Archive for April, 2012

Balaam in Nigeria

I have left Abuja and Benin and am now in the Delta State with a bishop who is in charge of a large network of churches throughout Nigeria.  The people I am with now are so excited that they have given me a place to stay and have provided for anything I need.  They won’t even let me pay for my own laundry soap. What a welcome change!  The place is nice, quiet, and secluded.  Perfect for me. 

Nevertheless, I am constantly worn out and drained of energy.  There is something in the air that is oppressive and heavy.  My theory is that we are trudging through a spiritual warfare against the prince of the air. Yeah, I’ll bet a lot of folks in America would dismiss all the talk about witchcraft as superstitious, but if you spend enough time out here, you will change your mind. Every day it feels like you’re moving in a cloud. That’s why I just can’t seem to get up enough energy to write a column – I’m just too out of it.  Today I could barely move, like I was drugged or something and I just couldn’t snap out of it. Then the sharp pains started coming in my guts as I was getting up to the pulpit to preach.  I don’t know what the devil was afraid of, because I was so fuzzy-headed that I had no clue as to what I was going to preach about, but oh boy, was I in pain!  I seriously started wondering if I was going to have to pack it in and head for the hospital.  I can’t die cause I’m not finished, but the devil can make it so that I feel like I’m dying. 

And then, as soon as I started preaching through the pain, whoosh!  It was gone.  Yeah, just like that.  That’s always the case with this kind of stuff.  As soon as the anointing comes down, the darkness flees. I can always tell that it is going to be a blockbuster message when I get horribly sick just before I get up to the pulpit.  Today was even more pronounced.  I did two services and headed back to the house to collapse on the bed.  Honestly, I really think there is a concerted effort to resist me in the spiritual realm. I can’t prove it, and I know how crazy it sounds, but that’s the only thing that makes sense.

But that also means that we are striking a nerve. If my theory is correct, Nigeria is the last spiritual fortress to conquer before revival can sweep across Africa.  Satan knows it, and in order for him to delay the coming of Jesus and his own destruction, he has to stop the revival here.  He’s not going to rely upon the Muslims or Boko Haram or even the sinners to cause us trouble – he will use the Church.  His biggest weapon is to lull the spiritually naïve into a lullaby of blessings, peace, love and focus their attention on themselves.  This is how Satan used Balaam.  And it almost worked. He’s trying it again here in Nigeria.  This is what I am fighting against, and it is a desperate battle for the soul of Africa and by extension, the rest of the world.  If revival cannot break out here where people are so desperately hungry for God, how could it ever happen in America where we are so asleep that we are not able to admit that there’s anything wrong with us? 

Please hold Nigeria up in your prayers.  I believe there is more at stake here than just a simple missionary trip. This may be the beginning of volleys before final battle between God and Satan.

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In Abuja

My time here in the capital of Nigeria is half over. Tomorrow is Sunday and I will do two services in the morning and one last service in the evening at another church.  Then we head for the Delta State in the south where I expect it will be a much different experience.
The first 3 days took place at a conference for pastors and leaders to launch a new networking organization. Their aim is to bring together churches and resources for a revival in Nigeria. It was okay. The Lord did reprove me about trying to be “nice” and released me to bring them a much harder message of repentance in the church than I had been bringing. Released. That not really the correct word.  More like He ripped my head off for being too soft to make a difference.  I got pretty severe on the last day and thought they’d pretty much run me out of there, but they actually welcomed it.  That’s a pretty good sign.
After that, we moved on to a smattering of different churches where my biggest challenge was to encapsulate as much of the message into a single service as I could.  There was only one church that I was able to preach for three services.  Not surprisingly, the message would pour out with a life of its own and would touch the hearts of the whole congregation. For pastors who are trained to “prepare” their message, it is a bit surprising to see this happen two or three times a day everyday without any preparation or planning – just stand up behind the pulpit and let it rip.
But what is the most amazing is the anointing that rides through the message.  As usual, I can’t feel anything, but they can.  Sometimes I wonder and hope that it isn’t just my passion or zeal that they feel, but that it really is the Spirit of God.  They assure me that it is.  One thing is for sure, something is breaking their hearts and bringing them to their knees.
I can’t say that the services have had the dramatic results that we have seen in other countries, but Nigerians are very different from others. I will say, however, that they have been dramatically challenged. Outlooks have been turned, hearts have been opened, and fires have been ignited.  One church told me that they will not fail God in this call to revival – they will not fail!  Wow.  That’s good enough for me.  I don’t need anything more supernatural than that.
The last two nights have been at a fairly well established church.  Last night they had what they call a vigil.  It starts at 10pm and lasts until 4 am.  The prayer times are interspersed with mini messages and singing, so the time flies by. I delivered my soul for an hour and after I was done, the pastor requested a prayer line to form so I could “impart an anointing” into each person’s life.  
For the next hour or so, I prayed over one person after another.  You can actually feel the anointing flow like a river of oil.  It’s almost like you’re in a different medium, just floating along as the Spirit of God flows through you into their lives.
When I would look down the line, it seemed to keep getting longer, as if they were multiplying like rabbits down there. The line never ended … and then all of a sudden, it was done. Something transforming had just taken place in the lives of these people and in the soul of this church. I believe they will never be the same.  
They touched the Throne of God.

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The Yard

I share the yard with some other creatures, as if I am a guest passing through who will be gone tomorrow while they remain. There is the tiny black and white bird with the long tail who has claimed a domain over the two skinny saplings out front. The trees are no bigger than 15 feet tall and only boast of some leaves at the very top like a green leafy cap resting upon their skinny heads, but they are his trees however small and emaciated they may appear to us.  

His two split tail feathers are longer than the rest of his body and dangle and whip behind him like the tail of a kite. Whenever another bird comes to rest upon one of the branches of his trees, he immediately jumps into the air, fluttering and dancing in the air before them, whipping his tail back and forth, and chasing them from branch to branch until the intruder flies off for a more peaceful resting place.

At first I thought this was a mating dance that he, as the more colorful and plumed of the species performed in desperation for his prospective lady who would sit in her drably colored dress of dull brown feathers and decide whether or not he was good enough for her. But in seeing how he would aggressively pursue these little brown birds until they left, I now realized that this was not a love dance, but a territorial one.  And maybe he wasn’t a he; maybe he was a she who was guarding her future nest.  I’ve known some women like that.

While the trees belonged to the little long-tailed bird, the ground belonged to a red and black lizard who I dubbed Big Red. He is a strangely colored animal – head a reddish-orange, body a dark purplish-black, his rump a stark white, and his tail following the same sequence of red, black and white down to the tip. He looks like one of those rubber toys you get for your little boys to play with – he doesn’t look real.  But he is most definitely in charge of the yard.

A worn-out wall of eroded blocks surrounds the property here.  The blocks that are used in Africa are sandy and not as durable and strong as we are accustomed to, so rain eventually has a wearing effect on them making them look as if they are part of some ancient ruins.  It is on this terrain that this king holds his court. No one is allowed here without his permission (unless, of course you are bigger than him). Nigeria is teeming with lizards. I have seen him chase other lizards, and if he did not think that they were sufficiently intimidated, he would grab hold of them with his mouth and shake them until they ran away.  Tough little scooter.

I share this yard with them and a few others as a passing visitor. Nigeria is not my home, nor would I want it to be. This is a hard place.  For many like Big Red and his feisty long-tailed neighbor, however, it is home and it is worth fighting for.

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Nigeria is a very different place. I’m not sure how different it is from the surrounding countries in West Africa, but it sure is a lot different than any of the other places in East Africa that I’ve been to.

Your first impression when you get off the plane feels slightly out of focus. On the surface, everything seems the same as other African countries, and yet there something that lies just beneath it that you can’t quite put your finger on.  It’s just different somehow.  A somber blanket lies in the air that lends a subdued feeling to everything. There isn’t that feeling of color and laughter in the air.  It’s as if Nigeria has stepped out of Technicolor into a world that is colored in shades of grey. Life is a serious undertaking here.

Is it the culture? Is it just the way it is?  Or is it something deeper than that makes everything seem so drab – something deeply spiritual in nature?

I have spent the last two weeks bringing a message of revival to several churches whose hearts are turned to God for something other than the same old stuff that they have been hearing.  Something different has to happen. Their desperation for a true move of God is rising and pushing past the ineffective platitudes of blessings and good things that have been promised to them free of charge. It’s not working and they know it.  I am embarrassed to say that these messages of false prosperity and unmerited blessings have poured forth from America, and so many innocent people have believed that, because America has been so blessed, this message must be true.

By now, however, they are beginning to realize that it’s not working.  Something is missing.  This is not the same gospel that our grandfathers preached and they are not getting the same results.  We have forgotten something along the way as we followed the Pied Pipers of Prosperity and Blessings off into a modern Gospel that is softer and more “loving” than that old message of repentance and the fear of God. Our Bible colleges churned out a new generation of pastors and taught them to discard the old God of Judgment for a new God of Love.  And in the process, we lost something so vital in the Church that we don’t know how to find our way back.  

 Satan has done such a complete job of turning our focus onto ourselves that we don’t even realize how far we have turned from the Cross.  The message that I bring is predicated upon the concept that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not about you – it is about others – and revival will not come until we turn our focus to the lost that are dying in sin.   But no matter how hard I drive this message home, I will often hear another preacher get up right after me an promise the same people all kinds of new blessings, new deliverances, new miracles in their lives … all for free!  And the crowd that just bowed their heads in recognition of their own self-serving ways will jump to their feet and cheer as this new preacher promises them all kinds of blessings and negates everything that I just preached.  Just human nature, I guess.

Revival is not free — neither is it cheap — and breaking through this cloud that covers their Pollyanna Gospel mindset, not only in Nigeria but all across Africa, is essential before any move of God will come. Is this the spiritual cloud I feel here that sucks the life and joy out of the very air? Could it be that Satan has entrenched himself here in Nigeria as his last stand of resistance to stop revival at any cost? Is Nigeria the last bastion of darkness that must be conquered to allow the Great African Revival to break forth? 

Many here believe that Nigeria is highly chosen for this great move of God and that is why Satan has concentrated his darkness to destroy this nation.  It is not the sinners he must control; it’s the Christians.  And what better way than to lull them into a false sense of security with a “love gospel” that has worked since he first used it in the Garden of Eden.  It’s all about you. Don’t worry.  Hakuna Matata. Thou shalt not surely die because God loves you. Here, take a bite.

There are heroes here in Nigeria. Men and women who are willing to take a stand that will invoke the ire of the Church in an attempt to wake them up.  Many will hear the call of the trumpet and rise to the challenge.  Many will not, but will resist and attack those who will. Battle lines are forming, choices are being made, and destinies are being decided.  It is a time for war, and Nigeria is the battleground.

“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;”  (Joel 2:1)

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