A massive falling away from the faith will be a mark of churches devoid of supernatural power.
It's time for a dramatic shift from seeker-sensitive churches to remnant-sensitive churches in our nation. There is an army of supernaturally-minded followers of Jesus looking for their tribe, and there are few churches that pass the test.
All that is natual or done in human power isn't bad by default. Mankind whether Christian or not can do much good simply by, well, doing good. We can feed the hungry, serve sacrificially, give extravagantly, smile, hug, encourage, befriend and do much good for mankind.
In the church realm we can pray for the sick, visit shut-ins, teach the Bible, pass out Gospel tracts, attend small groups and much more that doesn't necessarily require the power of God to accomplish. Of course, when we add God's power to any of the above, the impact is dramatically different.
NATURALLY DRIVEN CHURCHES ABOUND
When church-shopping, if people were honest, they would commonly admit they are looking for a variety of things. Topping the lists of many in search of a new church home are good children's and youth ministries, dynamic and skillful worship, excellent teaching, the ability to develop new relationships and a welcoming environment.
In fact, church growth strategies tend to be natural versus supernatural as they focus on how we can meet the demands of the customers (current and potential church members). An article on the Smart Church Management website titled 7 Keys to Church Growth zeroes in on what is humanly achievable. Again, all that is humanly possible isn't unbiblical or inappropriate. Natural methods, secular strategies and ideals found in the business world can, at times, be applied in the spiritual world.
Some of the keys to church growth mentioned in the article include creating an inviting atmosphere, creating a welcoming experience, care for church members and providing opportunities to serve. There's not a thing wrong with any of this, except that what matters most wasn't mentioned. Nurturing the supernatural manifestation of the presence of God didn't make the list.
Naturally driven churches abound from coast to coast in this nation. You'll hear a lot about great coffee, vibrant community and programs for the entire family. In fact, many err on the side of caution by downplaying the supernatural. The risk of alienating visitors or conservative members is too high to allow it. Tragically, the risk of alienating God isn't often considered.
CRISIS WILL OVERWHELM THE NATURALLY MINDED
You'll know a supernatural church when crisis hits. Supernaturally driven Believers will respond radically differently to crisis than those who aren't living, walking, praying and governing in the spirit. Without developing a history in God that's marked by fervent intercession, intense devotion, great faith and openness to the moving of the Holy Spirit, people will default to what makes sense in the natural realm.
Without a supernatural mindset, it will be impossible to respond to crisis as God intends. Natural strategies won't work. Panic will set in. Fear will dominate.
This will be followed up by lost faith and angry fists raised to heaven. A failure to live in the otherworldly, supernatural place of signs, wonders and miracles will result in a devastating lack of spiritual tools in people's toolbelts when they are most needed.
The church's failure to equip people in the Holy Spirit is more eternally costly than we can imagine. Satan is raging and there is no natural response that will slow him down. A powerless church births powerless Christians who are primed to be easily devoured by the hounds of hell.
THE DEMISE OF THE SEEKER-SENSITIVE CHURCH
If we put on our marketing hats, it makes sense to target the largest segment of society. Coke, Nike, Disney and other companies want their products or services enjoyed by as many people as possible. Pastors want people in the seats. The quickest way to make that happen, one would presume, is to target the largest segment of those who are most prone to visit. Seekers are everywhere and some will show up on Sunday morning if the services are welcoming, comfortable and definitely not weird. Eliminate the supernatural and they may come.
This strategy must end. The end-time church is a church on fire, not a comfortable living room where we can put up our feet, eat some snacks and watch the show. The Holy Spirit isn't drawing seekers into a tepid environment. He's not looking to ease people into a new life in Christ. God is calling all to the cross, to full surrender and right into the furnace of his presence.
When seekers are introduced to God in a way that's naturally understandable, the dive into the often bizarre, intense, all-consuming activity of the Holy Spirit is nonsensical to them. Such an experience becomes unnecessary if they, after all, have alread “said yes” to Jesus in a costless, comfortable environment.
Hearing God's voice, dreams, visions, encounters, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, casting out demons, moving in the gifts of the Spirit and so much more becomes unnecessary to those who “got saved” in a comfortable, non-threatening, naturally-driven church.
CHURCH ON FIRE ARISE!
The end-time church is a remnant church. It's time we stop appealing to the general population to build kingdoms of man and start calling in those who are ready to make a total surrender and advance the Kingdom of God. The remnant firebrands are desperately looking for their home base. They want to find their fellow soldiers who are ready to move ahead with precision against the wickedness in our nation.
They aren't looking for churches with trendy youth ministries, the best coffee shops or even great worship or teaching. The remnant is looking for the fire of the Holy Spirit. They want to know if intercession drives the ministry. A specific, world-changing, divine vision is crucial. The pursuit of the wonders of God is paramount. An extremely prophetic atmosphere is non-negotiable. Great faith and extreme devotion to the Word of God are critical. These end-time warriors refuse to play games and they won't stand for lesser things getting in the way of the greater mission. Coffee, friendships and programs become laughable as foundations to build on.
The time is now for a massive reset to come to the church. We have Ichabod churches dotting our nation and many others that do have a heartbeat yet refuse to dive into the depths of the fire. We need an Acts 2 church that is volcanic, supernatural and radiating in immeasurable power.
How does this happen? Become remnant-sensitive. Gather in those who are ready to lay it all down and contend with tears for God to move. Pastors must shift dramatically and refuse, ever again, to make decisions based on how the people will respond. The idolatry of filled pews must be repented of. The fear of offending the tithers must cease. The focus on keeping everybody happy can't continue.
We need the supernatural church to arise in these dire end-times. Without a prophetic mantle and the ability to advance in extreme Holy Spirit power, we have no hope. However, if we start training people in the fire and advance as a burning end-time army, kingdoms of darkness will shatter. And finally, we won't have to function as time-share salespeople, giving gifts and promising all sorts of benefits to those mildly interested in God if they sign on the dotted line. The seekers will witness undeniable supernatural power and the Holy Spirit will overwhelm them as they hit their knees and cry, “Holy!”
Originally published by Charisma Media.
Why are American Christians afraid of a virus? The answer is sobering.Scrolling through Facebook I happened upon a simple yet interesting post. One of the comments was even more intriguing. “Show me the verse in Scripture that says God heals everything but coronavirus.” A sharp-witted respondent typed: Matthew 13:58.
58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. Matthew 13:58 (ESV)That's the sobering answer I alluded to. Instead of boldly standing in authoritative opposition to a wicked threat, the common reaction of so many of today's American Christians seems to be unbelief. Those who are to be driven by fearless faith are instead shaken by the winds of the world.
AN OFFENSIVE MESSAGE
56 …Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him…” Matthew 13:56-57 (ESV)A lack of faith most certainly results in a lack of mighty works. Matthew 13 makes that clear. The preceding verse reveals the root of their unbelief: offense. In our current crisis I'm stunned and saddened by the reaction of supposed Christians to the few who are rallying the troops to arise in faith and healing. These cries for the church to confidently confront the spirit of the age and to believe without wavering in the healing power of Jesus are being met with resistance. How can that be? Where did this man get all these things? That's the question being asked by doubters when people of great faith proclaim the Word of God. Just who do you think you are? What type of hocus-pocus are you communicating? Don't you realize how scary this virus is? Your lack of concern is foolish. Your so called faith is dangerous to our nation's health. It's true, we are living in a day when many in the church are quicker to trust in science and medicine than in the Word of God. Facts trump faith in today's secularized society. It would do us well to learn from the test that King Asa failed.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)The next verse displays very clearly what this strategy of healing results in:
13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign. 2 Chronicles 16:13 (ESV)If we allow fear to drive us, we will have no choice but to defer to the physicians in our search for health and safety. Fear destroys faith. The only way we can approach God for healing or anything else is by faith. Unfortunately, it's obvious that many in the church haven't learned from King Asa. Calls to stand in confident faith are rejected as a nonsensical threat to their safety. What they don't realize is a refusal to believe sets them up as easy targets of the enemy.
A SUPERNATURAL CHURCHIt truly is shocking that many Christians today don't live in the supernatural realm that is so obvious in the Word of God. As Believers, we have access to mind-boggling benefits that few take advantage of. In fact, many fully reject these spiritual realities. They become offended when faith-filled Christians challenge them. “Where did you get all these things” is the question they ask. Where did you get these bizarre beliefs that are contrary to common sense? The Bible. That's the answer to their strange, humanistic question.
17 …“He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.” Matthew 8:17 (ESV)The truth is that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for coronavirus. If we are afraid and default to human wisdom as we fight against it, we will lose. There will be no protection beyond what science can provide. If we live as supernatural people and expect miracles and wonders to surround us, we will thrive no matter what plague may befall us. Healing, authority, power, freedom, joy and absolute victory are all ours as Believers! Fear, worry and defeat cannot stand against mighty, supernatural faith! The church should be sounding a universal proclamation that Jesus heals and that fear can't stand! The world should be amazed and provoked by a joyful, fearless and faith-filled Church. Life for Christians is radically, wildly, supernaturally different than those who haven't surrendered to the Lord. No weapon formed against us can prosper! Instead, so much of the church is nervous, afraid and campaigning for worldly potions, provision and protection.
LIVING IN A NATURAL WORLD
3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (ESV)Wash your hands. Wear a mask if called for. Go to the doctor if needed. Do your due diligence. But don't put your faith in such things. Our faith is in the miraculous. It's in the invisible wonders of a loving, omnipotent God. Don't get offended when someone challenges your response to the threat of a virus. Instead, admit your unbelief, repent and determine to live in a realm entirely different than where the world lives. As Christians, we should be experiencing supernatural power and incredible miracles regularly. The authority we have over the enemy is extreme. The promises of God open up a world of wonder to all of us who walk in the mysterious realm of faith. To think we are limited by science and human wisdom is silliness at best and blasphemous at worst. It's time for the supernatural, fearless church to arise!
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)Originally published by The Stream.
Those who don't know Jesus should not be expected to act like those who do.
(Looking for the article Dueling Puppet Masters: Controlling Pastors vs. Manipulative Congregations? Read it HERE.)
If you follow my ministry you'll know that I am an unapologetic preacher of holiness. You'll also know that most of my messages are directed to the church. Preaching holiness to the lost doesn't work well unless it's coupled with a powerful invitation to surrender all.
Those who haven't had a life-rocking encounter with Jesus are at a disadvantage and it's unfair for those who have been transformed to expect them to see things the way we do. In fact, to attempt to coerce them to adhere to our set of standards, in violation of their own free-will and their right to also have a say in morality is ineffective, and in most situations, unfair if not outright arrogant.
Who are we to say that pornography is wrong? What makes our version of truth regarding homosexuality more valid then theirs? To Christians, babies were created by God, given human spirits at the time of conception and they clearly, obviously deserve protection. Except, those who don't believe in God the way we do simply disagree that they are fully human at points of development prior to birth. They have a right to that belief, as horrifying as we think it is.
The result is a holy war between a group of people who have one set of standards and a group that has an entirely different set. Coercion in the political realm, in the high courts and in the battleground of public opinion becomes the only tool left in our tool belt. We vote or legislate our way to victory, further enraging those who oppose our paradigms.
Listen to the podcast here…
YES, WE SHOULD STILL GO TO BATTLE AGAINST THE SPIRIT OF THE AGE
Now, please understand, with humble hearts, we as people who are zealous about protecting the unborn and who have a responsibility to guard our children from being indoctrinated by the homosexual agenda, I absolutely believe we must use whatever tool we have in our tool belts. Yes, it's right to fight for laws that stand aggressively against human trafficking. We should work hard to overturn Roe v. Wade. Pornography, the legalization of narcotics and other destructive cultural vices that are being normalized in our society must be met with resistance.
However, it remains true that the unredeemed simply cannot understand things the way Believers in Christ can. This isn't because we are better. It's because we have surrendered to Jesus and our entire way of thinking was renewed. We were once compromised and unable to discern right versus wrong. Then, God touched us as wicked, confused, arrogant and very lost people and the light came on.
HOW ARE THE UNREDEEMED AT A DISADVANTAGE?
I pray you begin to mourn and weep over the lost as you grow in understanding as to how terribly the enemy is assaulting them. Yes, every person who has ever lived and who ever will live will be without excuse on Judgment Day. Yes, everybody has a choice, and the lost have made their choice. That shouldn't result in us marking them off as enemies while we puff ourselves up and sneer down our noses at them. We should be broken and our intercession should be taken to a much higher level.
BORN THIS WAY VERSUS BORN AGAIN
Those who argue that they were born gay, for example, may have something to their argument.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5 (ESV)
We were all born in sin, in iniquity. It shouldn't take much for us to understand this. Sin comes very naturally to all and it takes the momentous event of being born again by the Spirit of God for that to shift.
In fact, the Bible calls those who are not his own, children of wrath. Are you seeing the extreme disadvantage the lost have when attempting to discern good versus evil? All they know are the inner urges that, in their minds, makes up the very core of their identity? If they have been attracted to the same sex for as long as they can remember, then, it seems clear that they were born this way. That should validate their homosexuality, or so they would argue.
Without a dramatic encounter with Jesus, without being born again, we can't expect people to understand biblical freedom or morality.
NO RELIEF FROM ANXIETY, FEAR AND DEPRESSION
The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy, and based on the rampant addictions to opiates in our generation, it appears that he's winning.
Spirit-filled Christians can fill their days with praying in tongues, meditating on God's Word and by singing songs of praise to break off the debilitating, suffocating assaults of depression, fear and anxiety. We have a very present friend in Jesus ministering to us, interceding for us, talking to us and walking with us.
The lost are limited to positive thoughts, drugs, counseling and, sadly and all too often, suicide. Truly, the only hope in the battle of emotional trauma is Jesus, and they haven't met him yet.
Can Christians also be in need of counseling and medical care including the administration of appropriate medications to help deal with chemical imbalances and other physiological and emotional difficulties? Yes, absolutely. As long as it takes place on a foundation of faith, such care can be an important part of the healing process.
10 fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO PEACE
Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot know peace. For Christians, peace rests on us and it is not dependent on circumstances or in understanding our situation. God is with us and his supernatural peace displaces the darkness.
It's not hard to understand why so many politicians, protesters and others who are advancing their various ungodly causes become enraged when they experience push back. They have no peace, and in their minds, the road to a life that is more centered and devoid of resistance is to hate, curse and attempt to slay anything and anyone that gets in their way.
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (ESV)
THEY DON'T EXPERIENCE THE PRESENCE OF GOD
The thought of not having that constant burning of God's Holy Spirit within is enough to make me shudder. The glory of God and his anointing on our lives is irreplaceable and without it we would spiral out of control.
Our decisions, our mindsets, our emotional well-being, our belief systems, our desires and everything that make up who we are would radically shift. It would be a deeply disturbing way to live, yet the lost live in that reality every moment of every day of their lives.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NEVER EXPERIENCED LOVE
No matter how determined society is at convincing us that they do what they do because of love, it's simply not true. They have fallen for a faux love that does not originate from the only one who can manifest love. Outside of God, we cannot know love. The reason is simple: God is love.
I want to encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception. It's eye-opening.
Sure, the lost can experience infatuation, attraction, appreciation, strong desire, lust and many other emotions, but love is the one experience they can't have outside of Jesus.
The next time you hear about someone who is militantly promoting what we would call perversion, just remember they are yearning to love and to be loved. This isn't a defense of perversion, but rather it's a call to weep for our culture and to stand in the gap so people can finally discover the only true source of love.
10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the LORD. Psalm 32:10 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO ACCESS TO SUPERNATURAL WISDOM
The unredeemed are limited to their own logic and human ability to reason. That's it. They have no resource when their own abilities or the abilities of others to understand comes to an end.
The ceiling of understanding becomes their version of truth and they will fight to the end to support it.
For Christians, there is such a relief knowing that we won't ever understand it all, and that our own logic is often fallible. We simply read the Bible and believe it. God speaks and we respond. The lost cannot do that.
They will argue that getting drunk, for example, is just fine, as long as you don't get behind the wheel of a car. It makes sense to them. Christians, however, have no need to attempt to wrap their minds around the topic. God says don't get drunk, and he's much wiser than we are, so we buy in wholesale to what he says. As a result, life is much, much better.
Further, decision making becomes much easier as Christians. We may not know what job to take, what house to buy, where to go, who to marry or how to resolve life's problems. Thankfully we have a supernatural source of direction that goes well beyond humanity's resources.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 (ESV)
HAPPINESS IS THEIR ONLY HOPE
We all have the right to pursue happiness in our nation. Sadly, that's the limit for people who don't love and serve Jesus.
Christians, on the other hand, live with overwhelming, immeasurable, supernatural joy! Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is not.
Instead of pursuing wealth, sex, fame, materialism and other pleasures as sources of happiness, Believers are fully satisfied by knowing God. It's a supernatural reality that can only be understood when experienced. It's not mind over matter. I'm not talking about mental gymnastics that turn bad situations to good. I'm talking about an actual Spirit that fills us up and brings supernatural joy to our hearts. Those in the world can never understand this.
13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13 (ESV)
THEY LIVE OUTSIDE OF THE REALM OF MIRACLES
The lost have absolutely no hope of relief from life's woes unless mankind can come up with a solution. They are dependent and desperate and all too often, hopeless.
Believers in Christ live in the realm of miracles every day! Healings, wonders, signs, breakthroughs, prophetic revelation and much more are our portion!
The lost are feverishly doing all they can to avoid or avert dire circumstances in their own abilities. They turn to man, not God when they are in a time of need.
12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 2 Chronicles 16:12 (ESV)
Seeking the Lord is necessary for us to survive and thrive on the earth, and those in the world simply can't enjoy the miracles that result from such a devotion.
THEY HAVE NO REASON NOT TO SIN
Above I revealed the mindset regarding drunkenness. In the minds of the lost there is absolutely no reason not to get drunk. This logic can be used in other scenarios too. Lust is pleasurable as is pornography. Getting high on drugs feels good. Foul language and other behaviors are morally benign. If it's legal, it's okay.
In the world the line is drawn when one person's sin negatively impacts another. That's what defines morality in a culture that's not surrendered to Jesus. What the world defines as lawless and what God defines as legal are very different.
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 1 John 3:4 (ESV)
Christians understand how destructive sin is and we embrace consecration and repentance eagerly. Sin kills even if we don't understand why. We don't define what is morally legal, God does.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 (ESV)
THEY HAVE NO HOPE OF A WONDERFUL ETERNITY
Every ounce of life must be experienced in a window of approximately 80 years to those who don't know Christ. The thought of preparing for eternity is nonsensical to them. This over-magnifies the importance of fulfilling dreams and desires on the earth, as they do all they can to soak up all their short earthly journey can provide.
Of course, Believers know there are an unlimited number of years ahead of us. Every person, whether lost or saved, will live somewhere forever. This is what drives our lives. We do all we can to awaken the sleepers, to warn the apathetic and to rescue the perishing. This world means little in comparison to eternity.
Further, those who know Jesus are exhilarated knowing they will experience never-ending joy, abundant life, freedom, love and peace as we live day-by-day with God. This isn't some euphoric pipe dream. It's truth. It's going to happen. Those who don't know Jesus simply cannot understand this.
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:1-6 (ESV)
CHANGE OUR DISPOSITION
I pray this will at least cause you to think differently the next time you get agitated at people who are promoting beliefs and behaviors that are repugnant to you. Pray hard for them. Battle for their souls.
Trust me, the moment one of these vile, wicked people truly find Jesus, they will turn on a dime and renounce everything unrighteous they previously supported. Meeting Jesus does that to a person.
I'm often asked how to experience God on a regular basis. I do believe there's an answer, but it's not a simple one.
There's a phenomenal opportunity available to every legitimate follower of Jesus: an indescribable and life-rocking encounter with an invisible, all-powerful Deity. Sadly so few do what's necessary to live in this realm where the Holy Spirit reveals his shock and awe to the children of God.
It seems so many are satisfied living a typical, logical life in the natural realm. The idea that we can be overwhelmed by a Spirit and experience unimaginable manifestations that only exist beyond where our eyes and ears can discern is silliness to them. Twilight Zone. X-Files. Science fiction.
Yet, to others, it's not far-reaching at all. They yearn to meet God in this place but they don't know how to get there. It's those hungry people I'd like to try to encourage.
THE RECIPE FOR ENCOUNTER
RAW, RISKY BELIEF
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
Intellectualism may be the greatest killer of faith and supernatural encounter among those who are truly living for the Lord. Their left-brained approach to invisible and mystical realities rarely works. When it does, you usually have to take the long way around.
My passion is for God to encounter me in ways my natural, logical, intellectual capacities could never predict, gauge or moderate. The moment I limit this to my own understanding or my careful analysis is the moment I've diminished my hope of moving into that spiritual realm that exists beyond what can be grasped.
The “I have to see it to believe it” mantra doesn't work in a “walk by faith, not by sight” Kingdom. Having to understand it before seeing it doesn't usually work very well either.
Of course, I'm not proposing a renunciation of the pursuit of understanding. However, when logical understanding must come first, before the other-worldly revelation that God wants us to experience, we short circuit the supernatural happenings.
While many would argue that seeing is believing, for Christians the opposite is true. Believing is seeing…and encountering, and being shocked by the fire and power of the Holy Spirit!
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I'll never forget the night many years ago that changed my life. I witnessed God doing remarkable things in the lives of some of my friends. These seemingly normal American guys who were grunting on the basketball court and staying up to all hours playing video games were also undone by an unseen force. I'd watch them weeping in prayer, pacing the church and crying out to God for him to move. These people had tapped into something that I convinced wasn't invented. It wasn't fake. It was real and I had to meet God they way they had.
Alone one night, I paced around the youth room of the church, feeling nothing but desperation. I prayed a simple prayer, the only one I could. “God, you know my heart.” That's it. Over and over I was talking to God using those words, revealing the depths of my hunger in a simple statement. God knew how deeply I desired to know him.
The rest is history. My eternity has forever been altered by that simple yet overwhelming prayer. Shortly after, he flooded into my life in a way that could never be described by using human words, though I'll try. Extreme boldness replaced timidity in a split second. A tangible force shook my being. Passion for Jesus was instantaneous. There was a power source connected to me and I was radiating with fire.
I didn't seek to understand what I was pursuing. I was simply desperate. Hungry. Willing to surrender all. In fact, I told God in the days preceding this momentous experience that I didn't want anything to do with him if he “wasn't all that he was cracked up to be.” I wasn't interested in fairy tales or following some religious icon who didn't heal, couldn't deliver and wasn't omnipotent, good and alive. However, I also said, “But if you are all of this, I will die for you.”
While an initial encounter may not require a disciplined life of intercession, I've discovered that a regular, continual encounter with Jesus absolutely does. It's in the place of fervent, fiery prayer, especially praying in tongues, where the presence of God is constant, and very often extremely intense.
Some may wonder why it's so important to contend for encounter. They may see it as unnecessary and possibly even evidence of an imbalanced or immature person, someone who is driven by emotions or strange, mystical rushes of adrenaline. Oh my, this couldn't be further from the truth. Encounter is absolutely necessary for every blood-bought Christian.
As we walk in great faith and hunger with great desperation, the cries of our heart and the intercession of the Holy Spirit through us will launch us into the place where God can be clearly heard. We can discern his heart. He can reveal mysteries to us. Critical information, some of life and death, is transmitted to us through impressions, dreams, visions or other prophetic means. Simply, if we aren't living in encounter, we are tragically limited to our own understanding, the very understanding the Bible instructs us not to lean on.
But, as we pray in the Spirit, everything changes. The heavens open. God's voice resounds. An inner tremble shakes within. Our daily lives become adventures as God takes the reigns and gives us direction that can only be received via the Spirit.
God resists the proud. This is why I firmly believe the gateway to deeper levels in the Spirit includes many opportunities for humiliation.
I'll never forget meeting a young lady at an event who was a part of another church. She told me she so wanted to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit, but had no idea how to do so. She was unpretentious and authentic as she shared her expectancy for what was going to happen at the worship conference we all converged at in Los Angeles.
I don't have space to explain what happened the next night other than to say, this hungry young lady was suddenly, without warning, flopping all over the ground as strange and wonderful new sounds were exploding from her mouth. God's activity in that moment hit her and many others, including myself. I was suddenly on the floor experiencing an extremely weighty manifestation of God's glory that wouldn't dissipate until the next day. The presence of God in that moment was something I can still remember, though it's been over twenty years since it happened.
Humility caused this young lady to dismiss how she might look to the hundreds of people all around as supernatural God invaded her natural self. She wanted God. She was hungry at a level few experience. She was filled.
If you think a very Holy Spirit is going to brood over you and manifest in and through you as you are living an unholy life, you have been terribly deceived. Holiness is absolutely mandatory if we have any hope of God moving remarkably in our lives. This is such common sense, yet so many Christians can't understand why they aren't being consumed by God's Holy Spirit.
You simply cannot watch movies, TV and other media that contains foul language, nudity, coarse joking and other immorality and think you are a candidate for encounter. You are kidding yourself. In fact, why would you want the Holy Spirit if that's your chosen lifestyle? You are only inviting conviction if not judgment.
I encourage everybody to eliminate all secular music and listen to nothing but anointed worship music. I even suggest doing away with most contemporary Christian music and pumping music through their headphones that carries the unusual fire and glory of God.
Those who have taken me up on this, time after time, experience dramatic breakthrough. Those who don't tend to trend downwards.
14 …For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV)
Possibly the quickest shortcut to living a life of dramatic, supernatural encounter with God is to sign up as a martyr.
We are called to die daily, to take up our crosses and to love life not unto death. This is our portion as Christians. The key moment in my personal life came shortly after my initial encounter I described above. Do you remember that I told God I'd die for him? He was listening.
From my article Risks of the Upcoming Presence Movement:
One night my life changed forever. In the midst of my amazing daily encounters with Jesus, I found myself in a prayer room at a youth lock-in in Dayton, Ohio. While 300 students were playing volleyball and basketball I was alone in a dark, glorious room overlooking the skyline of the city. God was waiting for me when I waked in.
I paced around praying and worshiping as the presence of God swirled all around me. I never wanted to leave.
Suddenly, as I was enjoying God, walking back and forth in his manifest presence, I heard a voice, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
I was irritated. My focus on loving Jesus was interrupted by someone with what felt like a terribly different agenda. Little did I know, it was an agenda to grow me up and gauge my devotion.
I shook off that distracting voice, and attempted to enter back into the glory realm. I prayed and worshiped, but the presence of God was completely gone—or so I thought.
Again I heard, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Though I clearly understood I was being asked to give my life for Jesus, my emotions were negative. I was distraught, irritated, lonely and even afraid. My enjoyment was gone. However, what I didn’t realize was this—my feelings were not sufficient to analyze the situation. God’s presence had actually increased exponentially in that room of destiny, not dissipated. The fearful judge had arrived and he meant business.
Though I tried to enter back into worship again, it was futile. I heard the voice one more time, “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life tonight.”
Finally, in a state of lonely desperation, I realized I couldn’t live my life without the fire of Jesus burning within me. I needed him. I wanted him, even if it meant the loss of my physical life.
Understand, I was convinced that I was going to physically die that night. It was very real to me.
I told God, “I can’t live without you. If my death will result in the advance of your Kingdom, I give you permission to take my life tonight.”
The moment I said that, his manifest glory flooded the room about one hundred times greater than I had experienced it before. I had experienced the glory and the severity of God, and I was forever changed.
ZEAL FOR THE WORD OF GOD
As I reveal the final ingredient of the secret sauce of encounter, I can feel the naysayers breathing down my neck right now. They are riled up at the thought of focusing on the experiential, on the suggestion that faith trumps logic, on the mystical, invisible and on what they would call hyper-Charismatic fluff.
I'll try to put them at ease. Nothing I am proposing can defy Scriptural truth. If there's ever a contradiction, it must be eliminated. This means that we must be students of the Word. There should be a burning zeal in us for the powerful, eternal and non-negotiable truths of Scripture.
However, while many would hold up the giant family Bible in the air as a defense against the supposed superstition that I'm dealing with here, true Bereans will excitedly search the Word to see what powerful revelations it holds.
From my article What To Do When We Hear Rumors Of Revival:
11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened. Luke 24:11-12 (ESV)
Belief and expectancy will result in running as a result of any news that God has moved with great passion. Doubt will always result in resistance, staying away and embracing suspicion.
I often hear about the concept of being a Berean from some who may be considered heresy hunters. Those who are deeply suspicious of any report of a fresh move of God often attempt to disguise their unbelief and mocking spirit with a religious cloak. They say, I’m just being a Berean.
People driven by a false Berean attitude hear a report of a possible revival or outpouring and their immediate response is to discredit it. They pull out scriptures that supposedly renounce any new move of God and declare the participants to be misguided at best, heretics at worst. Others may take a less direct approach by holding back, waiting to see if it passes muster.
That, my friend, is not being a Berean.
I agree that we must be based on the Word of God more intentionally than ever in history. There is too much foolishness out there today in the name of revival. The answer is a people who are sensitive to the Holy Spirit and firmly grounded as students in the Bible.
However, I don’t agree that our immediate response to a potential fresh outpouring of the Spirit of God should be suspicion! This attitude can affect even the most godly of people. It’s all too easy to immediately doubt that such a move could be anything more than overreaching hope, hype or sensationalism.
I propose we all have the heart of a true Berean.
Before the stop at Berea, Paul preached about a powerful fresh move of God at Thessalonica. I believe heresy hunters are actually more like the Thessalonians than the Bereans:
2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” Acts 17:2-7 (ESV)
There was an urgent and immediate rejection of the report of resurrection power. Let’s contrast this with the pure hearts of the Bereans:
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:10-13 (ESV)
This is a powerful passage of scripture!
The Bereans were more noble than those in Thessalonica. This is an important point! Why were they more noble? When they heard the report of a powerful, transforming, new move of God that would change everything in their lives, they received the word with all eagerness!
Their response was not scrutiny, unbelief, jealousy or resistance. They were excited to hear the news! They were so impacted by the potential of such a report that they immediately dove into the Word with the hope of confirming—not disproving—the life altering revelation!
But then, in verse 13, we see the unrelenting Thessalonians actually traveling to Berea to gather people to them in opposition to what God was doing there.
I hope you are truly ready for revival. This is what it looks like. The resistors will show up in force.
The question that needs to be answered is, which camp will you be in? Are you a scrutinizing Thessalonian or an eager Berean?
I am crying out for those who have rejected Jesus. You are in grave danger. In fact, many in the church are equally at risk and there is only one answer to this threat.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)There is a force that is far more persuasive, powerful and crafty than our human intellect. The ability for humans to reason and to rightly discern truth versus error is laughable in the face of this very real, living and destructive enemy. We don't stand a chance, regardless of whether we are saved or not, unless we live every moment of our lives baptized in the other-worldly, supernatural and extreme power of the Holy Spirit. It's hard for me to believe that intelligent human beings, those with the ability to reason even at the most elementary level, would promote the bizarre and wicked behaviors and beliefs that we see on a daily basis in our nation. The level of deception is stunning. Listen to the podcast here…
THOSE WHO HAVE NOT SURRENDERED THEIR LIFE TO JESUS ARE IN SERIOUS JEOPARDYI'm am pleading with any and all who have yet to turn from their sin and to make the glorious decision to surrender all to follow Jesus to reconsider. Rejecting Jesus today puts you and your entire family at peril, not only eternally but in the here and now. It will be next to impossible to resist the convincing arguments of Satan and his manipulative horde of demons who are influencing the unredeemed non-stop. You don't have the ability with your natural intellect to confront these very powerful evil spirits. You are hopeless. Today I read a People Magazine article about basketball superstar Dwayne Wade that grieved my heart. It's an example of being seduced and deceived by a crafty end-time demonic assault against mankind. Satan is seeking to destroy, and outside of a radical devotion to Jesus, there's no way to stand in opposition to his plans. Dwayne Wade said, “I watched my son, from day one, become into who she now eventually come into,” the former Miami Heat player, 37, said about the 12-year-old on Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast Wednesday. “And for me… nothing changes in my love. Nothing changes in my responsibilities. So, all I had to do now is get smarter educate myself more. And that’s my job,” His plan is to get smarter, to get educated? That will never work. A supernatural battle can't be fought with natural methods. The result is that he will have no option but to give in to a treacherous spirit that is out to kill his son and his entire family. Again, my heart is broken. Dwayne Wade then attempts to normalize that which is unnatural, unrighteous and completely destructive: Wade went on to say that it’s the people who don’t understand others’ uniqueness are the ones who are “different,” and that members of the LGBTQ+ community are “normal.” “This is the new normal. So, if anybody different, we’re looked at as different. The ones that don’t understand it. The ones that don’t get it. The ones that get stuck in the box, you know, they’re different. Not the people out here living their lives.” Instead of surrendering to the strong and unrelenting pressure of the enemy, Dwayne Wade would do very well to teach his son and his entire family that they don't have to be manipulated by evil. They don't have to surrender to the deception of the enemy:
16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)Surrendering to Jesus and then walking in the power of the Holy Spirit is the only hope to avoid the delusion that's assaulting our culture. Sadly, few are following this undeniable prescription for victory. Abominations and severe deception are being normalized in our culture. Everything from the insanely demented drag queen story hours for children at public libraries to the science-defying gender confusion overtaking the planet to many other strange and confounding beliefs are being branded into our society as normal. Satan is winning this battle and the church is failing miserably on its watch. Speaking of the church…
CHRISTIANS WHO ARE NOT BAPTIZED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE IN SERIOUS JEOPARDY
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1 (NKJV)As I've already established, this is a spiritual war. It's supernatural. Invisible. Getting saved isn't the ultimate goal, it's the first step. Christians who aren't baptized in the Holy Spirit, those who aren't radiating with the power of God, are sitting ducks. They are limited to their own ability to understand various situations logically. I'll say it loud and clear: getting saved is not enough.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11 (NKJV)First salvation, then fire. We need both. Every Believer must feel the severity of the situation and come to a quick understanding that they must receive the explosive, overcoming power that only an encounter with the Holy Spirit can deliver. If they don't, they are at risk just as those who aren't following Jesus at all are.
45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:45 (NKJV)The Scriptures are closed to whoever God decides, and it's the Holy Spirit that brings the life-altering revelation. Praying in tongues is the very best way for the Scriptures to dramatically impact us and for them to refute all human and demonic wisdom.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26 (NKJV)Every Christian who isn't baptized in the Holy Spirit is most certainly in a place of serious risk. We must have the Holy Spirit moving in and through us as we expose, confront and attack the spirit of the age.
26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (NKJV)These deep groanings of the Spirit are critical. I'd encourage you to read an article that addresses this topic more completely: The Tone of the Groan. Simply, it will be astoundingly easy for blood-bought Christians to buy into the lies that the wicked one is promoting today. We've witnessed entire Christian denominations veer into heresy in recent years. Professing Christian Carrie Underwood confessed to attending a gay-friendly church and Lauren Daigle has said that she doesn't know if homosexuality is a sin. I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article titled A Critical Response to Lauren Daigle about Homosexuality. This battle can't be won with the mind. Our intellect and our emotions are extremely susceptible to even the weakest, most subtle and mildly convincing suggestions. It can only be won via the Holy Spirit. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is non-negotiable if we hope to survive this current generation of debauchery on the earth. Oh, and also, being baptized in the Holy Spirit launches us on a supernatural, indescribable and amazing adventure that could never be had any other way!
8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you… Acts 1:8 (NKJV)
Listen to the podcast:
The weird and wonderful realm of the supernatural may contain the key to your breakthrough!
I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. That’s been a commitment of my ministry for years. I also refuse to disinvite the Holy Spirit when the manifestations cross the line of our human comfort. In fact, I believe many people will be held accountable for limiting the Holy Spirit in the name of biblical order. Simply, we need God to move in other worldly power!
That being said, I absolutely agree that it’s possible, and even common, for people to get weird in the name of God while manifesting mostly out of their emotions. As a senior pastor for many years, I understand the dynamics of attempting to give God the reigns while also not surrendering the reigns to overly zealous but immature people who are full of zeal but lack in wisdom. While I’m not going to address the inner workings of supernatural church services, I wanted to mention this because the question is sure to present itself as you read through this article—is it really God or is it nothing more than emotional passion and desire?
EMBRACING THE SUPERNATURAL
When considering just what is necessary to experience breakthrough in our lives, the expected points to ponder include faith, consecration, timing and other components that absolutely do factor into answered prayer. Am I genuinely confident that God is in control? Am I living a holy, surrendered life? Does God have me in a holding pattern or a desert season? Am I truly contending in intercession sufficiently? All of these questions are important and must be answered. However, there’s one question that few are asking: Am I fighting this battle in the invisible, supernatural realm?
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
I’m a prayer freak. There are few things more satisfying and invigorating than pacing around a prayer room, contending in the Spirit, praying in tongues and experiencing wave after wave of God’s glory and revelation wash over me. Even when those waves are soft or intermittent, the expectancy that drives me is electric. I’ve experienced the supernatural too often to allow a momentary silence to deter me. You see, when I read accounts in Scripture like we see in Revelation 1:10, I’m provoked. I believe John had an encounter and I yearn for God to move in my life in a similar way. You’ll notice the trumpet only sounded when he was in the Spirit. He was living in the supernatural realm, even as he walked upon the earth.
To jump right to the point, I want to propose to you that, in addition to a life of faith, prayer, consecration and biblical soundness, venturing into an extreme supernatural life will result in absolutely remarkable and stunning breakthroughs, revelations and answers to prayer. No, life doesn’t get easier. Consecration doesn’t cost less. Discipline isn’t less intense. Yet, our fervent devotion to our beautiful, glorious and overwhelmingly supernatural Lord will result in shock, awe, wonders and abundant life that could never be experienced in our predictable, all too familiar natural life.
Many years ago when we were leading Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is one of the darkest regions in the nation, filled with witchcraft and the occult, my oldest son was regularly tormented by night terrors. Demons would visit him, and even at his very young age, he would encounter them in the spirit realm. Typically, a few hours or so after Skylar fell asleep, my wife and I would be awakened to terrifying cries of, “Momma! Momma! No! No!” and other similar disturbing moans and shrieks.
We’d rush to his room, pick him up, pray over him, rebuke the enemy and do all we knew to do to see peace return. Understand, we were living mega-clean lives. We understood the tragic cost of watching the wrong things on TV or at the movies. We knew we must be full of the Spirit. We had already experienced many wild spiritual victories. What I’m saying is that, to the best of our knowledge, there were no open doors or obvious reasons why this demon had access. Don’t let your mind wander at this point, thinking up reasons why this might have happened. God had a powerful lesson for me to learn and I don’t want you to miss it.
Some of the most troubling moments were when, after we had responded to Skylar’s cries, Skylar would sudden look just to the side of my wife and become terribly startled. He’d say, “Right there! Right there! Momma! Momma! It’s right there!” He was seeing a spirit directly next to us.
After ten or fifteen minutes, Skylar would eventually settle down and fall back to sleep. In the morning he’d never remember what happened. It was all occurring when he was asleep and vulnerable. I was beside myself. My wife and I had done all we knew to do to see him set free. It bothered me that the enemy wasn’t responding to my rebukes.
One night Amy had gone to bed and I was still up working late in my office. Skylar once again started to manifest the terror of being haunted by evil spirits. I went to his room and pulled him out of bed and held him in my arms. I prayed over him, as usual. I sang over him. I prayed in the Spirit. Then, all of a sudden, I was surprised by a form that was suddenly standing in the corner of the room. It was invisible, yet I could see its outline, much like you can see heat radiating in waves off of extremely hot asphalt in the summer. The moment I saw the entity, Skylar started screaming and freaking out as he looked directly at it. The enemy was exposed.
Faith immediately, without effort, rose up on me. I didn’t have to address the spirit. I felt authority pulsing out of me into the room. I knew it was over. Skylar’s night terrors stopped, finally, on that night. Our victory was found in the supernatural realm. Our consistent prayer, faith, prophetic decrees, praying in tongues and pursuit of victory didn’t result in the problem simply disappearing. It enabled me to venture into another realm and displace the enemy. That’s what the breakthrough required.
WATCHERS HAUNTING OUR HOUSE
I believe in haunted houses. Another way to say it is, I believe invisible spirits can wreck havoc in naturally discernable ways.
Years after our experience in Manitou Springs, we lived in the Detroit area. My wife and I had our bedroom on the second floor of the house. There was a door that led to a balcony. It had no stairs, so the only way to access it was directly through our bedroom.
Most nights, right at 3am, we would be awakened by a loud, steady knocking on the door to the balcony. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Over and over it would continue. When we got up to look, of course there was nobody there. The knocking would stop and we’d go back to sleep.
One night I had a very interesting dream. I was in our home, in the evening, hanging out with my family downstairs. Suddenly I saw two red eyes staring through the window. I was able to move to the window and clearly see what was looking at us. It was a man covered in feathers. He then slowly walked away and into the trees.
I immediately woke up and I knew this was a spiritual dream. God spoke to me and revealed what I saw was a Watcher. I had never heard of such a thing. So, I decided to Google what I experienced, fully certain nothing would come back on my search for “man covered in feathers watcher demon.” Boy was I wrong.
And there appeared to me two men very tall, such as I have never seen on earth. And their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like burning lamps; and fire came forth from their lips. Their dress had the appearance of feathers:…
That was from the Book of Enoch (a historic text not part of the biblical canon). Enoch was visited by two Watchers as he rested on his bed.
In the Book of Enoch, the watchers (Aramaic עִירִין, iyrin) are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. They soon begin to lust for human women and, at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, defect en masse to illicitly instruct humanity and procreate among them. The offspring of these unions are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. ~Wikipedia
Don’t get tripped up over the use of a non-biblical book. What God revealed to me in the dream took me on a journey of discovery. To this day I don’t know why the Watcher was there, but it was evil and God confirmed it in miraculous fashion. From that night on we never heard knocking again.
HOW TO LAUNCH INTO THE SUPERNATURAL
We certainly don’t want to venture into false, New Age mysticism. We don’t want to entertain angles of light. We don’t want deception to creep in. But, we also don’t want to minimize or discount the very real, potent and critical realities of the spirit realm!
I have many more stories of supernatural intervention. I’m hooked. I’ve been transformed. I don’t want to be limited to what my eyes can see. There is a glorious spiritual realm to abide in! You can do this too!
Stay grounded in the Word. Study the amazing stories of supernatural manifestations and interactions. Pray in the Spirit with passion. Develop a prophetic life. Decree and declare the Word of God and the truths that the Holy Spirit deposits into your spirit. Put on your armor. Grow in authority. Ask God for revelation. Be expectant! Do as John did: Be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day!
Most definitely, be encouraged. Don’t simply pray and wait for an answer. Become active in the resolution! Live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit!
What about the “freaky stuff?” How concerning is it when supernatural manifestations are rare in the church today?
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.
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
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!
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 hyper-spiritual too often wait for God to do what he’s not going to do.
At first glance, those who know me might raise an eyebrow at the title of this article. Many might consider me to be hyper-spiritual myself. Most wouldn’t use the term in a derogatory manner, but they would argue that my life has been marked by a clear supernatural focus. They would be right.
I’ve been awed throughout my life and ministry by the way God has performed stunning and miraculous works. I mean, I’m floored every time I think about any of the numerous times God moved outside of my natural grid.
Further, I’ve written on the prophetic, have led prayer movements that are fueled by tongues and fire and unapologetically call those who are naturally minded on the carpet. The call to live, move, walk, pray and function night and day in the Spirit is non-negotiable. Further, it’s there that the Christian life begins to make sense…and produce joy, freedom and a load of fun!
So, no, I am absolutely not calling anybody to pull back from living in that spiritual realm. What I am doing, however, is highlighting an error that causes many people to be spiritually minded to the exclusion of understanding God-given abilities and opportunities that exist in the natural realm. They are hyper-spiritual instead of appropriately spiritual. They are hesitant instead of proactive. They spiritualize their timidity.
NATURAL MAN POSSESSES AMAZING ABILITIES
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.” And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Genesis 11:4-6 (ESV)
God gifted every human, Christian or not, with abilities that are profound. Of course, everybody’s gifts, talents and abilities are different, but the truth remains, even outside of a life devoted to Jesus, mankind can do remarkable things.
Consider man’s ability to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. Even today’s most brilliant minds are astonished by that ancient architectural accomplishment. Think about the Hoover Dam, the Great Wall of China, the Superdome in New Orleans, the world’s tallest buildings and other marvels. The engineering required to build such impressive structures is mind blowing.
Think about life-changing inventions, medical advances, air and space travel and even military weaponry. Not only did all of these come about outside of a hyper-spiritual life, most of them were accomplished by unbelievers who had no spiritual focus whatsoever. Mere humans produced wonders.
Man was building the Tower of Babel and God knew they had the ability to do so, which is why he stepped in and stopped their progress. If unbelievers and even evil people can accomplish so much, why do so many Christians over-spiritualize decisions they make and presume that floating on some supernatural cloud will result in progress? It sounds so spiritual to say, “I’m waiting for God to open a door,” or “God hasn’t spoken to me about that yet.”
I’ve met innumerable people who fit this description. They love to soak in God’s presence (as we all should!)…but without any forward, natural momentum as a result. The extent of their forward movement is a stream of semi-prophetic words they share in church, on Facebook or to anybody who will listen. They love to talk about their supernatural revelations (or imaginations), but, when it comes to actually doing something, they retreat back into their mystical, nebulous existence. They prefer to adopt the appearance of the monk on the mountain instead of the person with the shovel in their hands. They think they present themselves as spiritually wise and mature, but in reality they are spiritually stunted accomplishing little in the spirit or in the natural.
We should certainly develop a life of intimacy with Jesus. We should have a prayer closet where we encounter God in supernatural ways. We should be prophetic and on fire for Jesus. We should also move out and produce!
YOU HAVE TO GET OUT AND MOVE!
The Bible tells us that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord. We can have great confidence that God will be with us when we advance!
Too often we are gazing into the clouds waiting for signs that we are to make a decision or to move out. Stop gazing and move! Stop waiting for God to do something. He’s already enabled you to do so much!
Write your book—THIS year! Start a business! Tell people about Jesus! Start a ministry! Go to a school! Learn a trade! Get another job! Do what is burning in your heart to do! Is there a place for seeking out wise counsel before making big decisions? Yes, there is. But, be sure the counsel is wise and not coming from someone as overly cautious as you’ve been!
My wife and I have enjoyed a remarkable life of advance, often because we just jumped out of the boat and went for it.
Understand, I’m not talking about moving carnally. I’m not talking about ignoring God’s leading. I’m not talking about living outside of God’s grace. I’m talking about acknowledging that God has very powerfully affirmed and enabled us and we have many permissions, resources and abilities to do things that don’t require the planets to align or a visiting prophetic minister to read our mail.
I’ve met so many aspiring authors who tell me they have a book in them, and have been waiting years and decades for the right time to write it. What? This is nonsense! Write the book in the next three months and move on to the next project! Is there a time to wait? Of course, but today’s hyper-spiritual Christian presumes a tentative life is a spiritual life. They stop until God says go instead of going until God says stop!
After years of full time ministry as church planters and pastors, my wife and I moved to Branson, Missouri. While I’d continue writing and traveling to speak at churches and conferences, we knew we’d need to develop additional sources of income. Additionally, we were excited about the opportunity to start something new. We knew God would be with us as we stepped out. He’d order our steps.
On a trip to Tulsa to visit Oral Roberts University with my son Skylar who was considering where to attend college (he ultimately decided on Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee) we had some down time. We jumped online looking for things to do and noticed something called an escape room. I had heard of them, but wasn’t exactly sure that they were. We decided to go. We played two games and were hooked. In the car afterward my wife said, “We can do this.” She was right.
Since we had developed a life of living, praying and moving in the Spirit, we knew God would redirect us if this wasn’t his will. We’d go unless God said stop. The other option would be to wait until God confirms it is his will. I’ll tell you, that is usually not the right decision. Be so intimately connected to Jesus in his supernatural realm that you can continually advance without delay, knowing that he will redirect you as necessary in the natural realm.
We returned to Branson and rented a storefront, dealt with the city code requirements, built out two different escape experiences, developed our branding, installed signage, advertised and opened for business.
The entire process, from the day we played our games in Tulsa to the day we opened and watched other people play our escape games in Branson was less than eight weeks! God’s grace was with us!
Two years later, as we continued to develop our business, we were awarded as the fifth best escape attraction in the entire nation by USA Today! We were humbled and excited that out of thousands of escape rooms in America, we are in the top 10! It’s not the Great Wall of China, but it’s at least a lot of fun for our family to develop and enjoy our little business!
We were the first escape room business in Branson, and now there are at least five others. The competition is fierce, and the limited tourist season here presents challenges for a business like ours, but God’s grace has empowered us.
We moved, God graced and now, instead of waiting for open doors and signs in the sky a few years later, our business is established and we are on to other ventures, assignments and opportunities.
Going until God says stop will save you years of delay!
YOU CAN DO IT!
God loves you and is on your side!
Live in the Spirit. Pray in the Spirit. Advance in the Spirit. Be spiritual. Don’t be hyper-spiritual. It will hold you back and stunt your growth.
God has plans for you and he’s ready to direct your steps if you just go!
5 specific ways to implement a supernatural, prophetic culture of prayer in your life and in your church
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Romans 11:33 (ESV)
…do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
I refuse to give myself to a model or method of prayer that is devoid of expectancy, supernatural life and power, one that is driven by my own intellect or human experience. I just can’t do it!
I understand why people so eagerly run away when the call to prayer is sounded. If we were honest, we would admit that models of old have left the church with anemic faith and little more than a religious, soulish measure of satisfaction. Prayer should cause the atmosphere to explode and miracles to occur, but instead boredom too often tends to be the experience for many.
Prayer is most effective, enjoyable and electric when it is driven by revelation. It’s based on what God says versus what we perceive. Prophetic prayer is so potent that other methods truly seem to be a poor use of our time. Their effectiveness is lacking.
5 WAYS TO LIVE A LIFE OF PROPHETIC PRAYER
1. Eliminate topic driven prayer meetings:
The prayer list radically limits God's ability to direct the prayer meeting, whether it's public or your own private closet time. I rarely enter a prayer session with any topic, no matter how pressing or obvious it may be. As we press into the heart of God, and nurture a prophetic environment, we will discover the list that God wants us to pray. I believe it’s an act of faith at times when we leave the list at the door and trust that God is in control. It might feel like you are failing to cover key issues, but if we pray in the Spirit, that definitely won’t be the case. This brings us to our next point.
PRACTICE: Go an entire prayer meeting without introducing any topics at all. Don't think about what's needed or pressing. Instead, go deep in intimacy. Experience God. See what he reveals to you.
2. Pray in the Spirit:
Groans of intercession will do more in a prayer event than any focused, topical focus ever could. Pray on fire, in tongues, as the primary expression of your meeting. The best prayer times I've had are when every person in the room did nothing but pray in the Spirit, with no English words, for well over an hour. When we do this, topics of prayer become much less necessary as we cover exactly what is on God's heart.
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. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
PRACTICE: Spend the entire prayer session by praying non-stop in tongues. Don't pray any English words at all.
3. Nurture a prophetic culture:
As you drop the prayer lists and contend in the Spirit it will be normal for God to expose his heart and desires to you. Now, instead of praying for something that seems to take precedence, God is actually talking to us and we can pray in agreement. It wouldn't make sense to pray for finances or personal open doors if God reveals we must pray in unity against a potential terrorist attack or for a people group in another nation that's in danger.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches… Revelation 2:11 (ESV)
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
PRACTICE: As you leave your topics at the door and pray in the Spirit, focus on hearing God's voice. What is he revealing? Journal that as you continue through your prayer watch.
4. Pray mostly outside your own doors:
When we can pray mostly about the greater mission, instead of our own situation, the anointing increases and God's heart is truly blessed. Instead of mostly praying for your own ministry to grow or for your finances to increase, pray more for the end of abortion or protection for Christians in dangerous nations. Additionally, pray that God puts the greater call of intercession on your heart. He'll give you a burden that goes well beyond your own situation.
Therefore he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. Psalm 106:23 (ESV)
And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before. Job 42:10 (ESV)
PRACTICE: Spend the session praying with the nations on your heart. Don't consider your own situation or even the immediacy of the ministry that God has called you to. There's a time for that, certainly, but practice by only interceding for the greater mission.
5. Minimize petition driven prayer:
I call this “addiction to petition” or “petitionitis.” So often we are asking God for things that he is already in agreement with. Instead, develop a lifestyle of decreeing, declaring, commanding and calling forth. As an example, nowhere in Scripture do we see the apostles asking God to heal someone. They command the healing. Asking God for things that are already resolved, or that he hasn't revealed his agreement with prophetically (see above), can result in frustration as we waste our time praying in the wrong direction. Is there a place for petition? Sure. We see that in Scripture. But, I believe it should be much less common than it is.
As we focus intently on decreeing, declaring and commanding we will grow in our knowledge of just what God is in favor of. We never have to ask God for something that he has given us the authority and the responsibility to possess ourselves. As we grow in the Word of God it becomes evident what he has already sanctioned. Another example: we never have to pray for our needs to be met because Scripture reveals that he has already promised to meet our needs.
Now, we can give our energy in war against the enemy, by forcing mountains to move and by advancing as true ambassadors in prayer. Add to that the personal, specific prayer focuses God reveals to us via prophetic revelation and we will find it easy to spend hours praying in the Spirit, enforcing what God has already revealed and moving forward with great effectiveness.
PRACTICE: Spend an entire prayer meeting without any petition at all. Trust me, you'll watch your faith explode! Simply don't ask for anything. Learn to decree and declare what God has already revealed that he supports. For example, it doesn't make sense to petition God for financial needs to be met. Those needs are already promised to be met according the the Bible. Instead, command mountains to move and for money to come in. Of course, rely on what you have discovered prophetically as opposed to what topics you are naturally inclined to cover.
Without one key element, movements that emphasize signs, wonders and glory meetings are extremely dangerous.
I’m encouraged that we are witnessing a sense of awakening in parts of the church today. It thrills my heart that we are starting to move beyond the tired, predictable wine skins of yesterday and are yearning for a much deeper dive into the river of the Holy Spirit. There are meetings and movements that are enjoying a supercharged atmosphere. Some of these are extremely good, necessary and forerunners for the coming church.
The hunger is so overwhelming for some, however, that this current season is producing people who will run to any meeting that presents the hope of experiencing a supernaturally activated moment.
Of course, a deep desire to encounter the wonder of the Holy Spirit is not an indicator of impure motives. Quite the opposite, those who hunger for more of Jesus can be counted among the remnant—as long as their hunger is pure and their approach is stable.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:18-22 (ESV)
IMPURE SPIRITUAL HUNGER AND THE CALL FOR REPENTANCE
Simon was more than intrigued by the invisible force he was experiencing. He was so zealous to function in that power that he actually wanted to pay for it! I know that seems absurd, but that spirit is at play very commonly today. The rush of the super power he was experiencing was so remarkable that he couldn’t help but to go after more of it. His sin was not his hunger for God. His sin was his motive. He had no option but to repent—or die in his sin of impure spiritual hunger. This sin that Simon the Sorcerer was overcome by, the sin of of impure spiritual hunger, is rampant in the church today.
To deal with this temptation, a key element that must exist within movements that are marked by supernatural power is repentance. Of course, repentance and the cross must be the primary driver of any church, movement or ministry. Sadly, today that is not always the case.
I was stunned when I heard about a pastor that no longer preaches the blood and the cross because, as he stated, they are pre-resurrection. His focus is now the benefits and the bonuses we can experience on this side of Calvary. While this may shock many of you, the truth is that many are abandoning a keen focus on repentance, the blood and the cross, though they may never be so bold as to announce it.
The last two places I ministered, in Dayton, Ohio and Greenville, South Carolina, I received strikingly similar comments from people as I was connecting at the end of the service. In both places I had preached a straight forward message on holiness, repentance, surrender, sin, the cross and eternity. It was nothing original, but the anointing was strong.
In one of the events someone said, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 30 years.” In the next event I was told, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 27 years.”
That almost brought tears to my eyes. It did bring righteous indignation to my spirit.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV)
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (ESV)
HOLY GHOST PARTIES
I love to dance in the river, jump in the river, swim in the river, soak in the river. If the river is rushing, I’m there. I’ve been transformed in glory meetings and I can’t wait for the next one!
I’m also extremely careful to discern the motive of my heart. The glory of God is not meant to be used as a high inducing narcotic. God is holy and we must approach and enjoy him from that reality.
When God moves, it’s not a playground, though there are times for wild celebration. We need to experience great fear just like in the days of old. Holy Spirit comfort and fear of the Lord must go hand in hand.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
I’ve had the privilege of being in the midst of some extremely powerful and unusual river events where manifestations of oil, gold dust, gold teeth and a mist of God’s presence filled the auditorium. People were dancing, trembling and rejoicing throughout. It was impossible to deny that joy was in the place and that humanly impossible wonders were occurring. I was giving leadership in that church but was continually awestruck at the very real, very powerful things God was doing. I was laid out many times during that season, including in the parking lot at 2am one late night as God spilled out after a powerful prayer meeting. I was undone. Many others were as well.
We enjoyed a Holy Ghost party atmosphere that was wonderful and legitimate. The celebration was joyous!
However, what grieves me to this day is that among the dancers were a few who were living very dark lives—and they were convinced that God affirmed those lifestyles. This is why they could dance and rejoice with such “freedom.” None of this came to the surface until God hit me hard one day. He told me it was time to shift the message from rejoicing to repenting, from dancing on our feet to crying out on our knees, and to let the Holy Spirit move in a very different way. God had set us up and it was time to marry true freedom with brokenness and surrender. This was the only way faux freedom could be exposed.
While the revelation of unapologetic sinful lifestyles was troubling enough, the point I need to make here brings something else into the equation: the plumb line of the cross.
Holy Ghost parties, glory meetings and river experiences are not enough to rightly deal with our hearts and to draw us into freedom. They are insufficient. As overwhelming it can be, experiencing God’s presence and his love are not enough to deal with darkness and rebellion.
God instructed me to preach with great unction and urgency on what was: the cross, Hell, holiness and the blood of Jesus. This ended the Holy Ghost parties and opened the door to Holy Ghost conviction.
This led to many rushing to the altars to allow God to break them, heal them and set them free.
Sadly, and disturbingly, there were previous Holy Ghost, glory meeting dancers who soundly rejected that message. One supported lesbianism and was convinced that God would never send homosexuals to Hell. Another was involved in sexual New Age practices and rejected the theology of eternal separation from God entirely. Others told me they didn’t affirm a definition of God that included judgment or anything negative. One of the most passionate young people in the church said that she doesn’t know the God associated with that message!
That was like an arrow piercing through my heart! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
In the midst of a true move of God, people were embracing deviant theologies and living in radical rebellion to the one they were dancing before!
As a leader, my heart was crushed. How could this have happened?
REJECTING THE MESSAGE
When I hit the messages of repentance and the cross with fervor, some people fled. Honestly, this shouldn’t have surprised me. In fact, I preach often that a true move of God will result in many being exposed and turning from God as deception and rebellion overtakes them. This is such a crushing truth that is hard to bear.
…they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (ESV)
In Acts chapter two we see two responses to God moving. Some marveled. Some mocked.
The cross, when preached, will bring clarity.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)
The truth of the cross of Jesus will always have that type of impact. It divides. It reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Holy Ghost parties must be founded on the truth of the cross, and that message must be shouted continually if we want to avoid deception at party central.
It’s easy to dance and rejoice when the benefits and blessings are preached, but when the call for repentance is in the mix, suddenly the party may shift into a season of mourning.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)
Then, the mourning and freedom that comes from true, deep repentance, can lead to another season of dancing!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)
Today we have meetings that are focused intently on the glory, God’s presence and the river. Healings, signs and wonders are primary. They can no longer be primary if we want to avoid allowing darkness and deception to thrive in such an environment.
Calls to repentance must be sounded. A revelation of Hell must be had. The blood of Jesus must be foremost as the cross of Jesus is preached with unction.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret… 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)
Only then can we truly celebrate and dance in the river.