or personal pursuits could ever compare to the tangible, overwhelming love and power of Jesus.

I told God many years ago that I refused to follow him, or even acknowledge him, if he wasn't a very real, omnipotent, just and loving Creator. If he didn't heal the sick or deliver the tormented I would have nothing to do with him. If he was just a story in a book instead of a living and active person, I'd reject Christianity fully. I was serious.

As I walked around that lonely, empty room in Dayton, Ohio many years ago, desperate for God to actually be real, I then declared, “But, if you are real, if you do work miracles, if I can know you personally, if you are all powerful, I will die for you.”

Again, I was serious. You see, I only have one very short life to live and I have no desire to waste it on religious foolishness. However, I'll surrender this very short life for someone I love, and for the one who loves me, if Jesus is in fact real.

Allow me to confirm he absolutely is. After that prayer, that cry for a legitimate revelation of God, he invaded my life in ways I could never explain. The absolutely ridiculous, indescribable and countless miracles I've experienced since that fateful day continue to stun me time and again as I remember all he has done. Without question I'm willing and ready to live and die for Jesus.

So, again, those who are closing churches, censoring Christian and conservative messages and resisting God in favor of your own pursuits, please, speedily repent. Sin kills and the finality of Hell is so terrible to consider it's hard for me to even think about. God is love and he is just. Eternity is about to reveal itself to all of us. It won't be long. Entering into the rest of forever, the moment after we die, without surrendering our hearts and bowing our knees to Jesus results in the unthinkable. I am crying out for your souls. Don't delay for even a moment. Repent, turn from your wickedness and proclaim to the nation your new found love for Jesus!

PASTORS, YOU AREN'T OFF THE HOOK

If there are puppet masters, that means there must be puppets.

I am thankful for people of God like Rodney Howard-Browne, Jeremiah Johnson and many others who refused to be controlled by the state. They rejected the strings of the puppet masters as they continued to gather in worship.

It's one thing for pastors to shutter services because God told them to. It's entirely another thing if they do so because secular government forces them to. Pastors, you have to ask which voice you heeded.

I suggest there might be cause for repentance among many of God's leaders who have refused the fiery furnace in favor of taking a knee at the command of a wicked king. The music played and the worship environment was affirmed by the nation's evil leader. (Daniel 3)

The king required all to bow to an idol as worship music played, and all but three did. They were thrown into a furnace and we all know the rest of the story. Today we have pastors being arrested for refusing to bow. We have threats, citations and legislation put in place that defy God's people

However, when God's people take a stand against wickedness, against nefarious puppet masters, God is exalted.

17  If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. 18  But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Daniel 3:17-18 (NLT2)

When we are willing to lose everything, including our lives, our churches, our money, our reputations and everything we value to stand for Jesus, miracles happen.

What happened next is what must happen in America now.

24  But suddenly, Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement and exclaimed to his advisers, “Didn’t we tie up three men and throw them into the furnace?” “Yes, Your Majesty, we certainly did,” they replied. 25  “Look!” Nebuchadnezzar shouted. “I see four men, unbound, walking around in the fire unharmed! And the fourth looks like a god!” Daniel 3:24-25 (NLT2)

And, ultimately, the leaders of America will proclaim devotion to the Lord. It's time to stand in defiance to the wicked puppet masters who would demand we bow our knee to their decrees. When we do, America just might be saved, and so might the puppet masters.

28  Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise to the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego! He sent his angel to rescue his servants who trusted in him. They defied the king’s command and were willing to die rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29  Therefore, I make this decree: If any people, whatever their race or nation or language, speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they will be torn limb from limb, and their houses will be turned into heaps of rubble. There is no other god who can rescue like this!” Daniel 3:28-29 (NLT2)

Originally published at The Stream.

The spirit of control and the nightmare of dysfunctional churches.

I'll lead with the solution. A culture of prayer is the prescription not only for controlling, manipulative and dysfunctional churches, but also for every “normal, healthy” church. It's the call for all. I've written extensively on this and I am more convinced than ever that programs and politics must be set aside in favor of developing a night and day, all-encompassing, deeply saturating and strikingly potent culture of intercession in the church.

I hear often from people who have become jaded by controlling or even abusive pastors. I am also well aware of the resistance and manipulation that manifest through the people. The demands to fashion a golden calf are loudly sounded when the leader heads into inconvenient, costly and uncharted territory.

We don't only have one puppet master pulling the strings. The other side is pulling back and this wicked, internal battle is threatening the advance of God's kingdom.

THE PURPOSE OF CHURCH SERVICES

Prayer meetings. Intercession. A well developed culture that breathes and burns with the call to contend in prayer is the primary purpose of every church, and this means our church services should be driven by fiery, authoritative intercession.

Pharaoh-in-the-Church-Paperback.pngWe don't need another professional organization that gets more intoxicated every time new flesh, or, rather, a new visitor, walks through the door. We don't need humanistic vision, goals or projects to complete.

I'd encourage you to read my book Pharaoh in the Church. In it I call pastors to quit forcing people to make bricks so their personal kingdoms can be built. There is no need for bricks where they are called to go. The tent in the wilderness where the cloud and fire reside needs worshipers, not slaves.

A worship lyric by Brian Ming sums it up best:

God forgive us for building kingdoms of man on doctrines of demons in your name.

17  And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18  And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. Mark 11:17-18 (ESV)

The spirit of control and manipulation that we see in so many churches today is a manifestation of the spirit of religion. In the above well-known Bible passage, it's clear that Jesus will have nothing to do with churches that are driven by personal ambition. The people were using the house of prayer for their own benefit, to financially profit. Of course, financial strength isn't inherently wrong. But, when motives are tainted by impurities, we have a problem.

It's another Tower of Babel, a massive project developed with heaven as the focal point…and self-exaltation as the goal.

4  Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4 (ESV)

THE SPIRIT OF RELIGION

John-Burton-Religion-Shirt-ADMy definition of the impure spirit of religion is this: man's attempt to use God to get what he wants.

We see that in play with the thieves in the Temple and we see it in play in churches today. Pastors often fall into the trap of using the church as a vehicle to fulfill their personal missions and dreams. The people are well familiar with the consumer society we live in, and all too often they are consumers in the church as well. They want what they want and they won't make it easy for the pastor if they don't get it.

Again, the answer is developing a prayer culture that is so predominant and foundational that it drives the entire church. The services are more like prayer meetings than TED Talks, filled with cries and groans of intercession and the manifestation of holy love that results. It's very hard if not impossible to hate or despise or even to fight against those you are weeping over, contending in prayer for.

Pastors need to lay their expectations down and simply lead the people into the glory of God. Yes, challenge them. No, don't shrink back. But don't make the experience about busyness, projects or fulfilling a personal dream.

The people need to understand the leader is called to lead them into an uncharted place. They should let go of the demands and simply follow, pray and battle as holy soldiers.

DUELING PUPPET MASTERS

The dueling puppet masters need to stand down and eliminate the competition, the pressure and the strife from the camp. No more tug-of-war. No more control. We need the inappropriate expectations to cease.

Understand, I'm not campaigning for some sort of organic, casual, careless or passive church experience. Not at all. I believe our call into the Ekklesia, into God's governmental service, is one that will cost us everything. The price is high and it's not for the apathetic, self-indulgent person. The battle is extreme and it demands we are at our very best, equipped, prayerful and dressed for war.

Yes, our apostolic leaders must boldly call us into action. Yes, the body must be in position. They must lift up the arms of their leaders, strengthening them in the fight.

What we don't need for even one more Sunday service is pastors who are trading their prophetic mantle for that of salesmanship, attempting to convince the people buy what they are selling so they can be personally enriched, their reputation enhanced and their lust for success satisfied. No more spiritualizing personal endeavors and expecting the people to supply the need.

We also don't need a casual people who are passive-aggressive, who manipulate and control the leadership in order to coerce them to change the direction of the church or to meet their selfish demands.

We need bold, selfless leaders who are willing to lay down their lives for the sheep.

We need consecrated, surrendered people who are dying daily and enlisted as soldiers.

The innumerable projects, promotions, groups, functions and busyness in today's church really need to come to an end. Trade it all for prayer meetings. Gather the people together and run the race of intercession together. Equip the saints, preach on fire, pray without ceasing and head out into the wilderness of encounter. That, my friend, is church.

Originally published on The Stream.